To celebrate the launch of ‘Rory’s Proposal’ we are having a fab online party. To get you in the mood here is a short extract from the novel.
Don’t you just hate exercise? Well, maybe you don’t, you’re probably one of those women who run 10k before breakfast and do three Zumba classes a week. Good for you. I’m one of those women who think scooting around Tesco Express is exercise. After all, I’m usually panting by the time I’ve lugged the bags up the stairs to our flat, so I figure that is exercise enough. Unfortunately, my boyfriend Luke, who is a keep-fit fanatic, disagrees and thanks to him I have spent the past two years trying to get fit. Don’t get me wrong I’ve nothing against getting fit, as long as someone else is doing it. In fact, I met Luke at this very sports centre. It was his physique, good looks and charm that won me over. Of course then, he only worked out once a week and was still a carnivore. As time has gone on his addiction to fitness has gone totally overboard and he isn’t happy with just himself being fit, he wants me to be too, which is easier said than done as I’ve something of an aversion to exercise. In the past two years I’ve gone through every fitness regime known to man and have, frankly, failed at all of them. The latest fad I’ve taken up is kettle bell classes. Now, as far as I’m concerned, the only thing a kettle should be used for is to make tea but here I am throwing it around for all I’m worth, and by the time the class is over I assure you I’m not worth much. Since starting kettle classes, kettles have taken on a whole new meaning. I can’t even make a cup of coffee without thinking of hip thrusts and squats.
‘Let’s tone those glutes, butt and bootie ladies,’ calls Martine, our instructor. ‘That’s it, get a good hip thrust going there.’
‘Ooh thrusting away,’ shouts Veronica from behind me, practically thrusting herself up my arse. Don’t you hate women who go into exercise frenzy? Those pink cheeks always look far from healthy to me.
‘Shouldn’t you be on a heavier kettle by now?’ she says between breaths.
‘I want to get fit, not have a hernia,’ I pant.
Mind you, at least a hernia would get me a break from hip thrusts and kettle chucking.
‘You’re fine with that weight,’ says Devon, supportively.
‘Keep going ladies. It’s bikini weather in a few months. You want to show these toned bodies, no sarongs for my girls,’ says Martine.
I quite like sarongs. In fact I would be quite happy to cover up the bulges and indulge in the chocolate. I wouldn’t feel in the least ashamed.
‘Get speed on your kettle bell Flora, come on thrust those hips.’
Yes, you heard her right, my name is Flora. I’ve never really forgiven Mum for that. If we’d lived in Surrey or St John’s Wood it may have been decadent, but I was born in Islington and there aren’t many Floras there I can assure you. The only Flora my friends knew was the margarine. They were not happy school days. Fortunately we moved to Chelsea when I was fourteen but even now I cannot look at margarine without shuddering. I much prefer to be called Flo.
‘Now lock those knees and swing.’
‘You’re not swinging right,’ says Veronica.
I’ll swing for her in a minute if she doesn’t shut up.
‘And your knees aren’t locked.’
She’ll get hers kneecapped if she carries on like this.
‘That’s it, swing. Don’t lose that kettle,’ calls Martine.
Oh, what I wouldn’t do to lose this bloody kettle, preferably in Veronica’s direction.
‘Don’t forget to breathe.’
Now I forget a lot of things but breathing isn’t one of them.
‘I’ve got some news,’ says Devon excitedly, swinging to the right as I swing to the left and almost colliding bells.
‘You are swinging wrong,’ says Martine.
‘Sorry,’ I pant.
‘You’ll never guess,’ says Devon.
Oh please don’t let it be what I think it is. Because if anything will make me forget to breathe, it’s that. I don’t believe it. Why
does everyone have good news except me? I tell myself she’s most likely been given a new Prada handbag by some grateful model and wants to know if I would like her old Marc Jacob. It will be nothing more than that, and I’m all poised to say yes as there is no way I could afford a designer handbag, and seeing as my Primark ten-pound one has seen better days the offer couldn’t come at a more perfect time. Not to mention the fact that my exhaust is blowing something awful. Every time I start my little Clio I sound like a boy racer.
‘Mark asked me to marry him last night.’
Oh no. She may as well have clouted me over the head with her kettle bell. In fact, it would have been better if she had. At least I wouldn’t have to hear all the sickening details.
‘What?’ I gasp, feeling myself reel. ‘What about the handbag?’
