“My God, you’re here. I can’t believe you’ve made it. You’re actually here in New York. Let me look at you.”
Joel stood at the door of his loft apartment on West 43rd Street. He stepped back so that he could admire her, obviously happy to see Belinda standing there in front of him.
“I told you I’d come. And here I am.” she said, smiling at him, waiting for a hug.


They had met on safari in Africa almost two years ago . Joel had offered the usual ‘if you’re ever in New York, look me up’ line that one does after spending an amazing time together and as usual with such invitations, neither of them seriously expected to see the other again. It would have been difficult not to get involved, living in such close proximity for six weeks but it was when their raft capsized on the river Zambezi that their friendship was affirmed. They floated down the river, crocodiles on either side, and it had been Joel who had come to Belinda’s rescue and hauled her back into the boat. After such a near death experience, their intimacy had been inevitable. But it was their shared sense of humour - dry, witty and sarcastic, that made sure their friendship would last.

There had been tears when they said goodbye at Nairobi airport - but they always knew that their romance would end when the trip finished. They both had ‘other halves’ back home, and once they parted they were catapulted back to reality, to the status of ‘just good friends.’

Joel was going home to Emma, his fiancé and Belinda seemed destined to be with Tim, her long-standing boyfriend. Africa had just been a last bite at independence before they settled down. They kept in touch - the occasional e-mail, Christmas cards, the odd chatty postcard from some distant corner of the world with the words ‘wish you were here’ written boldly on the top, but nothing more.

When Belinda broke up with Tim, she decided that the best medicine was a trip to the ‘Big Apple’ for a large dose of retail therapy. She e-mailed Joel and asked if she could stay with them for a few days. Belinda knew that a few days with Joel and his wicked sense of humour was exactly what she needed.

Joel replied immediately: ‘I’d love nothing more than to catch up. Stay as long as you like.
PS. Emma and I are no longer together - we broke up a couple of weeks ago. You’re welcome to stay, but only on condition that you don’t ask me to explain. Love Joel.’

Belinda, although intrigued, was also relieved; being completely selfish she quickly realised that she wouldn’t have to listen to him complaining about his break up. She would have his total, undivided attention and full commitment to a much more important matter - cheering her up. The perfect friend, she thought.


“Aren’t you going to show me this wonderful city of yours? I thought this was the city that never sleeps!” Belinda was naturally filled with excitement. After leaving Cornwall that morning it really did feel like ‘bright lights, big city,’ which of course it was. She felt as if she had arrived in another world, one full of people, life and action. New York’s buzz had been apparent since the moment she arrived. Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge lit up at night with the view of the Manhattan skyline behind, her spirits had lifted at once.

‘Who’s Tim?’ She said under her breath as the taxi sped towards Downtown New York.

It was great to see Joel again, but when she looked at him while he gathered his coat and keys, he looked different somehow, not the happy-go-lucky chap that she had known in Africa. But then everybody looks different when they are tanned, relaxed and on holiday. Tonight he looked tired and stressed, with a sadness that she hadn’t witnessed before.

Belinda, being naturally gregarious, decided that it was fate that had brought her to New York; her job was to cheer him up and put a smile back on his handsome, rugged face.

As they stepped out onto the street, the place was busy, people still milling around. Lovers walking each other home, another three people jogging. Belinda glanced at her watch, her body unsure of the time. Jet-lag affects everybody differently, however one thing remains the same - your watch says one time, but your body feels another. It was 3am.

“My God, I can’t believe how many people there are wandering around the streets. It’s the middle of the night.” Belinda said, as she linked her arm through Joel’s.

“But this is New York - the city that never sleeps. Let’s go and get some coffee.”

“Will there be somewhere open at this time of night?”

Joel laughed. To him it was the most natural thing in the world, to go and get a coffee when you wanted it, day or night. But Belinda lived in Cornwall, where it’s impossible to get anything after 8pm, and then only on weekdays.
“I think I love it here already,” she said as they walked along to the coffee shop.

When they reached the tiny coffee shop, the smell of freshly baked pastries was gently drifting out onto the streets, obviously designed to lure any wandering insomniacs inside. Belinda couldn’t believe how many people were having trouble sleeping on a Monday night in early December. New York gets really cold during the winter months; it was a welcome haven to go inside the warm, snug shop.

“Hiya Joel,” the small man behind the counter glanced across at them when they entered, and gave a small salute as they sat down.

“Luigi,” Joel nodded. “Two lattes.”

“Coming right up,”

“Do you come here often?” Belinda giggled as she realised what she had just said. It was a silly question, but she wanted to know about Joel in his home town. How did he spend his days, where did he hang out, who with, and what did happen between him and Emma that was making him so reluctant to talk about it.

Belinda was determined not to ask about Emma. In one way she didn’t want to know, but in another, because she was naturally nosy and female, she did. When they were in Africa, he had seemed besotted with her. She was the girl of his dreams, he said. The wedding date had been fixed for Spring. They were, he said, perfect for one another. She was from a rich family who owned an art gallery on the Upper East Side. They had a weekend house at the Hamptons and a town house over by Central Park, the adjacent building to the Dakota where John Lennon was shot. Joel had explained that Emma was witty, intelligent and not the air-head that one normally associates with ‘old money’ from the East Coast. Emma had sounded too good to be true, but Belinda had conceded; she made Joel happy and that was good enough. Belinda knew that whatever had happened between them, it had obviously been something very serious. When Belinda split up with Tim, she knew exactly why and it was easy to discuss. The guy was an arsehole; always had been and always would be.

