Magnificent Joe
ringing endorsement.’
    â€˜You know what I mean.’
    â€˜Don’t worry about it, Geoff. Anyway, your best man should be your brother.’
    â€˜Little bastard. I caught him perving at her the other day.’
    â€˜You can hardly blame him – she’s pretty fit.’
    Geoff sighed and sat down on the other bed.
    â€˜Geoff, what’s wrong? You were dead happy before. You couldn’t believe your luck.’
    â€˜That’s the fucking problem. I don’t believe my luck. I know it’s fucking stupid, but I just cannat stop worrying, you know?’
    â€˜Geoff, I’m not the best person to ask about relationships. I’ve never had one.’ Geoff just sighed again, so Jim said, ‘What are you worried about?’
    â€˜About everything you’ve been saying, man. That she’s beautiful, and she’s nice, and she’s just…’ Geoff trailed off in a growl of frustration and hammered his fists on his thighs. ‘Too fucking good for me, that’s what.’
    â€˜Well, she must think you’re all right. She’s fucking marrying you.’
    â€˜I keep telling myself that, but then I keep thinking that she’s going to get bored of me in the end. I’m fat and I’m boring.’
    â€˜Jesus Christ, man. It’ll be more than just boredom she feels if you carry on like that. You’ve got to pull yourself together.’
    â€˜I’m serious, though. What’s going to happen a few years down the line?’
    â€˜Fucking hell, Geoff. I’m no expert, but I think most people generally consider that before their wedding day.’
    â€˜It’s not fucking funny.’
    â€˜Do you see me laughing?’
    Geoff stood up and looked out of the window, his back to Jim. Jim glanced at his watch. Barry would be here at any moment, and Jim suddenly felt sick.
    â€˜Geoff, have you talked to anyone else about this?’
    â€˜No. Just you.’
    Geoff put his forehead on the glass and sighed. ‘It was all right until we said we were getting married and now I’m just fucking sick to death of hearing people say, “You’ve done well for yourself.” Like no fucker can believe it. It makes me feel like a fucking maggot.’
    Jim realized that Geoff was close to tears and he dug his fingernails into his palms in embarrassment and pity. He didn’t know what to say to his friend. The sound in Geoff’s voice reminded Jim of a day – years ago, shortly before Geoff left school – when a girl Geoff secretly fancied had called him ‘Spotty McBlobby’ to his face. Geoff had burst into tears and thrown a chair across their form room.
    A mad thought flickered like a knackered light bulb in Jim’s head: tell him the truth. Jim shook it off. It was far too late for that. All Jim could do now was make sure that Geoff got down the aisle without incident.
    â€˜Well, you’re marrying her. You’re going to get out there and you’re going to show them.’ Jim tried hard to make his voice sound casual, as if it was all just a matter of fact.
    â€˜Everyone’ll be laughing behind their hands. Even my own bloody brother.’
    â€˜Bollocks. Anyway, who cares what they think? This is between you and Laura, and no other bugger’s opinion matters.’
    Geoff sat on the edge of the bed again and rubbed the back of his neck. ‘Thing is, mate…I don’t know if I can keep up with her. She’s so’ – Geoff screwed his eyes shut – ‘ experienced .’
    Jim laughed despite himself. ‘You fucking idiot. Is that what this is all about?’
    No answer.
    Jim sighed. Other than the odd detail dropped into workday banter, Jim had no idea what Laura had told Geoff about her past. Jim would have to be careful about what he said, but all he could think of was, ‘It’s a damn sight better than marrying someone who’s

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