Read The Debt & the Doormat Online
Authors: Laura Barnard
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Humor, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Contemporary Fiction, #Humor & Satire, #General Humor, #Romance
The Debt & the Doormat
By Laura Barnard
Published in 2013 by FeedARead.com Publishing – Arts Council funded
The author has asserted their moral right under the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified
as the author of this work.
All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than
that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
To my wonderful family (even the drunk and mental ones) and hilarious friends – you are my inspiration.
‘You’re how much in debt?!’ I squeal looking into my best friend’s face.
‘Please,’ she says, throwing her hands up in defence. ‘Don’t over-react. It’s...totally manageable.’
I roll my eyes and breathe out harshly. If I know Jazz it will be anything but manageable, or reasonable or ordinary for that matter.
‘Exactly how much?’ I demand, crossing my arms and trying my best to come across as intimidating.
‘Well I’m not going to tell you if you’re just going to scream at me!’ she shouts, flicking her long blonde curls behind her and collapsing back onto the sofa.
I take a deep breath and try not to over-react. It can’t be that bad. It can’t be as bad as when she nearly married that Scandinavian waiter because she claimed he was the best sex she ever had even though he couldn’t speak a word of English and supposedly proposed with an onion ring. I mean, how much money could she have spent? It’s not like she buys that many clothes, is it? Then I notice her purple knee high boots. Are they new? I try so desperately to ignore her ridiculous wardrobe that maybe I’ve been blind to it. Was she really getting herself into this mess before my eyes and I was too dumb to notice?
‘Ok,’ I say slowly, taking a deep breath to calm myself. ‘How much debt are you in?’
I do my best to smile sweetly, trying to show how reasonable I’m now feeling, pushing the strong feelings of wanting to throttle her to the back of my mind.
‘Well, the truth...’ she begins, her small grey eyes staring up at me sadly, ‘is I don’t really know. I just know that I keep getting letters and...And...’ She stops to wipe a tear that's escaped from her eye. ‘There’s red print on them saying final demand and I thought I could handle it, but now I just seem to be drowning in red letters!’ Her voice finally breaks with emotion and she grabs my silk cushion, cradling it tightly to her chest.
‘Oh Hun.’ I move to sit on the coffee table in front of her.
I hover my hands over her, trying to think of the best way to hug her. I’ve never been very good with showing physical affection to friends. Don't get me wrong – I feel like I should hug someone in these situations - but I’ve never been much of a hugger, having grown up with three brothers. If they wanted to show affection they’d punch me in the stomach, and I don't think that would be very helpful.
I settle with patting her on the shoulder instead. God I
hope she doesn’t get any tears on my pillow. I can see them dripping down her sculptured cheeks, so close to the cushion that it's almost touching. Please not my beautiful cushion. My Grandma gave it to me when I moved out and sewed in a message in silver thread. Now she’s gone, I love it all the more. I don’t want Jazz’s glitter mascara all over it.
‘Here,’ I say, passing her a tissue from the coffee table.
‘I’m fine,’ she sobs, pushing it away dramatically.
The tears are coming thick and fast now and now there’s snot trickling down her chin towards my beautiful purple sequinned cushion. She’s never been much of a pretty crier.
, just give me the pillow. Step
from the pillow.
‘I know!’ I shout, surprising Jazz with my sudden enthusiasm. ‘If you leave now and go and get the letters then I can add it all up for you and we can work out how to get you out of this mess. Yeah?’
I lightly grip the edge of the pillow. If she’d just loosen her grip slightly I could whip it away from her.
‘They’re in my bag,’ she sniffs. ‘Oh, but I can’t face them!’
She turns over and presses her teary face into the pillow. Well, there goes my beautiful cushion. That's another one for the wash. I should really hide nice things when Jazz comes round. Maybe I’ll turn into one of those crazy women with plastic covers for the sofas. It doesn’t really sound that crazy to me, just practical. I do seem to drop a lot of stuff.
I try to pull myself together and think like a good friend. Where was I? Oh that's right – the letters. I run over to her giant pink patent bag and rummage in it to find her post. God, she’s got all sorts of crap in here. A DVD, a plastic baby spoon, a miniature Hindu elephant headed God, a big pink sort of rock or stone, a banana, a pair of 3D glasses, chopsticks, some rizlas and a Swiss army knife. Jesus, she’s a kook. I finally locate a stack of letters at the bottom.
‘Found them,’ I say, trying to sound cheery. I walk back over to her and prise her away from the sofa before she can do any more damage. ‘Come on,’ I say impatiently. ‘We need to do this.’
‘Ok, ok.’ She wipes the tears from her face, smudging mascara all over her che
eks before sitting bolt upright; a sudden determined look on her face. ‘But first we need some wine.’ She runs out of the room, coming back two seconds later with a bottle of Pinot and two glasses.
‘I still can’t believe you have all of this crap in your bag,’ I say, picking up the plastic baby spoon.
‘It’s useful actually.’ she says defiantly, snatching it from my hand.
‘Yeah I’m sure a baby spoon is real useful.’ I snort, rolling my eyes.
‘It’s for really small yoghurt pots
’ she says, herself like a petulant toddler.
‘Ok, so explain the rest,’ I challenge.
‘Fine, I’ll show you.’ She picks up her Swiss army knife and stabs the top of the bottle with it, managing to eventually prise the cork out. ‘Tah dah,’ she smiles, looking very proud of herself.
‘And the rest?’ I ask, as she pours wine into my glass with little bits of cork floating in it.
‘Easy,’ she smiles. ‘The DVD is one someone at work lent me, the banana for potassium,
The chopsticks in case I have Chinese, duh. And the glasses are from a 3D movie I saw the other day.’
‘And these?’ I ask holding up the mini statue and rock.
‘For my inner peace and wellbeing.
‘Oh, of course,
I laugh to myself as I root around for my calculator. When I eventually find it in the oven, which I use for storage as I have an aversion to cooking, I start adding up the totals. Jazz flicks through a magazine, seeming to have already gotten over the stress. There are at least five letters but their totals don't seem that high. She must just be being a drama queen. I’m sure it's totally fine.
The total finally flashes up on the screen and I do a double take. Oh Jesus, this can’t be right.
‘What? How much is it?’ Jazz asks, pouting her lips from behind the magazine; still barely showing any concern.
I open my mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. What can I say? This is definitely not going to make her feel better.
‘Chick, you’re worrying me now. Please just tell me. How much?’ She stares at me for a moment and her expression quickly changes when I can't meet her eye. She takes a large gulp of wine, her hands trembling.
‘I must have added up wrong.’ I touch my temples, which have started to throb. I press clear and start to add them up again.
‘How fucking much?’ she demands impatiently.
I take a gulp of wine myself for courage. ‘Five thousand.’
Jazz sits silently for a moment, her pretty features contorted in shock and horror. She slowly puts her glass down onto the coffee table, still completely bewildered. She grabs the bottle of wine and begins urgently chugging on it. She stops when she’s out of breath and looks up at me, her eyes scared and vulnerable.
‘Yeah, fuck indeed.’
There's an awkward silence while I desperately try to think of something to do or say to make her feel better. There must be
, right? I’m sure if I watched more Jeremy Kyle I’d be better equipped to deal with situations like this.
‘There’s only one thing we can do in a situation like this,’ she announces, standing up.
I don’t believe it. In this moment of madness she has a plan. For once, my ‘go with the flow’ friend has a plan. Everything is going to be ok, thank God.
‘Yes?’ I ask, trying to hide how impressed I am. The feeling of sickening panic starts to drain out of my stomach.
‘Get totally fucked.’ she nods.
