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Authors: Lindsey Kelk

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Contemporary Fiction, #British

I Heart New York

BOOK: I Heart New York
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I Heart New York

Lindsey Kelk

To the people that taught me everything I need to
know: Nana, Granddad, Janice, Phillip and Bobby

And to the people that taught me everything else:
James, Della, Catherine, Beth, Mark and Louise

Contents

Chapter One

The aisle looks really, really long.

Chapter Two

Tiptoeing barefoot, Louboutins in hand, I searched for the car.

Chapter Three

The plane landed at JFK without a hitch and, while…

Chapter Four

The next morning, I woke up just as suddenly as…

Chapter Five

Bloomingdale’s.

Chapter Six

After a nap, a shower and several false starts at…

Chapter Seven

The next morning, I woke up feeling I had to…

Chapter Eight

Dead on the dot of nine, fuelled by a hastily…

Chapter Nine

The next morning, or early afternoon, came all too quickly,…

Chapter Ten

Vanessa was on the concierge desk as I blew into…

Chapter Eleven

The pain of moving out of The Union was cushioned…

Chapter Twelve

Thankfully by morning, the city had the decency to cool…

Chapter Thirteen

I was on my third Starbucks venti wet latte on…

Chapter Fourteen

‘So, before you tell me anything else, without even thinking,’…

Chapter Fifteen

Officially one day into my blog, it was a bit…

Chapter Sixteen

‘No way,’ Jenny said. ‘And you’re seriously still going to…

Chapter Seventeen

The next morning, Jenny woke early, still half drunk and…

Chapter Eighteen

After arguing with myself over the content of my post…

Chapter Nineteen

It was Monday morning, but blissfully, Alex didn’t have anywhere…

Chapter Twenty

When Tyler rang my buzzer at seven, Alex still hadn’t…

Chapter Twenty-One

The thirty-minute journey to Brooklyn felt like an eternity. What…

Chapter Twenty-Two

For someone who had flat out refused to go to…

Chapter Twenty-Three

I was expecting to be woken by an overwhelming desire…

Epilogue

It had been snowing solidly for three days, and New…

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Credits

Copyright

About the Publisher

CHAPTER ONE

The aisle looks really, really long.

And my tiara feels so tight.

Can you put weight on around your head? Have I got muffin top on my scalp? And my shoes really hurt. No matter how beautiful or how expensive they might be, the balls of my feet feel as if they’ve been up and down a cheese grater and then dipped in TCP.

I saw Mark standing at the end of the aisle, looking relaxed and happy. Well, I suppose he doesn’t have to walk down it in four-inch Christian Louboutins and a fishtail floor-length gown. You can’t even see the bloody shoes, Angela, I chide myself. Not even the tip of the toe.

And now my hands feel sweaty. Do I have sweat patches? I tried to sneak a peak under my arms without dislodging anything important from my bouquet.

‘Angela? Are you all right?’ Louisa frowned at me, a picture of perfection, calm as anything, immaculate make-up and not teetering a touch. And her heels are higher than mine.

‘Uh-huh,’ I replied, as eloquent as ever. Thank God it’s her wedding and not mine. And please God, while I’m at it, could you not let Mark focus on what a shoddy bridesmaid I’m turning out to be, just in case it puts him off setting our date. Seriously though, sweat patches would show horribly, the dress is a light coffee colour, specially selected to make me look sick as a dog.

I stumbled down the aisle behind Louisa, with a small smile for my mum and dad, looking appropriately happy whilst acknowledging the solemnity of the occasion. I really hope that’s how I look, anyway. There is a good chance I look as if I am wondering whether or not I’ve left my hair straighteners on. Shit! What if I have left my hair straighteners on?

I’m always struck by how short wedding ceremonies are. The months of engagement, hours of planning, a whole weekend for the hen do even, and the lifelong deal was done inside twenty minutes and a couple of hymns. Even the photos took longer than the actual service.

‘I can’t believe I’m married!’ Louisa breathed. We’d got to the not-at-all cheesy bride and head bridesmaid smiling by a fountain section. Oh dear. The poses came naturally, we’d been practising them with each other since we were old enough to hang pillowcases off the back of our heads, after all. ‘Angela, can you believe it?’

‘Of course I can,’ I said, squeezing her closely to me, ignoring the photographer’s direction. ‘You and Tim have been practically married since you were fourteen.’

We switched positions and paused to smile.

Click, flash.

