I watch Selina cradling her large glass of wine, head down and tears threatening to spill from her beautiful eyes yet again.  The bar is local, a sprawling place all wooden floors and soft lighting.  Not a hard back chair in sight, instead easy sofas and armchairs strategically placed with immaculate glass topped coffee tables in easy reach.

Selina is sitting with her feet tucked beneath her, her ridiculously expensive shoes, kicked off carelessly an hour earlier, now scattered beneath the table.  She is on her third large glass of wine and despite the tears her eyes are slowly glazing over with the effects of the alcohol.

Selina is with her best friend, the not so beautiful Jane.  Plain Jane as she is known by everyone.  A contrast to Selina, Jane has curves in all the wrong places, dull brown lifeless eyes and a dress sense suited to a woman twice her age.  But Selina loves her, they have been friends since primary school and even though Selina usually exudes confidence and beauty, she has stuck with Jane through everything.

People can’t help but feel sorry for Jane – she is always overlooked by men and on many occasions has been left entertaining some hapless soul whilst Selina has been charmed by men whose looks have rivalled Hollywood Legends.  Selina is a top model, lives the models lifestyle; drives a custom made Audi TT, lives in one of the more well to do areas of London and mixes in circles most can only dream of.

Jane is a bank manager, lives in a small one bedroom apartment with her cat and makes do with her battered push bike.  How the friendship works is a mystery but it has stood the test of time.  From my position with my back to the intimate scene, I am content with watching them through the reflection in the floor to ceiling mirror.  But I can hear the conversation and poor Selina may have it all but her love life leaves her in tatters more often than most people have roast dinners.  I settle back into the armchair and make sure to turn the pages of the newspaper on my lap, even though to anyone watching closely enough, it is clear I am not reading a word of the garbage printed.

“Oh Jane, I really thought he was the one, you know” Selina said dabbing at her red eyes.  “He was too good to be true just like the rest of them, when am I going to find Mr Perfect?  Does he even exist, I don’t think he does” Selina finished with a sigh.

Looking at Selina I pity her.  For someone so beautiful, she has no idea how to pick the right man.  Always going for the looks and not the brains, she leaves herself open to hurt time and time again.  The guys all waltz in with money and confidence and sweep her off of her feet in a whirlwind of flowers, champagne and expensive weekends away.  These guys could charm the birds from the trees with a simple sentence and the not so smart Selina falls headlong into a new romance every time.

Soon enough the men get bored of the beauty and the inane talk of clothes, shoes and catwalks but they never just walk away, they always end up caught in an uncompromising clinch.  Some men are never happy and it is always left to me to pick the pieces up, month after month.

“Selina.  We have been through this a million times.  Take a step back, stop flitting from one man to the next, take a breather, you do not have to have a boyfriend every minute of every day” I say sipping at my first glass of wine to Selinas three.  “Besides, you are successful in your own right, with all manner of projects being lined up for you, why do you need a man to make you feel complete” I ask.

Selina looks at me incredulously.  The thing with Selina is from as young as five when we met on our first day of school, boys have flocked around her.  With jet black hair, eyes so blue, painfully slim and with her Irish lilt she was different to the rest of us.  She thrived on the attention and whilst the rest of our group of friends studied hard and went to University, Selina left school at fifteen.  Having modelled all her childhood, it was inevitable as she grew into a stunning young woman,  that she would continue into the career in adulthood.

“Jane, I do not have to have a boyfriend.  In fact, I am swearing off of men for good now.  Maybe I will turn gay.  It has to be a lot easier.  What do you say Jane?  Shall we elope and give up on men for good?” she laughs but I can see her pondering the idea internally. 

I don’t comment, I don’t need to, she is drunk and as per normal the wine takes over her brain.

“Anyway Jane, how are you?  Met any hot men lately?  Any dates lined up”?  She asks forgetting that a moment ago she wanted to elope with me personally and forget men completely.

