The scene takes place in Jenny's house right after Laura walked out on Alec and Matt in the cafe, the day after she and Alec had met.
‘Stupid men!’ After walking out on Matt and Alec, I made my way to Jen’s place.
It wasn’t far, only two blocks from the cafe in a quiet, tree-lined street halfway down a steep hill. It was part of a group of lovely century-old sandstone cottages that had escaped the bulldozer in the late nineteen-sixties, when almost all suburban councils were in a frenzy to demolish the old in their haste to construct modern apartment complexes - like mine.
They got more rates that way.
I knocked on the familiar glossy blue front door.
‘I was about to call you.’ She stood back to allow me to enter, her head cocked to one side as I strode past. ‘Uh oh. I know that look. Man trouble?’
‘You have no idea.’
‘Kitchen,’ she ordered.
We strode down the long, book-lined hallway, past the poky bedrooms and into the open living area that was Jenny’s favourite part of the house - her sunny kitchen. I knew it almost as well as my own - welcoming, comforting and far away from the strange, new and dark world Alec represented.
I went straight to the kettle and switched it on.
‘That bad, huh?’ She leant against the sink and watched silently as I fetched a tin of tea bags from the cupboard and slammed it on the bench. She rescued the mugs I was reaching for before they met the same fate.
‘Laura, hon, tell me.’
‘What else is new?’
Good point. Settling me in a chair, she finished making the tea and placed a steaming cup of Earl Grey into my hands.
‘Matt’s angry.’ Misery coated my voice, and as much as I was able, I told Jenny about the new man who’d entered my life - Alec Munro-‘He’s … a family friend … on Aunt judy’s side’ -the meeting in the cafe and my parting words. ‘He nearly started a punch-up in the cafe.’
Jenny whistled and gave me an incredulous stare.
My stomach churned at having to avoid the words “vampire”, “blood”, “magic rings” or that Alec was a murder suspect. Yet how could I reveal all that? The biggest secret of my life and I couldn’t share it with my best friend.
Life had taken a turn for the worse but I promised myself that one day she would know all.
‘That’s the action of a man guarding his property,’ she said shaking her head.
‘I’m nobody’s property!’
‘Men don’t think that way, hon.’
‘Tell me about it.’ I gulped down my tea wishing it were something stronger.
‘From what you told me, your aunt’s asked you to take her place at this event, this Alec guy as your escort, right?’
‘It has to be a Dantonville and you’re the only one available?’
‘Y-e-e-e-s.’ Technically true.
‘And Matt’s not happy.’ She leaned forward and braced her arms on the table. ‘Describe this Alexander Munro.’
‘About one-eighty-centimetres - taller than Matt - lean but muscular, broad shoulders, dark hair.’
I really didn’t want to answer that, but I did. ‘Violety-mauve.’
‘You mean lavender? Like yours? That’s incredible.’
‘Okay … age?’
‘Um … twenty-nine.’ I nearly blurted out Alec’s chronological age.
Jenny’s eyes never left my face. ‘Laura, on a scale of one to ten, level one being, let’s say bad teeth, no lips, scrawny body, to ten being a regular hottie male-model-make-women-salivate type of guy. Where would you place this Alec Munro?’
Because I didn’t answer straight away, Jen gave me her suspicious look: lowered head, raised eyebrows and pursed lips.
At that, she threw her hands in the air and rolled her eyes. ‘Oh hon, wake up and smell the testosterone! Of course Matt’s reacting, what did you expect? First you tell him you have to meet this guy alone, then accompany him to some plush event where he’s not invited and this morning you’re meeting him for coffee - again - alone. No wonder he bolted down there as soon as he woke up and read your note!’ She looked at me as if I was an idiot. ‘Especially if this Alec looks like, you know, a hottie from heaven.’
‘Oh Jen! I was hoping I was wrong, but hearing you say it….’ I buried my face in my hands.
‘Tell me, hon, did this guy try to come on to you, you know, hold your hand, lock eyes …? And did Matt see any of that?’
What the??? ‘I know what coming onto me means. I’m not stupid!’
‘No you’re not, Laura, but you can be so naive sometimes it worries me.’
Blame my emotional stuntedness on my weird genes. I sighed. ‘Alec did take my hand to apologise for - the inconvenience, but that was before Matt showed up.’
‘How soon before?’
I chewed on my lower lip and shook my head. ‘I’m sure he didn’t see anything, and I took my hand away as soon as I could.’
‘Honey, Matt’s a detective. He has the eyes of a hawk.’
I groaned. Lowered my head and banged it lightly on the table. It seemed the most sensible thing to do.
Jenny’s hand patted the top of my head. ‘Want my advice?'
I nodded into the table.
‘Reassure him. That’s what he needs to hear from you. This Alec Munro’s an unknown and Matt’s worried. Tell him you love him and that you’re only accompanying this guy to do your aunt a favour. After this, you’ll never see him again. Right? End of problem.’
If only it was that simple. How could I tell her that I’d be seeing Alec for the next fifty years - twice a week?
Jenny gazed at me, expectant. ‘Laura, this shouldn’t be a problem, you know, unless…?’
‘Unless what?’ My head shot up.
‘You feel something for this other guy,’ she said softly.
In that sunny kitchen, a cold chill crept its way up my spine. I was fond of Matt, no, I loved him … I was sure of it. The fact that Alec was beyond good looking had nothing to do with it.
Then why did my stomach flip when Jen mentioned his name?
You’re being ridiculous, Laura. I gripped the tea cup and brought it up to my lips. Blast, it was empty. ‘No, I’m not doing that to Matt - ever.’ I rose from the table and rinsed the empty cup in the sink. Jenny’s silence sent an arrow through my heart. ‘Sorry Jen. I didn’t mean that the way it came out.’
'S’okay, and I don’t blame you. Just don’t make the same mistake I did.’
Jenny knew the heartache of falling for another man - two weeks before her wedding. The fact she’d broken off the engagement, married the other guy who'd then promptly left her when she found out she couldn’t have kids, was testament to her following her own heart.
‘Still can’t answer that.’ Her usually lively eyes turned sad and I couldn’t bear to see that.
‘Ball gown,’ I blurted out.
‘I need to buy a ball gown.’
‘You’re going then?’
‘I have to.’
‘Okay, but if I can have the last word here? Matt is crazy about you. Rang last week sussing out whether he had a chance. He was worried that you’d hold back because of the age gap between you. I told him to go for it; that he’ll always look older because of your funny DNA. That’s all he needed to know.’
I was speechless.
‘And - did he?’ she asked.
I nodded. ‘Last night - in the car - coming home.’
‘Well then.’ And that was it, her final word. ‘You’d better go and buy that dress. Wish I could join you. Unfortunately,’ she pointed to the pile of marking stacked high in the laundry basket next to the table, ‘got to get them done by Monday.’
‘No worries, Jen. I came at short notice anyway.’
She saw me to the door, and after a peck on the cheek, ‘Make sure you tell me everything afterwards,’ I left to scour the shops to find something suitable to wear to a vampire ceremony.
Perhaps I should ask the shop assistants?
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