A whole week went by and in that time Richard and I had to listen to partying ... Every night. The smell of weed slowly seeping through the walls, so much so I was convinced one night that I had the munchies (well that was the excuse I gave when Richard disapprovingly looked at me after eating a big bag of Doritos and a tray of maltesers)
The parties seemed to be getting wilder and we watched from behind the curtain all sorts going on in their garden. Men urinating up trees (according the Richard they wasn't council estate anymore, they were from a farm) and women making the most of the hot tub and coming out literally naked (funnily enough Richard didn't have anything to say about that!) Even I, the laid back one in the relationship was having my patience tested when suddenly the noise just stopped. For two days Richard was convinced that they were dead in the house, that was until we saw the blinds had been opened and the bins had been put out. Normality had returned to our quite little street.
In the days after, sometimes I would pass Matthew, he would be walking down his steps as I would be walking up mine. One day I might get a mumbled 'hi' other days I may as well have been Casper the ghost. From that little snippet of time I had with him I noticed he was quite cool, an air of arrogance about him but the difference with arrogance is, Richards dad owned it through money whilst Matthew simply commanded it.
Wednesday in the bakery can only be described as crazy. We had a five tier cake to decorate ready for a Thursday afternoon wedding along with one hundred and fifty cupcakes. I sat at my work station and finely applied rose appliqués made from white icing onto the midnight blue marzipan. The cupcakes are a standard whip icing but I decorate them with tiny stars and edible glitter before adding the letters E (the bride) and T (the groom) entwined. I pack the last cupcake into the delivery box and stretch my fingers that actually feel numb! I yawn as I close the lid and then spin around in my chair
'Well Mr and Mrs M. We are officially done!' They are huddled up by the till talking amongst themselves and I idly twist the icing bag, not wanting to interrupt their conversation. Mrs M says 'yes' excitedly and hits Mr M's arm, he responds by rubbing the wounded area whilst she whispers 'oops'
'What are you two up to?' I ask as they turn to face me
'Well as you know we won't be here on your birthday -'
'So we wanted you to have this. Now! Sorry George I just can't wait!' She takes a pink envelope off him and pushes it into my hands. I look down at it and then back up at them
'Oh wow, you shouldn't have!'
'Well it's not just an envelope. Open it, open it!' Mr M says excitedly and for a moment I don't want to. I just want to savour this moment of seeing two people I love so happy. After Mrs M exclaims she 'can't take the anticipation anymore' I finally give in and gently open my present
'Two tickets, to Harry Potter world! I .. I don't even know what to say ... I can't ... Are you serious?' I think if I hugged them any tighter they may have popped. I've wanted to go for so long but it's not really Richards cup of tea 'full of wailing children or teens who have read one book and think they know it all' he said along with 'it's a money making scam to get the gullible people in' well I don't care if he doesn't like it, I'm one of those gullible people and I really want to go!
'Sorry pumpkin but I really can't go' he pats my hand and then looks at the tickets that are on our coffee table
'What? Why not?' He takes a sip of his coffee and then leans back, crossing his legs so his right foot is resting against his left knee
'I found out at the horses that there's a chance to go to New York -'
'That was weeks ago. Why didn't you tell me?'
A look of guilt crosses over his face and he bites his bottom lip 'because we leave on the sixteenth and they've booked your sodding outing for the seventeenth. They could have at least asked you what day you actually wanted to go!'
My mouth drops open and I try and process this information 'they booked it as the shop is closed and because it's for my birthday! The birthday you apparently will be missing as that's on the sixteenth or have you conveniently forgotten that small bit of information?'
I stand up and grab the tickets from off the coffee table. I'm that angry a small part of me wants to pour his remaining bit of coffee over his head!
'Now Sam let's not be childish about this. It's not a holiday for me, I am working! And also, One, I will bring you something amazing back from New York and two, well I'm a little old to be going to Harry Potter world, and quite frankly babe ... so are you' he has the audacity to give me a small smile and I look at him utterly speechless. I hold the tickets to my chest and try and steady my breathing
'Richard. One, I am not too old! No one is too "old" to have a little fun, to go and appreciate something they have always wanted to see ... And two! your idea of a present would be an ornament of the Statue of Liberty. Well guess what! You can shove it up your arse!'
