Stop acting like a jellyfish
Ted and Ryan insisted we go to a Mexican restaurant they liked, I sat next to Katie. I listened to her drone on about beauty treatments and how her skin would never survive in a British climate and how she yearned to move somewhere warmer. I only caught snippets of Ryan telling Ted about the cat’s leg.
Instead of twenty minutes, I’d had about five to explain what a pest Digby was and how he had to call him off. He’d listened earnestly and nodded but with the noise in the pub I wondered if he’d heard much of what I said.
How to land in purgatory in a few easy steps, I thought as Katie’s endless monotone left me agitated.
“I don’t want to end up with broken capillaries.”
“Me neither.” I agreed trying to make the best of this pointless conversation.
“You girls chosen?” Ted grinned at us.
“Everything is loaded with calories.” Katie pouted.
“Oh Lumpkin, have a night off from calorie counting why don’t you?”
There followed an exchange on how Ted never put on extra weight whereas Katie only had to look at a pork pie. Ryan laughed at them both, “Eating out with you two is always such a pleasure!”
After the starters, humongous mounds of refried beans and lettuce, Katie excused herself and rushed off to the toilets.
“Probably going to throw up, she’s a bit bulimic,” Ted sighed. “How’s Scarlett?” The question seemed to be directed at me.
Ryan got up too and disappeared as if by prior arrangement.
“Look I don’t want to seem a bastard but I really like Scarlett, could you put a word in for me?”
“But you’re with Katie.” Why should he be happy when my misery seemed to go on and on? I looked up to see Ryan deep in conversation with a very tall boy with bright ginger hair who seemed concerned about something.
“Katie and me, well we’re more friends than anything else y’know. I can’t stop thinking about Scarlett.”
“I can’t stop thinking about Ryan, could you put a word in for me?” I blurted, angry at apparently being used all the time.
Ted frowned, “Didn’t realize, I think he’s still hung up on Catya.”
“So why isn’t she here in my place right now?”
He stared at me and I could see the cogs of tact turning in his mind. “She’s er working I think.” The cogs didn’t turn smoothly enough.
So there I had it, in a nutshell, I had been invited to make up numbers, bastard. Fobbed off with Digby then used as a filler when his stunning girlfriend had other plans. I thought about making my excuses to leave but I looked up to see Ryan coming back.
“Katie still preening?” Ryan sat down and smiled. “Sorry about that, he’s worried about his pet snake. Last week I pulled a tennis ball out of its throat, stupid thing keeps trying to swallow his kid’s toys.”
“So why doesn’t he keep them out of the snake’s way?” I glared at him, “Stupid pet to have anyway.” I realized I sounded bitter and took a swig from my bottle of beer in the hope it would calm my rising rage. It didn’t.
Katie returned to the table where we now sat in silence waiting for our main course.
For the next half hour she picked at her enchilada, nibbled at the lettuce leaves and whined about the refried beans being soggy. Ted ignored her and started talking about an up and coming stag night. “You’ve got to come mate,” he said to Ryan, “Remember that club we went to when it was Gus’s stag night?” He gave an elaborate wink.
Ryan stared at him a moment, “Oh yeah, I remember. Is that where we’re going then?”
I studied the menu annoyed that they were ignoring me in their conversation but not really registering what they were saying until Ted mentioned the name of Marvin’s club. I sucked my breath in alarm.
“Apparently it’s much better than that one was. Drinks are more expensive but the er entertainment is meant to be mind blowing.”
I didn’t need to ask what the entertainment was. I turned to Katie, “Don’t you mind your boyfriend going to those sort of places?”
Ted laughed, “You mean you know where I’m talking about?”
“I’ve er heard about it yes.”
Katie shrugged. “Not bothered.”
Tired, fed up and very agitated I stared at him. “I wouldn’t want any boyfriend of mine going in a place like that.”
Ryan coughed into his napkin, “It’s just a harmless bit of fun.”
“Yes, don’t go getting your knickers in a twist.” Ted sniggered, pulling a face at me.
I wanted to spit my beer at his patronizing tone. Idiot. I’d have to warn Scarlett so she could ring in sick. Then my heart sank at the thought of what happened last time she’d rung in sick.
I decided to drop the subject and instead remained in sulky silence. Ted and Katie walked me home after I’d rather haughtily reminded Ryan to get Digby to leave me alone. He exchanged a look with Ted, shrugged and told me he’d do his best but that Digby was his ‘own man.’
