Yeah, course I know Scotty! I’ve known him pretty much all my life, since nursery school actually. He’s all right, bit miserable though. Hah! No, he’s just a bit moody at times – most of the time! You just got to get to know him, do you know what I mean? Cos I know him so well, I reckon I know what I can get away with, you know? See, I love a wind-up, me, and with Scotty you gotta know how far you can go. I’ve stitched him up and taken the mickey so much over the years but he always gets over it eventually. I just use a bit of the old Paulie magic! That’s what mates do, right? You gotta have a laugh, eh?
So, as I was saying, we’ve been mates all our lives, loads in common and that, I just wish he was a bit more like me. You gotta make the most of yourself, right? I’m a pretty good-looking bloke so I like to show that off and complement it with the right clothes. See, when I go out I like to dress for the occasion, right? Always clean-shaven, good shirt, smart jeans and nice pair of loafers. Girls love that. I like a good label – it tells people who you are, that you are smart, successful, a man of taste as they say. Makes a statement don’t it? Whereas he’ll rock up in a t-shirt and some tatty old trainers and think he looks good, you know? I mean, look at his hair – Lord knows when he last had that mop cut. My mate Gino does mine every month, no problem – he says my dark curls and my gear remind him of some of his family back home. I’ll take that! Gotta look good, ain’t ya? I like to have a nice healthy tan too. I’m on holiday twice a year and I wear shorts in the garden nine months of the year. Makes you feel better about yourself, knowing you look healthy. I try to keep myself trim too, I play a lot of sport, five-a-side football and cricket so I’m fit anyway, though it used to be a beer after the game but now its the game before the beers, you know what I mean? Nothing better than a couple of beers with your mates, is there? Have a laugh, down a few pints, sing a few songs and have a decent meal. Can’t beat a nice curry, eh?
Yeah, so, we used to play together in all the sports teams, he was all hard work and effort and that while I used a bit of skill, a little bit of the old Paulie magic! Everyone said how we made a good partnership, football especially. Course, I think he was always a bit jealous of me, you know? Just the way he would say things, like, being sarcastic and stuff like that. I didn’t mind, though. After all, friends forgive one another don’t they?
When we left school we moved on to college but didn’t I last all that long – I decided I was ready to start earning a bit of cash. This education lark wasn’t for me, couldn’t see how it was going to help me in the real world, in a job or something. So I quit college and got myself a job with So PC, the local IT superstore. It meant I didn’t see much of Scotty any more – he was well into his studies by now so I got stuck in to the job and football instead, making new mates along the way. I started out in the storeroom, shifting stock, packing and unpacking orders, making a lot of coffee! It didn’t take too long for me to show my skills though and soon enough I was using my patter and making sales left, right and centre. I was loving it and the customers were loving me too, there was nothing they didn’t need that I couldn’t sell to them: wireless keyboards, printers, disc cleaning kits, you name it.
It was a great time in my life. I was hanging around with a lot of the senior players at the football club, all confirmed bachelors with cash to spend, looking for a laugh and a willing girl. Obviously we had loads of nights out and regular drinking sessions after training and matches, visits to nightclubs and strip-bars most weekends. I was meeting loads of new people and plenty of girls who were more than happy to have a drink with me. It made me feel like I belonged to something, like my life had a purpose. Having so many mates made me feel ten feet tall, I loved the banter and the jokes, belonging to something that appreciate me, that wanted me, that valued me and respected me, that liked me. I was the youngest in the group but I made sure I was popular, buying plenty of drinks and always having a smile and a joke to share. I loved it, the feeling of being the centre of attention, of holding court and seeing all these lads hanging on my every word. I could go to work each day with a spring in my step knowing that I had a good night to look forward to at the end of it. Scotty would come along sometimes too, when he wasn’t too loved up with his latest girlfriend, you know?
I was gutted when I lost the job. What it was, right, it started when I done a deal for the football club to supply the gear for a new computer network for the board and officers to use. I went over with the delivery boys to make sure it all went nicely and collect the payment – I’d given them an extra discount for cash. It was a Friday afternoon, so after we finished unloading and sorting the money I had a couple of beers and a chat with some of the lads at the club. One thing led to another and, before you know it, it’s Saturday lunchtime and I’m in bed with a raging hangover. Turns out we went into town on the lash and I’ve treated the boys to a grand night.
