Bridget Jones:
This time I really
have changed

A short story by

Helen Fielding

© Helen Fielding 2001


Cast of characters

Bridget Jones - 30 something London Singleton on permanent doomed quest for self-improvement.

Jude and Shazzer - Bridget's joint best girlfriends.

Shazzer - Singleton, fond of boys until an optimum level of Chardonnay consumption is reached and then becomes radical man-hating feminist.

Jude - former Singleton, recently Married (attempting not to be Smug Married) to...

Vile Richard - her former commitment-phobic on-off boyfriend, now husband.

Mum - 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 Mark Darcy.

Mark Darcy - 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.

Sit Up Britain - the live TV 'current affairs' programme for which Bridget is a researcher/reporter.

Richard 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.


Singleton - replacement for poison outdated word 'Spinster'.

Smug 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."

V.G. - 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. 

Pre-Mark-return Resolutions 

I will: 

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 relationship.

Prove to Mark that am serious about career as top TV journalist.

Look elegant, 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. 

"That's fantastic!" I said, "What's he like? Where did you meet him?"

"At the gym! said Shaz excitedly.

Jude and I shared a now-worried glance, thinking: "Oh-oh. Not again: gay."

"He's only 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.

"He's an 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 judgmental eye....

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 peculiarly.

"Ah 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.

"Well! You're 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."

Honestly, sometimes Richard Finch's grasp of what constitutes Current Affairs programming is so scanty as to be indiscernible.

"OK Bridget," he said. "I want you in Regent's Park with a camera crew. I'm thinking Tits..."

"I gathered that," I said, darkly.

"...I'm 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 tight T-shirts."

"I'm not doing that!" I exclaimed. "It's just the sort of sexist dumming-down which is undermining our nation's broadcasting."

"Well, my 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!"

"Oh, hello 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..." 

"Mother, I'm 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 something?"

"Of course," I said graciously.

"I hope when I get to your age I look as good as you do."

"Oh, thank 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?

Anyway have finished item. Think it is rather good actually. Both interesting and informative. 

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? 

Midnight. Back 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.  

"Something the matter, Bridget?"

"Gaaah!" 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, fine," I said in a high strangled voice, not daring to look behind me.

"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.

"Bridget," 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. 

"Don't 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.

"Noooo!" I yelled.

"What?" said Mark.

"It's 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."

"Oh my God," yelled Mark. "Oh Christ, Oh Christ, what is it?" 

Before I knew it he was on the table beside me.

"Get behind me!" he bellowed. "It's you it's after! Give me the knife!" 

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.  

Mark coughed embarrassedly: "Look, this is ridiculous. There must be some reasonable explanation." 

"What, 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."

"Shhhh," I said. "It may understand us."

Mark looked 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."

"Nooooooooo!" 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.

"Don't touch 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!"

"Er, Bridget," said Mark. "This isn't an alien parasite, it's the toe of a pair of tights."

"But it's 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 climates and..." 

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. 

"Anyway" 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 the video. 

"OK!" I 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." 

And then, 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.

"It's 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.

"Hello?" said Mark.

"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... 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?"

"You won't change your mind?

"I won't change my mind," he said starting to kiss my neck deliciously. "Not ever."

"Whatever I do?" I said weakly.

"Whatever you do."