Sweetie by Antoinette Moses
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com>
To: Robert Woodhouse <Robwoo@uk.com> Date: Tuesday, April 3 Subject: Drinks
Thanks for your email. I do so agree with you, last night’s talk was absolutely fascinating. If only all our seminars were like that! And I was really glad you came up and spoke to me. It’s so great to find someone who can share the same enthusiasms. I wish I’d taken notes!
Yeah, I’d love to meet up again for a drink sometime. I don’t think the college bar, though. It’s so packed with first-years (ugggh!). How about that new wine bar in Market Street? I’ve heard it’s OK. But whatever you think…
See you soon…
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com> To: Sue Fordham <Sueford@uk.com> Date: Tuesday, April 3 Subject: New man
How’s the work going? I can see you writing away there with a pile of books all round you. Anyone would think that one goes to the library to work!! Seriously though, if you’ve got any ideas on what Mr Shakespeare was thinking of by bringing on a gatekeeper to go on and on just when he’s got to the interesting bit of the play (just where someone got killed), then do throw a few ideas my way. Or let me have a quick read of your notes. You’re so clever.
Anyhow, sweetie, to the point, to the point as Mr Shakespeare might have written, but never did. I’ve met this amazing guy.
It was at that talk last night. I only went along because Mrs Martins was so rude this week about my work that I wanted to be able to say that I even went to literature talks that weren’t compulsory. I’m surprised you weren’t there, but I expect you were writing your essay. You’d have loved it. It was all about Shakespeare’s women, you know the kind of thing, how they were all played by boys and how you had boys playing women dressed as boys… etc, etc.
So there I was, being bored out of my mind. In fact I was only half listening. I was wondering if purple nails were really too last year and thinking what colour I should paint them next. But then I noticed the guy in front of me.
Well, I only noticed him when he turned round. I suppose I was yawning rather loudly. When he turned round I thought he was going to agree with me how boring it all was. I was about to whisper that I’d heard better arguments around my parents’ dinner table, and that was saying something!! But then I realised that he wanted me to be quiet. He was enjoying the talk!! Normally I’d have just ignored anyone who tried to make me keep quiet, but then I looked at him properly and he was amazing. I mean not your usual student good-looking, but film star good-looking – sort of Hugh Grant hair and Mel Gibson blue eyes. I tell you he was so much the ‘real thing’ I almost blushed. But I didn’t. Promise.
So I managed to convince him that my yawn was a cough and muttered, ‘Sorry.’ Then I smiled at him and he smiled at me.
After the talk ended, he came up to me. He’s called Robert and he’s doing a postgraduate degree in creative writing – yes, really, one of them!! The creative writing stars! And, can you believe it, he’s not only written a novel, but there’s a publisher interested in it! Even my mother would be impressed.
And he’s emailed me already today and asked me if I fancy a drink. If? When would be a better question. I thought about playing it cool but thought that he looked so cool himself there wasn’t any point. After all, when you look like that and you’re brilliant, no girl is ever going to say no, is she? So I said yes. So watch this space.
Oh, I must go and iron some clothes in case he asks me out tonight.
Sweetie, I just haven’t got time now to look up all those boring books. Please, please, can I look at your notes? Thank you so, so much, you’re such a good friend.
Kiss, kiss… and keep up the good work. Well, one of us has to!
Your excited friend Nikki
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com> To: Sue Fordham <Sueford@uk.com> Date: Wednesday, April 4 Subject: What to wear… help!!
You star! Thank you so much for your notes. So many references!! I don’t know how you find the time to look up all those books. I just haven’t had a moment. I mean it’s not as if we can spend all our time writing essays. We have to go to all these lectures and seminars, too. Mind you I missed this morning’s seminar. Did Mrs Martins notice? I spent so much time last night trying to decide how I should look when I see Robert next that I didn’t get to bed till after 2 am. So I slept till lunchtime. As a result I’ve felt exhausted all day. But I am trying to work. Really!
I think what I need is a new pair of black jeans. I could wear them with that little white top that stops just above my waist. I think that would be perfect. It would look good without looking as if I’m trying too hard. It’s all so difficult, isn’t it? At least all this worry has stopped me eating. You’re so lucky not worrying about what you look like. When you’ve got a reputation like I have for having a certain kind of style, it’s a real responsibility.
The bad news is the bank won’t give me any more money. I put my card into the machine this morning and it came straight back out. So I’ll have to borrow some more from my dad. I expect I’ll think of an excuse. And he’s so pathetically proud of my having got a place at university.
Just because he had to go to work straight from school. He has no idea what it’s like here. He thinks it’s like school but harder.
