Read Amanda's Wedding Online

Authors: Jenny Colgan

Amanda's Wedding (9 page)

BOOK: Amanda's Wedding
5.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

‘… parading out of my arse,' a voice said quietly in my ear, in a not bad approximation of Amanda's posh squawk. I giggled before coming to my senses that it had in fact been uttered by Angus the Sulky. No one else had noticed.

‘Hello there,' I said, warmer than I had intended.


‘Good time on Saturday?'

‘Hmm,' he said, with a pointed look at the intended duo.

Our fast becoming habitual embarrassed silence stole over us.

‘So, are you older or younger than Frase …' As soon as I asked the question I remembered I already knew. God, my small-talk radar was getting worse all the time.

‘Still younger.' He almost half smiled. I briefly wondered what he'd look like if he really did smile.

Someone set another drink in front of me, and I smelled Alex's aftershave and closed my eyes.

‘Oh, have you two met?'

Alex and Angus shook hands in that wary fashion blokes do when the girl they're going out with introduces them to another bloke.

‘Hi. Err, you're Fraser's little brother?'

Well, of course he was. D'oh!

‘Yes. Yes, I am.'

‘You were at the engagement party, weren't you? Brilliant night, wasn't it?'

Then quite an odd thing happened. Angus and I exchanged glances, and I almost smiled.

‘Yes. Yes, it was quite something.'

‘So, what are you doing down here then? Working?'

‘Yes, I've got a short-term contract in Docklands. If I like it I might stay …'

‘Bet you miss the sheep in hoochter-choochter land though, eh?'

I cringed.

‘No. Actually, I've met plenty of woolly twats since I arrived.'

Double rude! Yikes! Fortunately, Alex had already turned back to Charlie to make some other sheep-related remark and had missed it. But I was shocked, and puzzled: why did this ginger bloke hate us all so much? And if he did, why was he here?

Nothing happened to change my opinion as the evening wore on. Angus seemed staggeringly unimpressed by Alex's American stories, which I still found funny, even though I'd heard them several times. More pints were consumed, more chatter went round, and he didn't feel the need to offer a single comment, make one remark, or laugh – not even when Alex got on to the time he decided he was going to become a rodeo star!

I looked around for Fran. She had managed to get herself completely cornered by Charlie, whose eyes were
as round as Fran's nicely shaped baps. He'd got her up against the wall at the back side of the table, and everyone else was in that mildly blootered universe where they didn't notice much around them (except Amanda, who was drinking Aqua Libra, but never noticed anyone other than herself anyway).

‘Darling,' he was slurring, ‘you're absolutely top totty …'

‘Fuck off, Charlie.' Fran sounded dangerous.

‘Come, give Charlie a little kiss –'

He reached out to grab her. Fran put her arms up and, without meaning to, slapped him in the face. The atmosphere turned suddenly.

‘I say, did you bloody slap me, you bitch?'

That posh charm was obviously spread pretty thin.

Fran drew herself up to her full height, looking like she was on fire with humiliation and rage.

‘No, but I fucking should have done, you wanker!'

‘You fucking little bitch!'

Then, and I mean it, he really looked as though he was going to go for her. Everyone watched like they were caught in a sci-fi time freeze, except for Fran, who seemed to be moving backwards in slow motion. Then suddenly there was a flash of ginger as Angus leapt up, grabbed Charlie's arms, and in one movement threw him against the wall with the full force of his body.


There was a long pause. For some reason, rather a lot of people seemed to be panting. The landlord was heading ominously in our direction, and Angus and Charlie were staring at each other very intently.

Alex leaned in. ‘Come on, Charles, leave it,' he said softly.

After an agonizing wait, Charlie lowered the eye contact, put his fangs away and stomped out of the pub. We were all looking at each other, half worried, half thrilled to bits with excitement.

‘Well, what a cunt!' said Fran. And that was a word we never, ever used.

Outside, Charlie was obviously wanting to go, but Alex was hovering to see me.

‘Ehm, I'd better take Charlie home. I'll stay there tonight.'

I didn't want him to go, especially not with that … git.

‘Good night then,' said Alex, and he walked off supporting Charlie.

The rest of us stood around wondering what to do next. Fran thanked Angus, but it seemed almost distasteful to mention it; like he had seen her being raped or something. Fraser was wandering over in our direction, looking concerned and worried, when Amanda grabbed him firmly by the arm, turned round and cheerily said, ‘Well we'd better go!' as if they'd just spent the afternoon touring the village fête. As she hustled him off to her car, Fraser looked over his shoulder at Angus, who was standing looking a bit embarrassed, and gave him an awkward grin meant to convey shame, apology, pride and general goodwill all at once. Angus gave him one back, and they suddenly looked very alike.

‘Right! All back to mine then?' I said, as usual. Fran
and I were dying to discuss it, obviously, but it would be a lot easier if Angus didn't come …

However, he was already striding off in the opposite direction.

‘Oh, look at him,' said Fran, as he headed off towards the tube. ‘He's my pig in shining armour. My Lone Rasher. My ginger …'

‘Shush, Fran. He bloody sorted that out, OK?'

‘Oh, for God's sake! I've had enough hassle tonight already, don't you think?'

Now Fran was in a mood.

‘Come on, Franster, don't bother about it. That revolting prat mauling you – bleurgh … Come on back, have a glass of wine, stop worrying.'

We piled back to the flat, managing for once not to cackle on the stairwell. Fran was still a bit shocked, so I sat her down, poured her a big glass of whisky (yes, it was the one Linda had won in a raffle, but it was medicinal) and let her tell me about it all over again as if I hadn't been there.

I couldn't stop thinking aloud.

‘It is good news for me, though,' I added, after what I thought was a considerate length of time.


