the good the bad and the basic

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Chapter Twelve

I thought about going back to my flat, that would be the normal thing to do seeing as that is where I live.

I could feel the silence of it already, and I think TV would have made me feel worse. I wished Matt was still here.

I wandered down into town, I picked up a large iced latte and with the upbeat rap music on my airpods I power walked through the high street to find something to wear.

I wandered through the charity shops, trying to find a diamond in the rough, to make me feel like I worked to find something that suited me and was pretty.

I wanted some retail therapy. It would have been nice to swan into the higher end high street shops and pick up something straight out of the front and spend a fortune. But it didn’t take as long, I had a day to kill.

With my job prospects uncertain, and only a two weeks notice period and all my holidays as my only certain future income, coupled with my love of overpriced wine bars and ice lattes, I am in no position to be spending forty quid on a nice going out top.

I found some old levis in the jeans section, my waist size. It brought back memories of cutting charity shop levis in my teens into booty shorts to wear with crop tops in my teen years. I remembered back to the house parties and the camping in the woods to drink with school friends in ridiculously short shorts, I smiled to myself.

They were a tenner, I had to get them for nostalgia. I flipped through the womens secion and found a camel colour velvet biker style jacket with fridges. I found these after three shops and what felt like forever. But it was perfect.

Usually I was working so much I just spent my life in a rotation of black, beige and navy cigarette trousers with smart white, black and cream blouses. I went out usually after work so the only other clothes I wore where gym stuff on the short lived phases of weight loss, then deciding a liquid diet or ice lattes and wine with salads was the best way for me to lose weight and that I never had time for the fucking gym anyway and i was a waste of twenty quid a month.

I felt like myself again with a shopping bag containing levis and a fringed jacket.

I nipped into the Primark and got myself a black top, tights and a fresh tube of liquid eyeliner.

I decided fuck it, I have lost my job and self sabotaged I may as well take it a bit further. I went down to boots and bought myself a big bottle of Chanel perfume. The cheap perfume I owned ended up being smashed in the flat.

I was enjoying forgetting about everything outside of my little shopping bubble. I even picked up some roses in the supermarket on the way home. Wanting to treat myself I lingered around the champagne. Champagne’s for celebrating, and I’ve just lost my job. That must be bad luck or something surly? Like listening to christmas carols in the summer or something. I picked up a bottle of pinot G insead for the fridge. I was feeling better after a few days of a no wine detox, and I was ready to ruin it again.

I headed home and shoved my charity shop finds in a quick wash, I knew I shouldn’t wash the jacket but it stank of sweat and fags, I had to. It came out fine, I stuck in on the radiator feeling good that I had something decent in my wardrobe again, after the massacre of all the clothes I had collected over the years being slashed up.

Three O clock on my first day of unemployment, I quickly cleaned the flat with the help of a glass of pinot grigio. I noticed my hair was looking limp yesterday, I got up early this morning and blow dried it even though I knew that I would be sacked, or as it turned out, forced out, I wouldn’t want to be remembered with bad hair.

I stopped hoovering to take a sip of wine, feeling guilty for even thinking of this. The blocking my job loss out of my mind must be working, I can forget about it for at least half an hour, before I would stop in my tracks and freeze with crippling thoughts about the future.

No! I would deal with this tomorrow. I wanted to be like the people on films and on tv that show up at the bar and drink their sorrow away when they lose their jobs. For at least one night until I start on a productive week of getting some sort of a shape of a life on track. Please god.

I lit a candle and out my roses in water in the living room, sticking on my playlist and letting my varied music play loudly so I couldn’t be alone with my own thoughts.

I brought in my makeup bag and set to work on my face, swaying to some calming folk music. I did light foundation and bronzer and lined and winged my eyes so they looked bright and cat like, my lips I did naturally. I kneeled closer into the floor length mirror I got in a heavy wooden frame from a charity shop which I spray painted old and gave myself a memorable headache, it had a big crack in the middle of it now. Another reminder.

I turned my head left to right, I had lost weight in the last few years, it was still very up and down but on the whole lower. My cheekbones were more pronounced, my lips and eyes seemed to me larger because I had less weight on my cheeks.

I stood up, in my black lace underwear. My stomach was flatter, arms thinner and even my collarbones more pronounced. I have always struggled with my weight. I used to comfort eat, if I was upset or lonely, I would down larger and eat giant plates of nachos.