Perhaps I should leave him to find out about his sister’s real life, I felt like punishing him.
I tossed and turned all night, and eventually fell asleep in the early hours. My mobile phone woke me; Jade rasped something about being sorry for not getting in touch sooner but that there wasn’t much on the books right now. As much as I liked the idea of staying in bed all day, I knew I couldn’t last long without work.
“What nothing at all?” I tried not to sound desperate but I was.
“Not at the moment lovey. You should have told that Sharon Sharman you wanted a permanent post even if you didn’t. She cut up all snotty that you wouldn’t stay on. I’ll be in touch as soon as.”
She hung up without so much as a goodbye.
I hauled myself off the bed and wandered into Scarlett’s room. Typically I found her unconscious.
I knew Daisy wouldn’t be up yet either. I badly needed an ear to bend about all my woes but I knew Maddy wouldn’t fit the bill. Finding the cereal packet empty I sat at the kitchen table and considered having a little weep but what good would that do, other than swell my eyes and make me look as useless as I felt?
If I phoned my mother, all she’d suggest would be to get on the first train home, then I would feel like failure of the century.
I decided to go and get dressed, take myself to the café down the road and spend my last fiver on tea and an egg roll. Then I could check out the jobs in the paper somewhere that didn’t make me feel so depressed.
The café brightened my mood as soon as I walked in. The steamed up windows made me feel protected from the austere outside world where grey skies threatened a downpour. There were only a few people inside, hidden behind newspapers. Mumsie as the regulars called her, stood behind the counter grinning at me, her ample bosom on show and beads of sweat on her forehead. “Alright lovey, what can I get you?”
I chose a corner table so I could observe the whole room in between staring intently at advertisements.
I read the job descriptions with mounting angst. Either I didn’t have the qualifications, or the experience or the skills or I didn’t live near enough. Some didn’t even state salary. None of them appealed. I could hear Aunty say how sometimes you could find something you liked quite by accident but all of these posts looked more like car crashes waiting to happen to me if I applied.
None of them looked the sort of job to impress Ryan either. Why did I constantly compare everything to what his unknown expectations might be? He couldn’t care less about me, I thought bitterly.
I bit into my egg roll and yolk burst in my mouth and dribbled down my chin. Hastily I wiped it off with a rough textured napkin, my eyes scanning the café to make sure no one had noticed. Of course no one had, why should they?
Oddly it seemed I only had to think of my aunt and she would appear in some form. My mobile bleeped with a message from her: Hospital appointment at 3pm, will you come with me?
My heart sank that the day had arrived and rose at the thought she realized she should have company. I replied in the affirmative and added three kisses. Poor Aunty Clara she must be so scared I thought, biting into my roll again, this time causing less of a mess.
It wasn’t until I returned to the house I remembered I had just spent my last five pounds. I hoped Scarlett might be awake so I could ask her for a loan to get to the hospital.
“Of course you can Cupcake.”
Luckily she seemed to be in a good mood. Then I remembered Ted and Ryan’s planned stag night outing. “Are you working at the club on the night of the sixth?” I asked warily.
“Um I expect so, what day is it?”
I swiftly checked the calendar on my phone, “A Saturday.”
“Then yes, why?”
I shoved the twenty-pound note she handed me into the pocket of my jeans. “It’s er, well I was out with Ryan and Ted last night and they were going on about some stag do they’ve been invited to and apparently it’s at the club.”
“Oh bum.” She flung a hand into her hair. “I knew this was going to happen at some point, just flaming knew it. That’s only a couple of weeks away isn’t it?”
I nodded grimly.
“I can’t not do it, I need the fees for that course I told you about.”
We stared blankly at one another.
“You don’t know anyone else who could do it?”
“Well probably but they’d want the money. Lots of the girls keep calling in sick; they’re a lazy bunch at the moment.”
Then she gave me the look I dreaded, the summing up look that I knew would quickly turn into a pleading look.
“No way, I can’t do it, not in front of Ryan, no way!”
“If we make you up right he won’t recognize you.”
“No way.” I repeated with a rising sense of panic.
“We could colour your hair temporarily and if we go running every day until then you’ll soon lose your muffin top.”
“My what?” I stared down in alarm. She was right, I had a roll of flesh spilling over the top of my jeans.
“What have you eaten today?”
“An egg roll.”
