I was hoping that she’d understand but when I told her she almost choked on the grape she was eating. We were having dinner at Caesar’s and it caused quite a scene. Men rushed over to her and she positively lapped up all the attention. She went a little too far, if you ask me, and milked it.
She loves eating at Caesar’s. It’s very grand. The main entrance alone is lined with marble statues and fig trees, covered by a pergola of vines. When Cleopatra walks underneath it, I hang back and watch. She’s recently developed a very feline walk, one perfect fluid movement.
She’s forever preening herself, too. Since she perfected the sweep of black kohl from the outer edge of her eye up to the end of her brow, she’s been transformed. I like to think that I helped her create that look. I told her once that I thought it would look dramatic with her green eyes. I even smudged some in the corner of her eye to show her what I meant. Then one evening – I think we were dining at Caesar’s that night too – she came out of her bedroom and she looked incredible. With a thick arc above each eye, my beautiful friend had become a more exotic, sensuous creature.
I think that’s when I first started to feel that I was losing her.
It’s a real shame. We’ve known each other since we were little girls. Both our families were pleased when Cleopatra invited me to live with her. My parents thought that she would take me out of myself and help me gain some confidence and her family hoped I would be a calming influence in her life. She always has been wilful and impulsive.
I’m not sure how to explain some of the bizarre habits that she’s developed. But I have accepted all, except this last one. Beautiful, charming, quick-witted and wily, but she can also be a moody mare, which is probably why Cleo is refusing to compromise for me.
We’re back home now and I can hear her crying in her room. It’s quite a performance and I wonder how long she will keep it up. I would love for her to come and sit with me, to talk things through. But it doesn’t sound likely to happen anytime soon. So, instead, I sit here in the dark and think about the times we’ve spent together.
She wasn’t always called Cleopatra. Her real name – the name I knew her by when we were children – was Leah.
Everyone has one truly beautiful friend and Leah was mine. She had long black hair that she could sit on and the palest ivory skin. I was always jealous of that.
Leah and I lost touch for a time. She got a place at Oxford to read Egyptology. I went to the other end of the country to study English.
We saw each other again one Christmas and went out for drinks. Leah was living and working in London and I had just come home from a stint teaching English in Italy. Leah suggested that I move in with her. Initially, it worked out well but things started to change about a year ago.
I came back from holiday and noticed that there were cat ornaments everywhere, prisms hanging in the windows and the fridge was full of toblerone bars. Leah said it was the only chocolate she would eat from now on. That, and walnut whips.
I asked her what she’d been up to while I’d been away but all she said was that she’d been bored without me and hadn’t really done much. She’d surfed the Internet, got some ideas and brightened up the flat a bit.
The following week she brought home the first kitten. I was upset she hadn’t asked me first. Isis was joined by two more in the next few weeks – Amun and Ramses.
I came home from work one day and found her on the living room floor wrapped in the rug. She was rolling around, giggling, celebrating her name change. That’s when she first asked me to call her Cleopatra.
It was about this time that we started going to Caesar’s, a pretty exclusive restaurant in Knightsbridge, that specializes in fish dishes. I think either Marc or Antony must have taken her there.
Yes, the Marc Antony situation. I don’t know how she managed to meet them both. When she started this Cleopatra business, Jennifer Lopez had just married the singer Marc Antony. I spent weeks worrying that she would drag me off to America to distract JLo while Cleo moved in on her husband. Thankfully, she didn’t do that. Although when she did find her own homegrown versions, they were just as married.
It’s certainly not been dull living with Cleopatra but I’ve adjusted to the sand and ochre-coloured rooms, the new furnishings, the changing diet, the bowls of grapes and figs and dates placed about the flat. I no longer mind finding kohl smudges all over the place. She can roll around in the rugs if she wants to and I’ve almost grown to like the cats.
I don’t even mind people’s stares when Cleo and I go out together anymore. Her dress sense has altered dramatically in the past year and I stopped borrowing her clothes a few months back.
No, the final straw was the bath. That’s why I’m moving out. I walked in one day and Cleo was filling it with pint after pint. I started to itch and gag just watching her pour a churning mass of dairy into the tub.
And me with my lactose intolerance and milk allergy.