Read A Proper Charlie Online

Authors: Louise Wise

A Proper Charlie (7 page)

BOOK: A Proper Charlie
3.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Melvin nodded at him. ‘Everyone’s really worried about redundancies, but I’ve a positive feeling about this now.’

Wish I shared that feeling,’ Charlie said.

Yeah, me too, then you’d stop mooching around feeling sorry for yourself.’

I do not!’

Melvin grinned. ‘I wonder if Sir Don has seen my headline yet?’

Would he read it?’ asked Dean. ‘He buried his wife Friday, didn’t he? I mean, if something happened to you, I’d not want to sit around reading newspapers.’

Oh, that’s so sweet,’ Charlie said. She finished her food and pushed her plate away. ‘Will you two have one of those gay weddings? Oh, please, they’d be so cool. I could be your bridesmaid – no, better, I could be Mel’s bestwoman.’

Melvin and Dean began to flirt. Feeling like a gooseberry, Charlie excused herself and went to the toilet. On her way she had to pass the pub’s entrance. One of the doors was jammed open so she could see outside; across the road was a solicitors’ office,
Bradshaw & Bradshaw.
A woman walked slowly one way up the pavement, turned and then walked back the other way. She had one hand on her hip, and smiled into the slow-paced traffic.

A suited man stepped out of the solicitors; he pulled at his tie and didn’t appear to notice the woman – but she had spotted him. She sauntered over and sat provocatively on the wall that bordered the Georgian building. She took out a cigarette and, Charlie guessed, asked the man for a light.

How brazen,’ Charlie murmured.

The man seemed to do a double take of the woman, but then he shook his head and hurried away.

I’m seeing prozzies everywhere now,’ she said beneath her breath. ‘She might be an innocent woman waiting for a lift or something.’

A passing waitress gave her an odd look, and Charlie continued on her way to the toilet.

After doing her business she washed her hands and dried them under the dryer. ‘Tonight,’ she said to her reflection, ‘I’ll visit every red-light area I can find.’

A toilet flushed, and a woman came out with a small child. She hurried the child to wash her hands, and giving Charlie a disgusted look, exited from the ladies’.




ndy wasn’t home when Charlie arrived back after lunch. She checked her bid on the Union Jack dress – still in the lead and she only had an hour to go. There was another person watching, so she upped her bid just in case. Minimising eBay, she opened her article in Word. It was mainly disjointed notes, ideas and the odd cut and paste tips from various websites she had searched.

To get her juices flowing Charlie began to type a piece of flash fiction using herself as the main character while flicking back to check on her bid every now and then. She still wasn’t sure how to angle on her article. She knew she wanted it about the women, and not the abductor, and in a sympathetic yet unpatronising way.

Her phone rang.

Hi Lottie.’ God, she hated being called that.

Andy, where’d you get to?’

Seeing as you buggered off and left me for your mates, I thought I’d meet up with mine.’

You said you didn’t mind!’

There was silence the other end, and just when she thought they’d been cut off Andy said, ‘Thing is, Lots, it ain’t working, is it?’

What isn’t?’

You and me. You want commitment and I can’t give it.’

A bucket of cold water couldn’t have had the same effect in the shock she felt. ‘Wha –? Andy? What do you mean? We were fine this morning. In fact I’d say we were getting on great!’

As I said, this commitment thing and me don’t go, like, sorry but it’s over.’


Yeah, it’s the commitment – ’

Commitment thing, yes I know. You’re a free spirit,’ she said, repeating his line, ‘and I understand that. Look, I said sorry for the Susie thing, didn’t I?’

Yeah, but being accused isn’t nice.’ He sighed. ‘I haven’t got time for hysterics right now, I’ll call you in the week, OK?’

Andy! Please, can we talk about this? You can use my flat as much as you like. What’s mine is yours,’ she heard herself say, and also could see Melvin’s disgust at her wheedling in her mind’s eye. She pushed the image of Melvin away. ‘Andy come home and I’ll not say another word about anything.’

Too late, darling.’

What about the party next Saturday?’

What party?’

My works’ do. The fancy dress party we’re throwing for the Middleton takeover and merger with
The Globe
. We were going as er Ginger and Becks.’

Not really my scene. Look,’ he spoke like he was fed up of talking to her and wanted to get off the phone. ‘I’m gonna be travelling for a bit. I’ll call you when I’ve my head straight.’

Andy, please don’t go. Let’s talk about this,’ she said, but he’d already broken the connection. Sniffing back tears, Charlie telephoned Melvin.

He’s dumped me,’ she wailed down the connection.

Melvin turned up with a bottle of Malibu and a large bar of chocolate. Wiping away her snot and tears, Melvin cuddled her on the settee. He pressed a square piece of chocolate into her mouth.

There, there,’ he said.

Charlie sucked on the chocolate. ‘It’s my fault, I complained about the mess in my flat, and accused him of seeing a-a-another w-woman.’ A fresh wave of sobbing shook her shoulders, and Melvin pressed in another square of chocolate. Brown dripped from the corner of her mouth and she brushed it away with scrunched up tissues. She sniffed, and swallowed the chocolate.

I’ll open the Malibu,’ Melvin said. ‘Do you have Coke or anything?’

Charlie shook her head. ‘I’ll have mine neat.’

Melvin grimaced, but said nothing. He got glasses and poured in the Malibu. He handed her hers. He sniffed his before taking an experimental sip. Charlie downed hers.

Why do I find it so h-hard to find a nice m-man? You have a nice m-man. Why can’t I?’ She thrust her glass at him and indicated that he refill it. ‘I’m on the shelf

Melvin topped her up. ‘You weren’t in love with Andy, babe. You were in love with love.’

Don’t get all psycho-thingy on me,’ she said between sips. ‘He was my soul-mate. I loved him.’ Glass in hand she pointed at Melvin, tipping sticky Malibu over his arm. ‘You know what a soul-mate is?’

Enlighten me.’

She downed her drink, and reached for the bottle again. ‘It’s when you can tell what the other is thinking without talking. It’s when sex is out of this world!’ She frowned. ‘It wasn’t quite like that with Andy, but we were heading in the right direction.’

Sure you were.’

I’m such a bitch,’ she said on a sudden wail. ‘Why’d I treat him so badly?’

I guess you’re a nasty person.’

She nodded in agreement. ‘I’m a cow.’

Melvin went to sip his Malibu, hesitated, then put the glass down on the coffee table. ‘You’re evil, Charlie. I mean,’ he held up a hand and began counting off his fingers, ‘you give him free board and lodgings as and when he wants it. You complain when he messes up
home, you’re suspicious of his motives because he talks of deals and stuff but then has nothing to show for it, and lastly, you accuse him of seeing another woman, who, Andy Pandy insists, is the wife of his very single pal Dave. As I said, utterly evil. I’m surprised he’s put up with you for this long.’

Charlie popped another piece of chocolate into her mouth. ‘Do you think I should’ve been nicer to him?’

Melvin nodded. ‘I do. At least offered him one of your kidneys, or something.’

She mulled it over as she poured herself another glass of Malibu. She tossed it down her throat. ‘I’ve been such a bitch.’

Yeah,’ Melvin agreed. He stood up. ‘I’m going to make myself a cup of tea.’ He screwed the lid back on the Malibu. ‘And one for you, too. I don’t think drinking this neat is a good idea.’

It’s a very good idea,’ Charlie said, making a swipe for the bottle.

Melvin held it behind his back. He picked up the chocolate and tossed it onto her lap. ‘Eating that is, however, a very good idea.’

He glanced at her laptop as he passed by the kitchen. Her forgotten article had been minimised and eBay was in its place. ‘Have you won the costume?’

Charlie, stuffing more chocolate into her mouth, could only shrug. ‘Duphno, I haffen cheshed ick eht,’ she said.

Well, check it now. It’ll get your mind off Andy.’

At his name her chin wobbled and fresh tears welled in her eyes. She pressed in another piece of chocolate, and as Melvin disappeared through the beaded divide into her kitchen, Charlie got up to refresh her eBay page. She had won the dress. But that was the pointless since she wouldn’t be wearing it. She’d stay home and slit her wrists. And eat chocolate. Maybe not in that order.

She felt calmer. The Malibu had finally liquefied her bones.

I’m sorry,’ she called, sitting back on the settee. ‘You buy me lunch, and then I drag you away from Dean in the afternoon.

S’kay.’ Melvin popped his head through the beaded curtain. She could hear the kettle beginning to boil behind him. ‘He was about to talk me into redecorating the lounge area. I hate decorating.’ He disappeared back into the kitchen.

What colour schemes?’

We hadn’t got that far into the discussion.’ He came out with two mugs of tea and put them on the table. ‘You saved me from a fate worse than death,’ he said, settling beside her.

Charlie couldn’t think of anything nicer than cuddling up with a loved one and discussing colour schemes of a shared home. Knowing this piece of future between her and Andy was doomed brought a fresh wave of self-pity. She sipped the sweet tea Melvin had made and tried not to think about her lonely, pointless life.

Did you win?’ Melvin nodded towards her laptop.

Charlie nodded. ‘But I don’t think I’ll go to the party now. I’ll be the only singleton there –’

Don’t you bloody dare! Of course you’re going. You’re going with Fay, Sarah and Juliet who, I hasten to add, are single too.’ He stood up and sat at her small battered dining table that also served as a desk.

What are you doing?’

I’m paying for the dress. The sooner you pay, the sooner they send.’

It’s twenty-four hour guaranteed delivery,’ she said.

Melvin was silent. Then, ‘What’s this, babe?’

Charlie looked over.

Prostitutes in inner London,’’
he read the title. He
began to read on, but Charlie moved towards him like he’d manifested into Andy and shut her laptop, almost severing his fingers. She was flushing.

Don’t read,’ she begged, ‘you’ll only take the piss.’

It looked like an article.’ As well as her best friend, Melvin had also nominated himself for guardianship. He’d not understand her need to succeed. ‘I’m practising writing articles.’

That’s sweet, doll. But why?’ asked Melvin. ‘We’ve journalists to do –’

want to be a journalist, Melvin!’

He chuckled. ‘Since when?’

See, you’re taking the piss already.’

His face sobered. ‘Oh, baby doll, you need qualifications these days.’ He stood up and cuddled her. ‘Doll, stop striving for the unreachable you’ll only get yourself hurt.’

Is it so unreachable, Mel?

Are we still talking about becoming a journalist?’

I guess so,’ she said although she wasn’t quite sure.

Babe, even though we’re in the middle of tabloid frenzy over these abductions, it’s too
Stories move on incredibly fast in journoland and anyway they are being covered in minute detail by

As I said, I was just

He kissed the top of her head. ‘Why not write fiction? I remember you used to be good at that.’

Fiction with all its “happy after” crap? No thanks.’

Oh, baby doll.’

She went back to Melvin’s that night, and spent the night in their spare room.

Between them they settled on blue and cream for the lounge.





t was strange at work on Monday where Melvin fussed over her and even Faye and Sarah seemed concerned. She was only growled at a couple of times by Fanny, but that was probably because he was busy with the merger and didn’t have time to moan at her. And even when he sent her to the canteen to fetch him a ham sandwich and she brought him back pork, because ‘they all look the same’ he only tutted. Charlie wished he could be preoccupied more often.

BOOK: A Proper Charlie
3.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Down & Dirty by Jake Tapper
Romani Armada by Tracy Cooper-Posey
Rachel in Love by Pat Murphy
Bubbles Ablaze by Sarah Strohmeyer
Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta
A View from the Buggy by Jerry S. Eicher
I'll Catch You by Farrah Rochon
Ice by Linda Howard