Occasionally Jane does remember to ask after me but not often enough for me to share my latest news.  I had indeed met an adorable man; kind, sweet and surprisingly good looking.  Oh I know what everyone says ‘plain Jane’, ‘boring Jane’ etc.  But just because I don’t keep up with the latest ridiculous trend or spend my meagre wages having my hair and nails done, it doesn’t mean I can’t dress to impress.

I met Chuck a few weeks ago.  Taller than I normally like, stockier too but something about him had me interested enough to say yes when he asked me for a drink.  He was working in the bank for two weeks doing the yearly audit and had spent the whole time fending off the attention of the young cashiers.  He was always polite to them which did nothing to dampen their curiosity.  Imagine their surprise when they discovered it was me Chuck had asked out.  I can’t blame them,  I was as surprised as they were.

But Chuck and I had enjoyed a few days out and evenings in and I was beginning to think I could get used to a relationship with him.  Usually guarded, I had let it down pretty quick.  Maybe too quick I kept telling myself as he hadn’t been in touch for the last few days since finishing the banks audit.

I was so into him, that I hadn’t even met the latest beau Selina was now crying over.  Thinking it was about time I got Selina home, I told her to drink up and we headed off on foot, leaving her car to be driven home by Steve.

Waking up, I carefully open one eye.  Ouch!  The pain sears through my head as the sunlight bursts in the room.  Why didn’t I close the blinds last night?  Leaning up on one elbow, I know why, I must of fallen into bed or been put to bed yet again.  Poor Jane, bless her, I must remember to call her and thank her.

I ease out of bed and glance at the clock.  Only 8am, why oh why am I awake at this ungodly hour?  I walk through to the en-suite and splash cold water on my eyes, looking at my reflection.  Thank God for a day off, I’d probably be sacked on the spot for looking this rough. 

Wandering back through to my bedroom, I pick up my diary and see what I have in store.  My Accountants called the day before and scheduled an appointment for me for this afternoon.  Not bad, not a busy day at all, I’d have my hair and nails done this morning and head off to the Accountants office after.

“Steve, hi, it’s Selina.  I need the car, is it here?  Did you bring it back from the bar?  You did, excellent, thank you.  Yes, if you could bring it up to the front for 10 that would be fab” I say into my mobile.

Bless him, Steve had been a friend of the gang for years but only started working for me last year when he lost his job.  Having worked in Security all his life, he was my perfect choice.  I trusted him, he knew me and he was professional and in need of a job.  A far cry from the skinny teenager, Steve was now all brawn.  Just what I allegedly needed after a few silent phone calls and some nasty letters that had been arriving, it was almost fate that I decided to hire a security guy at the same time as Steve lost his job.  I wasn’t one for making a fuss but my manager and agency had insisted. 

So Steve had joined me although when working he always kept his distance and anyone watching would never know he was one of my oldest and best friends.

After a few cups of coffee and a quick check of my Twitter account, I organise my hair into a messy ponytail and cleanse my face.  Maybe time for a quick massage as well before the hair and nails, I think to myself as I make my way down the stairs to my car.

Following behind Selina in my own car, I watched the back of her head in the car in front.  Occasionally, her face would appear in the rear view mirror when she checked her perfect face for any blemishes.

I had known Selina since Senior School, she had badgered the PE teachers into letting her start a cheer leading group for the boys football team.  Us boys didn’t mind so eventually with Selina fluttering her long lashes at poor Mr Bigsby (head of PE) he relented.  Very soon the football team had a fully-fledged cheer leading squad and far too many boys crawling out of the woodwork with a sudden interest in football.

Captain of the football team for the last two years of school, you would think, as the old American theme dictates, that Selina and I would have been the perfect couple.  Cheerleading captain and football captain, that’s how the story always ends up but Selina never looked twice at me in that way.  She liked me, I knew that but just never in that way.  I was a short, skinny child, even as a teen and all arms and legs.  Selina liked the more muscular type and I was overlooked.

I never plucked the courage up to ask her out for fear of rejection.  It was obvious Selina had high hopes of Jane and me getting together but although I never claimed to be anything special back then, Jane was never going to raise anything more than a polite smile.

