Looking for Andrew McCarthy

BOOK: Looking for Andrew McCarthy
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JENNY COLGAN
Looking for Andrew McCarthy

Dedication

This book is dedicated to the girls I first watched these films with, particularly Queen Margaret’s finest: Katrina McCormack, Karen Murphy and Alison Woodall. (I was going to include some
Nightmare on Elm Street
stuff, but I reckoned we’d get too frightened.)

Epigraph

The passion runs deep
.

Strapline,
St Elmo’s Fire
, 1985

The laughter. The lovers. The friends. The fights
.

The talk. The hurt. The jealousy. The passion. The pressure
.

The real world
.

Strapline,
Pretty in Pink
, 1986

Bernie’s back – and he’s still dead!

Strapline,
Weekend at Bernie’s II
, 1993

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Epigraph

Chapter 1: Less Than Zero

Chapter 2: Absolute Beginners

Chapter 3: The Breakfast Club

Chapter 4: The Sure Thing

Chapter 5: Footloose

Chapter 6: Pretty in Pink

Chapter 7: Say Anything

Chapter 8: Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Chapter 9: Dangerous Liaisons

Chapter 10: Big

Chapter 11: Licence to Drive

Chapter 12: Adventures in Babysitting

Chapter 13: The Lost Boys

Chapter 14: Some Kind of Wonderful

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Praise

Also by the Author

Copyright

About the Publisher

Less Than Zero

‘HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!’

Simple Minds. Ellie nudged it up with her foot, still concentrating on whitening up an extremely old pair of stilettos, and joined in with gusto.

‘Wooohhwoooahh!’

The phone rang and she turned the music down reluctantly.

‘Hedgehog!’

‘Oh, hi Dad.’

‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!’

‘Yes, yes, yes.’ Ellie tried to sound embarrassed, but was actually pleased.

‘Did you like your present then?’

‘Dad, it’s a beret.’

‘It’ll come in handy, though, won’t it? For skating?’

Ellie hadn’t been skating with her father for sixteen years.

‘Uh, yeah.’

‘So, are you all set for tonight then?’

Ellie looked around the room. One of the problems of having an eighties party, she mused, was not quite having the resources to rip out your entire flat and redesign it to look like the set of
Dynasty
. So she’d hung lots of old Brat Pack and Duran Duran posters on the wall, left lots of
Jackie
annuals lying about and bought a bunch of pink and black striped napkins. Later on, she was planning on spraying around some Anaïs Anaïs.

‘Hmm, pretty much,’ she said.

‘Is Julia coming?’

Ellie raised her eyes to heaven. ‘Dad, she’s my best friend. Of course she’s coming.’

‘I bet she’ll look nice.’

‘Yes, well, I think it’s enough every male my own age I’ve ever known fancying Julia without you as well, okay?’

She could hear her dad shrug over the phone.

‘She’s very pretty.’

‘Dad, you’ve know her since she was five. Stop being disgusting.’

Ellie stared in the mirror next to the phone and squinted at herself, trying to see if she could get her hair to lie down simply by leaving her hand on it
for a long time. Ellie didn’t quite fit into the ‘very pretty’ category. She might make ‘very perky’ on a good day, with her ridiculously curly hair, which went in every direction, snub nose, and generous sprinkling of freckles. At least her eyes were nearly black, usually with mischief.

‘Yes, well,’ he said, changing the subject. ‘Thirty, eh, darling? Leaving your wild, carefree youth behind you.’

Ellie contemplated a much-loved picture of Limahl and wondered if her youth had been quite wild and carefree enough.

‘Ehm … something like that,’ she said, trying to manipulate sellotape, poster and phone at the same time. ‘I stole a traffic cone once. Anyway. What did you do for
your
thirtieth birthday?’

‘Don’t you remember, Hedgehog?’ he said. ‘You were the one who wouldn’t stop biting the waitress.’

‘I was
there
?’

‘There? You were practically at school. Couldn’t go back for another black forest gateau for years. Then we went to the garden centre in the afternoon and you weed behind the fountain.’

‘That sounds terrible,’ said Ellie, glancing at the piles of old twelve inch Howard Jones singles she was planning to use as the major form of entertainment.

‘No, actually, it was lovely,’ her father said, nostalgically.

Ellie examined her face in the mirror again. It was a Nik Kershaw one she’d found at a boot sale.

‘Wrinkles
and
freckles? That can’t be right, surely,’ she thought to herself.

‘Huh?’ she said.

‘Nothing. Just have a nice time.’

‘I will. I’m just going to pick Billy up from his rehearsal.’

‘Oh, right.’ Her dad conveyed by those two simple words exactly what he thought of Billy, Ellie’s latest paramour. Ellie thought it was because he played saxophone in a band. In fact, it was because her dad had been a policeman for thirty-five years, and had a pretty good idea what a rogue looked like.

‘Okay. See you soon.’

‘See you soon, darling.’ He paused. ‘And – have a
happy
birthday, sweetheart. You know? I just want you to be
happy
.’

