Chapter Sixteen

So that’s it. Nate and I are finished. Our great love affair is over.

It lasted the grand sum of a week.

‘Well, strictly speaking, it lasted less than a week,’ points out Robyn blithely. Then seeing my expression, adds quickly, ‘Ten years and less than a week.’

It’s Sunday morning and Robyn and I have taken the dogs for a walk in Battery Park, which basically means we’re sitting on the grass in the sunshine eating ice creams, while Simon and Jenny snuffle around by our feet.

‘I still can’t believe it,’ I say, taking a defiant lick of my ice cream.

‘You mean about breaking up or what he said about . . .?’ She trails off and gives me a look that says, You know.

I’d told Robyn about the argument and she’d nodded supportively and enthusiastically yelled, ‘Go, girl,’ at all the right moments. When it came to his comments about my thighs, she’d sharply sucked in her breath and gone completely silent with shock. Which for Robyn is saying something.

Or not, as it turned out.

‘Both,’ I answer, biting off another large chunk of my double-chocolate fudge whatever-it-is in an act of rebellion. ‘And to think I was in love with him for all those years.’

‘Better to have loved and lost,’ remarks Robyn sagely.

‘I haven’t lost him!’ I gasp indignantly. Simon stops snuffling in the grass and cocks up his ears, looking startled. ‘I broke up with him!’

Robyn looks confused. ‘I thought he broke up with you,’ she says uncertainly.

‘Well, he did . . . sort of,’ I admit grudgingly. ‘We broke up with each other. After we’d had that big argument in the cab.’

‘Well, at least you agreed on something,’ she says brightly.

Robyn never ceases to amaze me with her determination to see the positive in everything. Whatever disaster befalls her, she’s never negative. She could get wrongly arrested for drug-smuggling in Thailand, be sentenced to life in prison and thrown into a jail where no one speaks English and she’d probably say how it was a wonderful opportunity to have some ‘me-time’ and learn a new language.

‘I suppose so.’ I nod doubtfully.

‘Are you upset?’

I stop to think about it. Am I?

‘No,’ I say, after a pause.

As I say it, I feel a twinge of surprise. I thought I would be more than upset. I thought I would be devastated. After all, wasn’t he supposed to be my soulmate? The man whom I couldn’t live without. The person who completes me.

Er, no, Lucy, that’s Jerry Maguire.

‘Well, that’s good,’ Robyn is saying cheerfully. ‘A break-up is one thing, but heartbreak is another.’ She rolls her eyes as if to say she’s been there, and I nod in recognition.

Only this time I don’t feel heartbroken at all.

‘I’m stunned, I suppose,’ I confess. ‘And disappointed. He’s not who I thought he was. But then I suppose I wasn’t either.’ I look down at my ice cream. My defiance has melted along with it. ‘I was in love with the idea of him. An ideal of him. Of who I thought he was. Of who he used to be.’

I’m thinking out loud now as my mind mulls over everything. Last week seems like a dream. A huge blur. A rollercoaster of emotions. It all happened so fast that I never really paused to think about it. I didn’t want to stop and think about it. I was falling madly in love again and it was so exhilarating. Seeing him again. Discovering he still loved me. We both got carried away. We didn’t even pause to think that maybe we were falling in love with different people. Caught up in the lust, the moment, the sheer thrill, it was like diving into the ocean.

And now, finally, I’ve come up for air.

‘I was in love with the romance of it all, of getting back together with my first love. I think we both were,’ I say eventually.

‘We all were,’ nods Robyn supportively. ‘It was super romantic.’

‘I mean, I really thought he was my soulmate, but now . . .’ I trail off sadly.

‘But now you’ve realised he isn’t, and that’s OK.’ Seeing my glum expression, Robyn immediately springs into her cheerleader role. ‘So what if it’s taken you ten years? Better late than never.’

‘I thought you said Nate and I were meant to be together, that we were just puppets and it was the power of the universe, our destiny,’ I say sulkily.

Robyn colours. ‘Well, that’s true. It did all seem like too much of a coincidence, like it was meant to be, and you did seem very cute together.’ She pauses. ‘Are you sure it’s over?’

