The Weekend Away - Sarah Alderson Page 0,1

find Kate thrusting a glass of champagne at me. I take it. ‘Cheers!’ she says.

‘Cheers!’ I answer, chinking my glass against hers.

‘This is amazing,’ I say, gesturing at the view and the apartment. ‘I can’t believe this place.’ I glance around the balcony with its elegant outdoor seating arrangement, sun-loungers and … I cock my head at the square object in the corner – ‘Wait, is that a hot tub?’

‘Yes,’ says Kate. ‘Didn’t I tell you?’

‘No,’ I say. ‘Or I’d have brought my swimsuit.’

‘We don’t need swimsuits.’ Kate laughs, heading back inside to grab the bottle of champagne. I trail after her, thinking that once upon a time I might not have batted an eye about being naked in front of her or anyone, but now even being naked in front of Rob is something I’d only do under imminent threat of death.

There’s just so much wobble that wasn’t there before. My boobs are like two helium balloons that once floated proudly but are now wrinkling at the seams and drooping back down to earth. My belly too is yet to return to its previous flat form, my abs covered with a soft roll of fat that no amount of exercise seems to erase, though to be fair, managing the odd five sit-ups once a week is probably not going to do much, and neither is the pain au chocolat that I buy most mornings when I take Marlow to the park or to a mum and baby group. I’ve tried giving up sugar but I find that cake is the only thing that makes those groups bearable, and sometimes the only thing fuelling me through twelve gruelling hours of solo babysitting.

No one tells you how hard parenting is, or how hard it is to get your figure back, certainly not those bloody celebrities posing in their leggings and crop tops a day after giving birth. I suppose that’s not completely true; plenty of people say parenting is hard, but the notion is totally abstract before you have a child. It’s like being told that serving a life sentence in solitary confinement has its challenges. You can sort of imagine it but it’s not until you’re actually sitting alone in your cell, staring at the walls, knowing this is it for the rest of your life, that you start to fully appreciate exactly how challenging.

As Kate tops up my champagne glass, I sneak a look at her and can’t help but feel a wave of self-consciousness. She’s so chic and put together, in skinny jeans tucked into Louis Vuitton boots, and a low-cut top that shows off her unfairly perky breasts and toned arms. Her make-up looks freshly applied too, even though we’ve been travelling for about six hours. I can’t remember the last time I wore lipstick, let alone shaved my legs, and my upper arms have lost all the tone I once had from weekly Pilates classes, and are in danger of becoming fully fledged bingo wings.

Kate and I used to be roughly the same size and shape, five feet four and slim – enough that we could share clothes – but now we’re very different. I’ve never before been jealous of Kate’s figure and I try not to fall into the trap of comparing myself to her. I’ve had a baby for Chrissake! It’ll take time to get back into my skinny jeans.

‘I made a reservation at a restaurant my friend told me about,’ Kate says, oblivious to my unhappy comparisons between our figures. ‘Table’s booked for ten.’

I glance at my watch. It’s almost seven. ‘Blimey,’ I say, stifling a yawn. ‘I’m normally asleep by ten.’

‘You can sleep when you’re dead, Orla,’ Kate says, setting her glass down and winking at me.

I groan. That used to be our thing when we were young twenty-somethings, living together in a tiny flat in Stoke Newington and clubbing every Friday and Saturday night. We’d stay out until dawn before heading home via the bagel shop on Brick Lane or the kebab shop on the corner of Old Street, and stuff ourselves stupid before falling into bed and sleeping well into the next afternoon.

Kate must see my expression as I contemplate my exhaustion and wonder where those youthful stores of energy disappeared to. ‘Fine,’ she says, ‘take a nap and I’ll wake you up at nine.’ She grins at me. ‘Come on, let’s check out the bedrooms.’

I hurry after her, both of us acting like excited toddlers as we throw open