If youre not the one, p.1

If You're Not the One, page 1

 

If You're Not the One
 



Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font   Night Mode Off   Night Mode

If You're Not the One


  JEMMA FORTE grew up wanting to write for Cosmopolitan magazine, be a famous actress or work in a shoe shop (she loved the foot-measuring device in Clarks). Her parents didn’t want her to go to stage school because, according to them, she was ‘precocious enough already’. However, they actively encouraged her obsession with reading and writing and she wrote her first book, ‘Mizzy the Germ’, when she was eight. She sent it to a publisher (unwittingly backing up the whole precocious theory) and was dismayed when for some reason they didn’t want it.

  Years later, due to The Kids from Fame (and she blames them entirely), her desire to perform hadn’t abated. Hundreds of letters, show-reels and auditions later she finally became a Disney Channel presenter in 1998. After Disney, Jemma went on to present shows for ITV, BBC1, BBC2 and C4 and, when not busy writing, can still be found talking rubbish on telly to this day. If You’re Not the One is Jemma’s third novel. She lives in London with her children, Lily and Freddie.

  If You’re Not the One

  Jemma Forte

  www.mirabooks.co.uk

  For my nephew. Welcome to the world.

  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

  Writing a book is a solitary activity. Getting it on the shelves, however, is a hugely collaborative effort, so I have a lot of people to thank. Enormous thanks must go to my publishers, MIRA. I am so happy to be with you and your enthusiasm and passion is refreshing and wonderful. In particular, many thanks must go to my brilliant editor, Sally Williamson, and fantastic agent, Madeleine Milburn. Like David Seaman, you are both a pair of ‘safe hands’. Unlike David Seaman, you’re pretty and don’t have big moustaches. Thanks must also go to Claudia Webb.

  Writing this book has coincided with a pretty turbulent period in my life. Thanks to my family for seeing me through it. There are times when that ‘blood is thicker than water’ business really rings true and times when frankly your family are the only people who will put up with you. Of course, they don’t have much choice. You’re related, you’re not going anywhere and there’s no getting out of seeing you over Christmas. So thank you for steering me through to the other side and not drowning me along the way. I don’t know what I would have done without you all and will never forget your kindness, patience and support. Dad, Sally, Mum, Mauro, Jessica, Isabel, Paddy, Jim, Harry and Imogen, you are the best bunch of freaks known to man and I love you all to bits. As ever, thank you also to those of you who read an early draft, gave me notes and encouraged me to carry on.

  Ooh, after that rather earnest bit I find myself suddenly overcome by a strong desire to dilute it by writing ‘big shout-out’, like I’m on the radio—I might go with it…Big shout-out to Lily and Freddie, the two best kids in the world. You’re both spectacular little monkeys and I look forward to embarrassing you for many more years to come. I know only too well how lucky I am to have children who people actually like inviting round for tea. Thank you for being so gorgeous and for being kind. Kind is good.

  My friends. What a bunch! You’re all fabulous. I’d like to mention the usual suspects of course, my life-long friends Becky Rolfe, Alessia Small and Stroma Inglis. And very special thanks must also go to Fiona Wright, Nigel Mitchell, Charlotte Woodward, Laura Slader and Carmel Allen for various reasons, which mainly involve them being incredible, caring and/or helpful friends in one way or another.

  As for Sarah Jane Wright, I don’t even know where to start, so we’re just going to have to go out for cocktails and take it from there. I love you loads and don’t know how I’ll ever thank you.

  Now, last, but definitely not least, to Ross. Not a day goes by when I don’t think, ‘God, you’re tall.’ Then, after that, I ponder on how lucky I am to have you in my life and to have your friendship. You’re amazing, a one-off, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your input on this book (you were right about the ending, of course you were) and everything else you do for me, including making me laugh, a lot. I could go on, but know how much you hate compliments and how unbelievably bad you are at taking them, so instead I’ll just say, ‘Sofa’ and hope that that says it all.

