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Chapter 15

I HAVE NEVER IN MY LIFE felt as terrible as I do when I wake up the next morning. Never.

The first thing I feel is pain. Exploding sparks of pain as I try to move my head; as I try to open my eyes; as I try to work out a few basics like: Who am I? What day is it? Where should I be right now?

For a while I lie quite still, panting with the exertion of just being alive. In fact, my face is growing scarlet and I’m almost starting to hyperventilate, so I force myself to slow down and breathe regularly.In . . . out, in . . . out. And then surely everything will come back to me and I will feel better.In . . . out, in . . . out.

OK . . . Rebecca. That’s right. I’m Rebecca Bloomwood, aren’t I?In . . . out, in . . . out.

What else? Dinner. I had dinner somewhere last night.In . . . out, in. . . out .

Pizza. I had pizza. And who was I with, again?In . . . out, in . . .



Oh God. Tarquin.

Leafing through checkbook. Everything ruined. All my own fault.

A familiar wave of despair floods over me and I close my eyes, trying to calm my throbbing head. At the same time, I remember that last night, when I went back to my room, I found the half bottle of malt whisky which Scottish Prudential once gave me, still sitting on my dressing table. I opened it up—even though I don’t like whisky—and drank . . . well, certainly a few cupfuls. Which might possibly explain why I’m feeling so ill now.

Slowly I struggle to a sitting position and listen for sounds of Suze, but I can’t hear anything. The flat’s empty. It’s just me.

Me and my thoughts.

Which, to be honest, I can’t endure. My head’s pounding and I feel pale and shaky—but I’ve got to get moving; distract myself. I’ll go out, have a cup of coffee somewhere quiet and try to get myself together.

I manage to get out of bed, stagger to my chest of drawers, and stare at myself in the mirror. I don’t like what I see. My skin’s green, my mouth is dry, and my hair’s sticking to my skin in clumps. But worst of all is the expression in my eyes: a blank, miserable self-loathing. Last night I was given a chance—a fantas-tic opportunity on a silver platter. I threw it in the bin—and hurt a really sweet, decent chap, to boot. God, I’m a disaster. I don’t deserve to live.



I head to King’s Road, to lose myself in the anonymous bustle. The air’s crisp and fresh, and as I stride along it’s almost possible to forget about last night. Almost, but not quite.

I go into Aroma, order a large cappuccino, and try to drink it normally. As if everything’s fine and I’m just another girl out on a Sunday for some shopping. But I can’t do it. I can’t escape my thoughts. They’re churning round in my head, like a record that won’t stop, over and over and over.

If only I hadn’t picked up his checkbook. If only I hadn’tbeen sostupid. It was all going so well. He really liked me. We were holding hands. He was planning to ask me out again. If only I could go back; if only I could play the evening again . . .

Don’t think about it. Don’t think about what could have been. It’s too unbearable. If I’d played it right, I’d probably be sitting here drinking coffee with Tarquin, wouldn’t I? I’d probably be well on my way to becoming the fifteenth richest woman in the country.

Instead of which, I have unpaid bills stacked up in my dress-ing table drawer. I have a meeting with my bank manager on Monday morning. I have no idea what I’m going to do. No idea at all.

Miserably I take a sip of coffee and unwrap my little choco-late. I’m not in the mood for chocolate, but I stuff it into my mouth anyway.

The worst thing—the very worst thing of all—is that I was actually starting to quite like Tarquin. Maybe he isn’t God’s gift in the looks department, but he’s very kind, and quite funny, in his own way. And that brooch—it’s really quite sweet.

And the way he didn’t tell Suze what he’d seen me doing. And the way hebelieved me when I told him I liked dogs and Wagner and bloody violinists in Mozambique. The way he was so completely, utterly unsuspicious.

Now I really am going to start crying.

Roughly I brush at my eyes, drain my cup, and stand up. Out on the street I hesitate, then begin walking briskly again. Maybe the breeze will blow these unbearable thoughts out of my head.

But I stride and stride, and I still feel no better. My head’s aching and my eyes are red and I could really do with a drink or something. Just a little something, to make me feel a bit better. A drink, or a cigarette, or . . .

I look up, and I’m in front of Octagon. My favorite shop in the whole world. Three floors of clothes, accessories, furnishings, gifts, coffee shops, juice bars, and a florist which makes you want to buy enough bouquets to fill your house.

I’ve got my purse with me.

Just something small, to cheer me up. A T-shirt or something. Or even some bubble bath. Ineed to buy myself something. I won’t spend much. I’ll just go in, and . . .

I’m already pushing my way through the doors. Oh God, the relief. The warmth, the light. This is where I belong. This is my natural habitat.



Except that even as I’m heading toward the T-shirts, I’m not quite as happy as I should be. I look through the racks, trying to summon the excitement I usually feel at buying myself a little treat—but somehow today I feel a bit empty. Still, I choose a cropped top with a silver star in the middle and put it over my arm, telling myself I feel better already. Then I spot a rack of dressing gowns. I could do with a new dressing gown, as a matter of fact.

As I finger a lovely white waffle robe, I can hear a little voice at the back of my head, like a radio turned down low.Don’t do it. You’re in debt. Don’t do it. You’re in debt.

But quite frankly, what does it matter now? It’s too late to make any difference. I’m already in debt; I might as well be more in debt. Almost savagely, I pull the dressing gown down from the rack and put it over my arm. Then I reach for the matching waffle slippers. No point buying one without the other.

The checkout point is directly to my left, but I ignore it. I’m not done yet. I head for the escalators and go up to the home-furnishing floor. Time for a new duvet set. White, to match my new dressing gown. And a pair of bolster cushions.

Every time I add something to my pile, I feel a little whoosh of pleasure, like a firework going off. And for a moment, every-thing’s all right. But then, gradually, the light and sparkles disappear, and I’m left with cold dark blackness again. So I look feverishly around for something else. A huge scented candle. Abottle of Jo Malone shower gel. A bag of handmade potpourri. As I add each one, I feel a whoosh—and then blackness. But the whooshes are getting shorter and shorter each time. Why won’t the ............

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