Home > Sushi for Beginners(9)

Sushi for Beginners(9)
Marian Keyes

I’m in the High Street Kensington branch, she pretended to herself. In a moment I’m going to leave and drop into Urban Outfitters.

She idled in front of the fresh fruit. No, I’ve changed my mind, she decided. I’m in the Marble Arch branch As soon as I’ve finished here I’m going to South Molton Street.

It gave her a peculiar comfort to know that the melon salads in front of her were part of the diaspora of melon salads in all the London branches. She pressed slightly on a taut cellophane lid and felt a sense of belonging – faint but real.

When she was restored to calmness she went to an ordinary supermarket and bought her weekly shopping. A routine would keep her sane – well, it had certainly helped in the past. Home she traipsed, the hood of her cardigan up to protect her hair from the rain that had started to fall again. She unpacked the seven cans of Slimfast and placed them neatly in the cupboard, the potatoes and apples went in the little fridge and the seven pieces of chocolate went into a drawer. Now what? Saturday night. All alone in a strange city. Nothing to do but to stay in and watch… It was then that she noticed that there was no telly in the room.

It was such a big blow she cried a flashflood of hot, spurty tears. What was she going to do now? She’d already read this month’s Elle, Red, New Woman, Company, Cosmo, Marie-Claire, Vogue, Tatler, and the Irish magazines that she’d be competing against. She could read a book, she supposed. If she had one. Or a newspaper, except newspapers were so boring and depressing… At least she had clothes to hang up. So while the streets below filled with young people en route to a night on the piss, Lisa smoked and shook dresses and skirts and jackets on to hangers, smoothed cardigans and tops into drawers, arranged boots and shoes into a perfect military parade, hung handbags… The phone rang, startling her from her soothing rhythm.

‘Hello?’ And then she was sorry she’d answered. ‘Oliver!’ Oh, bugger. ‘Where did you… how did you get this number?’

‘Your mum.’

Interfering old cow.

‘When were you going to tell me, Lisa?’

Never, actually.

‘Soon. When I’d got my own place.’

‘What have you done with our flat?’

‘Got tenants in. Don’t worry, you’ll get your share of the rent.’

‘And why Dublin? I thought you wanted to go to New York.’

‘This seemed like a smarter career move.’

‘Jesus, you’re hard. Well, I hope you’re happy,’ he said, in a manner that meant he hoped the very opposite. ‘I hope it’s all been worth it.’

Then he hung up.

She looked down on the Dublin street and started to shake. Had it been worth it? Well, she’d just better make damn sure it would be. She’d make Colleen the biggest success in magazine publishing.

She inhaled deeply on her cigarette, then went to light it again because she thought it had gone out. It hadn’t, but it wasn’t calming the pain. She needed something. The chocolate called to her from the drawer, but she resisted it. Just because she felt she was in hell was no excuse to go over fifteen hundred calories a day.

In the end she gave in. She coiled in an armchair, slowly removed the paper and ran her teeth along the side of the chocolate, shaving away tiny curl after tiny curl, until it was all gone.

It took an hour.

6

There was a clink of bottles at Ashling’s door, announcing Joy’s arrival.

‘Ted’s on his way, leave the door on the latch.’ Joy clattered a bottle of white wine on to Ashling’s tiny kitchen counter.

Ashling braced herself. She was not disappointed.

‘Phil Collins,’ Joy said, with an evil glint in her eye, ‘Michael Bolton or Michael Jackson, and you must sleep with one of them.’

Ashling winced. ‘Well, definitely not Phil Collins, and definitely not Michael Jackson and definitely not Michael Bolton.’

‘You must choose one.’ Joy busied herself with the corkscrew.

‘Christ.’ Ashling’s face was a twist of revulsion. ‘Phil Collins, I suppose, I haven’t picked him in a while. Right, your turn. Benny Hill, Tom Jones or… let me see, who’s truly revolting? Paul Daniels.’

‘Full sex or just…’

‘Full sex,’ Ashling said firmly.

‘Tom Jones, then,’ Joy sighed, handing Ashling a glass of wine. ‘Now, show me what you’re wearing.’

It was Saturday evening and Ted was doing the ‘try-out’ slot at a comedy gig. It was his first time doing his act for anyone other than friends and family, and Ashling and Joy were going along to hold his hand, then crash the party afterwards.

Joy – whose surname was, memorably, Ryder – lived in the flat below Ashling’s. She was short, rounded, curly-haired and dangerous – on account of her prodigious appetite for drink, drugs and men, coupled with her mission to turn Ashling into her partner in crime.

‘Come into my bedroom,’ Ashling invited and they both edged in. ‘I’m going to wear these cream cargo pants and this little top.’ Ashling turned from the wardrobe too quickly and stood on Joy’s foot, then Joy leapt up and banged her elbow on the portable telly.

‘Ouch! Doesn’t the crampedness of these shoe-boxes ever get to you?’ Joy sighed, rubbing her elbow.

Ashling shook her head. ‘I love living in town and you can’t have everything.’

Quickly, Ashling changed into her going-out clothes.

‘I’d look like a Diddyman in that get-up.’ Joy admired her, wistfully. ‘It’s a terrible thing to be pear-shaped!’

‘But at least you have a waist. Now, I thought I’d do something with my hair…’

Ashling had bought several coloured butterfly clips after she’d seen what a lovely job Trix had done with them. But when she stuck them into the front of her own hair, sweeping two strands off her face, the effect wasn’t quite the same.

‘I just look ridiculous!’

‘You do,’ Joy agreed, kindly. ‘Now, do you think Half-man-half-badger will be at the party after the gig?’

‘Could be, it was at a party with Ted that you met him before, wasn’t it? He’s friends with some of the comedians, isn’t he?’

‘Mmmmm,’ Joy nodded dreamily. ‘But that was weeks ago and I haven’t seen him since. Where did he disappear to, that international half-man-half-badger of mystery? Get the tarot cards and we’ll have a quick look at what’s going to happen.’

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