Mr Almost Right - By Eleanor Moran
‘Chris de Burgh?’
‘Yes, Alice, Chris de Burgh. It actually suggested I might want to download “Lady In Red”. Am I wrong to feel this affronted by iTunes? I thought being dumped was insulting, but this might be worse.’
‘You must’ve done something to encourage it though. Led it on. Have you been pigging out on Phil Collins to get through the heartbreak?’
She gives me a crooked smile as she says it, letting me know how aware she is that I’ve been utterly crushed by Steve’s unexpected rejection. Eyes back on the road, Alice expertly spins the enormous white van round a tight corner, simultaneously shaking a Minstrel into her mouth from the bag that’s lying between us. Sometimes it’s hard to believe we’re related, let alone identical twins. If I were in charge of this lumbering vehicle, all our worldly goods would be splayed across the pavement by now. She’s been on the planet eight minutes longer of our thirty-two years, but sometimes it feels more like eight years. She’s the responsible one, the one with the answers. Whereas me, I’m a little bit of a flake.
We’re moving out of our poky two-bedder in Hackney and into a little mews house in Barnsbury. It’s going to be a stretch, but Alice has been promoted and I’ve got three months’ work on ‘Last Carriage to Avon’, a soapy period drama for TV. I go wherever Zelda – the stately costume designer I work with – takes me. She’s not been too well recently and I’m worried she hasn’t taken on board how impossibly tight the budget is. Cut-price crinolines aren’t really her thing.
Alice’s nifty driving means we’re on the doorstep in double-quick time. The street feels like it could almost be a location for the drama, what with the old-fashioned street lamps and poplar trees that punctuate it. We stand on the pavement taking it in. It’s a world away from the bustling high street we’ve moved from.
‘It’s so quiet!’ says Alice.
‘We’re going to love it,’ I say fervently, suddenly feeling a profound sense of relief that we’ve got out of Brecon Road. I’m hoping that leaving it behind will help me leave Steve behind, and the stinging disappointment will start to ease. We begin to haul our dining table out of the back, knocking over our grandmother’s standard lamp in the process.
‘Sod it!’ says Alice. ‘We definitely need some man muscle.’
‘Rufus promised he’d come straight after work.’
‘God, Lulu, you know what he’s like. He’ll start cyber-talking with some troglodyte in Wisconsin about operating systems and totally forget we exist.’
Rufus is our uber-geek half-brother. Tall and gangly, with a long, insistent monobrow, we’re convinced he’s a virgin, even though he’s pushing twenty. The fact that he works in computer gaming, an industry dominated by lovelorn workaholics with testicles, is hardly aiding his prospects. Alice and I are determined to find a woman who’ll appreciate how great he is, but so far we’ve drawn a blank.
We’re inelegantly lugging our sofa out of the back of the van when a booming voice rings out behind us.
‘You must be the new tenants.’
Startled, I drop the sofa on my foot. The voice belongs to a tall, crooked pensioner, who’s leaning on a stick.
‘Um, yes,’ I say, trying my best not to swear, despite the agonizing pain that’s shooting through my big toe.
‘Twins, eh. What are your names?’
‘Alice and Lulu,’ stutters Alice, looking uncharacteristically cowed.
‘Surname?’ he demands.
‘Godwin,’ I squeak, suddenly feeling like it’s our first day in the army.
‘Mm, I see,’ he says, considering us. ‘We’re original residents, bought the house in 1960, brought up four children in it. You’ll find most people in the street have been here for the duration.’
Our eyes swivel involuntarily to the small mews house we’re moving into. Four children?
‘Bunk beds,’ he barks. ‘I’d offer some assistance, but unfortunately my lumbar spine won’t allow it. Anyway, don’t hesitate to knock if there’s anything less physically taxing on the agenda. Mr Simkins, number thirty. We’ll have you round for sherry once you’re settled in.’ With that, he hobbles off, leaving me staring at Alice in mute horror.
‘Oh God, do you think we’ve done the right thing?’ I ask her anxiously, suddenly hit by a wave of guilt. Alice only really agreed to the move because she knew how much I wanted a new start. She loved our ramshackle flat, bang in the middle of the urban sprawl, surrounded by vegetable stalls and artists’ studios. Now we’ll be bankrupts, unable to afford to leave