‘Now what the hell did he mean by that?’ thought Ellie to herself, instantly upset as soon as she put the phone down. She started unpacking the bags of Wham bars, Spangles and Space Dust and gazed at the dusty box of Bezique she’d extracted from a rather shocked looking off-licence assistant.

‘I’m completely happy,’ she thought to herself.
Particularly now she’d bribed her evil landlord with several boxes of nasty cheap continental lager to get himself out the house.

She hauled herself out into the chilly October air to head round the corner to Wandsworth Town Hall where Billy would be making a racket and pretending to be Steve Norman. She dug her hands deep into the pockets of her duffel coat.

‘I
am
happy,’ she thought. ‘Well, apart from my job, which is shit. And the flat of course. Which is also shit.’

She turned the corner. ‘And I’m having a party. And I have a cake in the shape of Dangermouse.’

‘Bought by me for myself,’ she thought.

She marched up the steps of the town hall. There were no wailing noises, which was unusual, but she knew where the rehearsal rooms were.

‘And all my friends will be there.’

She pushed open the door.

‘And I guess they’ll buy me lots of knick-knacky things.’

She entered the room fully.

‘Oh SHIT,’ she yelled, as Billy leapt up from the near-prone position where he’d plainly been snogging the dumpy trombonist.

‘Fuck! I’m MISERABLE!’

Julia’s hand was sore from knocking on the newly stripped pine bathroom door. She sighed and tugged at her nasty nylon shirt with the pussycat bow rather self-consciously. Ellie was on the other side of the door, and she had locked it and pushed a cupboard in front of it.

‘Hedgehog! Please come out! You can’t have a tantrum on your birthday!’

From behind the door came muffled noise. Julia leaned in to hear.

‘Yes, well, let’s just forget ages four, six and eight through eleven for now, shall we?’ she said, and sighed again. She gazed through the doorway into the living room. It actually looked pretty ratty, with the basic Ikea covered over in old posters, and two Cabbage Patch dolls posed to look as though they were having sex forming a centrepiece. The Psychedelic Furs were playing.

There were, Julia often reflected, two ways to deal with someone who, on the day in Year One when the photographer comes from the local paper and everyone is scrubbed, brushed, plaited and ironed to the nines, stands next to you and jams their pencil in your thigh so that there are twenty-seven angelic grins in the official 1975 Year One photograph of St Joseph Xaviers, and one agonized grimace. You either never speak to them again and secretly break all their pencils, or you give up and become their best
friend, whilst learning to accept a certain amount of unpredictability into your life.

She smoothed down the ridiculous blouse, in which she was actually managing to look quite chic, and knocked again. ‘I’ve fixed Pass the Parcel!’ she said. ‘Second verse of “Never Ending Story!” Just hang on in there!’

There was silence from beyond the door. The front doorbell rang and Julia stomped off to open it.

‘Hello darling,’ said Arthur, kissing her on both cheeks and swanning in stylishly as usual. ‘You smell nice. I thought I’d come early.’

‘God, am I glad you did,’ said Julia with clear relief, indicating the bathroom door. Arthur was handsome, charming, kind and everyone was in love with him. He was also so gay you could bounce him like a basketball. He put down a gift and a bottle of champagne and went over to the bathroom.

‘No, really?’

Julia nodded. ‘Disappeared in there with a bottle of wine to get ready. Two hours ago.’

‘Huh, I don’t know why she’s so bothered. It’s only thirty. That’s, like, seventy in gay years.’

‘Oh, yeah, where is Colin?’

‘I left him tied up outside. Come on, darling, what’s the matter?’ Arthur hollered through the door. ‘I don’t know what you’ve got to complain about. I caught Colin eating from the sugar bowl again.’

‘I don’t know why you don’t just get a dog,’ said Julia. ‘Be a lot easier.’

‘But he’s so
cute
.’

‘Yeah, and wait to see how cute he is with worms.’

‘Come on missus!’ Arthur banged the door again. ‘There’s presents out here.’

‘Why aren’t you dressing up?’ said Julia, rummaging in her old make up kit for a blue eyeliner pencil.

‘I am,’ said Arthur, lifting his Tom Ford shirt to show a quick flash of an old “Frankie Says Relax” t-shirt. ‘That’s as far as I can go. Anything more eighties brings me out in a rash. I call it Banarama-isus.’

‘Ah,’ said Julia wisely as, through the open front door, she spotted a couple heading up the pathway of the run-down South London terrace. ‘Who’s that coming?’

Arthur peered over her shoulder.

‘I don’t know. Who else has been invited?’

‘Not sure. Ellie went through all her old address books and asked everyone she’s ever met in an attempt to have a big bouncing birthday party.’

A rather ascetic-looking young man and his even more disinfected-looking girlfriend stood nervously on the doorstep clutching a gift wrapped in a Body Shop bag.

BOOK: Looking for Andrew McCarthy
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