Me and Jules are sitting in our usual spot behind the bush and I play with a strand of grass 'it's not the fact he's missing my birthday, it's the fact that he acts like it doesn't matter'
Jules puts down her binoculars and sighs
'I'm sorry Sam but the guy is being a grade A douche bag! Of all the times he wants to play Mr big wig within the company he chooses the one day where we can celebrate you exist. You have every right to be angry' she picks up her spying device again and leans further into the bush. I throw the grass down and hug my knees to my chest. I'm not going to be that girl that cries because her other half decides New York seems more important than her, but I think I have every right to sulk a little
'I don't think bitch face is there tonight. Maybe I should knock the door? No that's not a good idea. Especially after what he said about the police'
She suddenly has my attention and I lean forward
'Hmm what exactly did he say about the police?'
When she pulls her head from out of the leaves she actually looks embarrassed 'well, we kind of got into a little argument and he said he didn't want to see me again'
'When did he say this?'
'Last week. He said he saw us from out of the bedroom window "lurking" in the bush and it wasn't normal. I don't think he would actually call the police on me. Would he?'
I stand up and wipe the grass off my trousers 'bloody hell Jules! This is pretty important information! Why didn't you tell me?'
She wipes her hand across her forehead and then shakes her head sadly 'because I honestly thought he would change his mind' her voice is so small that I actually feel sorry for her. I hold out my hand and pull her to her feet 'come on, it's time we got you home' and in that moment I realised that stalking your ex lover was much worse than arguing with your boyfriend because of Harry Potter world.
I rarely have a day off from the shop so Mr and Mrs M always shut the shop for a week when they go away so I can have the time off too. I feel bad that they are losing money but in their words 'you work six days a week even when we insist you work five and we'll make the money back with the sale of Halloween cakes' so I try and relax and enjoy the seven days I have to myself.
The morning of my birthday is a little strained to say the least, last weeks argument still lingering between us. Richards flight is at seven thirty a.m so we get up at four thirty so he can give me his presents which are a Harry Potter scarf ('something for you to wear tomorrow. Guffaw, guffaw') and a silver mood ring ('will give me the heads up when I'm in the bad books. Guffaw, guffaw) as soon as he left I went back to bed.
My mother doesn't get in touch, not until I text to remind her it's my birthday which is followed by a very awkward phone call
'I'm so sorry Samantha. I really don't know how I could forget!'
'No neither do I seen as I did come out of your vagina' nothing but silence on the end of the phone, I can only imagine she's cursing the heavens for giving her a foul mouthed child
'wash your mouth out with soap! I will transfer you some money. Happy birthday darling. Must dash' and with that, our conversation was over.
I would like to say my birthday miraculously got better, but it didn't. I used my spare key to get into dads and I had to push the door open with every bit of strength I had as it was blocked by council letters and junk mail
'In the kitchen Sam' I tiptoed over the letters as oddly enough I didn't want to make the mess any worse but in the end I swooped it all up and put it in a neat pile. When I walk into the kitchen dad and Joy are playing a game of cards and they are clearly drunk (it wasn't rocket science. The super strong cider was stacked on the kitchen counter and it's after midday) dad signalled for me to sit down and passed me a bottle of wine, wine which I can only describe as fizzy piss. I refused as I don't really feel comfortable drinking around him but he pours some into a mug that I pretend doesn't have tea stains in it. I swallow it quickly and then smile 'thanks dad'
'That's not all' he rubs his hands together and pulls open the kitchen drawer that is full of junk and pulls out a party hat that says happy new year. He puts it on my head and then bends down to kiss my cheek
'Oh wow, a hat! great Dad. It's brilliant' he looks happy which makes me in some way happy but it's all a lie, he'll probably wake up tomorrow and forget I was even here
'We've got you a present haven't we joy? Go get it then love'
I don't hate anyone, in fact I don't really dislike anyone but Joy makes it hard for me to like her. My dad met her six years ago at the working men's club and they fell in love due to the fact they have many things in common. Being drunk is one of them! She pops her chewing gum and then gets up from the table and walks into the living room
'So, you having a nice day love?' Dad sits down next to me and I smile
'Yeah dad. It's been good'
'glad to hear it! My baby isn't a teen anymore. Got any plans for tonight?' Before I can answer joy hands me something wrapped in a black plastic bag, the kind you get when you buy a bottle of cider from the off licence. I let out a forced excited 'what is it?' And then open the bag 'oh' for a moment I falter, 'oh, wow I mean. Thanks. I love this film'
'Ha I knew you would. Know my daughter like the back of my hand I do. Since you were a kid you loved movies. Knew you would like this one'
I fight back the tears as I swallow harshly, the urge to sob so close. It's a copy of love actually, the DVD I gave Joy last Christmas on the hope she would watch it and enjoy something other than booze and cigarettes. What makes it worse is the fact a drink must have been spilled on it some time ago and the cover has dried all crumply and the ink has ran
'Yep, you know me dad. Well on that note that I think I'm going to go home and watch it. Thanks for this, thank you both'
I realised two things when I left the house. My father doesn't know me at all and now I really know he will never ever go to AA. That's when I put the DVD into a bin I pass as I walk towards home.