‘Congratulations,’ says Veronica. ‘Welcome to the engaged club.’
I’ll clout her over the head with the kettle bell in a minute and welcome her to the concussion club.
‘What handbag?’ Devon asks.
‘Breathe Flora, don’t forget to breathe.’
I would breathe if I could. I need chocolate, I so need chocolate. Bugger therapy, just give me a Crunchie bar and I’m sorted. I’m a closet chocoholic with a particular weakness for Crunchie bars. You’d be amazed at where I hide them. I have three in a Tampax box in the bathroom. I know Luke would never look in there. Apart from having sex, Luke considers a woman’s vagina to be a mystery. Mind you, even during sex it seems to be a mystery to him as he has no idea what to do with it apart from the obvious, and even then he’s so quick that even if I wanted to plan a shopping list there isn’t time. I know, I shouldn’t; eat chocolate that is, not plan a shopping list. I know I would be at least a stone lighter if I stopped my Crunchie eating but my life is one hurdle after another which can only be climbed with chocolate as fuel. My head spins and my breath comes in short sharp gasps. Mind you, this is how I normally am after thirty minutes of hip thrusting. God, I hate exercise. I only suffer it because Luke insists he can’t be with an unfit woman, not that I am unfit as such. Chance would be a fine thing. A woman who lets herself go is a weak woman, is his favourite quote. Personally I think a woman who lets herself go is a happy, relaxed and contented woman.
‘But how?’ I say, between gasps.
‘He just took my hand and slid this on my finger.’ she says, pulling off her glove and flashing a huge solitaire in my face. ‘It was so romantic.’
‘Oh no,’ I pant.
‘Don’t flag Flora,’ says Martine, while swinging for sodding England.
I’m not flagging, I’m bloody dying. Oh God, I’m going to have a heart attack. I yank an inhaler from Devon’s pocket and pump madly at it.
‘What are you doing, you don’t have asthma?’ Devon says, worriedly.
‘I do now,’ I gasp.
‘Are you okay Flora?’ she asks anxiously.
No, I’m not and what’s worse I’m not even getting a Marc Jacob handbag out of it. Let’s face it, that would have lessened the pain a bit.
‘Oh what a beautiful ring,’ says Veronica gleefully. ‘When is it going to be your turn?’ she asks. ‘You can’t leave it much longer.’
I make a concerted effort to take a breath. If this is being fit then you can stuff it. I need an oxygen canister, not a sodding asthma inhaler. Why is it that everyone is getting engaged, married or pushing out babies, except me? I mean, Devon’s only twenty-seven for God’s sake. I’m hitting the big ‘0’ in a few weeks. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. Oh God, how can I not think about it?
‘Just breathe,’ says Devon. ‘Are you having a panic attack?’
Why does everyone keep telling me to breathe like I have no idea how to do it without instruction? I’ve been doing it for thirty years for goodness sake, no, correction: twenty-nine. I’m not thirty yet.
‘Take a break Flora,’ instructs Martine.
I pant and stumble to the seating area at the back with Devon following me. I don’t believe it. Devon has only been going out with Mark for ten months. Luke and I introduced them to each other for heaven’s sake. I stop, rest my hands on my knees and pant in shock. I’ve been with Luke for two years. I’ll be thirty soon. My ovaries will wither up and if I don’t marry this year I’ll have to pop out a baby every year just to catch up with everyone else. Why doesn’t he ask me? What’s wrong with me that I can’t get a man to propose? I mean, two years, that’s long enough isn’t it?
‘I was hoping you’d be my maid of honour,’ Devon says.