‘A hundred per cent.’

‘Hmm.’ She licks her ice cream thoughtfully. She looks unconvinced.

‘I suppose I’m also a bit angry,’ I confess.

‘You know, I’m sure he didn’t really mean that comment,’ Robyn says quickly.

I shake my head. ‘No, not at Nate, at myself. I feel a bit stupid. All these years I believed that I could never be properly happy without him. I’d built him up into this perfect guy, this great love.’ I pause and tug at some tufts of grass. ‘Now I feel like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz when she pulls back the curtain and sees the wizard is just a little old man pulling lots of levers.’

‘I felt like that when I went to my high-school reunion and saw Brad Poleski,’ says Robyn supportively. ‘When I was sixteen, I had the biggest crush. I couldn’t even look at him. He was like a god. Then I met him again last year and he was just this little guy who ran a dry-cleaning company and lived in Ohio. He was just so normal.’ She shakes her head, her green eyes flashing as she thinks back.

‘It was like one minute I was crazy about him and then the next . . .’ I trail off.

God, I didn’t realise I was so fickle.

‘It can happen,’ nods Robyn. ‘Once, it happened to me right in the middle . . .’ She raises her eyebrows, like something out of a Carry On film.

‘Middle of what?’

‘When we were, you know.’

‘Oh God, really?’ Suddenly it registers. ‘What happened?’

‘He was a Hare Krishna and—’

‘Can Hare Krishnas have sex?’

‘Well, he wasn’t great and the chanting was a bit distracting.’ She pauses. ‘Oh, you mean, are they allowed to have sex because of their religious beliefs?’ She gasps, her eyes wide. ‘Actually, I don’t know.’ She stops to think for a moment, her face screwed up in concentration. ‘Anyway, where was I?’

‘Having sex,’ I remind her.

‘Oh, yeah.’ Brushing her curls out of her face, she looks at me intently. ‘He was on top of me and I looked up and saw his bald head and suddenly, out of the blue, I got this image of Fred, my niece’s tortoise. You know the way they stretch their little heads out of their shell . . .?’ She does an impression. ‘Trust me, it was never the same again. Which was a shame, as I used to like his cooking. All those mung beans. Mmm . . .’

As Robyn chatters away nineteen to the dozen, I feel myself cheering up. Well, it’s impossible not to with Robyn around.

‘Saying that, boy, did they give me gas.’

A giggle erupts from me. ‘Haven’t you ever heard of the phrase “Too much information”?’ I laugh.

‘Of course. I just ignore it.’ She grins and then suddenly she sits up like a meerkat. Her body is on high alert, like when Simon and Jenny spot a squirrel.

‘What have you seen?’

‘A dark, handsome stranger. Two o’clock.’ She gestures towards the lake.

Oh-oh. I know what this means.


‘Could be.’ She nods, putting on her sunglasses and slinking down into the grass.

I suddenly feel as if we’re on a stakeout.

‘So what happened with Daniel the other night?’ I ask, trying to steer the topic from an imaginary male into a real one. ‘When I left, you were looking pretty cosy.’

‘Oh, we had fun. He’s cute,’ she says distractedly, her eyes still fixed on the dark, handsome stranger. Any minute now I wouldn’t be surprised if she dug out some binoculars. ‘He asked me out on a date tomorrow night . . .’

‘A date?’ I repeat excitedly. ‘You didn’t tell me that!’

‘ . . . but of course I said no.’

‘Because he’s not Harold,’ I say flatly.

‘Exactly.’ She nods, ignoring my obvious disapproval. ‘I told him we had no future.’

I look at her aghast. ‘You told him that? You told him about Harold?’

‘Of course,’ she says, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world to tell a man she’s just met that she can’t date him because a psychic told her she was going to meet a dark, handsome stranger called Harold.

But then for Robyn I suppose it is.

‘Why wouldn’t I?’ she asks.

Because he’ll think you’re a total fruitcake, I want to say, but instead opt for a more diplomatic ‘But if you went on a date, you might discover you really like him.’

‘Exactly. That’s what I’m afraid of,’ she says, shooting me a strained look. ‘Because then what am I going to do when I meet Harold?’ Quickly she glances back across the lake. ‘Oh crap.’

