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Authors: Anna Maxted

Behaving Like Adults

BOOK: Behaving Like Adults
10.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Also by Anna Maxted

Title Page



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50


Also by Anna Maxted

Getting Over It

Running in Heels

Behaving Like Adults
Anna Maxted

For Leonie, my best sister


A huge thank you to: Jonny Geller (b.a.i.t.w.); Andy McKillop – gosh, you were patient; Kirsty Fowkes (here's to more bagels, less attitude from your writers); all the kind, clever people at Random House; Phil ‘Agape or ajar?' ‘Neither' Robinson; Caroline Thompson – note, heroine possesses neither satchel nor lunchbox; Sarah Paul and Anthony Barrow – you were marvellous, darlings, marvellous! Mark Curtis – so kind to do all that photocopying and answer my idiot questions; the very gorgeous and generous Lorraine Adams – I couldn't have done it without you; the equally charming and talented David Sack, I'm so grateful; John Nathan, for hilarious tales of boats and probably more; the multi-talented Sunil Kapoor; Tiffany Smith – because I forgot to thank you last time; Frank Tallis – you're
clever, we can't get over it in this house; Gavin Tranter – I'm a bit slow, I hope I got it vaguely right; Aileen McColgan – was lovely to meet you, I hope you approve! Anna Moore – ‘Anna Moore came through for me'; Mary Maxted – see, third time lucky: nice parents . . . Wendy Bristow – the one and only Wend! Yvonne and Kate Oliver – for finding me the lovely Linda Bailey; Ross Walker – for putting me in touch with the fantastic Anne Bellamy; Stephanie – thank you; Jeanette King – you again! Andy Robinson – I pretty much ignored your excellent advice but fiction rools! John Perry – hmm, not quite as much input from you this time, could do better; Tracey Moynihan – this is the last call, honest, officer . . .

Chapter 1

believe in love. Believing in love carries roughly the same stigma as wearing court shoes. It's as old-fashioned as going on a diet (as opposed to a detox). It suggests you have no sense of irony and you like Meg Ryan films. A modern woman cannot accept that Father Christmas is a fraud
persist in believing that one sunny day her dark handsome destiny will appear in a puff of Fahrenheit and haul her off to Happy Ever After.

I know all that and yet, I
believe in love. I apologise. But I can't help it. I presume it's a genetic blip which might also account for my dress sense. (Too pink.)

I just like stuff to be nice. That's even worse. If you wish to maintain even a shred of credibility, you have to be cynical and keep your mouth in a hard straight line even when you find something funny. I'm not stupid. I do know the world is cruel. But I always like to hope that it isn't. I test my
count. You proceed through the day, listing every occasion you're prompted to think Ahhhh! You can't cheat and hire a puppy to peep out of a basket. Often, my total is horrific.

When I started the dating agency, Rachel crowed that
I'd see what people were really like. I wouldn't believe the lies they told to get laid! She said this as if I were either a nun, or a social retard who believed – despite living in a densely populated part of the planet for twenty-nine years – that seduction was about honing in on the obvious and blurting it. Whereas I'm well aware that if
were the case, the human race would have fizzled out in the Iron Age
when Wilma stared at Fred and said, ‘That's quite a small flintstone you've got there'. Sometimes, I think my friends confuse optimism with idiocy.

Of course unpleasant characters applied. When you launch a dating agency, even if you specify as we did that Girl Meets Boy was for the ‘young and funky' (which no doubt deterred everyone in both of those categories), you invite weirdos to your door. It's Open Day for Oddballs. It's the Marilyn Manson Fan Club Parents Evening. But overall – despite the nutters, nerds, squares, sociopaths, oafs, halfwits, dummies, brutes, airheads and deviants gracing our files – the Ahhhh! count was immense.

Partly to distinguish ourselves from the Christians with an interest in ornithology brigade, and partly to discern if anyone out there possessed an SOH (a GSOH is a luxury), we asked silly questions on the application form. Even Nige – who'd only agreed to help out because he was between acting jobs and is nosy – agreed that the hoi-polloi were far wittier than he'd given them credit for. I particularly warmed to the twenty-seven-year-old man who replied to ‘Do you have any talents?' with ‘Probably not'.

Girl Meets Boy began as a business, but the people who used it fast melted my heart to a soft sticky caramel.

Also, towards the end of the great fiancé fiasco (
before in case you were wondering), it did occur to me that
might find someone. Don't mix business with pleasure? I thought it was a phrase made up by killjoys to stop you smiling at work. I was trying to enjoy what I'd achieved. I'd achieved
much, said everyone, I should be
proud. Oh, absolutely. I'd made sacrifices, but not whole lambs, more the odd chop. I should be happy.

