This Wretched Heart

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‘ You love it, you love it you love it when I’m bad’.

You love it by Peaches


‘Insane Jane’. That’s what she heard some of the other girls call her. Lara had first met her over a marketing project she had been assigned to. Jane had flounced into every meeting late. Clearly she had no intention of actually contributing to the project.

‘ I read over your work guys. Great stuff. Great stuff! I tried to work in my own chapters but you had already covered it so really it was just repetition.’

Lara had bristled at this and wanted to ask her to show them her fictional writing. The other two gullible males flattered at her approval had gushed.

‘ Don’t worry I’ll present it to the class. I’m an excellent public speaker’. Her grin a perfect pearly distraction.

She did however always insist on paying for breakfast and all the snacks, which was a huge relief on a very cash-strapped Lara. Jane was the kind of girl that everyone noticed. It wasn’t that she was particularly beautiful but she had such an air about her that it was difficult to ignore. She looked like she could be mean, something feline about the eyes or maybe her ungenerous upper lip, both of which she accentuated with makeup. It was unfortunate in the sense it offered a first impression which was in many ways inaccurate. She wasn’t nasty in any way or a bitch for that matter. her biggest flaw perhaps was her lack of tact.

The very first time Lara had seen her, she had been wearing a faux fur white jacket, red heart shaped sun glasses and roaring red lipstick. Skin tight black jeans clung to her curvaceous bottom while velvet high heeled ankle boots topped off the ensemble. Her peroxide blonde hair had shone under the neon lights as she entered the lecture hall twenty minutes late. Audaciously she made her way to the front of the lecture hall. Lara could see all eyes following her. She boldly made her way to the front and loudly plonked herself down paying no attention to the disgruntled elderly lecturer.

‘ Thank you for joining us Ms. Billotte.’ Jane’s mother was French, a detail she was only too happy to

divulge at any given instant.

‘ You’re most welcome’ Her unapologetic voice rose clearly through the lecture hall. Lara then figured she must have flashed him her breasts or something because although he tried to keep a disapproving face, the smirk was clearly present as he turned back to his notes. Later Lara would realise that with a mere smile Jane could wrap males and sometimes females around her little finger. Maybe it was the surprise contradiction of a smile on her feline face .People swooped to her assistance for no reason at all. Perhaps they could sense the vulnerability under all the glitz. Maybe it was just a chemical thing. Whatever it was, life with Jane, was like spending the day with a celebrity. It was never a problem getting into the hotspot nightclubs or hailing a cab. Her father had been a property developer during boom times and her mother was an interior designer. This meant that while Lara was living off noodle sandwiches , Jane was dining on scallops and steak at the latest trendy Bistro. Her father had given her a credit card with what seemed like no limits and Jane was only too happy to flash it any given opportunity.

She was however generous beyond belief when it came to the material things in life probably because she had never to go without. Emotionally, she was clingy and stifling and had scared away many a suitor with her neediness. At first glance she was everything a guy would want – attractive and wealthy with an outer confidence, which demanded attention. Getting to know her, tore down this initial impression and Lara was surprised to discover a highly insecure individual who had admitted drunkenly one night to self harm brought on by an ‘incident’ with a family friend when she was much younger. Maybe this is what had drawn one to the other. Sensing each others vulnerability and a morbid curiosity to delve into the dark pools of each other’s minds to measure the extent of the others warped life. She had told her about her mother and her depression and had been so grateful at Jane’s reaction, which had been a mixture of glee and complete disinterest. The dreaded pity she got from others was absent and she didn’t feel that horrible sense of having over-shared which she had before.

Being her friend made her feel alive. On one of the few occasions Lara had gone her dance moves on the floor were so raunchy they had made her blush. She had no shame when it came to flirting and her penchant for Polish guys had resulted in what Lara now knew as one of her best ‘one-liners’ She could pinpoint their nationality a mile away, something about their hairstyles.

Sidling up sexily to them she would whisper‘ I’m a pole-dancer, will you be my Pole?’

Winking she would then proceed to carry out moves that could only be seen in Lap dancing clubs but which she had artfully mastered in front of her mirror. Lara had been shocked to discover that she had invested in a stripper pole for her own bedroom, which like her French heritage, was mentioned in any given conversation. These along with lines such as how she loved to give massages and was ‘bi- curious’ (which was a complete lie) had men eating out of the palm of her hand and girls both idolising and hating her at the same time. Her upper class upbringing supplied her with never ending party tricks. An unwavering voice from all the singing lessons and an ability to to belt out any tune on a piano. Being Jane’s friend had been both exciting and horribly difficult. It made Lara feel like the poor, talentless relation. It wasn’t like she could knock up a tray of cookies when out and about to impress anyone. She loved her best when it was just the two of them, where she could just enjoy her talents without feeling judging eyes casting her as the inferior friend.

Their friendship had grown stronger and stronger over cups of coffee and paninis which Jane nine times out of ten would insist on paying for. She never made Lara feel bad about this and was surprisingly aware of her money difficulties for someone so rich. Lara figured that this must have been due to her strict upbringing when she was much younger and her parents had been both less busy and wealthy. The Celtic Tiger however had made it harder for them to keep up the high moral grounding, as they were both often away on business trips or at functions. It was easier to just let her have what she wanted and not feel guilty that they weren’t spending as much time with their fragile daughter.

