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Authors: Claudia Carroll

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BOOK: I Never Fancied Him Anyway
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‘I think . . .’ I said, not quite sure how to articulate this overwhelming feeling I was getting.

‘What?’ both Mary and Aunt Lizzie demanded in unison.

‘Well, the man I’m seeing is definitely single now, but he . . . well, he might have been married before.’

‘Ha! A divorcee,’ sneered Aunt Lizzie triumphantly.
‘Isn’t
that a bit like drinking out of someone else’s wine glass? Or shopping in the “reduced to clear” rack?’

‘He must be Spanish,’ said Mary, totally ignoring her. ‘He has to be. And there was me only thinking about spending the long summer holiday in Catalonia—’

‘Will you pair stop pestering Cassie and let her get on with her homework!’ my mother screeched from the kitchen, as Mary and Aunt Lizzie scarpered quicker than teenagers caught smoking, leaving me quietly to get back to learning my spelling.

I should point out that, when all of the above happened, I was seven years old.

Chapter One

Twenty-one Years On


ASK CASSANDRA

ALL YOUR PROBLEMS, SPIRITUAL AND

PSYCHIC, ANSWERED

You can write to Cassandra care of:

Tattle Magazine,

Tattle House,

Fleet St,

Dublin 2

Dear Cassandra,

I am your number-one fan. No, really. Well, me and all the girls in my class, that is. Well, except for my friend Amy who says psychics are just lucky guessers half the time, but don’t pay any attention to her. Ever
since
she passed maths, she’s turned into, like, such a know-all.

Anyway, I’m not messing, me and all the girls get
Tattle
magazine every Thursday and yours is the first column we all, like, read. So, to cut to the chase, here’s my question. I was at Old Wesley to celebrate getting the Junior Cert results last Saturday night and I met the man of my dreams. For def-in-ite. He’s in fourth year at Clongowes and he’s, like, sooooo yummy. So far we’ve been to the movies (once) and his house (also once) for a DVD, so I’ve seen him twice, had three phone calls and forty-two texts (well, forty were from me, but two were replies from him, like, so that’s still cool). And it’s not even a week till our anniversary next Sat, so it’s really only our half-week-versary, so I reckon he must be pretty knickers about me too. Woo-hoo!

I’m in lurrrrrvvvvve and my friends are all mad jealous. So, here’s my question, and please don’t laugh ’cos I’d be totally, like, MORTO. Is it possible to meet your future husband at fifteen? When will we get married? How many kids do you think we’ll have?

Thanks a million,

Lovestruck in Loreto College

PS: my friend Sinead wants to know if you have any psychic feelings on whether or not she’ll get back with her ex. I can’t write his name because he could easily
read
this and then Sinead would be, like, totally devo. She’s hardly eaten since he dumped her and now the jammy bitch is down to eight stone.

OK. FIRST OF
all, there’s something I need to explain. I never set out to be a psychic. I mean, it’s not as if it’s a career choice you might make or anything. But, whether I like it or not (and most of the time, I
don’t
; it can get a bit embarrassing at times and, in spite of what people think, it doesn’t work for either lottery numbers or Grand National winners), the thing is that ever since I was a small child, I’ve been able to see things. Not all the time, I hasten to add; it’s not something that’s on tap twenty-four hours a day. But when it does happen, it’s so vivid and clear, it can be, well, a bit frightening.

In fact, scrap that, it’s terrifying.

You see, the thing I need to explain is . . . I’ve never yet been wrong. Not once, ever. Which, you’ll agree, as responsibilities go, is kind of a scary one.

Anyway, I’m sitting at my desk in
Tattle
magazine’s busy Dublin office, letter in hand, madly trying to channel something, when in bursts my friend Charlene.

‘Why, oh why, are people so mean to the hot?’ she says, theatrically dumping her Prada bag on to my desk (the real thing, no fake leather for this chick) and throwing one immaculately fake-tanned bare leg over the other.

‘Charlene, it’s only four-thirty in the afternoon. Shouldn’t you be rolling over for your second sleep?’

‘Ordinarily yes, except that I’ve just been fired.’

‘Not again?’

‘Apparently our esteemed editor didn’t like my last book review.’

‘The one where you said, and I quote, “No home should be without this book, even if it’s just to prop up a wonky table leg”? Charlene, is it any wonder she fired you? You told me you never even read the book.’

‘What can I say? It had a really boring title and, anyway, I had something better to do.’

I know I sound a bit unsympathetic, but the thing about Charlene is, she’s always losing jobs. All the time, always. In fact, it’s fair to say that she loses jobs the way the rest of us lose car keys. So far, on
Tattle
magazine, she’s been the restaurant critic (fired because she doesn’t eat fish, wheat, gluten, meat or pretty much anything that’s ever been fermented, except alcohol) and the theatre critic (fired because she walked out of a performance of
Hamlet
at the interval and made up the ending. She might have got away with that one, except that, in her infinite wisdom, she mistakenly wrote that all ended happily at the Danish court, as if it were a kiddies’ panto.)

Anyway, a couple of things you should know about Charlene:

  1. She’s stunning, and I really mean stunning, to look at, kind of like Nicole Kidman except with spray tan, all Titian corkscrew curls and big saucer-blue eyes, with a figure so tiny and perfect, you’d think Disney drew her. However, low maintenance this lady certainly ain’t. The hair alone takes her two full hours every day, so she can achieve that I-just-fell-out-of-bed look, not to mention home visits from her colourist every thirteen days exactly to maintain her I’m-a-natural-redhead-cross-my-heart image. Charlene has also been know to fly her personal make-up artist to all corners of the globe at the drop of a hat so she can look baby-doll perfect at all times. Which brings me neatly to point number two.
  2. She’s fabulously wealthy and doesn’t actually need to work at all, except that her father (probably one of the most successful people you’ll ever meet, who just happened to become a billionaire making, of all things, shower-curtain rings) thinks it does her the world of good to have a focus in life. That, and the fact that he owns the corporation that owns the company that owns
    Tattle
    magazine. And as Charlene herself puts it, having a ‘career’ is a really good way to appreciate her shopping time all the more. It also gives her something to chat to her other trust-fund-babe friends about, over three-hour-long, boozy, girlie lunches.

I, on the other hand, do not have a billionaire dad who bankrolls me; I need this job to pay my rent.

‘Charlene, I’m sensitive to your . . . ehh . . . torment, but unfortunately, I have to work. My deadline’s tomorrow and as usual I’ve left everything till the last available minute. Now go away, I’m trying to concentrate.’

I’m in a bit of a panic by now, mainly because our editor, or the Dragon Lady, as we all call her behind her back, is forever giving me grief about being unprofessional and missing deadlines and what’s even worse, the old she-witch is obviously in a firing humour today.

‘Oh come on, Cassie, don’t you have any psychic feelings on what I should do next?’ she asks me, flicking through a copy of next week’s
Tattle
magazine that’s lying on my desk. ‘My life coach says sooner or later I’m going to have to commit to a career.’

‘Commit to a career? You can’t even commit to a nail-varnish colour.’

‘I know,’ she giggles. ‘And bear in mind that I don’t even think I’ll get a decent reference from here. The Dragon Lady says that I have the concentration span of a— Oh wow, look! Twenty per cent off all cashmere at House of Fraser until next Tuesday! Come on, what are we waiting for?’

‘Shh, gimme a sec, I just need to think,’ I said, turning the letter over and over in my hand, trying to pick
something
up. Charlene is still warbling on when, suddenly, I get a crystal-clear picture.

‘She’s going to be an academic,’ I say, out of nowhere.

‘Who?’

‘The schoolgirl in my letter. Straight As all the way. She’s going to be offered a scholarship to study in the States. A boyfriend is going to be the last thing on her mind for a very long time to come.’

‘Ugh, adolescent hormonal problems,’ says Charlene, ‘what a snooze-fest. Just tell her there’s nothing like a blow dry and a pedicure to solve any problem in the world.’

I frantically scribble down some notes before I forget and Charlene starts slagging off my photo from the top of last week’s magazine column.

‘We really have got to do something about your hair, sweetie. Don’t get me wrong, I love your look, jeans and shirts and, you know, city-chic. It looks great on all you jammy tall bitches—’

‘Charlene! Working here! Or at least,
trying
to.’