  Table of Contents

  Cover

  About the Author

  Title Page

  Dedication

  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

  PROLOGUE

  ONE WEEK EARLIER—FRIDAY

  THE PAST—AIDAN

  PRESENT DAY

  SATURDAY

  THE PAST—AIDAN

  PRESENT DAY

  TUNNEL NUMBER ONE

  PRESENT DAY

  SUNDAY

  THE PAST—TIM

  PRESENT DAY

  TUNNEL NUMBER ONE

  TUNNEL NUMBER ONE

  THE PAST—MAX

  THE PAST—TIM

  THE PAST—MAX

  MONDAY

  TUESDAY

  PRESENT DAY

  TUNNEL NUMBER TWO

  PRESENT DAY

  TUNNEL NUMBER TWO

  WEDNESDAY

  THE PAST—MAX

  WEDNESDAY CONTINUED

  THE PAST—STEVE

  PRESENT DAY

  TUNNEL NUMBER ONE

  THURSDAY

  THE PAST—STEVE

  PRESENT DAY

  TUNNEL NUMBER TWO

  TUNNEL NUMBER TWO

  TUNNEL NUMBER TWO

  PRESENT DAY

  THE PAST—MAX

  FRIDAY MORNING—THE DAY OF THE ACCIDENT

  PRESENT DAY

  TUNNEL NUMBER THREE

  TUNNEL NUMBER THREE

  PRESENT DAY

  TUNNEL NUMBER THREE

  PRESENT DAY

  TUNNEL NUMBER THREE

  FRIDAY—THE DAY OF THE ACCIDENT

  PRESENT DAY

  EPILOGUE

  Author Q&A

  Extract

  Copyright

  PROLOGUE

  Friday May 18th

  Jennifer Wright slammed the door and ran down the road as fast as her ill-fitting footwear would allow her to, tears blurring her vision. She didn’t care who saw her. All she was conscious of was her need to get away from her husband and his ability to hurt her. Not that he was letting her get away that easily.

  ‘Jen,’ Max yelled down the road, clearly in no mood to consider what the neighbours might be thinking. ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing? Come back. For goodness sake, you’ve made your point.’

  Jennifer ignored him. If anything, she picked up the pace, wishing it was dark so her flit could go unnoticed. She’d always loved living in the suburbs of South West London partly because everybody looked out for everybody else. Today however, it would have suited her far better if she’d lived in a place where people didn’t give a damn about their neighbours. That way she could have wailed like a banshee and charged down the road without worrying she’d provided the man on the other side of the street (the dull husband of the quite nice woman at number forty-two) with a juicy bit of gossip.

  She’d caught his look of alarm as he’d taken in her tear-stained face and heavy coat, which was far too warm for this unusually clement May evening. Not that there was any way she was taking it off, for what Jennifer knew, but the man from number forty-two didn’t, was that all she had on underneath was a bra, a G-string, suspenders and stockings. The killer heels she’d originally teamed the whole ensemble with had been kicked off mid-argument, replaced by the footwear that happened to be nearest the front door, a revolting pair of lace-ups, usually reserved purely for gardening purposes. Without woolly socks, her stockinged feet were slopping about inside them.

  Panting with exertion, Jennifer finally came to the end of the street. Briefly she turned round to see what Max was doing. She could just about still make him out, hanging out of their front door, obviously in two mind
s about what to do given that their children were sleeping inside.

  Screw him.

  Karen.

  That’s who she needed.

  Fumbling in her pocket with shaky hands, Jennifer found her mobile which she’d had the sense to grab on her way out.

  Half walking, half running now, she rounded the corner onto the busy main road and scrolled through her phone looking for her best friend’s number. Wiping her face with the back of her hand she managed to rub away some tears but was surprised by how persistently they kept on coming. Briefly she acknowledged that there was a huge possibility she was having a nervous breakdown.

  As she headed for the zebra crossing she listened to Karen’s phone ringing and prayed she’d pick up. She did.

  ‘Oh Karen,’ Jennifer managed, speaking loudly against the traffic, choking on tears again.

  ‘Oh my god, what is it? What’s wrong?’

  The concern in her voice almost floored Jennifer for a second. Thank god Karen’s house was only ten minutes away. She couldn’t get there soon enough. If only she’d chosen a less hot coat.

