"Backlash, actually, by Susan Faludi," I said triumphantly. Hah! I haven't exactly read it as such, but feel I have as Sharon has been ranting about it so much. Anyway, completely safe option as no way diamond-pattern-jumpered goody-goody would have read five-hundred-page feminist treatise.
"Ah. Really?" he said. "I read that when it first came out. Didn't you find there was rather a lot of special pleading?"
"Oh, well, not too much ...," I said wildly, racking my brains for a way to get off the subject. "Have you been staying with your parents over New Year?"
"Yes," he said eagerly. "You too?"
"Yes. No. I was at a party in London last night. Bit hungover, actually." I gabbed nervously so that Una and Mum wouldn't think I was so useless with men I was failing to talk to even Mark Darcy. "But then I do think New Year's resolutions can't technically be expected to begin on New Year's Day, don't you? Since, because it's an extension of New Year's Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system. Also dieting on New Year's Day isn't a good idea as you can't eat rationally but really need to be free to consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease your hangover. I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second."
"Maybe you should get something to eat," he said, then suddenly bolted off toward the buffet, leaving me standing on my own by the bookshelf while everybody stared at me, thinking, "So that's why Bridget isn't married. She repulses men."
The worst of it was that Una Alconbury and Mum wouldn't leave it at that. They kept making me walk round with trays of gherkins and glasses of cream sherry in a desperate bid to throw me into Mark Darcy's path yet again. In the end they were so crazed with frustration that the second I got within four feet of him with the gherkins Una threw herself across the room like Will Carling and said, "Mark, you must take Bridget's telephone number before you go, then you can get in touch when you're in London."
I couldn't stop myself turning bright red. I could feel it climbing up my neck. Now Mark would think I'd put her up to it.
"I'm sure Bridget's life in London is quite full enough already, Mrs. Alconbury," he said. Humph. It's not that I wanted him to take my phone number or anything, but I didn't want him to make it perfectly obvious to everyone that he didn't want to. As I looked down I saw that he was wearing white socks with a yellow bumblebee motif.
"Can't I tempt you with a gherkin?" I said, to show I had had a genuine reason for coming over, which was quite definitely gherkin-based rather than phone-number-related.
"Thank you, no," he said, looking at me with some alarm.
"Sure? Stuffed olive?" I pressed on.
"Silverskin onion?" I encouraged. "Beetroot cube?"
"Thank you," he said desperately, taking an olive.
"Hope you enjoy it," I said triumphantly.
Toward the end I saw him being harangued by his mother and Una, who marched him over toward me and stood just behind while he said stiffly, "Do you need driving back to London? I'm staying here but I could get my car to take you."
"What, all on its own?" I said.
He blinked at me.
"Durr! Mark has a company car and a driver, silly," said Una.
"Thank you, that's very kind," I said. "But I shall be taking one of my trains in the morning."
2 a.m. Oh, why am I so unattractive? Why? Even a man who wears bumblebee socks thinks I am horrible. Hate the New Year. Hate everyone. Except Daniel Cleaver. Anyway, have got giant tray-sized bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk left over from Christmas on dressing table, also amusing joke gin and tonic miniature. Am going to consume them and have fag.
From Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding. © 1997 by Helen Fielding. Used by permission of the Viking Press.
Blood at the Root
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