3. Claire

“Seriously,” Michael was saying, “I am not even joking. All the way in, except for one foot just sticking out the door!” on the other end of the phone, Claire, Clive, Jill and Margaret were in hysterics.
         “So I came into the room and I was like ‘Susan Brown, what are you doing?’ and she was so wasted that she had no idea who I even was!” the foursome broke out into raucous laughter once more.
         “How does she deal with that much drinking? Isn’t it a miracle she’s still alive?” Clive asked.
         “I don’t know how she made it past year ten. And she always says that she isn’t going to drink a lot, every time we go out! She’s-”
         “Oh I know!” Jill interjected, “When I used to see her at parties and stuff she was always, like, instantly drunk!”
         “How would you know? You’re always more drunk than everyone else anyway!” laughed Margaret. Jill looked at her menacingly and snarled, “Well if we’re talking about drunk people here, what about you? You were the one who nearly fell out of that tree the other night after two cocktails!” The others ignored her tone and continued laughing.
         “Ooh what about that one time that Michael nearly went home with the bartender? The male bartender!” Claire squealed. Michael’s voice came through the speakerphone.
         “He said his name was Alex and he had a ponytail! He was very skinny!”
         “He wasn’t even as skinny as you, Mike. And he had stubble!”
         “It was dark, I couldn’t see the stubble from where I was. Besides, the eyeliner threw me off and he was very flirty!” At this, the group exploded in laughter once more. Suddenly, there was a piercing, electronic-sounding wail. Everybody turned to Clive, who shamefully reached for his pocket and pulled out his phone.
         “I’ll change the tone later, I promise.”
         “That’s what you say every time it goes off,” pointed out Margaret, “and it doesn’t make it any less maddening.”
         “Maddening?” snickered Jill.
         “I have a word-of-the-day calendar, that was on it last week.” Explained Margaret proudly. Claire could see Jill’s grin was turning bitchy and she didn’t want her to make fun of Margaret’s new vocabulary, when Margaret herself was so proud of it. She decided to cut in before anything was said.
         “Clive, don’t you have to go, then?” Clive looked upset, he was always waiting for anything he could turn into a catfight.
         “It’s fine, I have my car.”
         “Ooh, aren’t you fancy?” said Michael’s voice.
         “Just admit you’re jealous.” retorted Clive.
         “Clive, you’re such a lazy fatso! You can walk to your class from here!” said Margaret. Jill saw an opportunity and seized it.
         “Is ‘lazy fatso’ on your word calendar, Marge?” she said mockingly. Claire sighed inwardly. Jill was forever trying to attack Margaret. Instead of getting upset as usual, though, Margaret just looked at Jill and said, “Yes, actually.” In the time it took for Jill to figure out whether or not this was a lie, the rest of the group had burst out laughing again, this time at her. Not wanting to appear like she wasn’t a part of the group, Jill laughed along, pretending she knew what was happening. Clive’s phone went off again, prompting the rest of the group to practically force him out of the door to his class. After he had left, Margaret announced that she had to leave as well, since she needed to get ready for a date she was going on later with someone she had met at Jill’s last show. When it was just Jill and Claire left with Michael on the phone, talk turned to the next birthday: Georgia’s.
         “Last year her party was so, like, depressing,” said Jill, “It would have been ok but, like, everyone was away so it was just a few of us.”
         “Yeah I know what you mean,” agreed Michael, “Plus there was that massive fight that a certain couple had. Cough.”
         “We said we were sorry about that!” protested Claire, “And besides, we aren’t the only couple who have ever had a fight at a birthday party. Jill.”
         “What are you talking about?” asked Jill, confused.
         “I’m talking about you and Bob, or Rob, or whatever his name was.”
         “Oh him,” Jill said, “His name was John, though.”
         “Oh I remember John!” put in Michael, “He had weird hair, right?”
         “Yeah that was him.” said Claire.
         “We weren’t a couple though,” Jill said, “he was just my date. I didn’t realise what a dick he was when I asked him to come with me.”
         “But that doesn’t make you ruining Joe’s birthday party any better.” pointed out Claire. Michael agreed.
         “I thought we were talking about Georgia’s party?” asked Jill, trying to move the subject away from her actions that night with Bob/Rob/John.
         “Yeah okay. Well Lucy said we could rent out Tillie’s if we wanted, she can get an extra discount if she picks up a few more shifts for like a week.” said Claire. Jill was unenthusiastic, and questioned whether Georgia would want to go all the way to Cambridge from Nottingham for her own birthday party.
       “Actually, I think she’s going to Cambridge then anyway,” explained Claire with a knowing grin, “something about seeing someone important.”

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