Tom has disappeared. First began to fear for him this morning when Sharon rang saying wouldn't swear on her mother's life but thought she'd seen him from the window of a taxi on Thursday night wandering along Ladbroke Grove with his hand over his mouth and, she thought, a black eye. By the time she'd got the taxi to go back he'd disappeared. She'd left two messages for him yesterday asking if he was OK but had had no reply.
I suddenly realized, as she spoke, that I had left a message for Tom myself on Wednesday asking if he was around at the weekend and he hadn't replied, which is not like him at all. Frantic phoning ensued. Tom's phone just rang and rang, so I called Jude who said she hadn't heard from him either. I tried Tom's Pretentious Jerome: nothing. Jude said she'd ring Simon, who lives in next street to Tom, and get him to go round. She called back twenty minutes later saying Simon had rung Tom's bell for ages and hammered on the door but no reply. Then Sharon rang again. She'd spoken to Rebecca, who thought Tom was supposed to be going to Michael's for lunch. I called Michael who said Tom had left a weird message talking in an odd distorted voice saying he wasn't going to be able to come and hadn't given a reason.
3 p.m.Starting to feel really panicky, at the same time enjoying sense of being at center of drama. Am practically Tom's best friend so everyone is ringing me and am adopting calm yet deeply concerned air about whole thing. Suddenly occurs to me that maybe he's Just met someone new and is enjoying honeymoon-style shag hideaway for a few days. Maybe it wasn't him Sharon saw, or black eye is just product of lively enthusiastic young sex or postmodern- style ironic retrospective Rocky Horror Show makeup. Must make more phone calls to test new theory.
3:30 p.m.General opinion quashes new theory, since it is widely agreed to be impossible for Tom to meet new man, let alone start affair, without ringing everyone up to show off. Cannot argue with that. Wild thoughts ranging through head. No denying that Tom has been disturbed lately. Start to wonder whether am really good friend. We are all so selfish and busy in London. Would it be possible for one of my friends to be so unhappy that they . . . ooh, that's where I put this month's Marie Claire: on top of fridge!
As flicked through Marie Claire started fantasizing about Tom's funeral and what I would wear. Aaargh, have suddenly remembered MP who died in a plastic bag with tubes around neck and chocolate orange in mouth or something. Wonder if Tom has been doing weird sexual practices without telling us?
5 p.m.Just called Jude again.
'Do you think we should call the police and get them to break in?' I said.
'I already rang them,' said Jude.
'What did they say?' I couldn't help feeling secretly annoyed that Jude had rung the police without clearing it with me first. I am Tom's best friend, not Jude.
'They didn't seem very impressed. They said to call them if we still couldn't find him by Monday. You can see their point. It does seem a bit alarmist to report that a twenty-nine-year-old single man is not in on Saturday morning and has failed to turn up for a lunch party he said he wouldn't be corning to anyway.'
'Something's wrong, though, I just know,' I said in a mysterious, loaded voice, realizing for the first time what an intensely instinctive and intuitive person I am.
'I know what you mean,' said Jude, portentously. 'I can feel it, too. Something's definitely wrong.'
7 p.m.Extraordinary. After spoke to Jude could not face shopping or similar lighthearted things. Thought this might be the perfect time to do the Feng Shui so went out and bought Cosmopolitan. Carefully, using the drawing in Cosmo, I mapped the ba-gua of the flat. Had a flash of horrified realization. There was a wastepaper basket in my Helpful Friends Corner. No wonder bloody Tom had disappeared.
Quickly rang Jude to report same. Jude said to move the wastepaper basket.
'Where to, though?' I said. 'I'm not putting it in my Relationship or Offspring Corners.'
Jude said hang on, she'd go have a look at Cosmo.
'How about Wealth?' she said, when she came back.
'Hmm, I don't know, what with Christmas coming up and everything,' I said, feeling really mean even as I said it.
'Well, if that's the way you look at things. I mean you're probably going to have one less present to buy anyway . . . ' said Jude accusingly.
In the end I decided to put the wastepaper basket in my Knowledge Corner and went out to the greengrocer to get some plants with round leaves to put in the Family and Helpful Friends Corners (spiky-leaved plants, particularly cacti, are counterproductive). Was just getting plant pot out of the cupboard under sink when heard a jangling sound. I suddenly hit myself hard on the forehead. They were Tom's spare keys from when he went to Ibiza.
For a moment I thought about going round there without Jude. I mean, she rang the police without telling me, didn't she? But in the end it seemed too mean, so I rang her and we decided we'd get Shazzer to come as well, because she'd raised the alert in the first place. As we turned into Tom's street, though, I came out of my fantasy about how dignified, tragic and articulate I would be when interviewed by the newspapers, along with a parallel paranoid fear that the police would decide it was me who had murdered Tom. Suddenly it stopped being a game. Maybe something terrible and tragic actually had happened.
None of us spoke or looked at each other as we walked up the front steps.
'Should you ring first?' whispered Sharon as I lifted the key to the lock.
'I'll do it,' said Jude. She looked at us quickly, then pressed the buzzer.
We stood in silence. Nothing. She pressed again. I was just about to slip the key in the lock when a voice on the intercom said, 'Hello?'
'Who's that?' I said tremulously. 'Who'd you think it is, you daft cow.'
'Tom!' I bellowed joyfully. 'Let us in.'
'Who's us?' he said suspiciously.
'Me, Jude and Shazzer.'
'I'd rather you didn't come up, hon, to be honest.'
'Oh, bloody hell,' said Sharon, pushing past me. 'Tom, you silly bloody queen, you've only had half London up in arms ringing the police, combing the metropolis for you because no one knows where you are. Bloody well let us in.'
'I don't want anyone except Bridget,' said Tom petulantly. I beamed beatifically at the others.
'Don't be such a prima bloody donna,' said Shazzer.
Silence. 'Come on, you silly sod. Let us in.'
There was a pause, then the buzzer went. 'Bzzz.'
'Are you ready for this?' came his voice as we reached the top floor and he opened the door.
All three of us cried out. Tom's whole face was distorted, hideous yellow and black, and encased in plaster.
'Tom, what's happened to you?' I cried, clumsily trying to embrace him and ending up kissing his ear. Jude burst into tears and Shazzer kicked the wall.
'Don't worry, Tom,' she growled. 'We'll find the bastards who did this.'
'What happened?' I said again, tears beginning to plop down my cheeks. 'Er, well . . . ' said Tom, extracting himself awkwardly from my embrace, 'actually I, er, I had a nose job.'
Turned out Tom had secretly had the operation on Wednesday but was too embarrassed to tell us because we'd all been so dismissive about his minuscule nasal bump. He was supposed to have been looked after by Jerome, henceforth to be known as Creepy Jerome (it was going to be heartless Jerome but we all agreed that sounded too interesting). When, however, Creepy Jerome saw him after the operation he was so repulsed he said he was going away for a few days, buggered off and hasn't been seen or heard of since. Poor Tom was so depressed and traumatized and so weird from the anaesthetic that he just unplugged the phone, hid under the blankets and slept.
'Was it you I saw in Ladbroke Grove on Thursday night, then?' said Shazzer.
It was. Apparently he had waited till dead of night to go out and forage for food under cover of darkness. In spite of our high spirits that he was alive Tom was still very unhappy about Jerome.
'Nobody loves me,' he said.
I told him to ring my answerphone, which held twenty-two frantic messages from his friends, all distraught because he had disappeared for twenty-four hours, which put paid to all our fears about dying alone and being eaten by an Alsatian.
'Or not being found for three months . . . and bursting all over the carpet,' said Tom.
Anyway, we told him, how could one moody geek with a stupid name make him think nobody loves him?
Two Bloody Marys later he was laughing at Jerome's obsessive use of the tern 'self-aware,' and his skintight calf-length Calvin Klein underpants. Meanwhile, Simon, Michael, Rebecca, Magda, Jeremy and a boy claiming to be called Elsie had all rung to see how he was.
'I know we're all psychotic, single and completely dysfunctional and it's all done over the phone,' Tom slurred sentimentally, 'but it's a bit like a family, isn't it?'
I knew the Feng Shui would work. Now-its task completed — I am going to quickly move the round-leaved plant to my Relationship Corner. Wish there was a Cookery Corner too. Only nine days to go.
Monday 20 November
8st 12 (v.g.), cigarettes 0 (v. bad to smoke when performing culinary miracles), alcohol units 3, calories 200 (effort of going to supermarket must have burnt off more calories than purchased, let alone ate).
7 p.m.Just returned from hideous middle-class Singleton guilt experience at supermarket, standing at checkout next to functional adults with children buying beans, fish fingers, alphabetti spaghetti, etc., when had the following in my trolley:
20 heads of garlic
tin of goose fat
bottle of Grand Marnier
8 tuna steaks
4 pints of double cream
4 vanilla beans at £1.39 each.
Have to start preparations tonight as working tomorrow.
8 p.m.Ugh, do not feel like cooking. Especially dealing with grotesque bag of chicken carcasses: completely disgusting.
10 p.m.Have got chicken carcasses in pan now. Trouble is, Marco says am supposed to tie flavor-enhancing leek and celery together with string but only string have got is blue. Oh well, expect it will be OK.
11 p.m.God, stock took bloody ages to do but worth it as will end up with over 2 gallons, frozen in ice-cube form and only cost £l.70. Mmm, confit of oranges will be delicious also. Now all have got to do is finely slice thirty-six oranges and grate zest. Shouldn't take too long.
1 a.m.Too tired to stay awake now but stock is supposed to cook for another two hours and oranges need another hour in oven. I know. Will leave the stock on v. low heat overnight, also oranges on lowest oven setting, so will become v. tender in manner of a stew.