Chapter Twenty-Five

The next morning I arrive at work to be told I’m flying to Martha’s Vineyard to meet with the new artist Magda’s been raving about.

‘What? Today?’ Mid-sip of my latte, I freeze and stare at Magda, taken aback.

‘No time like the present,’ she breezes, tearing off a piece of bagel and feeding it to Valentino. ‘We need to snap him up before someone else does.’

‘But what about flights, somewhere to stay . . .?’ I start throwing obstacles like a knife-thrower.

‘All done.’ She deflects them by handing me a large brown envelope. ‘A friend at the health club has done it for me. Her daughter works in a travel agency. She owed me a favour – I found her a husband. And trust me, not easy.’ Magda clicks her tongue. ‘Forty-one, three cats, a Judy Garland habit. Y’know what I’m saying?’

Only I’m not really listening, I’m tearing open the envelope and pulling out my airline ticket. ‘My flight’s at two thirty this afternoon?’ I gasp.

‘Wonderful,’ she says absently, tickling Valentino under his chin.

‘Magda, that means I have to leave for the airport in . . .’ I quickly do the maths ‘ . . . less than two hours!’

‘I know. Shouldn’t you be home packing?’ She frowns, looking up at me as if surprised to see I’m still standing here. ‘You don’t want to miss your flight.’

‘But . . .’ I open my mouth and then close it again. It’s pointless. When Magda wants something done, she wants it done yesterday.

‘Oh, and here’s some reading material for the plane.’ Magda passes me a few pages, torn from a magazine. ‘It’s an article all about Artsy.’

‘Who’s Artsy?’

‘Our new artist!’ exclaims Magda, pausing from hand-feeding Valentino. He begins yapping loudly, and picking him up, she shushes him with a flurry of kisses. ‘Remember, Loozy, the gallery is counting on you!’

I force a smile. Great. No pressure, then.

I catch a cab home and chuck some things into a holdall. I haven’t a clue what to take. I’ve never been to Martha’s Vineyard and have no idea what to expect. I vaguely remember reading something in my guidebook about how it’s a little island off Cape Cod where American presidents go on holiday, but I haven’t had time to Google it. I mean, is it an actual vineyard? Am I going to be bumping into Obama? Should I take my posh dress or a pair of shorts?

In the end I take both, plus lots of other things that don’t go together, and jump into the waiting cab and drive straight to the airport. As Manhattan whizzes by outside, I look at the rest of the travel documents. My return flight isn’t until Friday morning. Friday?! That’s ages away.

Well, it’s not really – it’s only two days away – but it feels like ages because I’m not going to be able to see Adam until then.


As he pops into my head, I think about last night. Gosh, that was a close shave. For a moment there I thought I’d completely blown it because of Nate’s stupid bloody boxer shorts, but thankfully I managed to rescue the situation. Though I’m not sure for how much longer. Feeling a beat of anxiety, I dig my phone out of my pocket and text Adam:

         Thanx for last night.

I pause. I think about adding more, about what a lovely evening I had, how I’d like to see him again . . . I start texting, then stop. Argh, no, I can’t put that. It looks far too keen, I decide, quickly deleting that bit. I stare at my phone, agonising. Texting is so hard. It’s like every single word is loaded with all this meaning and then you’ve got the whole decision about whether or not to put a kiss at the end or not.

I look back at my text and add an x. Well, I don’t want to appear unfriendly. And I do want to kiss him. Even if it’s only on a text. Quickly I press send before I change my mind.

A few seconds later one beeps up from him.

Hey, trouble. Where R U? Don’t tell me you’ve been arrested again . . .

I laugh to myself. By the speed of his response, he obviously didn’t agonise over his text, I muse, hitting reply.

No, in a cab going 2 the airport. Am flying 2 MV to meet a new artist.

Two seconds, then another text:

When R U back?
Keep Friday eve free. I have surprise 4 U.

I feel a beat of delight.

What is it?
If I told U that, it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?

I smile to myself and say bye, feeling more comforted. Perhaps it’s actually a good thing I’m getting out of town for a few days, I reflect, looking at the positives. This way it will put some distance between me and Nate and I won’t have to worry about bumping into him. Or think about him. And I can concentrate on Adam.

Cheered by this thought, I turn and gaze out of the window.

Hopefully by the time I get back on Friday, mine and Nate’s relationship will just seem like a bad dream.

I arrive at JFK Airport and go straight to the JetBlue check-in desk, where I discover it’s not a direct flight and I have to get a connection in Boston. But that’s OK – Boston’s only an hour away. I’ll read my magazine article on Artsy, I decide, settling into my seat on the plane. Ooh, this is really nice. Plush leather seat, comfy footrest, my own TV screen with lots of different channels . . . Ordering a glass of wine, I fasten my seatbelt and settle back happily with my article. You know, I’m beginning to have a really good feeling about this trip.

The flight is so comfy I almost don’t want it to end. I read my article, surf a few TV channels and then before I know it we’re landing in Boston and I’m wandering around the airport shops, killing time before my connecting flight. I love airports. There’s something about them that makes me feel like I’ve stepped into some parallel universe, where real life doesn’t exist. All these people coming and going, the buzz of excitement, the sense of transience. It’s like nothing matters.

Like, for example, money, I muse, picking up an expensive moisturiser. Normally, in the real world, I would baulk at the price, but somehow in Airport World ninety dollars is like Monopoly money. It doesn’t seem to count, I reflect, cheerfully handing over my credit card. Ooh, and look at those cute little fridge magnets that say, ‘Boston Red Sox,’ on them. Spying them by the register, I put a couple in my basket. I’m not exactly sure who the Boston Red Sox are, but Robyn might like those as souvenirs, as she’s always sticking horoscopes, vegetarian recipes and to-do lists all over the fridge. Speaking of souvenirs, what about that tea towel with the big red lobster on for Mum . . .?

I end up leaving the shop with two bulging carrier bags and am just wandering into another, which sells electronic gadgets (strangely I’ve never been even slightly interested in a vibrating neck massager or a sound machine to help you sleep, but here in Airport World they’re fascinating), when I hear my name.

‘Last call for Miss Hemmingway. Please make your way urgently to Gate 4B. Your flight is about to depart.’

And look at my watch.

Fuck. Seeing the time, my heart plummets. How did that happen? A whole hour and a half has suddenly vanished and now I’m late! I’m going to miss my flight!

Fuck, fuck, FUCK.

Cursing under my breath, I charge through departures, my carrier bags banging against my legs. Of course the gate has to be the furthest one away and by the time I get there I’m pouring with sweat and breathless.

‘Miss Hemmingway?’ A member of ground staff in a fluorescent-orange jacket is waiting for me. She has a walkie-talkie and a very cross-looking expression.

‘Yes . . . that’s me,’ I pant. My heart is thumping against my ribcage and I feel as if I’m going to collapse.

‘Hurry! The flight is about to depart,’ she reprimands, snatching my boarding card.

‘I know, sorry—’ I begin apologising, but she quickly ushers me through the turnstile.

‘The bus is waiting to take you to your plane.’

I glance out of the glass doors at the little minibus. ‘Thanks,’ I gasp, then pause. ‘Erm . . . where’s the plane exactly?’ I’m scanning the runway for a jet like the one I just flew in on, but there’s nothing, apart from a tiny little propeller thing.

‘Right there,’ she barks, as if I’m stupid, and points.

To the tiny little propeller thing.

Still, now is not the time to feel nervous, I tell myself firmly, as I hurry on to the waiting minibus and it sets off swiftly across the runway. The flight is only thirty minutes. How bad can it be? I’ll be up and down before I even know it.

The propellers are already whirring loudly as I clamber up the metal stairs. Gosh, it’s even tinier inside than it looks outside, I realise, glancing in through the porthole windows to see only a handful of seats. And so noisy! Ducking down so I don’t bang my head, I climb in through the doorway, where a stewardess in a pair of headphones is waiting impatiently to grab my shopping bags from me and hurry me to the last remaining seat, before rushing back to close the door.

Flustered, I quickly sit down and fasten my seatbelt. Just in the nick of time. I’ve barely had a second to catch my breath or take in my surroundings before the engines grow even louder and suddenly we’re off, accelerating down the runway. I close my eyes tightly, listening to the propellers whirring, feeling the wheels juddering on the tarmac, and then the nose of the plane tips up and we’re in the air, climbing steadily.

I feel a beat of relief. Great, that’s the worst part over.

‘Would you care for a refreshment?’

I open my eyes to see the air stewardess, minus her earphones, standing next to me.

‘Just some water, thanks.’ I grab the in-flight magazine from the seat in front of me and start flicking through.

‘And for you, sir?’

‘Nothing for me,’ he says gruffly.

I freeze mid-flick. I know that voice.

Up until now I’ve only been vaguely aware of a person in the seat next to me, as I haven’t so much as glanced in their direction, but now every single cell in my body is on full alert and is plummeting downwards like I’ve just jumped out of a plane without a parachute. Actually, that’s not a bad idea. At least that would be one way to finally escape.

Instead I continue staring at my magazine, willing it not to be true. For the person sitting next to me not to be the person who I know is sitting next to me. In fact, by not even thinking his name to myself, I can pretend it’s not real. I’m hallucinating. Or having some kind of lucid dream, and any moment I’m going to wake up and find myself back in my apartment in New York, and not twenty-five thousand feet in the air, on a tiny nine-seater plane, sitting next to—

‘You’ve got to be kidding me. Lucy?

Bang goes my lucid dream.

Having slunk lower and lower behind my magazine, in an attempt to hide, I look up from behind its parapet. ‘Oh, hi, Nate,’ I say, trying not to meet his eye. As if somehow I can still act as if this is not really happening.

I mean, seriously.


But of course it is.

‘Jesus, it is you!’

‘There you go.’ The stewardess reappears with my water.

‘Oh . . . thanks.’ Grateful of the interruption, I take a large gulp. This flight is only thirty minutes. We must have done five already. Briefly I consider trying to ignore him for the next twenty-five.

‘What on earth are you doing here?’

Only it’s not that easy when he’s sitting inches away, staring at me aghast, and is insistent on talking to me.

‘Flying to Martha’s Vineyard,’ I deadpan, turning to face him finally. ‘How about you?’

He frowns. ‘That’s not funny, Lucy.’

‘Trust me, I know,’ I agree ruefully. ‘Do you see me laughing?’

We both stare at each other. I’ve never actually seen Nate lost for words before, but now he genuinely seems at a loss for what to say or do. I know how he feels. This is getting beyond ridiculous. I mean, what am I supposed to do now? It’s not as if there are any rules to follow in a situation like this, are there?

No, but there’s the Strategy.

Suddenly I hear Kate’s voice in my ear and stiffen. Maybe she’s right. Perhaps it might work. After all, nothing else has. Robyn’s spell was a complete disaster –  I was lucky I didn’t wind up in jail – and this would be the perfect opportunity to put the Strategy into effect . . . I pause, my mind turning. All my life I’ve listened to my big sister in times of crisis. She always knows best.

Sod it. That’s decided. I’m going to go for it. I’ve got nothing to lose, except Nate.

OK, so first I need to refresh my memory. Grabbing my bag, which is tucked underneath my seat, I slip my fingers into the front pocket and surreptitiously pull out the four-page document. I’ve been carrying it with me everywhere, along with my bridal and baby magazines. ‘Work,’ I say casually to Nate, who’s watching me with a frown.