Lara couldn’t say exactly when she had stopped keeping in touch with Jane but she could finally admit the point at where it had started to deteriorate.

Having heard all about her wonderful friend, it had been Peter with whom she had just moved in with who suggested that they have her over for dinner and drinks. Seeing every dinner as a form of ‘study’ in his quest to becoming a chef he prepared quite the lavish meal of poached salmon with asparagus and hollandaise sauce with roasted baby potatoes on the side. Beaming with pride Lara waited excitedly for her friend to arrive. Although she felt inferior to her friend in other people’s eyes, Peter had never made her feel anything but the most beautiful girl in the world. So she was more than delighted to show them off to each other.

Making a late entrance as usual, with champagne and strawberries she lost no time in charming Peter. Lara could remember the sick feeling as she watched her best friend flirt overtly with her boyfriend right in front of her. She must have been wearing a push up bras because her usual A-cups were flowing over her super tight vest top and she had doused herself with some grown up sexy scent, which they all now smelt of thanks to her hugs upon arrival. Of course Peter had been enthralled and they had hit it off as Jane so easily did with everyone.

‘So Peter..’ She licked the hollandaise off the asparagus shoot.

'Lara tells me you’re studying to be a chef? How sexy a man who can cook!’ She had winked at Lara and playfully slapped him on the shoulder.

‘ I can’t even make an omelette BUT...’ She raised her arms which clanged with charm bracelets ‘ I do make a wicked champagne and strawberry jelly dessert’ Her giggle and the way she curled her sandy blonde hair around her finger further nauseating Lara.

‘ Happen to have any gelatine, Peter ?’

Both curious and captivated, Peter had proudly declared that he indeed had gelatine sheets in the cupboard and that they should definitely try this concoction for dessert. Lara didn’t want to remind him of her sunken chocolate cake seated miserably in the fridge, which Jane took out to make room for her pink wobbly creation. What student had gelatine sheets anyway? Peter was so impressed he didn’t even bat an eyelid when Jane asked him for ‘defecated coconut’ to sprinkle over it. Blood boiling she had spent the rest of the evening trying to stay calm and not jump over the table and pull her sultry guest’s hair out.

Later Jane had declared Peter a ‘ Sweetheart’ and kept suggesting to Lara to ask him along to anything they went to. She tried her best to stomach a few more rounds of inappropriate flirtations with her boyfriend but found herself coming up with a million excuses as to why they couldn’t make it. It became easier over time to lose touch as final year brought with it enormous study pressure. Jane, despite exuding a carefree attitude to study, was still able to come out with a first in her Business Degree.

Now guilt flooded over Lara as she could admit that although Jane was wrong to flirt so blatantly with Peter, that was how she behaved with everyone. In fact she was a lot like Sam in that sense, charming and flirtatious. She remembered their last meeting. It had been a week after their final year results and Lara had been relieved to get a second Honors degree despite her very sporadic attendance at tutorials. They had sat opposite each other in the dimly lit wine bar sipping on some expensive French wine which Jane had made a show of discussing with the waiter who was flattered but equally nervous due to his lack of in depth knowledge about this particular vintage.When he left their table Lara became aware of a strange vibe from her friend who was tapping her vampire red nails against her glass.

‘ You ok Jane?’

‘ Lara I have something to tell you and I really hope you don’t get mad at me.’

She felt her face flush and her heart stop. Oh no this is the scene she told herself where my ‘Best’ friend is going to tell me she slept with my boyfriend. She felt herself going weak and sharp pains running up and down her arms.

‘ Breathe breathe.’ She told herself as she shut her eyes.

‘ Lara?' The voice seemed to be coming through water ‘Lara!’ It was sharper this time.

‘ Don’t worry I’m not dying.’ Her reassurance not for an instant having its desired effect.

‘ It’s about Dillon’ Relief flooded Lara followed by slight sheepishness at how self-centered her reaction had been.Dillon had been this guy Jane had met at one of her father’s numerous business parties that she was forced to attend. She had told Lara how she had been sitting outside in the garden when she first met him. It was more of a park as they lived in a beautiful old stately home in the Wicklow mountains. It was the perfect place to throw extravagant parties late into the night which her parents often did much to Jane’s irritation. She was always obligated to attend as ‘showing a strong family front’ was very important to her father. Although they invited entire families it was rare that anyone Jane’s age turned up. Parents were happy to attend functions without their bored teens in tow. They could let loose without catching cringes from the corner of their eyes.

Jane wasn’t so lucky which meant that she often spent these evenings sneaking a joint out the back.

Lara had thought that Jane was being over dramatic about how tedious these nights were until she had attended herself. The loud boisterous laughter of the men as they puffed on Cuban cigars had seemed more suited to the silver screen mafia families than to this country Irish setting. The women were all acrylic nails and crêppy cleavages flowing over tight boldly patterned dresses. Unlike the maternal vibes Lara got from other friends’ mothers she felt that these women were sizing her up as competition. Jane had warned her that this would happen as many of them had husbands who predictably strayed with the younger model variety.Having sized her up however they lost interest very quickly in conversation and reverted to their small circles of gossip and tips on how to avoid your fake nails chipping.

