ALEXI ARLIDGE

Corporate turned creative. A ‘City’ escapee, finally following heart rather than head. Finally free to write unrestricted by rules or red tape.
Debut and, if all goes well, future novelist of upmarket fiction, written with screenplay adaptation in mind. Stories which focus on reality - the highs and lows, twists and turns, of modern life and love. Designed to entertain, provoke thought, and maybe even encourage a little introspection.

Screenplay Type
Book Adaptation Needed
A cold-hearted career girl is lured into an unwanted romance, in which she becomes the other woman, forcing her to question her whole way of being, as she fights for both him and the truth.
Paris Buddy
Logline
A cold-hearted career girl is lured into an unwanted romance, in which she becomes the other woman, forcing her to question her whole way of being, as she fights for both him and the truth.
My Submission

The End

'Can you imagine? Imagine if you were sitting here right now waiting for me and I didn't show up? And you're just left... waiting... wondering...'

The shadow of his words.

Words he'd spoken the night he said, 'I love you'. The night he said, she knew more than anyone else. When he promised that one day, there would be nothing she didn't know.

When he lied.

She'd been waiting two hours now. 

Waiting. But no longer wondering.

The moment it became real. Too disillusioning to elicit anything more than apathetic surrender. The same kind of realisation that comes after the last paragraph in a book you've been unable to put down. When all you can think is, 'What? That's it? That's how it ends?'

All that time, commitment, love. For an ending like that?

And you turn the page. Anticipating. Hoping. That your questions might still be answered. The confusion you're feeling might still be resolved. The trust you held, rewarded.

Only to be met with empty promises.

No fairy-tale ending. No cheeky final chapter. No epilogue.

Just blank pages.

Barren of answers.

Pregnant with questions.

The End.

The Beginning

It was when The City was at its best. Or worst. Depending on one's ethical, and, or, moral standpoint. The era when Dom Perignon replaced San Pellegrino, and caviar replaced peanuts. Where one of each, referred not to the type of water, but the colour of wine. Where sole existed only on menus. Always Dover. Never Lemon.

A time of long, boozy lunches and eye-wateringly expensive dinners. Endless opportunity for extravagant entertaining. Racing fast cars and betting on fast horses. Gin palace cruising in The Med. Choppers to Gleneagles. Wine tasting at Chateau Margaux.

A furious yet fun, brutal yet brilliant, harsh yet hedonistic lifestyle. Work hard. Play harder. The importance of money, status, power and control, at the core of everything. A breeding ground for ambition. A playground for competition. An open opportunity to prove what one was made of... whatever that may take.

She had been 'in' it from the moment she left university, and nine years on, was very definitely 'of' it. A female in a male world. Being unbreakable was necessary to both thrive and survive. Something she had mastered. Embraced. She was the girl who wore kick-arse heels and a skilfully polished suit of armour.

The no-fucking-nonsense, say-it-as-it-fucking-is, just-get-it-fucking-done and don't-take-it-fucking-personally environment, challenged her in all the right ways. She found it exhilarating. But more so, she found it efficient. Allowing her to get on with things. To prosper and progress. 

Working with men worked. As cliché as it might sound, they were simple. No mind games. No emotions. She understood how they operated. At least when it came to business she did.

He, on the other hand, was a newcomer. Only days into his first job in London, after more than a decade of active service in some of the world's bloodiest conflict zones.

Excitable and socially naïve for a thirty year-old, he was full of awe for his new world. Thrilled to find himself at the very centre of the corporate credit card culture, immediately seduced by the shallow, self-indulgent bubble of The City.

His first night out, the first time he saw her, he knew she was the one.

'You walked down the stairs and without knowing a thing about you, I thought - that's the girl I'm going to marry'.

