Authors: Marian Keyes
1 When Meredia reminded me that the four of us from... 1 2 There seemed to be a direct link between how difficult... 9 3 When it was my turn I went into what was... 16 4 When Megan emerged smiling about twenty minutes later, it was... 23 5 I shared an apartment with two other girls, Karen and... 28 6 Her name was Alison and I used to go to... 40 7 We would have all forgotten about Mrs. Nolan--the whole experience... 45 8 On Thursday morning the day started badly and got worse. 51 9 When we got to the ambulance, there was no room... 57 10 The following day all hell broke loose, when Megan and... 61 11 The penny finally dropped. It was so outrageous I could... 71 12 I stared pleadingly at Megan, then at the phone, then... 75 13 By the time I got off the bus, it had... 82 14 The apartment was in a terrible mess. The kitchen was... 89 15 When I awoke again, it was almost midday. Someone was... 100 16 We arrived at the restaurant and the saddest-looking man I... 113 17 "Did you give them a big tip?" I hissed at... 125 18 In the months that followed I replayed that scene in... 133 19 He took me by the hand and led me through... 142 20 Suddenly I had run out of things to say. I... 147 21 A long time later we arrived at Ladbroke Grove. Gus... 150 22 I tugged the duvet out from under him and covered... 157 23 Gus was still asleep and still looked gorgeous. But what... 165 24 I awoke to find Gus leaning over me, anxiously looking... 169 25 I went to take a shower and when I got... 179 26 At least it wasn't raining. It was cold, but the... 183 27 We stopped at the first pub we came to when... 194 28 That night, after Gus had gone home, my happiness was... 200 29 Dennis sat down again and placed his hand on his... 208 30 Of course it was a different story the following morning... 216 31 I loved Monday evenings. I was still at that stage... 226 32 Gus was taking me out on Tuesday after work. He... 233 33 At about twenty to five, I departed the office to... 239 34 It was a wonderful evening. 246 35 On Thursday there were two blots on my otherwise pristine... 257 36 I saw a curtain twitching in the front room. Mum... 265 37 Dad was in his bedroom, sitting on the bed, putting... 274 38 It was about six weeks later, on a Sunday night,... 289 39 It was a good thing I got a seat on... 298 40 By ten o'clock the potato chip bowls were all emptied... 309 41 I jerked awake at about seven o'clock--it was Saturday, after... 317 42 326 Hetty's replacement started work with us that morning. 43 I tried very hard not to think about Gus, and... 334 44 Megan and her housemates were having a party that Saturday... 336 45 A couple of weeks had passed and Gus still hadn't... 339 46 I was meeting him at eight o'clock outside one of... 347 47 A great load tumbled from me and I breathed out,... 365 48 The following morning Gus wasn't any easier to pin down... 373 49 So Gus and I became an item again. And I... 380 50 Thinking back to that summer, I remember that Gus would... 385 51 The twelfth morning in August didn't seem any different from... 396 52 I eventually had to tell the others in the office... 403 53 I could hear the screaming from three floors below, the... 407 54 And then there were three. 415 55 Megan was due to start her new job that week,... 419 56 Three hearts were heavy. 420 57 I hadn't been to Daniel's apartment in forever. The last... 429 58 As I ran along the puddled road, the rain pelting... 439 59 I went out with Daniel the following night--I couldn't understand... 442 60 If I hadn't been so pissed off with Karen I'd... 447 61 The next morning when I arrived at work, Megan said,... 457 62 She was leaving my father. 461 63 I went back to work in a state of shock. 470 64 My life changed very quickly in the following days. Suddenly... 480 65 Daniel came to Uxbridge to see me a couple of... 483 66 What I did next was very out of character for... 491 67 The following day I took official leave of my Ladbroke... 494 68 Living with Dad wasn't the way I thought it would... 495 69 My life quickly developed a routine. 501 70 In the end, out of desperation, I went to see... 504 71 So I made another appointment to see Dr. Thornton. I... 511 72 Christmas was horrible. I couldn't go to any of the... 519 73 Because Christmas had been so awful, I foolishly approached the... 520 74 I was beside myself about seeing Gus. Obviously, because I... 526 75 I was exhilarated with anger. 542 76 "You're so lucky," sighed Charlotte enviously. 544 77 The anger that I'd felt that night I saw Gus... 550 78 The only person I saw in any kind of a... 557 79 January became February. Crocuses and snowdrops started to appear. People... 560 80 The new me. Oozing strength. Independent. Reborn. Back out there. 568 81 At the party I spotted him immediately--the one I would... 571 82 I had every intention of never seeing Daniel again. The... 578 83 Charlotte dropped the bombshell on Thursday evening. She rushed in... 586 84 In the taxi, on the way over, I decided that... 589 85 Astonished by my brazenness, I took him by the hand... 598 Epilogue Hetty never came back to work. She divorced Dick, left... 608 Acknowledgments thank you to everyone who has worked on this book. 611 About the Author Praise Other books by Marian Keyes Credits Cover Copyright About the Publisher
"You've forgotten," accused Meredia, her chubby face aquiver.