It came as a surprise to her then that Jane met Dillon at one of these parties. She had bounded in the next day and flounced down, a fragrant gust of air wafting from the epicentre.

‘ Oh my God you won’t believe what happened last night’ She braced herself for another one of Jane’s tales about how just about the most exciting guy and she had had sex standing up in the lift or on a desk or some other equally uncomfortable or public setting.

‘ I met the man I’m going to marry!’ Her eyes were misty.

‘ His name is Dillon and he’s a surgeon and he is just the yummiest scrummiest thing ever.’

Outside avoiding the ‘muppies’( her pet name for all the yuppy mummies), she had been lighting up a spliff when he had snuck up behind her.

‘ Smoking kills’ he had joked ‘ but so does this party so if it’s alright with you I’ll take a drag of what you’re having’.

They had spent the next few hours talking about everything and anything. From their overly precious upbringings to their extreme dislike for ’pretentious family obligations. Dillon was twenty-nine an acceptable eight years older than she and an eye surgeon in a private clinic for rich Dublin folk in the city centre.

Lara had never seen her friend so besotted before with a guy’s personality. Normally it was all

‘ God he was so ripped’ to ‘ He had the sexiest bum ever’. This was different she actually liked the guy and surprise of all surprises had not had sex with him up against a tree.She had shrugged sheepishly when Lara asked her why?

‘ Dillon’s not like that , he’s different to other guys , I can actually talk to him without feeling he’s looking down my top... although he did sneak a peek when I bent over’ She cackled loudly which echoed through the empty cafe. Most students were in class.

Lara knew that they had been getting pretty intense over that year. As intense as possible for a busy surgeon and a final year student to be. She hadn’t however thought about it too much as although they still remained good friends Jane wasn’t really on her mind that much. She had been going through her own stuff with Peter as her depression had intensified and the pressure from college and exams were taking their toll on her self-esteem.

‘ I’m moving to Dubai with Dillon’ the next sentence knocked the wind from her sails.It had only been a few months since they had met.

‘ Seriously?’

‘ Don’t look so shocked geez’ She paused ‘…. we’re in love !’

‘ You are?’

‘ God Lara do you ever listen to me ? It’s like you haven’t been paying any attention to me lately or how I feel’

She sat back in her seat and folded her arms defensively.

‘It’s like you don’t think that any other relationship other yours and Peter’s is worth considering’

‘ That’s not fair , I just didn’t realise you would move to Dubai with him I didn’t realise it was moving so fast’

Lara knew that Dillon was moving to a new state of the art private hospital . His father’s friend ,the head of the hospital,had promised him a much higher salary and benefits and Dillon who desired financial independence from his parents figured this was the perfect way to pay his parents back as quickly as possible for all the college loans. He hadn’t really considered Jane as far as Lara was considered

‘ We were going to wait and see how he got on over there and how the whole long distance thing worked but I really just can’t bare the thoughts of not seeing him everyday’

‘ What are you going to do over there ? Stay home and make him dinner?’

Jane looked hurt.

‘ That’s not fair Lara, I have in fact organised a job as a secretary for one of my Dad’s friends companies and then once I get settled I can look for something better, Dillon has found us a lovely apartment with a swimming pool and everything’

‘Wow you have it all sorted don’t you? So I take it then you’re definitely going’

She could feel the anger rising up in her stomach. Maybe they had drifted apart over the last year but she still considered Jane her best friend and would have thought that she would have at least discussed this with her before making all the plans.

‘ You and Peter can totally come over and stay with us, we can do the whole couple thing’

Lara smiled slightly, not at the invitation but at the prospect of trying to get Peter to spend the weekend with Dillon. The two had met at the Christmas college ball and although Jane had raved that Dillon had ‘ absolutely loved Peter’ Lara hadn’t failed to see the tension between them throughout the night. She had questioned Peter about this when they got home and had somehow ended up having a catastrophically huge row with him as she accused him of being jealous of Dillon for going out with Jane.

Peter had been furious (understandably when she thought about it now) he had called her a paranoid freak , incapable of trusting anyone even her own best friend and boyfriend. His dislike for Dillon , he informed her, had been his ‘ knobby attitude’ and constant eying up of other girls while Jane’s back was turned. He said that Dillon was one of those guys that behaved super well in front of the girls but was a big macho lout in between.

Sheepishly she apologised and thanked him for not being one of those types of guys.They hadn’t met up as a couple since and she doubted that a trip to Dubai would ever materialise.

‘ You don’t look happy for me at all’

Lara looked into her friends eyes.

‘I’m just upset that you made all these plans without even talking to me first’

‘ Like you talk to me everytime you make plans with Peter? Common Lara give me a break I might have told you if we had been closer this year but you seem to be avoiding me a lot and I don’t know what I’ve done wrong ? Is it Dillon?’

She wasn’t in a place to tell her friend the truth about her completely irrational feelings that Jane would somehow steal Peter away from her with all her charm and charisma. Even now she couldn’t help but feel slightly jealous that her friend was setting up a whole new life in a whole new world. Lara found it difficult in those days to even set up a bank account. She barely managed to get out of bed in the morning. Yes Jane flirted but it wasn’t this that she feared Peter would fall for. It was the attraction to a seemingly confident and independent woman which Lara was not able to compete with.

