Chapter 8

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If I'd been asked to write a straight girl's guide to straight bars, I wouldn't have been so confident that I could pull it off. What would I say was the number one rule? Carry a pair of flats in your bag. That was crucial if you wanted to go the distance on a dance floor and not wind up either sitting on a bar stool in the corner making sure your knickers weren't showing or, as was often the case with me, in bed by 11.30pm watching re-runs of Sex and the City.

However, the flats rule applied tenfold to straight girls in gay bars. The dance floor was your best friend, confidante and lover after about 2am, so you'd better come prepared with the right footwear. Pumps, ideally, since many gay clubs had a 'no open-toe shoes' policy, despite practically every straight club in the Western world letting women in wearing shoes that were just a wafer-thin sole and a pencil thin heel. The policy was an excuse to keep the number of women in the club to a minimum because unless it was winter, what woman on a night out actually wore shoes that hid their pedicures from the world? Even a seasoned gay bar pro like myself had forgotten this rule on occasion and been refused entry. My scuffed pair of black ballet pumps had seen some sights - their innocence was long gone.

I was obviously just better equipped to write about the gay scene, but as I walked into this straight bar in Covent Garden flanked by Dee and Izzy, I immediately thought of a rule I could list - don't get irrationally jealous when a man who doesn't even know you like them is talking to another woman. Dee sank her nails into my arm as we neared the bar and got a clear shot of Matt talking into the ear of a young, pretty blonde wearing a tight purple miniskirt.

'Oh Dee, you're in another league to her,' I said breezily. And she was. Dee looked impeccable in a short batwing sleeved dress the colour of merlot. Her makeup made her green eyes pop underneath her neat, glossy fringe. The sneer on her face, however, was the blight on an otherwise immaculate, slick canvas.

'My evil plan is already thwarted,' she grumbled. 'I need a drink.'

'You just need to get creative,' I reasoned with her as she ordered a bottle of wine that matched the colour of her dress. 'That's not difficult for you.'

'Oi Beth, over here!' Mitch hollered, raising his beer in the air. He and Rick were propped up at one of the round bar tables. Rick smashed his glass into mine enthusiastically as I approached. I held my glass out to avoid getting splashes of cabernet on my tan coloured dress. It was tight, long-sleeved, low-backed and totally inappropriate for an office, but I wasn't working at just any old office. In fact, I received exactly seven compliments today, even one from Kade. My spanx were doing their job.

'Please excuse young Rick,' said Mitch. 'He's ever so slightly slaughtered.'

'Try saying that three times quickly,' I laughed, giving each a quick hug hello.

'That I am,' grinned Rick as he pinched his fingers together in front of his face. 'But only a smidgeon.'

'A smidgeon slaughtered, then. Hey guys, you've met Dee, of course, but here's our new recruit Izzy.'

It was then that I realised Izzy hadn't said a word since when we left Soho. I hadn't noticed on account of the fact that I'd been busy laughing away at Dee as she revealed her sure-fire methods of getting a guy in the sack. At my introduction, Izzy smoothed her hair and sprang into action.

'It's so nice to meet the two of you. I feel like I know you already.'

'Careful, you might wish you didn't know us by the end of the night the way Rick's been guzzling that beer,' warned Mitch. I beamed at him. Mitch's ability to make anyone feel comfortable in his presence right away, coupled with his wit, easily made him one of my favourite people in London. He was tall and bulky in a muscular way with a friendly face and sandy blonde hair. A 'gentle giant,' as they say. A couple of times I'd wondered why it was Matt that was the lady killer of the group and not Mitch. Then again, Mitch was actually capable of being friends with women.

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