As the years went by, nothing had changed with the girls.  Selina got the guy she wanted each and every time and as last night proved, Jane was just there to pick up the pieces.  Although it was interesting that Jane had recently started seeing someone.  A brief conversation on the phone last week and Jane had told me that she had met a great guy named Chuck.  She was hoping to introduce him to Selina and me when Selina’s schedule calmed down.

After a little ribbing about his name, I genuinely wished Jane the best of luck.  She deserved to be happy and by the sound of her voice she was.   I didn’t tell her I had actually seen her and Chuck leaving the bank a few days prior.  I’d let her have her big introduction and not say a word.  She was obviously proud of this new guy and quite understandably she wanted to do the big show and tell under her own steam and didn’t need me to pull the rug from under her.

Parking up outside the salon, I waved to Selina as she headed inside and settled back in my chair, relaxing a little.  The letters were still coming but I was keeping them from Selina.  She had a busy schedule and worrying her needlessly about someone who was no doubt just an over-zealous fan was not something I had any intention of doing.

A few hours later, we parked outside her Accountants in Soho and again I watched as Selina safely went inside.

I still hadn’t heard from Chuck and I was beginning to know exactly how Selina felt being let down by men.  I was about to give up hope but decided one last phone call would be my final attempt.

As the phone rang, I looked around the drab back office of the bank.  Hot and stuffy with only a desk top fan circulating already musty air, I sighed and was about to hang up when he answered.  My tummy did a flip.

“Chuck, it’s Jane.  How are you?” I asked.

“Hey, Jane, sorry I haven’t been in touch, I’ve been laid up with a bug.  Not moved from my bed for two days.  I’m on the mend now.  Listen can I call you later as I have a new client arriving any moment and I have some last minute stuff to do” he said.  He sounded genuine enough and I decided I was worrying about nothing as usual.

“Sure that would be great, I was wondering if perhaps you’d like to meet my two closest friends on Friday” I said cheerily.

“Sure, that sounds great but I’ll have to catch up with you later and finalise the arrangements” he said.

I said goodbye and felt a whole lot lighter than I had a few minutes ago.  I was ready to introduce Chuck to Steve and Selina.  I was happy and there was no point hiding him away any longer.  I made a mental note to give them both a call later to make sure they were free.  Then humming a tune, I made my way back to the main floor of the bank with a spring in my step.

Charles Mahone stood and greeted me with a smile as broad as it was white. 

“Miss Simmons, it is a pleasure to meet you, please do take a seat” he gestured towards the chair by his desk.  “Thank you for coming in today, Mr Bates has been taken ill and his workload handed to me, I hope this is agreeable” Charles said as he sat opposite me.

I took in his appearance, the smart charcoal suit concealing a darker shirt and matching tie.  Ever one to be impressed by sophistication, I crossed my long legs feeling my already short skirt rising another inch or so.  Maybe a trip to the Accountants wasn’t as boring as I had thought.

Looking impeccable with hair newly styled, I flash a smile to match his.

“Of course, Charles, absolutely” I say leaning forward and a patting his arm with my impeccably manicured nails.  “Now what was it you wished to see me about, Charles?  Only I have a very rare day off and after a full day of pampering, my tummy isn’t going to hold out too much longer” I say.

“Nothing to worry about, after taking over your accounts, I feel Mr Bates may not have your investment in the best place and I wanted to discuss the options of moving it somewhere where it will make you more money”.  He talked simply, none of the stuffy long words his predecessor had used taking me twice as long to actually understand what dear old Mr Bates had been saying.

“Well Charles, that is very good of you to think of me so quickly, I would be more than happy to hear anything that is going to make my investment soar rather than sink” I say laughing at my own humour.

For the next forty minutes, we went through the various options available to me.  I opted for the one Charles felt was likely to bring in the most revenue and was feeling very pleased with Charles and with myself.  I could feel the electricity in the room and it was evident he could too, when he came round and asked me to sign the papers, his hand brushed mine as he gave me the pen.  Stopping with hands mid-air, we looked into each others eyes and reflected in his was the look in my eye that said we both felt it.

