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New Year’s Resolutions
Just two resolutions this year, but two big, shiny, brilliant ones.
1) Find him, my boy from the bus stop.
2) Find my first proper job in magazines.
Damn. I wish I’d written them down in pencil, because I’d rub them out and switch them over. What I’d ideally like is to find the achingly cool magazine position first, and then run into bus boy in a coffee shop while holding something healthy in my hand for lunch, and he’d accidently knock it out of my clutches and then look up and say, ‘Oh. It’s you. Finally.’
And then we’d skip lunch and go for a walk around the park instead, because we’d have lost our appetites but found the love of our lives.
Anyway, that’s it. Wish me luck.
‘Is that him? I definitely got a bus-ish vibe from him just now.’
I follow the direction of Sarah’s nod and sweep my eyes along the length of the busy Friday-night bar. It’s a habit we’ve fallen into every time we go anywhere; scanning faces and crowds for ‘bus boy’ as Sarah christened him when we compared Yuletide notes back in January. Her family festivities up in York sounded a much more raucous affair than my cosy, food-laden one in Birmingham, but we’d both returned to the reality of winter in London with the New Year blues. I threw my ‘love at first sight’ sob story into the pity pot and then immediately wished I hadn’t. It’s not that I don’t trust Sarah with my story; it’s more that from that second forth she has become even more obsessed with finding him again than I am. And I’m quietly going crazy over him.
‘Which one?’ I frown at the sea of people, mostly the backs of unfamiliar heads. She screws her nose up as she pauses to work out how to distinguish her guy for my scrutiny.
‘There, in the middle, next to the woman in the blue dress.’
I spot her more easily; her poker-straight curtain of white-blonde hair catches the light as she throws her head back and laughs up at the guy beside her.
He’s about the right height. His hair looks similar and there is a jolting familiarity to the line of his shoulders in his dark shirt. He could be anyone, but he could be bus boy. The more I look at him, the more sure I am that the search is over.
‘I don’t know,’ I say, holding my breath because he’s as close as we’ve come. I’ve described him so many times, Sarah probably knows what he looks like more than I do. I want to inch closer. In fact I think I have already started inching, but then Sarah’s hand on my arm stills me because he’s just bent his head to kiss the face off the blonde, who instantly becomes my least favourite person on the planet.
Oh God, I think it’s him! No! This isn’t how it’s supposed to happen. I’ve played out variants of this scene every night as I close my eyes and it never, repeat never, ends like this. Sometimes he’s with a crowd of guys in a bar, other times he’s alone in a cafe reading, but the one thing that never happens is he has a girlfriend who he snogs to within an inch of her shimmery blonde life.
‘Shit,’ Sarah mutters, pressing my wine into my hand. We watch as their kiss goes on. And on. Jeez, do these people have no boundaries? He’s copping a thorough feel of her backside now, wildly overstepping the mark for a busy bar. ‘Decency, people,’ Sarah grumbles. ‘He’s not your type after all, Lu.’
I’m crestfallen. So much so that I pour the entire glass of chilled wine down my throat, and then shudder.
‘I think I want to go,’ I say, ridiculously close to tears. And then they stop kissing and she straightens her dress, he murmurs something in her ear, and then turns away and walks straight towards us.
I know instantly. He brushes right past us, and I almost laugh with giddy relief.
‘Not him,’ I whisper. ‘Not even very much like him.’
Sarah rolls her eyes and blows out the breath she must have been holding in. ‘Jesus, thank fuck for that. What a sleaze-dog. Do you know how close I came to tripping him up just now?’
She’s right. The guy who just sauntered past us was high on his own self-importance, wiping the girl’s red lipstick from his mouth on the back of his hand with a smug, satisfied grin as he made for the loo.
God, I need another drink. The search for bus boy is three months old. I better find him soon or I’m going to wind up in rehab.
Later, back at Delancey Street, we kick off our shoes and flop.
‘I’ve been thinking,’ Sarah says, crashed out on the other end of the sofa to me. ‘There’s this new guy at work, I think you might like him.’
‘I only want bus boy,’ I sigh, costume-drama melodramatic.
‘But what if you find him and he’s a twat?’ she says. Our experience in the bar earlier obviously hit home for her too.
‘You think I should stop looking?’ I ask, lifting my heavy head off the arm of the sofa to stare at her. She flings her arms wide and leaves them there.
‘Just saying you need a contingency plan.’
‘In case he’s a twat?’
She raises her thumbs, probably because it’s too much effort to raise her head.
‘He could be an A-class, top-drawer super-knob,’ she says. ‘Or he could have a girlfriend. Or Christ, Lu, he could even be married.’
I gasp. Actually gasp. ‘No way!’ I splutter. ‘He’s single, and he’s gorgeous, and he’s somewhere out there waiting for me to find him.’ I feel it with all the conviction of a drunk woman. ‘Or maybe he’s even looking for me.’
Sarah props herself up on her elbows and stares at me, her long red waves the worse for wear and her mascara end-of-the-night smudged.
‘I’m just saying that we, you, might have unrealistic expectations, and you, we, need to proceed with more caution, that’s all.’
I know she’s right. My heart almost stopped beating in the bar earlier.
We look at each other, and then she pats my leg. ‘We’ll find him,’ she says. It’s such a simple gesture of solidarity, but in my boozy state it brings a lump to my throat.
She nods and draws a cross over her heart, and a great snotty sob leaves my throat, because I’m tired and pissed and because sometimes I can’t quite bring bus boy’s face to mind and I’m scared I’ll forget what he looks like.
Sarah sits up and dries my tears with the sleeve of her shirt.
‘Don’t cry, Lu,’ she whispers. ‘We’ll keep looking until we find him.’
I nod, dropping back to gaze at the Artex ceiling that our landlord has been promising to repaint ever since we moved in here several years ago. ‘We will. And he’ll be perfect.’
She falls silent, and then waves her pointed finger vaguely over her own head. ‘He better be. Or else I’ll carve “twat”, right here in his forehead.’
I nod. Her loyalty is appreciated and reciprocated. ‘With a rusty scalpel,’ I say, embroidering the grisly image.
‘And it’ll go septic and his head will drop off,’ she mumbles.
I close my eyes, laughing under my breath. Until I find bus boy, the lion’s share of my affection belongs to Sarah.
‘I think we’ve nailed it,’ Sarah says, standing back to admire our handiwork. We’ve spent the entire weekend redecorating the tiny living room of our flat; we’re both covered in paint splatters and dust. We’re pretty close to done now and I’m feeling a warm glow of satisfaction – I only wish my crappy job at the hotel would make me feel even half as accomplished.
‘I hope the landlord likes it,’ I say. We aren’t really allowed to make any material changes, but I don’t see how he can object to our improvements.
‘He should be paying us for this,’ Sarah says, her hands on her hips. She’s wearing cut-off dungarees over a Day-Glo pink vest that clashes violently with her hair. ‘We’ve just increased the value of his flat. Who wouldn’t love these boards more than that threadbare old carpet?’
I laugh, remembering our comedy sketch struggle to lug the rolled-up carpet down the stairs from our top-floor flat. By the time we reached the bottom we were sweating like miners and swearing like sailors, both plastered in chunks of loose foam underlay. We high-fived each other after we slung it into a neighbour’s skip; it’s been there half full of junk for ever, I don’t think they’ll even notice.