Home > Don't You Forget About Me(8)

Don't You Forget About Me(8)
Author: Mhairi McFarlane

‘Are you fucking serious?! You’re going to handle this by pretending our relationship didn’t exist? That’s like a CHILD’S level of lying. Will you put your hands over your eyes next, so I can’t see you?’

Robin pantomimes more exhaling, shaking his head in incredulity, rubbing at his hair as he thinks what to say next, a tic he uses on stage. God, the insolence of still having his gingery cock and balls on show.

‘I’ve never seen you like this before,’ he mutters.

My jaw, once again, drops. ‘Do I need to point out what I’ve never seen before, either? Are you for real?’

He puts his hands on his hips, Mr Reasonable But Aggrieved now, as if we’re discussing an inflated quote for lagging the loft.

‘What was it I’ve ever said or done that’s made you think I believed in monogamy? I’m pretty sure I said I didn’t?’

I splutter, momentarily stalled. It’s as if someone’s been caught with their hand in the till and their defence is nothing is as it seems and theft can’t exist because we’re living in a false consciousness created by the CIA. It’s not a comeback you’ve planned for. Fuck me, I’m raging.

‘This is it, this is your excuse? You thought we were both free to have sex with other people?’

‘Uh, yes I did, Georgina. The terms and conditions of our liaison were never discussed. I’m not sure how you’d expect me to know otherwise.’

‘Then why hide it from me by switching your phone off and doing it behind my back?’

‘It’s poor manners to shove it in your face, isn’t it? I didn’t expect you to put up with a running commentary of who else and when.’


I have to get out of here, mentally process it, escape this toxic weirdness.

I throw the door open to the hallway. A thirty-something couple and sixty-something parents are passing outside, their attentions already focused in our direction due to the cacophony.

True to his self-described not-sensitive, not-bashful nature, my ex not-boyfriend stands staring back at them, full frontal in their faces.

The dad says, ‘Excuse me! Do you mind covering your private area? There are ladies present.’

‘I’m in my private area. This is my flat. That makes you Peeping Toms.’

‘Peeping Vom more like,’ says the son, aka Jet Lag Man, who’s suddenly my new hero.

‘Having your toilet part on show really is unnecessary,’ says Jet Lag Man’s dad.

‘My toilet part! You want to get less uptight about the human anatomy, mate,’ Robin says. ‘It’s a beautiful thing.’

‘I can assure you, not from here it’s not,’ says Jet Lag Man.

‘Give my best to Lou,’ I say to Robin, stepping in to the hallway. To the disturbed-looking group, I add helpfully: ‘That’s the woman I just caught him having sex with.’

‘Oh, he finally got you a key cut?’ says Jet Lag Man.

‘Yeah but apparently we were never in a relationship,’ I throw my hands up in ‘silly me’ way.

‘It’s never his rubbish in my bin either,’ says Jet Lag Man. ‘He’s full of shit. Much like my bin.’

I vigorously shake Jet Lag Man’s hand.

‘It’s been a pleasure.’


‘Am I going to have to say it? Oh you pair of …’ Clem shakes her head in dismay at Rav and Jo, who are both mute and awkward.

Rav tweaks at his expensively pre-frayed navy cuff and Jo has an expression like a sad farm animal in a cartoon.

‘What?’ I say. I know they all think I’m gutted-but-fronting, but actually, I’m oddly calm. Shiraz is helping. I’ve found my safe harbour in rough waters. It’s a scarlet leather booth in a pub called The Lescar off Hunter’s Bar.

It turns out that you can get your friends out for a drink at no notice of a weekend if two of them had got out of the cinema with a thirst, one of them was having a night in due to saving Weight Watchers points and blew it on a whole plank of M&S cheesy garlic bread anyway, and you whet their appetites with a lurid story of bondage infidelity.

I didn’t dare hope a spectacularly grotesque Friday night was going to end in my favourite place with my best people, but it does, and I give a silent prayer of thanks over the pork scratchings.

I’m single again and have no job or money and live in a rented house next door to a maggot farm with the region’s worst personality, but I have mates and a large red wine.

