I'm having dinner with my gay friend Joe, who used to live in London but has since returned to his native Yorkshire. We're in one of those terrible 'show after the show' faded restaurants in the less-than-glittering West End - not my choice - and I'm picking at a plate of disgusting string beef that I will be expected to pay around £20 for.
"You're looking very thin" scolds Joe, raising an eyebrow. I try and style it out and give the standard line about single life meaning you can have margaritas for tea if you fancy, and there's no one there to tell you off. But the truth is life hasn't been going to plan of late - not that there really ever was a plan to begin with.
Joe probes me for details of my lovelife and I'm glad of the chance to legitimately push my plate to one side. I tell him about the last time I saw the Beau. I had actually gone to bed on a Friday night, exhausted after being out for the previous three nights on the trot. But then he texted me and said he was at a (terrible) bar I calculated was a 10 minute walk from my flat.
"Put on some high heels and a short skirt and come and meet me. The party needs livening up" he texted back, seemingly oblivious to the concept of feminism. And so I did. (I don't actually own a 'short skirt' but figured a nice pair of tailored shorts wouldn't disappoint.)
I caught sight of him on the dancefloor with a gormless-looking group of drunk girls downing blue cocktails like they were going out of style. Actually, they were never really IN style but what the hey.
He was delighted to see me, the girls less so. To my absolute horror I realised they were the same group of birthday ladies that I had met exactly a year ago, when the Beau summoned me to an equally vile City bar.
"You look so fit" the Beau slurred into my ear and he scooped me up in his obscenely muscled arms. The girls stood and stared at me with pure hatred in their eyes and expressions that said "my god, so this home-wrecking bitch is still on the scene?"
My expression was the very definition of a wan smile. What was he thinking? On the upside they gave us very wide berth for the rest for the evening and I didn't have to been seen as belonging to their desperate crew. It actually turned out to be a really fun night, which ended up as it always does, back at my conveniently located flat, a cab at 3am. Since then he's disappeared off the face of the earth.
"Maybe his wife has actually murdered him?" My friend Lu helpfully suggested. Maybe she has. I have no doubt he will resurface at some point, as he always does.
Our plates were mercifully cleared and I went on to tell Joe about the surprise reappearance of the Stuntman. I had properly written him off, after realising that in a year of knowing him we had managed to actually meet up in person around five times. But last week a flambuoyant bouquet of flowers appeared at my front door with a diabetes-inducing card, proclaiming his love and begging for forgiveness.
He followed this up by a text on Saturday morning where he was patently lying in bed, bored, and angling for some Skype filth. It dawned on me that he basically thinks of me as some sort of ever-ready porno phone line without the premium rates. I gave him short shrift, and he was obviously rather put out. But honestly, what's the point?
Joe tucks into his dessert - I like to take mine in liquid form - and leans forward.
"And have you seen Serge?" he asks, his voice tainted by barely concealed lust.
I had completely forgotten that he used to be quite good friends with the Serbian muscle boy.
"Actually yes!" I beamed. "He invited himself round to my house, sexually assaulted me in my own kitchen then took his clothes off in my bedroom and I chucked him out."
Joe looks like he's going to have a coronary.
"But he's GORGEOUS! What possessed you?"
I reply that to this day I'm still not quite sure, I worked myself up into a state where I just wanted him out. Even though we used to get on really well and clearly fancied the pants off each other.
I'm still debating it inwardly as I wave Joe off into the night, in search of some gay dancing action that I'm not really in the mood for. On the spur of the moment, and bolstered by several vats of gut-rotting rose wine, I decide to text Serge.
He replies right away and asks where I am. Apparently he's just round the corner and offers to pick me up. Standing waiting for him at the back of a department store, swaying slightly, I do wonder what exactly I'm hoping to achieve from all this.
He pulls up in his tank-like 4x4 and I climb in without hesitation. Once the door has clunked shut its just him and me, behind the tinted windows with no distractions. We chat easily, both studiously avoiding the topic of THAT night. We have a bizarre conversation about horoscopes as we glide around the West End, and discover that we were born a mere month apart.
I feel safe and content cocooned within the giant car, strapped into the comfy leather seat. I tell him about a work event I had to attend recently where I was being effectively pimped out in order to charm the bigwigs of monied company that we needed to get on board.
"I don't see why that would be a problem", he drawls in his annoyingly sexy Eastern European accent. We grind to a halt at a red light and he turns to me and traces a finger along my cheekbone. "You charm me every time I see you".
I look straight ahead with a goofy grin on my face, without a clue what to say back. I spy an interesting-looking plastic bag on the back seat and use it to change the subject hurriedly.
"Is that a present for me?" I ask, even though it doesn't really make any sense and makes me look like mildly idiotic.
"Ill buy you a present" he drawls, looking directly into my eyes, "when you ask me out of a drink."
I realise that we've been cruising around for an hour now and I need to get home. I open the car door and clamber back out into reality. I stand in the street, not quite wanting to leave him behind just yet and reply "Okay, you're on. Let's do something next week."
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