I was traumatised last night, what with the paparazzi outside my house freaking me out, setting me askew for the wine dating event. I couldn’t relax after that and if I’d have thought that Delaney wouldn’t be chasing me up on it, I wouldn’t have gone. I wish really that I hadn’t. It was ‘interesting’ but I’ve been restless all night, chasing sleep around the bed and worrying what I’m going to write today for Relationship Rehab. I sit cross legged in my armchair, spooning Crunchy Nut Cornflakes into my mouth as I stare at the floor, my mind working overtime. My hair is still curly from last night and I really should wash it, but I’m tired and decide that I’ll sweep it back into a high ponytail instead. I love the crashing in my head as I bite down onto the cereal, pondering what to write in my piece today. If I say that I didn’t like ‘Wine Not?’ does that make me look unreasonable? As if I’m not giving anything a chance, or maybe that I am that dried up spinster that Jennifer said I’d be? I’m not sure which angle to come in from on this week’s column and it doesn’t help that I’m feeling low. I have a swollen ache on my chin, which I know is the beginnings of my period spot. And what great timing that will be – I’ll have a perfect bloated tum for my appearance on television! I get up and head for the kitchen but can’t help but feel a little creeped as I pass the window. I have a disturbing feeling that there are still some photographers out there, as if they’re spying on me, and I know it’s ridiculous. You don’t have to tell me that I’m being paranoid, but I was so shocked that they’d considered me tabloid fodder simply because of my column and that I dated Ben, I’m now wondering what else they’re going to do. That was one of the reasons too, that I couldn’t sleep. I felt more alone last night than ever before and it would have been so comforting to have someone to snuggle up to in bed – someone to stay with me. I wanted to keep my bedside light on, but then I terrified myself by wondering whether the photographers were on a stake out in a derelict flat across the road! It’s obvious that I’ve been watching too much television – that’s what you do when you’re single and don’t have much of a social life. The only person that I could have really called in the middle of the night was Tamsin, but she’d think I was demented too. I mean, I’ve hardly reached celebrity status and I know that the tabloids are just curious, wanting a bit of scandal about the squeaky clean Ben Scott. But they won’t be getting it from me.
I took a little extra time this morning to make sure I look good, just in case the photographers were out there again, but I needn’t have bothered. I opened the front door with a grin anyway, just in case, and walked to the Tube station trying to master my confident stride. I’m probably dressed slightly over the top for work today, my white linen trousers weren’t a great bet, considering the aches of imminence in my pelvis, but my tired eyes are hidden behind my white-framed Sophia Loren sunglasses so nobody will notice that rabbit-in-the-headlights glaze to them. God only knows what face AJ will pull when she sees what I’m wearing and I know I’m in for a tough time, facing off to Delaney about what I’m going to write for my column. If there ever was a morning that I needed to stop for a coffee, it’s this morning. Maybe I’ll grab a lemon muffin too – ever since Adrian gave me his one, I can’t stop thinking about him.
I mean, them.
The lemon muffins….
Ade had intended to grab a quick macchiato to take away, but as he’d stood in the queue he couldn’t help but notice the open pages of The Sun which was spread on one of the tables. He raised his eyebrows and then frowned, as he shuffled sideways, edging out of the queue to make sure that his eyes weren’t playing tricks on him.
And he wasn’t sure that he liked it.
Checking my watch, I realise that I have at least 20 minutes before Delaney will start writing ridiculously large messages on sheets of A4 and leaving them on my keyboard. I’m certain that a skinny latte and a muffin will set me straight. I’ve decided what I’m going to write for Relationship Rehab. I’m going to go in from the angle that we Londoners are all so different, which means that we need different events to fully engage with such a variety of diverse people. And then I’ll add that Wine Not? just was not for me. As I step from the morning sunshine into Starbucks, darkness falls and I lift my sunglasses from my face, sliding them up into my hair. There are only 6 people in front of me, and I stretch my neck to check the glass cabinet, making sure there are skinny lemon muffins there waiting for me. I inch forward as the queue shortens and I’m just ready to give my order when I notice Adrian, sat at a table in the window as he drinks his coffee. He notices me and smiles a rather fabulous smile, giving me a nod and a mouthed ‘hi’. I blush as I nod back and give a stupid little wave. Seconds later I’m ordering my coffee and jump as I feel his hand in the small of my back. I’m surprised he hasn’t burnt his fingers! He waits until I’ve paid and whispers in my ear,
“Come over and join me.” I check my watch and realise that I have no excuse not to, so collect my latte and muffin and fake that confident stride as I make for his table.
“Hi,” his smile knocks me out.
“So,” I fumble for conversation, “what you doing in here this morning? Don’t you usually take your coffee to work with you?”
“Oh, just thought I’d kill a few minutes.”
There’s an awkward silence before he speaks again. I have a mouthful of muffin when he says,
“Em, Sophie. Have you seen the paper?”
“No,” I mumble, spongy yellow flakes falling from my over-spilling muffined mouth. He looks awkward as he spins the newspaper around to me, “I think you’d better see this.”
There’s a picture of me leaving the house last night and flashing my white lace knickers! I’m immediately caught in a strange loop of being relieved and delighted that I had such a thorough wax and spray tan, and yet feeling ashamed and embarrassed that my inner thighs are now splashed across a national newspaper!
“So,” he asks lightly, slurping on his coffee and staring at me, “what’s that all about?” And he listens carefully and thoughtfully as I spill out my guts – all the news about the disastrous dates, and the married men and the false promises and my quest to stay single and how Delaney heard me moaning and has now pushed me to write this Relationship Rehab column and how Sky want to talk to me for their chat show and how I used to date Ben Scott and that I know stuff about him that I don’t want to come out on national television. And how I was scared last night and through the night that the paps were outside my house and how ridiculous it all is!
I have to admit that I feel so much better after getting it all off my chest, and I have to say that, for a square kind of guy who works with figures, he doesn’t seem shocked or disgusted at me.
“Look,” he said, “just let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you.”
He was nice.
Ade walked with Sophie to the lifts, immediately dropping his smile, the second they parted company. He felt like shit – pretending to her that he didn’t know about her night out at the wine dating and her column and felt even worse when he remembered that he’d encouraged Trevor to get the paps around to her house. He even continued letting her think that he worked with ‘figures’ which had started as his innuendo for the bikini’d babes that he wrote about for Geezer. Sophie was too nice for all this and he felt bad now. She was attractive, funny and cute; and he didn’t want to target her for Ade Gets Laid. Actually, he didn’t want to write Ade Gets Laid any more. This was all going horribly wrong.