I would get bored, sad and lonely and have my head in the fridge all day. Nibbling at whatever I decided to fill it with all day. In The Evening I would get packs of chocolate pots and eat them one after another. I used to stay up late eating every night. I habit that I eventually managed to stop, I was lighter and healthier now, not super thin, not really thin at all, just a nice regular healthy weight.

I thought back to when I worked on the reception, I got more involved with the people at work. I was very shy by nature, I sat on the reception away from everyone and made little more than polite small talk.

When Keira started working and I found a woman my age to recruit as my partner in crime. I was forming a natural, but more stiff and formal friendship with Nina.

After I left my weekend pub job there were a few horrible lonely weekends, I would watch films, drink wine, go for walks. I downloaded a dating app. I soon developed my own routine that I took a lot of comfort in, I would go out with Keria on a friday because she had date night with her fella on saturdays.

We would go to my flat after work and drink a load of wine, sometimes changing into some skinny jeans and ‘a nice top’ but a lot of the time just going out in what we wore at work, our showers from that morning having to do. We didn’t do the whole ‘getting ready thing’ we just got as pissed as possible in two hours.

Keira always looked amazing anyway, her work clothes were always something seemingly effortless but looked amazing.

I learned the valuable lesson of never wearing a white blouse on a friday if you’re going to end up in a busy pub with everyone being all elbows.

I got a fresh wine and tried on my outfit. My legs looked long in the now shorts, I chopped the legs off the vintage jeans with my kitchen scissors, they looked good with the fishnets and the very high boots. The tight top showed off the outline of my boobs. It was a bit much admittedly, but the casual fringe suede jacket was a little too big and it made me feel casual enough to face the world in an outfit out of my comfort zone. I put some tights on under the shorts.

I headed to the pub where I saw kera in her hot pink suit which looked perfectly tailored to her figure, she had a casual black t shirt underneath.

“Oh my god, you started an indie band?” She laughed, throwing her head back.

“Piss off corporate barbie!”

“I do love it, but so different! Suits you more than the boring ‘chic’ shite Nina talks you into wearing.” Keria rolled her eyes when she said chic. She was not a fan of Nina monochrome, designer, victoria beckham inspired wardrobe.

“Still butting heads?” I asked. Keira was originally a stylist. Her and Nina had conflicting opinions on fashion. I always wondered why Nina took her on to do the fashion pages if she didn’t like her style, apparently it went solely on who came in the interview with the biggest name drop. Keria has aspirations of her own women’s tailoring line, but needs to save first.

“Course we fucking are, I’m sick of it. I will be gone as soon as I can and I will drag that anorexic control freak though the mud!”

“Jesus big day for us both.”

“She just wants everything to be so beige because she wants to appeal to only herself-” she stopped herself. “But shit, that’s not the big story here is it. Tell me all about this new bad girl mistress I never saw fucking coming, is that why you’ve got a new look for yourself? God I would never have thought. Always the nice ones that say their pleases and thank yous that do the maddest shit.”

“I don’t know, I was sad so I hit the charity shops after the big departure-”

“And wanted to relive your youth?”

“I think so, I bought fags as well the other day.”

“You want to go back to simpler times because you’re stressed and you bought fishnets?”

“Err.”

“I need you to tell me what happened this morning but we need a drink, I’m gonna get shots and wine. And I’m pissed, I mean pissed, you didn’t tell me what was going on.”

“It’s been fast and mental, I wanted to. I had two wines while I was getting ready, don’t get me a shot.”

“I’ll get an extra shot for myself to catch up, or maybe two.”

“I’m fucking starving though, would you mind getting me a pack of crisps please?” I had only had a sandwich in town.

I checked my phone while Keria went for drinks.

I didn’t have much use for it other than messaging Matt lately. I got too down seeing how happy school friends were on facebook, and how much better looking other women are than me on instagram so I had started trying to avoid that and just check messages, emails and the news in the morning.

Matt: God I fucking miss you.

He had attached a photo of the boardroom he was in in his serious real job.

Me: Things would be a lot more interesting there if you had me on that big table.

I cringed at the sext, feeling ashamed. There was something under the shame though, I felt a pull down in the bottom of my stomach that made me fold over and let out a deep breath. I needed to not need this!

Matt: Laying you out on it would make me that happiest man alive. I’m back soon.