‘Well, Alex is hardly going to move in with Charlie now, is he? Now he knows he's practically a rapist. Hmmm, maybe we'll get a place of our own … move in properly.'

‘Oh, well, I'm glad my being nearly pawed to death
is going to help out your domestic arrangements.' There was a glint in her eye. ‘Do you want me to go down to King's Cross and turn a few tricks? Then maybe you can get a joint mortgage.'

‘No! I was just saying …'

‘If he moves in with Charlie –' Fran was showing her teeth, always an ominous sign – ‘if he moves in with Charlie, after all this, you'll chuck him, won't you?'

Fuck! Moral dilemma-tastic!

‘He won't; that's what I'm saying.' I was pretty blithe about the whole thing.

‘But say he did.'

‘He won't.' For God's sake.

‘In a hypothetical universe, you'd chuck a bloke who moved in with the person who molested your best friend.'

‘Are you emotionally blackmailing me? And anyway, technically, he didn't molest you.'

The second I said that, I realized what a dreadful thing it was to say and that I was the worst feminist of all time. We were shocked for the second time that night, and now I was behaving worse than Charlie. Suddenly I felt drunk and tearful and terribly tired.

‘Let's not talk about it any more,' said Fran after a long silence.

I pulled out the spare mattress and we went to sleep in silence. For once, Linda should have been proud of me.


Next morning we staggered around pretending to be more hungover than we really were so that we wouldn't have to talk to one another.

Fran had an audition, and I wished her good luck with it then set off for work. My boss was waiting in my office. That could not possibly be a good sign. I couldn't remember him ever being in there before. I hoped he hadn't been pawing through my desk: it was full of ‘I love Alex' doodles.

‘Ah, yes, good morning, Melanie.' He smiled at me, even more politely than usual. He was about five foot tall, but perfectly in proportion: you always had to resist the urge to pat him on his bald head.

‘Erm, mm, there's been the most terrible fuss with marketing about the new brochure. Apparently the
word “Fabricon” has been misspelled throughout.'

I sighed. ‘It's a made-up marketing word though, isn't it?' I pointed out. ‘It doesn't matter how you spell it, it still means sod all. I can hardly check it in the
Oxford English
, can I?'

‘Nonetheless –' oh no, he was sounding pompous – ‘nonetheless, it was the brand name of our latest product and was already on £45,000 worth of marketing literature. Which should be £48,000 worth, if we hadn't missed the window in the production schedule due to your – and I'm sorry to have to say it – frankly substandard work.'

Suddenly I felt incredibly small.
Substandard work
? Yup, I was back in the lower fourth. But this time it wasn't my lack of comprehension of wave motion that was the problem, it was my own sheer laziness. I ran through all the possible options in my head, and chose the worst, nastiest, most pathetic one of all.

‘God, I'm sorry. It's just … well, my flatmate has bulimia, and it's been a really difficult time.'

I looked like I might, possibly, burst into tears. I was scum. I was lower than scummy scum scum. Truly, that should be a sackable offence.

‘Oh, gosh, that must be really difficult for you.' My boss looked so heartfelt and sensitive and upset I nearly started crying for real. ‘My sister had that.'

Shit! That was it: hell, handbag, me, en route.

He put a hand on my shoulder. ‘I think it's just as hard for those around the person, sometimes. It's so frustrating, isn't it?'

I nodded plaintively, and embellished it a little. We
revelled in our mutual caring personae for another ten minutes, and I reckoned I'd just about got off scot-free when he said:

‘I'm really sorry, Mel, and I know this isn't going to help, but marketing have asked if you could move downstairs into their office – so you can all work a bit closer together, as it were. You're going to be in their department from now on.'

He looked genuinely regretful. It was all I could do to speak, so I just nodded woefully.

‘We'll get your stuff moved down as soon as possible. My dear, it's been a pleasure working with you.'

It couldn't have been, but I accepted the outstretched hand numbly, a billion growing threads of horror spawning through my head. The marketing department! Oh God, they had orange walls down there! And they used the term ‘conceptual'! And now I would have to get drunk at the Christmas party and make a fool of myself! Oh no – I did that already. Anyway, it was going to be work, work, work all day from now on, just like real people had to! I groaned heartily to myself. The phone rang.

‘Well, I can see you're busy, so I'll leave you to get sorted out.' My boss got up gracefully and floated off on his little handmade shoes.

It was Fran, of course.

‘Well? Have you spoken to him?'

‘Fran! I'm being shifted! They're putting me in marketing!'

‘Oh my God, is that good or bad?'

Fran had no concept of what goes on in the world of work. To her, corporate affairs meant copping off with City blokes.

‘Well, I'm going to have to work all day and never talk to you again surrounded by a big bunch of people who think it's really cool to be in marketing, and sit in a cubicle, not in an office, and suffer the smell of other people's baked potatoes at lunch time and hear their constant boring chatter about focus groups, and have people watching what I'm doing all the time and making bitchy comments about how I never wear anything orange … But apart from that it should be fine.'

‘Oh, OK. Anyway, have you spoken to Alex yet?'

‘Fran! This is IMPORTANT!'

‘More important than your boyfriend moving in with a rapist?'

‘Yes, actually!'

There was a bit of a pause. Fran couldn't see anything in life more important than the vagaries of our personal lives, and normally I agreed with her. So finally she must have sensed this was pretty bad.

‘I'm sorry. Have you been sacked?'

‘No, I haven't been bloody sacked. Oh, forget it!'

BOOK: Amanda's Wedding
5.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Supergirl by Norma Fox Mazer
Ruin by Rachel Van Dyken
Sunshine by Wenner, Natalie
The Fire Dance by Helene Tursten
The TRIBUNAL by Peter B. Robinson
Tek Power by William Shatner
The Fighter by Arnold Zable