My eyes are still fixed on the pavement, it's only when I hear voices I look up. Jules it sitting on the step near my front door and Matthew is sitting on the little stone wall that separates our houses
'Nice hat Miss Prim' a lazy grin spreads over his lips and I reach up and take it off. Mortified that for twenty five minutes I've been walking around London with it on. I totally forgot 'You do know it's not New Years, right?'
'Yeah, hmm, it was my dads version of a party hat. Silly I know' I stuff it into the pocket of my coat and walk up the little steps, Ready to get into my house, put my pj's on and lose myself in a film. Jules looks at me concerned but I shake my head. I don't want to talk about it. She stands up and links her arm through mine
'Matt here was telling me he's in a band. His housemate plays the drums'
I can still feel that sob wanting to spill out of my mouth but I can't allow it to happen, especially not in front of the neighbours 'I didn't know. That's great'
Matthew frowns, clearly taken aback by a female being so underwhelmed he's in a band. He probably only has to say those words and he gets automatic groupies
'Matt did you know it is Sams birthday?' I look at her confused, unsure why she's trying to push a conversation with this person I barely know
'I had no idea. Happy birthday Samantha' he gives me a small smile, probably picking up on the vibes I'm slightly unstable at the moment. I tell him thank you and then excuse myself. Before I shut the door I hear Jules tell him the party starts at seven
'Jules I really don't want a party. I really don't' I wipe my nose with the back of my sleeve and she looks at me wide eyed. She probably wipes her nose on twenty four carat toilet paper
'And I didn't want you to cry all over my Gucci jacket but shit happens!' I apologise again for that and climb into bed fully clothed, pulling the duvet over my head. I feel her sit next to me and she gently rubs her hand over the shape of my back underneath the blankets
'I'm sorry your parents are arseholes, I'm sorry Richard is away and I'm sorry you feel so lousy. But Sam you literally only turn twenty once. You've left all those horrible teen years behind you and today is the first day of a new chapter. Do you really want to be in bed?'
'No I don't believe that! And I'm not allowing it to happen and do you know why you should do it?'
I sit up and push my hair off my face, suddenly curious about what she has to say 'why should I do it?'
Jules pats down my wild hair and grins
'Because Richard would never expect you to have a party!'
It's partially true. Richard and I have never had a party in our home, well not what I would really class as a party anyway. We will sometimes have his parents over for dinner which only gives me anxiety as they expect to eat fancy food like duck à L'orange which I would order in at the last minute as my speciality where cooking is concerned is either beans on toast, spaghetti with meatballs or obviously, a cupcake.
Whilst Jules does the alcohol run I change my clothes. Finding out my black dress with the little white collar and my flat nude ballet pumps. I straighten my hair and put on a little lipgloss and mascara. Done. I raid the cupboards in the kitchen and find a half bag of Doritos and some peanuts. I make some sandwiches and then sigh deflated. My little collection of food feels as pathetic as I do.
'Well that's interesting' Jules lets herself in through the back door and stands with her hands full of carrier bags
'It's all I had. Should I order pizza?' Her face is shocked and she shakes her head vigorously
'Oh no sweetie, pizza? Are we savages? No, this will do' she unloads the alcohol onto the kitchen counter and I pick up one of the fancy bottles
'Louis Roederer cristal?' I raise my eyebrows and she looks at me proudly
'Only the best for my best friend' she taps the end of my nose and I smile at her. I look at the rest of the alcohol, bottles of Beluga vodka, Johnny walker whiskey and I slightly cringe when I realise all of this must have cost more than I make in a month!
