Short Story -Claire

Something a bit different for you today.  Here is my attempt at a little dabble into short story writing.  Let me know what you think . . .

Claire

I sipped my tepid latte and sat, trying to remain poker faced as Claire blathered on about some woman in her office having a breakdown yesterday.  Of course queen Claire, holding court with her executive assistant underlings; of course she had been the one trying to talk reasonably to this wrathful woman.  Claire rolled her eyes and reached for her chocolate covered choux bun, before thinking better of it and carrying on with her never-ending story.

“She was screaming at Fiona that she had taken all the paperclips, well the little plastic coated ones, and there were only nasty old metal ones left.  Oh and as for Megan, well she had started after her, but had managed to get the best desk by the window, with the radiator.”

I don’t care Claire, I don’t bloody care you harlot.  You evil, she-devil, troll from hell.

“Ooo” I cooed and there may have been a “just awful” thrown in.

Poor you Claire, having to deal with all of that.  Having to attempt to control some poor woman having a monumental meltdown in your presence.  Because you are perfect aren’t you Claire? Just bloody perfect.  My face remained icily detached.  I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction to know I was wild with rage deep down.  I stared at her and her perfectly straightened, glossy, shiny, bouncy, voluminous hair.  Dejectedly I thought, it’s so unfair she is flawless, like a fashion model.  She can’t be more than a size eight, with a beautiful Ted Baker, mock Channel crisp white jacket, tiny black ankle grazer trousers and tiny unblemished, satiny black pumps.  Oh and of course who could forget the Mulberry Bayswater, in size large, obviously, handbag David had just forked out for her birthday.  I hate you, I absolutely can’t stand you, I glowered sourly.

“So there she was ranting away, and you’ll never believe what she did next”

Wont I Claire?  Wont I?  Ignorant, malicious, twisted, home-wrecking tart.  What’s so great about you anyway?  Yes you’re thin, but my goodness you are scatter-brained.  Claire had managed to be the personal assistant to a chief executive of a bank, and therefore head honcho to her thirty or so executive assistant henchmen minions, mainly by wearing short skirts and fake eyelashes.  She had met and snared David, her banker husband, simply by shortening the skirt and fluttering the eyelashes.  Position secured, Claire had done nothing more than fly to New York to get Vera Wang, no less, to design her wedding gown, ensconce herself in David’s Canary Wharf £1.5 million flat and use her £40,000 a year at the bank, to shop at Burberry and fly first class to exotic locations every month.  Meanwhile, I had struggled to find a job after finishing my first class honours degree, ended up working in Specsavers as a receptionist, where James, the senior optometrist and now my husband took pity on me, romanced me a little with an after work cider, before securing me, in our jointly owned semi, with our two children, a very flatulent rescue cat and three guinea pigs.

I had had the misfortune to have  Claire as my best friend since our first week together at university.  We were lumped together in the worst student accommodation possible.  Both our parents had literally just deposited us and then fled.  My mother in hysterical tears, squealing about her ‘baby growing up, flying the nest, probably never coming home for Christmas’.  While Claire’s step dad had handed her a wodge of cash, patted her on the bottom, eyed me up and down and then slid his sunglasses over his deep, brooding brown eyes before turning on his heel and fleeing back to the security of his brand new convertible Mercedes.  I’d thought the whole thing was odd at the time, but now looking at her in a new light, I read the whole situation very differently.  My god, she was at it with her step father as well, if that’s what he really even was.

“She strode over to the door, squealed ‘I’m leaving now, and none of you sorry ass bitches will ever see me again’.  Then she looked over, saw the coat stand, I swear the whole thing happened in slow motion, and only bloody grabbed hold of it with both hands, and then..”

Claire was howling with laughter now.  She couldn’t get the words out.  None of this was funny, my face still poker straight gave nothing away.

“Then, she went and lifted the whole thing up, and launched it into the ceiling.  Everyone’s coats, bags, umbrellas, everything flying, only launched into the polystyrene ceiling tiles!”

I glared at her, not faintly amused.

“Just hanging there!  And then she turned and flounced out.   I wouldn’t have cared but my Burberry Trench seemed to have shot up into the loft with the force she used, and we still can’t find it now . . .”

Claire seemed to finally notice me in between spluttering out her skinny cappuccino, mainly foam, hold the chocolate, in fits of giggles.  Her dazzling blue eyes cast ever so slightly more than a cursory glance over me.

“You look tired, you need to change that eye cream.  What’s up?”

Not, my darling Emma, whatever is the matter?  You look positively angry.  Just yet another insult, you look tired, and by implication old and haggard.

I wanted to respond, “well Claire, last night my slightly petulant, thick as a plank husband left his phone on the table while he went to read bedtime stories to our beloved and much wanted children.  In between mopping the floor, washing up and putting all the children’s hundreds of tiny plastic ponies away, I noticed his phone beep.  A cursory glance revealed it was an email from you Claire.  Yes that’s right I saw the message, I opened it and read the whole thing.  Where you told him ‘Darling James, dearest lover, we must stop this.  It’s not you it’s me.  David and I are working things out, and while the last few weeks have been an enormous, quite literally, LOL, blast, we really can’t keep this up, LOL.  It’s been fun lover, but David is suspicious about the Hotel Felix mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner that I stupidly put out in the guest bedroom only for his old bag of a mother to use when she stayed this weekend.  So we really do have to stop.  We have such fantastic memories.  Anyhow see at the Smith’s (yawn, LOL) BBQ on Saturday you naughty boy you XOXO’.

So Claire you see I know you’ve been sleeping with my husband.  You remember, James, MY husband.  The same James you said was weird, and a bit dull, and had hair growing out of his ears.  But actually come to think of it ‘suits you just perfectly’.

Anger overtook me, I was sure my skin was flushed with it.  You know when you are so infuriated your ears burn, your heart thuds almost to the point where you feel it will explode from your chest, where your stomach turns and turns in knots of apoplectic fury.

“I am tired actually Claire, exhausted in fact.  James wouldn’t leave me alone last night, three times!  He was insatiable.  And the things he did to me Claire, I didn’t think I could feel so good, what with having our beautiful, loving, children and all.”

I had overplayed my hand with the emphasis on the children, I realised as soon as the words were out.  Claire eyed me suspiciously.  In the thirty seconds it took her to respond, she had read an entire plot playing out in the few sentences I had attempted to snarl at her.  Claire took a long sip of her cappuccino, and then carefully returned her cup to its saucer.  She inhaled slowly and then opened her perfectly lipsticked mouth to speak.

“You know.”  Claire looked a little drawn as she uttered the words.

How on earth had she guessed that I knew?  I guess it was obvious; I had never taken her in to my confidence when it came to anything remotely intimate between James and I.  I had stupidly believed that the most personal moments and conversations between a couple were exactly that. Personal and private. I suppose I was loyal to a fault, or plain idiotic.

“Darling, it was nothing.  David had been working away a great deal, I was lonely, it was silly.  It never meant anything, James, well he’s just so, James isn’t he?  I mean he is dependable, he is effortlessly comforting.  He’s rather like a puppy dog isn’t he?  A little bit of a scratch on the head and he rolls over and loves you forever, like that dog in that film.  Isn’t he really?  And well you haven’t been happy for such a long time have you?  I mean really you settled didn’t you?  I mean James is no David is he?  I know you have been jealous of us for such a long time, and David, well he brings in such a lot of money, and I know you’d like to go to Mauritius three times a year.  Well to be honest I think I’ve probably helped crystallise it all in your mind haven’t I?”

I stared at her, unable to move.  This woman, my best friend, had just admitted to sleeping with my husband and then tried to tell me what?  I had no idea.

“What?”

“Well” Claire continued, “that James isn’t right for you, he is really rather dull and that you were leaving him anyway weren’t you?

“Why do you think that? We have two children Claire, we work together, we have our house.”  I wanted to explode ‘and actually you trollop, he is my husband’.

“Don’t be so silly Emma, none of that matters, single motherhood is so ‘in’, literally! Kerry Catona is on the front cover of Heat every week thanks to being a single mother, and you’ll easily walk away with that whole house.  You could probably sue James or something and take half the opticians I shouldn’t wonder.  And then of course you can find Mr Right at last, Mr Rich and Mr Right!” She snorted.

“I can’t believe we are having this conversation.” I was instantly aware my voice had got a little squeaky and high pitched; my outrage had given way to holding back tears in utter despair at the insanity of the situation.  “I love James, Claire.  I chose to marry him and have children with him because I loved him, still love him”.

Claire actually looked sorry for me; she reached across and patted my arm.  Actually patted my arm.  The animosity returned in a crashing tidal wave.  All in an instant I stood up, grabbed my battered Marks and Spencer granny holdall, stepped over to the side of the table, and being no more than a foot from Claire, I reached towards the back of her head.  Firmly and with a little force, I pulled her head toward the table until her nose met with the choux bun she had carefully been guarding for the last hour.

“No Emma” she spluttered, her hands reaching behind her head for mine, “Emma please” she pleaded.

With great ease I brought her entire head down into the cake.  She gasped for air as cream gushed across the table, and I saw with delight, onto her suede Jimmy Choo baby pink boots.

I left the café as the waitress gawped after me.

“She’s paying” I gestured towards the sodden and dejected cream filled image of Claire.

I stepped out onto the pavement.  I knew I would never see Claire again, vile sow.  James on the other hand I couldn’t avoid, and as I walked up the high street, I knew I needed time to think clearly about what I would do next and how I would try to move forwards from this utter mess.