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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4. She Writes A Filthy Email

  Two days later, Lisa called round to collect the last of her things.  She'd changed her hair, had it cut short so it cupped her face.  She'd lost weight too, mostly off her hips and breasts, which was a shame because she used to be quite curvaceous.

  "I see you've not managed to kick the whisky then," she said, coldly.  "Or rather, I smell you haven't."

  I’d just had time to put the few items I’d borrowed back in the box upstairs where she'd left them, and now I felt a strange sense of anger: why was she taking Sophia's CD?  Sophia's tights?  Sophia's brush?

  When I finally shut the door behind her, I realised I couldn't remember the last time I’d washed.

 

*

 

  I restocked Sophia's things the next day.  I couldn't have Gilbert asking awkward questions, and besides, it might help me understand her better.  For my story.  When I got back, I emptied the shopping bags out onto the bed in the spare room and put everything away where I thought Sophia would want them.  Going through them, I was shocked at how much I'd bought: shoes and skirts and stockings and make-up and knickers and eyelash curlers and perfume and... some of it I couldn't even remember buying, but I was lost in her now.  I'd have a story soon, I was sure of it.  I decided to fuel my creativity with a small whisky.  And after my third or fourth, I fell asleep at my desk.

  I awoke in Sophia's room, my head thumping.  It was two o'clock in the morning, and when I went down stairs to gulp down a gallon of water, I realised that somewhere along the line I'd tidied up.

 

*

 

  I didn't see much of Gilbert for two or three weeks.  I think he was giving up on Sophia.  But that didn't stop me feeling the need to buy more and more things for her, and leave them scattered around the place.  Somehow she seemed to balance up the inexplicable wrongness I felt in my life.

   The doorbell yanked me my warm stupor.  I wasn't at my desk where I should have been.  I was in Sophia's room.  For a moment the whole place rotated and everything waltzed round me in couples.  I forced my eyes to widen and the waltzing stopped.  The door bell was hammering out a relentless rhythm and I heaved my dishevelled self off the bed.

  Sophia's room.

  It was perfect now: decked in neutral colours but accented in pinks and oranges; a variety of patterned cushions, all different, yet matching; a wicker chair with a couple of old teddies reclining on it; a chest of drawers speckled with little pots of make-up and tea lights; on the wall a pop art poster, the one with the full red lips all done in dots like a close up of a comic strip; opposite it a huge photo of New York in black and white but with yellow taxis; on the vanity unit before the large mirror which was edged in twinkly fairy lights, a pair of fury handcuffs and a huge knobbly vibrator.  I touched these last two, about to hide them away in a drawer, but decided against it.

  I don't quite know why I always bothered to answer the door to Gilbert, except that I was beginning to enjoy the Sophia-fantasy.  I loved hearing him lust after this girl he'd never seen; I loved building her character up a little more each time, adding a new lie, adding new depth.

  "Christ mate, you look wrecked," were his first words to me.  "Been burning the candle at both ends?  How's it coming on then, the novel?"

  "Well, well," I lied.

  Soon we were sitting in the front room sipping coffee as Gilbert went on about how wonderful his life was, who he'd had sex with lately, and his recent promotion.  I managed to stop myself asking why he was still living at home with his parents.

  He asked if Sophia was in, of course.  Today, it turned out, she was at Tai Chi.  That was news to me, but it fell out of my mouth before I had time to think.  Apparently, she was also stopping over at a friend's tonight.  Her friend was a fashion designer and wanted to get Sophia on the catwalk in her next show.  I could see Gilbert redden with desire.

  He tossed something down on the coffee table.  Two small cards.  They slid to halt on the face of some young woman who was busy adorning the cover of Cosmo.  Succumbing to his will as usual, I flipped them over and saw they were his business card.  He grinned and nodded.

  "Just got them," he said.  "Whaddya think?"

  "Why two?"

  "One for Sophia.  Tell her to call me!"

 

*

 

  The following week I had a phone call from my agent telling me she was no longer prepared to wait.  Either I put something in the post to her that day or I was dropped.  I told her I'd posted something just yesterday, special delivery, and I couldn't believe it hadn't arrived.  Afterwards, I literally ran upstairs to write it.

  Several hours later I was descending into an alcoholic abyss, the blank Word document before me making me snowblind.  Stung back to life by my mobile’s frenzied chiming, I grabbed it and answered, rude and cross.

  Oblivious now to my curtness, Gilbert announced, "I've got a date with your Sophia tomorrow."

  "Sophia...?"

   "Ohyes.  We've been in contact a fair bit over the last couple of days.  Don't sound so surprised, I know she got my details from you."

   "Sophia... Ricotta?"

  "Yeah!  The babe who likes a bit of three-way!  She writes a filthy email, I can tell you.  Quite a way with words!"

  "I never said she likes three-way."

   "Said she'd heard all about me, wants to meet up!  God knows what you said to her, mate, but I'm taking her out tomorrow, at last! Can you believe it?  After all this time, she wants me!"

  I opened and closed my mouth a few times but couldn't find any words.  Maybe Gilbert had guessed I'd invented Sophia to get rid of him and was mocking me now.

  I found myself suddenly excited, as if I believed she had somehow actually come into being, like a metaphysical version of 'Weird Science.'  Typical then, if that was the case, that she should go for Gilbert.

  Numbed, confused, I wished him luck, and arranged to speak to him after the date.

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