“You know,” Faye said, eyeing the buffet just visible around the corner, “I think they just put out ice cream. You want.”
I hesitated. Dammit, I loved ice cream. Like, a lot. Like I’d go through 500ml in one go. I’d got that from my dad, who did the exact same thing. “No,” I said. “I really shouldn’t. I’m supposed to be dieting.”
“Bullshit. You stay right there,” Faye commanded, hopping back up. I opened my mouth to protest, but before I could think of anything to protest with, she was back with two bowls of mint chocolate chip ice cream and another two glasses of wine. “Here,” she said, thrusting a bowl and a glass at me. “Eat. And drink. Ice cream and wine: balm for the tormented female soul.”
“I really shouldn’t,” I protested half-hearted, licking mint off the spoon. “You’re a bad influence on me.”
“Only in the best ways,” Faye said cheerfully, catching a drip on her finger. “Anyway, everyone knows that women, when upset, must have ice cream. And those calories definitely do not count. Besides, you don’t need to be on a diet anyway. The only person fussing about your weight is Nate.”
True, I conceded silently, digging my spoon into the ice cream. Although it was something I tried really hard to ignore. Two weeks earlier, Nate and I had gone out for dinner and I’d put on my favourite dress — black, square-necked, nipped in under the bust, floaty skirt. I always felt, I don’t know, like Audrey Hepburn in that dress — elegant and classy. I’d had it for years, since my uni days at least, if not longer, and the thought of having to try to find another little black dress when this one was (I thought) so flattering was a headache that I was determined to avoid as long as possible. I’d traipsed downstairs in the dress and kitten heels, preparing to flirtatiously finagle a kiss out of my boyfriend, but Nate had looked up from a bowl of ice cream and commented, “Don’t remember that dress being so snug, babe. Guess you’ll be leaving off the pudding tonight, eh?” Desire for flirtatious kiss murdered, just like that. I’d dashed back upstairs and given myself a once-over in the full-length mirror, but I’d thought I looked fine. And then Nate was shouting at me to hurry up or we’d be late for our reservation and it was too late to change anyway. But I’d been too self-conscious at dinner to eat much — nothing like essentially been told you’ve got a wee bit chubby to curb your appetite — so I only had a salad and refused dessert. And then when Nate hadn’t wanted sex that night, pleading absolute exhaustion and yet another early start the next morning — fair enough, but the man always wanted sex — I’d begun to re-evaluate my opinion of my weight, which I’d never really thought much about before. I’d gone on a diet the next day, despite objections from Faye, Alex, my mother, and my own niggling conscience.
Faye poked me again, bringing me back to the present, and I realised my ice cream was melting. I regarded it for a moment, and then took a defiant bite. What Nate didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. And I really, really wanted the ice cream.
“Right,” Faye said a few minutes later, setting aside her ice cream bowl and standing up decisively. “Operation Man Fun has begun.”
“Oh god,” I said, standing up at the same time. I suddenly realised I was actually really tipsy. What was that, three glasses of wine in an hour? Four. Bollocks. Always a bad sign when you can’t remember… “Plan of attack?”
Faye clambered up on a table and peered over the heads of the crowd. I grabbed her hand and pulled her back down.
“What are you doing?” I hissed, avoiding the eye of the woman behind the bar.
“Well, how are you meant to pick a target?” she demanded, wobbling slightly on her stilettos. “How are you supposed to tell what’s behind the mask? I was trying to get a bit of a vantage point!”
“What, were you going to try to peer down their masks?” I rolled my eyes. “I think you’re probably just going to be stuck with actually talking to someone. God forbid. Remember, you were after an attractive personality, right?”
Faye gave me a withering look. “Oh, yeah, god forbid I actually have to talk to someone.” She draped her hand dramatically over her forehead. “My life is so haaaaaard…”
“Sob, sob,” I said. “Poor baby.”
She stuck her tongue out at me and then said, “Ooh. That one has definite potential…”
I followed her eyes to the bum of the man in question and laughed. “Not bad,” I said.
Faye squared her shoulders and arched one eyebrow, putting on a mock-serious face. “How do I look?”
“Like you’re about to pounce on someone and eat them whole.”
“You’re so nice to me.”
“Shoo,” I said. “Go wow someone.”
“Oh, you know I will.”
“Just try to make sure he’s not married,” I offered to the back of her head as she swaggered off into the crowd. She sent me a little wave over her shoulder and disappeared.