Corrie Ruthven is a bittersweet romantic comedy, a Scottish Bridget Jones, with brains.
In the car, Ray scolds me for not answering my phone for days. He has figured out Roddy has something to do with it. I stall him until we’re in the farmhouse kitchen, in front of the Rayburn, with wine and crisps. Then I tell him everything, tearfully, about what happened on Wednesday night and why I am scared to go back to my flat now. I am not picking up any messages on my answerphone, because I fear the inevitable news that something awful has happened to Roddy, and somehow, I am implicated.
‘Oh Corrie, my darling.’ Ray gives me a hug and tops up my wine glass. ‘You really are a disaster. What on earth did you ever see in him?’
‘It’s the novelty of being worshipped, Ray. Being adored and put on a pedestal.’
‘Being robbed and blackmailed and lied to,’ he says, shaking his head.
‘No one had ever so much as complimented me before, and Roddy wrote me poetry, proper sonnets, and love songs. Anyone ever write you a love song, Ray?’
‘Thankfully no. Can you imagine? All the terrible things that you could rhyme with Ray? Call me a cynic, but if you worship someone, generally you mean them no harm. If he put you on a pedestal, it was only to keep you out of the way while he ripped you off and trashed your flat.’
‘I was so clueless, Ray, I’m embarrassed. I didn’t grow up knowing about drugs. I thought he was outrageous and quirky and unpredictable, until I realised he was just off his face all the time.’
‘You’re a sweetheart, Corrie Ruthven, and people will sniff out your kindness and exploit it, unless you get wise to them. I mean, I know I’m no shining example as far as relationships go, I don’t claim to be. It’s just your notion of what to expect in return for all that you give seems particularly modest.’
‘I don’t know what to expect in return. I don’t have many expectations, really.’
‘You should expect to be cared for. You shouldn’t have to do all the work.’
Jet pads into the kitchen and settles on my feet, crossing her paws over her nose and sighing wearily.
‘But Ray, I don’t think Matt took care of you. He’s made you lose your nerve.’
Ray heels off his shoes and tucks his feet under his backside, on the dusty, dog-shredded armchair. ‘I met up with him on Thursday. That’s why I was trying to call you. We went for a coffee at Zest.’
‘Oh, Ray…’ I sigh.
He’s blushing which does not bode well. ‘But, I think we can at least be friends!’ he says, indignantly. His palms are damp enough to make marks on his jeans as he wipes them.
‘You can’t! You can’t be friends. You will get hurt, Ray. What about being cared for? Is it one rule for you and another for everyone else?’
‘I think he does care for me. He said he was sorry. He’s been in a bad place, you know. I think he might be a bit depressed. He hates his job, and he still hasn’t come out to his mum and dad, who are batty, by the way. Underneath it all, I think he does know he was a shit to me.’
‘Did you sleep with him?’
‘Oh Jesus, no! Look at me, Corrie! There’s not a chance of Matthew seeing me naked until I get to Target Weight.’
‘So, just a blow job then?’ I shake my head as I watch him turn the colour of pickled beetroot. ‘Please tell me I’m wrong?’
‘No… you are right, you absolute whorebag! Look at you, judging me, as if you never sucked anyone off in the Union toilets.’
‘He didn’t even take you home?’ I roll my eyes in mock disbelief, so angry on Ray’s behalf. ‘Please say there was some reciprocation?’
‘Honestly, Corrie, I can’t bear the thought of that. I have no libido, I feel disgusting and unattractive and about as sexy as a... well, as the pallid, overweight and bespectacled loser that I am. I think even if Leandro offered me it on a plate I’d run a mile.’
‘So why…I mean; why did you give Matt a blow job then? If there was nothing in it for you?’
‘There was,’ he says as he chews the plumpness of his lower lip, his long, wet eyelashes casting a shadow in the low light.
‘I don’t understand, Ray. What on earth could be in it for you?’
‘There was…his attention…some of the affection I feel like I can’t be without, for a few minutes, anyway. I did it because I hoped he’d say we could give it another go.’
‘And did he?’ I realise that I’m holding my breath for him.
‘He said he’d call me… and the awful thing is, I believe him. I’m as bad as you, Bitchface. I can’t fucking help myself.’
I pass him the bag of Kettle Chips. Morosely, he fills his hand and then his mouth with them, before passing them back to me.
‘Ray, he really said some awful things to you…and about you behind your back.’
‘All Matthew said, was that I had let myself go, which is true, and that I was neurotic and shit in bed…also true. I let him get to know the real me, so I can hardly be squeamish about his reaction to what he finds.’
‘But it isn’t true. None of it. It’s just a whole series of low blows. Pardon the pun.’
Jet the collie farts loudly, startling herself with the noise. It absolutely reeks and Ray and I fall about laughing, shielding our noses from the smell.
‘Well…maybe…but listen, Bitchface, every sesh we have these days, we just end up trashing each other’s exes. It’s getting old now. Tell me about the vintage clad gallant you met at the conference? Nothing has been said. It makes me suspicious.’
‘I told you, I didn’t fancy him. We swapped emails, all of us did. I don’t think he was interested in me, in that way, anyway. His friend Ramona even said he was just being chivalrous. He looked like the sort of person who would go around just being chivalrous, you know. I believe her. He seemed like he was just…a nice man. They must exist?’
‘Yes, they do, but they just aren’t as sexy, eh?’
We commiserate over three bottles of wine, and stuff ourselves with crisps and dip, and have to help each other upstairs and into my bed. Ray laughs hysterically at my Thelwell pony print flannel PJs as he strips to his t-shirt and pants. Under my faded patchwork throw, I lie enveloped in Ray’s arms, the soft cushion of his belly a comforting bulk in the small of my back. He is cosy, and smells of old fashioned soap and medicated shampoo.
‘If I get a boner, just elbow me in the ribs,’ he whispers, making me giggle. ‘It’s involuntary, and nothing to do with your voluptuous curves and fetching nightwear.’