Valentine’s Weekend. I was away working in London and got home to a card from one of those awful websites that mean men no longer have to leave the house and go to an actual shop. They no longer need to find a fountain pen and a stamp. Think of something thoughtful to write.
Oh, dear me, no. The card was addressed to Mini Puppy (spelt wrong, as in Minnie: she’s not a mouse), and was a photo of a bulldog, not even a border collie. The message said, ‘How ya doin’?’ I’m not American! I can only assume it was from He Who Has Been Blocked. Just stay blocked!
I used it to light my fire.
I still wear the engagement ring he gave me. Not to repel unwanted advances from men, as I don’t get any. I wear it as something to flaunt when having an extreme bikini wax, so the therapist doesn’t feel she’s wasting her time, because who will ever see it?
Also it’s a lovely ring: a small diamond, with a platinum band. Not as lovely, sadly, as my maternal grandmother’s ring, made in the 1920s and passed down to me. I gave it to my niece on her wedding day. I, of course, wrote about the fact I gave her an heirloom in this column. Then, a few days later, I received a stern letter from the Official Receiver, demanding that, as I was being made bankrupt, the ring had to be returned and sold. The letter also queried the fact I had written about my gorgeous pale pink outfit by Suzannah London. I had to forward the emails proving the outfit had been merely borrowed and returned.
I’m certain that if I didn’t have this column, I wouldn’t have lost my house. The Official Receiver had a sheaf of them, highlighting a piece where I had travelled to Paris to attend the trial of John Galliano (it took place in the very room where Marie Antoinette was sentenced to the guillotine; I was the only fashionista present), and another where I had gone on a mini break to the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris, in the footsteps of Carrie Bradshaw.
I told them both trips were for work. They didn’t believe me; odd, given the only reason they knew about them was by reading the paper. ‘Why did you not stay at a Holiday Inn?’ I doubt they would have asked a man the same question.
I would also, of course, still have the fiancé who gave me the ring. He wouldn’t have been able to peek inside my brain as I break the fourth wall, Fleabag-fashion, and tell you my thoughts. I would have just talked about him behind his back ‘like a normal person!’*
Being in the public eye is hell. I get messages all the time. ‘Sent you a photo.’ ‘Sent you a link to Tattle Life. Wow.’ I feel sick. I rack my brain: ‘What have I done that I haven’t already owned up to?’ I texted Nic on Sunday: ‘How do I block direct messages?’ Even when a man turns up to read my meter, he says, ‘Don’t have much luck on the boyfriend front, do you?’
It got to the end of Valentine’s Day. Despite myself, I’d given the odd furtive glance out of my window, trying to overlook the detritus of the people next door (plastic plant pots, dead plants, collapsed summer parasols, the Christmas tree gently rotting, having merely been heaved out of the door**), just in case a delivery person hove into view, staggering beneath the weight of red roses. But no, there was nothing, no one.
I fed the dogs. And then suddenly, with no warning, Gracie collapsed. She lay on her side, mouth slightly open, urine leaching everywhere.
I had no idea if she were alive or dead.
* A quote from my all-time favourite comedy, Bridesmaids. I know every word: ‘Look away! Look away!’
** I know, I’m doing it again. Am hoping they don’t read this.