A short story by
Jones - 30 something London Singleton on permanent doomed quest for
and Shazzer - Bridget's joint best girlfriends.
- Singleton, fond of boys until an optimum level of Chardonnay
consumption is reached and then becomes radical man-hating feminist.
- former Singleton, recently Married (attempting not to be Smug Married)
Richard - her former commitment-phobic on-off boyfriend, now husband.
- Bridget's mother. The kind of mother who rings up constantly then, the
minute you say you have to go, immediately thinks up seventeen
completely irrelevant pieces of news about people you don't know which
she has to tell you that minute. Wishes to see Bridget married off to
- formerly Bridget's least favourite man - rich divorcee barrister
constantly forced on Bridget by her mother - more recently Bridget's
most favourite man. After a whole year of on-off going-outship Mark
moved to LA at Christmas, asked Bridget to go out and live with him,
then appeared to change his mind.
Up Britain - the live TV 'current affairs' programme for which Bridget is a
Finch - Bridget's nightmare boss at Sit Up Britain. Fat, lecherous, sexist, of
tabloid mentality with a penchant for brightly coloured 70s retro gear
unsuited to his rotund and flaccid frame.
- replacement for poison outdated word 'Spinster'.
Married - annoying married person who says things like "Why aren't you
married yet?" "How's your love life?" and "Can't put
it off forever, you know, tick tock, tick tock."
- very good.
Monday 9 April
9st 2 (good if not
quite 8st 7 return-of-Mark target) cigarettes 12 (bad but pre-return of
anti-smoking squad leader), alcohol units 0 (v.g.), sit-ups 3
(excellent), outfits on short-list for reunion with Mark 6 (encouraging
reduction), phone calls from mother telling me what to wear/say/do on
reunion with Mark 7 (intolerable).
8pm. Hurrah! Could not be in higher spirits, Mark is coming back from Los
Angeles tomorrow night and rushing straight to my flat from the airport.
This is my chance to prove to him that life with me can be tranquil and
ordered. Unfortunately, after a number of incidents (mainly
traffic-related) during my trial visit to LA, he seems to have had
second thoughts about inviting me to live with him there. Also he is
worried that I will be bored as do not have 'proper career'. Everything
will be different, though, when he sees how I have changed both
personally and professionally.
Be calm and
spiritual and create sense of tranquility in self and home.
Not allow mother,
Jude or Shazzer to interfere with, confuse or otherwise destroy
Prove to Mark that
am serious about career as top TV journalist.
groomed and attractive at all times.
I will not:
Keep asking when
can I come to LA when wheeeeeeen but create sense of being top career
woman with dazzling social life of type whom Britain cannot spare.
Am going to stay in
tonight and make sure everything is clean and tidy, flat full of food
and flowers, watch Newsnight, read the Road Less Travelled and
breathe.... ooh goody telephone!
8:15pm. Was Shazzer. She has something very important to tell me and Jude which
cannot be imparted by phone. So will just drop round briefly to 192 for
sake of friendship. Will not stay long or drink anything.
11:57pm. Argor esworbluury goofun - oof whassat onfloor? Ooops.
Tuesday 10 April
9st 4 (How? Why?),
cigarettes 0 (good but only 8am.), alcohol units (entire wind bag
swilling around in stomach), phone calls from mother 0 (but again, only
8am.), food items purchased 0, unruly household items tidied 0 (bad).
8:30am. Oof, my head. Why oh why did I go out last night? Have not bought food
and everything is all a mess. Also Shazzer's news was, though admittedly
important, hardly of a life-or-death nature. The Chardonnay had not even
arrived when she burst out with it: "I'm shagging someone!"
Jude and I
exchanged relieved glances. Shaz has been in shagging desert for 2.5
months now. It has really been quite difficult especially as Jude is now
a Smug Married and I am going out with Mark. Shaz has spoken of little
except sex and men's bodies since the start of Lent and taken to wearing
increasingly skimpy outfits, turning up practically stark naked for even
the most casual social events.
fantastic!" I said, "What's he like? Where did you meet
"At the gym!
said Shaz excitedly.