“I know we said that we wouldn’t talk about Emma, but what did happen between you two?” Belinda couldn’t help herself, she had to ask.

The minute Belinda mentioned Emma’s name, she watched Joel’s entire body stiffen. He folded his arms and ran his hand through his dark, curly hair.

“I really don’t want to talk about it. Let’s talk about you instead; tell me about Tim. It’s much more fun to listen to you.”

Joel was a master at changing the subject. He had learned in Africa that with Belinda it was easy, particularly if he asked about her favourite subject - herself.

“The man turned out to be a creep. No, actually I think he was always a creep, I was just blind, and stupid. It took me a while to see it, but I got there in the end. Do you know the jerk had the nerve to ask me out again after we broke up. And after I caught him kissing my flat mate in my flat. What a bastard. I hate men.” She looked across at Joel, waiting to see his reaction, but he was still staring into his coffee cup.

“No, that’s not true. I hate most men, present company excluded of course. I think you’re an okay guy.”

Joel smiled, “Maybe it was fate that brought you here to visit me. God put you on this earth, I swear to God, so that you could cheer me up.”

They sat sipping their latte’s, reminiscing about Africa, and finally Belinda, still no wiser about Joel’s love life, began to feel tired. They ambled back to Joel’s loft and he showed her to her room.

“I’m really glad I came. It’s great to see you again. Thank you for letting me bend your ear about Tim. Sleep well, see you in the morning.” Belinda kissed him lightly on the cheek.

“Goodnight. Sleep tight.” Joel said, as he stood watching her close the bedroom door.


Belinda woke early, her body still confused by the time. She could smell freshly brewed coffee wafting through the loft. She walked into the dining room and Joel was putting out the fresh pastries that he had fetched from Luigi’s.

“Sleep well?” he asked as she scratched her head, dazzled by the bright low winter sun shining through the window.

“Mmm, not bad. And you?” Belinda walked over to the pastries and bit into the pain au chocolat while Joel poured the coffee.

“I’ve got the whole day planned. We are going to shop until you drop for the whole morning. Then I thought we’d take the helicopter and do the bird’s eye view of Manhattan. Lunch at the Waldorf Astoria - I’ve made a reservation for 2 o’clock. We’ve also got to do the Empire State Building, and Wall Street. And tomorrow, we’ll do whatever we don’t do today. We are going to ‘do’ New York City. So eat quickly. There’s so much I want to show you.”

Joel’s spirits seemed much higher this morning. Perhaps he was just tired last night, Belinda thought.

Belinda felt like she hadn’t been to bed. Too much coffee late at night, coupled with the excitement of being in New York with Joel, now single, she had lain awake for hours just thinking and now she felt like death. But there was no way she was going to miss a moment of fun in New York just because she felt tired.


Joel proved to be the perfect host. Not only did he pay for everything, but he also made her laugh all day. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had so much fun - probably in Africa, the last time she was with him.

“I wish today could never end,” she told him, as she lay exhausted on his massive cream sofa.

“All good things must come to an end, sadly. I wish today could last forever too.” Joel sat on the floor beside her, his hands resting gently on her knee, a sadness welling in his voice.


It seemed like Belinda had just that minute fallen asleep when the sound of banging woke her up.

“Open up. Police. Open up. This is the police.” They were hammering on the door, shouting loud enough to wake up the whole of Manhattan.

“What the hell is going on?” Joel asked, as he staggered to the door in his boxers.

“We have a warrant to search your apartment Mr Nash.” The policeman thrust his way into the apartment, while Joel stood in the doorway rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“What the fuck do you think you are doing for Christ’s sake?” Joel asked, as the policeman shoved him out of the way.

“What’s going on Joel. What’s wrong?” Belinda stood in the middle of the room looking across at him. It was odd, Belinda thought, as she watched his reaction. He didn’t seem shocked, or surprised - it was if he had been anticipating it. Perhaps not tonight, but he had definitely been expecting their visit.

“Check the bedroom,” the plain clothes officer shouted to the gorilla in the uniform.

“I’ve found it. You’d better come in here and take a look at this.” Belinda, Joel, and the four cops went into the bedroom. Inside the bedroom cupboard, there were three large bags of white powder. Belinda knew nothing of drugs, but knew that Joel wouldn’t keep that much talcum powder in a bedside cupboard. He always smelled nice, but that was going too far. Besides, Belinda was not naive enough to think that the police would be interested in such vast quantities of talcum.

“Joel, what’s going on?” Suddenly, Belinda was beginning to feel scared as it dawned on her that she was in a strange country, staying with someone she thought she knew and the police were reading him his rights, telling him to remain silent and if he didn’t, they’d use it against him.

“I’m sorry Belinda. I didn’t mean for you to get involved in any of this. Sorry.” Joel was being handcuffed to the policeman and the officers were leading him towards the door.

“We’ve had him under surveillance for the last six months, ma’am. Your lover is one of the biggest drug dealers in this goddam city. I swear to God I’m going to nail this bastard if it’s the last thing I do.” The police officer was grinning at her, enjoying every minute of arresting Joel, the drug baron.
Belinda stood there, stunned, watching her friend being led away by the police. He seemed so nice, she thought. If my mom could see me now. Standing here in this gorgeous apartment in my pyjamas, the friend of a drug dealer. Belinda began to laugh as she thought about what her mother would think. Her laughter grew louder and louder as she stood there, suddenly all alone in New York.