She slapped her hand down on her desk and warned, "Don't even think of trying to tell me that you're not coming."
"Damn," I whispered, because that was just what I had been about to do. Not because I had any objections to having my fortune told. On the contrary--it was usually good for a laugh. Especially when they got to the part where they told me that the man of my dreams was just around the next corner. That part was always hilarious.
Even I laughed.
But I was poor. Although I had just been paid, my bank account was a post-holocaust, corpse-strewn wasteland because the day I'd been paid, I'd spent a fortune on aromatherapy oils that had promised to rejuvenate and energize and uplift me.
And bankrupt me, except it didn't say that on the packaging. But I think the idea was that I'd be so rejuvenated and energized and uplifted that I wouldn't care.
So when Meredia reminded me that I'd committed my
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self to paying some woman thirty pounds so that she could tell me that I would travel over water and that I was quite psychic myself, I realized that I'd be going without lunch for two weeks.
"I'm not sure that I can afford it," I said nervously.
"You can't back out now!" thundered Meredia. "Mrs. Nolan is giving us a discount. The rest of us will have to pay more if you don't come."
"Who's this Mrs. Nolan?" Megan asked suspiciously, looking up from her computer where she had been playing Solitaire. She was supposed to be running a check on debtors overdue a month.
"The tarot reader," said Meredia.
"What kind of name is Mrs. Nolan?" demanded Megan.
"She's Irish," protested Meredia.
"No!" Megan tossed her shiny, blond hair in annoyance. "I mean, what kind of name is `Mrs. Nolan' for a psychic? She should be called Madam Zora or something like that. She can't be called `Mrs. Nolan.' How can we believe a word that she says?"
"Well, that's her name." Meredia sounded hurt.
"And why didn't she change it?" said Megan. "There's nothing to it, so I'm told. Isn't that right, so-called Meredia?"
A pregnant pause.
"Or should I say `Cathy'?" Megan continued with triumph.
"No, you shouldn't," said Meredia. "My name is Meredia."
"Sure," said Megan, with great sarcasm.
"It is!" said Meredia hotly.
"So let's see your birth certificate," challenged Megan.
Megan and Meredia didn't see eye to eye on most things lucy sullivan is getting married / 3
and especially not on Meredia's name. Megan was a no-nonsense Australian with a low bullshit threshold. Since she had arrived three months ago as a temp, she had insisted that Meredia wasn't Meredia's real name. She was probably right. Although I was very fond of Meredia, I had to agree that her name had a certain makeshift, ramshackle, cobbled-together-out-of- old-egg-cartons feel to it.
But unlike Megan I couldn't really see a problem with that.
"So it's definitely not `Cathy'?" Megan took a little notebook out of her purse and drew a line through something.
"No," said Meredia stiffly.
"Right," said Megan. "That's all the Cs done. Time for the Ds. Daphne? Deirdre? Dolores? Denise? Diana? Dinah?"
