Real Life and Other Disasters eBook PREORDER
Real Life and Other Disasters eBook PREORDER
In real life Sarah and Adam can’t stand each other.
In their virtual lives they adore each other.
They just haven’t put two and two together.
When Sarah is arrested for committing a reckless act, she’s mortified to be rescued by the person she’s consistently infuriated since high school. Infuriating him’s not intentional. He just seems to be around to watch her fall on her face when yet another calamity strikes. The problem is, she can’t help but reach out and pull him down with her.
Adam is paid for an eight-hour job that usually takes eleven. He can’t wait to retreat into the digital world at the end of the day: A virtual reality chatroom set in a quirky corner of the Jane Austen fan fiction universe. Bantering with the woman behind Mister D’Arsy is rapidly becoming his favourite way to dissolve the stresses of the day.
When their two worlds hurtle towards inevitable collision, will Sarah and Adam be able to move on from their troubled past, or is this just another disaster in a long-standing tragi-comedy?
Read chapter one
Read chapter one
I want to say it’s because he’s delighted by the intelligence of my company, but it’s probably due to the little bit of saliva he aspirated when I said, “In my next life, I’m going to be a dolphin linguist.”
Saying, “In my next life, I’m going to be a dolphin linguist,” to your prospective boss is not advisable, but then my ability to gauge ‘appropriate’ failed approximately half an hour ago when, courtesy of my hunger, my blood pressure dropped so low my heart pumped my thinking juice at a disastrous rate of a quarter of a mile an hour.
Admittedly, I had just arrived and hurriedly explain, “Because of the echo location. You know, the foot traffic. It’s like dodgems out there.”
Jeff chuckles generously through his bleached smile, so I know I haven’t arsed this up. Yet.
A bar is not the kind of place I would have expected to discuss an employment contract, but it is full of suited people, buoyed by release from their London corporate worlds. Jeff looks
completely at ease among the other cuff-linked, twelve-tone-saloned-hair white people, and so, I think, it must be how things are done around here.
He sports a black and gold Omega watch. His jacket, slung casually on the stool between us emits the spicy scent of an expensive cologne applied sometime in the past with a little too much enthusiasm.
Whereas I -
I shift from one bum cheek to the other, willing my 99p Primark knickers to unwedge themselves. I would tweezer them out with my fingers, but even I realise that might be considered a little indelicate.
I am in a league so far below these people, you’d need the Hubble Telescope to spot me.
“What can I get you, Sarah?” Jeff leans towards me slightly, the words purred as if he already had a couple before I arrived.
Aware I haven’t got this in the bag as I’m yet to sign anything, I settle on a prompting, “Would…champagne be appropriate?” It is 6.25 pm and I haven’t had anything to eat since I scoffed
the last slice of bread that morning in my otherwise empty kitchen. I’m not sure what a glass of bubbly alcohol might do on a stomach that empty, but it has calories, so I’m willing to throw caution to the howling gale.
Jeff raises an eyebrow and one side of his mouth in one of those smiles that is either cocky or bemused. Or possibly both. The combination of brow and lip makes him look Jokerish. “Very appropriate.”
I keep my “Awesome” shriek on my inside, because I am a consummate professional and not fourteen.
He leans forward and pulls the stool with his jacket on out to one side so that our shins are a couple of inches from each other when we cross our legs.
He signals to the bartender, orders two glasses of Veuve Clicquot and I wonder, giddily, if I am seen as a prize asset who requires impressing, or if this is standard fare for a general manager of a luxury hotel.
I want Jeff to be confident in his decision to pick me out of the chef pack, and so I make an effort to string a few intelligent-sounding words together.
“I’m so thrilled you messaged me,” I say as he passes over a credit card. “I thought the dynamic in the interview was good, but it’s just so hard to gauge those situations, you know?”
