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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2. Sophia

  Sophia Ricotta.  Sex bomb.  Journalist.  Sophisticated, beautiful, desired by all men.

  That's about all I had.  She wasn't going to be called 'Ricotta', of course, but something exotic, and possibly Italian.  I don’t know why I was so drawn to this character.  She wasn’t my usual type of subject.  But she’d been swimming round my head all day, taking shape, becoming a personality.  All I needed now was a story to put her in.  That was the problem.  I'd taken a six month sabbatical from teaching to write my second novel but I hadn't come up with a new story for about 2 years, and my agent, who was pretty much the antithesis of Sophia Ricotta, was getting twitchy.  That wasn't the only reason I desperately wanted to write though.  Writing took me away from myself.  I became characters when I wrote; I felt their fears, their pain, their desires...  Theirs, not mine.  It was true escapism.

  But I couldn't seem to do it any more.  It wasn't just writer's block.  It was sort of... life block.  I'd always had some vague idea there was something I was searching for, some kind of Nirvana.  It had eluded me thus far.  I'd tried all sorts of things over the years: casual sex, relocation, career changes...  Surely the one thing I'd been seeking had to be the one thing I'd been shying away from: settling down.  So I'd settled down.

  She was wonderful, Lisa.  A truly beautiful person: balanced, thoughtful, witty, sexy; you name a positive attribute, she had it.

  She left me about 2 months ago.  She took most of her stuff and went to live with a friend.  Her beauty and warmth had gone right out of my life, and, insanely, I felt... relieved.

  "...So I thought I'd look you up, mate," Gilbert was saying as he sipped his tea.  We were in the sitting room now and I was trying to get the fire to light.  He'd been going on for a while about his adventures in Africa, South America and Australia, his last girlfriend, his yachting accident, his... God knows what else.  I had a vague idea I knew some of it already, probably through the local grape vine.  The story seemed to have culminated in his running out of money, returning home to England and to good ol M'maa and P'paa and his new found niche as an estate agent.

 "Truth is," he said, getting to the bit I'd been subconsciously both suspecting and dreading, "living with Mummy and Daddy's ok for a bit, y'know.  I mean, don't get me wrong, 's great actually: meals on the table, no rent, y'know, but it's not...  'snot cool, man.  What if I want to bring a girl back?  Can't see old Pops taking very kindly to having scantily clad young-  What am I saying?  He'd fucking love it!  Mum'd have his eyes out though, and his bollocks for gar-  So..."  He left it that, and it was only after a long silence that I realised he felt he'd actually asked me something.  I prodded the fire a bit more, playing for time.  "Y'know, mate," he went on, flicking a curtain of hair back dramatically, "it'd be like old times!  Like the summer of '95!  You look like you could do with having a rocket shoved up your social life.  You supply the weed, I'll bring the girls..."  He clapped his hands and lurched backwards in his chair as if it had just accelerated suddenly.  He laughed in a hearty, knowing kind of way which waned awkwardly in the absence of my response.  "Come on, mate, I hear you've got a spare room.  It'd be a laugh, like old times."  Christ, the last thing I needed was this maniac taking over my life.  I had to get my head round my writing.

  "Oh!" I said as if I'd just got what he was on about.  He gazed at me, his brown eyes glittering excitedly. "It would be great, but-"

  "Man, you're a mate.  Think of it, the Dynamic Duo back in action!"

  "But I don't have a spare room."

  "You don- But my mum said your mum told her-" He was still grinning expectantly.  He wasn't going to let go of hope that easily.

  "Sorry mate," I said, "but I just took on a lodger."

  "Really?  Your mum know about this?"  Even now, his look of excited anticipation didn't leave him.

  "Gilbert, not all of us have to report our every move back to Mummykins, you know."

  "Fuck off!" he laughed.  "Well, who you got then?  This happen recently?   Anyone I know?"

  "You only know crack heads and sex addicts, and none of them made it past my rigorous interview process.  No, just got it sorted out this morning, actually."  The lie was coming easily to me now.  If only I found it this easy to invent a story when it came to my writing.

  "Oh yes?" he said, adopting a sideways, conspiratorial expression.  "A woman?" and he made one eyebrow bounce up and down slyly.

  "No, no.  Ah..."  I thought about it for a moment.  He was going to want details, so I needed to come up with some pretty quick.  Suddenly it came to me: someone exciting, even by Gilbert's standards; someone he definitely didn't know.  "...Ah, yes actually.  A friend from work.  A girl.  Her name's Sophia Ricotta."

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