76. Red

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The tips of my fingers are stained from pitting cherries, as I meticulously push the stone out through each cherry into an empty wine bottle with a chopstick.

My lips look bruised from cherry juice and drinking the wine that used to be in the stone-filled bottle.

“This is going to be a damn fine pie.” I say.

“That’s a damn fine moustache.” She says, chuckling at my wine smile.

Her fingertips are purple from peeling the beetroot.

“We should have worn some CSI gloves for this. What are they gonna think we’ve been up to?”

“I dunno. Tell em our blood, sweat and tears went into this meal.” She replied.

“Good point. It has been pretty hot today. It’s always hotter in London. We’re the red hand gang.” I start singing the tune from what I thought was the theme music to the old 70s kids show, ‘The Red Hand Gang’ but she interrupts it by saying, “That’s the ‘Banana Splits’.”

“Oh yeah, so it is. Hey Siri.” I say, raising my voice a little, “Play the theme tune to The Red Hand Gang.”

Siri can find anything, except the songs I want.

“Have you ever asked Siri what zero divided by zero is?” asks Diana.

“You have no friends.” I reply in a half-robot, half-Cookie Monster voice. “What did you get from the deli?”

“Creme fraiche for the horseradish cream. Goats cheese for the beetroot. Clotted cream for the cherry pie and some mixed mushrooms for the steaks.”

This is a girly weekend, just the four of us. We met on a train from Leeds to London, sat at the same table when the train stopped in a terrible snowstorm. It was somewhere just north of Peterborough, due to ‘a body on the line’. During the next six hours, we shared what snack food we had, donated tampons to strangers, did the crossword together to save our phone batteries and generally put the world to rights. After we got off the train, we went for coffee, to warm ourselves up and decided to keep in touch through twitter, and, eight years later, here we still are.

One New Years Eve, we talked about how difficult it was to maintain friendships as adults. That friendships drift, it gets harder to remember why you still liked each other, and all you seemed to talk about is how good life used to be or your kids. Well, we made a pact to not let those threads fray. We decided then and there to meet up at least once a year for a weekend reunion and make our own, new memories.

Jenny’s sister lives in London but she’s away this weekend, so we have her flat to ourselves. It’s nice to have the freedom outside of a hotel room for a change. She’s gone to St Pancras to pick up Claire, who is a bit scared of the tube. Diana and I are prepping the evening meal.

So, tonight is ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 2 marathon. If we have to pull an all-nighter, then so be it. Tomorrow night is a play called ‘Red’ with Alfred Molina playing Mark Rothko. If we’re not too hungover, we’ll have a wander down to the Tate to look at some abstract expressionism,  to get ourselves ready for the play, after a couple of Bloody Marys, and avocado or eggs on toast at that Caravan brunch place at Kings Cross or get the Thames Link to Blackfriars and walk to the other one near to Borough Market.

“Did you see the new Millicent Fawcett statue outside the Houses of Parliament when you went out” asks Diana.

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I went to the unveiling of the “Women of Steel” sculpture in Sheffield I love it. Proper Rosie the Riveter.”

“Outside the City Hall? Near Cole Brothers? I think I saw it on TV.”

“I wish I had stacks of green paper in my red right hand.” I say half- singing.

“Ooh, Did I tell you? I made a donation to that Suffragette statue fund. The one that’s being made where I live. This is good this. Get this. I was saving it for later, but I’ll tell them again. Do you remember that time ages ago when I was going out with Robert?” she says.

I screw up my eyes trying to remember him. We don’t generally meet anyone else’s partners or family. It’s just the hardcore of us four. “Did he used to work away a lot?”

“Yeah, that’s him. You remember that time I told you about that woman who started shouting at him in the pub and her friend said to me, “Don’t let him film you love, he’ll put it on youporn”?”

“You had a lucky escape there.” I say.

“Too right I did. I never sent him any pictures, but, we did have one of those couple’s vibrators, that he could control with his phone when he was working away”

Nothing surprises me with Diana. That time she said she’d won 500 dollars on a slot machine and then spent it on hand-feeding a lion in the zoo. When she fell and broke her ankle whilst abseiling and Prince William was the pilot in the air sea rescue helicopter. The time she got chatting to one of the ‘Real Housewives’ in the ladies room at the airport and they got on so well, that she paid for Diana’s upgrade to Business Class so they could sit together on the plane, and then offered her a job as a PA. All true.

“Well anyway” she continues. “There was this class action lawsuit over this vibrator as the manufacturers were collecting data on the users. They could tell what setting I had it one, how long it was used for and what my body temperature was. I got £5,000 compensation for it.”

“Brilliant.” I say.

“So, then after the lawsuit had been in the papers, Robert phoned me. A year after he dumped me, for not ‘being adventurous enough’ he rings me. Me! Not adventurous. Well, he wants to get together for a drink. Well, I’m with Paul now, so I say no. That’s when I got that new number. I don’t know why I didn’t block him before though. So he rings me again the following night and says that he thinks he is entitled to half of the vibrator money because he was the one using his phone to control it, his privacy was violated too!”

I nearly spit out a mouthful of Malbec, trying not to laugh at the incredulity of it all.

“What? After what he did to that woman with the revenge porn?” I’d have told him to do one.” I say.

“I did.” she says. “Even better than that, I told him I was donating it all. Then I reeled off a few women’s charities that I knew would piss him off. I said that if he didn’t leave me alone, I was going to put a metal plaque with his name on it on a bench, saying ‘with thanks for helping me’ outside that sexual health clinic.”

“If he rings you again, tell him that it wasn’t him controlling the vibrator, it was someone else. He can’t prove it was him unless he recorded it and then you can have him for recording a private act or voyeurism it something.”

“I’m definitely saying that if he finds out my number and rings again.” She says.

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