See you later… what are you doing for supper tonight? Nikki
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com>
To: Peter Apton <Peterapt@globlink.uk.com>
Date: Thursday, April 5
Subject: Money. Yes, again. I’m sorry.
What can I say? It’s too awful to have to ask you again, but you did say that you’d help with books. I never realised that I’d need so many.
I know you said that things were getting difficult at work and you needed to be careful in case you were made redundant. Isn’t that a horrible word?! No one ever says they’re firing people any more. They just make them redundant. But it’s just as horrible. Anyhow, I’m sure you’re worrying about nothing. They wouldn’t dare get rid of you. You’re so clever, and you’ve been there for years and years. They could never do without you.
I’m sorry to have to get back to money, but I do need it urgently. The books I need are never in the library. I think everyone must go in at midnight, like ghosts, to get them before I get there. So if I’m not going to get the most awful marks for my next essays, I just have to buy them.
There’s a second-hand bookshop here at the university, so it’s not quite as expensive as buying new books. Actually they are real bargains and I can sell them again after I’ve written my essays, so I will try and pay you back. I promise.
If you could send me another 50 pounds, I’d be so relieved, and then I can finish this essay and make you proud of me.
Give mummy my love. She sounded cross with me when I rang home yesterday. I don’t know why she doesn’t get herself an email address, and then I could write to her. She was very sarcastic when I said that and said, ‘The Royal Mail hasn’t gone out of business as far as I know. I think you’ll find, Nicola, that stamps are still on sale in most parts of Great Britain. And envelopes.’ Ha! Ha! It’s just that letters are so slow. So last century.
Thank you so much Daddy. You’re such a sweetie. And don’t worry about the job. It’ll be fine.
Lots and lots of love
Your hard-working daughter
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com> To: Sue Fordham <Sueford@uk.com> Date: Saturday, April 7 Subject: Date update
I’ve managed to drag myself to the library, but there’s no way that I’m going to be able to do any work today. I’m exhausted. Rob and I talked for hours. I think the new jeans were just right. Daddy came up with the money. He’s such a sweetie, he believes everything I tell him.
Rob is really impressive, but I have to confess he is a bit intense. I know he’s an intellectual, but he does go on about politics and things. Last night we were happily drinking cocktails – yes, I’ve actually met someone who can afford my taste in drinks!! So there we were drinking peach juice and champagne, and I was wondering how soon he was going to kiss me, when he starts talking about refugees in Britain. I mean, who cares? Why do these people want to live here anyway? But, according to Rob, the government doesn’t have a consistent policy, and lots of refugees are living for months in old army camps. Well at least they’re safe and their lives are probably better than they were in their own countries. But Rob went on and on about how there is no proper education for refugee children and that something ought to be done about it. I can’t think why he thought I’d be interested. Like the song says, girls just want to have fun. And politics isn’t fun. Right?
Anyhow, it was our first date and I didn’t want an argument. I hate arguments, they give me a headache. So I made interested noises and agreed with him. And that was fine. Men are so pathetic. All you have to do is say, ‘I agree,’ every few minutes and they think you’re brilliant.
But it turns out that he isn’t only interested in all that politics stuff. He likes movies, too. So tonight we’re going to the cinema to what Robert calls ‘a popcorn movie’. This is his definition of an American film with lots of action and chases and things being blown up. Are there any other kinds of film?
I have a feeling Rob also likes foreign movies, the kind you only find in small specialist cinemas. I hate those films. You have to work really hard reading the subtitles in English and no one ever does anything. They all talk too much. So boring. Oh, sorry, I forgot. You like those kinds of films, don’t you?
And yes, before you ask, we did kiss, but only a friendly goodnight kiss at my door. He smells of lemons, did I tell you? Delicious! I can’t wait for tonight!
In fact I think I’m going to spend the rest of the day getting ready. Then I’ll have a long bath and throw in lots of that new perfume I bought last week. I just haven’t got the energy to open a book. So can you help me again, sweetie? Tell me what I’m supposed to do before Monday’s seminar. Thank you so much… you’re wonderful.
Your tired friend Nikki
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com>
To: Robert Woodhouse <Robwoo@uk.com> Date: Saturday, April 7 Subject: Hi
Just a terribly quick note. I saw you downstairs in the library as I came up, but I didn’t want to disturb you. In any case, I’ve got so much work to do before Monday’s seminar that if you came up here you wouldn’t be able to see me because I’m surrounded by so many books! But I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed last night. It was so refreshing to talk to someone who really thinks about things. So many friends – my friend Sue, for example – just don’t care about the important things in life.