It was worth a shot surely.  Wasn’t Jane always telling me to find a nice guy with a normal job and to quit meeting guys at shoots and parties.  Well what was more normal than an office in London?  I put on my fake air of confidence and stood easing into my coat.

“Would you care to join me for dinner Charles?  I mean it isn’t every day a man saves me and makes me a fortune” I say lips pouting in the perfected pose.  He glances at his phone.  “I mean if you have other plans………” with one last look of the phone, he stands up, grabs his keys and is around the desk in seconds.

“I know just the place to take you Selina, shall we?” he says.

Call me vain, call me callous but it is not often that a man will turn me down.  Most men who date me, think they have a shot at the big time, think being associated with me will bring them the break they need.  They think I am too dumb to realise it but I am not as dumb as people think.  I mean here I was going on a date with a rather hunky accountant.  I never thought I’d hear those two words in the same sentence.

I skipped over to tell Steve that I was off out for dinner.  He asked where and who with and if I wanted him to follow me.  I assured him I would be fine and once he had all the details, he said he would see me back at the apartment in the morning.  Ever the gentleman he said I only had to call if I needed him and then went completely out of character.

“Selina……be careful yeh?  You don’t really know this guy and…..well…..no one likes seeing you keep getting hurt” he gripped his steering wheel and only just met my eye.

Not knowing what to say, I simply nodded and headed back to Charles who was waiting.  I turned to look at Steve who was watching me leave.  With a small wave, he then pulled away into the evening traffic.

Charles took me to a little restaurant around the corner to his office.  We chatted for ages and it wasn’t until the Waitress politely coughed that we realised it was closing time.  I found myself feeling a little sad, hours had passed and I enjoyed Charles’s company more than I would have dreamed possible.

I had managed to refrain from drinking more than one glass.  It seemed the company was intoxicating enough, so I didn’t need alcohol to give me an extra air of confidence.   I retrieved my car from outside the office and Charles did the same.

As we stood in that nervous anticipation that only a first kiss can bring, fiddling with our keys and feeling like two love struck teenagers, I honestly felt like I was floating on air.

Charles leaned in at last and hovered before finally placing those delectable full lips upon mine.  I returned his kiss, hungry to explore the taste of him.

“Wow” I said when I finally pulled away for breath.

“Wow indeed” Charles laughed. 

“I don’t usually do this but would you like to come to mine for a coffee” I said shyly, looking at him from under my fringe. 

And so the night ended with the two of us entwined in my bed, utterly exhausted but both with a smile playing on our lips and sleepy eyes.

The next day Charles took a shower and I joined him.  Beneath the suit was a toned body adorned with tattoos.  Not so smart in the buff, more rugged, more my type.  He left me at the door with another kiss and the promise of a call.  I watched him drive away and thought that for the first time in my life, I may have just found Mr Perfect. 

“Hi Selina, it’s Jane.  I wondered if you were free Friday evening for a drink at the usual” Jane said over the phone later that morning.  “I’ve met a really nice guy and I would love for both you and Steve to meet him”.

I took in what Jane was saying,  she had finally met a nice guy.  She hardly ever went on dates so for her to want to be introducing her two best friends to him, must mean she was serious.  For once I managed to keep my own news to myself.  It was early days but I was quite convinced that Charles was the one for me.

I wrapped up the call with the promise of giving Steve the night off so he could relax and told her we would love to meet her new man.

Friday came and I was in a frenzy of what to wear.  I wanted to look nice,  next to Selina I never looked nice so for once I made an effort.  I even had my hair done and for the first time in my life an eyebrow wax. 

I was so looking forward to the evening with my two best friends and my new man.  Selina seemed to be a little down the last time we spoke but I was so content with life that for the first time ever I declined an evening of woe.  Steve had been a little quiet when we had spoken but when I asked him why, he hadn’t been forthcoming with the information so I assumed it was something he would rather not discuss with me.