The last time she had seen her was at her going away/engagement party. Dillon had proposed and they were planning to elope while in Dubai to avoid the large wedding that would be expected of them.

Lara had held back her concerns about the relationship and about her moving away because she knew Jane wouldn’t want to hear them and also ( and she hated herself for this) because she knew that life would be simpler this way for her. No more excuses would have to be made to avoid awkward meetings between friends who had so quickly drifted apart.

Looking at her dolled up friend flitting and fluttering from person to person at the party ,brandishing her beautiful engagement ring , she knew that there was no stopping this force of nature anyway. She willed herself to be happy for her although she sensed a desperation in Jane’s eagerness. This was a girl who claimed not to care what people thought of her but was working so hard to gain approval. She made her excuses to leave early, feeling out of place in the socialite setting. They had hugged each other and she had been surprised at the hollow sadness she felt. It was the end of an era, the end of her college days, the sadness was a surprise.

‘ Don’t worry hun’ Jane had whispered ‘ I’ve caught a great one’.

‘ Well just in case it doesn’t work out , you can always come home’ She had said this and again was surprised that she meant it ‘ I’ll always be here, you know me’.

‘ You and Peter are a done deal , I know I know , but it goes both ways Lara and if you ever get bored with the geezer hop on a plane we can paint the city of dubai red’ then she had completely knocked her for six ‘ I love you, you know I mean that , I feel like we’re sisters’.

She had hugged her tight but Lara just couldn’t bring herself to say ‘ I love you too’ she didn’t feel worthy enough to say it , she had hoped her hug had said it all.

Since then they had exchanged e-mail here and there where Jane had raved about the weather and shops, and Lara had felt just a little jealous as she looked at the grey looming days of home. The mails had become scarcer and scarcer until eventually they had stopped altogether. She had received the occasional missed call on her phone but she hated the awkward conversations she was prone to having, the inevitable butting in over the other person’s conversation the audible silences . She liked to read people’s faces when she was speaking to them. Things could get easily misconstrued when you couldn’t see people’s eyes. No their long distance relationship had run its course , there was no point flogging a dead horse as her father would put it. So now,years later when she answered to a local number she was taken aback to hear the south city accent fill the silence.

‘ Lara ? … are you there ?’

‘ Oh my God Jane is that really you ?’

She couldn’t believe how long it had been since they had spoken and how it only felt like a day or two.

‘ Wow how are you ? So you’re back for a holiday ?’

The pause made her nervous. She had assumed she was back to see her parents. In fact she had wondered whether she had come home to see them before ? The realisation that maybe one of them had died hit her full force.

‘ God is it your parents are they ok ?’

The throaty chuckle at the other end of the line sent relief flooding through her.

‘Mum and Dad are the same as ever and asking about you ’

‘ Your poor friend with the dodgy dress sense ?’

‘ Ha something like that, no they’re fine it’s actually Dillon’

Shit had something happened him she wondered. She wasn’t sure what she’d say.

‘ Well I’ve left him’ this was followed by some sniffing which made her uncertain how to respond.

‘ Oh no , shit ,what happened?’ she didn’t say the over used ‘ you guys were so happy’ . Why did people say that when it was clear that a break-up meant just the opposite!

‘ It was a lot of things really , I mean the poor guy didn’t beat me or anything’

Lara then assumed it must have been an affair , after what Peter had thought of his macho ways ,it seemed a likely reason.

‘ Was there someone else ?’

‘ God I wish, at least that would have made him interesting!’ the chuckle was back.

‘ Sorry I don’t think I follow’

‘ Well he was just so fucking dull , I felt like I had married an old man at times’

Lara was surprised , Jane had always seemed to be having ‘ such fun’ as she put it. People really did sugar coat their lives , or maybe she meant it at the time. Sometimes you could be blind to the flaws in someone you love. God knows Peter had stuck it out despite her countless imperfections.

‘ He even wore slippers and pyjamas, what a turn-off , it was Dubai for crying out loud , he should have been naked, ravishing me’.

She found herself rolling her eyes, the poor guy probably was wrecked after a day at work, she knew she wasn’t always ‘ in the mood’ after a full day at the office. Jane who had never worked a full day in her life wouldn’t get that.

‘ In the end, we would never have sex at all , not even at the weekends.’ Well that was a different thing..

‘ He would prefer to watch golf or just read medical journals all the time.’

She continued to explain that she hadn’t made the decision lightly, that she had toyed with the idea of having an affair herself only that there wasn’t anyone in their circle who wasn’t married. Besides an affair would have been too dangerous in those environs, she was afraid she would end up getting stoned by the ‘ people’ as she put it. As if they were all waiting for her to mess up. In the end she had left a shell shocked Dillon, standing in the middle of their living room , mouth wide open in his comfy slippers and flannel dressing gown.

‘ I’m so sad though Lara, I know you think I’m being flip but I really was in love with him but all I could see was the rest of our lives mapped out so clearly and mundanely in front of us, do you know what I mean ?’

Great , she was already stirring things up.

‘ No I suppose you don’t, you and Peter have always been feisty and fiery’

‘ You mean we argued all the time’ they both giggled .

