Chapter Thirteen

Well, perhaps not everything.

To be frank, I would have preferred it if Nate’s iPhone hadn’t kept jingling every five minutes for the rest of the evening, and he hadn’t had to keep disappearing off to take calls from the studio.

And it was a bit annoying when afterwards we all decamped to a little Chinese restaurant round the corner and Nate wouldn’t eat any of the dim sum that I’d ordered for both of us. Or the sweet and sour chicken. Or the fried rice. Something about MSG and E numbers, apparently, which was a bit of a shame, as his steamed mixed vegetables didn’t look nearly as delicious.

Anyway, it’s not like it was a big deal, I’m just saying. Like it said in my fortune cookie, ‘Nothing will ever come between you and your lover.’ What’s a couple of phone calls and a few plates of dim sum between soulmates?

We all sit around a large table – me and Nate, Kate and Jeff, Robyn and Magda, who brings along her son, Daniel. Thankfully, it’s apparent as soon as I meet him that he’s one of those people who isn’t photogenic, as in the flesh he looks nothing like Austin Powers.

Well, I wouldn’t say nothing like, but put it this way, you wouldn’t meet him and think he’s going to yell, ‘Whoa, baby,’ and have a closet full of velvet suits and frilly shirts.

On learning Robyn’s single and Jewish, Magda immediately rolls up her matchmaking sleeves, and before you know it, she and Daniel are sitting side by side while Magda keeps everyone entertained with her outrageous stories, including the one about husband number two and a tube of superglue, despite her son turning bright red and begging her to stop. It would seem that there is something a Jewish mother loves more than her son, and that’s embarrassing him. At one point it was all he could do to stop her getting naked baby pictures out of her purse and showing everyone ‘what a beautiful baby he was. It was unbelievable!’

And then, before you know it, it’s late and we’re saying our goodbyes. Nate and I catch a cab back to his, even though my apartment is within walking distance, but like he says, why stay in my tiny shared apartment when we’ve got his penthouse all to ourselves? This way, it’s just us.

Plus about a million packing boxes, I note, stepping out of the elevator and coming face to face with another huge one that’s just been delivered. I swear as soon as he unpacks one, another appears.

‘Oh good, it’s arrived,’ he says.

‘What on earth’s in it?’ I gasp, squeezing past the large cardboard monolith that’s wedged in the hallway.

‘My elliptical,’ he says, as if I should know what an elliptical is.

And of course I do. Sort of. Not.

‘Oh, right.’ I nod breezily. ‘Great.’

Putting his keys and phone on the table, he takes off his jacket and hangs it over the back of a chair. Meanwhile I slide off my shoes and rub my sore feet. Normally at this point we’d be ripping each other’s clothes off, but I’m exhausted. It’s been a long day.

‘Sleepy?’ Nate catches me rubbing my eyes.

‘Um . . . just a little bit.’ I smile and stifle a yawn.

Well, I don’t want to put him off completely, do I? Who knows, I might get my second wind in a minute. Nate seems to have that effect on me. This past week I’ve practically turned into a nymphomaniac.

Pulling off my dress, I pad into the bathroom in my underwear to brush my teeth. A few seconds later Nate joins me in the bathroom in his boxer shorts, and for a moment we stand side by side brushing. Like a proper couple, I think, feeling a beat of contentment as I look at us reflected in the mirror above the sink.

Which is when I notice Nate’s boxer shorts reflected back at me.

No, surely not . . .

Until now I’ve been so busy ripping them off that I haven’t given them a second glance, but now I do.

And they have pineapples on them.

‘They’re not pineapples, they’re guavas,’ he corrects, when I tease him about them.

‘Where did you get them?’ I ask, giggling.

‘I don’t know.’ He shrugs, rinsing out. ‘Beth bought them for me.’

I feel a sting. Beth is Nate’s ex-wife.

‘She bought you novelty boxer shorts?’ I say, all jokingly, but my voice comes out a bit higher than usual. I don’t know which is more horrifying – that his wife bought them or that he’s wearing them.

‘She bought all my clothes. She took care of that stuff.’ Rinsing, he wipes his face on a towel and starts removing his contact lenses.

‘Well, I think it’s about time you bought some new ones,’ I suggest, trying to sound light and breezy while plotting how to get rid of the ones he’s wearing. ‘What about some nice Calvin Klein’s?’

‘Why? These are comfy,’ he grumbles.

