Beth opened the door of her apartment. Tilting her head she listened to the sound of Ravelâ€™s Bolero filling the small space. â€œDamnâ€, she muttered under her breath. She knew what that meant, and she was NOT in the mood.
Frowning, she wondered how Finlay could have known that she was on her way home. She had not let him know that the meeting had been cancelled. She hung up her coat, took off her shoes and put them in the shoe cupboard, automatically reaching for Finlayâ€™s shoes and jacket on the floor, where he had left them. Untidy bugger.
She stared at the second pair of shoes next to Finlayâ€™s scuffed Converse boots. Red high heels. Not her red high heels. Where did they come from?
With a mounting sense of dread, she walked through the apartment, the dadadaduuuum of Bolero booming in her ears. The music rose to a crescendo as she opened the door of her bedroom. There on her bed â€“ the bed that she bought from her very first wage packet â€“ the bed that she had shared with Finlay for the past two years â€“ was Finlay. And the red shoes lady. He was shagging another woman. In her bed. To Bolero. Was there another clichÃ© left unturned? Could he be any more bloody predictable?
â€œWhat the FUCK are you doing?â€, she screamed, even as she realised what a stupid question that was. It was obvious what they were doing â€“ he was thrusting in time to the music, for Godâ€™s sake.
Stalking over to the docking station on the armoire, she snatched up the iPhone, cutting Ravel off. In the silence that followed, two shocked faces turned towards her. â€œFuck. Fuck. Beth. Itâ€™s not what it looks likeâ€, he stammered.
His blonde hair falling down over her forehead, in that preppy way that she always found aBethble, Finlay reached for her. Beth snorted, â€œIt bloody well is what it looks like. Youâ€™re shagging another woman in my bedâ€, she looked more closely at the woman. â€œDo I know you?â€.
MsRedHighHeels was recovering her poise remarkable quickly, she must have been in this position before, Beth mused cattily. â€œShannon. We met at the band rehearsal last week. The bass player is my brother.â€ Beth remembered her now. She had been all over the band, flirting and fluttering her eyelashes. Groupies were a part of being in a band, but Finlay had always said that he wasnâ€™t interested in them. Beth wondered if this one was the first.
â€œRight, get out. Both of you. Finlay, you can come back tomorrow to pick up your things. I donâ€™t want to see you againâ€.
Turning on her heel, she stormed out of the bedroom, pausing only to drop Finlayâ€™s beloved iPhone into the glass of beer that was still sitting next to the sofa from last night. He sprang out of bed, vaulted across the sofa to rescue his phone in the most energetic display that she had seen in months. â€œYou BITCHâ€, he howled. She gazed at him, naked except for a pair of white tennis socks, a dripping iPhone in his hand and smiled, â€œIâ€™m going to Starbucks for a coffee. I â€˜ll be back in 30 minutes. You and your floozy had better be gone by thenâ€.
â€œFloozy? You didnâ€™t really call her a floozy, did youâ€, Bethâ€™s best friend struggled with laughter.
â€œI did. It suited her. Alex, you should have seen the red high heels. Bloody wicked witch of the West. Itâ€™s all right, you can laugh.â€
â€œSorry, I know itâ€™s not funny but the thought of him playing the sophisticated seducer â€“ why on earth was he playing Bolero?â€
â€œItâ€™s the only classical music on his iPhone â€“ I think it was on a compilation of 50 Best TV Sports Moments or something. He liked to play it when we… well, you knowâ€, Beth admitted.
Alex lost it. She laughed until tears ran down her face. After a moment, Beth joined in. It took some time until she was composed enough to say, â€œI know itâ€™s awful, but he said that it made him feel like James Bondâ€, which set them off again.
They were a striking pair of women, even without the borderline hysteria. Beth attracted attention wherever she went â€“ it was inevitable when you had flame coloured hair and green eyes. For work she kept her hair tamed in a neat(ish) bun at the nape of her neck. Or at least it was neat when she left the house in the morning. As soon as she left work, she took the pins out of her hair; it was almost a ritual, shaking the dayâ€™s work out of her hair as she walked home. Her tall rangy figure striding along the streets of London made heads turn.
Alex liked to joke that she became friends with Beth because they were such opposites. Bethâ€™s wild red curls and Alexâ€™s sleek dark bob. Where Beth was tall and slim, Alex was short and curvy. Voluptuous. â€œOh, alright, overweight, dammitâ€, Alex would complain, â€œand there is nothing worse than being the fat friend of a gorgeous skinny womanâ€.
Beth would retort that she would sell her grandmother if she could have Alexâ€™s boobs,, and so they would banter on, each secure in the knowledge that there was no malice behind their comments, but deep and honest affection.
After several minutes of uncontrollable laughter, Beth took a deep breath, trying to stop sniggering. She signalled the waiter to bring another two drinks. Meeting Alex for drinks was a much better idea than sitting in Starbucks crying into a Chai Latte. The first thing she had done on leaving the apartment was to phone Alex, who had told her boss that there was a family emergency and she had to leave early.
The waiter strutted towards them, his bad boy pose studied, his dark eyes smouldering. Placing fresh drinks in front of them, he smiled seductively at the two women. â€œCan I do anything else for you ladies?â€ he asked, as he raised an eyebrow.
Beth looked at her friend, biting the inside of her mouth to keep from laughing, â€œThank you, we are completely satisfied for nowâ€, she smiled. He retreated, sighing as the sound of sniggers, then giggles, and finally full blown hysterical laughter followed him back to the bar.
Beth sobered suddenly. â€œI guess this makes the decision easier â€“ I was offered a new job today, but was going to turn it down.â€
â€œWhat?â€, Alex struggled to catch up, â€œA new job? Why were you going to turn it down?â€
â€œItâ€™s in Geneva. Itâ€™s a great opportunity but I stupidly hesitated because I didnâ€™t think that Finlay would go with me. Seems I donâ€™t have to worry about that any more. It will also keep me out of his way. I canâ€™t see him just accepting that it is overâ€.
Alex nodded, â€œHeâ€™s far too fond of the cushy life to want to give you up. Donâ€™t look at me that way, Beth. You know heâ€™s a lazy bastard; heâ€™s been relying on you for months now, ever since he lost his jobâ€.
â€œIt wasnâ€™t his fault that he was fired. His boss hated him from the first dayâ€.
â€œMaybe, but he hasnâ€™t gone out of his way to find a new job. You have been supporting him for months, so that he can chase his dream of becoming the next Mick Jagger-â€œ
â€œOnly, slightly more attractive than old rubber face Jaggerâ€, Beth laughed. â€œI know youâ€™re right, but I was hoping that heâ€™d either find a new job or get famous. It has been a strain financially. If I go to Geneva, the company will pay the apartment there, so I could sell the flat here, or rent it out. It will give me a chance to pay off my Visa bill at last, and I could save some money to have a decent down payment when I return. It would be madness not to take the job, and it sounds like a really interesting assignment, but I would miss all my friendsâ€.
â€œTrust me, if you move to Geneva, you will have no end of visitors. It will be just like living here, but with better weather and sexier men. They speak French there, donâ€™t they? How is your French?â€
â€œSchoolgirlesque. I can ask the way to the Gare and ask for a room for the night, but that is about it. They speak English in the office so that wonâ€™t be a problem, and I guess Iâ€™ll pick up the lingo as I go along. Do you think I should do it?â€
â€œYes. Absolutely. And not just because I want a free holiday in Geneva,â€ Alex slung an arm around Bethâ€™s shoulders. â€œYou are 25 years old, single, intelligent, funny, attractive and a damn good friend. Have fun. Remember our New Yearâ€™s Resolution? Live More Bravely.â€
Beth nodded. â€œLive More Bravely. We promised we would do something special this year. This is itâ€.
Beth raised her glass, â€œA toast. To Living More Bravelyâ€, she declared.