Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Day Before The Night Ahead....

God, I am a nervous wreck. I have just worked out that, as I haven't told anyone about my plan to meet up with Johnny, he could kidnap and murder me, and no-one would be any the wiser. This is very stupid behaviour, the sort of thing I'd expect from teenagers let loose on the net for the first time, but not from me. I'm usually the one trying to persuade others to be more careful. I need a plan, fast, so I try to come up with a good one, while Greg makes the coffee for a change.

My first attempt is not exactly a resounding success. I decide to write a letter addressed "to whom it may concern in the event of my disappearance and/or death,"  which will detail who I am meeting and where, and which is to be secreted in my lockable desk drawer. This plan is aborted before I have even written the note, due to a re-appraisal of its likely consequences.

The Boss probably has a duplicate key to my desk drawer, and will snoop around tomorrow morning before Greg gets into work. If he finds the note, he's bound to tell Max about it, just out of spite, even if I haven't been killed or abducted. (I suspect the existence of another key as I am absolutely positive that I had more packets of fruit pastilles stashed in my drawer last week than are there now.) And if he doesn't have a key, then no-one will find the note anyway, or not until it's too late for it to do any good.

Plan B is straightforward: tell someone I can trust. This rules out ninety-nine per cent of my friends and relatives, and the remaining one per cent that I can rely on all love Max, and would be horrified at what I am up to.

I can't think of a Plan C, so I resort to staring hopelessly into the middle distance and eating a whole packet of sweets instead. When my eyes regain focus, there is the answer, staring me in the face. Or, rather, doing sit-ups in the doorway between our offices.

"Greg," I say. "I need to tell you something."

"Not now, you idiot," says Greg. "Can't you see I am struggling to breathe?"

"But it could be a matter of life and death," I say. (I was brought up never to put off doing something unpleasant but essential.)

"If I don't lose this bloody flab, it'll be my love life that'll be dead."

"Well, that's sort of what I want to talk about," I say - which really gets Greg's attention. He rolls over sideways, and sits up. Oh God, now I've gone and done it. There's nothing for it but to spill the beans.

After I've told him (almost) the whole story, Greg is appalled, but also fascinated. I don't think he's ever thought of me as someone who might have any kind of love-life, probably because I'm married. And he certainly wouldn't have expected it to be with an International Director of a Global Oil Company. Now he doesn't know what to think.

"Are you sure about this, Mol? Max is so nice," he says. "But God, this Johnny must be rich. Has he got any daughters?"

"One," I say. "She's about five years old, so there's nothing there for you."

"True," says Greg. "Though you'd better not mention her to Mr Beales."

So Plan C is as follows: I am to text Greg as soon as I have met up with Johnny, and if we change location, and again when I get home. Which has to be before midnight, or Greg will declare it an emergency and phone the Police.

Just after this is all decided, I get a text from Johnny.

"Arrived Heathrow, & about to board train, " he says. "Can't wait to see ALL of you."

As I'm scrolling through the message, my mobile rings. I'm so startled I nearly drop it, and am even more flustered when I see that the caller is Max. Bloody hell. For one panic-stricken moment, I think that he may be able to read Johnny's text, just because it is still up on the screen when his call comes in. I am losing  the plot.

"What time you going to this Law Society thing tonight?" Max says. He must be driving, as I can hear the car engine in the background.

"What?" Oh, yes - my cover story. I am such a useless liar. "Seven-thirty. Why?"

"I'll be back sooner than I thought from this customer's house, so I'll be home in time to give you a lift to the hotel," says Max. "Which hotel was it?"

Oh, good God. My mind goes blank for a minute. I can't think of a single hotel apart from the real one, and I can't tell him that. Then I recall the Marriott County Hall.

"The Marriott," I say. "You know." (I hope he does, as I'm not entirely sure Northwick even has a Marriott, now I come to think of it.)

"Oh, right," says Max. "That's a bit of a way out. You'd better be ready by seven, then. See you when you get home. Bye, darling."

Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. Where is the bloody Marriott? I ask Greg, who starts to laugh. It turns out the Marriott isn't even in bloody Northwick, but is miles out in the sticks. I'd need to take out a mortgage to afford a taxi from there back into town.

"What's it worth?" says Greg.

"What?" I say. I can't even think straight.

"To save your arse," says Greg. "I'll have to pick you up at the Marriott in the Gregmobile as soon as Max has dropped you off, and then drive you back to the right hotel in time to meet the oil baron."

That boy is a genius - even if he does take advantage of other people's difficulties. So now I have signed away my life for the next two months. I am to deal with every campaign postcard and lobbying email, single-handedly - plus I have to make coffee whenever Greg requests it. Without swearing at him.

This date had better be worth all the discomfort it's causing. I'd cancel the damn thing if Johnny wasn't already on the last stage of his journey here. It's not as if I can take a last-minute raincheck when he's come all the way from Moscow, though, is it?

I suppose I'd better go home and try and tart myself up. It may take all the foundation I can lay my hands on, just to mask out the guilt and stress that is probably written all over my face. And, if the last time I tried it is anything to go by, it'll really highlight my wrinkles. I bet I've gained a load more of those, in the last hour alone.

Boredom is starting to seem much more appealing than all this excitement. Bloody Friends Reunited. They have a lot to answer for. The least they could do would be to provide a warning on their homepage of the dangers these damned reunions pose to your sanity, and to your marriage. And some sort of panic alarm service would be useful too.....just in case. God, I feel sick.

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