Eyes open to reveal a blur of curtains and wallpaper. All flowers and stripes, I rub my eyes for clarity to make sense of what appears to be a 1970's bedsit. After a few more blinks, the scenery in front of me starts to reveal itself. I'm not in a 1970's bedsit at all. This is my room. The curtains turn out to be jeans draped over the shutters, and the flowery wallpaper is wine splodges. Wine splodges? No, that can't be right. How did they get there?
Head is pounding so much now that I'm up and I cannot make sense of any of my thoughts. Water. Definitely need water to wash away this horrific taste in my mouth. What is it? It's like vodka mixed with Listerine. Did I brush my teeth with vodka last night? I attempt to walk over to the door but stumble and fall over a pair of grey underpants. Umm, now I know those definitely aren't mine. Men's boxers? Oh no, who stayed here last night? Alert and awake I start to look under the covers and under the bed for any sign of another life form. Nothing in the wardrobe. Nothing in the laundry basket. Nothing anywhere. Phew! No one's here. That's good news.
The door screeches and screams as I attempt to open it. I have no idea what the time is and I'm fully aware I'm in my own house, but this still feels like the walk of shame. I tiptoe out hoping my flatmate isn't in, but as I approach the kitchen I hear voices. And not just her voice. Multiple voices mixed with laughter and 'Oh my gosh!'. Great. They're recounting tales of my drunken escapades meanwhile I'm locked away suffering in a room covered in wine. What has become of friendship!
It takes me 3 paces to the bathroom to realise that I'm actually only in my underwear. Like a startled deer, I dash back to my room in a desperate search for clothing. But I can't find anything appropriate. It's all organza dresses and glittery tops. What was I doing in here last night? A fashion show? Why are my espadrilles out? And why the bloody hell are those jeans on the shutters? Jeans will do. And so will this glittery yellow top I bought at a car boot sale seven years ago.
Right, second time to leave the room. Head still pounding. Breath still Listerine Vodka (perhaps a new marketing promotion for them?). Memories still non-existent.
"Good morning, trouble," Josie, the flatmate sings as I enter the room. She looks at my outfit up and down and smiles, "You didn't sleep in that, did you? I thought you were allergic?"
What? To a yellow top?
"Umm, no," I reply unsure of what she could mean. She clearly misunderstood me. She must have been more drunk than I was. Silly Josie. She must feel like a complete idiot.
"How did you sleep?" she gets up from the table to put the kettle on.
After three gallons of the stuff, I'm starting to feel slightly better. Until the third voice rings behind me and I jolt spilling it everywhere.
"It's like last night all over again," the stranger speaks and I do nothing by stare at him with a blank expression. At least I hope it's blank. With my current state it could be anything from mild smile to tears streaming down face.
Who is this man? Where did he come from? Why is he in my kitchen? Why does his hair smell familiar?
"Ella, right? Or is it Desdemona?"
Desdemona? Oh god. Now I remember.
I'm always partial to a bit of drink. I'm English. It's how we've been raised. But as I sit in the living room sipping on Lemsip, surrounded by dirty tissues as I'm watching Downton Abbey in a onsie, the furthest thing from my mind is going out. I want to be warm. Warm, healthy and full of knowledge that Lady Mary and Matthew will definitely get married.
It is, therefore, completely unbeknownst to me how I ended up at Purple Mustard with Josie shoving another stinky Sambuca underneath my nose.
"Drink, and you shall be merry," she orders as she downs hers with a smile.
And she's right, because I do become merry. It just takes me seven attempts at it. Next thing I know I'm feeling incredibly brave going up to every guy demanding that they call me Lady Ella, because I'm an heiress who is about to be swindled out of my fortunes by some distant cousin.
"And he's only a lawyer, you know" I jabber in utter self-confidence. Faces are looking blank around me - a few pitying smiles as randomers sip their drinks and walk away, but it doesn't dampen my spirits. In a mix of paracetamol, Strepsils and Sambuca, I truly am an English aristocrat living off my well-earned inheritance. Now where is my butler with that drink!
Confused as to why he is nowhere to be seen, I decide to make my own way to the bar, order a dirty martini and casually lean against the cool, metallic table top watching my minions. I take one sip of my drink and completely miss my mouth. It all pours across my chest and into my dress. Quite possibly my bra too.
"Should you be doing that in public?" a stranger speaks and I turn but see no one. Perhaps I'm hearing things.
"Seriously, should you be doing that in public?" Again? Where is this voice coming from? I turn again to be faced with blue eyes and wry smile.
"I'm not doing anything," I reply. It's only when I see his eyes drop down to my chest, that I realise I appear to be fishing out an olive from my bra. I take my hand out immediately and scorn myself. This is not how a lady should be behaving.
"What's your name?" he asks.
"Ummm....ummm..." I need a new identity. After this whole olive-bra incident I can no longer be Lady Ella. It will bring utter shame to my family. "Desdemona," I reach out my hand expecting him to kiss it, "Charmed to meet you,"
"I hear you're a friend of Josie's,"
"...Yes. Why? What has she said?"
He starts to laugh out loud. "She hasn't said anything. She pointed you out earlier and I thought I'd say hello. I'm Mark."
