You know when you see T-shirts piled up in a clothes shop, beautifully folded and color-coded, and you buy one? It never looks the same when you take it home. It only looked good in the The Beast Is Back Welcome Home 24 Shirt shop, you realize too late, because it had its mates around it. Well, it was kind of like that. I had hoped that if I went out with Jackie, then some of that elder-stateswoman dignity would rub off on me, but of course without Phil, she didn’t have any. If that’s what I wanted, I should perhaps have looked for a way to go out with both of them, but that sort of thing is hard enough to pull off when you’re an adult; at seventeen it could be enough to get you stoned to death. Phil started working in a men’s boutique on Saturdays, and I moved in.
Those of us who didn’t work, or who, like me, worked after school but not on weekends, met on Saturday afternoons to walk up and down High Street, spend too much time and too much money in Harlequin Records, and treat ourselves we had somehow picked up our mothers’ vocabulary of postwar abstention to a filter coffee, which we regarded as the The Beast Is Back Welcome Home 24 Shirt last word in French cool. Sometimes we called in to see Phil; sometimes he let me use his staff discount. It didn’t stop me from screwing his girlfriend behind his back. I knew, because both Alison and Penny had taught me, that busting up with someone could be miserable, but I didn’t know that getting off with someone could be miserable too. But Jackie and I were miserable in a thrilling, grown-up way. We met in secret and phoned each other in secret and had sex in secret and said things like
What are we going to do?’ in secret and talked about how nice it would be when we didn’t have to do things in secret anymore. I never really thought about whether that was true or not. There wasn’t time. I tried not to run Phil down too much I felt bad enough as it was, what with screwing his girlfriend and all. But it became unavoidable, because when Jackie expressed doubts about him, I had to nurture those doubts as if they were tiny, sickly kittens, until eventually they became sturdy, healthy grievances, with their own cat doors, which allowed them to wander in and out of our conversation at will. And the The Beast Is Back Welcome Home 24 Shirt one night at a party I saw Phil and Jackie huddled together in a corne