I follow her gaze. The dark, handsome stranger has his hand round a heavily pregnant woman.

‘Anyway, I’ve agreed to go out with him. Not on a date date, just as friends.’ She sighs, brushing the grass off her skirt and standing up, ready to leave.

‘Good.’ I nod approvingly, hauling myself up. ‘Maybe this way you’ll really get to like him.’

‘No, don’t say that!’ She looks panicked. ‘That can never happen. What am I going to do when I finally meet Harold?’

Note it’s not ‘if’, it’s ‘when’.

‘But what if when you finally meet him, you and Harold don’t get along?’ I reason, as we start walking through the park towards the exit.

She throws me a look as if to say, That’s not very nice, Lucy, and refuses to be drawn. ‘Oh, by the way, a client gave me two free tickets for the theatre next week,’ she says, swiftly changing the subject. ‘That new play on Broadway, Tomorrow’s Lives. I wondered if you wanted to go.’

‘Ooh, yes,’ I say eagerly. ‘I’ve never seen a play on Broadway.’

See. I’m not going to sit around moping about you, Nathaniel Kennedy, flashes through my brain.

‘But the thing is, I can’t go. I’ve got a healing conference. So if you want to ask someone to go with you, like, oh, I dunno . . .’ The name ‘Nate’ escapes silently from her mouth and hangs above her in a cartoon bubble.

‘I’ll ask my sister,’ I say firmly.

Winding a curl round her finger, Robyn pauses thoughtfully. ‘Lucy, I don’t want to interfere, but are you certain this isn’t just a lovers’ tiff?’

‘Definitely not.’ I shake my head determinedly. ‘In fact . . .’ Suddenly remembering something, I stop walking, reach my fingers into my T-shirt and pull out my half-coin pendant. I haven’t taken it off since Nate and I put them back on again. Looping it over my head, I chuck it into a nearby bin.

And turning to Robyn, who’s staring at me in disbelief, I say, ‘Now do you believe me?’

With endings come new beginnings, and later that day, back at the apartment, I decide to have a clear-out. Fresh start and all that. I’ve got junk everywhere and so I spend the rest of Sunday sorting stuff out and throwing lots away. Including my ‘Nate file’, which is full of old photographs, letters and mementoes that I’ve kept all these years and carted around with me wherever I’ve gone.

Now it’s time to let go, I tell myself firmly, chucking the whole lot in the bin. Time to move on.

Before I go to sleep that night, I put my phone on charge. I haven’t heard from Nate, but then I didn’t expect to. For a brief moment I think about sending him a sort of goodbye-but-no-hard-feelings text, then decide against it. Things are still a bit too raw. Best leave it until the dust settles, then send an email saying something mature and philosophical about love and relationships.

Maybe even one day we’ll become friends like Bruce and Demi, and go on holidays together with our new partners. Whenever anyone asks us, we’ll talk fondly about each other and laugh and reminisce. I’ll even laugh about those pineapple boxer shorts and how he’s always on the phone. It will be endearing, as will my lateness and messiness and purple hair.

 I’d still want to kill him about his comment about my thighs, though.

I wake up on Monday morning feeling positive. It’s a new day, the first day of the rest of my life. After yesterday’s cathartic throwing-away of the old, it’s time to welcome the new. Just consider, I’m never going to have to think about Nate again. He’s never going to pop wistfully into my head when a song comes on the radio, and I’m never again going to get a pang of ‘What if?’ when I see a couple cosying up together. It’s incredible.

Like a whole weight has been lifted from my shoulders, I muse, happily sipping my extra-shot latte as I walk to work. Listening to my iPod, I stride down the street with a real spring in my step. I feel lighter, freer—

‘I hear wedding bells!’

Pushing open the door of the gallery, I’m greeted by Magda charging over to greet me, her stilettos clattering loudly on the polished concrete like a drum roll.

‘What?’ Pulling out my earphones, I stare at her in confusion.

‘You and Nathaniel! Can you hear them!’ she exclaims, cupping her hand against her ear.

