Please note, this story contains no sex, so if you're only after wank material, look elsewhere!
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Lucy knew from the moment she opened her eyes that something was out of kilter. The splitting headache pounding inside her temples louder than a road drill was a bit of a giveaway; the light in the room was also different somehow: softer and less intrusive.
She feebly attempted to move, but her head hurt too much, so she lay back down and tried to piece together the events of the previous evening. There was the party—she could remember that at least. Thereafter, it faded into an alcoholic blur of worrying proportions.
It had been a mistake to venture out. She could see that now. She should have known better than to go to the damned party when it was bloody obvious Gary would be there, too. Gary who had led her merrily up the garden path for three bloody years before telling her,
"It's not you, Babe, it's me—I can't commit right now, so I think it would be better if we had some time apart..."
The faint sound of a running shower intruded into her thoughts and she froze. Shit. She wasn't alone. Frantically she tried to recall talking to any strange men last night, but her mind was a total blank. Deciding that the pain of movement was a necessary evil, Lucy sat up and made a concerted effort to take in her surroundings. A first cursory glance told her she was most definitely not at Megan's house. The décor was too bland for one thing and the room was too large for another. It had to be a hotel. Where on earth that hotel might be located was another story, although this was somewhat overshadowed by the more pressing question of who her roommate was?
Then she looked down and saw to her dismay she was naked. Double shit. Could it get any worse?
Her clothes appeared to be strewn around the room like confetti. One lone stocking hung from a chair and her bra was draped across the television like a garish Christmas Garland. All the evidence strongly suggested she had done the one thing she tried not to do where at all possible—drink vodka.
It was always the same. Wine, beer, or indeed any other drink—she could handle, but for some reason vodka was a one-way ticket to sin and suffering. The last time she'd overindulged on Absolut, she had met Gary.
And look where that one ended.
It was no good. The realisation Quasimodo's twin brother was almost certainly about to emerge from the bathroom like a bad smell catapulted Lucy up from amidst the ruins of the king-size bed. She grabbed her clothes, flung them on in no particular order, and legged it.
Megan fixed Lucy with an expression of unbridled horror. "What on earth happened to your head?"
"I don't know!" wailed Lucy, still trying to piece together the events of the previous evening. "I was hoping you could tell me."
She had gone over to the initial crime scene in the hope that her friends might be able to fill in the frustrating gaps in her memory. But so far, all she'd done was provoke a gale of laughter, followed by some serious lecturing.
Lucy was still smarting from the ordeal she'd had in the hotel. The fact she had put her blouse on back to front had drawn unwanted attention during her great escape. An elderly man, on his way back to his room, had nearly had a cardiac arrest when he entered the lift to see Lucy frantically trying to fasten her bra whilst shoving stockings into her tiny sequinned purse.
To her everlasting shame, Lucy realised she probably resembled a hooker on the run from a disgruntled client, but there was no way she was hanging around to face the music with her hit and run. These things always ended in tears. She was still trying to block the memory of the last one-nighter she'd had, way back when she was in her first year at college.
He had seemed pretty normal at the time, rather attractive in fact. Unfortunately, the morning after revealed her vodka goggles had been somewhat fogged around the time she'd gone to bed with the man-with-no-name. Brad Pitt had morphed into Fred Flintstone—with a bad oral hygiene problem.
Lucy shuddered at the recollection. Oh no. This morning had been a lucky escape. Now all she had to do was make sure there were no other behavioural issues to deal with, and then go home for some sleep. Not that Megan was helping. She was too busy throwing herself whole-heartedly into the role of Lucy's erstwhile mother.
"For fucks sake, Luce, we had no idea where you'd buggered off to! Matt was on the verge of calling the police!"
Lucy raised one eyebrow in disbelief.
"Oh ok, maybe he wasn't that concerned, but even so!"
Lucy knew damned well Matt would have been far too busy making eyes at Sara to even notice what planet Lucy was on, let alone care to where she had disappeared. Megan's brother had a crush the size of Africa and it was growing larger by the day. It was just a pity Sara wasn't interested. Poor Matt.
"If only I could remember what I did," Lucy sighed. She picked up a dirty glass from the table and stared mournfully into the dregs of some foul looking green liqueur.
"Last time I saw you, you were knocking back the Absolut like it was lemonade."
"Ohhh," Lucy groaned, "Why didn't you stop me?"
"I tried, but you told me to fuck off." Megan folded her arms and scowled. "I was only trying to help," she said grumpily.
"Yeah, I know you would have been, I'm sorry," Lucy quickly apologised. "I was just in a shit mood." She gave Megan a ghost of a smile. "I do remember that much at least."
Megan's expression softened marginally. "Yeah, I'm, sorry too. For what it's worth, I told Matt not to invite Gary, but he didn't get my text until it was too late."
"Doesn't matter. What's done is done, now." Lucy stood, rubbing her temples as her headache continued to throb like a thrash metal band on acid. She winced when her fingers brushed across the lump on the side of her head. "Whoever I ended up with last night will probably forever remain a mystery. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Ok, I'm off home to catch some sleep before I go to Mum's for tea."
The thought of charred roast beef, followed by lumpy semolina, did nothing to lift her spirits. It was almost as bad as trying to recall exactly what she'd done last night.
Lucy's phone blipped just as she raised her hand to knock on her mother's front door, and she frowned.
It better not be Mum asking me to fetch some bloody milk.
Unfortunately, the screen told a different story.
About last night, Gary had texted. You rushed off before we had a chance to talk—please call me! Xxx
Lucy's blood ran cold. Oh fuck. She rested her head against the gravely texture of the wall, and wondered whether it would be a good time to slit her wrists now, or after dinner had been dished up. The horrifying realisation that she had probably gone to bed with Gary...again...made her feel like screaming. Why on earth did she keep going back to the bastard? Was it not enough that he had hurt her and let her down more times than she could remember? Apparently not as it now appeared she was still a masochistic glutton for punishment.
On the bright side, at least she had no recollection of doing the deed. Clearly the earth hadn't moved enough to penetrate her alcoholic state of amnesia. Then she clapped her hand to her mouth. Maybe she hadn't even been conscious? That was even worse. The thought of Gary taking advantage of her whilst she was totally out of it was hideous. She just hoped he hadn't taken any incriminating photographs...
For now, ignoring him was by far the best policy, so Lucy shoved the phone to the bottom of her bag where it was firmly buried beneath her collection of loose tampons and bus tickets.
"Lucy! Are you coming in or what?" Her mum flung the door open and Lucy nearly fell over a yapping Pekinese.
She gently shoved the dog out of her way and followed her mum through to the kitchen. The scent of over cooked cabbage virtually knocked her sideways when she walked in. Her dad was sitting at the scrubbed pine table, his nose buried in a copy of Anglers Weekly.
"Hello, love," he said when he looked up. Then he frowned. "You look peaky today. Ooh that's a nasty bump on your head—how did you manage to get that? Is everything ok?"
"I'm fine, Dad," Lucy replied hurriedly. "I fell over in the bath; no harm done." The last thing she needed was an in-depth analysis of what might be wrong. Besides, if she had no recollection of how she had acquired a blow to the head, how on earth was she going to explain it to her parents?
"A good decent meal will sort you out, my girl," her mum commented predictably. She slopped a huge portion of rank cabbage on a plate, followed by some leathery looking beef. Lucy looked down at the panting Pekinese loitering with intent by her foot and knew which one of them would be eating the beef. It definitely wasn't going to be her.
"Thanks, Mum," she managed to say through gritted teeth as the gravy and potatoes were added before the plate was placed before her. "That looks lovely!"
After seventeen increasingly irate text messages, Lucy turned her phone off and wondered what on earth she had ever seen in Gary.
Ok, so he was good-looking and he drove a rather swanky BMW, but was I really that shallow?
"Yes!" laughed Megan and Lucy realised she had been thinking aloud.
She winced. "It was more than that," she said in her own defence. "We had lots in common."
"Like what exactly?"
"Like...films! We both enjoy arty ones."
"No, Luce, you like arty intellectual films, he just went along to make sure he got laid at the end of the night."
Lucy was horrified. "So you're saying he only ever wanted me for sex?"
"Well look at the evidence—he spent three years making your life hell and when you finally push for a commitment, he says he needs space! Bollocks to that. The truth is, Luce, the bastard was happy with you while he got laid with no added complications, but as soon as he had to actually make an effort, he did a runner."
