WRITTEN BY TERESA ASHBY
Mel’s act of revenge against her best friend was out of character, but would it turn out well in the end?
Melanie raced round the flat, grabbing knickers off the radiators and hurling them into her suitcase.
“Where’s my deodorant?” she said.
“You already packed it.”
“What about sunscreen? I can’t find my cardigan! Oh, god, Dani, help me look, will you? I’m going to be late!”
I found her cardigan in a crumpled heap under a load of other clothes on the chair in her bedroom.
“Oh, no! I thought I’d put it through the wash. Can I borrow your new white cardigan, Dani?”
“You won’t need one where you’re going,” I snapped impatiently. “And mine’s in the wash anyway.”
“Sunglasses! What did I do with them? Help me, Dani!”
There was a crunch under my feet and I stepped back to see the ruins of her new sunglasses.
“Why can’t you be tidier?” I said. “For goodness sake, Mel – Jack will be here any minute and you’re not even dressed yet!”
She looked down at herself as if only just realising she was still wrapped in a towel with another towel wrapped round her head.
“I haven’t done my hair! What did I do with my straighteners? Have I already packed them?”
“Go and get ready in my room,” I said. “I’ll finish your packing, and you can use my straighteners.”
It wasn’t as if I used them. Nothing I did seemed to improve my appearance.
I could straighten my hair and by the time I stepped outside the flat, it would already be a mass of frizz.
“What would I do without you, Dani?” she said and left me to it.
Her room looked like a bomb had hit it. I wondered if Jack would be quite so keen once he’d spent a fortnight with her and her mess.
It should have been me going to Tenerife with Jack, not her. And I wouldn’t have kept him waiting.
I emptied everything out of her case and started again. I replaced the clean new knickers with some old tatty ones and put the two new bikinis she’d bought back in a drawer, replacing them with a saggy old swimsuit she’d had for years.
I screwed her clothes up even more than they already were and stuffed them back in along with the jeans she’d spilled coffee all over and a curry stained t-shirt.
I felt a small twinge of regret, but it was nothing compared to the gigantic chip I had on my shoulder. I was the one Jack wanted to go out with and somehow, she’d muscled in and stolen him right from under my nose…
It had started with a note tucked under my windscreen wiper.
Can we meet up for coffee? J xx
Melanie had whipped it out of my hand. “That must be Jack from HR! He’s seen you giving me a lift to work. I knew he fancied me. I’ve seen him giving me the eye.”
I groaned. Mel thought everything in trousers fancied her. A guy only had to glance in her direction and she’d claim he was madly in lust, unable to resist her gorgeousness.
To be fair, I hadn’t told her how much I liked Jack myself or how well we’d been getting on at work. Being on reception, I saw him a lot more than she did stuck up on the top floor in sales.
“How do you know it isn’t for me? It is my car after all,” I pointed out.
“Seriously?” she’d said. “Jack’s out of your league, Dani. No offence, but you’re much too quiet and mousey for a guy like him. Not that you aren’t lovely, but no, you’re not for Jack. Now he’s made the first move, I’ll pop round to HR to accept his invitation.”
“Mousey?” I said.
“Oh, you know what I mean. You’re not exactly very forthcoming are you, Dani?
Someone like Jack would have you wilting in his shadow. No, you need someone who will be able to bring out the best in you.
By lunchtime she had a date with him. She came down to reception to tell me.
“He acted all surprised,” she said. “I don’t think he expected me to say yes.”
That’s because the note was meant for me, I thought.
Two months they’d been going out together when they decided to go off to Tenerife and it was all she talked about, having evidently forgotten that we’d planned to go on holiday together.
“What about me?” I’d said.
“You’re not coming,” she’d said. “You’d only get bored because I’d spend all my time with Jack.”
“I don’t want to come with you two, but who am I going to go on holiday with now?”
“Get yourself a bloke,” she said with a shrug. “Or see if one of that lot from accounts will go with you. They’re a right bunch of losers, I’m sure they’d jump at the chance.”
