‘ARE you comin’ or what?’ Bex was glaring at Nancy from the foot of the steps. The right leg of her tights was laddered to the knee and her cherry lipstick appeared black beneath the green neon light. She looked a classic tart. Cora was hopping about on one foot, pulling at her shoe.
‘My heel!’ she moaned. ‘My stupid heel!’
Nancy knew she was about to give them the opportunity to bitch about her the entire ride. But Bex was probably right, Nancy was a boring tit. Nancy was gratified to provide them a reason to carp. Bex liked to dish it out; Cora liked to consume it. But when Monday came round, the three of them would continue to meet up at lunch break as though nothing had happened – and moan about the injustices of life.
Bex was still glaring at Nancy. ‘Come on, Liquid Envy closes at two!’
‘Haven’t you had enough?’
Bex’s nose turned up. ‘Cora was right about you – you are a miserable old cow.’
Nancy’s eyes narrowed in response. This time, the most brutal fob-off seemed most fitting. ‘See you in a ditch somewhere.’ Nancy turned and made her way up the steps.
A taxi’s thrum tailgated the sound of her clopping shoes. Bex made it plain she didn’t hesitate. The sound of the taxi door reverberated against the portico entrance. Nancy didn’t look back.
A knot of hooded parkas emitting steam loitered at the other entrance. Zoom lenses glinted against the security lights. Vince is in town. Nancy watched and understood why Bex and Cora had not been approached by the bouncers. Because Jonas didn’t care. They were small-town working class slappers who were simply pissed out of their heads and would eventually slay their own fun. What more could have motivated this passivity than disdain? Tomorrow he could be in Paris, the next day, New York. Nancy and her so-called mates would be sweating it out at LossLess Insurance Company, a grey steel building located on the Parkway Industrial Estate outside Coventry. Check out our premium policies for acts of God, theft, accidental damage and death. Nancy had never known a tagline so depressing.
She knitted her lip at this bitter pill and entered the foyer. A decadently French partition next to the desk offered privacy. She called a taxi for home. Once done, Nancy drifted back to the bar. The ambience had shifted to an eighties theme. A huge disco ball was now rotating from the stage ceiling, casting off flecks of light. Michael Hutchence gravelled through the speakers on how your moves are so raw. A pastiche of framed images on the walls gave any theme significance – celebrities and rock stars had left their imprint via token shots: Gary from Take That, George Michael and Celine Dion. An original Degas sketch, a handwritten recipe from Heston Blumenthal and a diamond Tiffany ring, all housed within glass cases gave the place a cosmopolitan feel. Nancy had made an effort to look the part for Bex’s birthday bash – a blue cocktail dress from Kelly’s next to the fish shop in Bedworth plus black strappy shoes and a mock leather handbag from, well, The Bag & Shoe Place in the market. Nancy didn’t look half bad considering. Under this subdued light, no one would know the difference.
She checked out her appearance from the small mirror tucked beneath the flap of her bag. She’d overdone the eyeliner, giving her dark eyes a hard look. Or perhaps the eyeliner wasn’t to blame, but the imprint of her life. People envied her heart-shaped face, her flat broad brow and deft chin. Yet it all came together somehow stern, like a ward sister or a school ma’am. In a film, she would make a convincing nun. Well, anything was better than winding up looking like her mother.
Nancy closed her handbag along with her thoughts with a sharp click.
A small guttural sound escaped her as she turned.
Mr. Bling in all his glory was standing directly behind her. Had he been watching her smudge out her eyeliner just then? She didn’t want to know but her cheeks flushed al the same.
‘You didn’t leave with your friends?’
Mrs. Bling’s voice was deep yet soft and tinged with a soulful lilt. His eyes twinkled as a grin cavorted the edge of his lips. Nancy realised she hadn’t spoken since his first address. Her vocal chords seized up like a wind instrument stuffed with grit. She coughed. ‘L…look, I’m sorry about earlier. They’re just bored and frustrated. Wouldn’t you be if you’d been yakking all day long about insurance in a stupid headset?’
Mr. Bling’s grin grew lopsided in a quizzical slant. He decided the only way to respond to her rhetoric was to offer his hand. ‘Let me introduce myself. I’m Leon, Mr. Jonas’ personal assistant.’