She knew Megan was right. It was obvious really. Right from the beginning, Gary had told her he didn't do relationships, but like most women, she ignored the obvious and thought she would be the one to change him.
"He wasn't even that bloody marvellous in bed," she admitted sadly. "Which is why I can't believe I fell for his bullshit again last night."
Megan looked up from the sink with surprise. "What on earth are you waffling on about?"
"Gary," Lucy said. "I think I ended up with him last night."
"It can't have been Gary!" Soapy suds dripped all over the floor as Megan turned to face Lucy. "After you disappeared, he bent Matt's ear for an hour and then passed out on the sofa. He ended up staying here all night."
"Then who on earth did I spend my night with?"
"Maybe if you hadn't done a runner, you might have found out?"
Lucy grimaced with great irritation while Megan smirked.
Hopefully, after a good night's sleep, all would become clear. Surely by the morning, she would remember what and, more importantly, who she had done last night. Alcohol induced amnesia couldn't possibly last forever...
The office was buzzing when Lucy staggered in, rather late. She dropped her belongings on her desk and rushed over to the coffee machine. Despite sleeping like a dead thing, she still felt crap. After seeing her corpse-like complexion in the bathroom mirror, she had made an early New Year resolution to avoid vodka. Forever. It was safer that way.
"How're you feeling, Luce?" Sara asked innocently when Lucy flopped down on her chair and collapsed face first on the pile of files some kind person had conveniently deposited. "Ooh that looks nasty," she then commented when she noticed the bump on Lucy's head. "Did you pass out at some point and hit your head?"
"Ha. Ha. Ha. No, I walked into a cupboard."
Sara looked less than convinced. "Oh dear, poor you. So, were you feeling pretty hung over yesterday?"
"No, not at all." Lucy knew better than to tell Sara about her mystery shag. She wasn't known for keeping her mouth shut on matters of confidentiality. In fact, what Matt saw in her was baffling. The only part of Sara that stood out was her huge fake tits.
"How 's Matt, anyway?" Lucy asked in an attempt to divert the attention away from her embarrassing behaviour at the party.
That kind of says it all, thought Lucy with exasperation. "You know, Matt, Megan's brother—the guy who drools every time you show up."
A light evidently switched on in Sara's head. "Oh him!" Then she shrugged. "No idea. He went off to get me a drink and the next time I saw him he was sitting with some pissed guy on the sofa. I gave up on him and went into the garden for a spliff with a couple of guys from the Uni." She smirked in a Cheshire cat kind of way. "We got rather well acquainted."
Lucy could only imagine how well acquainted that was. Poor Matt. He didn't stand a chance. Not that ending up saddled with Gary had helped his case. For a moment she felt guilty about that. But it wasn't her fault. Talking to Gary last night wouldn't have achieved anything. He had made his bed and now he would have to lie in it.
"So you're not interested in Matt?"
Sara looked rather surprised. "He's ok, I guess," she admitted with a shrug. "Why?"
Lucy decided once and for all to get Matt's crush out into the open. It was obvious Matt was never going to have the balls to ask Sara out.
"Matt fancies the knickers off you, but he's too shy to tell you."
"Really?" Sara looked astonished. It was as if the idea had honestly never occurred to her.
"Yes, really, now would you like his mobile number and then you two can make babies together?"
"I'm not sure about the babies bit," Sara replied with a squeamish look. "But he is rather cute, so I suppose I could text him and see where he wants to take me. I'm free tomorrow as it happens."
"Great." Lucy rapidly fired off Matt's mobile number and sat back with great sense of philanthropic well-being. Even if her own love life was a crock of shit, she was about to make two other poor sods happy. Probably not for long, though, knowing Sara's predilection for mix and match boyfriends. With a bit of luck, once Matt had finally sampled her dubious delights, he might realise she really was a vacuous Barbie doll and move on to better things.
She could live in hope.
As Sara strolled away, fingers flashing across her phone keypad, Lucy blearily looked towards the main office with a vague sense that she ought to be doing something useful before the Monday staff meeting at eleven. A tall figure caught her eye and for a moment she had a sudden feeling that he looked familiar. There was something in the way he raked his hair with one hand as he stood talking to Brian, the warehouse manager. She could have sworn she had seen this guy before, although where that might have been she had no idea.
