Home > The Party Crasher(8)

The Party Crasher(8)
Author: Sophie Kinsella

   Confused, I lift my hand to my face. It’s wet. Why is it wet?

   “Wait.” He comes closer, looking appalled. “Are you crying?”

   “No!” I hastily rub my face and plaster on an upbeat smile. “God no! Of course not!”

   “Good,” says Damian with ominous politeness. “Because if you were…”

       “I’m not!” I say overbrightly, just as a big fat drop lands on the green surface of the soup. My stomach clenches in horror. Where did that come from?

   “You are crying!” he explodes. “You’re getting fucking tears in the fucking soup!”

   “I’m not!” I say desperately, as another tear falls with a splash. “I’m fi-ine!” My voice breaks in a sob, and to my horror, another, larger drop falls down into the soup.

   Oh God, I don’t think that one came from my eye.

   Trembling, I raise my head to meet Damian’s gaze, and his expression makes me quiver. From the silence around us, I can tell that everyone in the kitchen is watching.

   “Out!” he erupts. “Out! Get your things.”

   “Out?” I falter.

   “Tears in the fucking soup.” He shakes his head, repulsed. “Go.”

   I swallow several times, wondering if there’s any way to redeem the situation, then deciding there isn’t.

   “Get back to work!” Damian suddenly bellows at the rest of the kitchen, and frenetic activity once more breaks out.

   I take off my apron, feeling a bit unreal, and head toward the door as everyone else avoids my eye.

   “Bye,” I mutter. “Bye, everyone.”

   As I pass Elliot, I want to pause, but I’m a bit too shaken to pull off an insouciant invitation right now.

   “Bye,” I say, addressing the floor.

   “Hang on a minute, Effie,” he says in his deep voice. “Wait there.”

   I feel a flame of hope as he washes his hands, dries them, and comes toward me. Maybe he’s going to ask me out, and we’ll fall in love, and this will be our cute story of how we met…

       “Yes?” I say, as he gets near.

   “Just wanted to ask you something before you go,” he says, more quietly. “Are you seeing someone?”

   Oh my God! It’s happening!

   “No,” I say, trying to sound nonchalant. “No, I’m not seeing anyone.”

   “Well, maybe you should.” His eyes run over me pityingly. “Because if you ask me, you really haven’t got over your parents’ divorce.”

 

 

   As I arrive home, I still feel stung. I have got over my parents’ divorce. Of course I have. You can be “over” something and still discuss it, surely?

   And I wasn’t crying. Now I think back, I’m sure of it. My eyes were running because of the soup. The soup.

   I push open the door to our flat and slouch in gloomily, to find Temi sitting on the floor, her laptop open, her braids sprinkled over her shoulders.

   “Hi,” she says, looking up. “How come you’re home?”

   “Finished early,” I say, not wanting to get into the whole thing. (Actually, it’s not as bad as I thought. The agency were quite calm when I told them about Damian chucking me out of his kitchen. They said he’s always doing that and they wouldn’t send me to work with him again for about a week. Then they booked me for ten corporate lunches.)

   “Oh, OK.” Temi takes me at my word. “So, I’m on Rightmove. It says ‘Sold.’ Looks amazing,” she adds.

       I texted Temi earlier on with the news about Greenoaks. She’s a bit of a property obsessive, so I knew she’d be interested. Plus she spent a lot of the school holidays at our house, so she’s pretty invested.

   “Visitors to this Victorian Gothic home on the edge of the pretty West Sussex village of Nutworth will be bowled over by the grand and imposing entrance,” she reads out. “Yes! True! I remember the first time I stayed with you, I was like, ‘Oh my days, this is where Effie lives?’

   “Arched stone-mullioned windows allow light to flood into the house. And drafts,” she adds. “It should say, The windows also allow windy, freeze-your-ass-off drafts to flood in. As well as actual floods. Which are a regular benefit of this fine property.”

   I can’t help laughing—I know she’s trying to cheer me up—and Temi winks at me. Temi and I bonded at school through dancing—we were both in the modern-jazz group. I was a day girl, but she was a boarder, because her parents both worked insanely hard in banking. They moved from Nigeria when she was two, to France for a few years, then to London, which is where they’ve stayed. Now Temi’s in banking too. When people say, Isn’t it really tough? she smiles back and says, Yes, that’s what I like.

   “How was work?” I say, hoping to change the subject, but she carries on reading.

   “The house sits within whimsical gardens and grounds, which complement the unconventional architecture.”

   “Whimsical means weird,” I say, narrowing my eyes. “And unconventional means ugly.”

   “No it doesn’t! Effie, I love Greenoaks to bits, you know I do, but you have to admit, it’s different. Special,” she adds tactfully. “A spacious hall leads to a large paneled reception room with mullioned window seat,” she reads out now, and for a moment we’re both silent, because we lived in that window seat when we were schoolgirls. We pulled the ancient thick curtains round us to make a kind of fusty cave, where we read magazines and tried on makeup. When we were older, we swigged vodka miniatures and talked about boys. When Temi’s granny died, we spent an afternoon there, just in each other’s arms, not saying anything, in our space.

       I perch next to Temi on the floor and watch as she scrolls through all the photos, with a jokey running commentary. But as she reaches the pictures of the plain gleaming kitchen with its plain gleaming cupboards, her finger stops scrolling and we’re both silent. Even Temi can’t find anything funny to say. What Krista did was wanton, gratuitous destruction. She took Mimi’s forest—something beautiful and unique—and she obliterated it.

   And people wonder why I have a feud with her.

   A timer goes off in the kitchen and Temi gets to her feet.

   “I need to stir my stew,” she says. “Cup of tea? You look like you need it.”

   “Yes please,” I say thankfully. “It’s been a bit of a day.”

   It’s not just the news of Greenoaks being sold or even being thrown out of the kitchen….It’s everything. It’s all churned up in my mind.

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