“Wow,” Faye said three weeks later, standing in the doorway to my new flat in St Andrews. “This is…special.”
I heaved my suitcase into the air and plunked it down on the sofa. “It has a yard for Gatsby,” I said. “That was kind of the main criteria. Also it’s near the beach so I can take her for walks. And it’s near the School of English.”
“Babe, it’s St Andrews,” Faye said, crossing to the window and twitching aside the curtains. “Everything is, like, within a ten minute walk.”
“Shut up,” I said.
“Seriously,” she said, “it looks like this was decorated in the seventies and hasn’t been touched since.”
I groaned. “You are not helping. I’m depressed enough about living in this crap flat for the next nine months — can’t you be lovely and lie to me about how crap it is?”
“The decor is unique,” she said, adopting the tone of a realtor, “and you’re just going to love what they’ve done with the kitchen — oh.” She was peering through the door into said kitchen.
“How bad is it?” Alex asked from the hall, sounding slightly out of breath from hauling my heavier suitcase up the stairs.
“Well, let’s put it this way,” Faye said, coming out of the kitchen. “If Fish puts up pictures of someone and newspaper clippings, it’d be a dead ringer for a serial killer’s hideout.”
Alex dragged my suitcase into the living room. “Well, it could be worse,” he said. “At least there’s no visible damp.”
“Thank you,” I said. “I’m sure if I buy some extra lamps and some bright pillows, it’ll look great. Or at least I can pretend I’m not back to living in crap accommodation.” I frowned. “Where’s Gatsby?”
“I locked her in the car with the window down,” Alex said.
I sighed. “Okay. I’ll go get her in a minute. So how bad is the kitchen?” I asked Faye.
Alex poked his head in and said, his voice slightly muffled, “It’s not that bad. Although you might have trouble getting more than one person in here.”
I ducked under his arm and cringed. “Christ, that is a terrible colour of green.”
“It’s going to clash beautifully with your yellow dishes,” Faye called cheerfully.
“Oh, thanks,” I said, going back out into the living room.
“So,” Alex said, leaning against the wall, “do you want to get Gatsby settled and I’ll go stock up on booze?”
“Oh, god yes,” I said. “You’re both staying here tonight, yeah?”
“I call the bed,” Faye said.
“You’re sharing with me,” I said.
“Makes more sense than the other way,” Alex said. Faye and I stared at him for a moment, and then she laughed and I blushed. “I’ll take the couch.”
“Right,” I said. “I need to go sort out Gatsby.” I closed my eyes briefly. “What the hell am I going to do with a dog for nine months?”
“Use her to pick up men?” Faye offered, following me out into the hall and out onto the street.
“Yup,” she said. “Aw, who’s a good puppy?”
Gatsby exploded from the car in a flurry of fur and ears, excited to be let out at last. She scampered about, overwhelmed by a whole new world of Scottish smells, and finally plunked herself down before the front steps. Alex tossed me the keys to the flat and hopped in the car.
“Really?” Faye asked. “You’re driving to Tesco’s?”
He shrugged. “It’s faster?” He grinned, shut the door, and rocketed off down the street.
“Come on, girl,” I said, attaching Gatsby’s leash to her collar and leading her around the side of the house and through the alley to the back garden. “This is your new home.”
I let her off the lead. She stood waiting, tail wagging slightly, as she looked around at what was admittedly a pretty bleak back garden. There was a bedraggled tree in the right-hand corner, its leaves just starting to turn red, and what might have been the remnants of a vegetable patch took up the left-hand side of the garden. The rest of the space was paved over.
“Cheery,” Faye said from behind me as Gatsby flopped down on the paving stones. “Glad to see she’s taking so well to her new digs.”
“Like she has a choice,” I muttered. “‘You have to take her, Em!’ ‘She’ll be so miserable in America, Em!’ God, why am I such a sucker?”
Faye sat down on the ground beside Gatsby and scratched her ears. “She’s a lovable mutt,” she said. “I’m sure she’ll grow on you.”
“Probably,” I said, sighing and sitting down next to them. “I guess she’ll keep me from getting too lonely. Also she might discourage scary people who might want to rob me.”
“Yes, because you have so much to steal,” Faye said.
“Are you two planning on taking up residence in the back garden,” Alex asked from the alley, “or do you want booze?”
“Booze, please,” Faye and I said in unison.
I let Alex in and we went into the house. Alex set down several bags on the floor and pulled out three bottles of wine, a bottle of vodka, and a litre of lemonade.
“Jeez,” Faye said.
“Thought someone might like to drown her sorrows,” he said.
“Ice cream,” I gasped, digging through the bags. Then I looked up. “You bought veg and cereal and stuff.”
“What were you planning on having for dinner and breakfast?” he inquired. “I thought perhaps it would be best to be prepared. I’ll cook.”
“Brill,” Faye said, twisting the top off the first bottle of wine. “Where the hell have you put your wine glasses?”