But tonight we’ll have a bit of fun. Why not? We deserve it.
See you later…
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com> To: Sue Fordham <Sueford@uk.com> Date: Monday, April 16 Subject: Careers – who needs them!
Susie, my love…
Thank you so much for covering up for me at the seminar today. But I don’t know why you say it’s the very last time. I mean nobody really needs to go to seminars. It’s not as if they count towards your degree. Or only a bit. You can still get a degree if you pass the exams, can’t you?
Anyhow, I wasn’t at the dentist’s. I was asleep. Rob was even more exhausting than ever last night. He insisted on showing me all these leaflets about all these people who are in jails all over the world because they disagree with their governments. Or something. As if I cared. Not that I let him know. But he did begin to sense that my concentration was wandering because I kept playing with my hair. Then, at last, there was a film on the TV that he liked, so we could watch that instead. Actually I thought it was rather boring, too, but he said it was a very important early western. I can’t remember the name of the director. You probably know it.
Then this afternoon was the end. It was too awful. I had an appointment with the careers office, but I don’t know why I bothered. It was useless. They didn’t have any jobs that sounded in the least bit exciting. They kept talking about career paths and ‘getting the right kind of work experience’. I just wanted to say like that character – you know the one I mean in that Tom Cruise movie – ‘Show me the money!’ Who needs career paths? I just want to get to London as quickly as possible and earn as much money as I can. For a start, I have to pay off my student loan. I don’t see why my parents couldn’t have given me more money themselves. Only a few years ago university education was free and you got grants. My parents’ generation were so lucky, and there was my father not even taking advantage of it. Just because his dad made him go to work at sixteen.
There were lots of leaflets in the careers office from companies who hire graduates and train them for ‘senior management’, whatever that means. Can you see me as a manager in a shop or a factory? It was such a waste of time. I had to fill in forms and do some kind of psychological test. It was all so stupid. I hate those things.
‘How do you see yourself in five years’ time?’ the woman asked me. She had one of those awful old-fashioned dresses, like shirts, that button all the way down. And she had one of those nasty small faces, like a rat. ‘Well, I don’t see myself in a pathetic job like yours,’ I nearly told her. But of course I didn’t actually say it.
What I did say was: ‘In five years’ time I can see myself being rich and successful and wearing designer labels and drinking in London wine bars.’ I smiled at her. I was trying. ‘I was thinking maybe that I could work in the City,’ I added.
I read in a magazine about bank employees getting a million pounds on top of their salaries. The City of London sounded like my kind of place – champagne bars, sports cars, lots of money!
‘I don’t see either mathematics or economics among your qualifications,’ the careers woman replied. ‘What kind of job are you thinking of doing in the City? Secretary? Waitressing?’
Can you believe it? How rude! I mean in two years I’ll be a university graduate and she asked me if I’d thought of being a waitress! I was furious. I ought to report her to someone. She had no right to speak to me like that. It’s jealousy. I always get it from unattractive women. They just can’t bear to think that a girl who looks like me can have brains, too.
So, sweetie, I’m really fed up. Come over and have a drink later and cheer me up while I get ready to go out with Rob. You can help me choose what to wear.
Your depressed friend Nikki
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com> To: Elizabeth Martins <Elizamart@uk.com> Date: Tuesday, April 17 Subject: Seminars
Dear Mrs Martins
I was really upset when I got your letter. I mean I can’t be the only one who sometimes misses your seminars. They are awfully early and it’s not as if I’m not writing my essays. It’s probably because I stay up so late working that I sometimes oversleep. And I don’t think that your comments about me putting pressure on my friend Sue Fordham are in the least bit true.
And I do read the books on my reading list. I can’t think why you should say that I don’t seem to have ever opened a book.
This degree course means a lot to me and I am doing my best. I can’t believe that what I say at seminars could make such a difference to my getting a degree or not. I’m just not at my best working in a group.
But I really will try harder to be punctual and not to oversleep. So please give me another chance.
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com> To: Sue Fordham <Sueford@uk.com> Date: Tuesday, April 17 Subject: That cow Mrs Martins!
I’m so upset, you just don’t know! I thought you were my friend. What did you say to Martins? She says that I forced you into covering for me. You know that’s not true. I’ve never forced you to do anything. How dare she say that!
And now I’ve got to go to her awful seminars or she’s going to put a fail against my name, and she says because I don’t get good marks for my essays either, if I fail my seminars, I’ll fail the year and won’t be allowed to finish my degree.
It’s just not fair. I do as much as I can. I really do think you could be more helpful.