“No more of those for a couple of weeks. Come on, go put on some jogging bottoms and we’ll start now.”
“No way,” I repeated.
“Listen, you need some money too, stop being such a prude, come and do a few sessions, tone up and who knows, my idiot brother might finally start paying you the attention you crave.”
“What if he does recognize me? He won’t want a girlfriend who does that for a j..” I just stopped myself but it was too late.
Scarlett smiled a cool businesslike smile. “Girl you have a lot to learn, about my brother and about life. Stop wasting time and go and get changed.”
There were no seats left on the tube and my legs and back ached horribly. Scarlett had started my new fitness regime immediately with bursts of walking and sprints for half an hour round the block. “When you get back tonight we’ll do it again and you can do some sit ups too.”
“Oh can I?” I wheezed back at her.
I arrived at the hospital before my aunt and immediately looked for somewhere to sit down. Every time I went to take a seat a frail old lady or a man with one leg or a sickly looking child made for it. I gave up and leaned against a ledge until I spotted her fragile frame speeding towards the entrance. Never mind how unwell she seemed she could still trot at quite a pace. I called to her and she turned and smiled. We embraced.
“You look exhausted!”
“I am exhausted.” I explained Scarlett’s plans to put me into her version of boot camp but didn’t explain why.
“It’s a good idea,” She giggled, “You need to get fit, get those endorphins working; they might get your brain into gear.”
“Oh thanks a lot.”
She took my arm and we stared at signs trying to see the department listed we were due to visit. A volunteer dashed over and asked if he could help. Ten minutes later it seemed as if we’d walked the length of the hospital. I don’t know who was more breathless by the time we reached our destination. People sat in silent rows staring at magazines only looking up briefly to check the large wall clock. We checked her in and seated ourselves at a distance from everyone else. “Don’t want to catch anything.” I whispered into her ear and she giggled, more out of nervousness than amusement I suspected. “I’ll go see if there are any magazines less than two years out of date.”
I flicked to the agony column first, if only I could find someone with exactly the same problems as me so I wouldn’t have to write in, not that I ever would.
A skinny nurse with a lisp called my aunt in. I stood up to go with her but she held up a hand to stop me. “I’ll be fine,” She said but I didn’t feel so sure.
“I can come if you like..”
The nurse assured me she would look after her so I sat back down and started to read through the problems of strangers. They seemed quite dull compared to mine. Mentally I composed a letter to the kind looking lady pictured.
I constantly fantasize about a man who is good looking, successful in his profession and lives in a beautiful flat. The problem is, whenever he invites me out, he invites all his friends too. I get the impression he only ever invites me to make up numbers. I thought at first he really liked me too but then he seemed to think I’d be better off with his friend who is a mortician. Is there a hint in there somewhere?
I don’t feel good enough for him in any way, shape or form.
Even worse, I am housemate with his beautiful sister who works in a lap-dancing club. He doesn’t know what she does and is going there with his mate on a stag do. He will be furious if he finds out and his mate is in love with her. She wants me to stand in for her and is forcing me to do exercises to shape up that are more likely to kill me.
Apart from that, I can’t find a job I like, in my former life I used to be a fish that lived in the London Aquarium and my memories give me nightmares and no one understands me.
I would be grateful for any ideas you have to improve my life.
Anonymous Fish Person
Did this seem like enough problems for any one person? I suspected so.
A large wheezing woman sat down next to me, squashing me further into my seat.
I imagined an answer from the agony aunt.
Dear Anonymous Fish person
Why don’t you bloody pull yourself together? You are young; you’re fairly attractive I’m bound to guess even though you didn’t send in a picture. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you so snap out of it and start living you stupid girl. As for this perfect man of yours, perhaps he’s as nervous of you as you are of him, or perhaps he just doesn’t fancy you. Why don’t you save yourself all this agony and just ask him?
As for having once been a fish, what were you, a jellyfish? Because right now that’s just what you are acting like, a great big wobbly creature with no real substance, quivering at the thought of life because let’s face it you’re not doing anything to make a life.
It’s a good thing that your friend is getting you to shape up, what with you being a jellyfish…
So lost was I in my imaginings it took me a few moments to hear my name being called, I looked up into the anxious eyes of the lispy nurse. “Can you come and sit with your Aunt?”
© Petra Kidd 2013
Before I was born onto land… I was a fish
Also by Petra Kidd
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The next chapter of Before I was born onto land I was a fish will be posted next Sunday.