Considering it is a Wednesday night the bar is busy. Clearly, the week has already driven most of Islington to drink before the weekend hits—me included.
Emily hands me a tequila shot, which I take gratefully and knock it back without even waiting for the lemon or salt. She stares at me a beat, her own shot clutched between her fingers.
“Bloody hell, girl, you could have waited for me.” Without further ado, she puts the shot glass to her lips and throws her head back, draining the contents in one swallow.
That is one thing I can always count on Emily for—no matter what happens she’ll always stand at my side, even if that means drinking shots with me until she’s sick too. And being sick is likely to be on the cards. I’m already tipsy and the night is still young.
Me and Emily have been friends since we were five years old. We went through school together, separated briefly while I went to university and Em moved to Dubai and both ended up back in London in our mid-twenties. Emily has been with me through thick and thin—including the jilting saga.
“You don’t have to keep up with me,” I tell her as I reach for my main drink—a fishbowl of gin, my poison of choice. I’m throwing that back between the shots, just to make sure I get sufficiently wankered. There’s nothing quite like chasing your booze with more booze.
I take a long sip of my drink to wash down the tequila burn. It doesn’t help.
“Uh, yeah, I do, Sades. What kind of best friend would I be if I left you to get trashed on your own?”
“The kind that has to get up for work tomorrow,” I remind her as I swill the liquid in the bottom of my glass.
“Pot and kettle, sugar. You also have to get up for work.”
I do. Right now that doesn’t seem important though. Nothing seems important besides getting completely and utterly trollied. I’m well on my way. I’m already starting to get a little fuzzy around the edges.
“Says me.” She leans an elbow on the table and studies me so intently I find my attention straying to my glass just so I don’t have to look at her. “Do you want to explain what this mad midweek drinking session is about? Not that I mind. I’ve had a bloody awful day.”
My brow contracts and my own problems are cast aside momentarily. Actually, now that I look at her closely, I can see the tightness in her face that suggests tension. “Why have you had a bad day?”
She flicks her auburn hair over her shoulder and waves off my question. She’s still wearing her work clothes—a pantsuit and a blouse that probably cost more than most people’s rent, but even despite the subtle underlying stress she looks fabulous. Then again, she always does.
“Not important, sweetie. You drowning your sorrows so aggressively is, however.”
I let out a breath. “Fine, but we’re definitely coming back to why your day has been awful.” I roll the glass between my hands, the gin sloshing a little in the bottom. “I saw Richard last night.”
“Richard the prick?” she demands.
I wince at her name for him. He is a prick, but she doesn’t have to say it.
“The one and only. He was with some woman. He’s clearly shagging her because he looked all gooey eyed and annoying.”
She lets out an irritated huff.
“He didn’t let grass grow, did he?”
She’s not wrong, but it doesn’t help my self-esteem, which has already taken a kicking. Who moves onto a new woman that fast after leaving your previous fiancée on the day of your wedding?
I tighten my grip on my glass and move it to my lips. Then I glug it down like it’s water, not highly potent alcohol. At least there is tonic in it to lessen the impact, although it doesn’t really help.
“I shouldn’t care,” I tell Emily. “I don’t know why I do.”
She reaches out and grabs my hand, squeezing it. “Because you’re human, darling. You loved the man. You were going to marry him and have a life together. It’s perfectly natural to feel out of sorts when you’re confronted with the fact he’s moving on with his life.”
This is all true but does not help me in this moment. “Bloody hell,” I say, throwing back another mouthful of gin.
“Well, maybe it’s time for you to take a leaf out of Richard’s book,” Emily says, and she says it in a way that makes it clear it definitely is time.
She’s probably right. No, she’s definitely right. Emily is rarely wrong about anything, which is the main reason I asked her to meet me tonight. Of all my friends, I knew she would be the one to talk sense into me.
“You think I should leave someone high and dry at the altar?” And don’t I sound bitter?
She scoffs at me. “No, silly. You’re not that evil. I mean maybe it’s time for you to move on. You know, live your life a little. Have fun.”
I have fun.
Actually I don’t have fun at all. I work and I sleep. That is about the sum total of my existence. I’m stuck in a rut.
“It’s only been a few months,” I defend, although why I’m not sure. Obviously, that was enough time for Richard to get me out of his head.