Sliding my arm round his waist, I nuzzle the back of his neck. ‘You’d look really sexy in a pair of Calvin’s,’ I murmur suggestively.

‘What’s wrong with these?’

‘Nate, they have cartoon pineapples on them.’

‘Guavas,’ he corrects sulkily, disentangling himself and padding into the bedroom.

I let it drop and finish up in the bathroom, but there’s a distinct change in the mood, and when I climb into bed next to him, he doesn’t wrap his arm round me and pull me towards him, and I don’t snuggle up and rest my head on his chest.

And there’s not even a sniff of sex.

Instead we lie on separate sides of the bed and pretend like everything is normal.

‘I’m really tired. I think I’m going to crash,’ he says after a moment.

‘Me too,’ I say, even though now I’m wide awake.

‘OK, well, night, then.’


Then he rolls over, turns out the light and the room falls into darkness. And just like that, things don’t feel so perfect any more.

I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I know I’m being woken by a strange whirring noise.

Uh, what’s that?

Groggily brushing my hair away from face, I tip my head slightly on the pillow to try to hear better.

Whirr, thump. Whirr, thump. Whirr . . .

Where’s it coming from? Muffled and monotonous, it’s like some strange kind of backing track. For a moment I think it’s the neighbours upstairs. In my flat in London mine used to come in from clubbing on a Friday night and crank up the rave music. I bet that’s what it is, except . . .

We’re in the penthouse. There aren’t any neighbours upstairs.

Flummoxed, I prise open an eye, as if maybe I’m actually going to see what’s making this dull throbbing noise. The curtains are still drawn and the bedroom is in pitch-darkness – the only things in here are me and Nate.

And then I twig. It must be Nate snoring.

Not that he usually snores, but in my experience all a man has to do is roll on to his back and it’s like someone just turned on the waste-disposal. Reaching out my hand, I go to push him over.

But he’s not there.

Disconcerted, I sit up. Where’s he gone? I crick my head and look in the direction of the en suite. Maybe he’s gone to the loo, but nope, I can’t hear anything and he can’t have got up to do a you-know-what, otherwise there’d be a crack of light underneath the door. That’s another thing I’ve learned about men. For some reason, never explained to me, they always have to sit there and read a magazine on the job, so to speak.

I mean, why? Think of all the places to choose to catch up on your reading material, like curled up on the sofa, or lying in bed, or sprawled out on the grass in the park. Lots of lovely places. But no. It has to be the bog.

I’m still mulling this point as I slip out from the covers and pull on the dressing gown hanging behind the door. It’s one of those lovely white waffle ones that you get in expensive hotels, and bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to my raggedy old one that’s covered in loose threads.

Note to self: remember to hide it when Nate eventually comes over.

Opening the bedroom door, I pad into the hallway and catch sight of the sunrise breaking over the Manhattan skyline, triggering two thoughts: 1) Gosh, that’s so beautiful and 2) Fuck, it’s early.

A hippo-sized yawn overtakes me, and distracted by the noise, I turn my attention away from the window. The noise is even louder out here, and is that . . .?

Feeling a ripple of apprehension, I pause to listen.


Somewhere in the filing cabinet of my mind, my memory throws up a story I once heard about a friend who stumbled in on her boyfriend when he was watching a movie. Put it this way, it wasn’t the kind of movie you’d rent at your local Blockbuster. It was that kind of movie.

Oh God. Alarm stabs as I get an image of Nate—

I quickly pull myself together. OK, don’t panic. I’m a woman of the world. I’ve been around. Well, not that kind of around, but I’ve watched porn. Once, by accident, and for about two seconds. It was years ago and I was staying at a hotel with my parents and I pressed the wrong button on the remote. I don’t know who was more embarrassed, me or my mum.

Still, it’s fine. I’m totally cool. Just as long as he doesn’t want me to sit down and watch it with him, I think, suddenly remembering a letter I once read to an agony aunt and feeling a twinge of anxiety. I know, I’ll just tell him I’m busy, that I need to make a cup of tea, or update my Facebook, or something.

Steeling myself, I pin what I hope is a sort of I’m-totally-open-minded-and-I-once-had-sex-dressed-in-nurse’s-outfit-but-more-of-that-later expression on my face and head towards the living room. The panting is growing louder. And now there’s a sort of grunting.

Oh fuck. I swallow hard. Be cool, Lucy.