‘ Don’t poo poo the arguing Lara, sometimes I wanted Dillon to just slap me so I could see that he was actually alive. He never argued back which I found creepy. I mean I know I’m right most of the time but geez even I can on occasion get it wrong’.

Lara knew this time she was being ironic and laughed.

‘ You are still with Peter aren’t you , I haven’t put my big foot in it have I?’

More irony, mundane and predictable after all.

‘ Yeah, of course’ Of course was misleading, implying that there had never been a question of him leaving her or of her thinking irrationally about Sam.

‘ He opened his own Bistro , you know’ She sounded childish but felt the need to prove something. Yes Jane had been out seeing the world , but their lives had progressed too. The sad thing was that she felt that the Bistro was Peter’s thing. yes she had encouraged him and helped out at times but really it was his baby. It wasn’t like she could boast about her own meaningless job.

‘ We’re very happy’ Great you wally make her feel worse.

‘ I’m so glad, you’re so lucky to have it all sorted, I can’t believe I have to start all over again’

‘ You’ll be fine just take your time getting over this ‘ she knew Jane had been prone from jumping from man to man’ she cringed inwardly at how boring she sounded and how she had reverted back to sensible Lara to mad bubbly Jane. She hated seeing herself this way but something in Jane always made her act like a fuddy duddy. It was like she was trying to cancel out her friends personality or maybe she was trying too hard not to be like her. It reminded her of school when she used to get teased for having a ‘posh’ accent which she didn’t particularly but she had been taught how to speak properly as her father put it when she told him. She used to find herself speaking almost too carefully and over-enunciating not to prove a point but to anchor herself perhaps. When people questioned her behaviour or behaved in a way she couldn’t relate to like Jane used to, it would just enhance the opposite in her. If someone was overtly sexual she would revert to a prude or the opposite was also known to happen. Her therapist had said that it was her need to find her true self by being different from everyone else. The only way Lara felt like Lara was when she was actively not being someone else. This had been a revelation because she had always felt like she was trying to fit in.

‘ Yes mummy dearest!’ Jane must have heard how patronising her advice sounded.

They both burst out laughing at their reversion to type. They arranged to meet at Lara’s the following week . Peter was going to the cinema with Sam. She was looking forward to showing Jane around their home and for her to see how far she had come since they had last seen other where she had been a depressed college student. She didn’t even mind if Peter showed up because she no longer felt threatened by every female presence.. not even one as big as Jane;s.

She hung up the phone both relieved and glad that an old friend was entering her life. She felt so sorry for her that things hadn’t worked out but there was a small ( ashamed part) who felt a little glee that it was her turn to the ‘sorted one’, on the outside at least. Maybe her mind was turning upside down and questioning everything but pride meant that she wouldn’t let Jane know how she felt. For once in her life she wasn’t going to give away all her inner secrets. This time things would be different , she was different this was a second chance at a friendship worth salvaging and she wouldn’t let her past jealousies and insecurities ruin it again.

It was amazing what trying to look through someone else’s eyes could do to your confidence. Lara was wandering about the house trying to arrange it last minute before her friend arrived. Jane had insisted that she would find her own way to her house and that Google maps would lead the way. Lara marvelled at her friend’s confidence with modern technology. Although she herself was quite adept in computers when it came to work , apart from her Ipod which she asked Peter to fill with her favourite songs , her personal life was empty of apps and other modern day gimmicks. Facebook was her idea of a nightmare. The thoughts of opening up your life to hundreds of acquaintances made her squirm. The people that mattered to her she would see or call and as for the others well let fate, as was the case with Jane, could take its course. Facebook took the mystery out of life as far as she was concerned. She liked to wonder about people, not stalk them. Peter had made her open account a while ago and she had felt nothing but depression every day seeing what everyone was up to. Her logical side realised that everyone was putting their best face forward but she couldn’t help the envy that would swamp her as she looked at all the holidays and parties , people seemed to go to.

‘ It’s just one person doing one thing’ Peter reminded her ‘ It’s not like most of them are going on holidays all the time . it just seems that way’.

He was right and she had tried to update her posts and send out random ideas like everyone but the degree of anxiety it created when no one responded was worse than rejection in real life. It was full on public humiliation as far as she was concerned and she didn’t need it. Why would anyone really be interested in what she had for dinner or where she was going this weekend and if they were it kind of was pathetic. She closed her account shortly afterwards and didn’t regret it only on occasion when conversations began with ‘ Did you see on Facebook blah blah’. Still she felt happier without the barrage of pointless banter and meaningless prattle. Her own head was full enough. Jane, she was certain, was a facebook fanatic. Her personality was made for it. She used to cringe at the way her friend would speak ever so loudly in cafes about her plans and personal life , as though everyone would be riveted by her life. This new medium would be perfect for her and she would undoubtedly share everything with everyone.

