“Well as big Rod once sang, ‘Tonight’s The Night!”
“I know but the joke wouldn’t work! So tonight is the last night of you being alone. I think that was a Heart song. Did you like the one about her picking up a guy for a shag cause her hubby was a jaffa? There is a shit line in it about planting a tree!”
Lee opened the third bottle of Pinot Grigio.
“We had better curb this or old Paul will be running to the hills as his new squeeze is a ragin’ alkie!”
Alice took the drink from her friend and swallowed half of it.
“Jesus Alice, what is up with you? Are you having second thoughts about him moving in?”
“There was a bit of a pause there girlfriend! Did you like that? I have found my inner Beyoncé! I’m not old! I’m not done! I’m happening! And what the fuck is up wit chew? Jesus I thought we spoke shite”
Alice smiled. This was why she had asked Lee round. She could always cheer her up. She was funny and more than that she was honest, if not a little blunt. Alice felt that those two attributes, if they were that, went hand in hand.”
“I need some advice.”
“Oh you beauty! Please tell me it is about sex! What is wrong? Is he not measuring up? Can’t you get him to visit…Down there? Please tell me! I am as shallow as fuck and I love to know the details!”
Alice began to laugh.
“I wouldn’t discuss any of that with you…But if you must know I will give you this in order:
…He is MORE than adequate!!
…And he is happy to visit and doesn’t need a road map!”
“I am liking him more each day! Is it the toys? I know you have been reliant on those for such a long time now. Is a real man not enough for you?”
Alice threw a cushion at her.
“Fuck off! And no! He is comfortable with what we do. Me and him or me and him with a piece of plastic!”
“…But the strap-on is too much?”
Alice dived over and put Lee in a head lock.
“Right bitch Beyoncé!! Back to childhood and you are getting a jaggy bunnett!!”
She rubbed her head with her knuckles and they fell to the floor laughing.
More of the wine was drunk and Lee asked, “We can fuck about all day if you want, but when are you going to tell me what it is about Paul moving in that is bothering you?”
“Is it that obvious?”
“Fuck me, it isn’t guilt is it? Jesus fuck you know I loved John like a brother. The two of you were brilliant together. If you were doing anything to shit on his memory, I would be the first to tell you!”
Alice felt her eyes fill up, “I know that!”
“And I mean for fuck sake, you must realise that he would only want you to be happy.”
“I fucking know that too!”
“Fuck you have a potty mouth!”
“I wonder who taught me that!”
“Anyway. You have suffered. You watched him die. You have grieved!”
Alice began to cry, “Did you need to mention that?”
Lee poured out more wine and handed it to her friend. She kissed her on the forehead.
“Yes! I did!! If there is no guilt there, which I know and you know there isn’t, then don’t you deserve some happiness? What do you want to do? Make a shrine and be miserable and un-entered by any other man?”
Alice began to laugh.
“I mean…In the name of fuck…Your battery bill would be through the roof!! If you bomb him out, tell me and I am buying shares in Duracell!”
Alice snorted and ran through to the kitchen for some hankies.
“You might need a circuit breaker if you are producing that much mucus!!”
Lee was hit with another cushion.
“You are disgusting!”
“Thank you! I pride myself on it.”
Alice gave her friend a cuddle.
“Thanks! You always say the completely wrong thing which is the right thing which cheers me up.”
Lee grabbed her chin.
“OK, we have established that you have suffered. You don’t feel guilty. You are still juicy. Paul measures up and knows his way around the A-G! So why are you getting stressed and pissed?”
“It’s just one of those stupid things that I have been thinking about and I don’t know what to do.”
“Well if you want me to join in, I’ll not say no straight away but I would want to know the schedule and especially a running order…I don’t love you that fucking much!”
Alice was feeling calmer. All she had to do was say it and she would feel a lot better…And then the ridicule would come. She was counting on that.
“Fuck off! Don’t make me promise something that I can’t do!”
“…The photo…Our wedding photo. Do I take it down or leave it?”
“…Are you fucking kiddin’ me?”
Lee burst out laughing.
“Is that all! Is that what this has been about? You drinking one, in fact open another, two bottles of wine and getting yourself all upset about your wedding photo? In the name of fuck!”
Alice swigged the last remnants of the wine out of the bottle and then opened another.
“Yes! And you can fucking laugh but what do I do? Surely it is disrespectful for me to have that photo there when Paul has agreed to move in?”
“Here is a question for you, has he mentioned it?”
“Never! That is another reason I am wondering.”
“Oh is that a fact? And how would you have received anything that he said? You know, things like, ‘My god your husband was handsome’ ‘You are not as young as you used to be’ ‘Puffy sleeves are soooo yesterday!’ What the fuck was the poor bastard supposed to say?
…Ah! I get it, you wanted a ‘If I ever move in would you be so kind to bury that photo! But wait a minute, if he had you would be greetin’ and snotterin’ for another fuckin’ reason!”
Alice wasn’t sure why her tears fell.
“You are over simplifying. It’s respect. For him. For John. But both? What do I do? One is here and…”
“You are over complicating!”
“How do you make that out?”
“It will sort itself out!! There is no need to get fucked up about it!”
Alice was glad that she had said it. Although she still felt like a twat.
“We will agree to differ. But I thank you for your help.”
“And have I?”
“No. You really are a useless cow! Pour me another drink and I’ll change my mind a hundred times and decide when I hear his car in the driveway!”
Alice knew that Lee had helped more by participation than suggestion.
…Alice was thankful that her hangover had finally subsided. She had champagne chilling and when she heard Paul’s car she moved the photo into a drawer. Paul opened the door and hugged her. She kissed him and poured out the champagne.
“That’s a shit toast! How about halved bills!”
Alice smiled, “I like that!”
He took a sip of his drink and looked around.
Why have you replaced your wedding photo with the one of your mum and dad?”
“It was a cracking photo, you looked so happy!”
Header Photograph: Adam and Irene Neil.