Chapter 1 In Which Our Hero Messes Everything Up Good And Proper

Oh no. She's just used the word 'callous'. What on earth does that mean? Quick decision: do I a) rely on her judgement, agree, and hope that, in finishing my sentence, she hasn't altered the meaning beyond all possible comprehension, or b) tell her I don't know and risk halting the flow of a perfectly good argument while she explains?

I choose the latter. Luckily, by the time I have, she's already moved on to another attack on my mental processes or lack thereof. She, incidentally, being Imogen. My best friend and, currently, not my best friend at all.

"Yes, it does sound callous" – that word again – "In fact, more than callous...it sounds bloody stupid, because callous implies you've put some sort of thought into being callous when, in fact, you clearly haven't at all..."

I quickly jump in while she takes a breath.

"I'm sure it does, but the thing is, I'm not really sure quite...exactly...in fact at all...what callous mea..."

Too late. The army of venomous truthfulness marching from her lips has regrouped and is launching another fierce attack on my already weary and beleaguered infantry, who are currently flying the colours of 'complete twat'.

"You know, the only relationship of any sort we have at the moment is based on the fact that we get on really well...but you're the world's most incredibly indecisive person. And funnily enough, that's not something I'm prepared to accept, possibly because I stupidly have ambitions to be more than just some sort of stop-gap."

And they're through! It's carnage! They're slaughtering them left, right and centre! There are hands…feet…heads…all flying through the air! It's a complete massacre!

"Are you even listening? I don't even believe this. Chris, this is just pointless–" Damn, she used my name. I was almost managing to convince myself that these vituperations were aimed at some invisible third person present. "– we can't have a proper conversation about this while you're not paying any attention. I'm sorry I was actually brainless enough to imagine that we could have a mature discussion about something which happens to actually mean quite a lot to me. But it doesn't matter."

"Hang on. Conversation? It's hardly a conversation. Not unless I've been mistaken all along, and in fact conversation means 'listening while one person talks solidly at you for half-an-hour while not allowing you to get a word in edgeways'."

Okay, I didn't actually say that. It would have been neither big nor clever – attempting to score cheap shots while in a 'conversation' with a woman is never a good idea, unless you want to eat through a tube for the rest of your natural life. And, call me crazy, but I've grown rather attached to the idea of teeth.

"You're going to have to make a choice. And, if you don't, I'm going to have to make it for you - I can't force you to like me in this magical, glittery, perfect way you want so much, so you're just going to have to go away and wait for Mrs Hypothetical. There's no way I'm going to kid myself, all the while playing second fiddle to someone who probably doesn't even exist. Sorry about that Chris, but you can't have it all. Perhaps it's time you learnt this harsh fact of life and grew up a bit. Wait, make that a lot."