the good the bad and the basic

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Chapter Two

I wasn’t sure of my outfit the night of the dinner party, one thing seemed too formal and the other seemed too casual.

I went with my long, dark blonde hair in a few waves and finally decided on wearing jeans.

Nina opened the door wide and did an uncharacteristically girlish squeal when she saw me, I lit up in return pulling one bottle of cheap Aldi champagne from behind my back with one arm and then another with the other.

“Oh my god!” she exclaimed.

“Well, my theory is two bottles of cheap stuff appears to make up for the fancy champers you brought to girls night, but in actual maths it still is only half the price,” I spoke to one discount sparkling wine and then the other.

I mock paused.

“You weren’t supposed to know that!” I laughed.

“It will taste amazing once we’re full and pissed,” she laughed. She seemed a lot more natural, probably a bit pissed.

Nina was model tall, that impossible goal I’ve always had strapping muself into stupid heels.

I was average height, and strived for the air of sophistication that Nina had, even if I couldn’t have her tall frame, heels could give my legs a big of a lengthen.

“Oh piss off,” I laughed.

She gestured me in and gave me a big hug, I was in platform heels and she was in ballet flats, through my satin cami and her lace blouse I could feel her sender frame and perky boobs, I was so jealous of her figure.

“Fucking hell Nina you feel tiny!”

“Thank you!” she gushed, she loved my compliments because she knew I gave them straight from my thoughts without an edit, and so they were always honest.

I followed her into her large dining room, I couldn’t help comparing it to the little ikea table and chairs shoved in the corner of my kitchen area in the flat, which was mainly used for a coffee and a laptop and dinners always eaten on the sofa.

Matt was looking up at me. Wine in hand and a big smile on his face.

I thought back to when I first met Matt on a work do. Before I started my column I was working on the reception in the day and in the local pub at night. Now I think back I don’t understand how I had the energy to do both, now I feel like my day job takes everything out of me. Most of the people working for Nina started as university graduates and so I didn’t think I would ever make it past reception, nor did I really want to, I worked so many hours as it was I didn’t feel as if I could fit anything more advanced into my day as it was.

I had worked for the publication now for six years, three years in I got a pay rise from minimum wage up to what the graduates were paid as a starter salary. I felt like a real grown up with a salary, and one sensible enough that I could get myself my little crappy flat and have money to do something out of work now and then.

This house of Ninas was a different league, huge antique table, with grooved and exaggerated legs, which had been sent, along with the chairs, to the posh restoration place to be painted the palest of pinks and the chairs upholstered in a royal blue velvet.

Walls white with modern art, all original, expensive and with the same bright and colourful 1930s poster style theme. Velvet blue curtains hung from the bay window and yankee candles flickered all with the same white rose smell that complemented Ninas perfume.

The room, bar the expensive food and wine, the posh people with real jewellery and designer clothes, just the room, made me feel scruffy.

I stood awkwardly in front of the chairs, which sat impressive looking people.

“Most of you know Janey, lets see,” her eyes instantly passed her husband.

Other than a proper chat at coffee the other day, we had a few half hearted introductions at various work events, a few stiff jokes and awkward passings, whenever I spoke to him I couldn’t find any words. That or I found all of the wrong words and made no sense, he intimidated me I thought, but I don’t know why I had nervous butterflies. Must be a money, class or power thing that held onto me subconsciously whenever I tried to speak to him. As I was introduced around the table I could feel Matts eyes on me.

“Oh! Layla and Patrick! This is Janey, she’s a very funny columnist.”

Nina pulled out my chair and I sat before extending out a hand. I am not this formal but I felt as if Patrick and Layla were. They naturally shook my hand and it wasn’t stiff and awkward thank God.

“Myself and Nina went to Uni together,” Layla explained, she was stunning, Nina must pick good looking friends. She was a stunning persian woman with intense lined eyes and dark shiny hair, she had a stunning form fitted gold dress on and massive boobs sitting on her tiny frame.

“Amazing, remind me again what uni you both went to,” I sat back waiting to hear reminiscent stories of drinking only inputting polite laughter and encouraging questions.

From working at the magazine I have found that Nina’s friends love to talk about themselves, this means that I can always ask an open ended question for them to tell me stories all night.

“Sheffield of course! You know that I talk about it all the time,” Nina said, shit I should be more careful with my fake interest.

“Your irish bar stories could be from anywhere!” I counter.

Layla laughed. “Where did you go to uni, Janey?” Layla asked, I was surprised someone as seemingly well bred as her asked me instead of telling me a story about how she met Prince Wills that one time at the races.

“Uni wasn’t my thing,” Layla looked taken aback.

“Oh really you never went?” she actually seemed interested.

“Janey worked on reception but had real talent for observation, she sent me through a few pieces and with a little editing and coaching I knew she had serious potential,” Nina cut in handing me a fishbowl size glass of Malbec.

“I harassed her,” I admitted. “I was emailing her something every week. Some of them were not exactly amazing, but I wanted to keep the consistency up. Nina, remember the awful one with the links to the dog outfit companies?”

“You always do this!” Nina scolded me. “She’s trying to play it down and find an embarrassing example. I remember that one, it was actually a look into how young women choose to have children later in life and a growing number have pets in their twenties while developing their careers. It did touch on how they sometimes baby the dogs and cats and how there’s nothing wrong with that, which was a perfect segway to dog clothing, and so we got a new sponsor out of it. Made money.”

