Chapter Thirty-Six

‘I’m going to Venice.’

Walking into the kitchen the next morning, I find the radio playing, tea brewing and Robyn sitting cross-legged at the kitchen table in her tie-dye pyjamas. ‘You are?’ She looks up from buttering a slice of raisin toast and grins widely. ‘Awesome.’

‘Well, I’m not sure I’d call it “awesome”, exactly.’ More like desperate, I think, plopping myself down next to her. After my run-in with Nate last night, finding myself next to him on the back seat of a cab, my mind is made up.

‘Wanna slice?’ she proffers.

‘Mmm, yes, thanks.’ I nod, as she passes one to me.

‘So when are you going?’ She looks at me expectantly.

‘Erm . . .’ I pause. It suddenly hits me that I haven’t thought about that bit yet. In fact, now I am thinking about it, I realise there’s quite a lot of bits I need to think about. Like how I’m going to afford a flight to Italy, or pay for a hotel, or get time off work . . . Anxiety rumbles. ‘I’m not sure yet,’ I say vaguely, taking a bite of raisin toast.

‘Well, you need to go as soon as possible,’ instructs Robyn. ‘You mustn’t delay.’

‘Right, yes, mustn’t delay,’ I murmur, chewing slowly, my mind whirring. God, this is all beginning to seem a bit overwhelming.

‘And of course Nate has to go with you.’

I nearly choke on my raisin toast. ‘What? You mean Nate and I have to go to Venice together?’ I turn to her in astonishment. ‘I thought the plan was to get rid of him, not fly off to Italy with him!’

Calmly taking another slice of toast from the huge stack on her plate, she begins buttering. ‘It will only work if you both go,’ she says matter-of-factly.

‘Says who?’ I cry, waving my slice around in exasperation. ‘Is there a rulebook for legends?’

Robyn stops buttering and looks up. ‘Look, if you and Nate being together made this happen, you have to be together to undo it.’ She gives a little shrug. ‘It’s common sense.’

‘In your world maybe,’ I retort, wrapping my dressing gown round my knees and hugging them to my chest. ‘I don’t live in a world of magic and spells and ancient legends.’

‘Oh, really?’ Robyn raises her eyebrows and fixes me with a sceptical look. ‘You could have fooled me.’  

Indignantly I open my mouth to argue, then heaving a sigh, I drop my toast and bury my head in my knees. ‘Oh God, this is hopeless,’ I groan, my voice muffled in the folds of my towelling dressing gown. ‘I’ve tried everything and everything’s failed. We’re still ruining each other’s lives. Adam’s never going to speak to me again, and Beth’s probably never going to speak to Nate either. Going to Venice isn’t going to work. It’s a stupid idea.’

‘Listen, Lucy,’ says Robyn, with sudden steeliness. ‘Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.’

‘Huh?’ I glance up at Robyn, who’s staring at me, her face flushed with determination.

‘Oprah,’ she says in explanation.

‘But how am I supposed to own it? Nate will never go to Venice, not in a million years.’ In the background I can hear a song playing on the radio: Neil Sedaka merrily warbling ‘Breaking Up Is Hard to Do’. Leaning over, I flick it off.

‘How do you know?’

My mind throws up a few jumbled images: sharing a bed in Martha’s Vineyard, singing karaoke, yelling at each other in my kitchen when he accused me of sabotaging his relationship with Beth. ‘Trust me, the last thing he wants to do right now is go on a trip with me to Italy. In fact, he’d probably rather have his eyeballs poked out with a sharp stick.’

‘Well, you’re going to have to persuade him,’ says Robyn frankly.

I look at her. ‘But how?’

‘I dunno.’ She tilts her head on one side and chews thoughtfully. ‘You’ll just have to think of something.’

‘And if I don’t?’ I look at her anxiously.

‘You’re together for ever,’ she says simply, and finishing off her toast, she grabs another slice.

With Robyn’s words ringing in my ears I pluck up the courage to call Nate on my way to work. As I expected, he’s not very happy to hear from me. Translated: he hangs up on me several times, calls me something unrepeatable, then finally agrees to listen ‘for thirty seconds’. I get about ten before he cuts me off. No, he’s not coming to Venice. Yes, I really am crazy, and don’t I know it’s the Venice Film Festival and I’ll never get a place to stay as everything is totally booked up, so good luck with that.

Then he puts the phone down.

‘So basically I’m stuffed.’

It’s lunchtime and I’m with Robyn, standing in line at Katz’s, waiting to order.

‘Are you sure he’s telling the truth? Maybe it’s a ruse to put you off,’ she suggests optimistically. Unwrapping a brownie from her pocket, she takes a bite.

‘No, he’s right – I Googled.’ I sigh. ‘It’s the festival, so the flights are a fortune. I’ll never be able to afford one.’

‘That’s easy – you can use my Air Miles. I’ve got thousands from all my trips abroad.’

‘Gosh, Robyn, that’s so kind of you.’ I look at her with grateful astonishment, then frown. ‘But even if I can get a flight, there’s nowhere to stay – all the hotels are fully booked.’

‘All of them?’

‘All of them.’ I nod. I did an online search that morning on Expedia, Travelocity and every other travel website I could think of. I even made up this whole story about someone I knew wanting to propose to his girlfriend in Venice and got Magda to ask her friend’s daughter at the travel agent’s, but nothing.

‘Hmm, true, that’s a tricky one.’ She chews thoughtfully.

‘Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Nate won’t come, so there’s no point.’

Robyn looks pensive. ‘You know what this is, don’t you?’


