Can You Keep a Secret?
Page 11

 Sophie Kinsella

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'So what do you think? Only if you want to.'
'Absolutely!' I say quickly. 'I mean, you're right. Of course we should.' I clear my throat. 'Darling!'
'Thanks, darling,' he says, with a loving smile, and I smile back, trying to ignore the tiny protests inside my head.
This doesn't feel right.
I don't feel like a darling.
Darling is a married person with pearls and a four-wheel-drive.
'Emma?' Connor's staring at me. 'Is something wrong?'
'I'm not sure!' I give a self-conscious laugh. 'I just don't know if I feel like a "darling". But … you know. It may grow on me.'
'Really? Well, we can use something else. What about "dear"?'
Dear? Is he serious?
'No,' I say quickly. 'I think "darling" is better.'
'Or "sweetheart" … "honey" … "angel"
'Maybe. Look, can we just leave it?'
Connor's face falls, and I feel bad. Come on. I can call my boyfriend 'darling', for God's sake. This is what growing up's all about. I'm just going to have to get used to it.
'Connor, I'm sorry,' I say. 'I don't know what's wrong with me. Maybe I'm still a bit tense after that flight.' I take his hand. 'Darling.'
'That's all right, darling.' He smiles back at me, his sunny expression restored, and gives me a kiss. 'See you later.'
You see. Easy.
Oh God.
Anyway. It doesn't matter. I expect all couples have this kind of awkward-ish moment. It's probably perfectly normal.
It takes me about half an hour to get from Connor's place in Maida Vale to Islington, which is where I live, and as I open the door I find Lissy on the sofa. She's surrounded by papers and has a frown of concentration on her face. She works so hard, Lissy. She really overdoes it sometimes.
'What are you working on?' I say sympathetically. 'Is it that fraud case?'
'No, it's this article,' says Lissy abstractly, and lifts up a glossy magazine. 'It says since the days of Cleopatra, the proportions of beauty have been the same, and there's a way to work out how beautiful you are, scientifically. You do all these measurements …'
'Oh right!' I say interestedly. 'So what are you?'
'I'm just working it out.' She frowns at the page again. 'That makes 53 … subtract 20 … makes … Oh my God!' She stares at the page in dismay. 'I only got 33!'
'Out of what?'
'A hundred! 33 out of a hundred!'
'Oh Lissy. That's crap.'
'I know,' says Lissy seriously. 'I'm ugly. I knew it. You know, all my life I've kind of secretly known, but—'
'No!' I say, trying not to laugh. 'I meant the magazine's crap! You can't measure beauty with some stupid index. Just look at you!' I gesture at Lissy, who has the biggest grey eyes in the world, and gorgeous clear pale skin and is frankly stunning, even if her last haircut was a bit severe. 'I mean, who are you going to believe? The mirror or a stupid mindless magazine article?'
'A stupid mindless magazine article,' says Lissy, as though it's perfectly obvious.
I know she's half joking. But ever since her boyfriend Simon chucked her, Lissy's had really low self-esteem. I'm actually a bit worried about her.
'Is that the golden proportion of beauty?' says our other flatmate Jemima, tapping into the room in her kitten heels. She's wearing pale pink jeans and a tight white top and as usual, she looks perfectly tanned and groomed. In theory, Jemima has a job, working in a sculpture gallery. But all she ever seems to do is have bits of her waxed and plucked and massaged, and go on dates with city bankers, whose salary she always checks out before she says yes.
I do get on with Jemima. Kind of. It's just that she tends to begin all her sentences 'If you want a rock on your finger,' and 'If you want an SW3 address,' and 'If you want to be known as a seriously good dinner-party hostess.'
I mean, I wouldn't mind being known as a seriously good dinner-party hostess. You know. It's just not exactly highest on my list of priorities right now.
Plus, Jemima's idea of being a seriously good dinner-party hostess is inviting lots of rich friends over, decorating the whole flat with twiggy things, getting caterers to cook loads of yummy food and telling everyone she made it herself, then sending her flatmates (me and Lissy) out to the cinema for the night and looking affronted when they dare creep back in at midnight and make themselves a hot chocolate.
'I did that quiz,' she says now, picking up her pink Louis Vuitton bag. Her dad bought it for her as a present when she broke up with a guy after three dates. Like she was heartbroken.
Mind you, he had a yacht, so she probably was heartbroken.
'What did you get?' says Lissy.
'Eighty-nine.' She spritzes herself with perfume, tosses her long blond hair back and smiles at herself in the mirror. 'So Emma, is it true you're moving in with Connor?' I gape at her.