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Authors: Joanna Bolouri

The List

BOOK: The List
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Contents

Cover Page

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

JANUARY

FEBRUARY

MARCH

APRIL

MAY

JUNE

JULY

AUGUST

SEPTEMBER

OCTOBER

NOVEMBER

DECEMBER

Acknowledgements

First published in Great Britain in 2013 by

Quercus Editions Ltd
55 Baker Street
7th Floor, South Block
London W1U 8EW

Copyright © 2013 Joanna Bolouri

The moral right of Joanna Bolouri to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

PB ISBN 978 1 84866 308 4
EBOOK ISBN 978 1 84866 309 1

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events are either the product of the authors' imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

You can find this and many other great books at:
www.quercusbooks.co.uk

Joanna Bolouri
worked in sales before she began writing professionally. Winning a BBC comedy script competition allowed her to work and write with stand-up comedians, comedy scriptwriters and actors from across the UK. She's had articles and reviews published in
The Skinny
, the Scottish
Sun
, the
Huffington Post
and
HecklerSpray
. She lives in Glasgow with her daughter.

For Nicola, who
has been making me
laugh for 25 years

JANUARY

Saturday January 1st

I emerged from my bed like Nosferatu about an hour ago with a mouth like a stable floor. Since the minibar has been cleaned out and I cannot find one cup in this entire hotel room, I've been forced to drink water directly from the bathroom tap. Fuck, I'm so hungover my face feels like it belongs to someone else. Lucy is still asleep on the other bed and I refuse to get dressed and venture out where there are people with eyes who will judge me.

For once the hangover was worth it, as last night's party was amazing! Every year we all stay at the Sapphire Hotel (overpriced, trendy and slap bang in the middle of the city centre) to bring in the bells and every year I'm surprised they haven't banned us yet. The others had already checked in by the time Lucy and I arrived at half past three. We took the lift to our floor, dragging our needlessly large suitcases behind us as we searched for room 413. I've worked with Lucy for two years and she's never on time for anything. ‘I bet the others are pissed already,' said Lucy, ‘and shagging. I bet they're all covered in Moët and wearing each other's underwear.'

Finally, we found our room and I fumbled with the key
card in the door, ‘Jesus, is that all you ever think about? Anyway, we're only half an hour late. Hazel's most likely pricing the minibar, Kevin will be ready for a pint and Oliver's probably …'

‘Getting head off that Spanish girl,' Lucy interrupted. ‘What's her name again?'

‘Pedra. I've only met her once and called her Pedro by accident.'

She threw her coat on the bed near the window and turned on the television as I started to unpack, wondering why the hell I'd brought four pairs of shoes.

‘Are you wearing your green dress?' I asked, looking at the plain black one I'd brought.

‘Yup. Although with my red hair, I look like a Riverdance reject.'

I left her, mid-Irish jig, and went for a shower, excited about the evening ahead and thinking about last year's party: when Lucy got so drunk she fell asleep in the lift and Oliver hid behind my bedroom door and scared me so badly I wet myself.

My train of thought was interrupted by a knock on the door and a familiar Dublin accent.

‘Phoebe, I'm coming in. Put your cock away.'

I grabbed the towel and wrapped it around me just as Oliver appeared from behind the door.

‘Fuckssake, Oliver!' I shrieked, turning away from him. ‘Give a girl some privacy! Go and peek at Pedro's tits.'

‘It's Pedra, and I'm not here to see your tits, impressive as they are. I'm here to tell you that dinner is at 7 p.m., and there was something else but Lucy's Irish dancing has
distracted me and made me homesick for mental redheads.'

‘Fine, I'll see you when I'm dressed. Go and annoy someone else.'

An hour and two glasses of wine later, Lucy and I were still getting ready. The plan, every year, was to try to stay relatively sober until midnight, but generally we'd all be hammered by the time the bells chimed for New Year and do shots until we all fell over. I knew this year would be no different. ‘At least you don't have Alex with you,' said Lucy, pulling on her tights. ‘That man bored the shit out of everyone last year, going on about his bloody job. He's a physiotherapist, not a fucking wizard.'

‘I know.'

‘I mean, sleeping with his boss all that time, and he had the cheek to bring her into the conversation—'

‘Enough!' I shouted. ‘Don't kill my buzz talking about that dickhead. It's over now. I just need to concentrate on finding someone who isn't a total prick.'

‘Don't set the bar too high,' Lucy laughed. ‘And besides, it's not a new boyfriend you need, Phoebe, it's a shag! Sex makes everything better.'

‘My sex life is fine, thank you very much. What I need is another drink.'

We met Hazel and Kevin at the bar before dinner. They had already thrown half a bottle of champagne down their necks. Hazel saw me eyeing up the bottle.

‘We have no child for the night. I intend to get shit-faced.'

‘Hey, I'm not judging. I celebrate the fact I have no child every night,' I replied.

Hazel looked amazing in her pastel-pink evening dress. She'd swept her blonde hair up into a high ponytail decorated with tiny diamantés. Her husband Kevin was in his kilt and looked very handsome. They always looked so effortlessly groomed that I felt a tad thrown together in my black wrap-over dress, red heels and the same hairstyle I'd had since 1995.

‘Oliver and Pedra not down yet?'

‘From the way those two were slobbering over each other in the lobby, I'd be surprised if they've left the bedroom.' Kevin laughed and then paused, obviously trying to picture this in his head.

A flustered-looking waiter ushered us into the main hall, where we all sat around beautifully decorated tables covered in white linen with green and red centrepieces. There must have been around a hundred tartan-clad guests and the atmosphere was electric. There were tables of hipsters wearing jaunty hats, ready to Instagram photos of their meal as soon as it arrived, the obligatory table of young lads who were pissed before the meal even arrived and the occasional middle-aged couple who weren't quite sure what to make of the whole thing. The meal itself was traditional Scottish: steak pie, haggis and some sort of tofu extravaganza for the vegetarians.

‘That cutlery is immense,' said Lucy, lifting a silver spoon up to her face. ‘I'd like these in my house.'

‘Steal it then,' I joked, but then I saw the look on her face.

‘Hey, klepto! Do
not
steal it. They made you pay for that dressing gown last year, remember?'

‘Yeah, but they don't allocate cutlery to room numbers.
That was a schoolboy error on my part.'

Ten minutes later Oliver swaggered in with a cheeky grin on his face, followed by Pedra, a woman so beautiful I wanted to punch her in the face and then myself. ‘Finally! Did you two get lost?' I asked, knowing full well that wasn't the case.

‘No,' Pedra answered quite seriously.

‘I'm starving,' Oliver announced, stealing the bread roll Lucy was buttering. ‘When's the food?'

‘You better replace that with something carby in five seconds, Webb, or I won't be responsible for my actions,' she growled.

‘You never are,' Oliver smirked, dropping another roll on to her plate. ‘A toast, please!' He raised his glass and we all followed. ‘To my good friends: Hazel and Kevin, who completely ruin my theory that all marriages are a sham; Lucy, the kind of woman my mother warned me about; Phoebe, my oldest and funniest friend; and finally to my lovely girlfriend, Pedra; I apologize in advance – this will get messy … oh, and not forgetting the new friends we will make and quickly lose this evening by being terrible human beings. Let's fucking do this.'

We ate, we laughed, we danced, by midnight my shoes were lying under a table, I'd been outside for 17,000 cigarettes and I was starting to get the ‘I'm going to be alone forever' New Year's blues when the slower songs came on. Thankfully Hazel spotted this and was able to pull me back off the ledge.

‘You thinking about Alex?'

‘Yeah. I think I still miss him.'

‘Nah, you miss the idea of him. The man you thought he was.'

‘The man I hoped he'd be.'

‘Exactly!'

‘He was charming in the beginning.'

‘So was Ted Bundy,' she quipped.

‘I always thought Bundy would be a good name for a dog.'

‘Focus, Phoebe.'

‘Ugh, look, maybe I didn't try hard enough either. He did have moments when he was quite loving and tender. Maybe I—'

‘Maybe you didn't, Phoebe, who knows, but
you
didn't screw around and he did! Alex was cheating on you for four months. That's four months' worth of lies for you
and
his mistress! That's not an endearing quality in any man.'

I knocked back my tequila. ‘Why do I always gravitate towards arseholes? I'll never find anyone good.'

‘You'll find someone new. Perhaps you need to go for someone who isn't your normal type.'

‘Like a woman?'

‘No. I mean someone you'd never usually consider, but, most importantly, someone who deserves you.'

‘YES!' I shouted, startling a nearby man in an ill-fitting kilt. ‘This year I'm going to find someone. Someone different. Someone brilliant!'

‘You can do whatever you want. This is going to be your year, girl. Start living it. Now come and dance before we all turn into pumpkins.'

And so here I am, the first day of my brand-new year, and
all I have to show for it so far is a hangover, a new spot on my chin and a handbag full of Lucy's stolen cutlery. I'm going back to bed.

Sunday January 2nd

Today I have decided to make my New Year's resolutions and become a better, more useful person instantly. But instead of the usual – lose weight, make money, unfollow everyone on Twitter who uses bastarding chat acronyms – I've decided to ask myself one question: if I could do last year again, what would I do differently? Every year I make the same lame resolutions, yet nothing really changes, and I end up wondering why I bothered. So, this year, the plan is to choose just one thing and actually get off my arse and do something about it. The question is, what? I've been brooding over where it went wrong with Alex, but the more I think about it the more I realize it was never right in the first place, even before he pissed off with Miss Tits. (I should really grow up and call her Susan, but that doesn't quite convey the level of my disdain). The first night we met, I was so grateful that this tall, handsome man had shown interest in me I bought every round of drinks and thrust my phone number into his hand at the end of the evening. I didn't hear from him again until two agonizing weeks later. I realize now that even that was significant. He kept me at arm's length for our entire relationship, occasionally pulling me in to give me a glimpse of what a funny, sensitive person he could be, but only when he chose to. So while I wanted to be swept off my feet, in reality I was just tripped
up occasionally. That bastard has a PhD in manipulation, and I swear if you looked up ‘fucker' in the dictionary, there would be a photo of him, holding my heart, and possibly my severed head, looking victorious and doing a little jig. I could never quite live up to his expectations … I wasn't educated enough or groomed enough or impressive enough. I just wasn't enough. I wasted four years with someone who was completely underwhelmed to be with me. That's the real kick in the vag. What a waste of time.

BOOK: The List
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