Read A Date with Fate Online

Authors: Cathy Cole

A Date with Fate (6 page)

EIGHT

Feeling a lot more comfortable in a pair of jeans, a light-green V-neck, and a soft white cardigan from Paris, Eve relaxed as Caitlin urged the little red car along the coast, away from the town. The houses grew fewer and further between as the road switched and snaked up and down, through hills and down to the sea and back up again. She wondered curiously where they were going. Surprisingly, she found that she didn't care.

Caitlin was chattering at full speed about the last party she had organized. “Chic” was her favourite word.

“Everything was
unbelievably
chic. We put long silver birch twigs inside a dozen tall glass vases, filled the vases with water and put floating candles on the top. The whole place
glowed
. Such a good idea. I impress even myself sometimes.”

“How long have you had your party-planning business?” Eve asked.

“About eight months now,” said Caitlin, changing gear smoothly. “I have a storeroom filled with the most delectable things imaginable. Decorations, candles, crockery.”

“Balloons?”

“I
adore
balloons,” said Caitlin happily. “Have you read that Sylvia Plath poem about balloons? Oval soul animals, she calls them. Have you ever seen the glittery helium ones with lights inside? They look amazing gathered in bunches on the ceiling. So much of a party atmosphere comes down to good lighting.”

She took a sharp left, the car wheels crunching over gravel. Eve sat up curiously. Caitlin seemed to be heading towards the cliffs themselves. The only thing up there that Eve could think of was a spooky old abandoned lighthouse.

The lighthouse loomed over the brink of the hill. It was even taller and more forbidding up close than it was from a distance. Eve felt the first flush of unease as Caitlin brought the little car smartly to a halt and jumped out.

“Come on!” Caitlin said, laughing.

Eve gazed at the selection of expensive cars parked carelessly on the grass around them. She got out of the car very slowly and looked at the lighthouse with apprehension. The crumbling brickwork was stained with salt and lichen. It wasn't the kind of place to put
anyone
in a party mood.

Caitlin was already at the weather-beaten red door. Eve hung back as she lifted her hand and rapped smartly on the salt-stained wood.

The door opened a crack. A well-dressed man with a heavily crooked nose frowned through the gap. “Yes?”

He looks like a boxer
, thought Eve. A well-dressed boxer, but a boxer nonetheless. What was going on?

“Don't make that scary face at me, Ali,” said Caitlin. “I know you're expecting us. Be a darling and let us in before the wind blows us off the cliff.”

A broad smile lit the scary man's face. “In you come, Caitlin my love. You and your friend look frozen stiff.”

Walking through the lighthouse door, Eve had a confused impression of warm, flickering light. A log fire glowed in the centre of the rounded room, smoke issuing up a long central chimney. A low, comfortable hum of conversation assailed her, together with the most delicious smell of herbs and coffee.

A few people looked up as she and Caitlin entered. Eve felt the shock of sudden recognition at the sight of two well-known local footballers relaxing by the fire with an expensive-looking chess set laid out between them.

“I hope you're letting Leo win, Carlos darling,” said Caitlin, dropping two kisses on the bigger, more famous footballer's stubbly cheeks. “You know how bad-tempered he gets about losing.”

“You tell him, Caitlin,” grunted Leo Mullins, tugging a little irritably on his goatee as he stared at the board. “He won't listen to me.”

“It does him good,” said Carlos, draping a friendly arm around Caitlin's slim waist. “Who's your friend?”

“Eve,” said Caitlin, beckoning Eve over, “I want you to meet the cleverest men in football, Carlos Andrade and Leo Mullins. They also throw the best parties, although that's mainly down to me.”

Eve was struggling to stay cool. Not much surprised her, but this . . . was unexpected.

“Pleased to meet you,” she managed, holding out her hand.

“So English,” said Carlos giving her two loud cheek kisses. “We are more friendly in Portugal. Are you in the party business too?”

Eve shook her head, feeling a little overwhelmed at being so close to someone so famous. She was so glad she'd changed her clothes. “Caitlin's helping me organize one.”

“Whatever the girl says, do it,” said Leo. “She's a party genius.” He knocked over his king with a sigh. “You win Carlos, you old goat.”

“Dinner is on you, Leo,” Carlos crowed, and Leo grumbled and laughed and pulled a shiny black credit card from his back pocket to pay for dinner.