"Shut up!" said Meredia, clearly on the verge of tears.
"Stop it." Hetty put a gentle hand on Megan's arm, because that's the kind of thing that Hetty did. Although Hetty was rich, she was also a good, kind person, who poured oil on troubled waters. Which meant, of course, that she wasn't much fun, but no one was perfect.
Immediately upon meeting Hetty, you could tell that Hetty came from old money--mostly because she had horrible clothes. Even though she was only about thirty-five she wore awful tweed skirts and flowery dresses that looked like family heirlooms. She never bought new clothes, which was a shame because one of the chief ways that office workers bonded was by displaying the spoils of the post-payday shopping run.
"I wish that Aussie bitch would leave," Meredia muttered to Hetty.
"It probably won't be long now," Hetty said soothingly. 4 / marian keyes
"When are you going to leave?" Meredia demanded of Megan.
"As soon as I've got the cash," Megan replied.
Megan was doing her grand tour of Europe and had temporarily run out of money. But as soon as she had enough money to go, she was go- ing--she constantly reminded us--to Scandinavia or Greece or the Pyrenees or the west of Ireland.
Until then Hetty and I would have to break up the vicious fights that broke out regularly. Megan was tall and tanned and gorgeous; Meredia was short and fat and not gorgeous. Meredia was jealous of Megan's beauty, while Megan despised Meredia's excess weight. When Meredia couldn't buy clothes to fit her, instead of making sympathetic noises like the rest of us did, Megan barked, "Stop whining and go on a bloody diet!"
But Meredia never did. And in the meantime she was condemned to cause cars to swerve whenever she walked down the road. Because instead of trying to disguise her size with vertical stripes and dark colors, she seemed to dress to enhance it. She went for the layered look, layers and layers and layers of fabric. Really, lots. Acres of fabric, yards and yards of velvet, draped and pinned and knotted and tied, anchored with broaches, attached with scarves, pinned and arranged along her sizeable girth.
And the more colors the better. Crimson and vermilion and sunburst orange and flame red and magenta.
And that was just her hair.
"One of us has got to go. It's either me or her," muttered Meredia, as she glared balefully at Megan.
But it was just bravado. Meredia had worked in our office for a very long time--to hear her tell it, since the dawn of time; in reality, about eight years--and she had never managed to secure another job. Nor had she been promoted. lucy sullivan is getting married / 5
This she bitterly blamed on a sizeist management. (Although there seemed to be no bar to any number of tubby men on the fast track to success, reaching all kinds of exalted positions within the ranks of the company.)
Anyway, wimp that I was, I gave in to Meredia about the visit to the for- tune-teller. I even managed to persuade myself that having no money would be a good thing--being forced to go without lunch for two weeks would be good for my diet.
And Meredia reminded me of something I'd overlooked.
"You've just split up with Steven," she said. "You were due a visit to a fortune-teller anyway."
Although I didn't like to admit it, she was probably right. Now that I had discovered that Steven wasn't the man of my dreams, it was only a matter of time before I made some sort of psychic inquiries to find out ex- actly who was. That was the kind of thing that my friends and I did, even though no one believed the fortune-tellers. At least none of us would admit to believing them.
Poor Steven. What a disappointment he'd turned out to be.
Especially as it had started with such promise. I had thought he was gorgeous--his only average good looks were upgraded, in my eyes, to Adonis class, by blond curly hair, black leather pants and a motorcycle. He seemed wild and dangerous and carefree--well, he would, wouldn't he? What were motorcycles and black leather pants if not the uniform of a wild, dangerous and carefree man?
Of course, I thought I hadn't a hope with him, that someone as beautiful as him would have his pick of the girls and that he certainly wouldn't have any interest in someone as ordinary as me.
Because I really was ordinary. I certainly looked ordi 6 / marian keyes
nary. I had ordinary brown curly hair, and I spent so much money on anti- frizz hair products that it would probably have been more efficient if I'd had my salary paid directly to the drugstore near work. I had ordinary brown eyes and, as a punishment for having Irish parents, I had about eight million ordinary freckles--one for every single Irish person who died in the potato famine, as my father used to say when he was a bit drunk and maudlin.
