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Part 2 will be released tomorrow, Tuesday 5th August at 10am.
Charlotte sat at the bus stop wondering whether she would make the naughty or nice list this year. Last year she had rescued a stray kitten and therefore considered herself most definitely ‘nice’. This year she had broken Daniel’s heart into a million tiny pieces, so ‘naughty’ seemed to be the only answer. There’d be no Santa Claus coming down her chimney anytime soon…
As if on cue, Charlotte’s mobile buzzed to tell her that she had yet another email in from Jenny. Attached were seven picture files of near-identical table runners with a demand that she urgently provide feedback as to which of them would best compliment the festive pinecone and gypsophila centrepieces. Charlotte dropped her phone back into the recesses of her handbag and let out a deep breath. She had literally no idea how she’d ended up as the Maid of Honour for the Christmas wedding from Hell. It was baffling. It wasn’t like she and Jenny had ever been all that close; she and Daniel, of course, a little too close…
Perhaps Jenny was just trying to make a point, exorcise the past, demonstrate to all and sundry how very little she cared about her fiancé’s sexual history – so much so she was prepared to dress that history up in fetching apricot tulle and stand her up beside them at the altar… Because that’s what they were – Jenny and Charlotte – when they stood together, a little tableau, the sum total of Daniel Fisher’s sexual experience; the ex-girlfriend and the fiancée. The “loves of my life!” Dan would jovially call them when he was drunk, slinging one inappropriate arm round Charlotte’s shoulders, grabbing Jenny by the waist, Jenny shooting Charlotte a brave little look across the back of his head as if to say, silly Daniel; our silly Daniel.
Being on the bus was barely warmer than waiting outside of it had been, and the peppermint mocha that Charlotte had picked up was already cool inside its festive red cup, but she kept her mittened-hands curled around it nonetheless. She felt the vibration of her phone once again through the bottom of her handbag, against her knees, but she ignored it. She really wasn’t in the mood to be going through the relative merits of parfait versus pate (for the third time).
Back when she and Daniel had been together, there had never been scope for things like parfait and wine lists and tablecloth thread counts. They’d been babies, newly graduated, lost in the sprawl of London, drowning in debt. They’d gotten to know one another illegally sitting on common grassland with bottles of warm cider, explored one another’s bodies between unwashed sheets in noisy bedsits with more tenants than rooms. Their first Christmas together Dan had bought her cinema vouchers. Last year, years after they’d broken up, he’d presented her with a diamond pendant and earrings set. It was, of course, Jenny who’d received the diamond ring.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time, staying friends with the ex. Because, after all, it wasn’t as if they fell out, or hated one another. It was mainly down to the fact that Charlotte had been desperate to go travelling before she hit the dreaded three-oh and her by-now-slightly stale relationship hadn’t proved enough of a reason to give up on those dreams. Dan had finally been getting somewhere with his consultancy; he’d opened his own architectural business – the firm that would make him a millionaire at thirty – and he couldn’t really drop everything to follow Charlotte up the Inca Trail, could he? So the two of them had decided, with a satisfying level of maturity, to call it a day. They’d had a good run – almost seven years – but if they weren’t going to settle down, what was the point of prolonging the inevitable? Dan had even driven Charlotte and her backpack to the airport, kissing her goodbye on the cheek as she disappeared into Departures and didn’t look back.
It had been at a Christmas party that Charlotte had first met Jenny, actually. She’d been back for a couple of months, sofa-surfing her way through her contacts list as she tried desperately to pick her career back up after a year of being away. She’d tagged along with her current host to some holiday drinks in a tinsel-draped city bar and there he was: the man-version of the boy she’d used to be crazy in love with, looking strange and oddly daunting in a charcoal grey suit, pausing as he lifted his pint glass of pale lager to his mouth as he locked eyes with her across the room………..