She couldn't recall their introduction. It happened at the time she was beginning to truly establish herself. Therefore she was playing the game, fraternising with those who mattered. Those who she could, and should bond with, in order to assist her ambitions. Not strictly sycophantic, both her attentions and intentions were genuine, but she was hungry, and knew that if she was going to continue to make it in this male-dominated world, she'd need support. And more importantly respect. And that meant making friends in high places. She knew who she needed to target, and he did not feature.

At one point, he tried to make conversation, but his chat was careless. Hyperactive and infantile. It wasn't even two minutes before she lost interest and turned her back. So he had to make do with watching for the rest of the night. His eyes intent, observing every move.

He studied how she commanded the room, exuding a quiet confidence as she transferred her attention from one person to the next. Moving in a way which unintentionally attracted attention. Gracefully, on tip-toe, a ballet dancer traversing a stage. Eyes drawn to her perfect posture and the subtle but beguiling sway in her hips.  

As the evening progressed, he also saw how she no longer had to mingle, remaining in the same spot for drink after drink, as people migrated her way. Seeking her out from within the crowd. One after another, after another. All vying for an audience with the Ice Queen.

It intrigued him to witness the different approaches, although her reactions intrigued him more.

There were the chancers, edging ever closer, hoping for the opportunity for an 'impromptu' swoop. The carefully considered, thought given to their strategy, a clear game plan tactically executed. Some operated in a pack, hovering at a distance. Excited hyenas waiting to pounce on another's kill. Skittish but patient. Assessing the competition before making their move, the principle of quantity over quality eventually winning every time.

Then there were those of the higher echelon. The dons of the industry, who possessed a natural and entitled conviction, allowing them to steal her attention unapologetically. And then there were the inebriated. Emboldened by a Viking mentality and undeterred by spectators. Shamelessly sweeping aside their challengers to get to the goods.

Watching these cavalier advances, he learned of 'the look'. One which matched her moniker. Triggering a tangible hush, the dimming of lights, and rising of the curtain. Two flaring nostrils spotlighting the stage for the opening of the show. A spectacle in which no one wanted to hold the starring role, intoxicated or not.

And finally, there were the lucky ones. A select number, whose appearance sparked an open pair of arms and a hug of genuine affection. A moment of intimacy. A secret tenderness. 

Some day, he’d be one of those fortunate few.

He watched her all night, a chameleon effortlessly adapting to her conveyor belt of attention. He watched to learn. Observing, remembering for the future.

Only a few hours had passed, but he already knew he'd need to bide his time. For the right time. 

And he did. Until the night it became real. Almost a decade later. As he lay naked in her arms, unshaven chin grazing her neck, lips moving against her ear.

'It all happens just as it's meant to,' he whispered, 'I was right to wait. You were always going to be mine. But I needed you to realise for yourself. I never wanted to force you. I never wanted what wasn't mine.’

January 1

Officially, the trip was business. A select group, off-site for three days intense, face-to-face negotiation. Unofficially, it was a boozy long-weekend with mates. Deals conducted in fresh mountain air in between runs, an ice-cold beer or glass of velvety red brokering the transaction.

It was also an event, which for many, marked the end of a month of sobriety and social abstinence. A formal close to 'dry January', eagerly anticipated and passionately embraced.

London's alarm call hadn't yet sounded when she left for the airport, the city as still and sombre as the sky above. Apartment blocks lined the roads like sleeping giants, the car darting between their feet, leaving behind frosty footprints and warm breath. 

She shrunk into her jacket, the padded hood welcome soundproofing against the jabber tumbling from her drivers lips. Even after fifteen years of five am wake-up’s, she still hated being pulled from the warmth of her bed before she was ready.

Random characters began to stroll through her mind. A cast of miscellaneous misfits jostling for attention, each hoping to entice her into their subconscious story. Ordinarily a poor sleeper, unable to switch off her mind, or her phone, it was only ever cars, trains and planes that coaxed her into such an easy slumber. The motion, like the rocking arms of a mother, soothing both body and brain.

She had just reached the perfect equilibrium of inertia, when her phone fluttered against her breastbone, a series of rapid-fire messages disturbing her dreams.

