Would Zoe ever notice she existed? Cat watched her from across the office, drinking in every detail of the dark haired girl’s appearance. Zoe was so effortlessly chic, her silk blouse elegantly nipped in at the waist, her black cigarette pants showcasing slender ankles.
Her boyfriend was a lucky man, Zoe could have anyone she wanted. It must be nice to be desired like that. Most of the time people didn’t even seem to realise Cat existed.
“Cat.” The voice snapped her out of her daydream.
“Huh?” Looking up she saw John Walters, her boss and Zoe’s boyfriend. He was undeniably attractive with blonde hair and high Nordic cheekbones but he didn’t deserve Zoe in Cat’s opinion. How could anyone?
“That concept you thought up’s gone viral. Over ten million views, its only been up half a day.”
“Really?” She was a little taken aback.
“Yep. Good work girl. I’m taking you to lunch at Carlo’s.”
“You don’t have to do that John. It was just a lucky idea.” Well it was true, she wasn’t being self-effacing.
“No protests. I want to.” He chucked her under the chin gently, forcing her to tip her face up to look into his bright blue eyes.
“You’re an interesting one you are,” he said, turning her face one way then the other, before releasing her and turning away to walk off. She stared at his retreating back feeling slightly bemused. What did that mean? Out of the corner of her eye she spied Zoe crossing the office, and she swivelled in her chair to watch her.
That body, god what she wouldn’t give...
She scribbled down what Zoe was wearing in her eggshell coloured suede notebook, exactly the same type as the one Zoe used herself. She felt closer to Zoe by buying the same things she did, wearing the same clothes.
Today she was wearing the exact outfit she’d seen Zoe in three weeks ago. Maybe today Zoe would finally notice her.
At lunch Walters caught her by the elbow, steering her out of the office, and into the lift.
“You’re coming with me,” he said. Nodding, she acquiesced; there was no getting out of it now. At least she might learn more about Zoe, he was her boyfriend after all.
It was strange, she’d never really noticed girls before Zoe but now the woman occupied nearly every waking hour of her thoughts. They entered the restaurant, which was packed with the usual lunch crowd; braying office workers slurping glasses of chardonnay and chomping down their salmon on a bed of wild rocket. The word that sprung to mind was pretentious.
“Everyone who’s anyone in PR eats here Cat,” John said, bending his head to her ear as they stood in line behind dozens of people waiting for a table.
“Michael,” he said, spying a dark haired young waiter, who nodded, smiling and pointing them over to a window seat.
“Good to see you again Sir.” Michael bobbed his cap of dark curls in a kind of half bow.
“We’ll have two clam chowders, and I’ll have the squid with French fries and a side salad. Cat will have the Seabass.” She went to protest but he gave a brash chuckle, waving her away. “You have to try it Cat. Oh and we’ll take two glasses of your best Tatinger.”
“Champagne goes well with sea food,” he said, turning back to Cat and winking.
She sat there feeling a bit stunned, he hadn’t even asked her if she liked fish. But he was paying, she supposed she shouldn’t really complain. Still it seemed a bit rude. Was he this arrogant with Zoe? She couldn’t imagine her standing for that, Zoe would put him in his place surely?
The waiter brought the champagne over and uncorked the bottle, pouring out the pale gold liquid into two crystal glasses. She sipped at her fizz gently, allowing herself to pretend she was Zoe for a moment, sitting at the table with John like this.
“Great outfit Cat. It suits you,” he said, looking at her and winking again. She blushed, did he recognize it?
“Thanks,” she said, feeling unsure of what to say exactly, “I spotted it when I was out shopping with my sister.” She didn’t even have a sister, why had she said that?
“It’s nice,” he said, and she felt his hand on her leg. What the hell?
“You’re nice,” he said, as his hand started to traverse up the inside of her silk pencil skirt.
“No we shouldn’t,” she said, removing his hand from her leg. Was this some kind of test?
“Why not?” He leaned closer, leering at her.
“Because Zoe’s your girlfriend?” She looked at him feeling genuinely puzzled. Was he mad, how could anyone forget about Zoe?
“Zoe.” Sighing, he released his grip on her thigh. “Zoe and me have an understanding Cat, ” he said, pronouncing the word as if they had some special meaning.
“What do you mean?”
“We like to see other people, have fun. I didn’t want to at first, but Zoe encourages it.” He reached for her under the table and she wriggled out of his grasp. Zoe liked her boyfriend to sleep around?
“Still, I don’t think we should.” She didn’t feel comfortable with this; she didn’t like him like that. She didn’t like anyone like that. Except-
“Come on Cat,” he said, the tone in his voice wheedling now, “It’s obvious you look up to her.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Your little secret’s safe with me. But haven’t you ever wondered what it would be like? To experience what she experiences?” How did he know she wanted that?
“I can tell you how she acts in bed if you like? What she says, how she feels, how she moans?” The offer hung like a tasty morsel, held tantalisingly beneath her nose. God what she wouldn’t give to know.