Chuck had been true to his word and called me to confirm the arrangements for Friday.  He hadn’t called me back that night as he had been stuck into a late night meeting and hadn’t wanted to wake me.  Bless him, he worked so hard and was so considerate. 

Finally I settled on a safe black dress and dressed it up with some costume jewellery.  I looked at myself in the mirror.

“Not so Plain Jane tonight are you” I said to my reflection.

Chuck arrived early but luckily I was ready.  He stood and looked at me and sighed.

“You really are so beautiful Jane.  I don’t think I have ever told you that before but really you are.  You look stunning” he said.

I blushed furiously, not used to compliments.  I thanked him, kissed him and then we were off.  Off to the local the three of us always used. We had shared some stories over the years on those sofas, some good and some not so good but tonight I was sure the drinks would be flowing and everyone was going to enjoy the evening.

As we entered the pub I saw Selina and Steve sat on one of the many sofas.  As usual Selina looked every inch the superstar she was.  Steve was leaning in close and as I stopped Chuck walking any further, I watched Steve briefly and noticed not for the first time, the way he looked at Selina, the way he touched her any chance he got.  And I knew what I had suspected for many years, that Steve was in love with Selina.  It made me feel warm inside.

Steve looked up and caught my eye and froze.  He looked from me to Chuck and back again.  Selina was still caught up in whatever tale she was telling him and hadn’t noticed us arrive.  We started to walk slowly through the bar which was quite busy.

“Selina, I need to talk to you and I need you to listen and not react, can you do that for me?” I said to her and watched fear cloud her beautiful face.

“Whats wrong?  Steve, what is it?” Selina said to me clutching at my arm.

“Absolutely nothing to worry about, it’s just there is something you need to know and I need to tell you about it right now.  And all I want you to do is listen, not respond”.

I could see that Jane and Chuck or whoever the hell he was had just entered the far door of the bar. I figured I had three minutes maximum to prepare Selina for probably the biggest shock of her life so far.  If Jane stopped to get a drink, I had perhaps an extra couple of minutes.

“I know you have been seeing this guy, Charles isn’t it?” I say to Selina, holding her hand in mine and looking into her confused eyes.

“Yes, well, I went on one date with him, he stayed over and I haven’t heard from him since, why?” she said.

“Well Charles isn’t as squeaky clean as he makes out.  You see Charles has been seeing someone else.”  Selina starts to protest but I place my finger on her lips.

“Selina, I am one of your oldest friends and I would not lie to you.  For once in your stubborn life, just shut up and listen.  Charles also goes by the name of Chuck, a nickname from his childhood.  And Chuck or Charles or whatever you want to call him is in this bar right now” she starts to look around but I pull her face back to mine.

“Selina, Chuck is here to meet us.  Here to meet us with Jane.  Chuck is Jane’s mystery boyfriend”.  I let the news sink in and see the conflicting emotions cross her face.

“Jane?  Our Jane?  For real?  But he isn’t even her type.  Hell she doesn’t even have a type” she says in a fierce whisper.

“I spoke to her the other day Selina, she is very happy with him although god knows what you women see in him.  When I realised Chuck and Charles was one in the same person, I had to see him face to face to find out exactly what his intentions were, so I managed to have a quiet word with him.  He told me about both of you.  He said he had met Jane at the bank and how he had fallen for her but messed up by having a one night stand with the one and only Selina Simmons.  It’s Jane he wants Selina, not you” I said as gently as I could.

“Don’t be absurd Steve, when has anyone ever chosen Jane over me” she said but as she did so her eyes scanned the room.  I saw the tears filling her eyes.

“This time it is Jane and now you have two options.  You kick off and tell Charles what you think of him and at the same time, you ruin Jane’s life.  Or you paint on one of your false smiles and play the part for Jane.  Which is it going to be?” I ask.

Selina suddenly stands up and rushes to the bathroom.  Jane and Chuck arrive at the table.  Chuck acts the part well, acting like he has never met me.  We shake hands and I hug Jane tightly.  This is either going to be the night she dreamed of or the stuff of nightmares and that all depended on one person.

