Chapter Twenty-Nine

Dazed, I open my eyes and am immediately blinded by bright lights. Oh my God, so this is it. It’s all over. I’m in heaven. Any minute now I’m going to hear piped musak, arrive at the pearly white gates and see my grandma, waiting for me with a big pile of her homemade coconut macaroons.


I swivel sideways, but instead of Grandma and her coconut macaroons, it’s Nate.

Seriously, there is no getting away from him. Not even in the afterlife.

‘Are you OK?’

‘OK?’ I round on him in disbelief. ‘You’ve killed me!’

‘Oh, stop being a drama queen,’ he snaps. ‘You’re fine. We hit a tree, that’s all.’

There’s a brief silence as I register this information. I’m not dead. Then . . .

‘That’s all!’ I exclaim. ‘You drive like a crazy man in a storm and crash into a tree and nearly kill both of us and that’s all! I’ve probably broken my arms and legs because of you!’

‘Well, have you?’

I wiggle my arms and legs. ‘No, but that’s not the point.’

‘That’s totally the point,’ he replies, rubbing his forehead in agitation. Letting out a deep sigh, he hugs the steering wheel.

Reluctantly I feel a beat of concern. ‘Are you OK?’

‘Fine, no damage done,’ he says stiffly. ‘Not sure about the car, though.’

Following his gaze, I stare out through the windscreen towards the bright lights. Only now I realise, slightly shamefacedly, that they’re just headlights, and they’re shining brightly at the trunk of a large tree. Up against which the bonnet is completely scrunched.

‘Well, it still starts,’ he mutters, firing up the engine. ‘That’s something.’

Relief washes over me. Thank God. Soon I’ll be back at the inn safe and sound, tucked up in bed.

I scratch that image. I’ll stick with just being back at the inn.

Rain is still drumming hard on the roof of the car as Nate sticks it into reverse and puts his foot on the accelerator. My relief is short-lived. There’s the high-pitched sound of the wheels spinning, but we don’t move. He revs harder. The wheels scream louder.

‘Fuck.’ Slamming his fists on the steering wheel, Nate flings open the door and disappears round the back of the car. He returns a few seconds later, soaking wet. ‘We’re stuck in the mud.’

Images of the warm, snug inn quickly start receding. ‘Who are you calling?’ I ask, as Nate pulls out his iPhone. Please don’t tell me it’s the studio. Or his real-estate agent.

‘AAA. We need a tow-truck.’

‘But how will they find us?’

He looks at me like I’m a complete idiot. ‘It’s got GPS. I’ll be able to locate exactly where we are.’ He starts jabbing away at the screen.

‘Oh, right . . . great!’ The whole time I’ve hated that dratted iPhone, but now I take it all back. I feel a swell of gratitude. Thank God for Nate’s iPhone!

‘Except there’s a slight problem.’

Problem?’ I look at him warily.

Peering at the screen, his jaw sets. ‘There’s no signal.’

After twenty minutes walking along an empty road, in the pouring rain and pitch-dark, we make out distant lights. My heart soars as we trudge towards them and I spot a sign: ‘O’Grady’s Irish Tavern.’ Never have I been so happy to see an Irish pub. Pushing open the door, we stumble inside, soaking wet and freezing cold, and are greeted by warmth, light and ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ playing on the jukebox.

Spotting a payphone, Nate dives over to it, while I make my way, squelching, to the bar. The tavern isn’t very big. At the far end are a few tables and chairs, around which are gathered what look like locals – I’m beginning to recognise their uniform of yellow sailing jackets and beat-up khakis. Running along one side is a well-stocked bar, behind which are wallpapered hundreds of faded Polaroids. No doubt taken on previous St Patrick’s Day celebrations, I note, as everyone’s wearing green and there are lots of four-leaf clovers. The luck of the Irish.

I could do with some of that luck right now, I think, wearily hoisting myself on to a barstool, where a puddle rapidly starts forming around me.

‘Little wet out there, huh?’ The moustachioed barman, a fifty-something Hell’s Angel with a cut-off T-shirt and tattooed forearms, pauses from chewing a toothpick.

‘Just a bit.’ I sniff, resting my elbows on the bar.

He reaches underneath the bar and holds out a bar towel. ‘Here you go.’

‘Thanks.’ Smiling gratefully, I wipe my face, then tip my head upside down and start towel-drying my hair.

‘It’s going to be a while.’

Hearing Nate’s voice, I flick my head back up. He’s standing next to me, looking like he’s just taken a shower fully clothed. Even his blazer couldn’t keep him dry, I think with a beat of satisfaction. I’m half tempted to let him drip-dry, but I take pity and pass him the towel. ‘How long?’