But despite all my ordinariness, Steven had asked me out and acted as if he liked me.
At first I could barely understand why such a sexy man like Steven wanted to be with me.
And, naturally, I didn't believe a word that came out of his mouth. When he said that I was the only girl in his life, I assumed that he was lying, when he told me I was lovely, I looked for the angle on it, walked all around it, inspecting it, to see what he wanted from me.
I didn't even really mind not taking his compliments at face value; I just assumed that those were the kind of terms on which you went out with a man like Steven.
It took a while for me to realize that he was sincere and that he wasn't saying it to all the girls.
At this point, I tentatively decided that I was delighted, but what I really was was confused. I had been so sure that he had a whole secret other life, one that I was supposed to know nothing about--middle-of-the-night dashes on the Harley to have sex on the beach with unknown women and that sort of thing--he looked that type.
I had expected a short-lived, passionate, roller-coaster of an affair, where my nerves would be stretched to the snapping point waiting for his call; my whole body flooded with ecstasy when he did call.
Unfortunately, he always called when he said he would. lucy sullivan is getting married / 7
And he always said that I looked gorgeous, no matter what I wore. But instead of being happy, I felt uncomfortable.
What I saw was what I got, and I began to feel strangely short-changed by life.
He had started liking me too much.
One morning I woke up and he was propped on his elbow, staring down at me. "You're beautiful," he murmured, and it felt so wrong.
When we had sex he said, "Lucy, Lucy, oh God, Lucy," millions of times, all feverishly and passionately and I tried to join in and be all feverish and passionate also, but I just felt silly.
And the more he seemed to like me, the less I liked him until in the end I could barely breathe around him.
I was suffocating from his adulation, smothering in his admiration. I wasn't that attractive, I couldn't help thinking, and if he thought that I was, it meant there was something wrong with him.
"Why do you like me?" I asked him, over and over.
"Because you're beautiful," or "Because you're sexy," or "Because you're all woman," were the nauseating replies that he gave me.
"No, I'm not," I would reply desperately. "How can you say that I am?"
"Anyone would think you were trying to convince me not to like you." He smiled tenderly.
The tenderness was probably what drove me over the edge. His tender smiles, his tender gazes, his tender kisses, his tender caresses, so much tenderness, it was a nightmare.
And he was so touchy-feely! Mr. Tactile--I couldn't bear it.
Everywhere we went he held my hand. When we were driving he planted his hand on my thigh, when we were 8 / marian keyes
watching television he almost lay on top of me. He was always stroking my arm or rubbing my hair or caressing my back, until I could bear it no more and had to push him away.
Velcro man, that's what I called him in the end.
And eventually to his face.
As time went on, I wanted to tear my skin off every time he touched me, and the thought of having sex with him made me feel sick. One day he said he'd love a huge backyard and a houseful of kids and that was it!
I broke up with him immediately.
And I couldn't understand how I had once found him so attractive, be- cause by then I couldn't think of a more repulsive man on the face of the earth. He still had the blond hair and the leather pants and the motorcycle, but I was no longer fooled by them.
I despised him for liking me so much. I wondered how he could settle for so little.
None of my friends could understand why I had broken up with him. "But he was great" was their cry. "But he was so good to you" was another one. "But he was such a catch," they protested. To which I replied, "No, he wasn't. A catch isn't supposed to be that easy."
He had disappointed me.
I had expected disrespect and instead got devotion, I had expected infi- delity and instead got commitment, I had expected upheaval and instead got predictability and (most disappointing of all) I had expected a wolf and had gotten a sheep.
It's upsetting when the nice guy you really like turns out to be a complete, lying, two-timing bastard. But it's nearly as bad when the guy that you thought was an unreliable heartbreaker turns out to be uncomplicated and nice.
I spent a couple of days wondering why I liked the