“Alright,” she said, nodding and swallowing.
“Follow me to the bathroom then.”
Fiona, her co-worker, looked up and grinned at her as she staggered back to her desk afterwards.
“Good lunch I see?”
“Uhh yeah,” she said, her cheeks burning. Hopefully no one had seen her leave the office with John. Where was her notebook? She wanted to record every new detail of what she’d just learned about Zoe.
“So good you forgot to do your blouse up,” Fiona said with a smirk. Her hands flew to it, feeling flesh where silk should be. Shit, how long had it been hanging open like that?
“I don’t know how it got that way,” she said, feeling flustered.
“Probably the same way your lipstick ended up halfway across your cheek.”
Mortified, she didn’t wait to respond, scurrying from the office for the safety of the women’s bathrooms to repair her face.
In the bathroom, she dabbed at her face with a paper towel to try and erase the ugly red smear. John had been like a hungry animal, pawing her all over, she hadn’t enjoyed his groping or his sweaty grunting. What she had liked though was how much closer she’d felt to Zoe. She’d shut her eyes and imagined she was Zoe as she allowed him to maul her.
She heard a sniffling sound coming from one of the stalls; there was someone else in here?
“Are you alright in there?” She walked to the locked stall and knocked on the door. No reply.
“Hey, what’s the matter in there?”
That voice, it sounded familiar?
“I just want to know everything’s alright.”
“Everything is alright,” the voice said flatly, “now go away.” Zoe’s voice?
“Zoe? Is that you?” She heard the sound of a chain flushing then the door opened and Zoe stood in front of her, her eyes red rimmed.
“What’s the matter?”
“This.” Zoe brandished the white plastic stick. A pregnancy test?
“Well done Einstein.”
“You don’t have to keep it you know,” she said, trying to reassure her.
Zoe looked at her with resentful eyes. “You don’t understand. This has ruined everything.”
“But why? You don’t have to keep it, this is London not bloody Oklahoma.”
“It’s not that. I want to keep it. But John’ll dump me, he won’t want anything to do with a baby.” John didn’t want commitment? That wasn’t what he’d said in the restaurant.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine. John loves you,” she said, feeling more than a little uncertain. But Zoe just started to cry again, loud, choking sobs that made her thin shoulders heave.
“Don’t cry, please,” she said, stepping forward and folding Zoe in her arms.
“He’ll dump me, he already cheats on me. He was with a girl today, had her lipstick smeared over his bloody face. Lied to me about it too, said he had to meet with a manager at lunch, so he couldn’t go with me.”
She felt the anger pulse through her. Zoe was a goddess, it was unthinkable. She rubbed her hand in small circles, over the tailored silk of Zoe’s blouse.
“How dare he, the lying bastard.”
Who did he think he was? As Cat stalked back to the office, she saw him, leaning out the window of the fire escape as he smoked a cigarette. It was his hair that gave him away; the thatch of bright blonde impertinent as it leered at her.
If he wasn’t careful he could lose his footing and go tumbling over the edge, but if anyone deserved that surely it had to be him?
All it would take would be one little shove and Zoe’s problems would be gone. A tragic accident, they'd call it and then Zoe could move on with her life, find someone she deserved, who would love her as she deserved to be loved. Someone like you? Perhaps, why not?
He wheeled around to face her and she started.
“Cat.” He grinned. She wanted to smack the cheesy expression off his face; he had no right to look so bloody pleased with himself the smug bastard.
“You told me it was Zoe who wanted to sleep around but it was you,” she said, looking him straight in the eyes.
He held his palms up. “Look Cat, she’s a bit unstable. I’ve been trying to tell her I’m not ready for a full on relationship but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.”
He was lying again she knew, he was a bloody snake, a backstabbing treacherous coward. A white hot anger rose within her.
“You’re a liar John. Zoe already told me everything.”
He raised his eyebrow at her. “Calm down Cat, don’t get hysterical. I know you want to get in her knickers; I read your weird little diary.” So that’s where her notebook had gone, he had taken it.
“You had no business reading that,” she said, her voice rising as she spoke. She was practically shouting she knew but she couldn’t help it, her whole body was trembling with rage.
“Zoe and I laugh about your little crush you know. Now run along there’s a good girl.” He turned around to finish smoking his Marlboro.
She didn’t think; she just acted, reaching out and shoving him hard in the centre of his back. His hands flailed as he stumbled forward, desperately trying to get his balance, but there was nothing there to grab onto, and toppling, he fell over the edge, his mouth opening in a scream as his body whistled through the air.
A loud thunk, the sound of flesh hitting something solid, then the screaming stopped, the wail of a car alarm starting up to take its place.
Zoe would be distraught of course, at first anyway but she’d soon get over it, with friendship and loyal support.
“Loyal support, hear that John” she said, underneath her breath, as she peered over the rail to stare down at the bloody mess lying below.