‘I can’t believe they chose you,’ Annabel leans over my shoulder to look at the computer screen.
‘Why not?’ I say, not turning from the screen shot of my winning collage of public faces.
‘It doesn’t even have real people in it.’ Annabel stands up and crosses her arms.
‘And yours did?’ I click on image tabs to display Annabel’s picture of a scarf and hats arranged on a floor.
‘Yeah, of course it did.’
‘That’s Geoff,’ she states while pointing at the space below hats on the screen. ‘Derrick and Mandy.’
‘Who’s that?’ I ask, running my finger under the scarf.
‘Don’t know, I think she was a friend of Geoff’s.’
‘That’s ridiculous. It’s just empty space.’
‘That’s a bit rude, I hardly know her. She could be lovely.’
‘No, no. I mean… never mind.’
‘Look at your entry. Rafael Nadal, some random guys, and a portrait of a queen.’
‘You don’t even know them.’
‘Pot, kettle, black.’
‘They are real people.’ She stares at me, mouth cocked like a gun ready to fire. ‘I had to source the images, accurately for each pose in the scene, and collate them to a presentable order, so that the scene was effectively mirrored. Sure it’s not of Daily-Show-Photoshop quality, but it took some work and ingenuity.’
‘Mine took work,’ she defends. ‘Arranging people takes time and social skills. Skills that apparently, for all your ingenuity, you don’t possess.’
‘First of all!’ I move to loosen my collar. It’s already undone. ‘You don’t have social skills, you can’t, and all the work you did, I did. I did twice as much, as usual around here. I have to think for you and when something’s require, act for you.’
‘Yeah, you sure do that!’
‘What? What? Figment of my imagination.’
‘No you’re the fake one around here.’
‘Yeah! Well who you going to take to the show huh? You’ve got two free tickets to the show now. Go on. Who you going to take? I’ve got George, or Derrick, or Mandy to take. Who are you going with? You’ll sit alone, talk to no-one, and bugger off afterwards. Write about it in your little book and nobody will read. It’ll be like you were never there. If I went, at least I’d have a good time with someone.’
‘Geoff,’ and my fists are clenched as I’ve turned the chair, facing her. ‘Before. You said his name was Geoff.’
She doesn’t move. ‘It could be. I’ve got so many friends I forget their names.’
‘Like the scarf woman.’
‘Like the scarf woman. Not like you, who forgets people’s out of absence.’
‘Out of practice,’ I say and look to the ground. I wanted to think of something hurtful to say. Something to her that would break her. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. If she left… In truth I need her more than she needs me. If I hurt her, it would only makes me feel worse.
‘The tickets are in my name.’ My brain defaults to reason. ‘Annabel, will you come with me?’
We don’t talk for the rest of the night.
To see the prize winning picture read Me and My Fake Girlfriend and the 39 Steps Photo Competition