"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 -