This was another advantage of not being an active social medialite, she would have tons to catch up on. There was nothing worse than sitting down to tell someone your news before you remembered that they had already heard it

She flitted from room to room and couldn’t help but feel apprehensive at how her friend would perceive her new home. What would the DVD collection say about her ? She had been really aware of this when Sam had come to dinner. She wanted to shout out that the cheesy collection in the living room were there because they didn’t watch them and that her more ‘high brow’ collection were in the bedroom along with all the books she had told him she read. Jane of course wouldn’t notice those kinds of things she was more similar to Peter that way. She never read a book unless it was a biography of some celebrity. No Jane wouldn’t see that. She would probably notice the cheap kitchen fittings which they could just about afford and the frayed edges on the second hand couch set, her father had spent his hard-earned money on. Lara and Peter of course had been delighted and only too grateful for these things but now standing in the middle of it all , she couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed that she had been so enthusiastic to show her rich friend around. She should have brought her to the Bistro but she wanted to catch up first properly without any other distractions. The door bell clanged the nerves out of her and she could see the blurry outline of her friend through the door as she made her way down the hallway, quickly arranging the magazines on the side table before she unlocked the bolt.

‘ Aaaaaaaaaaaagh Lara’ she was enveloped in bony bare arms and dangling charms. ‘ Oh my God I can’t believe it , you still look exactly the same’.

She wasn’t sure how to take this because she had slimmed down considerably since then.

‘ Kidding you wally , I’m kidding, you look fabulous you’re so skinny !’

‘ Ha thanks Jane wow you look amazing I love the hair it’s so so .. amazing’.

She did look fabulous she had to admit. Her college bleached blonde hair was dyed jet black and she had it done in they style of a nineteen twenties pin up, all bumped up at the front and perfectly soft curls falling to her shoulders. Her matt red lipstick would have been garish on Lara but was just right on her. Even her dress, a twenties navy skin tight number was beautifully co-ordinated with super high peep toe satin sandals. Lara took a deep breath and tried not to feel frumpy but she couldn’t help the bile that had begun to rise in her stomach. She had somehow convinced herself that Jane would have aged badly and that her once blonde bombshell appearance would have faded to pasty. Even if Jane hadn’t changed that much, Lara had lost so much weight and felt so much better than her college days that she hoped she would at last be on a par (lookswise) with her friend. Instead she stood at the door feeling underdressed in her skinny jeans and peasant like white top. Her wedges were runtish in comparison to Jane’s and she was already being reminded as to why she had been so jealous of her in the past. Maybe her depression had played a part in that but she was in a good place now and still felt that green pang.

‘ Come in, come in’ she smiled brightly and with great effort succeeded in looking sincerely delighted.

Jane oohed and aahed her way into the sitting room where she flounced down on the couch , kicking off her heels and curling her feet up underneath her. She flung her coat over the back of the armchair and waved Lara away as she tried to take it and hang it up

‘ Don’t be silly sit down there and let’s catch up’

Lara smiled and this time it felt easier as she felt a pang of genuine excitement at hearing all her friend’s news face to face.

‘ Oh wait sorry would you like a glass of bubbly?’ She paused and smiled

‘ Prosecco!’ they shouted together and burst into giggles, both delighted that the other had remembered their college bit.

It had started when Lara went to Jane’s house and had been offered a glass of ‘bubbly’.

Lara being the naive poor student at the time had gleefully and innocently exclaimed,

‘ Good old prosecco tastes even better than the real thing!’

Jane had taken great delight in breaking out the bottle of Moet and Chandon while waving it about and shouting ‘ Prosecco !! Prosecco!?’ while Lara had blushed profusely looking around the rich surroundings and thinking ‘ of course it’s fucking champagne you twat’

It had become their thing especially at the odd college party Lara had attended with Jane where it was definitely not champagne.

Lara settled herself into the cosy secondhand armchair next to her elegant companion and they both stared at each other for a few minutes smiling as they took each other in.

‘ God Lara you really look so different , so great , life must be really treating you well’

‘ Yeah it is actually, I can’t really complain’ what a lie but she wasn’t going to start this again, she was not always going to be the person who told everyone her problems. She mightn’t see Jane for another three years and she didn’t want to have her leave thinking ‘ Poor Lara that girl is never going to be happy’

‘ So your job is going well ?’ she was fishing she knew . Trying to go back to the old days where they both told each other their deepest darkest secrets and felt better for a little while. But Lara had always regretted telling Jane about her past because when they had lost contact , she felt a part of her had been somehow given away. Jane might have shared her history as an anecdote to a new friend in Dubai. Her loyalty fading with the passing time and Lara’s past was nothing if not interesting.

‘ Yeah, I mean I’m not saving lives or anything but I’m lucky to have a job’

‘ Oh God not you too’ Jane rolled her eyes ‘ I swear I’ve been out of the country a few years and since I’ve come back if one more person tells me they’re lucky to have their job I will puke’.

‘ No offence Jane but it’s not like you’ve had to worry about money’ Lara was already regretting the road this conversation was taking but as usual she was surprised.

‘ Exactly ! Pricks like my parents and their friends have gotten this country into this mess and while they sit back and enjoy their ill gotten riches the rest of you have been brain-washed into thinking you’re lucky to work more hours for less pay’. She smiled smugly ‘ I mean helloooo ?’

‘ Well someone has to get the country back on track Jane, we’re not all lucky enough to be a rich prick’ she grinned to take the edge off.

‘ But you’re not, you’re just pumping more money back into the abyss and there’s no friendly alien life form at the bottom of this one’

‘ What ?’

‘ The movie the movie !’ She leaned forward and grabbed Lara’s knee ‘ Sorry hun I’m just finding hard to adapt to this new run down mentality, I walked past the poor Sods in town ‘ Occupying Wall Street’ or whatever and I just looked in and saw two guys sitting there drinking cups of tea’

‘ Well at least they’re trying’ Lara was irked by how patronising Jane was being

‘ That’s my point , only two of them are trying , there’s a whole nation crying out in pain but no one is willing to drop tools and protest’

‘ That’s caus they know it wouldn’t make a difference, I mean we all marched against the war in Iraq and look what happened there!’

‘ It does matter though, it shows people that you don’t take it lying down that they can’t keep pushing the country downwards into a poverty spiral’

‘ Wow Jane I’m surprised at how strongly you feel about this I mean no offence but considering you’re not on the receiving end of it’

‘ I just think it’s wrong. Being away and listening to other people’s views on it made me open my eyes a bit. You learn more about your own country when you’re away from it because it means more somehow.’ she trailed off and her eyes welled slightly.

‘ Were you terribly unhappy’ Lara knew it was time to cut the political talk and move on to the elephant in the room.

‘ Yeah pretty much’ Jane picked as a stray thread on the cushion she was holding her delicate hands lightly twirling the red.

The silence Lara gave her, was her chance and she filled it for the next hour with all the reasons that had pushed her away from Dillon. Lara had always wondered whether Peter’s suspicion of his womanising ways had been right and she gently tried to coax her friend for details.

‘ Other women ? God no , I mean he would salivate over anyone half right but it’s not like he ever had the balls to have an affair , that would mean passion and he was sorely lacking any’.

She stood up and stretched like a burlesque dancer about to remove her glove, She turned to Lara.

‘ Look he was a nice guy, charming even, that’s why I married him. I mistook his boring for homely and his lack of passion for safety but then I checked my wrist and realised that I still have a pulse so I left and that’s my story’ Picking up her little clutch bag she ended the conversation ‘ Where’s your loo?’.

She left Lara sitting there, slightly disappointed at the lack of juicy backdrop but also relieved that her friend wasn’t emotionally battered or worse. She was in fact, back on track and had changed her hair and image the moment she got home.

‘ I know I’m a cliche but I really want to start afresh and I hope my new look attracts more interesting men.'

She sat back in the armchair and admired her friend’s bravery. She wasn’t happy in a situation and she got out. Simple. Nothing in Lara’s life was simple. She was having feelings for Sam but still loved Peter. Yes things with Peter could be calm but that was in a nice way and he definitely wasn’t a bore. He was full of passion and spice and she loved that about him. Her job wasn’t the most exciting either but what other choices did she have. Was she really going to leave it and set up a bakery ? She knew she couldn’t do that. She watched the food network religiously and they all made it sound so easy

‘ I got tired of the nine to five so I just decided to make cupcakes’ the ridiculously pretty and underweight baker would beam her saccharine voice dripping out the speakers.

‘ I just love baking and all my friends told me I should do it for a living so I did’ Another equally attractive enthusiastic girl shared.

Lara’s imagination would run away with her as she imagined setting up her little bakery selling seasonal baked goods, spiced pumpkin biscuits at Halloween , candy cane cupcakes at Christmas. Her heart would heat up as she pictured herself standing behind the beautifully colourful counter beaming out at her thousand customers. Then her biggest hindrance would kick in - her logic. Where would you get the capital for that Lara ? Would you be a sole trader or a limited company ? Who would do your taxes ? Would you really enjoy baking twenty four seven ? Do you even really like dealing with people ? No nothing in life was that simple. Peter was always asking her to bake for the Bistro but somehow she never got around to it. It was like a weird tick with her. As soon as there was any pressure to do something she liked then she froze completely. Maybe if like Jane you had loads of money it was easier to make mistakes. You could walk out on your marriage without worrying about where you would end up living. You could set up a bakery with money from ‘Daddy’. Lara’s poor Dad would have gladly given her all he had to make her dreams come true but he was on a teacher’s pension which wasn’t very much and she was sure that he had already eaten into his savings to make up the difference from the days when he was earning his salary.

‘ Sure teachers have the life’ he would smirk ironically at yet another comment on his profession from yet another begrudger.

‘ It’s all the holidays they get’ was another one that irritated him beyond belief.

‘ Tell me now Lara’ he would say as she would try explain what she thought was a fair point to him

‘ Tell me now how come everyone doesn’t become a teacher’ He would playfully poke her shoulder ’ I mean it’s there for you all the same as any profession, so why doesn’t everyone take this dream job ?

She would roll her eyes knowing the next part

‘ Because the money is fucking shit that’s why’

‘ Dad!’

‘ Well it’s true , our salaries are lower than everyone else and we don’t get any bonuses or overtime’

‘ Ok ok you have a point ’ and she would mean it because it was easy to forget this with all the bad press.

‘ And another thing, they don’t want to deal with some of the cheeky pups that come through our door.’

She could tell that behind the jovial facade he was hurt that so many people felt they had the right to criticise his life’s work. He had done nothing but put one hundred and fifty percent into his job and now that times were hard people seemed to lash out at civil servants because they ‘ paid their wages’.

