~40~ lady in red

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“What’s with the picnic hamper?” Marie’s warm brown eyes widen as she watches me start to pack away the food. 

“It’s nothing,” I sigh.

She sets the parcel on the table and smiles. “Why was Mr Zeepler over here?”

I gaze at her. She’s wearing a pastel peach dress and a vintage floppy hat. Marie’s style is eclectic. She doesn’t bother checking the weather forecast most days. Instead, she relies on intuition.  

A lump builds up in my throat. I can’t tell her no matter how much I want to. I don’t want to involve one of my best friends into my troubles. Marie’s dealt with so much of my sh!t in the past. 

I fold the napkins up and stuff them inside the hamper. “He wanted to talk to Dad about something.”

“Argh,” Marie slumps down on the sofa. “Amelie! Why are you being such a b!tch these days?”

I don’t know what to say to that. It’s not like her mood’s going to improve if I do tell her something

She’d probably grab the nearest garden tool from Dad’s shed and go round to Mr Zeepler’s. There wouldn’t be much left of him. She’d spit on his grave for good measure.

“You were getting better this week. But now you’ve gone back to being a moody b!tch,” Marie starts to rant.

She pushes off the floppy hat and runs a hand through her long brunette hair. “You’re so self-absorbed. You don’t tell me anything anymore. Even Gina’s noticed.”

Frown lines etch themselves onto her forehead. She looks displeased with me. And fed up. It seems everyone can’t stand the sight of me.

“Calm down, Marie,” I snap.

“Shut it,” she waves her floppy hat at me. “I’m tired of people always thinking I’m the sensible one. The peacemaker. Whatever you want to call it.” 

Marie takes a breath. “Get your act together, girl. Even Mr Zeepler came round to cheer you up—”

“Marie!”

“Don’t Marie me,” her lips push together into a thin, white line. She raises her eyes to the ceiling in frustration. “You’re turning out just like The Gold—”

Her voice falters suddenly. Her cheeks redden. A terrible realisation hits me with the force of a steam engine. Shocked, we look at each other. 

“The Golddigger. Just say it,” I say coldly.

“I’m leaving,” she shoots me a look of disgust.

She snatches up her floppy hat. The front door slams mockingly reminding me that I’m very much… alone.

Seething, I bury my head in a cushion and start to cry. All right, nothing happened. I should feel glad. But why am I beginning to loathe myself?

Marie’s right. I’m morphing into The Golddigger. Maybe that’s why everyone hates me. All I care about is myself.

Even my own mother doesn’t want to know me (she never did anyway). But she’s moving on with her life now — she having Magnus’s children. Dad’s drowning away his sorrows with online shopping. Gina and Marie have given up on me. I don’t even have a social life anymore. I’ve just become a depressed hermit wallowing in my own endless misery.

And Armand hates my guts. I don’t blame him. If I was him, I’d hate me too. I’m just a silly girl. Why would he want to go out with an immature brat? Therese Weber is a sophisticated, intelligent woman. I’ve got no chance.

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