I only dipped into the money from the club as a loan but I had to wait until the end of the month before I got paid (this was around the tenth) so I had three weeks to get through before I could fix it. I knew I was good for the money. The problem was, I owed my mum last month’s rent and then I maxed out the credit card and overdraft cos I had no more cash. By the time the end of the month came I’d already had to use the rest of the club’s money on a couple of nights out, so I used a bit of creativity – a little bit of the old Paulie magic! – to buy a bit more time. After a couple of months I thought I was in the clear – after all, no-one said anything to me about it, the computers were going down nicely at the club and everyone was happy. Then one day I got called in to see the sales director. I had been going great guns lately so was expecting a nice bonus or a lunch on him but it turned out the server at the club had gone down and as my mobile was going to answer phone the general manager had contacted the office. As they say: easy come easy go!
I soon got myself back on my feet, kept my head down, found a new job working for Bitparts, a car parts firm, moved in with my sister and paid off most of what I owed. I was getting a bit lonely though, not being able to play at the club where most of my mates hung out. Those that didn’t were all getting married and having kids so were never interested in socializing anyway. One afternoon in town I bumped into a girl I used to know, Danielle, who in those days was hanging around with a different crowd. We arranged to meet up and after a few nights out we were getting on well and I realised how much I liked her – she was lovely, expensively stylish, with beautiful red hair, striking green eyes and lovely creamy smooth skin. She was the sort who was never seen without her lip gloss, you know what I mean? Her hair was always immaculate, like she just stepped out of the salon, she always wore nice dresses and I don’t think I saw her wear the same pair of shoes twice. She was high maintenance and a bit posh but I was on the up and up and I used my famous charm and wit to win her round. The old Paulie magic again!
Danielle’s mum and dad had a lovely big house and after a few months I’d managed to get myself an invitation to get off my sister’s sofa and move in. I got on really well with her family and it was nice to feel part of that, to be accepted into the fold. Her dad especially made me feel that I was a genuine part of the family, like I was more than just a potential son-in-law. It made me feel great to be liked that way, it reminded me of the good old days at the football club and I didn’t want to lose that feeling again. I made sure I kept them happy, with regular flowers for her mum and the odd bottle of port for him. Things were nice and cosy for a while but just as I was getting comfortable she told me we needed some space and she wanted us to get a place of our own.
Now, I ain’t one to shy away from my responsibilities, so as Danielle’s parents were going to put up the deposit I thought it would be only fair if I matched it. That way we could get a nicer place and a better mortgage deal too. Like I said, I got on with her family and her dad especially but he was an old-school type and expected me to step up and look after his daughter. I managed to get a new credit card and another overdraft from the bank to cover it. Sorted.
I managed to get hold of Scotty again too, so we went out for a few beers and a catch-up. It had been a few years and he’d changed a bit, mind. He didn’t socialize much and had got himself into a serious relationship, a career and had some high-minded ideas about life. I soon brought him back down to earth, though, reminded him who he was and where he belonged. What are friends for?
So life was sweet. Danielle was all I wanted in a girl. She was gorgeous, glamorous, fun and with a lovely welcoming family. She had a nice car and a good job that, together with my wages and a new loan I’d managed to get from one of those companies that advertise on tv, meant we could start collecting all the stuff we needed for our new house: furniture, tv, all the gear. I had been nervous, buying a house is a big step but Danielle was sure it was the right thing for us and so it proved. It really changed me, made me grow up. I realised that giving Danielle what she wanted was the most important thing for me. We loved each other and I needed to make sure it stayed that way, do you know what I mean? Soon enough we were talking about the future, maybe having a family. I really needed to be a good man, right? Provide for Danielle and maybe a couple of kids, make them feel secure and loved, especially if Danielle decided to give up work. She needed new clothes and shoes, we wanted to go on holidays and the new place needed some decorating so I worked hard to make sure she had what she wanted.
So when I got laid off last year it was a bit of a blow. I thought something would turn up soon enough so rather than worry Danielle I decided I’d wait until I got a new job, then just give her the good news. I kept myself busy, looking for work and that – sometimes just wandering the streets, keeping my eyes open for an opportunity, maybe an odd job that someone needed help with. Often I was just touring the local pubs but at least it meant I was out of the house so she didn’t find out. When the letters started coming I put them in a draw for safe keeping – I didn’t want the bank to ruin the surprise and in any case I could sort them all out when I got a new job. Things were getting a bit tight, and what with him being a good mate and that, I didn’t think he’d mind. In fact I knew he would want to help me out, so that’s when I got the card. The one in Scotty’s name.