Jude and I shared a
now-worried glance, thinking: "Oh-oh. Not again: gay."
25!" said Shaz, adjusting her bra through her see-through top, at
which Jude crashed her head straight down onto the table in front of
her. "What does he do?" Jude moaned quietly.
actor. He's got the most amaaaaazing body."
It was all getting
worse and worse. What one wants is a normal shaped man. Not some crazed
exercise freak who will view one's own squashy bits with smugly
Oh my God, Oh my
god. It's 8:45. Had better get up.
8:49am. Ow! Surely it's not meant to be that bright outside the curtains. But
it's Spring! It is suddenly Spring! The sun is shining, the sky is blue
and people are walking about without their coats! Hurrah! Can discard
tights and pullovers, wear little summery top and skirt and be in
gorgeous flirty mood for arrival of Mark. His plane doesn't land till
7:30 so can tidy up when get home. Right, better go to work. Will set
video so can show Mark my report from Sit Up Britain today. Hope I get a
strong political polemic to do.
5pm. Sit Up Britain office. Arrived at morning meeting to find a scene of
more-than-usual chaos: open bottles of champagne and orange juice all
over the table, Richard Finch, my boss, parading around in a horrifying
canary yellow shirt and the assembled research team sniggering
Bridget," said Richard Finch, staring even more freely than usual
at my breasts. "Come and join the celebrations."
"What are we
celebrating?" I said suspiciously.
the living heaving proof of it, my darling!" There was a ripple of
obsequious laughter from the table. "It's Tit Tuesday!"
"I assume that
has something to do with birds," I said primly.
"Yur. It's the
first sunny day of the year and you can see all the birds' tits again
now they've taken their winter kit off."
Richard Finch's grasp of what constitutes Current Affairs programming is
so scanty as to be indiscernible.
Bridget," he said. "I want you in Regent's Park with a camera
crew. I'm thinking Tits..."
that," I said, darkly.
thinking sunshine, I'm thinking Vox Pops, I'm thinking girls in tight
T-shirts, I'm thinking guys with their sap rising commentating on the
"I'm not doing
that!" I exclaimed. "It's just the sort of sexist dumming-down
which is undermining our nation's broadcasting."
darling, it's either that or you're on a train to North Yorkshire to do
flood insurance. Isn't your feller coming back tonight?"
Just as I was about
to make a riposte, Patchouli yelled, "Bridget! Phone!"
darling, guess what!" - grr, my mother. "You remember Deborah
Townsend - Brian and Marjorie's daughter, Deborah? She was in the year
above you at school. Well, her husband used to go away on business and
Deborah was one of these feminists and didn't bother dressing up or
having a meal on the table when he got back after a long trip. Anyway,
six months later he was having an affair with a girl in Bahrain. She was
a nurse, she wasn't a Muslim..."
at work," I hissed. Eventually I managed to get her and her parable
off the phone and talked Richard Finch down into making the Regent's
Park item about SAD syndrome and how the National Mood is affected by
the sun coming. It all went pretty well, actually. I even managed to
lure a scientist who had done some fresh SAD research to the park to be
interviewed. The only disappointing note was a girl who came up to me
just as I was finishing my interview, saying "Excuse me, may I say
course," I said graciously.
"I hope when I
get to your age I look as good as you do."
you," I said, beaming and thinking: Ah the miracle of make-up!
But as she
retreated into the distance the full back-handedness of her 'compliment'
began to sink in. She can't have been much under 28 herself so how old
did she bloody well think I was?
finished item. Think it is rather good actually. Both interesting and
5:30pm. Cannot believe it. Richard Finch has done something nice: "Great
job, Bridget. I'll tweak the final edit for you." He gave me a
wink. "You can go home early and get ready for your feller."
Is really sweet of
him. Wonder if I have time to nip to Marks and Sparks and change new bra
and pants which turned out to be not bra and pants but bra and thong?
