Helen Bradshaw isn't exactly living out her dreams. She's a lowly assistant editor at GirlTime magazine, she drives an ancient Toyota, and she has a history of choosing men who fall several thousand feet below acceptable boyfriend standard. Not to mention that she shares an apartment with a scruffy , tactless roommate, her best girlfriends are a little too perfect, and the most affectionate male in her life—her cat, Fatboy—occasionally pees in her underwear draw.
Then Helen gets the telephone call she least expects: Her father has had a massive heart attack. Initially brushing off his death as merely an interruption in her already chaotic life (they were never very close, after all), Helen is surprised to find everything else starting to crumble around her. Her pushy mother is coming apart at the seams, a close friend might be heading toward tragedy, and, after the tequila incident, it looks as though Tom the vet will be sticking with Dalmatians. Turns out getting over it isn't going to be quite as easy as she thought.
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Anna Maxted is a freelance writer and the author of the smash international bestsellers Getting Over It, Running in Heels, and Behaving Like Adults. She lives in London with her husband, author Phil Robinson, and their son.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
When it happened, I wasn't ready for it. I expected it about as much as I expect to win Miss World and be flown around the planet and forced to work with screaming children. And being so awesomely unprepared, I reacted like Scooby Doo chancing upon a ghost. I followed my instinct, which turned out to be hopelessly lost and rubbish at map reading.
Maybe I was too confused to do the right thing. After all, the right thing rarely involves fun and mostly means making the least exciting choice, like waiting for the ready-cook pizza you've torn from the oven to cool to under 200 degrees before biting into it. Or deciding not to buy those sexy tower-heeled boots because they'll squeeze your toes white and lend you the posture of Early man, and a vast chunk of your salary will moulder away at the back of your wardrobe. If we always made the smartest choice, we'd never get laid.
That said, the day it all began, I came close to making a very smart choice. Here it is, bravely scrawled in black ink, in my blue Letts diary:
I am dumping Jasper, tomorrow.
Words that whisk me back to what was barely one year ago but seems like an age. July 16 remains as sharp in my mind as if it were today. Maybe it is today. And this is how today begins:
I am dumping Jasper, tomorrow.
He deserves it for being called Jasper, for a start. And for a finish, he falls several thousand feet below acceptable boyfriend standard.
Funny thing is, at the age of five I knew what that was. I was dating the boy across the road and I routinely drank his tea before embarking on mine. I also tantrumed until he surrendered his Fisher Price wheely dog. And I refused to play in his bedroom because it smelt of wee. Then I grew up and started taking crap.
Unfortunately, Jasper is beautiful. Tall, which I like. The only time I've had dealings with a short man is when my domineering friend Michelle set me up on a blind date. He rang the bell, I wrenched open the door, and looked down. And I'm five foot one. Two Weebles wibble-wobbling their way down the road. Michelle's excuse was that when she met him, he was sitting down. (We've known each other for twenty-one years and I've never heard her say the word "sorry.") So Jasper, at six feet, is a delight. I wear five-inch heels so he doesn't notice the discrepancy. He has floppy brown hair, eyes so paradise-blue it's incredible he actually uses them to see, and my favorite, good bone structure. And despite being the most selfish man I've ever met--quite a feat--he's a tiger in the sack.
I'm on my way there now. Sackbound. For one last bout. Except I'm stuck in traffic on Park Road. There appears to be road work with no one doing any work. I'm trapped in my elderly gray Toyota Corolla (a castoff from my mother, who was thrilled to be rid of it--please don't think I'd go out and buy one even if I had the money) and trying to stay calm. In the last twenty minutes I've rolled forward a total of five inches. I might ring Jasper to say I'll be late. The road converges on approximately fifty sets of lights and everyone is barging--as much as you can barge when you're stationary. It's 2:54 P.M. I'm due at Jasper's at 3:30. Great. My mobile is out of batteries. I pick the skin on my lip. Right. I'm phoning him.
I assess the gridlock--yes, it's gridlocked-leap out of the car, dash across the road to the phonebox, and dial Jasper's number. Brrrt-brrt. Brrrt-brrt. Where is he? He can't have forgotten. Shit, the traffic's moving. I ring his mobile-joy! He answers. "Jasper Sanderson." Never says hello like a normal person. He's so executive. I hate it but I love it. He sounds suspiciously out of breath.
"Why are you out of breath?" I say sharply.
"Who's this?" he says. Jesus!
"Your girlfriend. Helen, remember?" I say. "Listen, I'm going to be late, I'm stuck in traffic. Why are you out of breath?"
"I'm playing tennis. Bugger, I forgot you were coming over. It'll take me a while to get home. Spare key's under the mat."
He beeps off. "You're such an original," I say sourly, and look up to see the gridlock has cleared and swarms of furious drivers are hooting venomously at the Toyota as they swerve around it.
Forty minutes later I arrive at Jasper's Fulham flat. I ring the bell, in case he's already home, but silence. I kick the mat to scare off spiders, gingerly lift a corner with two fingers, and retrieve the key. Ingenious, Jasper! The place is a replica of his parents' house. There's even a silver-framed picture of his mother as a young girl on the hall table--and a right prissy miss she looks, too. Happily, he's never introduced me. His most heinous interior crime, however, is a set of ugly nautical paintings that dominate the pale walls. Thing is with Jasper, just when I think I can't take any more, he does something irresistible, such as iron the collar and cuffs of his shirt and go to work hiding the crumpled rest of it under his jacket. I poke the scatter of post to check for correspondence from other women and see the green light of his answer machine flashing for attention. Jasper calling to announce a further delay. I press play...
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