She blithely ignores me. ‘But I’d love to make you, oh how do I put this, a bit less Charlize Theron and a bit more early Madonna. You should tone the blonde down and grow your hair out a bit too, longer hair would really suit you. Just look at me, sweetie, and learn by osmosis.’

‘May I remind you, you were the one who persuaded me to go this colour in the first place when I was a
perfectly
happy brunette. You assured me that blondes have more fun and consequently a higher hit rate with men, and guess what? Turns out they don’t.’

‘Don’t blame me, you’re the psychic. You should have known better.’

‘Not only that, but you took me to the most expensive salon in town where they subsequently charged me nearly
two hundred
euro—’

‘Oh yeah, and I ended up dating that guy who owns the place. I was so in love with him too, I really thought that was going to turn into something deep and committed . . . oh shit, what was his name again?’

‘So, basically, you met a man and I met my credit card limit.’

I sigh deeply and go back to my notes as Charlene throws her magazine down, already bored, randomly picks another letter from my pile and reads it out loud.

‘Dear Cassandra,

Hi. Long-time reader, first-time writer. I’d never in a million years dream of contacting anyone care of a magazine, only that I truly believe you have a rare and genuine gift, so if you could give me any help/useful psychic predictions about the emotional mini-drama series I find myself cast in, I would be for ever indebted to you.

Like a lot of the problems I read on your page, it
concerns,
surprise, surprise, a guy. My boyfriend. My boyfriend who’s idea of long-term commitment is to ask me what DVD I’d like him to rent out for later on tonight.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do care about this guy and I do want things to progress, but the trouble is I happen to know a few of his ex-girlfriends and they’ve all nicknamed him Pattern Man. (And not in the sewing sense, I hasten to add.) His behavioural pattern is as follows: for the first few months after he starts to date a new girlfriend, he’s the most ideal guy you could ever hope to be with. Champagne and roses, chocolates, eating out all the time in only the poshest, swishest restaurants: it almost feels like he’s showing you off to his mates. Then, after a few months, he starts slipping, getting bored, not returning calls or texts, all the classic signs that relationship fatigue has set in. Then all of his exes have found themselves in the unenviable position of having to give him the old “What’s the story, don’t you like me any more?” speech and he inevitably says, “Yeah, sorry, babe, relationship fizzle, sure you know yourself,” and then, within weeks and sometimes even days, he’s moved straight on to his next girlfriend. I honestly don’t think this guy has been single for longer than a fortnight in his entire life.

Now, Cassandra, my friends all say this is a classic sign of a guy who loves the thrill of the chase but then gets
tired
and turned off after a few short months, when the dating honeymoon is over and reality sets in. After that, he starts seeing his girlfriend in her non-date comfy knickers (you know, when you figure, what the hell, I already have my fella, so no need to torture myself with the misery of G strings any more), unwaxed legs and highlights in need of retouching (although this has only happened to me once, cross my heart.)’

Charlene reads on, but I’m actually only half listening to her. There’s another letter in the mound on my desk that’s, for some reason, drawing me to it. Blue notepaper. Scrawled handwriting. A strong feeling of urgency about it. Immediately, I get an overwhelming sense that whoever wrote this is a little older than those who normally write to me. A woman, I’m seeing, mid-sixties and white-haired, genuinely distressed, badly needing help and not knowing who else to turn to . . .

Charlene is still reading aloud:

‘Anyway, to make a long story short, lately I’m beginning to feel that it’s my turn to get elbowed out of the way and here’s the killer sign. It was my thirtieth birthday last week and he gave me, wait for it, an exercise bike. And there was me dropping hints about how much I loved Boodles jewellery and how fab it would be to have a birthday gift I could love and cherish for ever. I
think
Pattern Man is living up to his name and that no sooner will he brush me aside than he’ll be seen around the town with some twenty-something hot babe.

A newer and probably a younger model, the bastard.

Any psychic advice you might have on the subject would be greatly appreciated.’

‘Cassie? Cassie, are you even listening to this? This is a good one. Although God alone knows why this one is even bothering to write to a psychic in the first place. Match dot com was practically
invented
for people like her.’

BOOK: I Never Fancied Him Anyway
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