  ‘Oh Karen, it’s all gone wrong and I just don’t think I can do this any more…’ Jennifer broke off, half stumbling over an uneven bit of pavement. Wretched shoes. Then a bus whizzed past just as Karen was answering. It completely drowned out her response which forced Jennifer to say, ‘Come again Karen, I couldn’t hear you.’

  ‘I said where are you? Do you want to come round?’

  ‘Yes please,’ Jennifer wailed, putting one foot out onto the road.

  ‘Good,’ said Karen ‘Well just come straight away and I’ll open a…’

  But Jennifer never got to hear what her friend was going to open (though forced to guess she would have gone with a textbook bottle of dry white wine), because at this point her phone was flying high up into the air and she was staring at it aghast, wondering why everything had suddenly gone into slow motion. At the same time, although she didn’t exactly feel it, she was also aware of the most enormous impact, of the most sickening crunching sound and of the metallic taste of fear, dread and regret coursing through her body which was now being flung skywards having been hit very hard by a car. For a brief moment, just as gravity was about to take command and begin Jennifer’s terrifying and brutal descent towards the hard ground and the bonnet of a Ford Fiesta, she was filled with an illogical, yet undeniable sense of embarrassment. For the thought entering her brain at that precise moment was that there was a strong chance that whoever was driving and/or an ambulance team were about to discover what she had on under her coat.

  And that was the last conscious thought she was to have for a very long time to come…

  ONE WEEK EARLIER—FRIDAY

  Jennifer Wright hadn’t been entirely sure for a while now if she really liked her husband any more. As a result she’d been suffering from a sort of creeping, low-level anxiety for months. The thought of living out the remainder of her days in the suburbs with him terrified her, and she’d lost count of how many times she’d been struck by one solitary thought: Is this it?

  To some degree, it was less a thought, more a feeling. She was only thirty-eight but felt like she was hurtling in slow motion towards middle age and decrepitude, while swept up in an unstoppable snowball of routine, malaise and domesticity. Lately, she could be in the middle of any number of mundane tasks, when from nowhere she’d be practically knocked over by a violent urge to run barefoot through long grass, dance till dawn (preferably on some form of narcotic), sleep in a yurt, or, failing that, to have the sort of passionate, filthy sex with a stranger that would leave her panting and covered in a film of sweat.

  But Jennifer was a married mother of two, with a part-time job, and was fully aware, not only of how wildly inappropriate these yearnings were, but also how…impractical. There’d be consequences, ones she didn’t have the heart to deal with, and besides, these days, if she danced till dawn it would take her at least a week to recover and quite frankly they couldn’t afford the childcare.

  ‘Is this it?’ whispered her subconscious, again. The thought it might be freaked her out to say the least. However, at a loss to know what to do about any of it, she’d decided simply to wait things out, to try and remain positive, keep taking the Prozac and not to jump out of a window, for the time being.

  Until one Friday evening in May that is, when Jennifer decided it was time to take matters into her own hands.

  All relationships went through patches, she thought determinedly, clipping on her suspender belt and adjusting her newly bought black and red bra whilst manhandling her boobs into it. She owed it not just to herself but also to her children to try and make things better. Although she’d been hovering round the notion of what might happen were she and Max to split up, it was too terrifying a prospect to face head on as an actual possibility. And besides, after eleven years of togetherness she still loved Max. It was just a shame it was such a familiar, unexciting version of love, which occasionally had the tendency to veer off into violent hatred territory. The fact they hadn’t had sex for over four months wasn’t helping matters either.

  Feeling surprisingly nervous Jennifer pulled open her wardrobe door so she could appraise herself in the full-length mirror that hung behind it.

  Wow. She hadn’t looked this tarty in a long time. The evening sunlight poured through her bedroom window, bathing the entire room in a golden glow, highlighting her cellulite and the fact they desperately needed a new carpet.