‘Apparently there’ve been a lot of accidents,’ he grumbles, rubbing his face roughly, ‘and there’s only one frigging tow-truck.’ With a face like thunder he slides on to the barstool next to me.

‘Maybe we can call a cab,’ I suggest.

‘Oh, silly me! Why didn’t I think of that?’ He thumps his forehead in a sarcastic ‘eureka’ moment.

‘I was only trying to help,’ I reply archly.

‘Well, don’t,’ he deadpans. ‘There’s, like, one cab service on the island and it’s busy. We’re just going to have to wait.’

‘So, what can I get you guys to drink?’ interrupts the barman cheerfully.

‘A vodka tonic, please,’ I say, thankful of the interruption.

‘Make that two,’ says Nate gruffly.

The barman moves away and there’s an ugly silence. I cast around for something to say. ‘Oh, by the way, some woman called the room for you this morning,’ I remember. What with everything that’s happened today, it had totally slipped my mind. ‘She didn’t leave a message.’

‘Huh, it was probably Jennifer, my real-estate agent,’ he tuts. ‘That woman’s like my stalker.’

You mean Jennifer who you were shaking hands with earlier and chatting to about under-floor heating, I’m tempted to point out, but I’m not going to go there. Instead I steer clear of his bad mood and, noticing ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ has finished and the bar has fallen silent, ask, ‘Do you have any change for the jukebox?’

For a moment he looks as if he’s going to make a sarcastic comment. Then, seeming to think better of it, he reluctantly digs in his pockets and holds out some quarters.

‘Thanks.’ I force a bright voice and, leaving him sitting at the bar, dive off to the jukebox. I feel a wave of relief to be away from him. He’s in a foul mood.

For the next five minutes I browse the playlist and choose songs. It’s really quite fun. There are some absolute classics on here: the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Sister Sledge . . . and ‘You’re So Vain’ by Carly Simon. I love that song! Humming away to myself, I pick some of my all-time favourites and then make my way back to the bar.

And Nate, who’s sitting by himself, nursing his drink and scowling at his iPhone, as if willing it to work. ‘So what did you choose?’ he grumbles, looking up.

‘Oh, a bunch of stuff,’ I say vaguely, and reach for my drink. Boy, do I need this. Dispensing with the straw, I take a large gulp . . . and nearly choke as vodka blasts my tonsils. Wow, I always forget how strong the drinks are in the States compared to back home.

‘Like what?’ he persists.

‘Wait and see,’ I reply, refusing to be drawn. No doubt he will hate all my music and take great pleasure in telling me so. I don’t like his taste either, though. Last time I was at his penthouse he was playing Hootie and the Blowfish.

I wait expectantly for the jukebox to start playing. I’m not sure what order my songs will go in. Oh, here we go. I hear the opening chords of a song strike up. Violins start blasting. Great. The Verve, ‘Bittersweet Symphony’. One of my favourites. Only, hang on, this isn’t the Verve. Isn’t this—

‘INXS?’ snorts Nate derisively.

‘What? I didn’t choose this,’ I say in confusion, as Michael Hutchence starts singing.

‘You must have,’ retorts Nate.

‘No, I didn’t.’ I shake my head. ‘There must be some mix-up. The jukebox must be faulty.’

Nate looks at me, quite obviously not believing me. ‘Jesus, I hate this song,’ he complains.

‘Really? I love it,’ I retort. Still, it’s really weird. I honestly didn’t choose this . . . Suddenly a thought stirs. ‘Wait a minute, what’s this song called?’

‘Erm . . .’ Nate crinkles his brow.

‘“Never Tear Us Apart”,’ says the barman from across the bar.

Nate and I exchange looks as goose bumps prickle my arms.

‘Talk about apt,’ he mutters.

‘Yeah, isn’t it,’ I murmur, feeling a shiver running up my spine as Michael Hutchence belts out the lyrics. What? Even the jukebox is in on this now?

‘I’m beginning to feel like nothing can tear us apart,’ he adds, through a mouthful of ice.

‘Me too.’ I nod.

‘It’s like we’re stuck together.’ He sighs gloomily, staring into his drink. ‘For eternity.’

My ears prick up. ‘Did you say “eternity”?’

‘Well, it sure feels like it, doesn’t it?’ he says, taking a slug of his drink.

I look at him. Suddenly my heart is thumping like a piston. I want to tell him. I want to tell him everything. ‘Well, it’s funny you should say that . . .’

‘Is it?’ he quips wryly. ‘I’m not laughing.’

