Carrie rang the doorbell and they waited for Sarah to open. Kaye was fidgeting, tugging at the edge of her blouse. When the door finally opened, a windmill of red hair, perfume and beady necklaces appeared, enveloping them both in a huge hug.
"I can't believe you're here!" she squealed. "I haven't seen you in forever!" she chattered happily as she half-dragged them into the flat. "Hey Claire! Look who's here!"
Sarah could be like that, a bit unsettling if you hadn't met her, but a wonderful friend once you got to know her and grew accustomed to her (numerous) eccentricities. The girls gathered in the kitchen and greeted Claire, who was sporting a huge smile and a bigger apron, surrounded by little bowls of different appetizers, all painfully mouth-watering.
"I see you've had poor Claire slaving at the kitchen again" joked Carrie, obtaining the expected response from Sarah.
"I did not!" she replied, mock-outraged. "You know I can't cook to save my life, anyway" she admitted finally.
So there were laughs, and chatter, and catching up, all in a talking frenzy that would have been dizzying to a stranger. They finally sat, spreading around the low table in the living room, sitting on indian cushions. Every available space was filled with food.
Kaye, who had been weirdly silent, finally spoke up. "So, where's Maya?" she said casually, taking a crisp and popping it into her mouth.
"She couldn't make it" explained Sarah quickly, "but we'll meet up later when we go to the club."
"Ooh interesting! What's it going to be this time?" Carrie's eyes were shining, she hadn't had this much fun in too long.
"Lotus!" grinned Sarah, eliciting cries from the other girls, excited; except Kaye, who forced a smile and took a sip from her drink, her mind elsewhere.
Sure enough, they headed to Lotus, where immediately they caught the eye of a group of young businessmen, who invited the girls to share a drink with them in the private lounge. Kaye sat slightly apart from the rest, arms crossed in front of her, back against the impeccable white sofa, observing her giggling friends.
"Ready to go yet?" she mouthed at Sarah over the music, miming with her hands. Her mouth was beginning to set in a firm line. Sarah proceeded to shimmy her way over to her through the cloud of men forming around the group. She dropped herself on the sofa next to her and hugged her theatrically.
"K! What is wrong with you girl?! Why aren't you enjoying the free champagne? It's bubble-icious!" she laughed, a harsh sound escaping her lips like a hyena. Up close her makeup was blotchy and shiny with sweat, her eyes too bright, the re-applied lipstick drawn too high on the left corner of her mouth, making her smile exaggeratedly lopsided.
"It's flat" Kaye lied, her voice hard, knowing she wouldn't notice, or even care.
"So ask that cutie over there for more! He's been eyeing you all night" she said brightly, adding a wink to her stretched out 'all'.
Kaye looked over at the man she was referring to, he was in his late twenties, tall and well built, attractive, wearing a smart suit, sitting facing her three tables away. Catching her eye, he mimed a smile at her, tugging at the edges of his lips with his fingers to indicate she was too serious.
Kaye raised her glass at him in response and without smiling took a generous sip of the champagne, bitter. He shrugged, leaving her for a lost cause. Her eyes gliding back to her friends, swaying to the music with Maya in the center of the group, she couldn't have cared less for that stranger...