So not only did she pinch the guy who’d asked me out, she basically called me a loser, and let me down over our holiday plans!
“Thanks,” I muttered.
Oh, you know what I mean. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to go on holiday with you, Dani?
But it was too late. The damage was done. She’d put the final dent in my ego and my resentment had been slowly simmering ever since.
I took her straighteners out of her case and replaced her expensive perfume with the cheap body spray her sister bought her for Christmas. The one she used as an air freshener.
Once I’d started, I couldn’t stop. I swapped her phone charger for an old one that wouldn’t work with her phone.
I unpacked the stuff she put on her spots and took out her shaver. Without it, her legs would be as bristly as a sweeping brush within a couple of days!
I packed her dowdiest clothes and took out anything skimpy. The glam version of Melanie that Jack picked up wouldn’t last long. By this time tomorrow, she’d be a mess.
“How do I look?” Melanie came into the bedroom just as I was shutting her case, her hair as smooth and straight as a silk curtain, her make-up perfect.
“You look fantastic,” I replied truthfully. “You’re going to have a wonderful time.”
Jack arrived to pick her up. If he’d ever fancied me, he didn’t any more. He couldn’t take his eyes off Melanie. I’d well and truly lost my chance there.
“Wow! You look great, Melanie.”
I smirked as he picked up her case and hurried down to the car with it.
“Passport,” I said. “Don’t forget that, for goodness sake.”
I handed it to her and she slipped it in her bag. I didn’t have to remind her, but I’m not so mean that I’d stop her having a holiday altogether.
“Thank you, Dani,” she said, giving me an enormous hug. “What would I do without you? You’re my best friend and I don’t deserve you.”
I looked her in the eye and I felt just awful, knowing what I’d done…
Regret washed over me. What a nasty, bitter person I’d become.
“I’ll bring you something lovely back,” she promised. “Love you, Dani and I’ll make it up to you, I promise. I’m so happy with Jack, I’m not thinking straight. I know I’ve not been nice lately.”
And I’d just ruined it for her. My stomach churned. I felt sick, but it was too late to tell her.
“Wait!” I dashed into my bedroom and grabbed my white cardigan. “It wasn’t in the wash after all. You might need it if the evenings get chilly.”
“You are a love,” she said. “Thank you.”
I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept imagining her opening her case and finding it full of rubbish. I could see her panic when she found her spot-stuff wasn’t in there. She’d probably break out in spots from the stress! As for her hair, she never left home unless it was as flat as an iron. She hated her curls.
At work on Monday people asked if Melanie had got off OK and if I missed her. Of course I missed her. She was my best friend – was probably being the operative word. She’d never forgive me for this and who could blame her?
By lunch time I felt even worse and when I took my break, Josh from accounts, who I’d known since school, found me sitting on the back stairs crying my eyes out.
“Poor Dani,” he said. “You must be lonely with Melanie gone.”
“It’s not that,” I wailed. “I’m just a horrible person.”
“No, you’re not,” he laughed, sitting down beside me. “You’re lovely, always have been.”
“You don’t know what I’ve done.”
I had to tell someone and it might as well be Josh. He’d always been easy to talk to and I knew he’d never spread gossip. He listened in silence and when I’d finished, he asked, “Why would you do something like that, Dani? It doesn’t sound at all like you.”
“It isn’t, and I don’t know what I was thinking! Resentful that she stole Jack from under my nose, angry that I’m not going to get to go on holiday this year, and upset that she said some hurtful things about me being mousey.”
“I didn’t realise you and Jack were a thing,” he said. “And besides, you’re not mousey.”
“We weren’t a thing.” I shrugged and choked on a laugh. “It all sounds so stupid now. He left a note under my windscreen wiper asking me out for coffee and she immediately assumed it was for her, no ifs or buts.”
“Oh,” he said, biting his lip. In that moment, I saw the kid he used to be, always messing around, having a laugh, but he used to get upset if anyone was bullied or treated badly. He’d always stand up for the underdog.