‘No, it’s the universe trying to keep you together,’ she says knowingly. ‘The power of the legend. It doesn’t want you and Nate to go to Venice and break the spell of everlasting love. It’s throwing obstacles in your path to stop you.’ She looks proud of her detective work.

‘Great.’ I shrug as we shuffle forwards in the queue. ‘Now when I think it feels like the world is against me, I know that actually, it really is against me. And not just the world, but the whole universe.’

‘Where there’s love, there’s hope,’ she opines, taking another large bite of brownie.


‘No, I think I read it on a bumper sticker,’ she says, shuffling alongside me. ‘It’s true, though. If you love Adam, there’s hope. You just have to fight for him.’

‘Like you fought for Daniel?’ I raise an eyebrow.

Her jaw sets as she falls silent.

‘What are you doing, Robyn?’

‘Doing?’ she replies tetchily.

‘Mooning around the apartment, listening to the African drumming CD he bought you, comfort eating . . .’

She blushes and stuffs the rest of her brownie in her pocket.

‘Why are you just letting him walk away like that?’

‘He’s not my soulmate,’ she says firmly.

‘Says who?’ I cry. ‘The psychic who couldn’t even see into her own future? Great fortune-teller she was!’

Robyn looks all twitchy and starts fiddling with her stacks of silver bangles, determinedly avoiding my gaze.

Now I’ve started, I can’t stop. ‘I was like you once. I was convinced that I would know when I met the One, that I would just feel it. Everyone tells you, “You’ll just know.” Well-meaning friends, books, films, poetry. And although you don’t know what it is you’re looking for, and haven’t a clue how it’s supposed to feel, you convince yourself that when you finally find your soulmate, some magical alarm bell will go off in your head and you’ll just know.

‘When I met Nathaniel, I had all these intense, incredible feelings, and I thought, This is it. He’s the One. I truly believed it, which is why I was heartbroken when we broke up. I’d lost the one person in the world who was meant for me, and without that person I could never be truly happy again. OK, so there’d be other guys, nice guys, funny guys, lovely guys, but not another Nate. I’d lost him, and that was it.

‘So for years I carried on. I dated, had flings, a few boyfriends, but no one compared. Nate was always there in the back of my mind. Then, by some miracle, we found each other again and got another chance at it. And what happened?’

Urgently I look at Robyn. She’s standing next to me, looking a bit shell-shocked, and I don’t blame her. It’s all coming pouring out, a decade’s worth of feelings spilling out in the middle of a busy New York diner.

‘I realised I didn’t feel the same any more, and neither did he. I realised I’d got it wrong. Just like all the other millions of people out there who marry and end up getting divorced. I was lucky, though – if I hadn’t had a second chance with Nate, I’d still be hung up on him now. I would have spent my whole life looking back with rose-tinted spectacles and I would never have noticed Adam. I would have missed him. Because the moment that I stopped focusing on Nate, and what I thought love looked like, was the moment I saw Adam.’

‘Hey, lady.’

I hear a voice, but ignoring it, I heave a sigh. ‘Look, I’m probably not making any sense, but I guess what I’m saying is that too many people miss out on real love because they’re too busy waiting for the One to show up. For this fantasy figure who’s going to complete them and who probably doesn’t even exist. For a sign to say, “This is it.” Just like you did. You’ve set your heart on Harold, your perfect soulmate, the dark, handsome stranger on your vision board. You’re so focused on him you can’t see you’ve got something pretty damned good already.’

Robyn seems almost to flinch, as if I’ve hit a nerve.

‘There doesn’t always have to be a sign, Robyn. You don’t always just know. Sometimes it takes a while to see what’s been in front of you all along.’ I stop talking and realise I’m almost breathless with emotion. Even if it’s too late for me and Adam, I don’t want it to be too late for her and Daniel.

She looks at me as if there’s a lot going on inside her head, then says stiffly, ‘Whatever’s meant to be will be.’

‘Ugh, that is such a cop-out,’ I gasp impatiently.

‘No, it’s not,’ she protests hotly.

‘It is, and your logic is all skewed,’ I argue. ‘You’re telling me I’ve got to take on the universe, like I’m some superhero, but you’re just going to sit back and see what happens?’

‘Hey, lady, you gotta problem hearing or somethin’?’

A loud voice hollers right behind me and I turn round, slightly irritated, then quickly realise it’s the sullen man who takes my order every lunchtime. ‘Oh, right, yes, sorry.’ I snap to. ‘I’ll have a matzo-ball soup and a—’

He doesn’t let me finish. ‘Nah, forget the soup,’ he says gruffly, shaking his head. ‘I heard you talking about Venice.’

I gape at him in astonishment. In all this time I’ve never heard this man grunt more than a couple of words, and now he’s talking to me? About Venice?

‘Erm, yes, that’s right,’ I say uncertainly, wondering where on earth this can be leading.

‘I think I can help you.’

I can’t believe this. Not only is he talking to me, he wants to help me?

‘You can?’ pipes up Robyn, speaking for me.

‘My uncle owns a small pensione in Venice,’ he says with a shrug. ‘I’m sure they have room . . . if you want me to make a phone call.’

I’m still staring at him in disbelief. I can hardly believe what I’m hearing.

‘Wow, that would be awesome,’ enthuses Robyn.

‘Um . . . yeah, great,’ I murmur dazedly.

‘OK, give me your number and I’ll get back to you this afternoon,’ he instructs, removing a pen from behind his ear. Taking the notepad from his breast pocket, he passes them both to me across the counter, and then, for the first time ever, he gives me a smile.

You're the One That I Don't Want