‘Go on, Rav, go ahead,’ Clem says and Rav coughs into his fist and glares.


‘Pussy! OK if neither of you are going to tell her, I will. Georgina—’

‘Oh God you KNEW he was seeing other people?!’ I cry.

The thought is a stab wound, not because Robin was flaunting it, but if they kept this secret from me, this grisly episode has damaged much more than it deserves to.

‘No of course we didn’t know, you moo!’ Clem says. ‘Why would we know and not tell you?’

‘Oh. I don’t know,’ I mumble.

‘Georgina,’ Clem portentously draws breath, ‘We all thought Robin was a massive, tremendous, glaringly obvious arsehole. What on EARTH have you been thinking?’

‘Oh?’ I say, dumbly. ‘You didn’t like him?’

Rav coughs again and Jo stares down into her cider.

‘“Didn’t like” doesn’t quite cover it. Actively abhorred is closer to the mark.’

‘Clem!’ Rav says. ‘Fuck’s sake, she’s just caught him in bed with someone else.’

‘Relevant to the abhorring.’

After a very tense few seconds of silence, I start laughing. They look shocked for a second and then start laughing too.

‘I thought you were going to burst into tears and slap me,’ Clem says, clutching her chest.

‘No, I only want to slap myself,’ I say.

Jo puts a hand on my arm. ‘Not that this isn’t awful for you. I’m so sorry for what’s happened.’

I pat back. ‘I’m well rid.’

‘Did he really claim you were in an open relationship?’ Clem says, her immaculate vermillion MAC lip curling in disgust. Clem dresses like a member of Pulp, only better: dyed red hair in flapper bob, head to toe vintage, pointed retro nails. She’s very pointy, in looks and nature.

‘He said he thought we were free to sleep with other people. Which begs the question why he didn’t mention doing it, ever.’

‘He was sneaking around like your bog-standard shitbag and now he’s gaslighting you.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘Making you think you’re going mad, making you think it was your problem.’

‘It’s true we never said “What are the rules on sleeping with other people”. He had said he didn’t believe in monogamy as the only way to live, but you know … I didn’t think it directly applied. He’d met my friends, my family. God’s sake, how are you meant to be totally go with the flow, ultra modern, no pressure and find this basic stuff out at the same time?’

‘This is the gaslighting. You’re questioning yourself. It’s him who’s put the goalposts on wheels.’ Clem sucks on the straw in her gin and tonic, then grimaces. ‘He called you “the Waitress”. He never missed a chance to act like he was better than you.’

‘I thought he was being … I don’t know, light-hearted.’

Clem widens her eyes and Rav and Jo still can’t meet mine and I realise this is Robin’s legacy – me uncomfortably working out how I accommodated and rationalised a lot of crappy behaviour that wasn’t remotely invisible to anyone else. And forever hating Ben & Jerry’s.

‘And you knew the woman?’ Clem says.

‘Lou’s his PA. They’d had a thing before but I thought it was long over by the time I was around.’

Robin said he and Lou had slept together once, ‘in the day’, which I took to mean a long while ago rather than the timing, but who knows.

I was taken aback when he mentioned it, as I’d spent a whole evening in her company thinking theirs was a friendly working relationship and it hadn’t once crossed my mind. Not that I’m saying attraction is an exact science but Lou is my complete physical opposite: long wild brown curly hair, a nose stud, knobbly knees in laddered patterned tights and a pair of silver glitter-crusted clumpy shoes. I’d taken an instant shine to her.

It always causes some mental realignment when you discover someone has been where you have been.

‘She was cool about it, she’s really cool,’ Robin said, which I translated as: there were no consequences when I made it obvious it meant nothing.

Robin had paused.

‘That’s not a thing for you, is it? Who’s been with who?’

Yes it’s a thing for me like it’s a thing for pretty much everyone, that’s why there’s so many pop songs about it.

‘No! Just surprised that’s all. Wouldn’t have put you together.’

‘I dunno if you’d call it together. We ended up having a shower in an Ibis in Luton after a food fight, it seemed the next obvious step. Certainly not much other entertainment in Luton.’

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