Like two sad girls who haven't been asked to dance at prom we sit in the dining room at the table in the corner and sip on vodka that apparently you have to drink straight to savour the taste. It's eight fifteen and as yet, no one was has turned up! Knowing my friends list is a little slim Jules took it upon herself to invite two of her acquaintances, the type you meet in an overpriced bar down in soho
'It's my party and I'll cry if I want to' I hum quietly and Jules tilts her head back as she laughs
'Oh jeez Sam. Look at us' she takes out her phone and pulls me in for a photo 'a little reminder of when we tried to live on the edge'
I rub my nose and sigh 'Jules, if this is the closest we are going to get to living on the edge, then our lives our pretty dire'
She stands up and changes the disc in the CD player. Just as living on a prayer blasts out of the speakers the door bell rings. I go to stand up but Jules is already heading for the door, adjusting her black mini dress so her breasts look as though they are about to escape 'I'll go, I'll go. How exciting! Show time'
It was Chaz and Giuseppe, Jules's friends. Chaz is tiny and petite, she looks like a pixie with wished out pink hair and a serious boho vibe going on. Giuseppe is tall and lean, he has the type of face that looks as though it has been chiselled from stone. Jules hands them a drink and Chaz makes herself at home whilst Giuseppe holds a glass of cristal in his hand and examines our home 'I love this room, it reminds me of my grandmothers house' he must see the look of hurt on my face and leans down 'oh no darling I didn't mean it in an offensive way. I hate the generic London abodes that are all clinal and minimal. Who wants to live like that! This is homely. I'm feeling vibes from it' he winks and I suddenly feel oddly proud of my mismatched cushions and shaggy rug
'You should see the living room' I gesture to the door and when he comes back, his hand is at his chest, a look of mock disgust on his face 'see, I told you. Utterly fucking generic!'
I find out my two guests are brother and sister and they own a boutique called guys and dolls. They sell couture dresses but Chaz insists they stock out of the norm styles and she's quite proud of the wonderful and quirky designs that are on their rails. I can sense everyone is a little bored even though they seem slightly tipsy at this point so I suggest a game of monopoly. Giuseppe repeats the word with a far away look like the word has never left his lips before and Jules groans and puts her head on the table 'or not' I sigh and resist the urge to ask if they would like watch a film instead. The doorbell rings once more and Jules literally sprints to get there.
I go to the kitchen and put some drinks on a tray and add a few of the sad looking sandwiches and the peanuts. I push the dining room door open with my foot and Matthew and Austin are seated on the settee. Matthew stands up and takes the tray off me and then puts it on the coffee table
'Thank you' I'm aware of how effortlessly chic he looks in very tight skinny jeans and a black T shirt that is beneath his leather jacket. I discreetly pull at my dress and realise I look as though I'm ready for church
'Banging party, prim' he grins and I nod my head, aware of the sarcasm in his voice but choosing to ignore it
'Yeah well, could be worse. We could be drinking cheap crap' I shrug and he laughs as he looks at the bottle of Beluga.
Somehow him and Austin dominate the conversation and the awkward silences that were lingering earlier evaporate. Giuseppe is fascinated by the boys stories of touring and how they literally lived out of a camper van for eleven months
'So, how does one afford a house in this street on an upcoming rock star salary?' I cringe at Giueseppes words but Matthew doesn't look offended at all
'We don't own it. It's our mangers brothers in laws old house. It wasn't selling, we needed somewhere to stay whilst we finish off the album and it was agreed we would stay here for six months'
'Six months? And then you'll leave?' Matthew takes a sip of vodka and looks at me
'Yeah miss prim, six months. Why? You gonna miss me?'
The drinks flow easily and it might be the vodka talking but I'm actually enjoying my party. Chaz tells me to come by the shop as she has a few dresses that will flatter my shape, in her words I should be flaunting it, not hiding it beneath something a nun wouldn't wear 'you've got a small waist and a curvy ass, you should show it off. No no I'm not saying you're fat! Nothing wrong with having a shapely bum!' She tells me in her sweet voice and it's the kind tone that stops me from wanting to do some squats there and then.