The pain of him ending things the way he did has not really disappeared although it has lessened. It’s certainly not as intense as it first was. Richard was my life; I planned the future with him. Mortgage, children, grandchildren, retirement. To have that taken away was a difficult pill to swallow but having it taken away when I thought everything was fine and dandy hurt worse. I didn’t see it coming. With hindsight, I was far too wrapped up in wedding fever to notice Richard was floundering and not into the idea of forever as much as I was.
“Do you know the best way to get over a man—”
I hold up a hand, silencing her immediately. “I swear if you tell me to get under another one I will hit you.”
She smirks then shrugs. “It’s true, darling. Even if you just get yourself some casual sex, you need to do something besides mope over that waste of space.”
I was joking about hitting her a moment ago; now, I’m considering how hard. Talk about pouring salt into the wound.
“You do remember the part, Emmy, where he ripped my heart out in front of a hundred and fifty people and left me bleeding all over the wedding venue floor, right?”
I’m not surprised when her eyes roll at my dramatics. I’m well versed in drama; I am Margaret Greenwood’s daughter, after all.
“Sadie, what he did to you was terrible—unforgivable, in fact. He’s a total bastard and I hate him for it, but pining over him isn’t good either. You’re young, attractive and you deserve to be happy.”
I stare at her. “How long have you been waiting to say that?”
She lifts her glass and takes a delicate sip. “Since the day you almost got married to a narcissist.”
Both Emily and my sister, Lilliana, had filled me in on all the details of what happened after I left the wedding venue. Apparently, Richard’s change of heart had not been welcomed by either his parents or mine. My mother especially had not handled the news her eldest child would not be getting married well. She’d waited to play mother of the bride for two years after Richard proposed; I think she hates him more than I do.
“It’s past time for you to reclaim your life, Sades, and get back on the horse.”
“The dating horse. When you fall out of the saddle, the only way to get over the fear of riding again is to climb back on that horse.”
I don’t know whether it is the alcohol clouding my brain or that her words don’t make sense, but either way I’m confused as to why we’re talking about horses.
“What’s a horse got to do with dating?”
“Nothing.” She scowls and lifts her glass in my direction. “You need to find your Prince Charming, love. And you’re not going to do that sitting in a bar drinking fruity fucking gin with me after work, are you?”
Probably not, but she’s overlooked the most important factor. “I don’t want to find Prince Charming. Prince Charming can get on his own horse and fuck right off.”
She ignores my biting words, muttering, “You’re thirty-one years old, not dead. You need regular loving, honey.”
“Regular loving was what got me into this mess in the first place. If I hadn’t met Richard, I wouldn’t be sitting here drowning my sorrows.”
And I wouldn’t. Richard ruined me and while I’m slowly rebuilding my self-esteem, I’m not sure I’m ready to jump back into a relationship with someone.
So, I don’t need this talk right now; what I do need is more gin, and a lot of it. This conversation is going to take a ton of booze to forget.
Emily eyes me like I’m a specimen in the zoo. “You definitely need a man.”
“This isn’t the nineteen-fifties; there’s more to life than marriage and men.”
And while this is true, I am lying a little. I miss waking up with someone, having a partner to share fun adventures with, and I hate going back to my flat alone.
“Of course there is more to life,” she says as she swirls the Martini in her own glass. “But I’m talking about having fun, Sades, and if you happen to meet someone along the way… well, that would be a bonus. You’ve got a lot to give, sweetie, and I don’t think you should don the spinster cape just yet. Which is why I signed you up for a dating app.”
I blink at her. Then I blink again as my brain tries and fails to make sense of her statement.
“You did what?”
The straw goes between perfectly plumped lips before she sucks back a mouthful of drink. “I signed you up for a dating app. Use it, don’t use it—it’s up to you, but honestly, darling, I think you might be surprised.”
I glare at her—in fact, I gawk daggers at her, hoping my ears are playing tricks on me. Why I think this I have no idea because Emily is nothing if not impulsive and she would have set this up impulsively. She would have also done it because she wants to help me, which is the only reason I keep my temper in check—that and the alcohol. That is having a lovely calming effect.
“You seriously signed me up for a dating app?”
She grins at me. “You never know, you might find a Prince Charming you don’t want to tell to fuck off.”
I doubt it but I know there is also no chance arguing with her will work, so I don’t bother trying. Instead, I take a long sip of my gin and consider the possibility I’m going to need another refill sooner rather than later.
“I’ve sent all the login deets to your email,” she tells me. “Now, do you want more tequila or shall we move on to something a little more potent.”
And I scowl into my glass. No way in hell am I looking at them.