When I'm told I should be happy, I start trying to measure it with a ruler.

Everything is a test. Rachel rings to say that the cab dropped her outside her flat whereupon she bade farewell to a loud luxurious fart, then turned and saw her
neighbour padding up the path behind her. We howl with laughter, yes, but
that happy? The cat sits on my lap, her purr rumbles through me, and I sigh – that's happy, surely? I visit the arthouse cinema because I hate Warner Village (Village? It's not a village!) and I feel comforted by the fact they sell wholegrain flapjacks – even though I wouldn't eat one for a bet – and I
myself do this, and I think, that woman, she's smiling, but is she happy?

Self-interrogation is dangerous. Your inner voice pronounces the obvious, ‘You don't realise you're happy till it's gone', as if it's your fault for not keeping an eye out, thus making you feel worse than you do already. But you're not to blame. Mostly, happiness doesn't just drop from you like an apple from a tree. It trickles away silently, evaporating over the months and years, until one day, you feel a strange hollowness inside and you glance around and it hits you – despite all you own, your great, glorious success, you have nothing.

The good – and therefore unreported – news is that you can find it again. It might be a bit of a trek. If you haven't the least idea of your destination, the journey takes a little longer. But I'm your non-court shoe wearing proof. Rachel was right. I
discover what people were really like. And yet, after everything that happened, I got happy again. I still believe in love. As I said, I can only apologise. And explain.

When Nige suggested a party, to celebrate the success of Girl Meets Boy, I did wonder.

I had done well, creating a company from scratch and making it pay. Although, any old pinhead can
a company. They make it foolproof at Companies House – for around eighty pounds they hand you over a shrink-wrap company. All you, the pinhead, have to do is provide the names of the board of directors and their share allocation. I was the director, with seventy shares, and—in a selfless act – my younger sister Claudia was secretary,
with thirty. (This was in lieu of pay, for the first month. Nige, however, preferred to resist bribes – that way, he said, he didn't feel ‘obligated'.)

Another twenty quid to Companies House, and I could name my baby, Girl Meets Boy. Then, the most important part of any business plan, I found a good accountant. And that, give or take a bit of fuss, was it. My accountant did the bore's share of the paperwork, instructing me what I owed the taxman each month via apologetic email. This allowed me to devote myself to my real interest: making Girl Meets Boy a hit.

My strategy was unscientific. I hoped that if I ensured people had fun, and I shelled out for advertising, financial success would follow. And, after seven months, it did.

So did I really want to tempt fate and host a party? People
have fun, but it wasn't guaranteed. And you have to be pretty pleased with yourself to host a party. The subtext is, ‘I'm
interesting, I think you should all come to my home and bring wine'. And parties are like cakes. They can fall flat for no apparent reason. Also, if you care the least bit about whether your guests are enjoying themselves, you are bound to have a stressed, hassled, fun-free time.

Nige, the arch manipulator, saw me hesitate and cried, ‘Oh, go on! Everyone will have so much fun!'

I looked at his beseeching face and said, ‘Let's do it.'

That's my weakness. I like other people. They interest me. There's hardly anyone you can't learn something from, even if it is, ‘Check in the mirror, front
behind, before you go out'. Nige wanted cool and exclusive, but I thought we should do the bash Elton John style, invite the world, every member of Girl Meets Boy included. I felt protective towards them, as if they were my kids. Most of them I was fond of. When people trust you, it's hard not to like them. Even the annoying ones. This party would be a way of saying thanks.

My only problem was Nick. My ex-fiancé. Our
relationship was over, except he hadn't moved out. He was still waiting for his friend Manjit's girlfriend to clear out her spare room (an excuse so poor I wanted to huddle it in a blanket). The truth was, he wanted me back. I was past being flattered. Nick stayed fixed at that stage of emotional development where you yowl for whichever toy is removed from your grasp. I ended it too amicably for my own good. I feel sheepish about this. I think it's far worse for the Ender than the Endee. Especially an Endee as charming and wily as Nick. He'd guilt-trip me into inviting him to the Girl Meets Boy party, then worry me like a fox, all night.

Because of this, I wasn't overjoyed about going on my own. Normally, I wouldn't fret about it. If there's one thing I don't need a man for, it's to attend a party. They're a hindrance, every time. But this was different. I wasn't in the right frame of mind to be fighting off Nick the entire evening. I needed a safety barrier. Also, there was something about attending a party for Girl Meets Boy without a partner that bothered me. It felt too puritan. If
saw me there, alone, I'd be suspicious. Like meeting a baker who wasn't fat.

BOOK: Behaving Like Adults
10.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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