Trust me, I have never felt less cool. I’m wearing a waffle robe and I have purple hair and I’m about to walk in on my boyfriend while he’s—

‘ . . . and we should totally rethink our strategy of going out to the network with the pilot . . .’

On the phone and huffing and puffing up and down on a huge black exercise machine.

Frozen, I stare at him for a moment. I was prepared for all kinds of things, but this? Taken aback, I watch him. Red-faced and sweating profusely, he’s gripping on to the handles for dear life, his legs pumping away. He’s also naked apart from his pineapple boxer shorts, a Bluetooth headset, his glasses and a pair of very large, very white trainers.

Unexpectedly, a thought fires across my brain.

I don’t fancy him.

It hits me, sharp and hard, in the solar plexus.

No sooner has it registered than I brush it aside. I mean, who does look sexy when they’re exercising. I look terrible!

Well, if I exercised, that is.


I snap back to see Nate looking at me.

‘Hey, one minute, Joe,’ he pants, as I give a weak sort of wave. ‘You’re up early.’

I nod lamely. ‘So are you.’

‘Well, now my elliptical’s arrived I want to get back to my normal routine,’ he puffs in explanation.

So that’s what the big box was, I realise, watching as he presses a button and the whole thing starts inclining.

‘Also I had to make a few calls to the London office.’

‘On a Saturday?’

‘TV never stops,’ he grunts, tightening his grip on the handles and pumping his arms harder. ‘It’s twenty-four-seven.’

I watch the ramp getting steeper and steeper as he keeps striding.

‘Anyway, I better get back.’ He gestures to his earpiece.

‘Oh, right, yeah, of course.’ I nod. ‘I’ll go make some . . .’ I’m about to say ‘coffee’, as it’s such a force of habit, then remember that Nate doesn’t drink it. ‘ . . . juice,’ I finish.

‘Great. There’s some celery in the fridge.’ Breathlessly he breaks off to wipe his face with a towel. ‘I think there might be some beetroot too.’

‘Fab.’ I grin.

Celery? Beetroot?

With my smile still fixed to my face, I leave him huffing and puffing and pad into the kitchen, then pause as the enormity of what I’ve suggested sinks in. Me. In a kitchen. Using one of these gadgets.

Glancing around at all the scary-looking pieces of equipment lined up on the counter, my confidence deserts me. They look like evil torture devices. They are evil torture devices, I muse, remembering the one and only time I tried to use an electronic can-opener. It was like something out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Trust me, I still have the scar on my thumb to prove it.

It takes a few minutes to locate the juicer. To be truthful, I’m not sure how I could miss it with a name like Hercules. It’s a big silver monster of a thing and for a few moments I eye it warily, then screw up my courage. OK, so it looks scary and complicated, but how hard can it be? I’m making juice, for God’s sake. Rolling up the sleeves of my dressing gown, I tug open the fridge and grab the celery and beetroot.

I mean, come on, it’s hardly rocket science.


Ten minutes later I am deeply regretting that statement.

I’ve dismantled the machine, there are bits of it lying everywhere, and it’s still not working. I look at it, lying dismembered on the countertop next to some mouldy-looking organic celery and a misshapen beetroot. Seriously, I would have more chance of building a rocket than making juice.

For example, what’s this bit? Picking up a piece of the machine, I peer at it curiously. It’s like a cog with a wiggly bit on the end. I pick up another bit. This piece is sort of round with a hole in it. I stare at them both blankly. Now I know why I flunked physics.

However, there is hope. Flicking through the instruction manual, which I managed to locate in a drawer, I turn to Chapter One: Getting Started. See, it’s not all bad, I tell myself brightly. I’ve got the instructions: ‘1) Take the mesh strainer (part A) and attach it to the pulp extractor (part B), making sure the safety-locking clip (part C) is attached and the extra-large feed chute (part D) is in position.’

And I thought putting together cabinets from IKEA was difficult.

‘Hey, how you getting on?’ Nate yells from the living room, and I stiffen.

‘Great,’ I yell back, wishing I could do what they used to do in Blue Peter and produce one I’d made earlier. ‘Coming right up.’


Frantically grabbing at different parts, I manage to stuff Hercules back together and grab the celery and beetroot. It says to ‘feed them in one by one’, but I don’t have time for that and so I stuff the whole lot in together, then switch it on.

At exactly the moment I’m flicking the switch I spy another piece of the machine lurking by the side of the toaster. Oh, what does that bit do?