I went up to help Keira with the drinks, a bottle of prosecco even though we have both agreed many times it’s piss that tastes of sugar. Three shots of pink gin and two bags of crisps. We went out to the beer garden and put the shots into the glasses, two for Keria as she was behind, one for me. We stopped up with prosecco and clinked together.

“To putting life before work!” Keria said so loudly heads turned.

“To accepting defeat!” I toasted. Keira looked uncertain about my toast but clinked anyway. As we drained the glasses in one the table of lads souted “Wheeyyyyyy!! LADS!” Myself and Keria buckled over laughing.

“You ladies single?”

“Fit husband, sorry boys!” Keria announced doing a little dance.

“Stolen married man!” I announce mimaking Kerias little dance. She howled with laughter. God it felt good to make light of it.

“No offence love, you’re fit but you sound mental anyways!” One of the lads teased.

I shrugged. “Sorry boys, better luck next time!”

The table of lads laughed and wolf whistled at us. We turned back to each other.

“I feel better announcing it to a group of randomers, feels a little less of a dirty secret to the world. Even if I am mental.”

“Want me to go and show them the daily mail article, let them know you’re a mental celebrity?” she laughed. “No seriously though no ones seen that fucking thing it was just a it of gossip, the bloke who wrote it used to work with Matt and hates him. Matt discredited him one time and now he’s stuck on tabloids and celebrity gossip. I reckon he had a right push trying to get that put on the bottom of the website.”

“That’s your theory?”

“Yeah, it’s more than a theory. I mean don’t get me wrong you have a good following with the website and the podcast, but judging by the bloke who wrote that article, you wouldn’t be his cup of tea, and the nature of what you do is faceless. Nina, right, she walks around like she’s Gods gift, but no one in the real world really knows who she is. She didn’t exactly marry a footballer.”

I absorbed this a moment, lighting up a fag as if I was a natural again on my day two of taking up smoking again. Did I have Nina in my head to be bigger than she is? Appropriate was a publication that prided itself on being about and for real women, embracing flaws and no judgement of Z list celebrities. I never really found the urge to ever look at the daily mail either. Probably because I found from Nina how heavily produced the UK reality shows were, and far away from reality it actually is and how her celebrity friends were nothing like that in real life.

“If I go for an interview now, if they don’t already know me from being on Ninas blacklist. My name in google and that load of shit comes up. Not to mention my lack of qualifications.”

“You don’t need qualifications to make content. You shouldn’t be worrying about that right now, there’s so much you can do.”

“Oh come off it, London College of fashion, you have the qualifications!”

Keria took a fag and lit up. “Piss off, I have rich parents so it’s different. They are very disappointed regardless, bloody doctors. Shocked that with a world of opportunities I didn’t want to sit in a GP office day in day out and look and lumps and ingrowing toenails.”

“No offence but your bedside manner would have been shit anyway!” I snorted, necking some more prosecco.

“You have tact, I can give you that. But you are not changing the subject and getting out of telling me everything. From the start. Now.”

“I have been daydreaming about Matt for about a year now. I thought it was really inappropriate, but it was just in my head so it didn’t matter.”

“Well I think that you should have give him a snog earlier, I’m loving seeing Nina in her downhill coke spiral.”

“Well, it escalated to a lot more than a drunken snog, obviously.”

“How?”

“So I always felt as if there was some sort of, bond, or flirtation, or something. But, I thought it was all me and all in my head. And, well. When he was walking me home after the dinner party, everything just got a little closer. He was being really nice, and I just forgot about the world and I just went with it. I didn’t even feel bad, I just wanted to get closer, so I did. He made the move, but I made it clear I wanted him to make it. When he did make the move, I went for it. I went for exactly what I wanted and only came to after. Once I had realised what I had done.”

“Did you sleep with him?”

“No, but I did the night you came round.”

“After?”

“Before, just before.”

“Ew. And how could you not tell me?”

“It was too big of a secret, I was worried I would let slip, I didn’t want to worry about anyone else. No offence.”

“None taken, I’m loud, it’s a flaw.” I wanted to tell her it’s not a flaw, and that I really wanted to tell her what was going on at the time, but she was leaning in urging me to continue.

“He was supposed to come round so we could figure out a way to get over the tension, seeing as if we didn’t meet in secret, the next time would probably be with Nina around and I worried we would give it away. I think we both wanted it to happen though. We were talking on the phone after that for a while. Until Nina came to me crying, telling me that he was being a dick to her and manipulating her.”