Cannot understand the world of the thong. Surely even fear of visible
panty line is not enough to make one entertain tight string up bottom
for entire evening?
in flat. Was just rushing up stairs armed with carrier bags of food and
replacement bra and full bottomed pants, when out of the corner of my
eye I saw something move. I froze, heart pounding. Six stairs down was a
small flesh coloured... thing: eyeless, mouthless, like an amoeba.
Slowly, keeping my
eye on it, I backed up the stairs. Nothing. I took one more step and
suddenly it flipped up two stairs. I screamed and bounded into the flat.
It was Mark, sitting at the kitchen table. I put my hand to my forehead.
It was belching sweat onto fronds of hair.
"I got an
earlier flight," he said. "Everything OK?"
fine," I said in a high strangled voice, not daring to look behind
"Come and give
me a hug, then."
God he looked sexy
- slightly unshaven, with his shirt buttons undone so I could see the
start of his hairy chest. I started gingerly towards him, but turned my
head and saw the Thing skimming across the wooden floor.
"Don't move!" I cried "It's in the flat!"
The Thing waited,
flaccid, beige and hideous. It was the kind of creature which would
suddenly spring towards one and fasten itself to one's neck, sucking
blood, burying itself in the flesh and incubating offspring which would
wriggle about under the skin then burst out like the Alien emitting a
high pitched noise and causing excruciating pain.
said Mark, looking at me oddly, "I haven't seen you for six weeks
and now you're behaving as if you're in some sort of 1970's low-rent
detective series. What in the name of arse is going on?" He shook
his head and headed for the sofa.
move!" I yelled. But the Thing didn't follow him. Clearly I was its
target. It was stalking me. But stalking in a surreptitious manner:
lying dormant then, the minute my back was turned, leaping after me. It
was not - even for a blood sucking amoeba - dealing a straight bat.
Well, two could play at that game.
Cautiously, I moved
backwards towards the kitchen table and felt for the French cooks knife.
Damn. It wasn't there. It was by the toaster. I made a lunge for the
knife, turning as I did so to see the Thing in full leap.
there," I pointed, scrambling onto the table at which the Thing
started skimming towards me across the floor. "It's evil! It wants
to penetrate my flesh."
God," yelled Mark. "Oh Christ, Oh Christ, what is it?"
Before I knew it he
was on the table beside me.
me!" he bellowed. "It's you it's after! Give me the
We stayed there,
frozen, staring at the tiny thing: Mark in the posture of a Greek or
Roman warrior with the knife brandished high in one hand, his other arm
holding me protectively behind him.
After a while we
began to feel foolish.
embarrassedly: "Look, this is ridiculous. There must be some
though?" I whispered, "When I came in it was at the bottom of
the stairs and now it's in the flat."
"But look at
it, it's pathetic."
I said. "It may understand us."
worriedly at the Thing. Keeping his eyes trained on it, still gripping
the knife tightly, he whispered: "It only moves when you move. Now
very slowly, creep to the other end of the table."
I did as he said,
inching slowly. There was no reaction from the Thing.
"Look this is
plainly just..." began Mark in a loud bossy voice. "Oh my
Christ alive!" In a lightning second the Thing had flipped six
inches and come to rest against a pair of Agnes B platforms.
"OK I'm going
for the Bastard," said Mark. "Stay there."
I cried desperately, but he was off the table and approaching the Thing,
knife brandished like a dagger. With a cry like a Japanese about to
commit Hara-kari he brought the knife down right into its very heart.
it!" I cried, but he was already picking up the knife with the
Alien skewered on the point: floppy, feeble and apparently dead. To my
horror, he reached towards it with his bare hand.
"Stop! It may
be playing dead! It may be contagious!"
Bridget," said Mark. "This isn't an alien parasite, it's the
toe of a pair of tights."
alive," I said. "It was chasing me. You saw it."
He held something
up between a thumb and forefinger. "I think it must have attached
itself to your shoe via a nylon thread."
Just then the phone
rang... "Oh hello, darling!" boomed the answer phone.
"Mummy here. Aren't you back yet? I thought you'd be getting ready
for Mark. Isn't it lovely now it's Spring? - just the weather for nice
bright colours. In fact, I was just talking to Mary who works in
Debenhams and she says that men really don't like the way girls just
wear black all the time, particularly if they've been away to warmer
Mark sighed and
picked up the phone. "Hello Mrs. Jones. Yes everything's shipshape.
