Can You Keep a Secret? - Page 160
Can You Keep a Secret?(109)
Author: Sophie Kinsella
‘No!’ I say. ‘Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to … I couldn’t help overhearing …’ I swallow. ‘The thing is, Connor isn’t being difficult. He just wants you to be honest. He wants to know what you want.’ I summon up my most understanding, womanly expression. ‘Francesca … tell him what you want.’
Francesca stares at me incredulously, then looks at Connor.
‘I want her to piss off.’ She points at me.
‘Oh,’ I say, taken aback. ‘Er, OK. Sorry.’
‘And switch the lights off when you go,’ adds Francesca, leading Connor up the aisle towards the back of the auditorium.
Are they going to have sex?
OK, I really do not want to be around for this.
Hastily I pick up my bag and hurry along the row of seats towards the exit. I push my way through the double doors into the foyer, flicking the light switch as I pass, then step out into the courtyard. I close the door behind me, and look up.
And then I freeze.
I don’t believe it. It’s Jack.
It’s Jack, coming towards me, striding fast across the courtyard, determination on his face. I haven’t got time to think, or prepare.
My heart really is racing. I want to speak or cry or … do something, but I can’t.
He reaches me with a crunch of gravel, takes me by the shoulders, and gives me a long, intense look.
‘I’m afraid of the dark.’
‘What?’ I falter.
‘I’m afraid of the dark. Always have been. I keep a baseball bat under the bed, just in case.’
I stare at him in utter bewilderment.
‘I’ve never liked caviar.’ He casts around. ‘I … I’m embarrassed by my French accent.’
‘Jack, what are you—’
‘I got the scar on my wrist by cracking open a bottle of beer when I was fourteen. When I was a kid I used to stick gum under my Aunt Francine’s dining table. I lost my virginity to a girl named Lisa Greenwood in her uncle’s barn, and afterwards I asked if I could keep her bra to show my friends.’
I can’t help giving a snuffle of laughter, but Jack carries on regardless, his gaze fixed on mine.
‘I’ve never worn any of the ties my mother has given me for Christmas. I’ve always wanted to be an inch or two taller than I am. I … I don’t know what co-dependent means. I have a recurring dream in which I’m Superman, falling from the sky. I sometimes sit in board meetings and look around and think "Who the hell are these guys?"’
He draws breath and gazes at me. His eyes are darker than I’ve ever seen them.
‘I met a girl on a plane. And … my whole life changed as a result.’
Something hot is welling up inside me. My throat is tight, my whole head aching. I’m trying so hard not to cry, but my face is contorting all by itself.
‘Jack,’ I swallow desperately. ‘I didn’t … I really didn’t …’
‘I know,’ he cuts me off with a nod. ‘I know you didn’t.’
‘I would never—’
‘I know you wouldn’t,’ he says gently. ‘I know you wouldn’t.’
And now I can’t help it, tears start flooding out of my eyes in sheer relief. He knows. It’s OK.
‘So …’ I wipe my face, trying to gain control of myself. ‘So does this … does this mean … that we I can’t bring myself to say the words.
There’s a long, unbearable silence.
If he says no, I don’t know what I’ll do.
‘Well, you might want to hold back on your decision,’ says Jack at last, and gives me a deadpan look. ‘Because I have a lot more to tell you. And it isn’t all pretty.’
I give a shaky laugh.
‘You don’t have to tell me anything.’
‘Oh, I do,’ says Jack firmly. ‘I think I do. Shall we walk?’ He gestures to the courtyard. ‘Because this could take some time.’
‘OK,’ I say, my voice still wobbling a bit. Jack holds out an arm, and after a pause, I take it.
‘So … where was I?’ he says, as we step down into the courtyard. ‘Oh, OK. Now this you really can’t tell anybody.’ He leans close and lowers his voice. ‘I don’t actually like Panther Cola. I prefer Pepsi.’
‘No!’I say, shocked.
‘In fact, sometimes I decant Pepsi into a Panther can—’
‘No!’ I give a snort of laughter.
‘It’s true. I told you it wasn’t pretty …’
Slowly we start to walk around the edge of the dark, empty courtyard together. The only sound is the crunching of our feet on the gravel, and the breeze in the trees and Jack’s dry voice, talking. Telling me everything.
It’s amazing what a different person I am these days. It’s as if I’ve been transformed. I’m a new Emma. Far more open than I used to be. Far more honest. Because what I’ve really learned is, if you can’t be honest with your friends and colleagues and loved ones, then what is life all about?
The only secrets I have nowadays are tiny little essential ones. And I hardly have any of those. I could probably count them on the fingers of one hand. I mean, just off the top of my head: