HOW MANY GOLDFISH HAVE TO DIE? by Elizabeth Woolley
NOW OUT: A powerful and poignant story of love and friendship, and what happens when love clashes and friendship crumbles. This is not an erotic romance, so I have released it under my other author name of Elizabeth Woolley.
LOVE, TRAGEDY AND BETRAYAL—JUST ORDINARY FRIENDSHIPS REALLY
Miranda and Floss are childhood friends who swear that no man will ever come between them…until they both fall in love with the same man. In a moment of weakness, Miranda betrays the trust of her friend, with devastating consequences for all concerned. Floss has already been a victim of trauma and tragedy in the London Tube bombings, and Miranda is consumed with guilt about the further anguish and pain she has caused her friend.
Not only that, but the fallout has devastated the friendship and business partnership of the two men concerned. Unable to live with the consequences of her actions, she flees to America, where she meets a remarkable man who helps to heal her troubled soul and learn to love again. Miranda heals herself, but can she heal the friendship with her dearest friend, or is that gone forever?
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London, July 2005
Miranda was talking to Floss about their favourite subject – relationships – in particular, romantic relationships.
“I remember reading somewhere that one of those self-help groups (I can’t remember which one – something like Love Addicts Anonymous perhaps) who said that you first have to look after a plant—perhaps a cactus—without it dying. If you can manage that successfully, then you are allowed to move on to a pet. Perhaps a cat, or a goldfish – I don’t remember which. Anyway, you have to succeed at both of those before you are allowed to start a relationship with a person. God only knows how many goldfish have to die before you’re considered safe enough to be entrusted with a real live man. Frankly, I think I will stick with the goldfish. I’m sure they are a lot less likely to drive you back to your addictive behaviour!”
With that, Miranda took a large gulp from the glass of red wine in front of her. The wine bar was not very busy and she and Floss had managed to get two of the ‘squishy’ armchairs – the sort that are murder to get out of when you’ve had a glass or two. Floss was already looking a little squiffy, and it was only their third.
“Well, neither goldfish nor men would be safe with me,” she laughed. “I’m famous for killing all my plants. I swear I only have to look at them for them to curl up and die.”
Miranda laughed. “I believe you have to do more than just look at them, darling. I’m sure the man on the gardening show would recommend giving them a good watering from time to time. I don’t think the cold cup of coffee you poured on one of them the last time I was at your place is an acceptable substitute for water and plant food.”
“Perhaps I could find a man who is good at looking after goldfish, cats, plants and me, and then all my problems would be solved in one move. Do you think such a man exists? Oh, and he would have to be handsome, rich, intelligent—and funny too—that goes without saying.”
“I’m glad to hear that you’ve dropped your standards a little. Last time we talked about your ideal man I think that Brad Pitt was the only one who qualified. Now you’ve widened your search to include men who know how to look after goldfish – well, I expect they will soon be queuing around the block.”
Floss ignored her friend’s sarcasm and changed the subject; looking at her watch. “What time did the other two say they were coming? It’s ten past eight already.” No sooner had the words left her mouth than she spotted Pen and Mark walking along the pavement outside. She knocked on the window and waved frantically at them. Mark walked up to the glass and deposited a great big sloppy kiss on it in front of her.
“I hope they cleaned those windows today,” remarked Miranda, dryly.
When all four were ensconced in the ‘squishy’ armchairs, with full glasses in front of them, Miranda felt safe and secure. These three people were her comfort blanket—the people she most trusted and who never let her down. She and Floss went way back to the beginning of time. They started at St. Joseph’s Junior School on the same day and, at the age of 11, when both passed the exam to the grammar school, swore that they would be friends forever. Boyfriends came and went over the years, but Floss remained constant. They knew each other’s secrets, compared notes on boys and swore that no man would ever part them.
In Dublin the sound of a car door slamming had woken Sean. The moon was shining through the window and he was able to see from the clock on the bedside table that it was nearly two a.m. He looked down at the woman sleeping beside him. The sound had not been sufficient to make her stir. He was thirsty, so gently slid out of bed and tiptoed across the room to the door and down the stairs to the kitchen. He didn’t switch on the light, but could see a bottle of milk by the fridge light. He grabbed a glass from the shelf above and poured himself a drink, and then sat at the kitchen table to drink it. He was fully awake by now, so sat at the table long after he had finished the drink, thinking. Usually, he tried not to think too much. During the daytime that was quite easy. His fledgling architect’s practice kept him extremely busy. This time he was on his own, with just a secretary and a trainee. It would take a year or two to build up a reputation, but he was pleased with the way things had gone so far. No, it was at night time that he sometimes found it difficult not to cast his mind back to the previous year, when he and Joel were on the verge of making it big in London and then he had the monumental misfortune to fall in love with the same woman as his friend. There were times he had wondered if he should have tried harder to explain things to Joel, and perhaps been able to have salvaged the business, even if the long-standing friendship had bitten the dust. Perhaps if they had let matters cool down a little, they might have been able to have had a calm and rational discussion – but he knew, deep down, that rationality rarely plays a major part when it comes to love affairs. No, perhaps one just had to deal with life in the way that fate ordained, and accept the consequences of one’s actions without complaint. He tiptoed back upstairs, trying not to wake Colleen as he crossed the room to the bed, but the floorboard squeaked and she stirred.
“Are you alright?” she enquired sleepily.
“Yes, I’m fine. I was just thirsty. Go back to sleep.”
She turned over and was soon asleep again. However, it took a lot longer before Sean began to feel sleepy. He lay and thought about Colleen, asleep beside him. She was a sweet girl. They had met a few months after his return to Dublin. He didn’t love her, but he found her good company and uncomplicated. He hoped he hadn’t made a mistake by letting her move in with him so soon. He drifted to sleep, not with thoughts of Colleen in his head, but with thoughts of a lovely, dark headed woman, who, even as he was thinking of her, was packing up her belongings thousands of miles away in New York, and preparing to move in with another man.