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Seize The Day

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When a blast from the past lands on her doormat, Sophie Beck feels inadequate to face the demons of her youth - namely Miles Langley. She's trying to craft her way as an illustrator, despite the scorn of her ultra successful brother, and knows that she's not yet the person she wants to be when she confronts her painful childhood crush. Up step her best friends, Vincenza helping with the sophistication, and reluctantly reliable, dashing Bill stands in as her date. All goes well, but afterwards relationships change, and as she faces losing her best friends she tries desperately to push her fledgling career and keep herself out of poverty.

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Seize The Day

                “Oh no!” Sophie Beck couldn’t drag her eyes from the gilt edged card that she held in her hand. “Oh no-no-no!” Why did the postman never bring good news?

Her best friend, housemate and general saviour Vincenza looked up from her book, “what?”

But Sophie was too busy pacing trying to control the nausea that threatened the safety of her breakfast to notice.

                ‘Dr and Mrs David Langley request your presence at the marriage of their daughter Melody to Mr Hugo Milton...’

The words blurred as she thought of all that meant. Attending the wedding of her beautiful yet rather controlling best friend from childhood, someone she hadn’t seen for years, and with the reunion came the a revisit with her best friend’s brother. Miles.

Vin was on her feet peering over Sophie’s shoulder as she’d had no response from her friend, “Langley? Is that your snobby school friend?” When Sophie nodded lamely, she added, “with the handsome big brother?”

Again she nodded, heat flushing her face as she remembered those days back in her teens when she’d relentlessly thrown herself at Miles, beautiful Miles. Spinning to face her friend Sophie groaned, “I can’t possibly go! I mean she’s a success, she was always beautiful, but now she’s a model, she’s marrying a rich heir, and he’ll be there. What have I got to brag about? I’m like a pauper, spinster...ARGH!”

                “What the hell are you two stressing over now!?”

They both turned to see Bill, or rather officially, William Swift, their landlord and best mate. The three had met in their first week of university and had been inseparable friends ever since. He ran a hand through his blonde floppy hair and groaned as he saw Sophie’s bleak face. “Oh no, please tell me they haven’t run out of Chablis at Asif’s corner shop? That took three days for you to recover last time!”

Sophie poked out her tongue, “no. This is a REAL problem!”

                “Though the lack of Chablis was a problem worthy of a United Nations Envoy!” Vincenza added supportively.

Sophie turned to her friend and smiled, appreciating her conspiratorial efforts, “damn right Vin. But no,” she turned back to Bill, “this is a real crisis. I’ve been invited to a wedding, you know the scenario, dominant bullying school friend, had the world at her feet, is now marrying Mr Hugo Milton, soon-to-be fourth largest landowner in the country when his father finally passes!”

Bill laughed, “and you as the weak, put-upon artist feel a failure?”

She nodded, “I’m sure you were a woman in a previous life Bill, I’ve never known a straight man be so in touch with his feminine side!”

Bill tossed his coat and briefcase on to the sofa, then kicked off his immaculate handmade shoes, “not at all Sophie, I have just lived with you two long enough to know exactly what you’re thinking! Hen pecked and emotionally scarred, that’s me!”

Vin jumped up from her seat in the window, “but so few men would recognise emotional scarring let alone admit to having it...are you sure you don’t bat for the other side? I mean there are all those tubs of Vaseline in the bathroom, and all that Lycra...” It was a ludicrous suggestion, Bill literally had the pick of women, he was charming, understanding, but completely against any commitment. Though having an amazing gift of the gab skill meant women walked away him feeling empowered, desired, and as though they were the ones who’d called the shots. He was a philanderer with scruples! And a highly successful one!

He threw a pillow across the room catching Vincenza unaware square on the back of the head, “watch it! I like to cycle Vin, you KNOW that! I take offence at your conclusions.” He didn’t like to cycle...he was a cycling addict, spending hours pacing the country roads outside of the City. It had started as an attempt to relax, but now it was a way of life. Their dining room was often filled with bikes and bike parts, as his ‘babies’ were too expensive to live in the shed or garage. Then there was the bike trainer, for days when the weather was too bleak for even Bill to cycle.

Sophie chuckled, always glad of her crazy friends to diffuse any stress and make a problem about them! “As I recall ‘Lance Armstrong’ we were talking about me!”

He snapped his head around and glared at her, “he’s American, at least give me Bradley Wiggins!”

