Wednesday 16 June 2010

Lord of the Lies

I had not seen one of my childhood friends, Daisy, in about 5 years so when she invited me to stay with her in Cardiff for a weekend, I was thrilled. We had so much catching up to do and I was excited to see her penthouse apartment in the middle of the Welsh capital and to get a glimpse of her glamorous life.
    Daisy had always been one of those girls you just knew would end up doing well. Even as a child she had the adults wrapped around her little finger, and her charming words would sway anyone to think twice about scolding her. As a teenager she stood out above the rest with her amazing looks and her even more astounding sense of fashion - it was of no surprise when at only the age of eighteen she had managed to land an internship with one of the biggest magazines in the country.
    Now at the age of 23 (three years older than me) she was living in Cardiff and finishing off her masters in Bristol.  Out of all my friends, Daisy had to be the one I aspired to be the most - and how could anyone not?

The train ride from London to Cardiff was a long (and expensive) one. When the journey finally ended I wheeled my luggage outside and breathed in the Welsh air.
    I have to admit that I was rather disappointed at the lack of sheep Cardiff seemed to contain. I had always thought that Wales was just countryside - outstretched from corner to corner. But what emerged before me as I stepped out of the station was a huge, bustling city.
    In the far distance I could see a short, brunette waving at me and even though I had not seen her since I was fifteen, I immediately recognised her as Daisy. So I started walking, excited at seeing my friend and spend the weekend with her.
    It was only as I started getting closer that I realised there was a guy standing next to her.
    He looks familiar, I thought to myself as I got nearer, but I still couldn't quite place the face with a name. Still quite a distance ahead of me Daisy was now jumping up and down, waving her arms in the air. The guy next to her just stood still with his hands in his pocket and a rather befuddled expression on his face.
    I definitely recognise him, I began to tell myself. Ten feet away from them and it hit me.
    He was Kevin - someone I knew very well a few years ago at the end of school. Someone I would hang out with everyday who had made it very clear that he liked me. Someone who I had kissed on many occasions. But someone who I had never, truly gone out with.
    As I got nearer and hugged Daisy, I was about to say, "Oh Kevin! What are you going here?" but he started to shake his head furiously as if to tell me, "Please, don't recognise me. Pretend that you don't know me,"
    By this point I'm rather confused. I'm standing there with a friend I have not seen in ages and behind her is another friend I have not seen in ages, asking me to pretend I don't know him.
    Daisy finally pulls away from the embrace, her perfect lipsticked lips spread into happy smile as she grabs my hand and pulls me toward Kevin.
    "Let me introduce you to my boyfriend," she says, her eyes gleaming in excitement. "This is Kevin." And without even thinking, my hand reaches out to shake his. It's like my body was on autopilot because my mind certainly wasn't controlling what I was doing.
    "Lovely to meet you," I manage to mouth with a forced smile. Why did he not want me to recognise him? What was going on?

During the walk to the apartment, Daisy was doing most of the talking, but I wasn't doing much listening. I was focusing entirely on Kevin who was walking a couple of steps ahead of us. My mind began to wonder at this peculiar secrecy.
    Perhaps he was a spy and needed to keep his past a complete secret.
    Or maybe he's a bad guy - some fashion insider from another magazine trying to get information from Daisy.
    He could be lying to her. I mean, we all do it, don't we - little white lies here and there at the start of relationships. Perhaps he forgot to mention the fact that he spent the summer of 2006 with a rather pleasant young lady. I suppose, it's not exactly important. It's not like I'm an ex-girlfriend. Just a friend.
    Am I even his friend now? I began to think. He seems to have erased me completely from his past. So how on earth do I act around him?
    Before I get a chance to answer these floating questions, we arrive at Daisy's flat. Just as I thought it would be, this place is majestic. Huge and spacious, modern and innovative, decorated in such a Daisy fashion. So prim, proper and lady-like I immediately wish this place were mine.
    "Fancy swapping?" I ask looking around the living room in awe. "You can have my Guildford dump," but she just laughs.
    "I better get ready," she states.
    I turn to her in a bemused fashion. "Ready for what?"
    "For drinks with a few others and then dinner," she walks away and disappears into some room. "I won't be long," I hear her shout.
    I'm left in the living room with Kevin and he's pacing up and down near the kitchen, occasionally stopping and putting one hand on his hips, only to immediately take his hand off and resume with the pace.
    Anyone can tell he is agitated but I don't particularly want to be the one to start the conversation, even though I would love to know why I have to pretend I don't know him.
    I sit down on the lavender sofa (and get a little startled by the fact that it's so cushiony and comfortable that it's practically swallowing me up).
    I can't exactly start making polite conversation and ask him where he's from and what he's been studying at university, because I know this stuff. And more importantly he knows that I know this stuff. So we both remain there silent, ignoring each other. Ignoring the veil of history looming over the two of us.
    Finally, Daisy emerges from her room in an incredibly elegant black dress. Her hair somehow looks even glossier than it was earlier, and her feet are now sporting an amazing pair of 6 inch heels. She stumbles a bit as she walks towards me, giggles and then claims, "I'm fine,"

It took an hour for me to get ready. Purely because every time I would come out to the living room Daisy would analyse my outfit and then suggest something that would make it 'better'. This happened five times.
    "I knew there was a reason why I haven't seen you in five years," I joked and she just giggled as she shoved a couple of wooden bangles on my left wrist.
    "Shall we get going?" she asked the room. Kevin rolled his eyes and opened the door for her. I followed and gave him a friendly smile as I walked past. But he just looked at me and quickly averted his gaze away.
    Does he hate me?