‘It’s just unreal, you know?’ She flicked a soft blonde curl over her shoulder and patted a stray light brown hair back into my chignon. ‘It’s really absolutely happened.’

Click, flash.

‘Well, get ready,’ I said through a pearly smile. ‘It’ll be me and Mark next and you’ll be the one in the bridesmaid dress.’

‘Have you talked any more about setting a date?’ Louisa asked, fussing with the puddle train behind her. Was I supposed to be doing that?

‘Not really,’ I shook my head. ‘I mean, we talked about it all the time when you two finally set a date, but since Mark got promoted we’ve hardly had time to blink. You know how it is.’

Louisa waved the photographer away for a moment. ‘Mmm. I just mean, do you think you’ll definitely get married? To Mark, I mean?’

Click, flash–not a good one.

I had to hold my hands to my eyes to get a proper look at Louisa. The August sun lit her from behind, obscuring her face and highlighting a halo of wispy blonde curls.

‘Of course,’ I said. ‘We’re engaged aren’t we?’

She sighed and shook her head. ‘Yeah, I just worry about you sweetness. With the wedding and stuff I feel like we haven’t really talked about you and Mark in ages.’

‘There’s nothing new to tell you. You probably see him more than I do. At least you get your tennis time every single week.’

‘I tried to get you to take up doubles,’ she muttered, messing with her hem again. ‘I just want you to be as happy as I am right now. Oh, that’s so patronizing, sorry. You know what I mean babe, just, be happy.’

‘I am happy,’ I reassured her, taking her hand and closing in on the dress for a scaffolded hug. ‘I am really happy.’

Just after the speeches had finished but a little bit before the dancing began, I finally managed to escape to the loo.

The reception was being held in a converted barn, that only had two ladies’ cubicles, neither of which were big enough to turn around in, so I had escaped up to our room. I looked around at my scattered belongings. I carried my life in my massive, battered handbag–laptop, iPod, phone, a couple of knackered old books. Bits of make-up and scraps of clothes were strewn all over the room, contrasting with Mark’s carefully organized suitcase. A place for everything and everything in its place, even in a hotel.

I was happy, I thought to myself, flopping down on the bed and idly flicking the pages of one of my books with my toes. I had a fun job that was flexible, I had Louisa, the best friend in the world, and I’d lost twenty pounds for this wedding, which had put me comfortably in the size twelve bridesmaid dress. I could even convince myself (if no one else) that a ten might have been a better fit. I wasn’t horrible to look at, long, light brown hair, greeny-blue eyes and since I dropped the extra weight, I’d discovered a pair of fairly impressive cheekbones. And I had Mark. Who wouldn’t love a good-looking, up-and-coming banker boyfriend? He should think himself lucky, I tried to convince myself. Yes, he’s got all his own hair, no hereditary diseases, a city banker salary, car and a mortgage, but I’d been attending horribly humiliating weight loss classes for the last six months (it wasn’t the weigh-ins that broke you, they were fine, it was the team leader who moonlighted as a dog trainer), I could cook and I cleaned the bathroom every Sunday without being asked. So no, sainthood didn’t beckon, but I wasn’t an awful girlfriend and we’d been together for ever, since we were sixteen. Ten years. But Louisa’s words bothered me a little bit. Was I happy? Maybe more content than bouncing-off-the-sofa-like-Tom-Cruise-ecstatic, but that’s still happy isn’t it?

I looked at my engagement ring. Classic solitaire. Not huge or flashy trashy, but not magnifying glass necessitating tiny. Mark had bought it with his first paycheque and presented it to me on a holiday to Seville, post-pony and trap ride and pre-lovely sex back at our hotel room. It had seemed horribly romantic at the time, but now it just seemed a horribly long time ago. Shouldn’t he be pushing me for a date? Just a little?

‘Don’t be silly,’ I said out loud to my confused reflection. Louisa was probably just getting in front of herself, she was married now after all, I just hadn’t expected her smug-married neuroses to kick in before she’d even got out of the church. There was nothing wrong with me and Mark. Ten years of nothing wrong, why would I worry? I tried to slip my beautiful, beautiful heels back on but my left foot seemed to have gained ten of my twenty lost pounds. After five fruitless minutes of searching the suite for my standby flats, I accepted that my shoe bag hadn’t made it out of the car. Which meant I would have to brave the drunken uncles, the dancing children high on wedding cake (I had seen balloons too–they were armed) and go to the car park.