"Who's that?" she asked Sara when she came back from the photocopier.
"He's the new sales rep."
"And he hasn't worked here before?"
"'New' generally does mean that, yes." Sara looked at Lucy as if she was stupid. "Jesus, you really killed a lot of brain cells on Saturday night. Be careful, Luce, binge drinking is seriously bad for your health." She frowned and shook her head. "I read that in Heat magazine last month so I know it's true."
"At least I had some fucking brain cells to begin with!" Lucy muttered as Sara dashed away to answer the call that was making her mobile vibrate alarmingly across her desk. She looked back across the room, but to her inexplicable disappointment, the new guy had vanished, so she opened her in-box and began working her way through a long selection of very dull emails.
It was just another manic Monday.
By mid afternoon, Lucy's head was throbbing again and she felt like crying. The day had gone from bad to worse and if it continued in its current vein, she figured a trip down the railway track for a chance meeting with the 17:10 from Kings Cross was looking attractive. Work was piling up on her desk with alarming regularity, yet her brain was refusing to process any of it. Maybe Sara had made a good point earlier. Maybe she had indeed fried her little grey cells. Or, more likely, simply pickled them.
Whatever it was, she had had enough and wanted to go home. But since the day didn't officially finish until half five, she took a meandering route to the water cooler for a drink. There was only so much coffee she could drink in one hour.
She decanted a plastic cup of water and turned to head back to her desk. Unfortunately, she failed to see the new guy approaching and promptly walked straight into him. Water went everywhere.
"Oh I'm so sorry!" she apologised as she surveyed the damage. His tasteful lilac shirt was now see-through and she could see the delicious outline of a muscular torso, but the dark patch over his crotch was definitely more eye-catching. So much so, she was positively riveted.
When Lucy managed to drag her eyes back up to his face, he was staring at her with a very strange expression. It was as if he thought he knew her, yet she was fairly positive they had never met before. Or had they? For a shaky moment, she had a strong sense that she should know who he was.
"Have we met before?" she asked eventually when it became apparent he wasn't about to say a word.
"You tell me?"
Now he was being obtuse. "Would I be bloody asking whether I knew you, if I knew you?" she snapped. God, men!
"Then obviously you don't know me at all," he said cryptically before doing an about turn and leaving the office.
Lucy watched him go still prickling with irritation, yet sensing that she had missed an important clue somewhere along the line. If only her head would clear. Maybe then she might be able to make sense of the last two days. But that was wishful thinking, so she collected a replacement cup of water and made her way back to her desk to clock watch for the rest of the afternoon. Home time could not come soon enough.
"Are you coming down the pub?"
Lucy looked up from her screen and blinked. "What's the occasion?" It was only Wednesday and she was still suffering after the weekend. The last thing she needed was another hangover.
"Nigel suggested drinks. It's his birthday and he's feeling generous." Sara glanced across the room and smirked. "Actually, I think he's hoping Linda in accounts might be feeling more 'generous' after a few gins."
They both looked over at the short, balding man who was currently gazing lustfully at the statuesque Linda.
"Make sure you check your expenses claims in future!" Linda was growling menacingly. "I have better things to do than spend hours adding up your drinks receipts!"
"Sorry, Linda," Nigel simpered, his eyes firmly focused somewhere in the middle of Linda's generous cleavage.
She glared at him one final time, before striding off in the direction of the accounts office. Nigel was left clutching his expenses form, still rooted to the floor in apparent lustful paralysis.
"Nigel's got guts if he thinks he can crack the Black Widow," commented Lucy doubtfully. It was rumoured Linda's first husband had died of unnatural causes and most men in the office were extremely wary of becoming her next victim.
"Or he's just desperate?" ventured Sara with a grin. "Anyway, are you coming or what?"
It was a choice between the pub and listening to her mother wax lyrical about the latest conspiracy theories surrounding cake-tampering during the local agricultural show. Needless to say, it was a no-brainer. "Yeah, okay, I'll come for a couple."
"Still suffering?" asked Sara when she noticed Lucy's fruit juice.