Suddenly that question is answered as I’m sprayed with bits of celery and beetroot. Juice starts squirting everywhere, all over the countertops, all over me, all over everything . . . I dive on the machine, trying to switch it off. Only I can’t even see where the switch is, as now I’ve got beetroot juice in my eyes, and the machine is making a loud grinding noise, and it’s shuddering, and I’m getting soaked, and—


Abruptly the machine falls silent and I twirl round to see Nate. Standing in the middle of the kitchen, he’s holding the flex, his face aghast.

‘It looks like a bloodbath in here!’

Dazedly I take in the sight. It’s like something from a horror film. Everywhere you look the walls are dripping with red liquid. It’s sprayed over the countertops, the stainless-steel fridge, the cooker, the utensils . . . and then there’s the celery pulp. Green clumps of it, flecks of it, little bits of it, all over his lovely pristine kitchen.

And me.

‘What the hell happened?’

‘Um . . . I-I was having a spot of trouble with the j-juicer,’ I stammer in shock. Mortified, I start trying to wipe the splatters of pulp from my face with the sleeve of my dressing gown.

‘No kidding.’ Grabbing a few sheets of kitchen roll, he passes them to me.

‘There was this piece missing.’

‘You mean the lid?’

The tone of his voice makes me bristle slightly.

‘Gosh, look, I’m so sorry. I’ll clear it all.’ Grabbing a dishcloth, I start frantically trying to clean up.

‘It’s probably going to ruin the marble countertop.’

‘Oh God, I’m so sorry, really.’

‘Marble’s porous, you know.’

‘Is it? Oh crap.’ I wipe faster. ‘Though it’s a bit silly to make a work surface out of it, then, isn’t it?’ I can’t help noting aloud as an afterthought.

‘Well, they don’t expect you to drown it in beetroot juice,’ he retorts.

‘I know. I’m sorry. It was just a total accident.’

And I’ve apologised three times, I feel like adding.

There’s a pause and then he sighs. ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. I suppose it’s not a big deal.’ Picking his way through the debris, he tugs open the fridge and reaches for a bottle of Evian. ‘I’d just forgotten how clumsy you are.’

Abruptly I feel myself prickle. OK, I admit I’m not the most coordinated of people, but still.

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ I reply stiffly, pausing from wiping the countertop.

‘In Italy don’t you remember you were always tripping over?’

‘Have you ever attempted walking in high heels on cobbles?’ I reply, trying not to sound defensive, and sounding defensive.

‘Or breaking things.’

I look at him in disbelief. ‘You’re never going to let me forget that vase, are you?’

‘It was expensive. It was Murano glass.’

‘I didn’t mean to drop it,’ I gasp. ‘It was all that spider’s fault. It just appeared from nowhere and it was huge, with those big, hairy black legs.’ I give a little shudder. ‘Anyway, I bought you another vase.’

‘True.’ He nods. ‘But they were all individually hand-blown. No two were alike.’

‘I can’t believe you’re still holding this against me. It was ten years ago.’

‘I’m just saying.’ He shrugs, unscrewing the bottle of Evian and taking a swig.

I look at him leaning up against the fridge, casually glugging back water, while I’m standing here soaked in beetroot juice and covered in sticky bits of celery pulp, scrubbing down his kitchen, and feel a stab of annoyance. Actually, it’s more than a stab – it’s a great big dollop of fury.

‘Well, don’t,’ I snap.

He stops drinking and glances at me sharply. ‘This mess isn’t my fault.’

‘No, it’s mine. I know, I’m clumsy.’ Turning away, I continue furiously wiping the countertop.

‘Well, if you were a bit more careful . . .’ he retorts.

‘If you bought juice in a carton like a normal person,’ I say hotly.

He scowls. ‘Oh, so I’m being blamed now.’

‘No, you’re just being patronising.’

There’s silence as Nate and I stare at each other angrily.

‘OK, well, I’m going to jump in the shower,’ he says gruffly after a pause. ‘I’ve got work to do today.’

It’s like a boxer’s jab. It’s the weekend. We’d made plans to spend it together.

I reel slightly, then quickly recover. ‘Yeah, I’m busy too,’ I say stiffly. ‘I’ll just finish clearing up and then I’ll go.’

Then before he can say anything else, I turn away sharply and start scrubbing the sink.

You're the One That I Don't Want