Sunday 29 January 2012

Lexi - The Decision

    "Lexi, can you please repeat that because I think my hearing's going.  Did you say you're moving to London?"
    I tilt my head to lock my phone against my shoulder as I furiously dump more clothing into my suitcase.  There will come a use for bikinis.  Especially that frilly pink one I bought at the age of nineteen and have never worn.
    Amanda is still saying words on the other end, none of which I'm listening to.  All I'm concerned about is shifting the contents of this dingy, small bedroom and somehow getting it 64 miles north to London.  By tonight.  The moving van said they'll only accept a minimum of three boxes for such a journey, so I'm spreading all my possessions out and hoping they won't notice.  Especially since box number three now only contains that frilly, pink bikini.
    "Lexi, just stop what you're doing and think about this for a second.  You can't drop everything you have here and leave.  Let me finish my shift and I'll be straight over.  We can discuss this properly, OK?"  I can hear a few dishes clinking together in the background and a sudden pang of guilt rises up within me.  I'm skipping work right now for this.  "I mean, Lexi, where the hell are you going to go?"
    I throw the last bit of clothing to accompany the bikini and sit down on the bare mattress.  "Mand, I've been thinking about this since John first said he was moving back to Chelsea, and the only thing I can think of that makes sense is moving up there with him,"  my attention is caught by the familiar view outside the window and for a split second I wonder whether I'm actually making the right decision.  This sort of thing just isn't me.  I don't make spontaneous decisions.  I barely make decisions!
    "You've been with him for a month!" I hear her shout down my ear.
    "Well, it obviously sounds bad when you put it like that.  This isn't some stranger I barely know.  This is my first boyfriend.  The first guy I ever fell in love with and now he's back in my life and I don't want to let go of it again.  I don't want to be sitting in this same room in a few years time and regretting not getting off my arse and doing something about it,"
    I hear her let out a deep breath just before a door is opened and the bellowing voice of our boss echoes, "If that's Lexi on the phone tell her that if she doesn't show for her shift tomorrow, she's fired,"
    "You have permission to tell him I've quit, by the way,"
    Amanda adopts a motherly tone and begins again, "Look, what's the plan then?"
    "I've found a flat in Chiswick.  The pictures of it look amazing and the girl I'll be sharing with sounds really nice.  She said her parents bought it for her but it has an extra bedroom and she's getting bored of living on her own,"
    "She sounds like a psycho,"
    "She's not a psycho, Mand.  I think we're going to get along really well.  She did a degree in English Literature too just like me, and now she's a teacher,"
    "And how are you going to pay rent?  Chiswick isn't cheap,"
    "I've managed to get myself an Assistant Buyer job in Acton.  It seems to only be temporary for now as they needed someone urgently, but the woman on the phone said it will almost certainly lead to something permanent.  I think they want to see what I'm like before they commit,"
    I can practically hear Amanda's doubt but I don't let her dampen my spirits.  She's been like this since we were in secondary school.  Always trying to be the voice of reason.
    "I don't like the sound of this,"
    "I know you don't!"  I snap without realising.  "But I'm 24 and I'm only a waitress-"
    "Only a waitress?  What, so this job suddenly isn't good enough for you?  I'm only a waitress too, Lexi.  You don't see me being such a snob about it,"
    "That's not what I meant.  And I'm not a snob.  This just isn't where I thought I would be at 24.  I want a career, Mand,"
    "This is a career,"
    "No, this is your career.  You've always known that this is what you wanted to do.  I wish things were that straight forward with me.  I went to university and did nothing with my degree.  I've done nothing for the last three years and I hate it.  John walking into the restaurant a month ago was a wake-up call.  I'm tired of everything being so mundane,"  I pause for breath and hope that she hasn't taken any of this personally.
    "He broke your heart once.  I was there when he ditched you and walked away the first time round and he'll do it again!"  I think back to when I was 17 when John called me and said having a girlfriend was too much of a distraction.  Next thing I know he'd moved schools for the final year and I never saw him again.  Until now.  Suddenly that unfinished ending could finally have a completion.
    "I know full well that this could all go horribly wrong, but Mand, I'd really kick myself if I didn't go for it," I can hear she understands but doesn't really want to.  "So please be my friend and support me through this,"
    "Fine," she mouths unconvincingly.  "Let me know when you get there, OK?"
    "Yeah, I will,"
    And without a goodbye, the phone has clicked shut. 
    I look around at my messy, half empty room just in case there's anything vital I'm about to leave behind.  I do a double take when I notice my neon blue bedside lamp, but considering that nasty thing almost gives me a seizure every time it's flicked on, leaving it behind is probably best.  I can buy something nice once I'm settled.
    The moving van will be here in half an hour and my train ticket is booked.  I can't believe this is happening.  Who knew I was capable of making such massive, life changing decisions.  I mean, I've been buying the same porridge for years because I'm scared I won't like the taste of others, and here I am, finally taking a leap and buying that other porridge.  Or so to speak.
    I get up off the mattress and look longingly around the room.   I keep expecting a deep, nostalgic feel to kick in anytime now, but all I seem to be doing is smiling.  Proper smiling.  Teeth showing and everything.
    Wow!  I feel invincible, as if anything I want can be done.  I've dreamt of moving away for so long but have been too timid to even try.  And here I am, bags packed and about to hit the road, just like in the movies.
    My mind than grows ambitious as I think about what else I've always wanted to do but have never tried, and then as if a lightbulb hovering above my head pings in brightness illuminated by my thought process, I quickly run to my flatmates room.
    Half an hour later I pick up my phone and text John. - Let's meet in London for dinner tonight.  I'll call you as soon as I get there.  By the way, I'm now blonde -

