Tania Braithwaite. Tania B, A.K.A. “Tani”. Ex-childstar, ex-daytime soap actress, ex-footballer’s wife. Heading straight for me through a press of C list celebs. Gulp.
“You’re Tony Malek, aren’t you? From the Valentine’s?” She gave me an appraising look that travelled from my face down to my terribly ironic retro sneakers and back, lingering in both directions on my crotch. “So pleased to meet you,” she drawled, holding out a limpid hand. “What do you think of the party?”
“Oh” - too high pitched - “it’s amazing,” - still far too excited - “wild...” I tailed off, a giddy over-awed kid, embarrassed.
She looked up with a cheeky grin. “Yeah, I know. An X-factor launch party. Always was going to be spectacularly dull. Do you want to go somewhere and screw?”
I have a reputation. I could plead that it was undeserved, based as it was on a lie. But that would only have made a difference if I - if we - had promptly denied the seedy tale when it was still just a whisper, a dubious rumour from a two star hotel in a city I’ve still never set foot in. But when your solo career is just about to be launched and you want to break away from your goody-two-shoes boy-band image, you do what your publicist tells you to do and keep mum. Especially when Jez, your former band mate - well, backing singer technically and the original cause of the band’s demise, though thank God no-one has ever told the full story on that - has recently shown a surprising and distinctly annoying song writing talent and is rising rapidly up the download charts with the second track from his eponymous EP.
Left to its own devices, the rumour stays alive. It gets embellished in the telling, it grows; people note that you don’t deny it and heck, they start to believe, however that plays against what they might have thought of you before. Because if you don’t deny it, it must be true, right? And so they behave differently to you, and you, you respond differently to them, and before you know it you’re living up to your new reputation, and as I poured Tania into the taxi under the probing lens of the waiting paparazzi, I was well on the way to living up to mine.
But I wasn’t thinking about that, not then. I could hardly believe my luck, it was like a dream come true. I was a proud peacock with the beautiful, the famous, the Loaded magazines’ thirty-fifth most sexy babe in the world (up from seventy ninth the year before) on my arm. Even though she was only a couple of years older than me, I’d had a poster of Tania B from her days at Charlton High on my bedroom wall at my parent’s two up-two down. It’s probably still there, and it was certainly there the day I kissed it for good luck before my first audition for the regional heats of the Star Makers boy-band search, the one that led to the sudden and all-too-brief success of the Valentine’s. So before you judge me, ask yourself, and answer honestly; what would you do if your childhood hero asked you to take her back to yours?
Mind you, my fantasies hadn’t included holding her hair as she was sick, and they hadn’t included her waking up in the morning, looking confusedly over at me, and asking if, you know, we’d had sex.
I guess I was piqued. I guess I thought she ought to know. So I’d told her that yes, we’d had sex. “In fact,” I said, “you said it was the best sex you’d ever had.”
She’d peered at me, a small crease between her mascara-smeared eyes. “Well... good! No complaints from your side I take it?”
I shrugged. “It was... nice.”
Anger flickered across her freckled face and she’d half-risen out of the bed, before doubt replaced anger. “Oh no. I wasn’t sick, was I?”
“Yes. Copiously I’m afraid.”
“Oh god, I’m terribly sorry! Look, Tony, I’m going to freshen up, erm, powder my nose, you know? And then ... and then we’ll see if I can’t improve on that ‘nice’ ... is that your doorbell?”
“Ah.” I said, sinking back into the rumpled sheets. “That’ll be your car.”
“What?” she said, one palm pressed against her forehead.
“I booked it for you last night – you were very insistent – said you had an interview this morning? Heart FM or something?”
“Oh Christ! What’s the time... oh Jesus fucking Christ! Where are my knickers?”
Crazy, fate, isn’t it? My laughably laddish reputation made concrete by a bruised ego and a missing scrap of lacy fabric. I hadn’t actually expected Tania to believe me when I’d boasted about the best sex she’d ever had. And I certainly didn’t expect her to repeat it on national radio, though with a somewhat more colourful turn of phrase. And nor, just as the radio presenter cut her off, had I expected to hear her say “Though Tony, if you’re listening, I would still like my knickers back.”
So it’s a God-awful shame my boyfriend was listening to the show as well. And it doesn’t matter what I say, how much I try to explain why star-struck me brought her back to our cosy one-bed pad while he was away on business, or why I’d had to remove her vomit-stained knickers. I can and did protest until I was blue in the face that nothing actually happened; but he won’t believe me, and I can’t say I really blame him.