Unfolding it, I have a quick scan of the twenty-five points. OK, so here goes, in no particular order, I’ll just start with an easy one . . .

19. Belch.

As a kid, one of my party tricks used to be burping ‘The Frog Chorus’. I haven’t done it for years, so I’m not sure if I still can, I muse, gulping down a mouthful of air.

‘Beurrggghhhh.’ Abruptly I let out a loud burp.

Wow, so it still works, I think, feeling a flash of triumph.

I catch sight of Nate’s shocked expression.

‘Oops, sorry. Just a bit gassy.’ I smile sweetly.

Looking appalled, he turns away and opens his briefcase. Pulling out some documents, he begins reading.

I do it again. ‘Beurrggghhhh.’

He visibly flinches. ‘Can’t you take something for that?’ he remarks stiffly.

‘Well, not really. It’s got to come out one way or another.’ I force a rueful smile. ‘Better from up here than down there.’ I motion downwards.

Nate’s nostrils flare and I can almost see him squirming in his seat. As am I. This is so excruciatingly embarrassing.

But necessary, I tell myself firmly.

Blocking out every last vestige of decorum, I continue with the Strategy and move on to point number seven.

‘And I’ve got enough going on down there at the moment, what with Auntie Flo.’

‘Auntie Flo?’ His brow crumples in confusion.

My period,’ I gasp loudly in explanation. ‘It’s that time of the month. You know, cramps, acne, bloating.’ I pull up my T-shirt and stick out my stomach as far as I can. ‘I mean, just look at that! Buddha belly or what?’

Nate couldn’t look more horrified. Turning ashen, he recoils, as if an alien is about to explode from my swollen belly at any moment and eat him alive.

‘Seriously, have you ever seen anything like it?’ I continue, raising my voice a notch so that it can be heard above the drone of the aircraft. Grabbing as much of it as I can in two fleshy rolls, I waggle it at him menacingly. ‘I look almost pregnant.’

‘Lucy!’ he hisses, finally managing to find his voice and motioning for me to pull down my T-shirt. ‘Please! People are looking.’

Which of course is the idea. Nate’s worst nightmare is ‘people looking’. God forbid you talk too loudly or do something silly and someone glances in your direction. I feel a twinge of meanness for torturing him like this, but quickly console myself. I’m being cruel to be kind. To both of us.

‘Saying that, I wish I was pregnant,’ I continue loudly. ‘I’m so broody.’

Gosh, this is fantastic! I’m racing through the Strategy.

Several people turn round and crick their necks to look over at us. Nate goes puce and tries to ignore me by staring down at the documents he was reading. I notice he’s gripping them so hard his knuckles have gone white.

‘I’d really love to have a baby, wouldn’t you?’

‘I don’t think this is the time or the place,’ he mutters tersely, shuffling his papers.

I swallow hard, trying to gather up enough courage to go for my final jab. My pièce de résistance. The straw that hopefully breaks the camel’s back. I glance around me and see we’ve got a captive audience.

‘Just imagine if we had a baby. It would be so cute!’

A strangled expression flashes across his face, as the rest of the passengers watch for his reaction.

‘I’d rather not,’ he manages, his cheeks flaming.

‘I like Daisy for a girl. What names do you like?’

Nate’s jaw clenches tightly. He’s really struggling to keep his cool. He scowls at his audience, then back at me furiously.

‘Look, if you don’t mind, I really need to catch up on some paperwork,’ he says gruffly. If looks could kill, I wouldn’t be twenty-five thousand feet in the air – I would be six feet under.

‘Of course, pumpy-wumpkin,’ I say, pouting playfully.

A pet name. In a baby voice. Brilliant.

‘I need to catch up on some reading too.’ Digging out my pregnancy magazine, I start flicking through the pages, which are filled with photos of bouncing babies. I see Nate glance over, then sharply away, and smile to myself.

With any luck we’ll be broken up for good in no time.

You're the One That I Don't Want