Chapter Twenty

Except it’s not that easy.

Unfortunately real life isn’t like cyberspace – I can’t just press delete and erase him – and over the next few days Nate keeps popping up everywhere. Not a literal boom! he’s right there in the flesh and standing next to me on the subway. Just small, random, apparently inconsequential things that by themselves seem like coincidences . . . but put together are starting to seem really weird.

Like, for example, I keep getting missed calls from him on my mobile. At first I just ignored them, but when one woke me up at 5 a.m., I finally called him back and demanded what he wanted.

‘Nothing,’ he replied angrily, before swearing blind he hadn’t rung me and it must have been an accident.

‘What? Twelve times?’ I huffed, before telling him he needed to learn how to lock his iPhone and hanging up.

Which by itself isn’t that bizarre. After all, who hasn’t sat on their phone and accidentally dialled someone, or answered a call from a friend only to hear their footsteps walking down the street?

What was bizarre was Nate calling me back the next day complaining that I was calling him! Which is impossible, ‘as my phone was locked’, I told him indignantly. Only later, when I checked my call log, sure enough there were all these calls to his number.

Then there was this funny incident when Magda sent me uptown in a cab to fetch some ‘supplies’ from her friend Dr Rosenbaum, a peculiar-looking man in a white coat who has a pink, shiny face that doesn’t move and huge offices overlooking the park. It was all very cloak and dagger. After punching in a secret code, I was ushered inside, asked to hand over the cash and given a bag of creams and potions. I felt as if we were doing a drug deal. Not that I’ve ever done a drug deal, but anyway, that wasn’t the strange part. The strange part was on the way back.

One minute everything was totally normal. I was trundling along in the cab and the driver was cursing away on his phone in what sounded like Russian, when suddenly the engine spluttered loudly and we broke down. Guess where we broke down? Right outside Nate’s apartment. I mean right outside. As if that wasn’t enough of a coincidence, it was at exactly the same time as Nate was leaving the building! I had duck down on the back seat so he didn’t see me. A few seconds more and it would have been too late. How weird was that?

  And it doesn’t stop there. Every time I turn on the TV, he’s on it. Admittedly not him personally, but Big Bucks is always playing. What’s even worse, I’ve now got the jingle in my head and I can’t stop humming it. It’s like there’s no escaping him. It’s the same with the radio. Only this time it’s Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’, which used to be ‘our’ song. Every time I hear it, it reminds me of Nate.

I haven’t heard it for years. Normally it’s Lady Gaga and Fergie and Katy Perry. Now suddenly, these past few days, every time I flick on the radio, it seems to be on every station. It’s totally freaky.

So freaky that it gets me thinking about all the other things that have niggled me recently but which I’ve brushed off. Like Nate’s confession that he had a strange desire to walk into our gallery one day, for no apparent reason, discovering that we’d been going to the same places for years and kept missing each other, both of us finding the pendants again, even though mine had been lost for years.

As one thought trips over another, like a row of dominoes, my mind starts whirring . . . bumping into him in the street after we’d broken up, sitting next to him at the sushi restaurant, the incident at the gym – Manhattan’s small, but not that small – and then the other night at the gallery, seeing all the TV screens tuned to his game show as I was talking to Adam, then Brad suddenly appearing just as Adam was about to ask me out on a date, mentioning Nate’s name and making him disappear . . .

If I was superstitious, I’d almost think there was some higher force trying to stop me from going out with anyone else.

I’m not superstitious, though. I don’t believe in all that rubbish, I tell myself firmly. OK, so I admit, I read my horoscope now and again, and yes, it’s true, I once saw a fortune-teller, but it was years ago at a school fête and of course I knew all along it was Mrs Cooper, the chemistry teacher, dressed up in a belly dancer’s outfit. There’s absolutely no way I would ever be like Robyn and believe in something silly like, for example, a legend about eternal love. Just because I’m Googling it doesn’t mean that I’m starting to have these completely insane thoughts about it coming true.

I type, ‘Legend of the Bridge of Sighs,’ and hit return. A page opens up:

Local Venetian legend tells that lovers who exchange a kiss as they pass beneath the Bridge of Sighs by gondola at sunset while the bells of St Mark’s are ringing will be guaranteed everlasting love and nothing will break them apart. For the rest of eternity they will never be parted.

Because, like I said, it’s just insane. Ridiculous. Completely bananas. Hurriedly clicking off the page, I have a quick peek at Facebook to see if Adam has replied to my message, but instead all I notice is Nate. He’s still there on my homepage! He’s still my Facebook friend! I stare at his photograph with a mixture of disbelief and incredulity.

Feeling a seed of panic, I frantically hit my keyboard.

Delete! Delete! Delete!

‘It’s like I can’t break up with him.’

Fast-forward to the weekend and I’m in a nail bar the size of a letterbox, in Chinatown. It’s Saturday afternoon, and together with Robyn and Kate, I’m ensconced in a massage chair, having my hands and feet attended to by two tiny Vietnamese ladies, who are furiously filing, clipping, cutting and scrubbing, while chattering away nineteen to the dozen.

This is my first time, but apparently this is a weekly ritual for every self-respecting female New Yorker. That probably explains the shocked reaction my nails received when I arrived. Do-it-yourself mani-pedis might suffice back in London, but in Manhattan it’s a totally different story.

‘What do you mean, you can’t break up with him?’ says Kate, not looking up from her BlackBerry, on which she’s managing to type a work email with her free hand.

‘I mean I can’t get rid of him. He’s everywhere I look.’

‘Manhattan’s a small place. Just ignore him,’ she responds flatly.

‘It’s not that easy,’ I try explaining.

‘Yes, it is. I’m always bumping into my rival CEO from Lloyds Carter. Last night I even saw him at the doctor’s.’

One of the Vietnamese women doing her nails slaps Kate’s hand away from her BlackBerry. Frowning, Kate swaps hands and keeps typing with her thumb.

‘No, it’s more than that—’ I break off. ‘What were you doing at the doctor’s?’

‘Oh, I was with Jeff. He still hasn’t kicked that bug. They think he might have some kind of virus.’

‘What do you mean, it’s more than that?’ asks Robyn, glancing up from the book she’s reading, Cosmic Thinking Made Easy. She’s having tiny glittery flowers applied to each of her toenails.

‘Well, it’s not just about bumping into him. It’s about all these little things that keep happening.’

‘Such as?’ Robyn studies me with interest.

‘Such as I can’t defriend him on Facebook,’ I grumble with annoyance. It’s been three days now and every time I log on, I’m greeted with his status update and profile picture.

‘What is it with everyone and this Facebook crap?’ Kate suddenly looks up from her BlackBerry. ‘I don’t have time for Facebook, yet I keep getting emails from friends saying they want to poke me!’ She rolls her eyes in annoyance.

‘I told you already. It’s the power of the universe holding you together,’ chimes Robyn, as if it’s perfectly obvious.

Kate looks at her with open-mouthed scorn.

‘It’s true,’ Robyn says indignantly. ‘It’s the legend of the Bridge of Sighs. Nothing can break them apart.’

‘Have you been on the crystals again?’ snorts my sister.

‘It’s true!’

‘What a load of codswallop!’

‘I don’t know what that word means,’ replies Robyn, her face flushing, ‘but you know, you really need to open your mind.’

‘I’m very open-minded, thank you very much. I’m just not insane,’ retorts Kate dismissively. ‘It’s not the universe keeping them together – it’s Nate! It’s so obvious. He’s trying to get back together with Lucy!’

I glance between my sister and my roommate hammering it out like boxers. There’s Kate, in the rational-non-believing-bordering-on-completely-cynical corner, and there’s Robyn, in the irrational-believe-in-anything-bordering-on-completely-away-with-the-fairies corner.

And me?

I’m somewhere in the middle. I swap corners. I go back and forth. I mean, Kate’s right, she must be, and yet . . .

My mind throws up a memory of my conversation with Nate in the restaurant when we first got back together. The discovery that for all those years we’d been at the same events, it was almost as if something was trying to bring us together.

Something that now won’t let us break apart.

Like the legend of the Bridge of Sighs.

As the thought zips through my mind, a shiver runs up my spine.

Which is ridiculous. Just ridiculous. There is no ‘something’. It’s just a silly legend. A bit of make-believe for the tourists. I’m letting my imagination run away with itself. This isn’t The Twilight Zone; this is real life. Things like that can’t really happen. Can they?

I notice the magazine that’s lying open in my lap. I took it from the dog-eared pile when I arrived and I’ve been absently flicking through it, but now suddenly I stop short. Because there, on the page, is a quiz. ‘Is He the One?’

I inhale sharply.

‘What’s wrong?’ My sister stops arguing with Robyn and glances over. ‘Is it your cuticles? I always ask them not to cut mine.’

I shake my head dumbly and hold up the magazine. ‘It’s that quiz,’ I say, my voice almost a whisper.

