They were back together. Kath knew that they would be, it was just a
matter of time. Now, two months later, it all seemed like a bad dream, that
short time they'd been apart. Flipping back through her journal that she
kept under her bed in a shoe box, she was startled to see they'd actually
only been broken up 11 days. During that time, she felt every single minute -- no, every second
-- of the day. Her heart banged when the phone
rang at the office or at the flat: Was it Nigel? Would he come back to her
now? Why had this happened? She looked forward to crawling into her single
bed at night, trying to put out of her mind the last time she'd seen him,
when he had handed her a box of her books, CDs and knickers. But of course,
when she closed her eyes, all she did was dream about him.
But now they were back and things were almost the way they used to be.
Almost, because Nigel still seemed a bit on edge. It was probably his job,
which he told her was "very stressful" lately, everyone pushing and pulling
on him, wanting more and more. He was drinking a lot, even for Nigel, who
could drink everyone under the table. They never talked about why they had
broken up, and Kath didn't ask.
Mum said maybe they needed to get used to each other again. It was
strange for Mum to make a comment like this, since she'd always seemed to
be against Nigel. But this time, Kath wanted to be smarter. She'd never
thought much of Nigel's friends -- they were always loud and lad-ish,
talking about this bird's tits and that one's bum -- and so this time
around, she'd try to manage it that they didn't spend as much time with
them. Nigel was so distracted nowadays that she doubt he even noticed. When
she said sweetly that she'd rather stay in with him and watch the telly instead
of meeting the group down at the pub, he nodded blankly. They'd get an
Indian take-away (always mild, since Nigel had stomach problems) and drink
some of his cellared wine, sometimes get a video. It was comfy and
pleasant, and they didn't fight as much as they used to.
One Friday evening, about three months after they'd gotten back together,
Nigel picked her up after work as he usually did. "There's a party at
Trevor and Jane's," he said casually, drumming his hand on the steering
wheel, his face red from the reflections of the brake lights in the rush-hour London traffic. "I want to go to it."
Kath hesitated. She didn't like Trevor, or even Jane for that matter;
they were older, flashier, and liked to talk about politics, a subject Kath
had absolutely no interest in. (She also got the impression they didn't
like her as well.) But Nigel had gone to university with them, and, put on
the spot, she couldn't think of a good reason not to attend. "Well, all
right," she said slowly, with just a little drag in her voice. She put her
hand on her stomach and grimaced slightly.
Nigel looked at her curiously. "All right? Got your period, then?"
"Yes," Kath said, "but let's go to Trevor's."
"You don't have to go," Nigel said, accelerating through the cars,
weaving in and out as they buzzed along Charing Cross Road. "Don't come if
you don't feel well."
"I'll be fine," she said. She leaned over and gave Nigel a kiss on the
fold of skin above his tight shirt collar. "Thank you for worrying about
me." Nigel, concentrating on the road, patted her knee.
They got there about 10 o'clock, having downed two bottles of wine and
eaten some old chips left over from the night before. She did feel a bit
sick, actually, and hurriedly drank a glass of gin in Trevor and Jane's
fashionable Conran bathroom, painted in bright yellow and royal blue. As it
turned out, it wasn't even really a party at all, just some of the gang, all
university chums, and their girlfriends and boyfriends. And some woman with
fat legs and too short of a skirt, who'd just flown in from America and was
drinking champagne and eating crisps, one after another. Gales of laughter
erupted from the kitchen, where they were all planted, and Kath leaned
against the sink, taking a deep breath. She put on more MAC lipstick that
Nigel had bought her and again thought of Mum, telling her to smile since
she looked so much prettier that way.
In the kitchen, the woman who lived in America was telling a joke. All
the men were standing around her, silently, some staring at her huge chest.
The women were somewhat in the background, listening too; Jane was
laughing, pouring wine, and said, "Oh, Anna, this is not a true story!"
Kath sidled up to Nigel and laid her arm across the small of his back,
resting her head on his shoulder. But Nigel was listening to Anna, and
moved away slightly to extend his cup toward Jane, who smiled brightly at
Kath and filled Nigel's cup to the rim.
Later, Kath went out on the balcony overlooking the garden to get some
air. She'd been talking to that Anna, who had come over to talk to her
while she was standing next to the stove, trying to find a match to light
her cigarette. "Here you go, I have a light," Anna had said, and extended
her silver lighter in her direction. Anna watched her intently and lit a
cigarette herself, blowing smoke toward the ceiling. She was friendly,
Kath thought, even if she was rather fat. Not many women in Nigel's group
ever seemed that interested in Kath, but Anna asked her many questions: How
did she like London? Did she miss Scotland? How long had she known Nigel?
Were they getting married? How old was Kath? At one point Anna raised her
glass in a toast, rattling something off in Spanish. "I learned that from a
busboy in New York," Anna said, smiling in a seductive manner. And then she
Outside, in the cold winter air, Kath shivered and was just about to head
back inside when she heard voices from below, in the garden. If the truth
be told, she knew Nigel was down there, and she was just slightly curious
what he was talking about. He and Trevor were standing under the apple
tree, smoking and laughing uproariously. She backed herself in a niche,
wondering if Nigel was talking about her, hearing the men's slurred voices.
Trevor punched Nigel in the arm and was saying, "You dog, you dog," and
laughed some more. "But you're back with Kath. What is it that you like
about Kath then? You love her? You must really fancy her sexually."
She heard Nigel mumble, "Uh, I guess so, yeah I guess so."
"What is it? I want to know what it is you fancy so much."
"I like that Kath comes with just a flick of my wrist," Nigel said in a
stage whisper. "She comes all the time. Just like that." He snapped his
fingers, and the two of them laughed. Kath felt her face flush in pride.
She of course had never come in her life, but Nigel didn't need to know
that. Trevor said something like "worrrrhhhh--" and then dropped his voice.
Kath couldn't hear what he said, but then Nigel sighed like an explosion of
air was escaping.
"Can't even describe it," Nigel said, slurring. "Only wish one thing:
that she'd lose a bit of weight in the old bum. But her tits --" Both the
men were silent for a moment, then began laughing again.
Kath felt disgusted. Why did Nigel have to behave this way with his
friends? It was all Trevor's doing, she was convinced of it. She'd just
have to figure out some way to keep him away from this group. Nigel was
never this much of a lad when he was alone. And what was all this about her
bum? He'd never said a word about her being fat; if anything, he'd told her
she should try to put on some weight in that area. But it was true that he
always seemed to like her small breasts, or at least, he always stared at
them with a serious look on his face, as if he were trying to understand
some deep mystery about them. Men, she sighed. Pity she couldn't talk to
Mum about this.
She backed into the house again, and turning to go into the party, she
almost fell right into Anna, who was standing in the doorway in the dark.
"Getting some air too, I see," Anna said, and smiled at her in an odd way,
reminding Kath of a cat. "We must get together for coffee next time I come
back to London. I'd love to have a chat with a new girlfriend."