Eve recognized at least two other people in the room with the fireplace – a film actor and a guy who presented property shows on TV. She felt Caitlin's warm hand in hers, pulling her on through the room. “Carlos and Leo are both darlings,” she said, giggling. “And they pay very well, as you can imagine.”

“What
is
this place?” Eve said. “Why have I never been here before?”

She prided herself on knowing all the best places in Heartside Bay. She wasn't the queen of the teen social scene for nothing. But this was like no place she'd ever seen.

“It doesn't have a name,” said Caitlin cheerfully. “It doesn't need one. Members-only, of course. Terribly exclusive. And you have to be recommended by three members and approved by the entire membership. You have to be eighteen to join. That's probably why you haven't heard of it yet. Dad got me in. Fun, isn't it?”

A large room that appeared to be made half of glass was the next surprise. Eve felt a little dizzy at the sight of the sea crashing away almost beneath her feet. The light was astonishing, pale and full of the sea, washing through the vast salt-speckled windows and over the elegant guests. There was more of the same low hum of conversation in here, people chatting over delicate slices of cake and tall frothy glasses of coffee, the occasional sound of loud laughter ringing overhead.

They took a small twisting flight of stairs painted bright red and hung with signed photographs of all the rich and famous club members to the next level: a warm modern space hung with valuable-looking paintings. People sat quietly at tables here, hunched over laptops. Others chatted at the bar, teetering on designer heels.

“Oh, you
must
meet Hermione,” said Caitlin suddenly. “Hermione, this is my friend Eve. I'm planning a party for her.”

Eve found herself folded into the heavily perfumed embrace of a world-famous rock star's ex-wife.

“Caitlin organized such a wonderful event for us this summer,” said Hermione, in a husky voice. “The girl is gold dust. Have some fun for me.”

“Now
that
was a party,” reminisced Caitlin, towing the almost-speechless Eve onwards. “A rock star in every cupboard, a black and white Pierrot theme. Hermione wanted to fill the swimming pool with champagne, but I persuaded her that sparkling water would be far more chic.” She giggled. “Less sticky too. We did a champagne fountain instead. We had underwater lights that changed colour,” she added dreamily. “The effect against the bubbles was
heavenly
.”

Eve had always thought her parties were the best parties in the world. But it sounded like Caitlin had taken parties to a whole new level. She was only a couple of years older than Eve, but it was clear that she was brilliant at her job. Eve felt almost faint with excitement at the thought of what she and Caitlin might create between them.

“Let's sit somewhere and start planning,” she begged, catching Caitlin's arm.

“In the party mood, are we?” Caitlin teased.

“Totally!” Eve fumbled in her bag for the special jotter she'd brought to write down ideas. “Where can we sit?”

Caitlin pushed her gently onwards, towards the next flight of stairs. “I've booked us a room,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “Right at the top.”

Eve's brain was awash with ideas, each one more outrageous than the last. She and Caitlin together, Daddy's usual limitless budget. This was going to be
legendary
.

The view from the top of the lighthouse was breathtaking. Eve's legs ached from the long climb up the dizzying stairs, but it was worth every twinge. She could see for miles through the plate-glass windows that provided an unrivalled 360-degree view of Heartside, the ocean and the hills inland. Eve pressed her hands to the glass and watched the clouds scudding in from the sea, changing shape as they moved. Sea mist started rippling up the coast, washing back and forth like smoke. The roofs and spires of Heartside sat below them like a toy town.

A table had been laid with a white cloth and a large vase of scented white roses. Caitlin poured fresh lemonade into a glass and pressed it into Eve's hand, smiling into her eyes.

“Do you like the view?”

Eve nodded wordlessly.

“Let's order some food,” Caitlin suggested. “I'm starving. We can plan as we eat.”

They sat at the little white table, enjoying the view and the chilled lemonade, swapping stories about their lives. They had so many people in common, Eve was amazed they had never met before.

The sun started setting, spreading red-gold fingers of light across the white tablecloth between them. Between mouthfuls of crispy, piping-hot calamari dipped in silky yellow mayonnaise and a wildly colourful salad, Eve couldn't write down her party ideas fast enough. A live steel band to deliver the invitations. Coconut-shell candles on barrel-shaped tables. A thatched beach bar, fire-eaters, sand sculptures. Caitlin listened and advised, topped up their glasses and told stories about all the astonishing parties she'd helped to organize.

“But this is going to be the best one yet,” she smiled, clinking glasses with Eve. “I can feel it.”