Just after midnight Chaz and Giuseppe leave as he's drank too much and his sister is annoyed they have a delivery coming tomorrow that needs putting out ASAP. I half expect the boys to leave so I'm a little happy when they don't. The vodka has made me feel more confident and it's quite nice to speak to people who are in the same age bracket as me. Austin and Jules are making champagne cocktails in the kitchen so I join Matthew in the dining room. He's standing by the window when I walk in and he gestures to the joint in his hand
'Shall I smoke this outside?'
'Do you have to smoke it at all?' He looks down at it and then sighs
'No, I guess I don't'
He studies my DVDs and laughs at some of the titles 'what is it with women and rom coms?' he mutters but then nods in approval at the others. He picks up the godfather and then turns to me 'where's suit anyway?'
'Suit?' I ask confused and he grins. He's got quite a lovely smile when I think about it. Although I don't even know why I'm thinking about it at all?
'Your boyfriend?' He takes the disc out of the case and I'm half tempted to ask him to hold the DVD at the corners but I refrain from it
'Oh, he's away on business. He's in New York'
Matthew raises his eyebrows before leaning down and putting the disc into the DVD player and then he turns the CD player off and turns the T.V on. He takes off his jacket and is about to drape it over the chair before frowning and picking up my Harry Potter cape 'Prim, you don't actually wear this, do you?' I stand up from the settee and take it off him
'No, not all the time ... I'm not a child! I just thought I might wear it tomorrow' I say defiantly and he shakes his head
'What's tomorrow? National cape wearing day?'
'Oh haha! No! I'm going to Harry Potter world if you must know' he bites his lip as he looks back down at the garment but I can see he wants to laugh
'I bet your friend can't wait to walk around with you wearing that!' He gives me a thumbs up and I roll my eyes
'Actually mr sarcastic she's not going, her husband has booked them into a spa so I'm going solo' I put the cape over my arm and step closer so only he will hear me 'your friend does know she's married, doesn't he?'
Matthew steps closer and I get a whiff of his aftershave. It's million I think? I'm pretty sure it is. That distinct scent that smells divine on a man
'The question is Prim, does your friend always remember she's married?'
Apparently she doesn't! Austin and Jules come in with a jug of some concoction and put it down on the coffee table
'Just popping next door for five minutes. Austin is going to show me his drum kit' my friend says coyly and I nearly spit my vodka out
'Really? I didn't know you were into musical instruments?'
'Me? I love the sound of the drums!'
'Or just the banging part' Matthew mutters next to me but thankfully no one else hears. I try and get them to stay, knowing Jules has just got herself out of one situation without throwing herself into another but she doesn't listen. Instead she waves at me annoyed and then follows Austin out of the house. I put my hands on my hips and look at the ceiling. One night, no drama, no stalking a man from a bush, it's all I wanted. There's a small part of me that feels bad for sleazy Bob
'Hey, you ok?' I exhale slowly and look at Matthew who is sitting on the couch
'Yeah, I guess. You don't have to stay. I don't want this turning into a pity party'
He looks back at the television and shrugs 'I haven't seen the godfather in ages. I'll just chill here if you don't mind?'
I tell him to make himself at home and then go to my room to get changed. I'm not really one for sexy pyjamas, there's definitely no lace or silk in my drawers so I throw on my bed socks and fluffy pyjamas. I grab the duvet and when I go back downstairs he's put the fire on and his feet, that are adorned with odd socks are on the coffee table. His hair, which falls just below his jaw is currently being pulled into a hair tie off his face and the glow from the fire illuminates his cheeks, showing off his good looks that I think I just have ignored before (or I've just got beer goggles on)
'Wow, those pyjamas are seriously sexy' he leans back in the settee and folds his arms
'They are comfortable and it's not my life's mission to make you think I'm sexy!'
I throw the duvet over him and he pulls it off his head but it rests on his lap. I sit down and pull it over me so it's covering the both of us. There's still a space between our bodies that for some reason doesn't feel big enough. If I wasn't drunk at this point I would be aware of how wrong this probably is
'Prim I didn't expect you to come down here dressed like you were on the Victoria's Secret runway. You didn't disappoint'
He hands me one of the glasses of champagne and then turns so he is facing me
'Cheers prim, I hope you had a good birthday?'
I clink my glass against his and then we both sit back
'Thank you Matthew, I've actually really enjoyed it' and with that we sit in silence as the movie starts