Home > If I Never Met You_ Deliciously

If I Never Met You_ Deliciously
Author: Mhairi McFarlane

1


Dan

What time you think you’ll be back tonight? Roughly?

Laurie

Dunno. SOON I HOPE.

Dan

You hope?

Laurie

Everyone has raspberries in Proseccos

Dan

I thought you liked Prosecco. And raspberries

Laurie

I do! I’ve got one. But denotes a certain type of Girls Night Out that’s not very me. They’re calling them ‘cheeky bubbles’

Dan

Your problem is other people like it too? Can’t imagine my criticism of a night out being ‘people ordered the same drink’

Laurie

… Except when you said you hate stag dos that ‘start with getting ten pints of wife beater in at 7am in Gatwick Spoons’.

Dan

You can’t take a moment off being a lawyer, can you?

Laurie

HAH. You misspelt ‘you got me bang to rights, Loz’

Dan is typing

Dan is typing

Last seen today at 9.18pm

Dan must’ve thought better of his reply. Laurie clicked her phone off and pushed it back into her bag.

Obviously she didn’t really mind the cliché, booze was booze, that was trying to be wittily acerbic bravado. It was a distress signal. Laurie was at sea and her phone felt like a connection back to shore. Tonight was an unwelcome flashback to the emotions of lunch breaks at secondary school, when you had a single-parent mum and no money and no cool.

So far, the girls had discussed the benefits of eyebrow microblading (‘Ashley from Stag Communications looks like Eddie Munster’) whether or not Marcus Fairbright-Page at KPMG was a bad arsehole who’d break hearts and bed frames (Laurie thought on what she’d gleaned, that was an emphatic yes, but also gathered that a verdict wasn’t desired). And how many burpees you could manage in HIIT class at Virgin Active (no idea there, none).

They were all so glamorous and feminine, so carefully groomed and produced for public display. Laurie felt like a dishwater-feathered pigeon in an enclosure full of chirruping tropical birds.

Emily really owed her. Tonight was the product of something that happened roughly once every three months – her best friend, and owner of a PR company, begged Laurie to join their team night out and make it ‘less bloody boring, or we’ll spend the whole time discussing the new accounts.’ Emily, as CEO and hostess, was at the head of the table putting everything on the company credit card and handing round the Nocellara olives and salted almonds. Laurie, late arrival, was at the far end.

‘Who was that, then?’ said Suzanne, to her right. Suzanne had a beautiful shoulder-length sheet of custard-coloured hair and the gaze of a customs officer.

Laurie turned and concealed her irritation with a ventriloquist’s dummy smile. ‘Who was what?’

‘On your phone! You looked well intense,’ Suzanne rolled her doe eyes upwards and mimed a sort of chimpanzee-like, vacant trance state, her hands moving across an imaginary handset. She whooped with girlish, alcohol-fuelled laughter, the sort that could sound cruel.

Laurie said: ‘My boyfriend.’

The word ‘boyfriend’ had started to sound a trifle silly, Laurie supposed, but ‘partner’ was so dry and stiff. She had a feeling her present company already thought she was those things.

‘Awww … is it early days?’ Suzanne combed her fairytale princess hair over her ears with her fingers, and put her flute to her lips.

‘Haha! Hardly. We’ve been going out since were eighteen. We met at university.’

‘Oh my GOD,’ Suzanne said, ‘And you’re how old?’

Laurie tensed her stomach muscles and said: ‘Thirty-six.’

‘Oh my GOD!’ Suzanne squawked again, loudly enough that they had the attention of a few others. ‘And you’ve been together all this time? No flings or breaks? Like, he’s your first boyfriend?’

‘Yeah.’

‘I could not have done that. Oh my God. Wow. Was he your …’ she lowered her voice, ‘First-first?’

Laurie cringed inwardly.

‘Bit personal after two drinks, hah?’

Suzanne was not to be deterred.

‘Oh my giddy aunt! Oh no!? Je-SUS!’ she said gaily, as if she was being fun and not judgemental and prurient and generally awful. ‘But you’re not married?’

‘No.’

‘Do you want to be?’

‘Not really,’ Laurie said, shrugging. ‘I’m not madly pro or anti marriage.’

‘Maybe when you have kids?’ Suzanne supplied. Oh, subtle. Piss the piss off.

‘Are you married?’ Laurie said.

‘No!’ Suzanne shook her head and the lovely hair rippled. ‘I want to be married by thirty, for sure. I’ve got four years to find Mr Right.’

‘Why by thirty?’

‘I just kinda feel that I don’t want to be on the shelf.’ She paused. ‘No offence.’

‘Sure.’

Laurie briefly debated saying: you know that this is really rude, right? I mean you know you can’t stick ‘no offence’ on the end like it takes the curse off? And then made the usual British calculations about the ten seconds of triumph not being worth the hours of embarrassment and hostility afterwards.

‘Where are you from, Laurie?’ said Carly in the animal print top, sitting on the other side of Suzanne, and a familiar heavy lead settled in Laurie’s gut.

‘Yorkshire,’ she said, with a bright aw-hell-please-can-we-not smile, which she knew would be lost on the recipient. ‘You can probably tell from the accent.’

‘No, I meant where are you from?’ she said, vaguely gesturing at her own face. Of course you did.

The usual fork in the road opened up: answer the question she knew they were asking, or pretend not to understand and prolong the agony. If you didn’t pander to it you were being ungracious, chippy, making a thing of it. You were the problem.

‘Yorkshire, seriously. I was born at Huddersfield Royal.’

A moment ticked past and Suzanne, to no surprise whatsover, pitched in. ‘She means where are your mum and dad from?’

‘My dad’s from Oldham …’

A fresh tray of cocktails arrived, cucumbers curls inside like ribbons, and Laurie’s genealogy was abruptly demoted in interest.

‘… My Mum is from Martinique,’ she said, but a distracted Carly and Suzanne had already forgotten they’d asked.

‘Y’what?’

‘Martinique! My Mum is from Martinique!’ Laurie said shrilly, above the music, pointing at her face.

‘Your mum’s called MARTINE EEK?’

Fuck it.

‘I’m getting an Old Fashioned,’ Laurie said, standing up abruptly. Make of that name what you will.

Then she saw them, a chance glimpse through the shifting throng. Laurie involuntarily grinned at the ignoble thrill of unexpectedly seeing something she definitely wasn’t supposed to see, huddled in a banquette, twenty feet away.

Her colleague Jamie Carter was out with a gorgeous young woman. So far, so predictable. But, rather than an unknown lovely, Laurie was ninety-nine per cent sure that the woman he was cosying up to was the boss’s niece, Eve, who he was specifically warned off going anywhere near, the day before she arrived. Office gossip dynamite. Possibly employment contract terminating dynamite, depending on just how protective Mr Salter was.

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