I’m so depressed by it all that I think I’ll have to go shopping and buy myself some new clothes. The trouble is I don’t have any money and the last time I asked my dad for some more, I got a horrible letter from my mother telling me that I was selfish and that things were difficult. She’s always looking for ways to be nasty to me. Just because daddy likes buying me things.
I saw you talking to Robert earlier. What was he saying about me? Something nice I hope. He was a bit strange yesterday. Just because I thought that Levi-Strauss made designer jeans. How could I know he was some kind of famous writer? I’m beginning to think that Rob’s not worth all the effort. Perhaps I need someone who isn’t so serious all the time. If only he wasn’t so attractive. But he is and I know that most of the females on the creative writing course are crazy about him. It’s lucky that he happens to like me, isn’t it?
I feel that everyone is against me today, so please come over later and cheer me up. It probably wasn’t your fault about Martins. She just hates me anyway because of the way I look.
See you later Nikki
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com>
To: Robert Woodhouse <Robwoo@uk.com> Date: Tuesday, April 17 Subject: Disaster
I’ve just had the most awful letter from one of my lecturers, Elizabeth Martins. Do you know her? She teaches us nineteenth century Romantic Poetry – new ways of looking at Keats and Shelley, all that kind of thing. And she tells me that she’s going to fail me because I’ve missed a couple of seminars. It’s so, so unfair!
Now I’ve got to think of something really clever to say before this Thursday about Wordsworth and the French Revolution, so can you help me? You’re so clever and I know you know everything about those poets.
Will you come round later? I’ll be so, so grateful. I know you’ve got a huge essay to write yourself, though it’s too long and important to be called an essay isn’t it? You’ve got your dissertation to write. But this is an emergency! I’m relying on you to be there.
Thank you my sweet
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com> To: Sue Fordham <Sueford@uk.com> Date: Wednesday, April 18 Subject: Last night
What is the matter? Just because I forgot that both you and Rob were coming over and just because I met some people and went out for a few drinks, I really don’t think that you had to speak to me like that. I know that you and Rob had work to do and were only there because I asked you. But you didn’t have to come over if you didn’t want to.
If you hadn’t been so horrible, I would have thanked you for talking to Rob. I know that the two of you both like lots of the same things. So it was nice for him to have a bit of a conversation while he was waiting for me. And you should be grateful, too, because you would never have got the chance to talk to him if he wasn’t my boyfriend, would you? I mean I know how interesting you are – you’re my friend. But boys only notice what a girl looks like.
Anyhow I need to talk to you today because I’ve had a terrible letter from my father. He says that his firm has gone through lots of changes and they’re getting rid of all the experienced people. They just want young people, he says. So he’s been made redundant. It’s too awful. It could be ages before he gets another job and I can’t ask him for any more money right now and I really want that little red dress I saw in town yesterday.
It’s all too terrible. Your desperate friend Nikki
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com>
To: Robert Woodhouse <Robwoo@uk.com> Date: Wednesday, April 18 Subject: Last night
I’m so, so sorry about last night. Please don’t be angry. It was because I was so upset about everything that I stopped for a moment to have a quick drink.
What I haven’t told you – because I didn’t want you to worry about me – is that there are lots of problems at home. My father has been made redundant and it’s been a terrible worry for us all. I just can’t think about anything else. So that’s why I stopped for a drink.
Anyhow, thank you so much for being such a sweetie and talking to Susie. It was really kind of you to talk to her for so long. She’s so serious! I keep telling her to lighten up, but she doesn’t listen to me. And her clothes! That old sweater she was wearing last night. Where do people get clothes like that? Poor sweetie. I do try to give her some advice now and again on make-up and I’ve even offered her some of my old clothes, but of course they are all much, much too small for her. She really ought to make more of an effort and lose some weight, but I don’t think she really understands how important it is to look good.
I’ve still got that seminar coming up, but I don’t think I can face it. I’ll have to try and talk to Mrs Martins. Isn’t life difficult? I just don’t know what to do.
Please don’t be angry just when I need you. Come and talk to me later. Please??
Your very sorry Nikki
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com>
To: Peter Apton <Peterapt@globlink.uk.com> Date: Wednesday, April 18 Subject: Everything’s too awful
Yes, of course I sympathise with you about your work and all that. But I’m sure that you’ll get another job soon. Just saying that middle-aged men of forty-eight aren’t given jobs these days isn’t going to help you. You have to be positive!! Like you always tell me.
Everything is just awful here, too. There’s a woman called Elizabeth Martins who hates me and wants me to fail. She says that she’s going to get me thrown out. So you can see that you’re not the only one with problems.
