Authors: Lindsey Kelk
Lindsey Kelk’s 5-book ‘I Heart’ Collection
I Heart New York
I Heart Hollywood
I Heart Paris
I Heart Vegas
I Herat London
Table of Contents
I Heart New York
Angela’s Guide to NYC
I Heart Hollywood
Angela’s Guide to LA
I Heart Paris
Angela’s Guide to Paris
I Heart Vegas
Angela’s Guide to Vegas
I Heart London
Angela’s Guide to London
KR page I HEART CHRISTMAS
About the Author
By Lindsey Kelk
About the Publisher
I HEART NEW YORK
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
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.
‘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.’
‘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 weighins 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 pay cheque 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.
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 fallback 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.