  At first Jennifer felt incredibly self-conscious, standing there, trussed up in broad daylight. Eventually however, she grudgingly admitted that she kind of got away with it. She’d always had an hourglass figure and these days it was probably covered by less flesh than it had been even pre-children. In her twenties she’d taken her figure for granted. Post-partum however, not only had she been hit with the realisation that actually she wasn’t immortal, she had also worked out that she was stood at a fairly major crossroads. One way led to elasticated waists, one-piece swimsuits and never being able to reveal her upper arms again, the other to still being able to look good in the odd bit from Top Shop, skinny jeans and the vaguely hateful yet better than frumpy ‘yummy mummy’ moniker. Terrified by the prospect of turning into her mother Jennifer had jogged determinedly in one direction, started doing boot camp at the park twice a week and stopped eating cake.

  She peered at her face, wondering vaguely how old a complete stranger would guess she was. There was no denying she was in the midst of her fourth decade and yet it was hard to pinpoint exactly what it was that was different about her face now to how it had been in her twenties. Yet that difference was undeniable. She still had friendly, warm brown eyes but nowadays when she applied eye-shadow much of it disappeared into a crease she was pretty sure hadn’t been there before. Due to her weight loss she had good cheekbones and her thighs looked good, yet she had to make sure she didn’t lose too much weight or her face was in danger of starting to look gaunt. She had faint crow’s feet round her eyes and a bit of a frown line which had deepened visibly around the time her babies had become toddlers at which point there had suddenly been more to frown about. But, she had a pretty face and, on a good day, could still scrub up well. She still had sex appeal, could turn a head and be whistled at by a builder and her wide smile, good, orthodontically-treated teeth (thank you, Mum) and long, thick head of brown (dyed) hair counted for a lot. Only for how much longer was anyone’s guess.

  Turning round so she could glance back over her shoulder and examine what her bottom looked like in her new very uncomfortable G-string, she decided that if she squinted she didn’t look that far off the girl she’d been when she’d first met Max. Screw it, she thought, fired up by a growing sense of confidence. She was old and wise enough to know that any normal red-blooded man wouldn’t care anyway. Rather than scrutinising her for imperfections, surely he’d only see the naughty underwear, the effort she was making, the invitation.

  She drew the curtains.
Better. Direct sunlight and partial nudity were best kept apart. Across the room her phone was vibrating. She tottered over to it in her heels. The display showed it was her best friend, Karen, phoning to check up on her.

  ‘I feel like a right old scrubber.’

  ‘Good,’ said Karen. ‘You’re supposed to. You’re about to seduce your husband.’

  ‘Oh god,’ groaned Jennifer, returning to the mirror to examine herself from all angles again. ‘I’m not sure I can do this. I’m not sure I want to do it, truth be told. I’ve still got this week’s episode of The Apprentice to watch.’

  ‘You have to,’ Karen said frankly. ‘Not see The Apprentice, though at some point do, it’s hilarious, but have sex first. If you don’t do it soon he’ll start looking elsewhere.’

  Jennifer wasn’t so sure. Karen had been flabbergasted when she’d admitted how long their dry spell had been and was clearly working on the proviso that no man could live without sex, but then again, Karen was married to a man who woke her up most mornings with something hard jabbing into her back. Whereas these days, Max seemed to have lost his sex drive completely.

  ‘Still on for a drink next Tuesday?’ Jennifer said, changing the subject. It felt weird making small talk while dressed as a sex worker.

  ‘Definitely. I’ll try and leave work a bit early and I think Lucy’s coming but Esther still hasn’t got a babysitter.’

  Just then Jennifer heard the sound of Max’s key in the lock. ‘Ooh he’s back. I’ll call you tomorrow.’

  ‘Good luck.’

  Jennifer put her phone on silent then raced over to the bed and got herself into position. As she did, it suddenly occurred to her that instead of being consumed by lust, Max might find the sight of her trying to seduce him wildly funny. Oh my god, what if he laughed at her?

  Quickly, she swerved her mind back round to the task ahead, acknowledging along the way that it was probably as much her fault as it was her husband’s that they hadn’t done it for so long. She was usually exhausted by the time he got home, busy trying to get the kids to bed and looking forward to nothing wilder than a glass of wine and some telly watching. Tonight however, with the girls at a rare sleepover at their grandparents, there was no excuse. They would have sex. Being physically close was what was required to lessen the emotional distance between them. She felt quite militant about it.

 
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll