Sophia Ricotta

Simon Wendell is fighting a losing battle with acloholism and de-motivation. When his old friend Gilbert turns up, and wants to move in for a while, Simon dreams up the perfect excuse for turning him down. But the lie quickly spirals out of control...

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3. Once Upon A time

Once upon a time we were inseparable.  He was a laugh.  Back then, being stupid was an essential part of life.  He hadn't changed, hadn't moved on, hadn't settled down, or even tried to settle down.  I envied him that though.  Life was still an open book to him.  A ridiculous farce of a novel, in fact.  He hadn't yet reached the chapter where life becomes meaningless, or at least, where that meaninglessness becomes a problem rather than a bad behaviour licence.  He still had the security of untapped possibility ahead of him.  Even if he did develop that "what's it all about?" feeling, he could relax, safe in the knowledge that he hadn't tried everything yet.

 Gilbert turning up had suddenly reminded me how complete I wasn't.

  "Christ, mate," he said when I'd finished extolling Sophia's virtues.  "She sounds like a babe!"  She did too.  I'd described her vividly: her strong, curvaceous figure; her intelligent, subversive sense of humour; her healthy appetite for uncomplicated sex.  "When the hell can I meet her?"

  Oh shit.

  "Well," I said, hoping to God my writer's block would not extend to every-day lies, "um... she... is hardly ever here.  Or," I suddenly remembered she was only supposed to have moved in this morning, "I mean she will be.  She does a lot of charity work in her spare time."  I was kicking myself before he even began to respond.

  "Oh, ho, man.  Charity work?  This bird sounds unreal.  A proper babe.  If I don't get her into bed any time soon, I'll die!"

 

*

 

  And that's how I inadvertently secured Gilbert as a permanent fixture in my life. 

   Sophia, of course, was never there, but that didn't deter him.  I thought he'd get bored, but he didn't.  He was forever asking about her, peeking about, looking for signs of her.  I started to worry he'd realise the truth, so I began dropping items around the place which I claimed were hers: a Coldplay CD on the arm of the sofa; a pair of fishnet tights hanging over the edge of the laundry box in the bathroom; a stick of dark lipstick; a hairbrush; all Lisa's of course, but Gilbert didn't know that.  He just lusted after Sophia, and hungrily swallowed every word I fed him about her.  She was shaping up quite well in my mind too.  I'd imagine her perfect arse flicking left and right beneath the silk kimono she would surely wear about the house of an evening; her long, shiny hair smelling of silk and apples as she brushed past me in the hall.  And she wasn't just sexy in a physical way.  She had a self assuredness, a certainty about her place in the world, and a lust for life which nothing could dampen.

   Now that I had Sophia, I would surely be able to get moving on my novel.  I had Gilbert to thank for that, at least.  So I lost myself in her world, imagining how she spent her time, who her friends were, who she fucked, how she fucked...  but no actual story came.  My mind cramped, an exhausted muscle.  The only thing that could massage it was whisky.  How I needed that burn.  How I needed to be hollowed out like a lightning tree.

 

*

 

   Chunks of ugly noise juddered through Sophia Ricotta's world.  Had I been asleep?  I'd certainly had my face on my desk; I'd certainly dribbled.

  I grabbed the phone and struggled to see who was calling.  My eyes were hot coals.

  "Hello," I managed, and suddenly noticed the acrid smell of my own arm pits.

  "Simon," came my agent's affectionless voice, her flabby second chin so thick around her throat it gave her the timbre of someone struggling to swallow a gluey lump of Brie.

  "Oh, Joyce, great to hear from you," I managed, finding it surprisingly hard not to slur.

  "I'll get straight to the point," she said.  I felt my skin ice over.  "I'm going to need to see something from you very soon.  I'll be honest with you.  Sales from your first book are not so high that you can afford to take liberties with me."  Suddenly I was sobre.  "I'll need a couple of chapters by the end of the month.  Sooner, if you have them.  Do you have them?"

  "Do I have-  well... um... yes!  Of course.  First couple of chapters.  Yes, sure.  I’ll...  I just need to..."

  "Write them?" she said flatly.

  "Yes.  Hmmm."

  "Then please do so and send me them.  Happy writing."

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