“Don’t believe that for a second, carry on.”

“So I fell out with him, I tried to go out with Ollie.”

“What?”

“It wasn’t great, nothing to write home about. He was a little judgy. And now he obviously hates me. But before that I kind of scared him away.”

“Okay, least he was single though, no offence. How did you scare him away?”

“Well, we went out for a few beers, and when we got to mine my flat was broken into and verthing, and everything was destroyed, nothing was stolen. It was Nina, she left a message on my mirror telling me to stop or she would flood my flat or burn it down next time.”

“What the fuck? Where was Matt in all of this?”

“Home, not with her though, he saw her leave for a few hours that night, and come back sweaty. That’s when she told him she knew.”

“Did he go round to yours then?”

“No, he didn’t know what she had done at that point. I went to Ollies, just because he was the person I was with at the time. I told Matt about it the next morning, he came round and helped me clean up and bought me some new stuff. He’s been staying with me, wants to leave Nina.”

“So you win! Fuck her! How bad was the flat?”

“Really bad, she must have been in there, she smashed everything, she cut up all my clothes and even cut all the wires to everything I had in there.”

“Fucking psychopath.”

“I wouldn’t blame her as much, but she cheated on Matt as well.”

“That doesn’t surprise me, she and Phil get awful close. No wonder I haven’t heard from you in a while.”

“I’m sorry, I’ve been trying to get my head around it. And trying to be selfish and enjoy it as well. I really like him.”

“That worries me.”

“I know he could hurt me, if he cheated with me he could cheat on me, if this ended up being a long term thing. Not to mention the issue of him being married. But I don’t care at this point, I’m too far in. I don’t care if I get hurt now, I would take the good and the fun, even if it comes back to bite me, over having nothing at all and being in the same placid state all the time.”

“I can’t argue with that, he’s gorgeous as well. This all goes tits up though, know you’re not on your own.”

“Thanks.”

“You told your mother what’s happened? I know you don’t really speak.” She made a cringe face.

“No. She will either find out, or already knows. She reads my articles and listens to the podcast. It will only be a matter of time before Nina puts something online about me leaving. I’ll have to talk about this so she will hear that on the podcast, if she hasn’t already seen the article.”

“Oh God! Ew as well she listens and reads your shit?”

“I know I’ve told her not to, especially with the sex stuff. She doesn’t say a word to me for months, and then I get a drunk text or call telling me that she’s read something I’ve written. Oh God. She probably already knows, she’s probably waiting for me to tell her.”

“How are you going to explain this one?”

“Not reply, let it just be. It is what it is.”

Keria gave me a sympathetic look pouring us both another prosecco. We finished off the bottle in record time and I got us another one and four shots of gin. I was feeling a bit pissed at this point. We were chatting absolute shit and getting ready to go for a dance with the late summer sun setting.

“One! Two! Three! Down!” Oh god.

“Look how fit they are,” Keria nodded to a group of thirty somethings in expensive looking suits, most likely from the Law office over the road. She was always eyeing men for me.

“I’m kind of off the market now.”

“He’s not.”

“He’s leaving her, and he treats me better than anyone ever has.”

“How? Flowers or some shite?”

“Er, more like giving me confidence boosts I think. He always tells me how clever and funny and pretty I am and it makes me feel like I’m special. He talks to me as if he hasn’t met anyone like me. Very corny, but very very nice.”

“So you feel like you’re different from Nina?”

“Yeah, you think maybe he’s just going for someone really unlike Nina as a rebound?” I asked.

“I don’t know him that well, but I know you and you can read people well. I might be saying this because I’m pissed. And I am very pissed, very pissed. But! I really don’t think that Matt would spend all that time with you just for a shag, he’s a very good looking successful man. Even married I reckon he could get a good looking girl in bed without nearly as much effort as he’s put in with you?”

“Do you think I’m the only one hes cheated on Nina with?”

“Er, yeah. I think so because he’s not very good at not getting caught.”

I felt a sudden wake of emotion and a pull down in my stomach, my throat was closing up a little. I took a gulp of sugary prosecco and lit up another fag.

“I have a fantasy that we run away and move somewhere together. Obviously I haven’t told him this, I would sound mental.”

“Jesus Christ.”

Keria told me all about the latest in her life and we swayed on picnic benches in the beer garden for hours, I was happy. I had a friend when I thought I would have no one left.

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