Layla looked impressed, fake impressed or impressed?

“That’s very interesting, is that what your columns are about young people in general?” she asked.

“Originally I just wrote about my own experiences. It ended up becoming a lot about men I went out with, because you never know what you get out of internet dating, ones that look nothing like the photos, the mummies boy, the ones whose actual life didn’t match up with their profiles, like their jobs. It became about friends, family, travels and what I liked to read, watch, other single women, money and lifestyle. A range.”

“That is interesting,” Layla stated seemingly bored of my tangent. She looked deep in thought however.

“Do the men you go out with know you write about them?”

“I don’t use names and it might not be about that at all, one week its about sex the next its about how you can survive a four night hen do.”

“Is there any surviving a four day hen do?” Patrick asked.

Nina placed down some plates of goat cheese souffles, it smelled amazing. I made an effort to eat neatly.

“So surviving a hen do. It’s mainly damage control and finding a way to make a plan without every bloody woman in the group saying ‘I’m easy I’ll do whatever’ and then everyone moaning about it later,” I said, Patrick laughed.

He was good looking, Patrick, very blonde hair, blue eyes, skinny. The kind you know wouldn’t do DIY or lift anything heavy. Nice suits and an office kind of man. I could still feel Matts eyes on me.

“I agree sounds like hell,” Matthew smiled at Patrick. “Imagine the stag dos we’ve been on with pheromones in the mix.”

“I still think mine was the best,” announced Patrick, beaming from ear to ear like a little boy giving Layla a nervous side eye.

“Here we go,” muttered Nina into her wine, smiling.

“Now Janey,” Layla addressed me, wide eyed. “Take this story with the caveat that the women involved were a group on a fiftieth where not Jennifer Anniston, JLO kind of fifty, the tough paper round kind of fifty. I saw the video to prove it.”

Christ. I noted how fifty with money and fifty with no money stood side by side could look completely different, reminding myself to stick that in my notes for a column idea.

“Pat decided that the ladies on the fiftieth needed a real show, and by a real show he meant a strip tease,” Matt explained while everyone laughed, the fine lines in the corner of his eyes creased and his eyes sparkled fully animated. I noticed his strong tanned forearms wave dramatically while he told the story. “But! It wasn’t enough that he stick the lovely dinner lady in the chair, no! Course not no!” Matthew paused for dramatic effect taking a long slug of wine.

I was trying to imagine a very slim preppy Pat with his little chest out.

“Pat decided to get the DJ to play the Magic Mike song and even asked them to get the smoke machine on early. He thought that it would be a great idea for us all to get involved, all twelve of us. So picture the dun dunnn dunnn music, smoke, Janet the dinner lady in a plastic chair and twelve grown men,” he winked at pat, a jibe at his boyish looks, “well some of us grown men trying to give the poor woman a lap dance. But not sexy!”

“No not sexy!” Cut in Pat. “Skinny lads and blokes with hairy beer bellies.”

Layla kicked him under the table while she munched. She finished chewing,

“Food! Eating! Less belly hair talk.”

Pat gave puppy eyes to Layla and continued his story. “Matt was the star, he was one of the few with a good bod and the only one that could use it, you should have seen those hips!”

Nina put her hand on Matthews arm affectionately, she looked around as if she wanted everyone to know she was showing him affection. I felt a little tug somewhere inside of me and took a mouthful of wine.

“I was taking the piss!” Matts seemed a little embarrassed, but his handsome face didn’t have a trace of pink under his olive skin. “I wasn’t taking it seriously I swear, and with Jarrets hairy belly bobbing up and down and Pats little little skinny arse twerking about it was comedy gold.”

He leant back in his chair and smiled to the ceiling reminiscing, I looked over to Layla realising I’d been looking at Matt for far too long. Layla was looking at me inquisitively, hopefully at wine on my chin or something like that.

What is wrong with me, I do need to be a bit more restrained.

I always thought about Matt even though I hardly knew him.

I’d lay in bed, sit and stare past the tv, soak in the bath imagining and conjuring up something that stems from the look I was sure he gave me. I was certain after the last works do he shook my hand too gently, and for too long and that he looked at me as if he wanted me. I am sure.

I helped Nina clear up the starter plates and headed back into the kitchen with her, feeling a bit over formal for her cool house in my heels.

“Striptease?” I teased, putting plated into the dishwasher. Nina shook her head as she located some fresh wine glasses.

“Has he ever done it for you, the famous striptease?” I asked.

“Just Janet the dinner lady,” Nina laughed.

I heard the bellowing laughter come out of the living room.

“That must be the video, remind me to send it to you. It is funny. Mainly because a good four of them are so pissed they are taking it very seriously. Matt included, though he won’t admit it,” she smiled to herself, as if holding the private joke to her chest.

I felt a little stomach flutter of guilt for all the thoughts I had of Matt.

At the end of the evening I stumbled out onto the street. I don’t know why I had been nervous of coming on my own, it was a night full of food, wine and lots of laughter. There was never an awkward silence. I let my thoughts of Matt drift into the wine and anecdotes of the evening.

I told the story of the bitter divorced man I went on the date with, Layla and Nina told stories of unit days and Matt and Patrick talked about cars.

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