Tuesday 3 January 2012

The Bunny Boiler - Chapter 10

There are certain situations I never imagined I would find myself in.  Stranded in the middle of the Thames with one of my best friends?  Yes, I almost certainly knew something like that would happen.  Tripping up when finally getting back on land and making a fool of myself?  Of course!  It would be weird if that didn't happen.
    But hearing my heart crack and crumble into a tiny million pieces as I watch the guy I love stand in front of me side by side with a girl who has made these last few months a living hell?  No.  I could never see this coming.  This, to me, is a foreign feeling.
    After all, I'm the girl whose essay answer back in Year 11 to 'How do you think Miss Havisham dealt with the heartbreak in Great Expectations?  How would you have reacted in this situation?' started with 'I'd kick his head in before he broke my heart!'
    I feel prickling tears try to break away from my eyes, but I refuse to let them, because despite the fact that I'd completely let my guard down around Jamie, there is no way I would do so when he's so close to Kate.
    "What brings you this way, Jamie?" Tia asks, crossing her arms and glancing once at Kate.  "You don't live near here,"
    "I was going to call you but Kate thinks it's best I do this in person," he turns to look at me.  "Can we talk?"
    Not particularly. 
    "I think I said everything I needed to say to you at the restaurant.  And plus, I have a really busy afternoon planned,"
    "Ella, I've found you in the middle of the Thames.  What exactly had you planned for the afternoon?"  I'm about to answer but he carries on.  "And why the hell have you got a boat?"
    "I've been planning on getting a boat for ages.  You know I have,"
    He puts his hands on his waist and turns away from me, shaking his head as he looks at the ground.  "The first I heard about this boat idea was a few days ago when you started going loopy at the restaurant!" he snaps, but must have noticed my startled expression because he immediately calms down and says, "Look, can we just walk along a bit and talk privately?  Please."
    My head screams no.  I know exactly what he's here to do.  We broke up at the restaurant but I suppose it never felt official enough.  And now he's here to make sure I know it's over, so that he feels no guilt when he starts seeing Kate again.  I know this.  I know this is exactly what he's going to say because sadly, I've been rehearsing this conversation since we parted ways.
    I start to walk ahead along the Thames footpath.  He tries to catch up with me, but I only speed up.
    "Ella, take this seriously!" he shouts.
    But I don't listen.
    I don't have to listen.
    He's the one who's not taking this seriously.  He's the one who's given up.  He's the one who refuses to see what Kate is doing.
    "Ella," he says, running a little to catch up with me.  When he finally does, he grabs my right arm and stops me in my tracks.  His eyebrows furrow as his eyes melt into sadness.  "I don't want this to end,"  he whispers.
    And I almost believe him.
    Until I catch a glimpse of Kate in the distance talking to Tia.
    I snatch my arm away from him.  "Why are you here with her?"
    "Oh Ella, there's no need to be jealous.  She's been a good friend since she heard about you and me.  She's not as bad as you think.  In fact, she told me she doesn't think you and I should break up,"
    "Jamie, how can you be this dumb?  She's playing a game.  Anyone can see that.  Have you completely forgotten about everything she did?"
    "I know," he begins, sweeping a hand through his hair as if he's exhausted.
    But I continue,  "How well did our first date go?  Remember the unexpected visitor we had?  What sane person has a tantrum in the middle of a restaurant?  Who cries loudly in front of everyone because their ex is having dinner with someone else?  Come on, Jamie!"
    "You can't blame her for that.  Her and I had just broken up and she still loved me.  We didn't have to flaunt this in her face,"
    "What?  We didn't flaunt anything.  In fact, we kept it a secret for ages so that we didn't upset her,"
    He doesn't respond.
    I take off my jacket.  The sun, mixed with the rage seems to have caused an inferno in me.  If I don't walk away, I will burn.  I start to move away from him, letting the cool wind fly against my skin.  I should keep walking.  I really should keep walking.
    But I don't.
    "You've forgotten about the baby incident,"
    He looks up confused. "The what?"
    "When Kate pretended to be pregnant with your child.  Remember when she told her parents and came to see you at your house?"  I look into his eyes, and for a split second I start to think he's back on my side.  But the second gets blown away with the wind and I'm left fighting on my own.
    "She phoned me later that evening and apologised about everything," he tells me quietly.
    "You talked to her?  You never told me this," I walk towards him, needing to know more information.
    "Am I supposed to tell you everything?" he retorts.
    "No," I say calmly, far too hurt at his response.  "But I thought you would have told me that,"
    And suddenly everything makes sense.  It now makes perfect sense why Kate never gave up on Jamie and why she persisted so much.  If they were having forgiving conversations every time she did something wrong, then no wonder she kept fighting back with more.
