Chapter 7

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I was currently experiencing point two in my 'Straight Girl's Guide to Gay Bar Etiquette' - expect to wait a very long time at the bar. Scott had rounded up some people from the office, as well as Izzy, for an impromptu Welcome to Verve Thursday night drinks at a bar in Soho. There had been an e-vite sent out and everything. In fact, it had been one of the very first emails to arrive in my shiny new inbox. I'd scanned the addresses that the invitation had been sent to and Leon's name was not there.

I'd invited Dee along and she'd been the first to arrive, posed at the centre of an enormous table with her legs crossed and phone in hand. Her bracelets jingle-jangled as she'd shot one arm up and waved, trying get our attention when we'd entered the bar. This place was just my cup of tea - or glass of wine, I should say. Situated around the corner from Old Compton Street, its wooden ceiling beams and large, practical wooden tables gave it the warmth of an old English pub, while the exposed brick walls and light bulbs hanging from single wires overhead gave it an edge.

The bar wasn't particularly crowded, but it felt like I'd been waiting at least 10 minutes to be served. I was buying Scott and Dee a bottle of champagne - on credit, of course - to thank them for the job and the Chanel. My credit card, for emergency use only, was poised between my fingers in the hope that it would tantalise the bartender. No such luck, as he was chuckling away with a trio of attractive men sipping pints of beer.

'For god's sake, where's our champers?' hollered Dee from the table. It was met with a rousing chorus of 'yeah's' from the rest of the group. That managed to get the bartender's attention and, a few minutes later, a bottle of the second-cheapest champagne the place had was standing triumphantly in a silver ice bucket in front of us. Izzy had nestled in next to Dee and they'd saved me a seat at their end of the table.

'I'm sure Beth told you about my little episode on Sunday morning,' Izzy said in a low voice to Dee as she poured the champagne into our flutes. I noticed her engagement ring glinting under the lights as she tilted the glasses.

'I'd hardly call it an 'episode' Izzy. You just needed to talk, that's all.' I took a sip of champagne and savoured the taste as it bubbled on my tongue.

'You left out the part where I arrived on your doorstep at an ungodly hour still wearing my manky dress from the night before.'

'Beth's household always takes in strays and vagrants.' Dee waved her hand dismissively.

'Speaking of that, Matt asked me about you yesterday, Izzy.' I clapped my hands together excitedly. 'I mean, I told him you were engaged, but I thought you'd like to know.'

'Why'd you go telling him I was engaged for?' she shrieked. I couldn't decide whether she was joking or not.

'Okay, what is going on with you, girl?' Dee asked.

'Oh, I'm only kidding,' Izzy giggled, fluffing her hair. 'What did he say about me?'

'He just wanted to know what your story was, that's all.'

'He's never asked about my story before,' pouted Dee.

'As if you'd go anywhere near him anyway,' I laughed. 'Half the time he stinks of booze.'

'Yeah, still, I could breathe through my mouth for a couple of hours if you know what I mean.'

'I'm not even touching that one!' I exclaimed, holding my palms up in the air.

'What are you ladies talking about?' interrupted Scott, plonking himself down next to Izzy and grabbing the neck of the champagne bottle to pour himself a drink.

'Oh, just some guy friend of Beth's that Dee wouldn't mind climbing like a tree,' explained Izzy.

'You can talk!' squealed Dee. 'Scott, did you know...' Her voice trailed off as Izzy threw her a wide-eyed warning look. I recalled how Izzy had said that she couldn't talk through her doubts about her engagement with Scott or anyone else who knew her fiancé. I guess she was worried that even talking about other men might spark suspicion that there was trouble in paradise. It would also raise questions from Scott about how she'd even met Matt and what she'd been doing at my flat in the first place. Dee must have instinctively realised this, too, because she paused to gulp her champagne before continuing her sentence. 'Uh, Scott, did you know that Beth has two very cute male flatmates?'

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