Adrian Ford shuffled in the Starbucks coffee queue, looking down at his new tan leather shoes and wondering whether they made his feet look too big. He’d sweet-talked the cute stylist at yesterday’s photoshoot, giving her the wink that never failed to work, virtually charming the designer shoes from her suitcase and into his desk drawer. But now he wasn’t so sure – about her or the shoes. He ordered his caramel macchiato, with 2 skinny lemon muffins as an afterthought, flashing his smile at the Polish girl behind the counter, enjoying watching her blush. As he walked into his offices just off of Oxford Street he tapped his jeans pocket, checking that his iPod was still there.
“Morning Ellie!” he breezed at the chocolate-skinned receptionist and placed the brown paper bag on her desk, full of the promise of yet another Starbucks surprise.
“Ade. What’ve you got me this time? You know I’m being good.”
“Babe,” he winked, “you look great as you are. Anyway,” he looked over his shoulder as he approached the lift, “it’s a skinny one.” She smiled and peeked into the brown paper bag, mouthing a ‘thank you’ as the lift doors closed and he disappeared.
Contrary to popular belief Adrian was worth a lot more to the men’s magazine Geezer than his fortnightly ‘Ade Gets Laid’ quirky feature. That had really come to fruition after a drunken bet with the deputy editor who had doubted Adrian’s ability to sell the idea to the editor. Ade had won and the jokey 800-word feature became just a fraction of what he wrote for Geezer and was an unfair window for the journalistic skills of Adrian Ford. As usual the daily press cuttings had already been placed on his desk and he prised the plastic lid from his coffee and lightly blew at the milky froth. Flicking through the latest news and celebrity scandals he waited for something to jump out at him – something he could write about for Geezer – another great story that men would love to read. He reached page 20 before he spotted anything. And then he saw the column from Woman to Woman. He read it intently, smiling into his coffee as he slurped at it, his feet up on his desk,
‘…and so I’ve checked myself into Relationship Rehab. Staying Single is a positive choice, which buys me the luxury of just being into ‘me’. With no man to consider I can concentrate on my inner and outer beauty! And what plans I have! No more ‘D.S.S.’. No more married guys or clumsy kissers. Forget looking for my G-Spot – I know where it is, thanks very much….’
Ade laughed out loud, cuffing his frothy lips with the back of his tanned hand.
“Who is this woman?” he scanned the page for her name. “Sophie Regan, eh? He went onto read a little more before resting the page back down on his desk and shook his head,
“Babe. You sound perfect for my next feature.” He called out to Trevor Malone, his co-features writer, “Hey Trev, you know a Sophie Regan? From Woman to Woman?”
Trev shook his head, a vacant expression on his face, “Never heard of her. Must be new.”
Ade slurped at his coffee, placed the Styrofoam mug on his desk and rubbed his hands together,
“Excellent. I love a challenge…”
I feel good this morning. The sun woke me, teasingly dancing over my face in a playful way and I nearly woke up giggling. The weather’s been delightful and news presenters all over the country have been telling us how it’s the ‘hottest May since 1801”, and promising an even more scorching June! In a way, writing the column about Relationship Rehab was strangely therapeutic and I’m excited about going into work today. As I chop a banana into chunks and throw them into my smoothie-maker along with a handful of blueberries and raspberries I remember what I’d written and left on Delaney’s desk last night. A wave of sickness churns in my stomach as I watch the reds and purples cling to the glass jug as the blender screams, “you’ve gone public with your horrorscopes!” My historical farce, my predictions and premonitions of dating terrors that I’d forecast. My public decision to opt out and vow to stay single. Suddenly it didn’t seem such a great idea. And it was too late. The mag went to print overnight and I can’t back out.
I’m slow to get dressed and drag my white gipsy skirt up over my equally white legs and my red vest top down over my slightly sunburnt arms. I’d offer to marry the oldest and ugliest guy in the world right now, rather than face up to my public speech about what a failure I am. But hey, I’m sure some Hollywood celebrity already married him!
The tube ride to the office was far too quick. What usually takes half an hour seemed to take all of, oh, three minutes today! And I’m sure Ellie, our receptionist gave me a weird smile as she said ‘hi’ when I walked past her desk, but she did have her mouth full of muffin, so maybe I’m being Paranoia Princess. I don’t so much wish the ground would swallow me up, as to wish that I could simply melt into it and remain there – for eternity. I’ve managed to crawl to my desk, thrilled to find that I have an unopened bottle of water in my drawer from yesterday. Fabulous news, which means I don’t have to suffer ‘the kitchen’ and the water cooler small talk. I snarl at my computer as it twinkles its start-up jingle and I try to press the keys very quietly. It’s going to be all about blending in today.
“Regan!” Delaney’s voice could shatter glass. I physically cringe as she gently spins my chair around and slides her left buttock onto my desk. “You did a great job on that column. Fabulous! You pulled it off. You were meant to write this column. I want you to take over Victoria Harris’ column from now. I’m not convinced about the Relationship Rehab tag – maybe we’ll discuss that. Now you have to really write about what it’s like being a singleton in London. Come into my office at 10 and we’ll talk it through.” Rabbit-In-The-Headlights I stare at her, my brain labouring for a response, but I needn’t worry because she has more to say as she rises from my desk and smiles, revealing lip-stick smeared teeth,
“Oh, and Regan? Speed dating. Saturday night. Leicester Square. How about writing that into next week’s column? You can try them all – speed dating, internet dating – find out about them and write ‘em up! You made this promise now – to stay single – so try to keep to it eh?”
And she breezes back to her office, leaving me stunned. I catch AJ’s reflection in my computer screen and realise that she can see my crushed expression. I turn on my chair to face her,
“Hey, this should be fun!” I force through gritted teeth and a plastic smile.
“Yeah,” she whinnies, “and there was me thinking you didn’t have any choice but to stay single…”Chapter One