'Hiiiiiiii

Oh my god

Can't believe I made the cut

Am SO excited

Not about skiing tho (maybe a lil bit about skiing), but about seeing u

I'm gonna try n behave, but honestly all that fresh oxygen who knows what it might do to a red-blooded male like me

It's hard enough to control myself when I see u in the polluted pubs of London

I'm joking of course, I'll be a gentleman

Looking forward to seeing u doll. X'

When excited or nervous, he vomited messages in the same way he did sentences. Adamant it was only ever she who incited this behaviour, he accused her of making him both. But he was notorious for his hyperactivity. His nerves however, did seem to be reserved solely for her.

Rolling her eyes and allowing a flicker of a smile, she locked the phone and returned it to her pocket, still far too early to contemplate engaging with his silly banter. Her indifference did nothing to deter him though, and less than half an hour later, he was back online.

'It's meeeeee doll

I'm more excited with every minute

R u?'

Again she ignored him, only responding once settled on board with a hot towel and glass of orange juice.

'I am yes'

'About seeing me?'

'About skiing

Ps. Please don't call me Doll'

'Sorry doll

Ooops, called u doll again

U know that deep down u can't wait to see me

Go on admit it, will make my day

Anyway, safe flight n see u there. X'

Nine years had passed since the night he decided she was 'the one'. He'd adapted effortlessly from life in the military to life in The City, effectively moving from one big boys club to another. The sociable nature of the job offering him the same camaraderie and close rapport that he'd been used to in the forces.

Learning the basics fast, he made friends faster, and quickly established himself as a likeable and competent addition to the tight-knit community. His naivety however lingered, his overexcited enthusiasm uncomfortably contradictory to his background. A juvenile, trapped in the body of a man who'd experienced the world at its worst. Witnessing and engaging in atrocities which most would struggle to even imagine.

Success had ultimately enforced maturity, but he remained an eternal big kid. Simple. Or maybe kinder to say, uncomplicated.

Over the years he'd continued his pursuit, open with his affections and candid about his ambition to one day make her his wife. Which caused much humour given he was the antithesis of the self-assured, phlegmatic alphas to whom she was naturally attracted.

He was undeniably good-looking. In that cliched chiselled-cheekbones, jaw-carved-from-granite, eyes-as-blue-as-oceans, kind of way. But he was vertically challenged. Stocky, with muscles that didn't quite fit his height. Like the Action Man toys her friends’ brothers used to play with when they were little. 

She didn't do short. She needed a man who she could look up to. Especially when wearing a pair of killer heels. A man who was impressive. In every sense of the word.

Her resistance to his charm was unusual, his fan club ordinarily strong. To most, the combination of his solid physique, handsome face and childlike energy was entrancing. It drew girls to him like the child catcher with his sweets. And he fascinated women. Confusing them as to whether they wanted to be held in his arms, or hold him in theirs.

But it was this which caused her barriers to rise. The components incongruous, resulting in an unexplainable scepticism.

There had been two occasions when she'd given in to his persistence and met with him outside work. 'Dates' he claimed. 'Drinks' she corrected.

The first was when she hardly knew him. Just enough to have built a rather disparaging view. He'd pounced one evening when she'd been looking to kill some time before supper with friends, and she'd ended up succumbing to a last minute drink.

He’d arrived as she was half-way through her second Tanqueray, apologies for his tardiness spilling from his lips, colourful and unruly like a dropped bag of skittles. With only twenty minutes before she needed to leave, she’d declined the offer of another round. But ignoring her protestations entirely, he ordered two cocktails, concocted for the taste buds of a teenage girl, and then talked at her without pausing for breath.

His commentary on others in the bar had been ungracious. Not nasty, but loud and gratuitous. And his interest in her, had been aggressively enthusiastic. An endless interrogation which allowed no space for response.