The whole evening had been so perfect that Eve felt a little dazed.

She couldn't think of anyone she would rather have spent the evening with.

NINE

“Are you on your phone
again
?”

Eve finished tapping out her latest text to Caitlin and pressed send before looking absently at Rhi. “What did you say?”

Rhi folded her arms. “Keep your phone out of sight, Eve,” she said. “Even you won't be able to get it back if a teacher sees you texting in class.”

Rhi had a point. The teachers at Heartside High were serious about confiscating phones. Eve checked Mr Morrison's whereabouts very carefully before looking at her screen again.

Caitlin had replied already.

Dyed doves are gorgeous idea darling but not sure they live in the Caribbean?

#dyeaparrottoday

Cxx

Eve snorted. Rhi looked at her in surprise.

“What?” said Eve, recovering.

“If I didn't know you better, I'd say you were laughing,” Rhi observed.

“I laugh,” Eve objected, feeling put out. Her fingers itched to type a funny reply to Caitlin. “It's just that my humour is a little more sophisticated than most people in this dump.”

“Sorry I spoke,” said Rhi with a shrug, turning to Lila on her other side.

Parrots
, thought Eve. Why hadn't she thought of parrots before? Parrots would be incredible. She could have five – no,
ten
parrots flying around the party. All different colours. She could picture them now, squawking and soaring on gorgeous wings over her beachside dance floor.

Let's do parrots!!!

Exx

Using a live steel band to distribute the party invitations was my best idea ever
, she thought happily as she pressed send.

Caitlin had organized everything perfectly. The whole school had turned out on Monday morning to gawp as the three-piece band strode down the corridor playing on their drums. She'd had a tricky conversation with Mr Cartwright after, but it had been so worth it.
Everyone
was talking about her party, just as Caitlin had promised.

Lowering her phone, Eve caught a few smiles aimed in her direction.

They're only smiling because they like the way you spend your money,
whispered a treacherous little voice in her head.

Her good mood dipped a little.

Buzz.

Know just the person to squawk to. #parrots

Cxx

Thank goodness for Caitlin
, Eve thought gratefully, tucking her phone away where Mr Morrison wouldn't see it. It was lonely being rich. Caitlin understood that so well. Caitlin understood her so well.

The bell rang for the end of the lesson.

“Can't wait for the party, Eve.”

“I've been practising limbo dancing, Eve!”

“Can I bring my brother to your party?”

“Can I bring my best friend to your party?”

“Oh Eve, Eve, can I bring my cat to your party?” said Josh in her ear as Eve pushed through the crowd attempting to corner her by the classroom door.

“Get me out of here, Josh,” Eve said. “Can we go to the beach?”

She was glad Josh had returned to his normal friendly self after their weird almost-kiss last week. It had been a surprisingly long week without him.

The beach was empty as usual, and especially windy. Eve pulled her hair back into a ponytail, then sat on the beach wall and kicked her legs idly against the stones. Josh had already taken out his sketchbook and was drawing the curling, crashing waves.

“Are you coming, then?” Eve asked.

Josh leaned a little closer to his sketch. “Coming to what?”

Eve rolled her eyes. “My party, of course?”

“You've invited me, haven't you?” Josh said. “Everyone knows you don't turn down an invitation from Eve Somerstown.”

“Don't tease me,” said Eve. “Are you really coming?”

Buzz
.

Orchids or hibiscus for the leis?

Cxx

“Do you think we should have orchids or hibiscus for the leis?” Eve asked Josh.

Josh sighed. “I have no idea what you're talking about.”

“You know,
leis
. Fresh flower necklaces? It's more Hawaii than Caribbean, I know, but Caitlin thinks it will add a lovely touch.”

“I'd go for plastic ones myself,” said Josh.

Eve grimaced. “I don't do plastic. I think . . . orchids.”

She typed the reply and pressed send. Caitlin responded with another question almost immediately.

Waiters in grass skirts. Too much?

Cxx

“Do you think the waiters should wear grass skirts, Josh?” Eve asked.

Josh looked up from his sketch for a third time. “Eve, these questions are better suited to someone who isn't trying to draw in peace,” he said with obvious irritation. “Don't you think?”

“I don't have anyone else to ask,” Eve pouted.

Josh put his sketchbook down and regarded her. “Of course you do! There's Rhi, Polly, Lila—”


Lila
?” said Eve in disbelief. “Lila hates me, Josh. And believe me – it's totally mutual.”

