This evening, I was in the kitchen, hastily assembling some carpaccio and radish canapés for Mia, Imogen and Malc, who were spread out in my living room. I’d been planning to watch Genderblast, which was about to air on Channel Four, with just Tanya, but since they’d invited themselves in ten minutes ago, there wasn’t a lot I could do about it.
“Fine,” I said. “But anyone who asks about Gavin will be out on their ear.” So far none of them had dared broach the subject, although I could tell they were dying to.
I crunched on a radish. Alistair was out, at a business dinner, or so he said. Constanza was out too. It crossed my mind that maybe he wasn’t at the dinner at all. That maybe he was out with her. If that was the case, then so be it, I thought resignedly, carrying the tray into the living room and setting it down on a priceless art deco table.
“Ooh, yummy,” said Imogen, grabbing a canapé. She was sitting beside Mia on my nineteenth century red velvet sofa. Malc was perched on the arm of the sofa, wearing white leather trousers and a massive sulk. Tanya was there in person, but she wasn’t really there. She was holding her mobile in both hands, willing it to ring. It was official. Sachiko was in
As the trumpets of the intro tune on the huge plasma-screen TV faded, Helenka appeared, beaming away in a low cut peach coloured top.
“I don’t think she should be exposing that much flesh,” said Malc. ”Her cleavage is too crepey, for one thing, and there’s little blue veins on her boobs. Ugh!”
“I thought you were her greatest fan,” said Imogen.
“Well, I was, back when she was young and firm on celluloid. But when I got up close, it wasn’t so pretty.”
“He’s just mad because before the cameras started rolling, she was acting like he was something the cat dragged in.”
“Oh for God’s sake, can we just watch the thing?” said Mia, nervously twisting her hair.
“Actually Scarlett, Malc’s got a point,” said Imogen, willowy in a pale pink dress and matching cardigan. “Helenka’s gone for the whole menopausal Pam Anderson look, but she would be better off covering up a bit. I’m thinking, classic suits, sort of Princess Caroline of
“I very much doubt Helenka even remembers Scarlett’s name,” snorted Malc.
“If you must know, she gave me her card.”
“Silence, you lot,” snapped Mia.
“I can’t look, I can’t,” Malc said, suddenly self-conscious, putting his hands in front of his face.
Then he told a gag on TV, and the audience laughed. He opened his fingers a crack and peered out.
I wasn’t too interested, since I’d seen the whole thing once all ready, but Mia appeared mesmerized. At the end of his slot, she said, “Wow Malc, incredible comic timing.”
“I don’t know about that,” Malc pouted. “All I know is that they put on way too much mascara.”
An hour later, they were still there. They’d helped themselves to beers from the fridge and heated up some leftover Chinese take-away and were walking around with plates full of greasy food, trailing rice wherever they went. Which was not okay.
“Will everyone please sit down when they eat,” I said, trying not to raise my voice. “And make sure they pick up any bits of dropped rice!”
None of them were listening, there was rice everywhere, and I was getting more and more fraught, when Tanya’s mobile trilled. After screaming that a mate of hers had spotted Sachiko at a club called Gold Rush, she raced out the door.
Now, after they’d demolished some ice cream Imogen had discovered while rooting through my freezer, they were still lolling about, while I scrambled on the floor with my mini vac, vacuuming up every last grain of rice. I was just beginning to hope that someone would mention Gavin, so that I’d have a legitimate reason to eject them, when the doorbell went.
I discovered a red eyed Tanya on my doorstep, who raced past me into the living room.
“What happened?” I said, running after her.
Throwing herself down on the sofa, she started rubbing her eyes. “Well, I was looking all over the club for Sachiko, and was almost at the point of giving up. Then, by an amazing stroke of luck, I was standing in the queue for the Ladies when Sachiko came out of a cubicle and started washing her hands. So naturally, I sidled over and touched her arm, and very politely said, ‘You don’t know me, but I think that if you hear me out, you’ll be glad you did.’ Then I gave a brilliant spiel, all about how she was perfect for Fondantdew. It was Oscar worthy. It was bloody unbelievable.”
“Good for you. So it’s in the bag?” said Mia.
“Well, I thought so. She was looking at me like she was mesmerized. Then she took this little can out of her handbag and maced me.”
“Serves you right,” said Malc, shaking his head. “You don’t just go up and touch a supermodel like that.”
“Thanks so much for your support,” said Tanya, jumping up and running off to the bathroom.
I got up, about to follow. “You could try and be a little more understanding,” I said to Malc. “This is a big deal to Tanya. I think she and I need to be alone right now, if that’s okay?”
“Of course it is,” said Mia.
“But I’m still hungry,” said Malc.
In the bathroom, Tanya had her head bent over the sink and was splashing water on her face. She looked up at me. “I’ve totally blown it.”
“No you haven’t,” I lied. “I’ll get you a Toblerone to cheer you up. I think there’s one in the fridge.”
But as I walked through the living room, I noticed there was a silver Toblerone wrapper where Malc had been sitting. He’d obviously scoffed it. Still, at least they’d all pushed off, which was the main thing.
Later, once Tanya had gone home, I lay in bed, trying to sleep. Eventually, I heard someone open the front door and pass my bedroom door. Constanza? Then, a few minutes later, Alistair let himself in, came into our bedroom and started undressing. Come on, couldn’t they do better than that? In they wanted to allay my suspicions, shouldn’t they have left a half hour interval, at the very least?
As Alistair got into bed, I reached out and touched his shoulder.
“Hi there. Did you have a good dinner?”
He nestled his head into the pillow. “Boring but necessary.”
Stroking the back of his neck, I said, “Do you want to do something as a family this weekend?”
“What do you fancy?” My fingers continued to stroke.
Once I heard the faint beginnings of a snore, my hand dropped away.
I stared at the ceiling, trying not to think about Alistair in some fancy hotel, in bed with Constanza.