When the time came for her to go, he pinned her hands to the sofa, insisting she cancel her plans and stay with him instead. Refusing to release his grip, his school-ground game playing was embarrassing, and in the end she had to signal for the bill in a wide eyed, not-so secret cry for help. 

As it was handed in her direction, he all but snatched it, whether in a bid to do the gentlemanly thing, or prevent her from departing, she was uncertain. 

Tossing the leather pouch to the table, he chucked his credit card on top. It landed at an angle, the embossed silver letters flashing in the light.

'Are you expensing this?' she narrowed her eyes and fixed them to his.

For the first time since arriving, he paused for breath.

'Erm, yeah...'

'You invite me out, turn up over an hour late, and then expense it?'

'I was in a rush - I forgot my wallet. This was in my pocket - good thing it was or I'd be asking you to pay.' He grinned, shifting in his seat. 'Oh god, you're giving me ‘the look’. It doesn't matter does it? It's only a couple of drinks. Next time we go out I'll buy you dinner - make up for it.'

Grabbing the card, he thrust it at a passing waiter, wilfully oblivious to her pursed lips and silent sentence of, 'not in a million years mate'.

Outside the bar, he hailed a cab, lunged for her lips and ran his hand across her buttocks.

'I just touched your bum, I just touched your bum,' he sang, waving goodbye and skipping down the street, his grin borrowed from the Cheshire Cat.

Climbing into the taxi, she caught the doorman's gaze, his creased eyes and a low chuckle suggesting he'd found the incident rather more entertaining than she had. Throwing her head back against the leather rest, a ripple of indignity tugged at her gut. They'd spent less than an hour together, but she was uncomfortably riled. Life was too short to be wasted in that way, and she went to meet her friends in an uncharacteristically bad mood. She shouldn't have given in, she should have trusted her intuition.

His subsequent contact was unforgiving. Inane messages about dinner or drinks, walks or runs, cinema or theatre, populating her phone almost daily, her knock-backs met with skin as thick as a rhino. In the end she had to simply ignore him hoping he’d go away. A bout of tinnitus from which she longed to be free.

Fortunately they worked in different markets, so it was rare for their paths to cross. Only in more recent years had their encounters become more frequent, a rise in the ranks granting him access to the circles in which she moved.

At first, she was careful to avoid him, but he was passive in his pursuit, and soon she began to relax in his presence. From these interactions, she realised how much he had grown. Both as a market player, and as a man. Mellower. More in control. And whereas once his exuberance had struck as almost disingenuous, it now appeared strangely admirable. A refreshing optimism, rarely found in their selfish and competitive environment. She discovered that underneath the joker exterior, hid a deeper, unexpectedly sincere individual who, intriguingly, few were privy to see. The man behind the boy.

They fell into a comfortable, work-based friendship, something she would never have predicted. And whilst their easy rapport didn't dull his desires, it did set boundaries. Which he respected. And this was something which she, in turn, respected. He was merely happy to have formed a bond. A purely platonic relationship, albeit one with a resonant undertone of flirtation.

Then, at the end of last summer, seemingly from nowhere, he'd resumed his quest for her affections. 

She had just started to explore the dating scene again after a lengthy, self-imposed man-ban, and was feeling confident and carefree. This, combined with a simmering curiosity as to why his interest had been reignited, caused her to throw caution to the wind and say yes to a drink.

Late once again, he'd arrived hot, sweaty, and a bag of apologetic, overexcited nerves. Disappointed for having expected something different, she'd cursed herself for not learning from the first time and resigned herself to another wasted evening.

When the Maître D' had drawn their night to a close over five hours later, she’d been genuinely surprised, time seeming to have taken on its own agenda.

He'd walked her to the bridge, and with one hand resting lightly on her shoulder and the other tucked in his pocket, kissed her cheek goodbye.

'So, when do I get to see you again? Are you really going out with other people?' 

'Yes,' she replied.

'Why? You know I'm your favourite. Just date me.'

'This wasn't a date.'

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