With (hopefully final) edits well underway on what will become my next romantic comedy novel – Rebuilding Alexandra Small – I thought I might tease you with an extract from one of the earlier chapters. No spoilers (beyond those on the dust jacket), just a conversation with a stranger that sets Alexandra on the path to something better.
Through rusting seafront railings, I gaze down at the grey pitch roof of the Beachcomber Cafe. In its tiny backyard, a petrol generator rattles and sooty chimneys belch evil fumes.
‘Are you OK, love?’ says a woman whose dog has been sniffing at my pumps. Big brown eyes gaze up from a pointy white face.
I tell her I’m fine. Except I’m not, and my voice wobbles.
‘If those are tears over a lad, wipe them dry,’ she says. ‘None of them are worth it.’
She nods over at a bench, and we sit.
‘My best mate works down there,’ I say. ‘I’m trying to decide whether to tell her what’s happened … and she can convince me everything will be OK.’
The woman weighs my words. ‘It’s been my experience that OK is exhausting.’
I glance sideways. ‘Have you considered joining the Samaritans?’
She chuckles to herself. ‘I was someone’s wife for thirty-seven years. I spent the last eighteen months looking after a man who should have passed two years earlier. When he went, my sister took me in and made me better. She called me a shadow. I lay down in her spare bedroom and didn’t get out of that bed on my own for another two weeks. I had to learn how to do everything again for myself, I’d invested so long looking after him.’
She hesitates a minute.
‘They had to prompt me to shut the bathroom door when I used the loo. I’d become used to leaving it open in case he fell and cried my name. I’d forgotten how to sleep. All I did was doze with one ear tuned to his voice. Everyone sent cards telling me how sorry they felt about him dying. Nobody thought to ask if I minded.’
I look into bright blue eyes shaped by sadness, and my heart falls silent.
‘I was glad his suffering ended.’ Her voice becomes a whisper. ‘Not because I wished him dead. I didn’t. I just realised he didn’t want to be the husband he’d turned into, so subservient, watching me waste away.’
She wipes the back of one hand across her eyes, and her dog peers up, as if sensing tears.
‘I had been telling myself that when he died, I’d be better. I’d make myself well again. He’d be out of pain, and life would go on. Until we meet again. If that’s what transpires. I never know. I’m not a Christian or anything, but I don’t count out the afterlife.’
‘My marriage is over,’ I say.
Out loud it sounds dramatic. Diva like. Dumb.
‘There’s some who would say it’s best you learn what sort of man you’ve married now rather than later. Do you have children?’
I shake my head.
‘Then you’ve had a fortuitous escape, even if it doesn’t sound like it.’ A stiff hand finds mine. ‘When my Donald left me, that was my fresh start. This is yours.’
‘What if I don’t want a fresh start?’
‘Life decides for you.’ She chuckles to herself. ‘We don’t get any say. What counts now is what you do next. Replay the mistakes or make new ones?’
After losing her job, husband and home in the space of three hours, Allie takes stock. Does she want what she had or is it time to rebuild her life?
Rebuilding Alexandra Small tells the story of what happens when a have-it-all life crumbles, and a new one starts.
It’s available in early 2021.
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