She grabs hold of my arm and drags me into my kitchen before I can show my disapproval. The tequila bottle is grabbed out of the cupboard and before I can protest she’s forced me to do five shots. The picture on my fridge of the two of us in Ibiza with traffic cones on our heads reminds me of the last time I drank tequila. She helps me out of the kitchen with another bottle of wine in her hand, turning the stereo on full blast.
‘Get serious for a second!’ I shout over my Abba CD. It’s this carefree attitude that's got her into this mess.
‘Ok,’ she says, sighing heavily as she begrudgingly turns the music down slightly.
‘You need to start paying this off. How did you even get yourself in this mess anyway? I thought your Mum paid your credit card bill?’ The tequila fog is starting to cloud over me. I fight it, desperate to sort this out.
‘She’s cut me off. Edward’s persuaded her that I should
act my age
. Can you believe that prick?’
‘He’s probably right,’ I reason, already slurring my words.
‘How can you say that? She already gave me the budget of a poor person! You know how I hate him.’ She juts her jaw out, beginning to sulk.
Edward is her Mum’s current husband. I say current because he’s her fourth. She first married Jazz’s Dad when she was 22 and he was 80 with a heart complaint. He owned a porn empire and was worth an absolute mint. She obviously thought he’d die very quickly, but the old bastard ended up living for another ten years to the grand old age of 90. When he died he left them very rich.
Carol didn’t need to marry again. She could have quite happily lived off that money for the rest of her life, but she was quick to give her heart away again. She fell in love with Harry, a playboy that she travelled the world with while Jazz was expelled from several boarding schools. That quickly ended when she discovered his affair with the maid.
Then came Raul, their Spanish villa’s pool boy. She was completely convinced that it was the true thing and insisted he wasn’t after her money. She moved over there and lived happily for a while, drinking Sangria and dancing to Salsa. It only took her a year to realise it was pure lust and he
in fact after her money. She agreed a settlement; small compared to the money she still possessed, and he was on his way.
And now she has Edward. A stern skinny man, who never smiles and lives in a suit. I actually like his dry sense of humour and the way that he makes Carol happy. Since meeting him they’d moved from Chelsea to the Sussex countryside where they bought a fabulous Grade II listed farmhouse. They now spend their days looking after horses and protecting chickens from fox attacks.
‘Look, I’m sorry. But if you ever want to start paying this off you’ll have to start living frugally for a while. A long while actually. I need to just totally take over your life and sort you out.’
‘Oh thanks! If you had your way I’d be living like you, bored and lonely in a flat all on my own.’
‘Hey!’ I say, hurt by her sudden outburst. ‘I’m not bored and lonely. I’m totally happy with my life, thank you very much!’
Since when did she think I was such a loser?
How can you be? You spend most evenings alone. You never want to do anything since you broke up with Stuart and that was nearly a year ago.’
I wince at the mention of his name. She knows the rules – we don't talk about him.
‘That's not true! I wanted to wear my dressing gown all day and eat Jaffa cakes for lunch. I wanted to start drinking in the morning. Don't say that I don't have goals!’
She ignores my attempt at humour and looks at me seriously.
‘You need to start being a bit free. Start living for the moment.’
‘Yeah and you need to start being a bit more trapped in for a while! Stop wasting money. I mean, how did you even get in this mess?’ I pick up one of the many statements and scan it. ‘£89 in Bar Res, £60 in Monsoon, £110 in Threshers. Jazz, most of this is just on clothes and going out getting trashed.’
‘It’s called living,’ she says, looking at me as if I were pathetic not to do this sort of thing.
for being responsible.
‘It’s called five grand in debt,’ I snap.
We both shudder from the sound of that number again.
‘Ok, well maybe I’ll start being better with money if you start being worse with it,’ she says, a mischievous glint in her eye.
‘Why would that be of any benefit to me?’ I say smugly, feeling sorry for my clueless friend.
‘Pops, what happened last Saturday night on CSI?’
‘Ok, well Catherine and Nick found a body in an alley and......Alright, I get your point.’