“I do know, Sarah.” He hands a hissing glass to me and looks me in the eye as we clink a toast. “I can’t tell you how stirred I was when you agreed to meet.” His eyes flicker down to my bare knees and track their way to my ankles.
Ah, so he’s that kind of man. The type that thinks wealth and status entitle him to some gentle leering. In this moment, I’ll let him. He is just about to put an employment contract in front of me.
His eyes return to my face. “You really do have all the right attributes.”
I give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s referring to my professional prowess and say, “Thank you, Jeff.” And a combination of pride and the knowledge that the misery of
unemployment has come to an end fizzes in my veins like the bubbles in the champagne. “And anyway, this bar’s not that far out of my way.” I think of the Tube and bus ride it took to get here and wonder how I will pay for the return journey. Perhaps he could organise an instant advance. Unlikely. Or I could say
I forgot my wallet and did he have spare cash for an Uber? “Course, I’d come. This is much more exciting than doing it in an office.”
“You’d…?” Jeff loosens his tie and takes a slurp of his champagne. When the bubbles have fizzed their way over his tongue, he leans across the space between us and says, “You bad girl. I find doing it in the office very exciting.”
And that is when I realise something is off. It is in equal parts the “bad girl” comment and the fact that he clearly hasn’t brushed his teeth since his last soy flat white.
“Jeff?” I ask, tilting my torso backwards, which only encourages him to lean in further. “I’m here because you have an employment contract with my name on it in your briefcase, right?”
Jeff blinks twice and sits upright. “Um,” he says, smacking his lips. “Why would you think that?”
“Because I aced my demo with the head chef, and you and your HR representative told me I was a very strong candidate and that I’d be hearing from you soon. Why else would you arrange to meet up four hours after you said, and I quote, ‘Wow. You just blew my mind’?”
“Oh.” Jeff screws up his nose and flaps one hand around like he is dispelling the fetid air issuing from his mouth. “It’s just a job, Sarah. You can get another one. Whereas you and I –” the twinkle returns to his eyes “– have a real connection, a synergy.”
I remove the hand that has crept onto my knee and place it back on his lap with a little more force than is necessary. It thwumps against his thigh. “But I wanted that one. And no I cannot just go and get another one. They’re not lamb kebabs. I’ve been job searching for three months.” My voice creeps up in pitch so that, just to add to my humiliation, the last two words are on the point of cracking.
“Of course you get can another one. You were the top candidate. You’ll be hot property if you put your feelers out in the right places.”
I peer at him from over the top of my glasses and invite him to employ some thinking about what he’s just admitted. “I was the top candidate?”
He shrugs. “Yeah.”
“You’re telling me, I would have got that job if your penis hadn’t told you it had a conflict of interest with your professionalism?”
Jeff laughs. “Ah, Sarah, I believe it was your sustained eye contact and suggestive lip moistening that told my penis it needed to have that conversation with my professionalism.”
An iceberg rolls over in the watery contents of my stomach and proceeds to collapse, the frigid backwash splatting against the inside of my rib cage. “It was a job interview. Of course I was going to look at you and smile. I licked my lips because I was nervous!”
I run a hand through my hair in an effort to hide the tears attempting to burn their way to freedom. “The only thing I’ve eaten in the last two days is a slice of bread. A slice of bread. I am destitute and you pass me over for my dream job purely for your self-interest?” I stand, readying myself for my dignified exit. “You are a first-class fuckwit, Jeffrey Wainwright.”
Jeff throws his hands in the air and leans backwards like I am behaving on the hysterical side of unreasonable. “Calm down, Sarah. I didn’t know it meant that much to you.” Then he takes a casual sip from his glass and says, “You know, you only have yourself to blame. If you didn’t send mixed messages, then…” he spreads a hand in a gesture that he believes indicates his exoneration.
I quaff the rest of my champagne.
Then I reach forward and tug with all my might on his silk tie.
His face slams against the bar with the sickening crunch of splitting cartilage.
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