Girls' night out

1 Oct 2001

"I look like shit."

Angela was staring into the wide dressing-table mirror in Kim's bedroom. Her hair was lank and lay flat on her head. Scattered around her were pots of foundation and moisturiser, and eyeliner and eyeshadow.

"Say again, Ang," Kim called from the kitchenette in her other room. She walked through into the bedroom, and Angela repeated to her: "I look like shit." Kim's face broke into sympathy. "Oh, don't say that, Angela. Come on, darling." She put her hands on Angela's shoulders, bare apart from dress and bra straps.

"It's true, though. I've been sat here an hour putting everything I can find on and it hasn't done any good. I might as well have been beating my face against the mirror."

Kim saw tears prick Angela's eyes, and was immediately worried. Angela was fairly plain - every pretty girl should have a plain friend, and Kim was all too conscious of her "sweet" retroussée nose and large, poetic eyes, and hair that behaved - but she always managed to look presentable with a little make-up. Well, a lot of make-up. However, crying just left her blotchy, red-eyed, puffy and tired. And tiresome.

"You like fine," Kim stressed. "A bit more here and there and you'll be a real diva. Sex on legs, honestly." She leant over Angela's right shoulder and spoke to her reflection. "Gonna pull tonight, Ang. You're gonna get lucky!" Angela had begun to smile again, and Kim reached over, picked something out and said, "I'll finish opening the bottle, then I'll be back to give you a hand."

The club - called "Scene" - was slightly too expensive for both girls, but Kim treated it more as a necessity and so didn't notice the cost as much as Angela. Neither girl was successful in their night out, even though they were there until a half hour before closing. At that point, Angela started to feel self-conscious. Only the desperate are still here at chucking-out time, she thought, and Kim was happy to be prised from the clutches of Dean from work anyway.

All night, Angela had thought she was in a chance twice: the first prospect turned out to be married, although still interested; the second stumbled somewhat when he asked her who her pretty friend was.

Staggering on their heels, the two girls were supporting each other, heading roughly towards the taxi rank.

"God, Ang, did you see Dean?" asked Kim incredulously. "Wankered as always. And acting like I should be glad to meet someone from work."

"That Simon fella wasn't much better. He hadn't even taken his ring off." They both laughed, and Kim almost tottered off her heels.

"You hungry, Ang? I'm starving. I could just murder a 'bab. Let's get a kebab, Ang."

Angela had a short while to reply, as they were not yet level with the light that spilled from the shop onto the pavement. She didn't know how to put it, but: Kim always ate whatever she wanted and never put on a scrap of weight but Angela was on a perpetual diet and still looked far to fat to even be called curvaceous so as far as she was concerned she could let Kim eat both their kebabs and Kim wouldn't feel guilty and flabby ever because....


But what could she say out loud? And did she not feel like something, something in her stomach that would help just a little? Yes? Fill the flat, cold emptiness chilling her far more than the walk to the taxi? Food? A little?

"OK, Kim love, she ventured. Only a few seconds had passed. "I might just get a sandwich or something, though."

She did order a sandwich, then the gnawed-at rawness came again and she asked for chips too. they ate, perched stupidly on two bar stools in the take-away. Pointedly, they both faced away from the owner. He was handsome enough, but he hadn't shaved and smelled of chip fat.

"You need to get yourself a fella, Angela darling." Kim was, amazingly, eating the kebab demurely. She used a fork, and each mouthful was a measured mix of meat and scraggy salad. Pointlessly neat.

"Not that easy, is it, Kim?" Angela countered. "Unless you reckon I should go back and find Simon. Or you could send Dean my way." Kim pulled a face and both girls laughed loudly. It was known in the office that there was Something Amiss With Dean.

"I wonder," Angela said wistfully, "if I'll ever find a decent bloke. Not Mister Right, just Mister Promising."

Kim shook her head. "There's not even any a million miles from Mister Promising out there, Ang. You should do what I do: if you want one, find one that's fit enough, then hammer him into shape. Worked with me and Ben."

"But -"

"Briefly. Briefly worked with me and Ben. God. I wonder where he is now." Kim chewed meditatively. "Still in fucking Brighton, I imagine. Good riddance. Still it worked briefly." She winked. "Got a shag out of it, didn't I?"

They laughed, Angela less than Kim, and left.

Later that night, Angela was lying in bed, unable to sleep with food weighing on her belly and her conscience. She felt greasy and toxic, and wanted to have the nerve to make herself sick. She wrestled with her sheets a few moments and then, on impulse, bounded out of her bed to the window. Slid it open. Fresh air, she thought, and breathed deeply.

The city was so big. She felt lost and alone in it, never to find anyone meant for her. Not like Kim. If Kim were in the mood, a new date would gravitate towards her. Black magic.

She inhaled again, and could smell, if not see from her window, the bigness of it all. She'd heard some gink in a lab coat on TV once talk about smells having different "notes;" overtones, really. The car fumes and dead Friday night in the air carried with it a note of bigness, of streets and streets.

One more sniff, and she realised what she was trying to find. Like some stupid after-shave commercial, or a kind of ESP, she wanted to lean out of a balcony, and be able to sense the man for her, somewhere out there. Sickened with herself, she slammed the window shut, and returned to bed.