She laughed, “well you’re no Mark Cavendish, you might cycle but you’re hardly a rocket!”

Sitting on the sofa with a sigh, he turned to her, “so what’s the problem then? This wedding?”

Vin laughed, “she had undying, unrequited and very obvious love for the hunky big brother! Made a fool of herself a few times!”

                “It was more than a few times, and even though it was fifteen years ago I still blush!” Spinning around she pointed at her cheeks dramatically. “And because it went to my home address, and my darling parents are off on yet another jaunt helping orphans in Africa, this invite has been spinning through the postal service for six weeks trying to find me! The wedding is in two weeks! No way can I even consider it!”

                “Sophie! Come on! Glam up, look stunning, show him what he’s missing, then exit gracefully! That’s what I’d do!” Bill couldn’t see the gay factor in that comment either.

Sophie sighed, “show him what he’s missing?” She pulled her t-shirt tight to her body, “a shapeless lump who relies on handouts from her friends as she’s as good at art as she is at everything else in life...including ensnaring men!” Sophie had given up on ever finding love after a series of disastrous encounters the previous year. Now as she hit financial struggles she really was seeing rock bottom and not liking it.

Vin sniggered, and Bill glared to silence her, “Sophie, you do not live on handouts, and you are a brilliant artist who has taken the brave step to sacrifice financial stability for it. Who couldn’t appreciate and admire that? And you are not lumpy, you’re curvy!”

Groaning Sophie left the room, poor Bill he did try and keep the peace, he saw the good in everyone and everything, hence his bed post having more notches in it than Simon Cowell, but today she wasn’t falling for his schmooze. This wedding invite was one of many things that was making her review her life, and she wasn’t happy with her findings. The fact that Melody bloody Langley was marrying some spiv was like the final nail in her coffin.

Opening the door to her attic room she took in the chaos. This was her life! Her antique metal framed bed was unmade, the dark bedding strewn across it, the imprint of her head still visible on the pillow. Her music system sat in the small window alcove, but at least twenty CD’s were strewn across the floor. Most out of their cases.  She didn’t have a wardrobe as such, instead she had a rail running between two of the walls, and that was full of hanging clothes, but over the top of the hangers holding her clothes were a dozen dresses, jeans, all draped over the rail. Her easel faced out of the other small window, for inspiration and light, and her drawing table was beside it for the same reason. Her paints, pastels and pencils were the only things she looked after, all stored in the exact spectrum she favoured in the drawers under her desk.

A tidy room gives a tidy mind! It was a frequent mantra of her mother’s, and at that moment she needed all the help she could get to sort her mind out, so she started a methodical sort out.

The three of them had lived in this house for four years since Bill had inherited it from his Great Aunt Margaret, a distant relative of the queen. Bill, or rather Sir William Swift was the second son of an Earl, Eton educated, but the most down to earth and fun man Sophie had ever met. Being the second son he was saved any responsibility, which suited him down to the ground. Rather than being jealous of the opportunity offered his older brother Henry, he relished the freedom. He was regularly shunned by his parents, then allowed back into the fold of the family periodically, usually in a dramatic fashion. Despite the family connections, the estate in the country he called home, Bill was normal, and worked hard in a bank in the city. He could have used the family name to skate through life as his brother did so well, but he didn’t. The gift of a house helped, and as soon as he’d inherited, he’d moved the girls in with him. A four bed house in fairly central London was a handy asset to have, and the nominal rent he charged them made it the bargain of the century. Plus he was easy going; it felt like THEIR house, not his.

Sophie had dropped all her books on the first day of college, part of the nervous flapping that had marred her most important day, Vincenza Dorino had been climbing out of her chauffeur driven limousine and witnessed the chaos. Rushing over she helped Sophie, and insisted on meeting her for coffee later as Sophie had started to cry, it had been the final stress on her horrendous first day. They’d been firm friends ever since, Bill had appeared on the scene a few days later as he recognised Vincenza as the sister of his brother’s friend. A really distant connection, but they were still best mates, a terrible trio more than seven years later.

Her room looked better clean, but it still seemed gloomy, maybe she’d go to one of the DIY shops on Monday and get some lighter paint. She’d chosen autumn plum two years ago when she was going through a gothic stage in her life. Now it looked immature, a silly choice. She decided on a bath maybe it’d clear her head and lift the cloud of depression that the invite had caused. Was her life that bad that a step back in time filled her with dread? She was twenty five and had no real assets since she’d left her job as an auditor for a huge surveying company to try and make her name as an illustrator. But despite her enthusiasm, and the encouragement of all her friends, she was struggling, hugely, on so many levels. She’d given up a regular salary, and now her contacts in the artistic world weren’t as solid as she first imagined.

