But in my defense. . he left it on the table, didn’t he? He can’t be that secretive about it. And I don’t know that he saw me looking through it, do I? Maybe I’m just paranoid.
As I put my key into the lock, I’m actually feeling quite positive. OK, so Tarquin wasn’t that friendly just now — but he might have been feeling ill or something. Or maybe he just didn’t want to rush me. What I’ll do is, tomorrow I’ll send a nice chatty note to him, saying thanks again, and suggesting we go and see some Wagner together. Excellent idea. And I’ll mug up a bit about the Preludes, so that if he asks me which one again, I’ll know exactly what to say. Yes! This is all going to be fine. I need never have worried.
I swing the door open, taking off my coat — and then my heart gives a flip. Suze is waiting for me in the hall. She’s sitting on the stairs, waiting for me — and there’s a reproachful expression on her face.
“Oh, Bex,” she says, and shakes her head. “I’ve just been speaking to Tarquin.”
“Oh right,” I say, trying to sound natural — but aware that my voice is a frightened squeak. I turn away, take my coat, and slowly unwind my scarf, playing for time. What exactly has he said to her?
“I don’t suppose there’s any point asking you why?” she says after a pause.
“Well,” I falter, feeling sick. God, I could do with a cigarette.
“I’m not blaming you, or anything. I just think you should have. .” She shakes her head and sighs. “Couldn’t you have let him down more gently? He sounded quite upset. The poor thing was really keen on you, you know.”
This isn’t quite making sense. Let him down more gently?
“What exactly—” I lick my dry lips. “What exactly did he say?”
“Well, he was only really phoning to tell me you’d left your umbrella behind,” says Suze. “Apparently one of the waiters came rushing out with it. But of course I asked him how the date had gone. .”
“And. . and what did he say?”
“Well,” says Suze, and gives a little shrug. “He said you’d had a really nice time — but you’d pretty much made it clear you didn’t want to see him again.”
I sink down onto the floor, feeling rather weak. So that’s it. Tarquin did see me leafing through his checkbook. I’ve ruined my chances with him completely.
But he didn’t tell Suze what I’d done. He protected me. Pretended it was my decision not to carry things on. He was a gentleman.
In fact — he was a gentleman all evening, wasn’t he? He was kind to me, and charming, and polite. And all I did, all throughout the date, was tell him lies.
Suddenly I want to cry.
“I just think it’s such a shame,” says Suze. “I mean, I know it’s up to you and everything — but he’s such a sweet guy. And he’s had a crush on you for ages! You two would go perfectly together.” She gives me a wheedling look. “Isn’t there any chance you might go out with him again?”
“I. . I honestly don’t think so,” I say in a scratchy voice. “Suze. . I’m a bit tired. I think I’ll go to bed.”
And without meeting her eye, I get up and slowly walk down the corridor to my room.
BANK OF LONDON
London House, Mill Street, EC3R 4DW
Ms. Rebecca Boomwood
Flat 24 Burney Rd.London SW6 8FD
23 March 2000
Dear Ms. Boomwood: Thank you very much for your application for a Bank of London Easifone Loan.Unfortunately, “buying clothes and makeup” was not deemed a suitable purpose for such a substantial unsecured loan, and your application has been turned down by our credit team.
Thank you very much for considering Bank of London.Yours sincerely,Margaret Hopkins Loans Adviser
FULHAM BRANCH 3 Fulham Road
London SW6 9JH
Ms. Rebecca BloomwoodFlat 24 Burney Rd.London SW6 8FD
23 March 2000
Dear Ms. Bloomwood: I am writing to confirm our meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Monday 26 March, here at our Fulham office. Please ask for me at reception.I look forward to seeing you then. Yours sincerely, Derek Smeath Manager
I HAVE NEVER IN my life felt as terrible as I do when I wake up the next morning. Never.
The first thing I feel is pain. Exploding sparks of pain as I try to move my head; as I try to open my eyes; as I try to work out a few basics like: Who am I? What day is it? Where should I be right now?
For a while I lie quite still, panting with the exertion of just being alive. In fact, my face is growing scarlet and I’m almost starting to hyperventilate, so I force myself to slow down and breathe regularly. In. . out, in. . out. And then surely everything will come back to me and I will feel better. In. . out, in. . out.