    "Why are you crying?" he asks.
    Crying?  I hadn't even noticed.  I wipe away the uncontrollable tears from my face, and try to regain myself.
    "Why are you crying?" Jamie asks again, as if the answer is such a mystery.
    "Because my boyfriend has been having private conversations with his psycho ex and I've had no idea about them," my attempt to control the tears has backfired, because as soon as I try to hold them back, a flood gate opens.  And I can't seem to stop.
    "Please, don't cry," he says, wrapping me up in his arms.  I let him, but then push him away with force.  The tears finally stop when I see him lying there on the dusty path, lifting himself up and brushing away the dirt from his jeans.  I didn't realise I had so much strength. 
    "You have no idea how difficult it's been for me!"  I shout.  "She has made it unbearable,"
    "Oh please!" he retaliates, "Don't tell you haven't loved every bit of it.  You wouldn't have been happy if there wasn't some drama involved!" he pauses, looks ahead into the water and then back at me.  "My friends warned me to stay away from you,"
    Whatever I said earlier about my heart breaking wasn't real, because that pain was nothing compared to this.
    "What's that supposed to mean?" I ask like a scolded child who just wants to go home.
    "You're a complete drama queen, Ella.  You create crazy situations for yourself.  You're too chaotic to handle sometimes,"
    "Name one crazy situation I've got myself into?" I stubbornly (and stupidly) ask.
    Jamie points to the river.  "Do I need to remind you that I've just rescued you from the middle of the Thames?"
    I look away, knowing too well I shouldn't have asked the question.
    "A week ago you chased a dog through the park trying to catch him and return him back to the owner,"
    "I was trying to be helpful,"
    "Ella.   The dog was running away from you!"
    I don't see how that matters.
    "And anyway," he pauses again and looks behind at Kate.  "I've been meaning to mention this for ages.  You can't keep throwing up the pregnancy thing because if I remember correctly didn't you and Mikey start the whole thing?"
    "What?  How?"
    "You turned up at her house pretending you were a nurse from the local clinic, and then told her family she had chlamydia!"
    "Gonorrhoea," I correct quietly.  "And anyway, that wasn't part of the plan.  Mikey and I got startled because her sister opened the front door.   It made more sense to pretend we were nurses than to lie down on the grass like we had been,"
    "See?  This is what I'm talking about!  Normal people don't hang around houses!"
    "And normal people don't pretend they're pregnant!"
    But despite it all, he still doesn't see.  I have no idea what's happened to make him revolt against me, but I know that I'm fighting a losing battle.  Kate has stuck her bunny boiler paws right into him and there's nothing I can do to reverse it.
    He lets out a sigh.  "Let's just go back to mine and forget about everything.  OK?"
    But I can't forget.  "Jamie, you've just been telling me how I'm crazy and chaotic and how your friends warned you about me.  You've had nothing nice to say, and yet all you've been doing is defending Kate.  You don't know!!!  You really don't know that she's a manipulative bitch who used and abused Giles to make you jealous!"
    He sneers at my words and quickly dismisses them.  "Kate came to me crying when Giles broke up with her.  So there's some news for you, Ella!"
    I could scream!  I could grab him, shake him furiously, smack him around the head a couple of times, and scream!
    "Giles didn't break up with her!  She broke up with him!  Mikey and I witnessed the whole thing.  You're never going to believe this but I saw the two of them when I was looking for a boat in Brighton.  Giles wanted to book a cruise for them, and she stomped on his heart by telling him she was only with him to make you jealous," I pause to look at Jamie's reaction, but so far, his face is blank.  "I don't know what sort of spell she's cast over you, but snap out of it,"  I cross my arms and turn around staring straight ahead at the river's southern route.  The breeze has calmed down, but the April sun still blazes.
    "I don't believe you.  Even if that is true, how do you expect me to believe that Kate would have blurted that out in front of you?"
    Damn!  I don't want to answer because I know exactly where this is leading.
    "She didn't know we were there," I quietly respond.
    "And why's that?" he moves closer, quizzing me.  I'm too shy to look up.
    "Because we were spying on them," and before I even get the chance to finish the sentence, Jamie's gone.  He's already started walking away with heavy strides along the path.  "Where are you going?" I yell after him, almost tripping trying to catch up.
    He abruptly turns around which makes me knock into him.  "You really have no idea how much I love you, Ella.  But you've really proved to be the crazy one here, not Kate,"
    He strides away again.
    I don't follow this time.  Just stay back staring with sorrowed eyes as I watch him take Kate by the hand and walk away.
    Nope.  Never saw this coming.
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