I stand still in shock, all thoughts of being lighter and freer and never hearing his name again vanishing into the ether.

‘It will be amazing. You should have it at the Plaza. I have a friend, Ernie Wiseman, who can give you a fabulous deal on the flowers.’

I feel a sickening thud. How am I going to break the news to Magda that it’s over?

‘Actually, I don’t think there’s going to be a wedding,’ I say tactfully.

Well, let’s start with the obvious.

‘I know, I know, you want a long engagement.’ She shrugs her tiny shoulders, which are encased in two huge shoulder pads. ‘You want time to plan, to organise, to make it all perfect, but let me tell you, you need to get him up the aisle in the first three months, three months I tell you.’

Faced with the ten-ton truck that is Magda careering towards me in full wedding-at-the-Plaza mode, softly-softly isn’t going to cut it.

‘We broke up,’ I blurt.

For a moment Magda’s mouth continues moving but no words come out. Then letting out a howl, like a wounded animal, her Gucci heels appear to buckle beneath her and she clings on to the reception desk.

‘No, no,’ she wails, finding her voice. ‘This cannot be true!’

‘I’m sorry. It just didn’t work out,’ I try explaining, but Magda’s turned pale, even underneath that Hamptons tan and thick layer of pearlised blusher, and is staring at me with a stricken expression. Though that could be the result of a visit to her ‘friend’ Dr Rosenbaum, I reflect, spotting the telltale signs of bruising around her eyes.

‘But he has Italian shoes,’ she manages to croak.

‘I made a mistake,’ I fib desperately. ‘They were from Banana Republic.’

Magda is undeterred. ‘Don’t worry, we can fix that,’ she says, a look of pure determination in her eyes. ‘I know the manager at Bergdorf. I can get fifty per cent off a pair of Pradas.’

‘No, truly, it’s fine,’ I say hastily. ‘We weren’t right for each other.’

Magda looks at me like I’m speaking a foreign language. ‘What does that have to do with anything?’ she gasps, incredulous. ‘I have had three husbands and none of them was right for me!’

She says this so indignantly that it takes a moment for it to register, and when it does, I’m not quite sure how it’s supposed to lend support to her argument.

‘At least the gallery opening went well,’ I say cheerfully, deciding not to ask and instead changing the subject. Quickly skirting round to the computer, I flick it on and start checking our emails. ‘Fingers crossed it helps business.’

‘Hmm,’ she says sulkily.

‘And we’ve got a few emails here about the food, saying how delicious the meatballs were,’ I continue, looking over for a reaction. There’s a vague stirring of her head and her golden beehive tips slightly.

‘Oh, and I saw my friend Robyn and she said she and Daniel are going out on a date,’ I say, in a last-ditch effort. OK, so it’s not strictly true. And I’m prostituting my friend. But give me a break. I’m desperate.

It works. Magda’s head shoots up, like Jenny’s and Simon’s when you say, ‘W.A.L.K.’

‘They are? I knew it! What did I tell you? When it comes to matchmaking, I am never wrong.’ She shoots me a pointed look, which I quickly deflect.

‘Yes, isn’t it great,’ I enthuse. ‘They seem like a really good couple.’

‘A good couple? They are the perfect couple,’ she boasts, raising herself up to her full height of four foot eleven. ‘Though my son never tells me anything,’ she grumbles as an afterthought. ‘He thinks I will tell everyone, that I have a big mouth.’ She looks at me, affronted. ‘Me? A big mouth?’ Clutching her chest, which, like everything on Magda, looks suspiciously pert, she gasps theatrically, ‘I am the soul of discretion. The very soul.’

‘Absolutely.’ I nod gravely, clicking on an email from the photographer we hired for the opening. A whole set of pictures open up. ‘Who’s that?’ I ask, peering at a photograph of a particularly attractive older woman. ‘She looks very glamorous.’

I swivel the screen, so Magda can see, and she tuts loudly.

‘Well, what do you expect?’ she exclaims, rolling her eyes. ‘That’s Melissa Silverstein. She blackmailed her millionaire husband when she discovered he was having an affair.’ Leaning closer, she lowers her voice. ‘I shouldn’t really say, as she told me in confidence, but she found him in bed with the gardener . . .’

