Oh god. They're all looking at me with baited breath waiting for some grand romantic announcement, but I don’t have anything to tell them.
I could say that I managed to find Mark’s house despite extended stay outside of London away from both cab drivers and road maps. But that's a rather rubbish story because I'd been to Mark's before. Or I could tell them all about how instead of finding Mark I discovered his beautiful female colleague who is apparently madly in love with me except that I still don’t know quite how I feel about that, so no. Best not that one.
“I just don’t think it’s going to work out,” I announce instead as I throw back the rest of my drink and hope I look devastatingly casual.
The alcohol burns going down. It's a good reminder that I will most likely hold my alcohol tonight much worse than I usually do because of being trapped in prison without true necessities of life, and that I should probably avoid the hard stuff. No matter how pretty and celebratory cocktails look in my hand.
Everyone else has deflated in unison at my announcement. However, I do not seem to have pulled off casual nonchalance and Jude is waving gamely at the bar staff for another round of liquid reinforcement.
“I can’t believe he turned you down even after everything he did for you,” Shazza says, her eyes wide and bewildered.
“Bastard,” Tom chimes in as he raises his own glass in solidarity.
Jude just hums in agreement but she’s watching me suspiciously. Quick, must distract her.
“Now, now. I don't think that's fair, and I'm sure we can be adults about the whole thing. Perhaps we'll even be friends now! He did get me out of prison, after all,” I say to try and interrupt the pity party without giving the game away. But Shazza cuts straight to the heart of the matter before I can move the conversation along.
“But what did he say?”
“Oh, well,” I reply with a frown and an awkward wiggle of my head as I try and fail to think of a way I can avoid the outrage that's about to be unleashed. “Not much, really. I found him in the middle of this very big, very important meeting, so I just sort of… told him thank you again, and left. You see, I didn’t want to interrupt—”
They're all blinking at me in shock. Then the yelling starts. Lots of words piling up over each other until I can’t tell anymore who is demanding to know what I was thinking and who wants to know why he didn’t run after me to declare his love.
“He just didn’t, did he,” I break in loudly as someone finally approaches our table with a fresh tray of drinks to save me from myself.
There’s a bottle of wine—another of whatever Jude is drinking—and I reach for it before so much as a drop can be poured into anyone else’s glass. The waiter doesn’t seem very impressed by that, but they don’t seem to realise that this is a crisis. They have no right to be judging me and I hug the bottle tight to myself before anyone can try to take it back.
“And now I think about it, perhaps that tells me everything I need to know about Mark Darcy,” I finish up with determination as I eyeball the waiter until he gives up and walks away.
Shazza bites her lip, visibly struggling to hold back rebuttals to my statement. Jude just shrugs and Tom pulls a face, but one by one they settle back in their chairs while casting consolatory looks in my direction.
“I mean, fair enough, Bridg—”
“I’d say you’ve earned that wine. You enjoy it and we’ll buy another one for us—”
I nod emphatically and take a swig straight from the bottle, before wincing at the pointed glare from the same waiter over by another table and pouring myself a very full glass instead. It is a very nice bar. Not the sort of place where people routinely drink from the bottle, I suppose. Best not to draw too much attention to miserable future drunkenness by behaving badly too soon.
I’ll only spill it all over myself soon of course, but so what. I, Bridget Jones, possible future lesbian, survived a Thai women’s prison. What's a little wine stain after all of that?
Five hours later, I've ended up draped over the bar arguing with the bartender about how to clean a wine stain when Rebecca finally walks in.
“Rebecca!” I cry as I struggle upright and fling out my arms in greeting. With hindsight, probably not my best decision. Displays wine stain to full effect and reveals exactly how drunk I am when I can't stop wobbling on the spot.
I notice she looks surprised to see me but she smiles anyway. In that smile I find that I can see everything she’d said to me the other day. She really does light up when she looks at me. Suddenly, in that moment, all of my terrible decisions seem like they might be not quite so terrible after all.
“Bridget, what are you doing here?” she asks as she hugs me. I sort of um and ah around the subject of Mark and gesture in the general direction of my friends. All of whom appear to be watching our interaction with rabid interest.
“Would you like a drink?” I ask with determined cheer as I raise my— oh dear, rather empty bottle of wine.
But Rebecca just smiles some more and orders herself something sophisticated sounding without even thinking about it. I probably would have hated her one for being able to do that. But she's also ordering me something ‘hydrating and sweet’ that still comes in lovely colours with a very elaborate garnish, and she's letting me lead her to a table in the corner—conveniently one where a plant almost-sort-of blocks Shazza, Jude, and Tom’s view of us—and I can't help thinking that it's all actually rather attractive on her after all.
I try to block out their staring with limited success, but Rebecca doesn’t seem to notice my friends acting odd. All she seems to see is me. For a moment it gives me the mad urge to check my teeth for food even though I haven’t been eating, only drinking. But mostly it's just… nice. And a little bit thrilling, if I’m honest.
“I wasn’t sure—”
“I’m really glad I ran into—”
We both stop and laugh. The waiter stops by with our drinks and he looks a little kinder when he glances at me this time. Once I’d probably have tried to flirt with him on principle’s sake after a look like that, but mostly now I just want him to go away.
“Sorry,” I say again unnecessarily once Rebecca and I have finished apologising for talking over each other. “It's just, well, I wanted to say that it’s really great to see you. Because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the other day.”
There. I’ve said it. It’s out there. The real reason I turned around and walked back out of Mark’s big meeting.
Rebecca looks surprised again, which makes something awful turn over in my stomach. It feels a little bit like I’m about to make a scene by throwing my wine up all over someone’s shoes. Again. But I’ve survived prison now. I’m stronger than I used to be, so I do my best to soldier on.
“I don’t think I quite knew what to say. I’ve never done something like this before and, well, you rather threw me off balance just kissing me like you did,” I say as I fidget with the stupid little paper napkin that came with my drink. “Not that that’s a bad thing! I was just surprised. And not putting my best foot forward, really.”
I'm rather hoping she’ll cut me off and save me from myself, but she just looks charmed. Have possibly located a flaw in my decision to maybe pursue a relationship with the fairer sex. She seems a little less interested in the sound of her own voice than my usual dates.
“So I was hoping—now that we find ourselves quite by accident together in this very fancy bar where mostly lawyers go to drink and that I’ve never been to before—that perhaps we might be able to try it again?” I ask awkwardly. “The kissing, I mean.”
Her smile just brightens. It really is maddening but adorable that she isn’t interrupting me. I’m just opening my mouth and all these words are falling out and she doesn’t seem to mind in the slightest. She’s not even laughing about it.
“Because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The kissing, I mean. After I left, that is, I was sitting in my cab and trying to talk to my driver but I kept getting distracted thinking about—”
Finally. My words end up muffled as I’m cut off because Rebecca has leaned across the table. She oh so very elegantly catches my lips with her own, and finally stops my words with a kiss. It’s all so smooth, I really would have hated her for that once. But instead I find myself swooning just a little.
I can hear gasps and loud voices behind us. Shazza, Tom, and Jude are probably about to get us all thrown out of this very fancy bar. But for just one more perfect moment I can't bring myself to care, because Rebecca’s kissing me. And it really is rather lovely.