I hesitate, chewing my lip, wondering if I should continue. He’s going to think I’m an idiot. Oh sod it, he thinks I’m an idiot already. ‘Do remember the bridge?’ I blurt.

‘What bridge?’

‘In Venice. The Bridge of Sighs. We kissed underneath it, on a gondola.’

‘Sorry, Lucy,’ he tuts impatiently, ‘but I’m not in the mood to be going down memory lane.’

I feel myself stiffen. God, he really is an arrogant little shit sometimes. I fall silent. I’m almost tempted not to bother trying to explain, but we’re in this together – unfortunately – and it’s as much his problem to sort out as it is mine, I think indignantly.

‘This isn’t about memory lane,’ I respond, trying to keep my voice even. ‘It’s about the legend. Don’t you remember? About how if you kiss underneath the bridge, at sunset, when the bells are chiming, you’re guaranteed everlasting love.’

The song is still playing . . .You can never tear us apart.

Nate looks at me as if I’ve gone totally mad. Slugging back the rest of his drink, he turns to the barman. ‘I’ll have the same again. Make it a large one.’

The barman glances at me. ‘Two of those?’

‘Yeah, why not?’ I nod, draining my glass.

‘So what are you saying? That all this is because of some legend?’ Turning back to me, Nate’s face floods with scornful disbelief.

‘Look, I know it sounds crazy. I thought the same thing at first . . . well, for ages actually,’ I confess. ‘In fact, I still think it’s crazy—’

Nate cuts me off. ‘That’s because it is crazy.’

I exhale sharply. ‘OK, so it’s crazy,’ I snap with annoyance. ‘But don’t you think it’s crazy that we’re here now? That we keep bumping into each other? That we get each other’s dry-cleaning? Our phones call each other? We’re booked into the same room? Next to each other on the same flight? Sharing the same bed?’

His cheeks flame. ‘That wasn’t my idea.’

‘Don’t you think it’s crazy that we can’t get rid of each other? That we’ve broken up, but we can’t break up? That somehow something keeps bringing us back together?’ My chest is heaving and I can hear my voice getting louder. ‘Even the frigging jukebox is in on it,’ I cry.

‘What?’ Nate looks at me in confusion.

‘Listen!’ I instruct, gesturing into the air. INXS has finished and another song has now started playing. ‘Trust me, I didn’t choose this song.’

‘Velvet Underground, “I’m Sticking With You”,’ pipes up the barman, passing us fresh drinks. ‘A true classic.’

‘See!’ I gasp impatiently.

There’s a beat as Nate computes this onslaught of information.

‘So let me get this straight . . .’ Narrowing his eyes, he peers at me. ‘What you’re telling me is that a kiss, ten years ago has got us into this mess?’

‘Exactly.’ I take a large gulp of my drink.

He looks at me for a moment, then sits back on his barstool. ‘You really expect me to buy that?’

I feel my cheeks flame. ‘Well, do you have a better explanation?’

‘Anything is a better explanation than that!’ He rubs his forehead in agitation. ‘C’mon, seriously.’

I heave a sigh and am casting around in my mind for a way to convince him, which isn’t easy when I’m still having trouble convincing myself, when abruptly I’m distracted by what sounds like someone caterwauling.

‘Christ, what’s that noise?’ curses Nate, glancing around. ‘Don’t tell me it’s another song you didn’t choose.’

‘Thursday’s karaoke night,’ says the barman with obvious delight.

‘No kidding.’ Nate smiles tightly. ‘This just gets better and better.’

‘Yup, that’s my girl, Shiree. Isn’t she great?’ The barman beams proudly.

‘Um, yeah, great!’ I enthuse, kicking Nate’s calf.

He grimaces and fires me a furious look.

‘Why don’t you guys get up there?’ he continues. ‘We like out-of-towners giving it a go on the old mike.’

‘Oh, no, I don’t think so.’ I shake my head hastily and begin hoovering up my drink.

‘She can’t sing – terrible voice,’ confides Nate to the barman.

‘I don’t have a terrible voice,’ I stay indignantly, putting my empty glass down on the bar.

‘Oh, yes, you do.’ He nods, gesturing to the barman for another round. ‘I’ve heard you in the shower.’

‘Huh! Me in the shower!’ I cry. ‘What about you!’

The barman puts down two fresh drinks. Grabbing mine, I take a large swig.

‘I’ve got a great voice,’ replies Nate. ‘I used to be in a band.’

‘You mean the time you played tambourine in college?’ I scoff, my mind throwing up memories of him telling me all about it in Venice when we were teenagers.

‘I did some vocals,’ he says stiffly.

Giving a little ‘humph’ that is meant to translate into Yeah, right, I shake my head, then quickly grab the bar to steady myself. Gosh, I’m beginning to feel a bit dizzy.

‘What? You think you’re a better singer than me?’

‘Absholutely,’ I slur. Crikey, what’s happened to my tongue? It’s gone all floppy.

‘OK, well, prove it,’ he says challengingly.

‘I don’t have to prove anything,’ I retort, glaring at Nate. Actually, make that two Nates, I think, seeing double.


‘Hah?’ Trying to focus, I draw back my shoulders. ‘What’s  “Hah!” supposed to mean?’

‘It means you know I’m right,’ he says arrogantly.

That’s it. I’ve had it. I don’t know if it’s the vodka, or his smug expression, or more than twenty-four hours with him on Martha’s Vineyard, together with the last few weeks, coupled with the last ten years, but something finally snaps.

Right, that does it. I’ll show him.

‘OK, you’re on,’ I say, rising to the challenge. ‘Listen and weep.’ And without a backwards glance I slide off the barstool and boldly head towards the microphone and speakers that have been set up in the corner of the tavern. Behind me I hear the barman whooping, ‘Atta girl!’ and jutting out my chin, I begin weaving my way among the tables.

I bash into a few accidentally. ‘Oops, sorry.’ I smile as people cling on to their drinks to stop them spilling. Oh dear, I’m feeling rather tipsy. In fact, I’m feeling a lot more than tipsy, I’m actually feeling drunk. The ground sways beneath me and I take some deep breaths. Make that hammered.

Reaching the speakers, a big-busted woman in a tank top asks for my request, then hands me the microphone. Normally at this point I’d be a nervous wreck, but it’s almost as if I’m having an out-of-body experience and am not in control any more. Something else is operating my mind and my limbs, and it has no fear. It’s full of confidence.

It’s called three large vodkas.

I walk unsteadily on to the little makeshift podium and under the spotlight. ‘Um, testing, testing, one, two, three.’ I start tapping the microphone. Well, isn’t that what people always do? It has an immediate effect. People stop chattering and swing round to look at me interestedly. ‘This one’s for my ex-boyfriend, Nathaniel.’ In the shadows I can see him making stricken ‘No, no, no’ gestures. ‘He’s over there, sitting at the bar.’

Everyone twirls round and looks at Nate. Suddenly plunged into being the centre of attention, he looks like a rabbit caught in headlights: petrified.

‘It’s the classic from Grease,’ I continue. ‘I think you’ll all know it.’ There’s a few murmurs of approval, and buoyed by my newfound confidence, courtesy of Smirnoff, I introduce it. ‘It’s called “You’re the One That I Want”.’

There’s a murmur of approval.

‘ . . . but tonight I want to sing it a little differently . . .’ I pause as my eyes flit around my tiny audience. I see people looking at me expectantly, their curiosity piqued. ‘Tonight “You’re the One That I Don’t Want”.’

There are a few hoots of laughter and someone whistles. Over by the bar I can make out Nate shrinking down on his barstool in pure, undiluted mortification, and then the opening chords of the song start blasting from the crackly speakers.

I’m on!

Taking a deep, drunken breath, I start singing. I’m a bit wobbly at first, but I soon get going. It’s actually quite fun, I realise, as I begin serenading Nate at the top of my lungs. Especially when the crowd starts joining in with the ‘ooh-ooh-honey’s in the chorus. I feel like Leona Lewis, or Mariah Carey, or one of those other big divas, I think, closing my eyes like you see the contestants on X-Factor doing. With a blast of exhilaration I grip the microphone and really go for it.

Wow, and now the crowd is going crazy. I can hear them wolf-whistling and cheering and someone else singing. I flick open my eyes. Is that Nate?

I watch him being pushed on to the stage, a microphone thrust into his hand, a look of horror on his face, as he’s forced to warble into it. He shoots me a strangled look as he does the part of John Travolta to my Olivia Newton-John: ‘You’re not the one I want, ooh, ooh, honey . . .’

The audience goes wild as we grimace at each other across the stage. Forget singing a duet, we’re singing a duel. The karaoke equivalent of fighting to the death. I’ll show him. Take that! Adrenaline pumping, I blast a line at him. I’ll show her. Take that! Gripping the microphone, he lunges at me with another line.

Back and forth, back and forth . . .

‘Excuse me.’

Until, in the middle of our song-fight, the music stops and I hear a voice. It’s the bartender’s. ‘Guys, your tow-truck is here.’

You're the One That I Don't Want