"She said, 'Over there is my friend, Desdemona?'" She knows me far too well if she said that. We're probably syncing our brains from living together for so long. It wouldn't surprise me after watching that really cool documentary about mind reading.
He looks confused. "No...she just pointed to you and said 'There's my friend!' Drink?"
"What would you like?"
Ah. I have to have a think here. What would 'Desdemona' like?
"I'll have a glass of Prosecco," I'm thinking Desdemona is new money.
Josie, Mark and I are now out of the bar, faced with a trail of cabs and drunk pedestrians. Gosh, all these women have no idea how to hold their drink. One of them has puke all down her. At least I had the decency to wait until I was over a toilet bowl. And I only got a little on the bottom of my tights.
"It's too far to walk,"
"Oh, it's only ten minutes, Ell...I mean, Desdemona," Josie says. "Mark will give you a piggy back, right Mark?"
"Hop on," he instructs, to which I do. And fall asleep nuzzled up against his wavy hair.
I'm outside the flat now, with Josie trying to cram the key into the lock. "It won't fit!" she shouts but I only look on. I decide to take a break from helping out and sit against the wall thinking about my new life as Desdemona. God, it could really be great. People will call me Dessie for short. Or Mona. And maybe I'll get a dog. Dessie definitely sounds like she'd have a dog. And maybe-
"Come on, Missy," Mark helps me up and leads me inside. Excuse me, but it's actually Dessie.
The three of us are now sitting on the floor of my room looking at the pale, cream wallpaper. I can't quite recall how we got onto this conversation. The last thing I remember is Josie telling Mark that I'm single and that he should take me out. I may have told him he should. Actually, I may have demanded it. Unfortunately, I cannot recall his response, but he can't have said no.
"It could do with some colour,"
"Mmm, and possibly some more paintings,"
The conversation carries on without me, with Mark occasionally asking if I'm OK.
"Not if you keep insulting my room!" I reply in a grump. And then a wonderful idea comes to me. I'll decorate it right now. I mean, it can't be that difficult as all I need to do is get some paint pots and test out colours. They used to do it all the time on Changing Rooms. Except, I don't have any paint...
"Jose, what do you think of wine coloured walls?" I ask her as I wander around the room inspecting the crisp wallpaper.
"It's my favourite colour!" she beams and hands me a glass of the stuff. And I throw it on the wall.
"Ella, what the fuck are you doing?" Josie stands up in shock. Mark is in a fit of laughter.
I look down at both of them confused at the outbreak. "What? I'm seeing if this is a suitable colour to paint it,"
Josie walks out angrily, but I take no notice. She's probably just jealous that Mark finds me funny and not her. He's still laughing. He laughs a lot.
"You should get some curtains too," she inputs after he's done.
What an excellent idea. I like this Mark character. I think him and Desdemona shall be very happy together.
I open up the wardrobe and take out a pair of jeans, then drape them over the shutters. Wow. I am such a genius.
"That's pretty good," he rises from his place and looks on at my handy-work.
Josie walks back in with a bottle of vodka straight out of the freezer and a pair of mens boxers on her head. "I've decided I'm not drunk enough," and takes a big gulp. I congratulate her on her new hat and go to shut my wardrobe.
"Wow, that's a very sparkly top," Mark says looking at a glittery, yellow top in the middle of my wardrobe.
I pull it out and look at it's gleaming glory in the light. "Yes, it's real diamonds," I tell him in utter seriousness. My godfather gave it to me as a present. He was disappointed he couldn't find a diamond encrusted pony for me,"
"Those aren't diamonds!" Josie pipes up before another vodka sip.
"What?" I say in mock shock, "well, no wonder I never wear it. I'm allergic to fake diamonds," and start inspecting the rest of my clothes to add to the reality. I don't want Mark to think I'm a fraud. I need to play my part. Clothes are now being flung all over the room.
Josie has now fallen asleep hugging the grey underpants, and Mark and I are lying down on my bed talking about the squares on the ceiling.
"I think they came with the house," I inform.
He rises slightly from the bed and rests his head on his hand. With a massive grin he's looking down at me like an impressive knight who has rescued his damsel.
"You're crazy," he says getting closer like he's about to kiss me. "You make me laugh so much,"
Our lips touch very faintly, and for a second I feel like I've been snapped out of my drunken state, but just before he kisses me I realise I've been sick tonight. And I haven't brushed my teeth. I cannot let this man kiss my vomit covered mouth. I rise from the bed and grab the vodka bottle that's now resting next to Josie's feet. I take a mouthful, gargle and spit it out in the bathroom sink.
"What the hell are you doing?" I see Mark's reflection in the bathroom mirror.
"I'm brushing my teeth,"
"...where's your toothbrush?"
"I still think you need a toothbrush,"
God, he's completely right. I grab the pink, bristly brush from the pot and dip it into the bottle. With utter care, I start to brush my teeth.
Ten minutes later, I'm done and walk back to my room with a beaming smile. "I'm ready," I announce, but Mark is fast asleep on my bed. A little disappointed, I take off my clothes down to my underwear and get under the covers on the space that's left. I'll kiss him in the morning.
Still impressed at my amazing interior designing skills, I take a quick look around my room before I turn off the lamp.
"Night, Jose," I whisper.
"Nnnn," is all the reply I get from the corner of the room.