Being infamous among your friends is quite enough. You don’t need the rest of the world to know, however nice a wedge of cash would be.

It’s Thursday night and you and Alice are off to Farringdon for a gig. Jay has been rounding people up on email all week, to support his friend Dom. ‘He’s really good – and he really needs a crowd there,’ he said. You used to go to random gigs in pubs all the time when you first moved to London, and you never do it anymore. So you didn’t take much persuading. You never know, as you said to Alice, there might be some talent there. At which Alice snorted and said ‘who are you trying to kid?’. You both know that really you’ll spend the evening hanging out with the usual crowd, and not talking to anyone you don’t know. Those nights are the best – even if you do end up going home with Alice and not some random stranger.

The gossip is curtailed by the first act of the night appearing on stage. A sub-Beth Orton, she warms up the crowd in the basement bar by saying she won’t be singing actual songs, more ‘fragments, verses, meditations...’. ‘Yuk’, mouths Alice, motioning at the door. So you two head upstairs for a chip butty and a pint while the warbling one exorcises her demons on stage.

No great fans of mournful female folk singers, Charlie and Simon join you moments later. You grab a table by the open window so Alice and Simon can eye up the passers by.

‘So what’s this I hear about you fucking some rock star?’ says Charlie, and the tone of the conversation is instantly prickly.

‘Tch, who’s been spreading slanderous stories about me?’ you say, trying to keep it light.

Simon looks away in mock shame.

Alice defends him. ‘It’s not slander if it’s true, is it?’

‘Alright, yes, I did have a random night with that guy from The Heat. It was just a moment of madness.’

You pout, and Charlie says, ‘Right I didn’t see you as a starfucker type. You’re not that kind... I mean, it’s a bit beneath you, isn’t it?’

It’s a backhanded compliment at best, and you don’t know how to response.

‘Sorry, I didn’t mean...’ Charlie mumbles.

‘That’s okay,’ you say. ‘You’re right. It was a bit uncharacteristic.’

Even though it’s really not Charlie’s place to comment on who you sleep with, you don’t want him to judge you too harshly. So you’d rather call it an aberration than a glorious celebrity pull, while Charlie’s around anyway.

‘Here you are,’ says Nita. ‘Come on, Dom’s on in a second.’

You’re relieved at the interruption and troop dutifully downstairs for Dom’s set. Jay had described him as sounding like a funked up Morrissey, and you can see what he means. Dom is great, his soulful voice and sardonic lyrics working brilliantly a catchy guitar riff. You really enjoy it, tapping your feet and nodding along. He wraps the set up with a cover of ‘Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye,’ and you look for Charlie. He loved Leonard Cohen and would be sure to appreciate this cool, upbeat version.

‘Where’s Charlie?’ you ask Alice.

‘I don’t know. I thought he’d be sticking to your side all night. You guys looked very cosy.’

You pull a face.

‘Were you considering taking a little trip down memory lane, Sarah?’

‘Don’t be so ridiculous.’

She raises her eyebrows in a silent ‘whatever’ and you scan the back of the room for Charlie. Oh, there he is, talking to some twenty year old Nordic blonde. She’s no-one you know, and certainly no-one you would like to get to know either. She’s throwing her hair back and laughing too loud at Charlie (he’s never that funny when he’s in chat up mode). You’re not sure why he’s even talking to her, she’s hardly his type in her leggings and denim mini (he hates that leggings-under-things look).

Actually it’s pretty obvious why he’s talking to her. She’s young and beautiful. Good luck to her, you think, and turn your back with a pout.

Damn, you’re actually jealous. You don’t want him but you don’t want anyone else to have him, is that it? Or do you really want him for yourself, again, like it used to be? You know he still has feelings for you. You could walk across the room right now and blow that 20 year old right out of the water, with some well chosen comment to underline your shared history.

One last choice

 

If you go and stake your claim on Charlie, go to Chapter Seven II to face the consequences

If you ignore it, and let him have his fun go to Chapter Seven XVIII to face the consequences