This will be my third time as bridesmaid. Isn’t there a saying three times a bridesmaid never a bride? This is unbelievable. I’m becoming everything except a wife. I’m to be Rosalind’s birth partner. I’ve been practising the panting and everything, and at the rate I’m going that will be the only panting I do, apart from my faking orgasm pants. I know, one shouldn’t fake it, but Luke is like streaked lightning. I’ve not even reached the thunder rumble stage by the time he’s finished. I’m sure he is a wonderful lover. I’m just not very responsive. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t fake it every time. That would be awful. It’s just that Luke is so nice and polite in bed as well as quick. Everyone tells me how lucky I am to have Luke for a boyfriend and I can’t disagree. But it’s very hard to get sexually excited by a man wearing Marks and Sparks pyjamas and who says things like ‘fancy a cuddle?’ when what he really means is ‘fancy sex?’ Not to mention his bedside ritual of cutting his toenails. Writhing in passion with the odd nail clipping sticking in your arse is not the greatest turn on. As you can imagine, all these things have had a detrimental effect on my libido. I did try to spice things up with a sexy film once but Luke was so horrified that you’d think I had suggested a foursome. In fact Luke is the only man I know who has tea and biscuits after sex, Rich Tea biscuits to be exact. I can’t stand the things myself. But apart from that he’s everything a woman could want. At least that’s what my friends tell me. Good-looking, successful and enterprising, and most importantly he’s dependable, smart and reliable. Sometimes I think we could be talking about a car. He’s also a top golf player, not that I’m into golf, but he is good at everything he does, well, apart from sex. I really feel that could be improved upon. Sometimes I wonder if I’m good enough for him. After all, what is a good-looking successful solicitor doing with a simple hairdresser like me? No, don’t think about it, don’t think about it but how can I not think about it? The truth is my whole adult life I have dated nothing but total cock bags and now here I am with a man who is as far from a fuckwit as any man could be.
I pull a Crunchie from my bag and Devon gasps.
‘Is that allowed? I thought you and Luke were doing that colonic clean out diet?’
Ah yes, well that was before the colonic clean out diet totally cleared me out. I’ve had to take shares in Windeze. I’ve been swallowing the things like no tomorrow. Three days in to the colonic clean out and I have more air in me than a hot air balloon. It’s embarrassing. I’m glad I escaped the squat or the whole place would have been evacuated. I swear in the past three days I have popped out more air than I have in my entire life. I’ve used up most of my Womanity perfume covering the so-called colonic clean out. Of course, Luke doesn’t release wind at all does he? He says it is rude. I often wonder where the hell it must go. If I held it in like him I’d explode. But he seriously doesn’t do it, he really doesn’t. I’m going out with superman, this is becoming very clear. It’s also becoming very evident that I am far from being his superwoman.
Devon looks at me longingly. How can I not be her maid of honour? The truth is all I want is to be someone’s bride, obviously not just anyone’s; I prefer to be Luke’s bride if that is at all possible and preferably before I’m thirty-one. I’m starting to feel that Luke doesn’t think I’m good enough to be his wife. He’s not said that of course but I sometimes think I’m not good enough for him. No that’s not true; I’m always thinking I’m not good enough for him.
‘Will you?’ asks Devon, wiping the perspiration from her forehead. She pulls her blonde bob into a bun at the nape of her neck and looks at me pleadingly. I nod. Well, how can I not be Devon’s maid of honour? Devon is my closest friend. We’ve known each other since college where she studied fashion and I did hairdressing. I always imagined she’d be my maid of honour first, not the other way around.
I blow a puff of air up to my sweaty fringe and say,
‘I’d love to.’
‘Oh great,’ she cries gleefully, throwing her arms around me. ‘I’m having the dress specially made. Well, I’m a buyer for a top fashion house so if I can’t get a designer dress, no one can,’ she laughs.
I’ll probably end up with an off-the-peg dress from Pronuptia, that’s if I ever buy a dress of course. Don’t think about it, don’t think about it but how can I not think about it? I don’t work for a top fashion house. In fact, the closest I’ve come to a top fashion house is Devon. I’m a hairdresser. I have my own little hairdressing salon, it’s not much but at least it is mine, well the mortgage is mine which is the same thing I suppose. I only wish I could get my own wiry mop into some kind of shape. It won’t even stay in a bun like Devon’s. I can feel bits of hair sticking to my neck. I’d love to be a natural blonde, but I am a brunette with a small snub nose and wide brown eyes. No matter how much I watch what I eat, not counting my Crunchies, of course, I always seem to be curvy. Mind you, I don’t watch what I eat very often; I tend to leave that to Luke these days, whereas Devon has an enviable figure and lovely shiny hair. She does two kettle bell classes each week, which I suppose is why she got engaged and I didn’t, not because she throws a kettle around, obviously, but because she is slim and appealing. Well, there has to be a reason doesn’t there? How did I get to be thirty and unmarried? How did I get to be bloody thirty is what I want to know. What happened to my twenties?
My stomach gurgles and I hurriedly pop another Windeze as Martine calls,
‘Rest over ladies, let’s do squats.’
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse.