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Authors: Claudia Carroll

I Never Fancied Him Anyway (37 page)

BOOK: I Never Fancied Him Anyway
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‘OK, how about Browns in half an hour?’

‘Bless and double bless you.’

‘Are you sure you’re OK? You sound brutal. Never even heard you coming home last night. It must have been all hours.’

‘Trust me, it’s better if I tell you face to face. You’re less likely to judge me.’

‘I could never judge
you
,’ she says and I can almost hear the worry in her voice. God love her, now she’s probably thinking either (a) I caused a hit-and-run accident or (b) in a sudden blood rush to the head, I held up a late-night cashpoint on my way home.

‘See you in half an hour, hon,’ I say, deliberately hanging up, knowing full well that if I don’t, she’ll only wheedle it out of me anyway.

The house is stone-dead quiet, which is fantastic; it means Charlene’s out. I glance at the clock on my phone. It can’t be half-eleven, can it? Bloody hell, how long was I asleep for?

I’m just about to jump into the shower, in the vain hope that it’ll clear my head, when I notice there’s an unread text message on my phone. From Jack, sent at three a.m. this morning.

HEY SLEEPING BEAUTY. HOPE U ENJOYED TONIGHT AS MUCH AS I DID. WILL CALL U AFTER WORK TOMORROW. DINNER MAYBE? JXXX

Oh God, my heart does a somersault. He wants to see me again. Socially, as a date, I mean, a proper date, outside of work. Thank God he doesn’t regret last night, at least. I don’t know what I’d do otherwise, but one thing is for certain: this
isn’t
someone who I can write off and say I never fancied him anyway. No use invoking the catchphrase here; it just won’t work. Not this time. For once in my life, I have absolutely no idea what lies ahead; all I know for certain is that, as far as Jack is concerned, my catchphrase is completely and utterly defunct.

You know, maybe, just maybe, everything will be OK. I know it’s asking a lot, but who’s to say Charlene won’t be completely cool about this? Maybe she’ll even be happy for me. Yes, I know I’ve transgressed an unwritten rule of friendship by snogging the face off her ex not two days after they broke up, but, you know, miracles do happen, don’t they? And she did ask Oliver out only yesterday, didn’t she? OK, so he’s clearly
a
rebounder and this is the same Oliver who I haven’t had a single good word to say about pretty much since I met him . . .

Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be doing well if she doesn’t rip out one of my ovaries.

I have a lightning-quick shower, get dressed, lash on a bit of make-up and am out of the door fifteen minutes later, walking as fast as my throbbing head will allow to the coffee shop where I’m meeting Jo.

The important thing here, I remind myself, is to be completely straight and upfront with Charlene. I mean, if the boot were on the other foot, if she’d had a fling with my ex, yes, of course I’d be . . . a bit taken aback, naturally, but the two things I’d appreciate most of all on her part would be (a) honesty and (b) directness. A quick coffee/strategy meeting with Jo, then I’ll call her and come and meet her wherever she is. Get it over and done with early – well, relatively early in the day. Not to mention while I’m still a bit anaesthetized with last night’s alcohol.

I’m late and I’m running now when another text comes through on my mobile. I nearly drop my handbag in my rush to find my phone, I’m so convinced that it’s Jack again. Serves me right for being cocky. It’s Jo.

WAS JUST LEAVING AMNESTY WHEN CHARLENE CALLED IN. SHE KNOWS.
EVERYTHING.
SHE’S COMING WITH ME TO MEET U. FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED.

Oh shit.

It’s only much, much later that I get a chance to figure out the chain/trail of shame. Piecing it together roughly, it appears to have proceeded something along these lines.

Location: the Channel Seven make-up room

Time: 7.30 a.m. this morning approximately

LISA TO DAMIEN, THE MAKE-UP GUY
: Hot gossip from last night! Now I’m not one to blather out of turn, but I was at the Comedy Cellar last night and I did happen to see our executive producer kissing the face off our resident psychic.

Time: 7.35 a.m. approx
.

DAMIEN TO MARY
(
as he’s lashing on her foundation
): Ooh, do you wanna know what I heard? Jack and Cassie are going out with each other. For definite. They were seen together and everything. Apparently, this has been going on for
ages
. You heard it here first, baby.

Time: 8 a.m. approx
.

MARY TO THE FLOOR MANAGER
: Just while you’re talking to Jack there on your headphones, will you congratulate him
for
me? I’m over the moon that he’s moving in with that lovely young girl. I’m very fond of Cassie. You can tell him I totally approve.

Time: 8.05 a.m. approx
.

FLOOR MANAGER TO OLIVER
(
during a commercial break
): Nice piece of stuff Jack’s been seeing all this time. Lovely legs. I always wondered how she landed such a prime slot for herself so fast and with no telly experience or anything. Now we know, I suppose.

Time: about 30 minutes ago, but then I’m only guessing

OLIVER
(
traitorous git that he is
)
TO CHARLENE
: Well, your ex didn’t exactly let the grass grow under his feet . . . madly in love with your flatmate . . . all over the station, etc. etc.

Unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

By the time I get to Browns, they’re both in there at a quiet table at the back of the shop, which could turn out to be very handy in the event of bloodshed.

Charlene is looking very red-eyed. Bad sign.

I decide to speak first, on the principle that attack is the best form of defence. ‘OK, Charlene, straight off, I want you to know that I am so, so sorry. You have no idea how sorry I am, but you have to let me explain—’

She doesn’t let me get to the end of my sentence. ‘You’re sorry that I found out, you mean?’

‘Will you let her finish?’ Jo says to Charlene. I’m so grateful she’s here. At times like this, having a referee is always handy.

‘Well, (a) I was drunk and (b) it was only a snog. That’s it. I was back home, alone and in bed by . . . well, I can’t remember when exactly, you were both long gone to sleep, but that’s all it was. I promise you.’

Charlene starts to sniffle. ‘Jack could have been the love of my life, you know.’

‘Oh come on,’ says Jo, but she’s actually being gentle. Trying to lighten things up a bit, bless her. ‘You said that about each and every one of Westlife.’

‘So you’re taking Cassie’s side in this? Oh well, there’s a surprise.’

Now I swear I can practically see the hackles on the back of Jo’s neck slowly, very slowly, beginning to rise. ‘You know, maybe you need to grow up here a bit. Two single people got together last night. So what? Is it really such a big deal? As they say in the States, build a bridge and get over it.’

‘Don’t you dare speak to me like that, Josephine. How do you think I feel? I had to hear this about fifth-hand from Oliver. Everyone at Channel Seven seems to know all about it, but not me.’

‘Look,’ I say, trying to calm things down. ‘I know it’s terrible the way that you found out, but honestly, I only woke up half an hour ago.
Of course
I was going
to
tell you. It’s hardly my fault if events took over, now is it?’

‘Well, it’s not my fault if you’ve broken an unwritten rule of friendship. Stay away from your girlfriend’s exes.’

There’s a silence. That’s kind of the ultimate bring-down and she has me there.

‘Now, in all fairness,’ says Jo, a bit more calmly now, ‘it’s not as if you haven’t moved on yourself. If I can just jog your sieve-like memory, what about Oliver?’

‘Yes,’ she sniffs, ‘my rebound guy. You know what really upsets me more that anything else, Cassie? Only yesterday, you were picking a fight with me, demanding to know if he was the only guy in town I could have gone after. They were your exact words. So here we are, twenty-four hours later; same question back to you.’

OK, if I didn’t feel bad enough before this, I really do now.

She plays her advantage to the fullest. ‘There you were, up on the moral high ground, like some kind of ethical watchdog, telling me how I could and couldn’t behave and then you go out last night and . . .’

She trails off, thank God, and she doesn’t even know the half of it. How is she to know the way I’ve felt about Jack pretty much since the night they met? When I clearly saw that I would fall for this guy and
I didn’t tell her?

Guilt sucks, it really does. I will fry in hell for this,
and
that’s if I’m lucky and God’s in a good mood on Judgement Day. Oh, and Charlene’s started to cry now, just to make me feel worse.

‘The image of you two together is, like, seared on my retina for ever,’ she says, dabbing her eyes. ‘How could you, Cassie? I thought you were my friend?’

‘Come on,’ says Jo after a long pause and a concerned look over in my direction. ‘This is bad enough without the emotional guilt thrown in. You have a chance to be the bigger person here, Charlene. Can’t you just accept that this has happened, put it behind you and move on? This conversation demeans everyone.’

‘I don’t think so,’ she says, getting up abruptly. ‘Just so you’re aware, Cassandra, you have now officially become top of my list of enemies, bypassing George Bush Junior and that incredibly lucky cow who married Russell Crowe.’

‘Charlene, sit down, please, let’s be adults here,’ I say, half aware that everyone in the restaurant is now looking over at this highly entertaining side-show.

‘Forget it,’ she says, pulling on her coat, and for a split second I think she’s going to throw her half-drunk cappuccino over me in a Bette Davis-style diva gesture. ‘I think you’re aware of my personal motto. Forgive and remember.’ And out she goes.

I slump back into the chair, shaking, actually shaking.

‘Are you OK?’ says Jo, squeezing my hand.

‘Mmm.’

‘Tantrums and tiaras, that’s all that’s wrong with her. She’ll get over it.’

‘Mmm.’

‘Her behaviour is completely irrational, you do know that, don’t you?’

‘Mmm.’

‘Cassie? Are you listening?’

‘Sorry. I’m just thinking about . . .’

‘What? Tell me.’

‘It’s just . . . I like him, Jo, I really do. And I don’t know, but I think he might, just conceivably
might
, feel the same way about me. And that this could, for once in my life, you know, actually
be
something. This could have legs. He could be a keeper.’

‘But that’s wonderful news,’ she says, smiling at me. ‘I’ve never heard you say that about anyone before and I’m thrilled for you, I really am.’

‘Except that I think we both know how Charlene is going to see it. Jack versus her. A twenty-year friendship versus a potential lover. No matter which way you look at it, one thing is for certain. She’s going to make me choose.’

Chapter Seventeen

THE TAROT DECK

THE JUSTICE CARD

Ok. Who Among us hasn’t heartily wished that they could turn the clock back, at some point in their lives? This card symbolizes that it’s time to make amends. Speak your mind, clear your conscience and if you feel an apology is warranted, offer one immediately. If it’s accepted, all will be well, harmony will be restored and the past can be put to rest
.

If not, you’re going to hell anyway. You might as well dance
. . .

NEEDLESS TO SAY
, I’m beyond useless when I do eventually get into work. Can’t see a thing. Nothing.

I spend the guts of a full hour with one letter in my hand, madly trying to pick up something with absolutely no joy. And it’s a great letter too, one I’d normally be able to deal with in no time. One I’d really enjoy giving out advice to, as well.

Dear Cassandra,

I am stuck in such a rut and desperately need your help. The problem is that the last few relationships I’ve had have all involved men whom I always seem to meet when they’re in the throes of a crisis. Example: the last guy was going through a very messy, painful divorce, two small kids, you know yourself. Awful, just awful. So what did I do? Picked him up, put him back together again and made him all better.

And then he left me. It’s as if they see me as some kind of emotional fixer, but the minute they’re good as new and ready to go out and face the world again, they don’t want to know me because, let’s face it, I knew them when they were broken. I’m a reminder of bad times. In some warped way, I symbolize the past and now, of course, they hate their past. Do you ever see the pattern breaking, Cassandra? I so don’t want to be alone. Happily married to the right guy is what I want, if it’s not asking too much.

Please, please help me.

Lost and lonely in Dublin. xxx

The Dragon Lady’s not here, so the office is noisy and buzzy, but even tuning out all the normal high-jinks and gossip doesn’t work. And there’s no sign of Valentine, the one person I’d actually have loved to talk last night over with. Probably still with Danish girl. Oh well.

At about five-ish, I throw in the towel and decide to call it a day.

‘All right, old thing?’ Sir Bob asks me as I gather up my things. ‘Not at all like you to be so quiet. And if you don’t mind me saying, you’re looking most dreadfully pale.’

‘Late night last night, that’s all,’ I say, doing my best to laugh it off. ‘I’ll be back on form soon enough, don’t you worry about me.’

He escorts me to the lift, thorough gentleman that he is, says nothing, asks nothing, just presses the ground-floor button for me and waves me off.

Probably thinks I have ‘women’s problems’, as he’d most likely say.

It’s already pitch dark and as I’m walking home, desperately trying to clear my head and decide what in the name of God I’m going to do, Marc with a C texts – one of his why-leave-a-brief-message-when-a-radio-play-will-do-instead-type texts.

BOOK: I Never Fancied Him Anyway
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