Monday, 20 July 2009

The Morning After

Chloe woke up in her hotel room to a cacophony of ringing telephones, cartoon noises on the television and knocking on the door. The sounds scratched across her consciousness. She couldn’t move, her head hurt and she felt sick. Slowly reaching her hand out, she fumbled for the phone. Raising herself up onto one elbow, she covered her eyes from the sunlight with her other hand. She gazed around the room that was papered with chintz and home to various pieces of antique looking furniture. Clothing had been abandoned on the dated floral carpet. Her bed was covered with miniature sized bottles of gin and vodka. All empty! A half eaten pizza was perched on the mahogany dressing table. Her vision was too blurred to catch her reflection in the mirror. The television was still on and made her head throb. She rooted around the empty bottles to find the remote and pressed the mute button. Her mouth was dry and her face felt filthy from all the make-up she had been forced to wear. She looked down to discover that she was still wearing her dress. She fell back into the pillows to blot everything out.

The knocking on the door announced a sense of urgency. Taking deep breaths to control the nausea she sidled out of bed and made her way to the door, tripping on an empty champagne bottle. Holding herself up by placing her hand on the wall for support she opened the door an inch. A face suddenly appeared very close to her own, making her jump back in fright. The man chuckled with amusement. It was James. Chloe let him make his own way in and went into the bathroom, again having to use her hands on the sink to hold herself up, she felt weak with nausea. Peering at her reflection in the mirror, she inspected the damage. Her right eye was black, there were scratch marks on her shoulders. She reached to the back of her head with her hand and winced in pain. She felt her cheeks burn red. Had she fallen unconscious? She looked closer, she didn’t even recognise herself. This wasn’t who she was. What had happened? Had she behaved appallingly in front of her family? James followed her into the bathroom.

‘Well, you’re alive then?’ He said cheerfully, ‘everyone is sitting down to breakfast soon.’ His smile then faded. ‘You’d better join them, Chloe, you’ve got some apologies to make.’

Chloe cringed. ‘Why? What did I do?’ She gasped, her hand on her chest, feeling the bile slowly rising in her throat. James sighed.

‘In the shower’, he said pushing her into the cubical and quickly turning on the tap before his friend could jump out again. Chloe made some high pitched shrieking noises until the temperature of the water warmed up.

‘I don’t understand, why do I have to make apologies? It looks like someone hit me!’ She cried from behind the glass door. ‘James? What did I do?’

‘What didn’t you do?’ he snorted, Chloe put her head round the door, her eyes wide. He raised the palm of his hand and began to list things on his fingers. ‘You got drunk, you got bored, you fancied some guy, you got in a fight and then you cried like a baby. Oh yeah, and you fell into the wedding cake.’ Chloe hid her head behind the door in shame and fell back against the cold wet tiles behind her.

‘Oh God, I think I’m going to be sick’, she croaked. As the steam from the hot water enveloped her, a flash of the day before came into her hazy mind. There was champagne when they got ready at her mum’s house, champagne in the wedding car on the way to the church. James sharing his flask of brandy, from his inside jacket pocket came into her head. Of course, she had gotten bored with all the photographing and felt tense around her family. Snotty little children kept standing on her dress and her sister kept snapping at her for twisting her hair with her fingers because it would ruin the pictures of her perfect day. So Chloe had turned to the bottle to relieve her frustration.

After the shower, a sorry looking Chloe walked back into the bedroom. A breeze blew in from the window that James had opened and goose bumps appeared on her shoulders.
‘I thought that would wake you up a bit!’ he laughed, passing her a cup of coffee.
‘Well, the dress is ruined’, she mumbled, patting herself dry with a towel.
‘When were you going to wear that pink monstrosity again? You looked like a cream cake. You all did. I thought I was in the baker’s when I saw you lot coming down the aisle’, he scoffed. Chloe tried not to smile but she couldn’t help it.

‘So, I drank your brandy...yeah, I remember that, and I remember getting to the reception and there were more photos. What is with photographers at weddings?’ She moaned.
‘Never mind the photographers! You were first at the bar, the first to the free champagne, you were pissed before the meal started!’ Interrupted James. ‘We were sat with that Welsh couple...remember? That woman who talked incessantly about her sons all the way through the meal...well, until you told her to be quiet. That was a conversation killer!’

Chloe giggled. ‘It’s not funny. You were in a bad mood all day’, he scolded.
‘Weddings are boring. I hate weddings. James, this is the fifth wedding we’ve been to this year and it’s only August!’ Chloe went back to the bathroom with her arms full of clean clothes.

As she put on her t shirt and jeans, she caught her reflection in the mirror again. She gulped in horror as she recalled a large blonde girl throwing a punch in her direction. She felt tears roll down her face as the memory of her shocking drunk behaviour came flooding back to her, bit by bit. The girl was Cindy. They had both made a bee line for the same man on the dance floor. The cousins had never seen eye to eye and this recent clash was the breaking point. Before either of them had even spoken to the poor man they had set their sights on, they had started to shout at one another. Chloe was never the sort of person to argue or fight, especially in a public place, but she had drunk too much and it had turned her into another person.

James picked up the debris off the floor and put it in the bin.
‘This is going to cost you a fortune’, he muttered to himself, knowing that Chloe wouldn’t have the money to pay for it. She never had any money.
‘I remember!’ She cried from the bathroom. ‘I had my eye on that cute of the groomsmen...I remember now - and so did Cindy!’ She said, her voice full of venom. She came back into the bedroom.
‘Yes, you both argued like little girls. Both twenty-five going on fourteen. Cindy pushed you, you pushed her, and then there was some hair pulling and squealing. I tried to stop you both but, to be honest, you were both pretty frightening, and then Cindy punched you in the face and that was when you fell into the cake’, James shook his head in disgust. Chloe could feel her cheeks burning.

‘Sorry. I’m so sorry’, she whispered and tears began to fall down her face. He walked over to her and gave her a hug.
‘I lied about the cake’, he said quietly, ‘come on, you need some slap on your face to cover that bruise’. She’d disgraced her family big time. Together they had managed to cover the bruise so it didn’t look as black. They left the room and walked down the corridor to the lift.
In the lift, Chloe gathered her thoughts and more memories came back to her.
‘Some friend, you picked me up off the floor, took me to my room and let me carry on drinking?’ She looked at her friend accusingly.
‘I was trying to cheer you up!’ He protested, laughing. ‘Anyway, no man was going to mess with you after that nonsense with Cindy. Do you realise you took a clump of hair from her head?’ He exclaimed. ‘It was scary!’ Chloe could feel the humiliation sweep over her face.
‘Oh God, what an idiot! So I passed out at some point?’ She enquired. Her friend confirmed it with a nod of his head.

Eventually the lift reached the ground floor and they walked out into the reception area. Chloe reached out and grabbed James by the wrist to prevent him from walking any further. Opposite them was the doorway to the dining room and there stood Cindy. She was wearing a short, tight red dress, milk white flesh spilt out of it in all directions, making James feel as sick as his friend. Cindy’s red glossed lips were positioned in a pout, her gold ringed hands rested on her hips, her small grey eyes glaring at Chloe. The two girls just stared at one another, the animosity crackling between them. James wriggled away from Chloe’s grip and was about to say something when the man they’d been falling out over entered the hotel foyer, hand in hand with another man!

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