Just been ambushed by the toe of a pair of tights... yes... yes. Bit
busy now, we'll talk to you tomorrow. Yes she's very brightly coloured.
Bright red in fact. Good to be back. Bye now!"
He turned and
looked at me levelly. "Now Bridget. Why would you have the toe of a
pair of tights in your flat?"
I thought about
this. And then I remembered that the other night I was going out in a
pair of shoes with a peaked toe, and I didn't want the seamy end of the
tights to show through. So I cut the toes out and sealed the edges in
nail varnish. Mark nodded as I explained, and surmised that the toe must
have attached itself to my shoe when I left in the morning, got left in
the hall when I closed the door, then I must have picked it up again
when I came in.
"It's the sort
of freak incident which would only stand up in court of law through the
sheer unlikeness of its explanation," he said wryly.
I said, with Stepford Wife-like gaiety, trying to get things back on
track, "Glass of wine
and a snack? I just need to watch my programme - check it all went out
OK. Do you mind? Then we can relax?"
Mark sat down
wearily running his hands through his hair while I bustled about serving
up a little dish of Marks and Spencer's canapés and wine and organising
said brightly, as the Sit Up Britain titles came on the screen. This
would show him! "I'll just fast forward till I get to the Science
section." I paused when Regent's Park came up, pressed Play then
recoiled in horror. There were the shots I'd done of the park, but with
someone else's voice over - a man's. It was Horrible Harold from the
research team. "Yes today is Terrific Tuesday!!" he gushed
horrifyingly. "Sit Up Britain says 'welcome back' to the women of
Britain's terrific figures as they peel off the layers for the start of
Spring. Even our own reporter got into the swing of things."
accompanied by gay fifties holiday music, there was a long shot of me
running after one of the interviewees brandishing a release form and
jiggling up and down in my T-shirt. I turned the telly off in a panic
just as the phone rang again.
Shazzer," came a sobbing sheep's voice over the answer phone.
"Pick up, Bridge, please. It's an emergency. It's Alex. He's not an
actor at all he's a painter and decorator. And he's just told me he
thinks he might be gay."
"I'm going to
have a shower," said Mark abruptly.
After I'd comforted
Shazzer as best I could I put the phone down and sat, breathing
unsteadily, repeating to myself, "Am mature, calm, professional
woman of substance." It had not, clearly, been a very good start.
Bravely I got up
and knocked on the bathroom door.
"Mark, I'm so
sorry, I'm so sorry," I gabbled. "I wanted it to be calm and
spiritual for you. I'd got all lovely food and I was going to get all
dressed up and I wanted to show you that I was doing serious
professional work. And Sit Up Britain was a total stitch up. They
butchered my scientific item."
The bathroom door
suddenly opened. Mark was all steamy and damp, dressed just in towel.
"You're never going to change, are you?" he said, looking down
at me with a mixture of amusement and... pity? "I am!" I said
indignantly. "I have changed. How was I to know I was going to be
pursued by tight-toes and stitched up by a tit-crazed TV lunatic?"
Mark started laughing.
"You have to
get away from that moron and that job," he said. "And really,
I think you'd be safer where I can keep an eye on you, in the country
where the X-files was actually created. Why don't you hand in your
notice tomorrow and come back with me?"
but..." I spluttered. "I thought you didn't want me to anymore
because I was too... too..."
Mark took me in his
arms. "Listen," he whispered into my hair. "I've been
without you for six weeks. I haven't laughed, I haven't been scared out
of my wits, my heart hasn't beat faster for one single moment. When I'm
alone there are no mad mothers, tearful Shazzers, or road traffic
accidents. Kitchen tables are for eating from not standing quivering
with terror on, tights are tights, not parasitical aliens. And it's
terminally, stultifyingly, mind blowingly boring. Hand in your
resignation tomorrow, pack up and come back with me?"
change your mind?
change my mind," he said starting to kiss my neck deliciously.
do?" I said weakly.