Chapter 4

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Matt was stirring as Izzy entered the living room wearing my I Heart London t-shirt. Her towel dried hair was scraped up into a messy ponytail and her fresh, rosy-cheeked face registered shock at seeing a man use a wine rack to hoist himself up to a standing position. I fanned some biscuits out on a plate on the coffee table next to two cups of tea, a jug of milk and a bowl of sugar, but I had a feeling that my attempt to bring some sort of civility to the morning was futile when a hungover man wearing last night’s clothes was yawning and grunting in our living room.

‘I’m Beth’s friend Izzy.’ She giggled and coyly tugged the hem of her t-shirt. Even in Matt’s current state, his eyes and arms could draw any woman in.

‘I’m Matt, Mitch and Rick’s mate.’

‘Cool,’ she replied brightly, despite not having any idea who Rick and Mitch were.

Matt patted his jeans to check his wallet was still there and turned to face me.

‘Beth, thanks for the hospitality and have a good one.’

‘No worries,’ I smiled. Izzy stepped backwards to let Matt pass and he gave her a wink.

Izzy looked at me wide eyed and mouthed the words, ‘oh my god’ as Matt left the room. I laughed and patted the seat next to me.

‘Wow, he’s hot,’ Izzy squealed once the front door slammed shut and she knew he was out of hearing range. ‘What’s his story?’

‘Oh, he’s my flatmates’ friend. Good guy, but total womaniser.’

‘I would have hit that immediately if I were you.’ She blew on her tea. ‘Or if I wasn’t engaged.’

‘Okay missy, or should that be soon-to-be mrs-ey?’ I clasped my hands over my knees. ‘What’s going on with you? Where did you go after we left the club?’

‘I didn’t want to go home, so I tagged along with Scott to that club Roar in Vauxhall.’ She gave a half-smile. ‘It was open, it was warm and there was alcohol. I had to take off my sash, though. They don’t let hen’s parties into gay clubs. God knows what happened to my veil.’

I wondered what I had done to it. I remember worrying about it going up in flames as I clumsily waved my cigarette around chatting to Scott. It was probably sticking up out of a bin by now.

‘I stood in a corner dancing for hours.’ She sighed and tapped her nails against the tea cup. I noticed that she wasn’t wearing an engagement ring. ‘It gave me a lot of time to think.’

‘Tears on the dance floor, eh?’ I asked.

‘What?’

‘Oh, sorry.’ I shook my head. I felt bad for interrupting her with the first dumb thing that popped into my head. ‘It’s just, well, you know, it’s that expression some people say to describe sad dance music, like the Pet Shop Boys and Erasure. Sorry, go on.’

I expected her to look at me like I was certifiable, which actually would have been rich coming from a girl who had virtually materialised on my doorstep after one drunken conversation or two. Three, perhaps? Last night was a blur of white netting, splashed vodka and shouting, ‘If you like it then you should have put a ring on it.’ Instead, Izzy threw her head back and laughed.

‘Oh my God, you sound just like me! A true fag hag!’

‘Oh don’t!’ I giggled and put my hands over my face. ‘I hate that term. It's horrible and makes me cringe.’

‘Me too. I hardly ever say it, but sometimes the occasion calls for it, like right now. That’s the campest thing I’ve heard come out of a woman’s mouth in a long, long time.’ She kept cackling so hard she had to set her tea down. ‘Wow, I didn’t expect to be laughing this morning, cheers for that.’

‘Happy to help. Hey, don’t forget Robyn’s ‘Dancing My Own’ and then there’s that song ‘Teardrops.’ You know? She cries on ev-ery tune.’

‘Every tune, every tune,’ sang Izzy, finishing the lyric. ‘Oh, what about ‘Crying at the Discotheque’?’

‘God, there are loads,’ I marvelled.

‘Yeah, I’m a walking stereotype. No, wait – I’m a dancing stereotype. Seriously though, I suppose it was a tears on the dance floor situation.’  She took deep breath and exhaled loudly. ‘I’ve got a major case of cold feet, as they call it. Will’s great, it’s me that’s the problem.’

‘Go on.’

‘I mean, marriage. Wow. I’ve got five weeks to go until the wedding and a million things to do and all I can think about is booking a one-way flight to Australia. I almost pressed the ‘Book Now’ button yesterday.’

‘Why Australia?’ I couldn’t believe that was the first thing I decided to ask about. Izzy didn’t seem to care.

‘That’s the thing. I’ve always wanted to do a stint in Australia. I’m in marketing here, but I’ve also got some experience working as a nanny, so I think I can pick up some au pair work over there while I see the Great Barrier Reef. If I marry Will, that’s it. Goodbye to that, goodbye to life’s possibilities.’

‘Well, who’s to say that getting married means giving up what you want to do? Will could travel to Australia with you.’

She shook her head. ‘No, he’s just got a promotion so he’s not going anywhere. Plus, his family are already hinting that they want us to have a baby.’

I was silent as I tried to put myself in Izzy’s skyscraper heels. Asking myself what I would do in her situation was the only way I knew how to give her advice, especially considering that, to me, Will and his family were faceless characters in this sudden drama that had come into my living room. My immediate response would have been to take off to the other side of the world, since that was what I’d just done, but I hadn’t run away from a serious relationship. In fact, I was hoping to find one, and she had it. Would I have sacrificed something like that to come to London? I honestly didn’t know.

‘Look, you don’t have to say anything,’ she said, yawning. ‘It’s a difficult conundrum. How about we watch some mindless telly? That’s if you don’t have somewhere else to be? Oh god, kick me out at any time, I won’t be offended!’

‘No, no,’ I said. ‘Sounds great. I’ll get us a blanket.’

I must have drifted off somewhere around the time Gok Wan was making a group of women stand in a line in front of a mirror wearing only their underwear. When I woke, a man was peeling up his top to reveal a massive hernia on Embarrassing Bodies. I was alone and there was a note on the table.

Honey, I can’t thank you enough for taking in a stray crackpot like me. I’ll be fine. Thanks for making me laugh. Catch up soon. M. x’

I smiled, stretched and reached for my phone. There was another message waiting for me.

Beth, email me your CV by this evening if you can. Rosalia has an interview spot open at 10am tomorrow and if she likes your CV, the spot is yours. Verve FM – Google it! I told you I’d sort you out. They need to fill this position ASAP, hence the Sunday text. Scott x

I had so many questions about this message. Firstly, who used the word ‘hence’ in a text? Secondly, who used the word ‘hence’ on hangover Sunday? And third, I had another interview at 9.30am tomorrow. So it came down to an internal communications role at a law firm versus the mystery box job at what was obviously a radio station. It took me about four seconds to choose the mystery box. Nerves then hit my stomach, as if the mystery box contained a punching jack-in-the-box that winded me right in the gut when I took off the lid. What the hell was this job? Who was Rosalia? How did I get to Verve FM – on the tube? What if I got lost? First thing was first -  it was time to get the ink stain from last night off my shaking wrist.

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