The deep claw foot bath was a haven, and she submerged in the water up to her chin, and closing her eyes. The smell of patchouli wafted into her nostrils, according to the bottle, it was good for mental anguish, indecision and touchiness, that just about summed her up today! As she relaxed however, thoughts and inspiration for the latest commission came to her mind. That was why she carried her sketch pad everywhere with her. Drawing was both her relaxation and distraction, but also now her livelihood. That transition had skewed her world, and she wondered if her negativity over life was linked to that. She'd lost her escape place.

After forty minutes of drawing, and repeatedly topping up the bath, she'd harnessed some of her inspiration and felt so much better.

Towel drying her shoulder length dark hair with the expensive copper streaks, her only recent luxurious activity, she looked at the body she’d called lumpy earlier. It wasn’t lumpy, but she knew that Melody Langley was lithe, athletic, and the woman Miles had disappeared with the night of her eighteenth birthday, just after she’d told him how she felt about him, had pretty much been of the same build, all her childhood insecurities were coming back to haunt her. At best Sophie acknowledged she was Amazonian, broad, tall, with very definite curves, the complete opposite.

A fierce rapping at the bathroom door forced her to cover her body with her threadbare robe, and scrape her hair back into a clip. Then she opened it to see Vincenza stood there. The daughter of an Italian property magnate, she was one of her country’s most eligible young ladies. Her father was six foot four, and despite being fifty, a desperately attractive man, Sophie was known to swoon whenever he visited. But Vincenza followed her petite delicate mother, with a dark pixie hair cut and the longest eyelashes known to man, she was beautiful in an elfin like way, and standing outside the door, a beaming smile on her face, for a split second she appeared to be about fifteen.

                “We’ve worked it all out!” She announced grabbing for Sophie’s hand, “you know that Bill and me are the best friends a girl could ask for!”

Sophie groaned as she followed her back downstairs.

Bill was sat with a glass of wine in his hand, and some cycling show blaring out of the TV, glancing up as she entered the room he offered a nervous ‘not my fault’ smile, and Sophie felt the fear of impending doom wash over her. Vincenza was well known for her elaborate and misplaced schemes.

Dropping onto an armchair she looked at Vin, “ok. Hit me!”

Vinenza’s face lit up. “I’ve got the best plan to wow Miles Langley! All you need is the perfect outfit!” Sophie’s financial dire straits were common knowledge in this house. “So I’ve got this!”

From behind her back she produced a stunning dress that looked like it would drown her if she wore it. Royal blue silk, strappy but elegant, Sophie imagined it’d come to mid thigh on her. “Why have you got a designer dress four sizes too big for you?”

Her friend smiled, “Why wouldn’t a fashion writer have access to this? It’s a sample from a small designer, rare...it came into my hands a few months ago and knew it would suit you. But I stored it in the back of my wardrobe. Seems I was saving it for the right moment!”

Reaching out her hand, she felt the delicate fabric and sighed, “well aren’t you the dark horse...again!”

Vincenza was a complete and living contrast, coming from a background of untold wealth, she denied her parent’s Kensington town house in favour of sharing a home that was a step up from student digs. She worked for an internet fashion company as a reviewer, as close as she could get to journalism, her ultimate ambition. One word in Daddy’s ear and all her dreams would come true, but Sophie had a feeling that it wasn’t just an aversion to a gilded life that made her avoid that, more that she feared failure. There was some sort of comfort in stepping out of that life, safety in mediocrity. She’d never tell her friend that, but for some reason all three of them were meandering along with little purpose.

                “This dress will dazzle Miles Langley, he’ll be ruing the day he ever rejected you! And on the arm of a smart, handsome and rich man, you’ll wow the bride too!”

Sophie groaned, “are you trying to set me up in a blind date?”

She shook her head, bit her lip, then glanced purposefully across the room to a rather pink faced Bill. “Sir William Swift the second of course!”

Sophie shook her head in wonder, unable to believe the suggestion, Bill looked mortified, but as the more she thought about it, the more it made sense. He did tick every box in the ‘look what you missed out on’ campaign...as did that spectacular dress!

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