Jun 24, 2006

LONDON –  Anna's left frantic messages on my mobile phone and email accounts. She expected me yesterday.

"Um, I, er, completely told you the wrong date," I finally confess. "And I'm only here for the afternoon, not overnight."

Last time, she accidentally locked me out of the flat for five hours. Our track record is abysmal this year.

We are highly trained professionals. Do not attempt this at home.


Too much time on the road makes me careless about scheduling, never a strong suit anyway.

Anna lives this life too. She understands.


As usual, she draws me a bath, scented with products as glamorous as her good self. We chatter through the doorway, milking every brief moment with a dear friend.

Ms Melville-James and I met at the Oxford Mail seven years ago. She swept into the newsroom, a powerhouse freelancer from the nationals, bellybutton ring agleam. The men drooled. The women glared. The editors scrabbled for the dress leaflet, a document so dated that it didn't even address piercings.

Soon we were treated as one person: generic trendy young woman. The Bolshy She-Beast, we'd joke.

"Amanda, where's Anna?"

"Let's see, consulting our Gemini twin-mindlink, I'd say she's stuck in traffic."

Often we were late for work together, if she stayed on the narrowboat to avoid the London-Oxford commute.

She taught me to wear chic satin pajamas instead of polar fleece. I taught her to navigate a six-foot gangplank in heels. Together we sat and schemed until we catapulted out of that small-town newspaper.


Here we are now, all grown-up and globe-trotting.

But still utterly unpunctual...

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