The bar is insanely busy and Daisy introduces me to her university friends, each one looking more fashionable than the previous. I feel like I've just walked into a scene from The Hills.
    Kevin stays shockingly quiet for the entire duration, sipping at his beer and occasionally laughing at a joke here and there.
    I lean in to the girl to my right. "Is he always this quiet?" I ask her looking at Kevin.
    Her golden locks sway as she swings her head towards him, then back at me. "He's always a bit quiet around us. I just don't think we're quite his scene," she says pulling a funny face. "He doesn't particularly care for fashion marketing or fabrics," she lets out a little chuckle. "But Daisy always speaks so highly of him. He's studying law you know,"
    I know.
    I know because three years ago I told him he should.
    "He started his law conversation course last year. Apparently it's something he's wanted to do for a while. Lawyers and future fashion designers don't necessarily mix together," she laughs again and averts her head to the happy couple. Daisy is whispering something to Kevin and it looks like she's telling him off. His only reply is a curt nod.
    The golden locks girl turns back to me. "They argue a lot though," she tells me.
    "Oh?" I lean in intrigued.
    She nods her head. "Daisy is more of a free spirit. She likes her plans but she also adores to be spontaneous. I think Kev likes structure,"
    I'm about to say 'He doesn't like being called Kev!', but stop myself just in time.
    "He's always so organised, and frankly I think he gets bored around us," a sympathetic look sweeps across her face as she says it. "Not that we're not incredibly interesting," she laughs, "but I can understand getting a bit frustrated if you have to listen to a topic day in day out that you're not interested in,"
    My attention makes its way to Kevin who is looking at his drink in utter boredom. Daisy whispers something to him again and he immediately perks up. She's clearly told him to pay more attention and not look so desperately miserable.
    For a split second as our eyes meet I feel for him and I remember how charismatic he used to be. So loud and so determined, and now it's like I'm looking at a different man. An introvert who lost his way a while ago, stuck in a situation he does not want to be in.

    "Would you mind if I invited Sarah to dinner as well?" Daisy asks me as we leave the bar.
    "Of course not," I reply even though I can't quite remember which one Sarah is. It turns out it's golden locks girl.
    The dinner rolls by smoothly and the table is bouncing with stories and laughter. Even Kevin seems more relaxed now that he's not surrounded by 'divas'.
    I excuse myself to go to the loo, but Kevin seems to have intercepted me. Out of nowhere he appears in front of me in the long hallway.
    "Where did you come from...this quickly?" I ask him inspecting the surrounding.
    "There's another entrance to here from the other end of the restaurant," he tells me. "Look, I have to apologise," he begins. "It's quite silly actually. Daisy told me that her friend was coming to visit and when she mentioned your name, I froze. Instead of saying that I knew you I just acted as if I didn't. So I had to play along with it. I'm really sorry. I should have said I knew you and made up some story as to how we knew each other," He breathed out as if he's been holding it in for this long.
    "Why would you need to make up a story? You could have just told her the truth. It's not like we did anything apart from a couple of kisses here and there," I let out a laugh, "Kevin, I was seventeen. You were nineteen. She wouldn't have held that against you,"
    He looked away and I immediately knew he was holding something back.
    "What's wrong?" I asked.
    "If I had told her the complete truth, I would not have a girlfriend anymore,"
    I say nothing so he continues. "She knows that back in 2006 I really liked someone. Someone who I occasionally bring up in arguments," his voice trails off. "You see, if I told her that I knew you at that time, she would have put two and two together and would have realised that that girl who I bring up all the time, is in fact a friend she adores,"
    I look at him like he's just hit me, but I still say nothing. After a couple of seconds I digest everything, and my voice finally remembers how to function. "What do you mean by you bring me up in arguments?" I ask although I do dread the answer.
    He looks down at me like I should already know. "I loved you," he practically shouts. "I know I shouldn't compare two women, but when Daisy annoys me you pop in my head and I can't help but bring up the fact that I loved someone before her just to spite her,"
    I want to shout at him and tell him that he sounds like a moron. An idiot. Someone who does not deserve Daisy, but I get the feeling he already knows this.
    "I can't help it," his voice almost a whisper. "You were the only one I never really...had,"
    Come on ground. Open and swallow me up!
    I should really say something but I don't know what.
    "We should get back," is all I manage.

    "Oh, there you two are," Sarah calls as she sees us coming back.
    "There was a long queue," I lie and sit down. Kevin right behind me.
    "Well, we were just talking about driving tests," Sarah informs, her face in a wide smile. "I think I win with mine. I crashed into a fence, you see," she laughs again and turns to me. "Have you passed your driving test?" she asks me and I nod with a smile.
    "Yes, although I have no idea how. I had four different instructors,"
    "Four??" both Daisy and Sarah echo back.
    I nod with a smile. "I had a varied bunch, you see. One had a fascination with naked motorbike drivers. Another loved to shout at me and, oh gosh, the worst one," I laugh before I continue, "really wanted to see girls wash his car in a bikini. Kevin, do you remember how creepy he used to be-"
    Uh oh!
    There it was. I had just slipped.
    Kevin glared at me in amazement that I could trip up so stupidly.
    I attempted to recover as Daisy and Sarah looked at me confused.
    "Did I just say Kevin? Oops. I meant you Daisy. I think I must have told you about him," I act as if everything is normal and I truly have just messed up on a name.
    But it hasn't washed. Not with Daisy anyway. A few days later Kevin tells her the truth, which eventually led to a break-up.
    Thankfully, Daisy and I are still friends. Although sadly, not quite as close.

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