Josh shook his head. “You're your own worst enemy, Eve. Lila's lovely. The most genuine girl in the whole school.”

“Fancy her, do you?” said Eve waspishly, and had the brief pleasure of seeing Josh blush.

“I hate all this drama with you girls,” he muttered. “It's so stupid.”

“Josh,
I'm
not the drama queen here,” said Eve, swelling with indignation. “It wasn't me who broke up with her boyfriend in the middle of an away day so everyone would talk about that instead of the brilliant business day they'd all experienced. You're only saying this because you want to go out with her.”

“I don't!” Josh stuttered. “We're just friends!”

Eve snorted disbelievingly.

“OK then, what about Rhi?” Josh asked. “You've been friends for years.”

“She hates me even more than Lila does,” Eve muttered. She did miss Rhi.

“And whose fault is that?”

“Max Holmes,” Eve said sulkily. “It takes two people to kiss each other, you know.”

The air turned sticky. Eve knew with painful certainty that both she and Josh were thinking of their near kiss in the glass conference room.

“Anyway, Max and I were over ages ago,” she said, keen to move things on. “And he and Rhi look like they're getting back together.”

“Fine,” said Josh. “So talk to her. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to find a six-lane motorway where I can do my sketching. It will be a lot quieter than this beach.”

Eve drew moodily in the sand with her toe as Josh closed his sketchbook and headed away from the sea without her. Boys didn't understand a
thing
.

The thought of a dreary classroom full of girls who hated her filled Eve with dread. She decided to blow off the rest of the afternoon and find Caitlin. She deserved a bit of time with someone who liked her.

You free now?

Exx

No I'm horribly expensive. But open to suggestions.

Cxx

Eve could feel herself relaxing already. She dialled her dad's office.

“Gloria? Can you call the school and let them know I'll be gone for the rest of the afternoon?”

She texted Caitlin next.

Pick me up at the Grand Hotel in 10?

Exx

“Where are we going?” Caitlin said, peering over the top of her aviators as Eve slid into the passenger seat of her little red car. Caitlin was wearing an expensive pair of black leather trousers and looked like she belonged in a magazine.

“Somewhere that isn't Heartside Bay.”

Caitlin nodded in understanding. “Via yours to change?”

Within twenty minutes, they were purring towards the motorway.
Towards freedom
, thought Eve, adjusting her Ray-Bans and wriggling her toes luxuriously in her red Paris sandals. She always felt more alive when she was with Caitlin.

“You're very quiet,” Caitlin remarked. “Everything OK?”

“You know when everyone hates you?” Eve remarked, trying to keep her voice light. “That.”

“Who could hate you?” Caitlin said in surprise. “You're about to give the party of the
century
.”

“You'd be surprised,” Eve said drily. “I've messed up a lot of things in my life lately, and I don't know how to unmess them. Does that make sense?”

“Tell me,” said Caitlin.

Eve began to talk. She took Caitlin back to the day Lila had first turned up at Heartside High and upset Eve's world. How Lila had stolen Ollie from Eve; how Eve had stolen Max from Rhi. How horrible it had felt, being unpopular. And how much she found herself hating the way everyone was sucking up to her again now that her party was on the horizon.

“I mean, I planned it this way,” Eve groaned. “The whole
point
of the party was to make everyone like me again. And I've got that. At least, kind of. So why am I still feeling so miserable? So . . . lost?”

“Girlfriends,” said Caitlin.

Eve felt a little startled. “What?”

“Everyone needs girlfriends,” Caitlin said. “Mates to talk to. Friends to pick you up when you're down. Kick you in the tush when you misbehave.”

“You're that person,” said Eve, blushing a little.

Caitlin waved her down. “I'm one person, darling. You need your gang back. Someone as beautiful and talented as you should never make enemies.”

Eve's heart felt strangely full. “That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me.”

“Then you need to get out more,” said Caitlin kindly. “Friends are important, Eve. Romance comes and goes, but friends should be forever.”

Eve nodded. As always, Caitlin made perfect sense. “You're right. I've been stupid, letting boys get between me and my friends, haven't I?”

Caitlin laughed.

“So what should I do?” Eve asked. “How can I get my friends back?”

“Darling,” said Caitlin, changing gear, “you have come to the right person. Don't you know by now that I have all the answers?”

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