“Where’s Selina, I am sure she was here when we walked in” Jane asked looking around the immediate area.

“She had to go to the bathroom, I’ll go check on her, keep these seats” I say and make my off hastily.

As I reach the bathroom area, Chuck comes up behind me.

“Have you told Selina yet?” he asks wringing his hands nervously.

“Sure have.  I think you have a nerve going through with this night Charles.  I respect the fact you want to be with Jane but to put Selina through this, you are lucky I haven’t kicked you into touch.  She may be high maintenance but she didn’t deserve to be treated like that by you.  But you’ve made your choice and both Jane and Selina are my friends, so don’t be making any more mistakes or I will have something to say about it next time” I said pulling myself to my full 6’4” intimidating frame.

“I messed up, it happens Steve.  I’m not interested in Selina, I made a mistake.  I don’t want to hurt Jane.  Selina can have anyone she wants but I don’t want her, it is Jane I love” he says and I can see from years of experience that this guy is genuine.

“Yeah well a lot of guys may be interested in Selina but none of you deserve her.  I’ve loved her for as long as I have known her.  She was never interested in me and probably never will be.  I moved away for a time to try and get her out of my mind but the thing is when you know mate, you just do and I’ve known that if I can’t have Selina, then I’d rather have no one” I stop abruptly.  I’ve said too much, I surprised myself with my honesty.  But with it said, I felt a different person.  It was the first time I had admitted to anyone else.

“Go back to Jane, she will be wondering what on earth is going on” I say and as he walks away I turn towards the bathroom door ready to go in after Selina.

As I turn I see Selina standing there, arms clasped around her middle and streaks of mascara staining her face.

“Come on girl, let’s get you cleaned up” I say as I take an elbow and lead her back into the bathroom.

She just stands there by the sinks looking at me in the reflection of the mirror.

“Selina, Jane is waiting, please don’t ruin this for her” I say taking some tissue and wetting it under the faucet.  “Come here, let me wipe those streaks” I turn her towards me and she looks up at me with those big blue eyes and my heart breaks into yet another million pieces.

I start to wipe the marks from her perfect skin and push her hair away from her face.

“What a mess” she says.

“You look fine now,  see I’ve worked my magic.  Beautiful as ever” I say kissing her on the forehead.

She flings her arms around me and buries her head into my chest.  I’m not concerned with the mascara making it onto my crisp white shirt.  I just breathe in the scent of her hair and hold her in my arms.

“Hey, no more tears, it’s time to put on that smile and go greet your best friend” I say.

“I was there Steve, the whole time.  I heard what you said about me.  Did you mean it?  What you said about being in love with me”? she asks.

It wasn’t meant to come out like this.  I never would have told her how I felt, I respected our friendship too much.  But now it was out there and she was once again looking at me with those eyes.  All the years I have had to watch her go from boyfriend to boyfriend and I have kept silent.  All the times I have listened to her tears as yet another one breaks her heart.  Now here I was with the only chance I was ever going to get.

I leaned down and pressed my lips against hers, I felt her melt against me.  Just at that moment Jane burst through the door.

“What’s keeping you two……oh…………oops, sorry” she said embarrassed.

“We are just coming Jane, Selina was feeling a little under the weather but she is okay now aren’t you” I say.

“I’ll see you out there in a few minutes then” Jane says grinning at us from ear to ear and then she leaves and it is just Selina and me once again.

I smile at her and she smiles back.  Not one of those false ones she has practised so many times but a genuine Selina smile.

“You okay now sweetheart” I say to her.

She smiles, places her hand on my chest and reaching up she kisses me.  I crush her against me and kiss her back with an urgency that has been held for over fifteen years. 

With bruised lips and a giddy head, we walk back into the bar hand in hand.

“Hi I’m Selina and this is my partner Steve” she says smiling “it’s a pleasure to meet you at last”.

And as she eases into natural conversation, her hand never leaving mine, I wonder if just for once, the three of us have each found our own happy ending.  The happy ending we all deserve.