Robyn’s eyes widen. Then, in the kind of voice they use for movie trailers, she says solemnly, ‘It’s a sign.’

Kate glances between us, her face incredulous. ‘No, it’s not a sign!’ she says crossly. Leaning across, she snatches the magazine out of my hands roughly. ‘It’s an out-of-date copy of bloody Cosmo!’ Tossing it in the bin, she shakes her head in exasperation. ‘Honestly, you two!’

‘You need to stop the legend coming true,’ continues Robyn, ignoring Kate. ‘You need to break the spell.’

‘Spell?’ Kate snorts loudly.

‘It’s more like a curse,’ I mutter sulkily.

‘Whatever.’ Robyn clicks her tongue. ‘You need to be exorcised.’

‘Don’t we all?’ quips Kate, unable to resist the double-entendre.

‘I said exorcised, not exercised,’ says Robyn snippily.

‘Whatever,’ shrugs Kate. ‘Jeff’s not interested in either these days.’

She laughs dryly, but my antennae pick up on something and I glance over. Kate often makes jokey, sarcastic remarks about her relationship, but today there’s something in her voice that’s different.

‘Is everything OK, Kate?’

She meets my gaze and I can almost visibly see her put up her defences. ‘Yeah, fine,’ she says flippantly. ‘Why wouldn’t it be?’

‘With you and Jeff, I mean.’

She stiffens. ‘Of course. He’s just still got this bug, that’s all. I reckon he needs some antibiotics, but you know what men are like with taking pills.’ She shrugs brusquely. ‘It’s nothing.’

‘Oh . . .OK.’ I quickly drop it. I know better than to try to push my sister. If a subject is closed, it’s locked, bolted and secured, and no one but no one is getting in.

‘Right, finished.’ One of the ladies doing my manicure and pedicure taps my leg lightly.

‘Gosh, they look amazing.’ I smile, wiggling my shell-pink fingers and toes in delight. They don’t look like they belong to me. I’m used to having hands that are chipped, chewed or paint-splattered, but now they’ve been transformed into groomed New York hands.

I proudly waggle them at Robyn and Kate. ‘Look!’

‘Ooh, gorgeous, look at mine,’ gushes Robyn, waggling her glittery toes so that the tiny flowers catch the light.

‘Mmm, lovely,’ I enthuse, and we spend the next few moments comparing, before remembering Kate. ‘What about yours?’ I ask, turning to her, but she’s already putting on her sandals.

‘They’re fine.’ She nods briskly, fastening a buckle. ‘I just had clear polish, like usual.’

My sister is no fun sometimes.

‘If you would like to pay . . .’ The owner of the nail bar, a matriarchal figure in flowery pinafore, who’s even tinier than all the other Vietnamese ladies, gestures impatiently towards the cash register and the long queue of women waiting for our chairs.

‘Oh, sorry, yes.’ Hastily I climb out of the chair and begin rummaging around in my bag. I fish out my purse. As I do, I hear a clink as something falls to the floor.

Probably loose change, I muse, handing over a twenty-dollar bill. Twenty dollars for a manicure and pedicure! Oh, how I love New York.

‘Miss, you dropped this.’

I see one of the Vietnamese ladies picking something up off the floor. She holds out what looks like a quarter.

‘Oh, thank you so much.’ I smile and go to take it from her, then abruptly realise it’s not a quarter. It’s a coin. In fact, it’s half a coin.

My stomach goes into freefall.

‘That’s impossible.’ I stare at it dumbly in the flat of my palm, my mind reeling.

‘What is it now?’ Kate looks at me uncomprehendingly.

‘My pendant,’ I stammer, holding it out. The chain has gone, but there’s no mistake, it’s definitely my pendant.

Robyn inhales sharply. ‘But I saw you throw it away . . .’

‘In the park,’ I finish. ‘I know, it’s impossible.’ I stare at the broken coin, my thumb running along the jagged edge. ‘There must be some mix-up. It must have got caught on my clothing . . . dropped into my bag accidentally . . . got lost somehow.’ I look back at both Robyn and Kate. For once my sister isn’t saying anything. Instead she’s staring at me, wide-eyed and silent with astonishment.

I can’t ignore it any longer. I can’t persuade myself it’s not happening. Because as weird and incredible and crazy as it might be, there’s something going on here, something very weird. I don’t know what to call it, and I don’t understand it, but there’s no denying it: the legend is coming true.

Despite the heat, a chill brushes over me and goose bumps prickle my arms.

Oh God.

What do I do now?

You're the One That I Don't Want