After Magda has divulged the innermost secrets of her friend, giving proof, if any was needed, that perhaps Daniel does have a point and discretion and Magda don’t go together, it’s business as usual and the rest of the morning is taken up with admin and paperwork.

Then it’s lunchtime and I’m going to Katz’s for our regular order, being served by the same grumpy man behind the counter who never speaks and walking back to the gallery with Magda’s hot matzo-ball soup and pastrami-on-rye sandwich. The only difference being that today I decide to skip my usual tuna melt and grab a coffee and an apple.

No particular reason. It hasn’t got anything to do with Nate’s comment about my thighs, for example. Or that I now know that tuna melts are hideously fattening because I Googled them earlier and they’ve got about a million calories or something and all that melted cheese is just waiting to hijack your thighs and cover them in dimples.

No, it’s really strange. I just don’t have an appetite today at all, I muse, sipping my coffee as I stride down the street. My stomach isn’t gurgling because I’m hungry. It’s just making a funny noise because . . .Well, I’m not sure why, but I’m sure there must be lots of reasons.


I let out a yelp as someone bashes right into me, knocking my arm and spilling coffee all down my top. ‘Watch where you’re going,’ I yell.

See, I’m becoming much more like a New Yorker. In the past it would have been an apologetic ‘Sorry!’, but not now, I think, looking down with dismay to see my top is covered in rapidly spreading brown splodges.

‘Hey, why don’t you watch where you’re going,’ yells back the person who just bashed into me.

God, what a cheek!

Looking up, I wheel round angrily. Hang on a minute, it was—


We both say it at the same time. It sounds in stereo as I look at the man standing opposite me in a smart grey suit, the person who just knocked into me because he wasn’t looking, who just ruined my top and scalded me with hot coffee because he was too busy yakking away on his phone to look where he was going.

And it’s Nate.

He’s staring at me, a shocked expression on his face.

‘I’ll call you back,’ he says sharply into his Bluetooth headset.

I look at him in astonishment. I can’t believe it. It’s him. Of all people on the streets of Manhattan, I have to go and bump into him!

Correction: he has to bash into me.

Suddenly my astonishment is overtaken by anger. ‘You need to look where you’re going when you’re on the phone,’ I snap with annoyance.

His face clouds over. ‘You walked straight into me.’

‘No, I didn’t!’ I gasp. I feel a stab of fury. Trust Nate to make out it was my fault. ‘You were chatting on your phone and not paying attention. Look, you’ve spilled coffee all over me!’ Grabbing my now coffee-soaked shirt, which looks like something that’s been tie-dyed by Robyn, I waggle it at him furiously.

If I was expecting him to be apologetic, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

‘Well, I did warn you about drinking coffee,’ he says evenly.

I glare at him. ‘What? So it’s my fault?’

‘Well, it’s not my fault you’re drinking coffee, now, is it?’

‘It’s your fault you were on your phone and walked straight into me,’ I retort impatiently.

‘You walked straight into me,’ he fires back.

We’re going round in circles and we both break off and glower at each other. I can’t believe it. Until last week I hadn’t seen him for ten years. And I’d spent those ten whole years fantasising about bumping into him and yet it never happened. Now here I am, randomly bumping into him in the street.

‘By the way, you left a few toiletries at mine,’ he says awkwardly, stuffing his hands in his pockets and jingling his loose change. ‘I was going to post them to the gallery.’

‘Oh, don’t bother. Just throw them away,’ I say quickly.

God, it’s come to this. One minute we were ripping each other’s clothes off, the next we’re discussing the disposal of my toothbrush.

‘OK, well, I guess that’s it, then . . .’

‘Yup, I guess so.’

For a moment neither of us says anything and then his iPhone starts ringing, like a bell calling time on the relationship. It’s a fitting ending.

‘Look, I need to take this . . .’

‘Yeah, sure.’ I nod. ‘Goodbye, Nate.’

And leaving him standing in the middle of the street, I turn and walk away.

After all these years I’ve finally put him behind me, and this time there’s no looking back.

You're the One That I Don't Want