Sunday, 14 April 2013

54. Ephemeral satin confections

It's payday. Jena and I are sitting on the sofas in the staff cafeteria drinking latte.

I have a slice of coffee cake. On top of the slice there is a fat, ridged cushion of pale brown icing with a walnut perched on it. It looks like the cake is wearing a 1920s hat, one of those ephemeral satin confections made for the pleasure of rich flappers who spent their lives drinking champagne and dancing with men called things like Bunny Wollaston-Smythe. Maybe in their beaded evening bags they might carry an enamelled compact filled with cocaine instead of face powder (because, of course, cocaine was Good For You in those days. Gave you energy).

I look at the icing and I remember I saw a dress once in this shade of rich tan, a fitted silk dress with a square neckline, covered in tiny pale grey polka-dots. The girl who was wearing it was a redhead with skin as pale as fresh cream and brilliant hazel eyes.

I remember we were in a bar and when I saw her go past I wanted to be her so badly, to slip my skin and my life and have hers instead. I imagined being her, walking out of the door of the bar on a beautiful sunny May day, going somewhere much more interesting than anywhere I had to go. I wonder where she is today.

But I do not own a dress the colour of the icing on this cake, so instead I scoop off the icing cushion and the walnut and eat them. Some people leave the best bit till last, I notice, but I tend to eat it first. I wonder what this says about me and about other people. Are the people who like to leave it till last more into delayed gratification? Have I got poor impulse control?

As someone who spent £150 on shoes in my lunch break not two hours ago, I would imagine the answer (to that question at least) is "yes."

I chew the walnut. It tastes good. The sun is shining outside for the first time in weeks, it's nearly Christmas, I have new shoes and coffee cake and I am warm in my favourite pink jumper. I stretch my legs out, enjoying the taste on my tongue. Today I feel happy to be alive.

Jena has had a row with Suzy. It began when Suzy borrowed a dress for one night, which she failed to give back for three weeks. When she did return it, there was a suspicious-looking stain on the hem. Jena asked Suzy to remove the stain. Suzy said the stain was there when she borrowed it. Jena says it wasn't, and really knowing the obsessive care Jena puts into her appearance I can't imagine that it would be because stained items do not stay in her wardrobe. So personally I have formed the opinion that Suzy is lying. This does not particularly make any difference to me, but it does to Jena, who has been indulging herself with a full-on character assassination for the previous 20 minutes. 

So far we have learnt that Suzy has never been trustworthy; that she has always been jealous of Jena because Jena gets more attention from men; that Jena is not surprised no-one pays attention to Suzy, because Suzy looks like a pig someone has put in a dress and stood on its hind legs; that if Gok Wan was confronted with Suzy he would throw up his hands and resign from television forever; that Suzy wants to be Jena which is why she has to look like her all the time and steal her stuff; that Jake only stays with Suzy because he feels sorry for her (it has always been a sore point that Suzy has managed to maintain a relationship for so long. Jena compensates for this by telling herself that Suzy and Jake are unhappily trapped together. This is not the case) and that Suzy deliberately stained Jena's dress. I'm not sure why she would want to do this, and I say so.

"Because she hates me! You don't understand what she's like!" says Jena, between bites of jam doughnut. "You're too nice, Alice. You only see the good in everyone."

This is definitely not true, but I'm not sure how to correct it.

"She's a bitch!" shouts Jena, and slams her doughnut down. A bright red jet of jam squirts rudely out of it as if to emphasise the point. A senior manager walks by, and looks at us.

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