I hadn’t really noticed how much he’d changed until that moment. I’d never noticed how warm his deep brown eyes were or how his lips curved as if he was always ready to smile.
Dani, the note was definitely for you
“How do you know?”
“Because I wrote it.”
“What? Why did you just put J? Why not sign your name?”
“Everyone called me J at school, don’t you remember?”
I’d forgotten. I was so wrapped up in myself and my stupid crush on Jack, and it was a long time ago.
“I’m sorry, Josh. I bet you don’t want to have that coffee with me now. Even I don’t want to be with me.”
“Actually, I do,” he said. “I’ve been dying to ask you out, but I knew I’d be punching above my weight, so I never dared ask outright.”
Punching above his weight? How could he even think that? Josh was lovely. I’d just never seen him as anything more than a friend before.
“Let’s go out tonight,” he said. “We don’t have to do anything fancy, just a film and dinner, what do you think? It’ll help take your mind off Melanie.”
“Poor Melanie,” I whispered and it set off another shower of tears. “How can I enjoy myself knowing what she’ll be going through? I should text her and apologise.”
“Oh, don’t worry, she’ll be having a great time,” he said. “Trust me. She’s so crazy about Jack, she won’t care about anything else.”
“You don’t understand. She’s obsessed with looking perfect. She’ll probably hide in the loo for the entire fortnight. Oh, poor Melanie!”
“Doesn’t matter,” Josh said. “Looks aren’t everything. Remember when we went on that camping trip with school and you came out in hives? Your face swelled up like a balloon and went all blotchy.”
“Don’t remind me!”
“Well, I thought you still looked beautiful. And Jack will think Melanie looks beautiful, no matter what.”
I shook my head. It wasn’t so much about what Jack thought, more about how Melanie felt.
We had a great evening and I managed to forget about Melanie for a few hours. But when Jack took me home and kissed me goodnight, my head whirled. I’d never fallen for anyone so fast before, or felt so good about myself.
Was this how Melanie felt? And I’d ruined it for her!
I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her as a friend, or of her being unhappy.
I tossed and turned all night…
in the morning I turned on my phone and there was a message from Melanie…
The photo she’d sent was of her standing out in the sun, her face bright red and her hair looking like an explosion in a cotton wool factory. She was wearing an old pair of leggings and a baggy top. But she was smiling! I don’t think I’d ever seen her looking so happy or so natural.
The next photo was a selfie of her and Jack. He looked different too. His hair wasn’t all gelled back and the way it flopped over his face made him look even more gorgeous.
In fact they both looked gorgeous and natural – and most importantly, happy.
Are you having a good time? I texted back, wanting to ask if she hated me.
The best! I feel sort of free without the straighteners and the beauty regime and Jack says he loves my hair like this.
I’m sorry, I replied. I messed up the packing.
Don’t be soft! she texted back. I should have done it myself instead of leaving it to the last minute. How could I expect you to know what I’d need? We’re going for breakfast now, then spending the day at Costa Martianez. It’s got pools and lagoons and a water volcano. I couldn’t have done that if I was being prissy about my hair, could I? Got to go. I’ve got to get myself a new phone charger and a bikini. Goodness knows why I packed that ancient old cozzie!
I smiled. She was the Melanie I used to know, before she became obsessed with her appearance, the one who would never have put me down.
Shortly after I arrived at work, Josh came in with a cup of coffee for me and my heart did a strange little leap.
“Thought I’d get you one when I got mine,” he grinned. “You seem a lot happier today, more yourself.”
I told him about Melanie and how she was having a great time.
“It’s who you’re with that matters,” he said. “You might even have done her a favour, actually, letting Jack see the real Melanie.”
I knew he was right, but the fact remained that I’d done it with the worst of intentions and I’d never forgive myself for that. I made a vow right there and then that I would never do anything so mean again.
“See you at lunch?”
“Absolutely!” I knew I sounded eager, but I didn’t care. Now I’d got my J, I was going to make the most of it for as long as it lasted. Who knew… it might well last forever.
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