Watermelon - Extract


Chapter One

I'm sorry, you must think I'm very rude. We've hardly even been introduced and here I am telling you all about the awful things that have happened to me.

Let me just give you the briefest outline of myself and I'll save details like, for example, my first day at school until later, if we have the time.

Let's see, what should I tell you? Well, my name is Claire and I'm twenty-nine and, as I mentioned, I've just had my first child two days ago (a little girl, seven pounds, four ounces, totally beautiful) and my husband (did I mention his name is James?) told me about twenty-four hours ago that he has been having an affair for the past six months, with -- and get this -- not even his secretary or someone glamorous from work, but with a married woman who lives in the apartment two floors below us. I mean, how suburban can you get! And not only is he having an affair but he wants a divorce.

I'm sorry if I'm being unnecessarily flippant about this. I'm all over the place. In a moment I'll be crying again. I'm still in shock, I suppose. Her name is Denise and I know her quite well.

Not quite as well as James does, obviously.

The awful thing is she always seemed to be really nice.

She's thirty-five (don't ask me how I know this, I just do; and at the risk of sounding very sour grapes and losing your sympathy, she does look thirty-five) and she has two children and a nice husband (quite apart from my one, that is). And apparently she's moved out of her apartment and he's moved out of his (or ours, should I say) and they've both moved into a new one in a secret location.

Can you believe it? How dramatic can you get? I know her husband is Italian, but I really don't think he's likely to kill the pair of them. He's a waiter, not a Mafia stooge, so what's he going to do? Black pepper them to death? Compliment them into a coma? Run them over with the dessert trolley?

But again, I seem flippant.

I'm not.

I'm heartbroken.

And it's all such a disaster. I don't even know what to call my little girl. James and I had discussed some names -- or, in retrospect, I had discussed them and he had pretended to listen -- but we hadn't decided on anything definite. And I seem to have lost the ability to make decisions on my own. Pathetic, I know, but that's marriage for you. Bang goes your sense of personal autonomy!

I wasn't always like this. Once I was strong-willed and independent. But that all seems like a long, long time ago.

I've been with James for five years, and we've been married for three years. And, my God, but I love that man.

Although we had a less than auspicious start, the magic took hold of us very quickly. We both agree that we fell in love about fifteen minutes after we met and we stayed that way.

Or at least I did.

For a long time I never thought I'd meet a man who wanted to marry me.

Well, perhaps I should qualify that.

I never thought I'd meet a nice man who wanted to marry me. Plenty of lunatics, undoubtedly. But a nice man, a bit older than me, with a decent job, good-looking, funny, kind. You know-one who didn't look at me askance when I mentioned The Partridge Family, not one who apologized for not being able to get me a birthday present because his estranged wife had taken all his salary under a court maintenance order, not one who made me feel old-fashioned and inhibited because I got angry when he said that he'd screwed his ex-girlfriend the night after he screwed me ("My God, you convent girls are so uptight"), not one who made me feel inadequate because I couldn't tell the difference between Piat d'Or and Zinfandel (whatever that is!).

James didn't treat me in any of these unpleasant ways. It seemed almost too good to be true. He liked me. He liked almost everything about me.

When we first met we were both living in London. I was waitress (more of that later) and he was an accountant.

Of all the Tex-Mex joints in all the towns in all the world, he had to walk into mine. I wasn't a real waitress, you understand, I had a degree in English, but I went through my rebellious stage rather later than most, at about twenty-three. Which is when I thought it might be a bit of a laugh to give up my permanent, wellish-paid job in Dublin and go off to the Godless city of London and live like an irresponsible student.

Which is something I should have done when I was an irresponsible student. But I was too busy getting work experience during my summer holidays then, so my irresponsibility just had to wait until I was good and ready for it.

Like I always say, there's a time and a place for spontaneity.

Anyway, I had managed to land myself a job as a waitress in this highly trendy London restaurant, all loud music and video screens and minor celebrities.

Well, to be honest, there were more minor celebrities on the staff then amongst the clientele, what with most of the staff being out-of-work actors and models and the like.

How I ever got a job there at all is beyond me. Although I might have been employed as the token Wholesome Waitress. To begin with I was...