placing his whole sexual past, present and future in my hands.
My first instinct was to flick through it, see if I recognised any of the names. My second instinct was to flick through it, gauge how many names there were in it, see how many women had trodden the path I had. My third instinct was to ask: ‘Am I in there?’
Greg shook his head. ‘Even before I fell for you, you were too special for that book.’
‘In other words you knew I wouldn’t shag you so you didn’t waste your time putting me in there.’
Greg flopped his arms up and down. ‘I’ve just given you my former sex life and you’re bitching about if you’re in there.’
Fair point . I turned the small black rectangle over in my hands, caressed the soft leather. It was warm and bent slightly from the curve of his bum, the pages well worn from overuse. ‘I can’t believe you own a little black book,’ I said.
‘I don’t any more, you do.’
‘I don’t know if I want this responsibility.’
‘It’s the only way I can think to prove to you that I’m serious about this. I don’t want any of the people in that book, I want you.’
‘What about the numbers in your mobile?’
In an instant the colour leached out of Greg’s skin. There was clearly a pecking order of people he’d shagged or wanted to shag. If he liked her, she went into his black book; if he reeeaally liked her, she went into his mobile.
I held out the book to him. ‘Let’s forget it. We can still be friends.’
I was trembling slightly as I handed him back his sexual freedom. And, what was this? What was stirring itself in my chest? A swirl of emotions I couldn’t quite pin down. Probably mostly jealousy and sadness. Jealousy, pretty self-explanatory. Sadness, because if he took the book back, our friendship would be based on me knowing that he didn’t care enough for me to give up shagging around; and him knowing that I was too petty to let him keep a few other women’s numbers.
‘OK,’ Greg said, but didn’t move to take the book from me. ‘I’ll write down all the relevant numbers from my mobile on a piece of paper, slip the paper into the black book and get them back if we split up.’ (The faith he had in me was astounding. If we split up, did he honestly think I’d give him back his sex life? I’d burn it. No messing.)
Not exactly, ‘I’ll delete them all’, but it wasn’t, ‘Oh, forget it’, either. So, the ball was back in my court. I had to decide if we were going to give it a go or not.
I couldn’t think under these conditions. I didn’t have any distracting TV noise, no chocolate in my hand . . . the last time I tried to work under pressure without these tools I ended up offering to call Greg a cab. ‘Don’t move. I’ll be right back. Just don’t move or leave, sit right there,’ I said to Greg.
He nodded as I unfolded my legs from under me, stood up and then exited the room. In the kitchen I went straight for the fridge, tugged open the door, pulled out the giant bar of chocolate Renée had bought me from Copenhagen a few weeks earlier. It was the good-quality stuff I’d been saving for when company came round – not the everyday chocolate I usually ate. I pulled open the thick, waxy yellow wrapper, did the same with the thick gold foil inside. I lifted the bar to my nose, inhaled deeply. The bitter smell of cocoa, tempered with sugar and milk powder and emulsifier, filled my senses. Oh, yes, that’s better . I took another two deep hits. Then I pushed the pieces between my fingers until a jagged, diagonal piece snapped off. I slipped it between my lips and bit down. Oh, oh, oh, yes . My whole body relaxed as the taste filled my mouth. Now, I could think. Really think.
Greg and me. And possibly giving it a go.
It wasn’t a simple case of me not being interested. I was, a little. Only a little, though. Certainly not enough for me to risk everything. But, if I told him no now, he’d take it literally. I wouldn’t