‘ I paid taxes and was not even entitled to social security if I lost my job so piss off’ Her dad rarely cursed but this was one discussion where all bets were off. She didn’t argue with him that the chances of him losing his job were slim to none because another rant would follow. That’s why she would never even hint at even asking for a loan to go pursue her pipe dreams. It would just be the final straw that after all these years he couldn’t even help his only daughter. He was proud that he had out his daughter through college and that she was in a dependable job. This kept him going.

‘ My daughter Lara works with the big -wigs in finance’ she had heard him tell his friends proudly albeit before the recession. He was still proud of her though and what she had achieved despite what had happened to them.

The key turning in the front door gave her a fright and she looked up to see Peter face beaming at her as he walked down the sitting room. Her stomach was back to its old ways and the bile which had been lying low, rose higher. She had expected him to be home a lot later. It wasn’t that she didn’t want him to meet Jane but she had been looking forward to some more girlie chats. She was annoyed that her one to one with Jane was being brought to an end although her reasons this time were not jealousy, well at least not all jealousy.

‘ Sorry sorry I know I’m back early but ...’ he didn’t have time to finish his sentence as voices filled the hallway behind them.

'Oh hello, you’re not Peter ’ Jane’s loud voice giggled over zealously.

‘ Ha no I’m Sam’ Lara’s body went hot then cold ‘ I was just taking my shoes off before I went into the living room’

Lara looked at Peter with questioning eyes

‘ I thought it’d be nice to ask him over’ he whispered ‘ that’s ok isn’t it?’

Lara hated surprise visitors but a surprise visit from Sam seemed different and would have made her day any other day that is. This time as she heard her old friend and new ‘friend’ laughing as they met in the hallway she felt like her life was taking on the irony of a movie setting.

‘ Peter, oh my gosh wow it’s been ages’ Jane had hurled herself at Peter as she had done earlier and he bemused but grinning hugged her back warmly.

The old Lara who would have thought the hug was a little ‘too’ friendly and prolonged was now smiling at them both.

Sam who had walked in behind waved shyly at her, as if he was just meeting her for the first time.

‘ Sam hey’ Lara didn’t know why, maybe the bubbles fizzled into her brain, but she ran over to him and gave him a big hug ‘ wasn’t expecting to see you here’ she looked up at him shyly ‘glad you came .. and I hear you met Jane’ they both grinned.

Behind her she could hear Peter complementing the new look and asking all the usual ‘ how you doing’ questions.

She felt lightheaded and the dreamlike quality which had taken effect the night of the dinner party was coming back. She spent so much time thinking about Sam that it was surreal to say the least when he was actually beside her. She found herself regretting already the fact that she hadn’t inhaled more deeply when they had hugged.

They stood looking at each other and then she hastily turned around and the four stood around the room each smiling each taking each other in.

‘ So Sam’ of course Jane was the one to start ‘ how do you know Peter?’

‘ Actually Sam and Lara knew each other first’ Peter smiled ‘ We just clicked when we met at dinner and now we’re all great friends’.

This was much cosier a way to describe the situation than Lara would have but she liked how it sounded and especially how it made Jane react.

‘ Oh wow that’s nice’ Jane blushed ‘I forget how much things have changed’.

Sam and Peter looked puzzled but Lara knew what she meant although she was furious that she would say it like that in front of Sam.

‘ What Jane is saying’ she explained ‘ is that I wasn’t the most social of creatures in my college days’.

‘ Oh yeah Lara has told me all about that’ Sam’ warm smile made her shiver both with delight that Jane had been put in her place and apprehension that now Peter knew how much of herself she had shared with him.

‘ Oh well yeah of course eh’ Jane looked uncomfortable ‘ that’s nice’.

Insincere and Lara knew it because that was exactly how Jane used to speak to men she wasn’t interested in. They could have pulled swords out of their behinds , trying to impress her but if she wasn’t into them she would pull a smile like the current one pasted on her face and say ‘ that’s nice’. Ouch.

Peter must have sensed the atmosphere because he offered everyone a drink.

‘ I better head on actually , just remembered I have an article due in tomorrow’ Sam was obviously unimpressed with the situation and Jane’s attempt to undermine her. She felt giddy at how things had worked out. She hadn’t thought about it but realised that subconsciously she had really wanted to show Jane how much she had moved on from her college days. She had been scared that Jane would treat her and see her as she used to be and somehow it would be like going back to that black time when she had been filled with all kinds of strange emotions. She felt bad for her friend. It must be hard to leave your home country and come back to a completely different place. So much had changed, economically obviously but this had a profound effect on everyone’s psyche , especially those of them who had to had to adjust their whole lives around the financial crisis. This along with the natural progression of time must have been hard for Jane to swallow. She could see it on her too bright smile and awkward stance. Pity tinged with a little self satisfaction fell over her. Sam said his goodbyes and as Peter let him out , she and Jane returned to the couches.

‘ Well he seems nice.’ Jane blurted this out a little manically

‘Umm it’s great that you all get along.' She was fishing again and Lara smiled.

‘ Yeah he’s a lovely guy , used to work with me and then we bumped into each other while we were jogging’.

‘ Jogging ?’ Jane laughed sincerely and not maliciously ‘Lara my dear you really have changed.’

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