But I try to be positive and just keep on going. And you must do the same.
I can’t believe that you’re serious about cutting my allowance. How can I live? I thought you wanted me to be at university. But now I think that you don’t really care.
I don’t think anyone cares about me.
Your desperate daughter Nikki
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com>
To: Rebecca Apton <Rebeccaapt@globlink.uk.com> Date: Wednesday, April 18 Subject: Money
I’m so glad that you’re finally using daddy’s computer. That means I can write to you more often because it’s so much easier than letters and, unlike phones, I can write to you in the library without interrupting my work.
I’ve just had the most awful email from daddy. He says that you and he have been talking and you can’t afford to continue giving me my allowance. And why don’t I take out a student loan? Now, I didn’t want to worry daddy, he’s got so much to worry about, but I’ve already taken out a student loan and I’ve spent it. So I can’t exist for the rest of this year without my allowance. I’d just starve.
Mummy, you must know what it’s like. I have to have a few clothes, and everything’s so expensive. And these days girls are expected to pay for their own drinks. I do try to be careful with money, but it’s so hard.
So Mummy, sweetie, could you please, please have a word with daddy, so that I can stay here next term. Otherwise I’ll just have to give it all up and become a waitress or work in a supermarket or something. It’s just too awful to think about. I know that daddy listens to you.
Lots of love Nikki
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com> To: Elizabeth Martins <Elizamart@uk.com> Date: Thursday, April 19 Subject: Your letter
Dear Mrs Martins
I’ve just received your official letter and I can’t believe that you’ve decided to fail me. It’s not my fault if I’m just too upset about my family to do any work. Please can’t you give me another chance? I really do want to get my degree. Please can I come and talk to you?
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com>
To: Peter Apton <Peterapt@globlink.uk.com> Date: Friday, April 20 Subject: How could you!
I’m so upset I can hardly write this. I just can’t believe you meant all those horrible things you just said to me on the phone. You say that you can suddenly see me as I really am. And that mummy was right all along, but you didn’t want to admit it. It’s just not true. Mummy has always wanted to see the worst in me. I don’t know why.
I just don’t know why you had to phone Mrs Martins. OK, so I was exaggerating a bit in my last letter. But Mrs Martins has never liked me. I don’t know what she said to you, but it seems you find it easy to believe her and not me.
And then you said you’d tried to ring me lots of times, but I was always out. It’s not fair. I was only out twice and I was mostly working in the library. That’s what I’m here for. Nobody seems to understand just how hard I’ve tried. But why did you have to talk about me to Sue? You said Sue told you that I hadn’t told you the truth and she thought you ought to know the truth. She’s just jealous of me. And there’s something else. She’s jealous of my boyfriend. So that’s why she’s horrible about me. It’s not true that I spend a fortune on clothes. I have bought a few clothes, but I needed them!
And yes, it’s true that I have taken out a student loan in addition to my allowance, but I needed the money. You’ve just no idea how expensive it is these days to exist at university.
And I only missed a few seminars. Anyone can oversleep. They shouldn’t start at such a ridiculously early hour. It’s not my fault.
Anyhow, your ringing Mrs Martins has just made everything worse. Now she won’t listen to me, and the university will fail me and I won’t be able to stay here after this term. So that’s what you’ve done with your telephone calls. You’ve ruined my life and I hate you.
I suppose I will have to get some dreadful job now and that will be the end of my life.
So I hope you’re happy.
Your very unhappy daughter
From: Nikki Apton <Nikkiapt@uk.com> To: Sue Fordham <Sueford@uk.com>
Date: Saturday, April 26 Subject: Goodbye
cc: Robert Woodhouse <Robwoo@uk.com>
This is my last email because after today the university says that the number they gave me to use the computers won’t work any more. I thought that nothing could get any worse, but it has. Not that anyone cares how I feel.
Daddy is in hospital because of his heart and mummy says it’s my fault because I made him so upset. It wasn’t me who fired him from his job. I think she’s too horrible. She says he’s going to be OK, but he won’t be able to work again. So I have to get a job now and keep myself.
Not that either of you care. I thought you were my friends, but all the time you were making plans behind my back. Well, sweeties, you may think you’re both very clever, but I think that showing each other some of my old emails is a terrible thing to do. I’d never do anything like that.
I hope that you both bore yourselves stupid with your clever books and foreign films. You’re both just right for each other. I don’t need friends like you anyway. Soon I’ll have a good job and be earning lots of money while you two will still be poor students. You don’t need a degree to be successful, anyway. I should have realised that ages ago.
– THE END –