CHAPTER TWO

Tiptoeing barefoot, Louboutins in hand, I searched for the car. Over in a dark corner, hidden beneath beautiful weeping willows was Mark’s Range Rover. When he had bought it six months before, Louisa had taken it as a direct sign that he was ready for kids. I saw it as a direct sign that he was not ever going to let me drive it on my own. So far, I’d been the one proven right. Scrambling around in my handbag for the spare keys, I noticed that the reading light was on in the back. I smiled to myself, knowing Mark would be so happy that I had come out and saved his battery. Pressing the button to turn off the alarm, instead of the reassuring double pip, I was greeted by a loud siren and flashing indicators. Which was when I realized someone was inside the car.

Shit, our car was being stolen and here I was, hobbling barefoot over gravel with a pair of £400 shoes in one hand and wearing a floor length gown. And I’d just set the alarm off. Brilliant. The car thieves were definitely going to kill me. If I was murdered at Louisa’s wedding, she would be furious. All her anniversaries would be ruined. Would she still go on her honeymoon? Maybe I could use my heels as a weapon. Well, maybe not, I didn’t want to stain them. But the soles were already red…

I was all ready to turn and hightail it out of the headlines when I remembered my shoes. They could take Mark’s car but, damn it, they weren’t taking my fall-back flats. Two-year-old Topshop maybe but they were the comfiest damn shoes I’d ever owned. I pulled open the back door to confront the thief before I bottled it. And then, in a startling moment of clarity, I realized there wasn’t a man trying to steal the car or my shoes, but two people, very much having sex on the back seat.

And one of them was Mark.

‘Angela,’ he stuttered, his red sweaty face staring out at me, indentations from my Hello Kitty seatbelt protectors on his left cheek. He wouldn’t let me put them in the front. It took me another moment to register the naked woman underneath him. She looked at me, frozen underneath Mark, with smudged mascara and a red chin from Mark’s omnipresent five o’clock shadow. I didn’t recognize her at all, blonde, pretty, looked fairly skinny from what I could see of her bony shoulders, and she had a lovely tan. A peacock blue silk dress scrunched up on the parcel shelf suggested she had been at the wedding reception, and the beautiful pair of silver Gina sandals clamped around my boyfriend’s waist told me I really should have spotted her earlier. I did love a nicely turned shoe.

‘I came to get my flats,’ I said, numb, not moving.

I stumbled backwards as Mark pulled himself out of the car on his belly and dropped to the floor in front of me, his boxer shorts working themselves further back down his legs as his sweaty skin peeled away from the leather.

‘Angela,’ Mark stood up, he pulled his pants up high, and wriggled into his shirt. I looked past him into the car. The girl had managed to get her dress on and was rubbing under her eyes to try to get rid of the mascara. Good luck, I thought, if it’s as good a quality as your shoes you won’t get that off by rubbing. Shoes still looked great though. Bitch.

‘Angela,’ he tried again snapping me out of my shoe-induced haze. ‘I–what are you doing out here?’

I looked back at him. ‘Shoes,’ I said, waving my sandals at him and gesturing towards the car. ‘You didn’t bring my flats in.’

He stared at me wildly, glancing from me to my high heels and then back at the car. Slowly, as though I were a startled animal that might bolt, he took a step back towards the backseat and reached under the passenger seat for a small cloth shoe bag. He held it out to me, afraid to touch me, afraid to make contact. ‘Thanks.’ I took the bag.

Mark stood, bathed in the backseat light, red, sweaty, trousers off, socks and shoes on with a little wet patch growing on the front of his boxers to add insult to injury.

‘What the fuck are you doing?’ I asked. Incredibly eloquently.

‘Angela,’ Mark shuffled forward half an inch.

‘And who, the fuck, is she?’ I asked, pointing to the girl with my left Louboutin, still in my hand. The girl looked away, trapped in the back of the car.

‘Angela,’ he stuttered, retreating from the perfectly pointed toe aimed at his temple.

‘No, I’m Angela. I can see how you might be confused though,’ I said, feeling my eyes starting to well up. My boyfriend was having sex in the back of our car, our beautiful future children’s car, at our best friends’ wedding. I was not going to cry in front of him while he pissed away ten years together on a cheap shag in a car park.

‘Angela, this is Katie. I, erm, I—’ he looked back again and met her eyes briefly and I swear I saw a hint of a goofy smile cross his goddamned face. It was the most painful moment of the whole thing. ‘We, well, we’ve been playing tennis together, and, well—’

‘This is what you think playing tennis is? Shit, does Louisa know you’ve been “playing tennis” with Tim?’ I wanted to hit him, I wanted to hit her, and just as I was about to toss a coin to see who was getting it first, I realized. ‘You haven’t been playing tennis with Tim,’ I said.

‘No.’ He shook his head.

‘And you haven’t been working late.’ It was all making a horrible sort of sense.

‘No.’ He sighed, his shoulders dropping with acceptance.

‘Does Tim know?’ I asked.

‘Yes.’ I didn’t even look up.

‘And Louisa knows?’ I gripped my heels tightly and was vaguely aware of a buckle cutting into the flesh of my palm.

‘I think so.’ He nodded. ‘I mean, well, we do play tennis sometimes. Doubles. I–I’m not sure though.’

Was I happy? Louisa had wanted to know if I knew.

‘You’ve all been playing doubles together?’ I gulped, trying not to be sick.

He looked at me, eyebrows raised, breath caught in his throat. ‘Angela, don’t,’ he put a hand out towards my forearm.

‘Don’t you dare!’ I said, feeling the bile rise in my throat and pulling my arm away. ‘Don’t you dare touch me.’ Heel raised high above my head, I saw for a second how easy it would be. He was frozen and she was trapped in the back seat and Louboutins are beautifully made, I’m fairly sure they would do two skulls without breaking.

But, instead of seeing two bloody corpses, all I could see was Tim and Louisa laughing hysterically in their tennis whites after a game of doubles with Mark and Katie. While I sat at home, tapping away on my laptop, not eating and waiting for my cheating, lying, scumbag boyfriend.

Potential murder weapon in hand, I turned on my heel and started back across the car park. Mark was still pitifully calling my name as I charged through the French doors and across the dance floor, cutting a swathe through the tiny bridesmaids dancing to the poptastic disco. Tim and Louisa were standing by the dance floor cradling champagne, waiting for the DJ to announce their first dance, when Louisa saw me.

‘Angela,’ she said as I ploughed to a stop in front of them. Right away, I knew she knew.

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ I shouted. All concern for ruining her wedding was long gone. I had been completely betrayed by the people I trusted most in the world.

‘Angela, I–why don’t we—’ Tim reached out and placed his hand on my forearm. Before I knew what I was doing, I snatched my arm away and cracked his knuckles with my shoe.

‘Will you stop saying my name like it’s a bloody tranquillizer!’ I paused, gritting my teeth. ‘I have just caught Mark shagging your tennis buddy in the back of our car.’

If I didn’t have everyone’s attention before I broke the groom’s knuckles, I did now.

‘Oh, Angela,’ Louisa sobbed. ‘I tried to tell you, I just, I thought you must already know. You know, somehow, deep down.’

‘At what point did you think that? When I told you I was perfectly happy and was still sure I was marrying Mark? When I didn’t tell you my boyfriend was a cheating shit? Or when you first started playing
doubles
with him and that slag?’

Louisa burst into tears and turned to run out of the room, but her exit through the French doors was blocked by Mark. Still in his stained boxers, socks, and half buttoned-up shirt, he stood frozen under the gaze of three hundred wedding guests, most of whom had just about worked out what was happening. Finally remembering to breathe, I took a moment to observe the scene. Tim looked at me with pale terror as he clutched his bloody hand, Louisa was standing bawling in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by crying children, and Mark, clutching at the doorframe as though it was all that was holding him up, stared at me in disbelief. I looked backwards towards the guests and saw my mum emerge from the crowd. She looked everyone up and down, paused, pursed her lips and walked right up to me. Loosening my white knuckles, she prised my Louboutins out of my left hand, then gripped it tightly in her own.

‘Come on,’ she said quietly, placing a hand on the small of my back and guiding me across the room. I couldn’t see anything but the floor in front of my feet, or hear any of the murmurings around me. All I knew was my mum’s hand and the gravel still stuck to my bare feet.

It must have been about five in the morning when I woke up. The room was so big and quiet and I could hear the bones of my bridesmaid dress scrunching into my ribs. I turned over and realized that lying next to me in the big beautiful bed wasn’t my fiancé, my Mark, but my mother. Her perfect wedding outfit was carefully folded over the back of a chair and I hesitated for a moment before looking down at what she was wearing instead. It’s a bit weird to see your mum wearing an old Blondie T-shirt and a pair of your boyfriend’s boxers. Ex-boyfriend. I sat up slowly and tried not to catch sight of myself in the mirror until I’d locked myself in the bathroom. My hair was a bird’s nest of slept-in chignon, my make-up smeared with sleep, tears and pillow creases and the parts of my dress that hadn’t already been torn or muddied, were twisted and creased up beyond all recognition.

Stripping myself of everything, earrings, necklace, engagement ring, I stepped into the giant shower and just let the water run. How had this happened? Destroying my best friend’s wedding aside, how had I not noticed that my boyfriend was cheating on me and had been doing so for so long and so openly that my friends all knew? It wasn’t just a quick shag, it was clearly serious. What would I do? Where would I go? As the shower stall steamed up and I lathered, rinsed and repeated, I tried to be rational. Keep a clear head in any situation. Mum always said it was one of our strengths.

I’d have to go home and get my stuff. Home. I supposed it wasn’t even my home any more. He’d probably move her in tomorrow. ‘Katie,’ said a little pixie-ish voice in my head. ‘Not “her”, it’s Katie.’

‘This shower feels amazing,’ I said out loud, pushing that voice out of my head as the hot, hot water streamed down from three different jets. It was as if none of it was real. If only I could live in a hotel. Not having to go back to that shit heap and rummage through my stuff like I was the one that had done something wrong. Jesus, the splitting of the CDs. I just couldn’t face it. A couple of renegade tears started to seep out of my eyes. If only I could stay in this hotel for ever and pretend none of it had happened.

Why not stay in a hotel?

Not this hotel, clearly. I had a strange feeling I wasn’t going to be terribly welcome at breakfast, but another hotel. Somewhere impersonal and wonderful where the staff’s only concern would be keeping me happy rather than whether or not I was going to ruin another gala event. I had a little bit of money, we’d been saving for my non-existent wedding for years, and it seemed fairly appropriate to tax Mark his share of the cash for shitting on me. My work was freelance, I had my passport, credit cards, driver’s license (no burglar was stealing my identity while I was away at a wedding for almost a week!) enough clothes, my favourite shoes, what else would I need? I definitely had enough stuff not to need to go home for a while. Screw the CDs even, I had my iPod. There was really no reason not to go, and God knows, I am the queen of talking myself out of anything even vaguely confrontational.

I forced myself out of the shower and into the bathroom. For a second my gaze rested on Mark’s wash bag, next to my engagement ring. A lovely leather piece I’d bought him last Christmas. He’s bound to want to come back for that, I thought as I slipped on my earrings, my necklace, it’s full of all his fancy shaving stuff his mum buys him for his birthday. For a moment I thought about filling it with shaving foam, but froze with a flashback as I picked up the can. Him, hunched over that cow, all sweaty and confused. Maybe I should throw it out of the window. Then I remembered him smiling at her. Smiling at her, in front of me, in those scummy boxer shorts.

And so I sat on the loo and pissed in the bag. It was the most disgusting thing I’d ever done, and I was so so proud. Once it was nicely ruined, I dropped in my engagement ring, zipped up the bag and left the bathroom.

‘Mum,’ I whispered, sitting beside her on the bed. ‘Mum, I’m off.’

She opened her eyes and looked a bit confused as she remembered everything, and then she looked at me as though she was going to commit me to the same home where she had stashed my nan.

‘What do you mean?’ she asked, sitting up, looking even more confused at the sight of her nightwear. ‘You don’t have to go anywhere because of that shit.’

It was the first time I’d heard her call Mark anything other than ‘darling boy’ or ‘that lovely Mark’, and I was quite touched.

‘I know,’ I nodded towards my packed travel bag. ‘But with the wedding and everything, I think I’d better get off early. Thing is, I thought I might nip off for a few days to sort myself out.’

‘Oh no,’ she said, taking my hand. ‘You’re just coming home with me and your father, he’s going to come and collect us later. You’ve done nothing wrong, you know. Well…’

‘I know, Mum,’ I said. ‘But I think it would do me good to get away. I’ve booked a taxi to the airport.’

She looked at me slightly oddly. ‘Really?’ she asked. ‘You’re really going somewhere on a plane?’

‘Yes,’ I said, standing up, clutching my bag.

‘Where are you going?’ she asked, looking at the clock. ‘Wouldn’t you rather just come home with me and your dad?’

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