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Authors: Fiona Collins

Year of Being Single

BOOK: Year of Being Single
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Best friends Imogen, Frankie and Grace decide to test whether the grass really
is
greener on the single side of the fence…

Imogen is supposed to be on the most romantic weekend of her life and instead she’s quickly realised that her current boyfriend definitely isn’t ‘The One’ and is actually One Big Mistake.

Frankie is fed up. Fed up of her good-for-nothing husband and her four, unappreciative children. Well, they hardly notice her anyway, maybe it’s time to shake it up a little…

Grace thought she had the perfect life. Gorgeous little boy and perfect, hardworking husband. Or rather, she did, until she realised her husband was shagging his ‘work’.

It’s time for a change – and to ditch the men who are dragging them down! It’s time for a year of being single. Swearing off men, these single ladies don’t need to put a ring on it…
right
?

Perfect for fans of Jane Costello, Helen Fielding and Fiona Gibson,
A Year of Being Single
is the laugh-out-loud debut that everyone’s talking about!

A Year of Being Single

Fiona Collins

www.CarinaUK.com

F
IONA
C
OLLINS

lives in the Essex countryside with her husband and three children, but also finds time for a loving relationship with a Kindle. She likes to write feisty, funny novels about slightly (ahem) more mature heroines. Fiona studied Film & Literature at Warwick University and has had many former careers including TV presenting in Hong Kong; talking about roadworks on the M25 on the radio; and being a film and television extra. She has kissed Gerard Butler and once had her hand delightfully close to George Clooney’s bum. When not writing, Fiona enjoys watching old movies and embarrassing her children. You can follow Fiona on Twitter:
@FionaJaneBooks

Thanks go to my brilliant editor, Charlotte.

To Elizabeth Davies, for reading my first ever manuscript and helping me in so many ways.

To Mary Torjussen – I couldn’t have done it without you. See you at
The Ivy
!

And to Phil and Emma Cunningham for inviting me to Ascot and being wonderful hosts.

Contents

Cover

Blurb

Title Page

Author Bio

Acknowledgements

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Endpages

Copyright

Prologue

They had a charter. An unofficial one. It wasn’t written on parchment scroll in swirly feather quill or drawn up on foolscap by a portly, provincial solicitor or even scrawled in biro on the back of a magazine. It wasn’t written down anywhere. But it was a charter, nonetheless, and it went something like this:

They were independent women – self-sufficient, autonomous. They could change their own light bulbs and the batteries in their smoke alarms, refill their own windscreen wash bottles in their cars, put out their own bins, carry their own suitcases, take their own cars through the carwash and unscrew the lids on their own jars. If they didn’t know how to do something they would ask each other, as one of them probably would. Or they would ask Google and work it out.

They would provide each other with emotional support and babysit each other’s children. If one needed another, they would come over.

They had freedom, they had power; they could please themselves and would make sure they did.

None of them had a man. None of them wanted a man. None of them needed a man.

And they would be single for one year to prove it.

Chapter One: Imogen

If Imogen had screamed out loud, no one would have heard her. If she’d screamed, it would have been swallowed by the unconcerned Paris traffic roaring below. If she’d screamed, nobody would have given a monkey’s. Least of all, the giant male ape inside her sumptuous hotel room.

She was standing on the tiny balcony of a massive hotel room, on the top floor of an enormous hotel. A room that she was paying for. The Ape’s contribution was zilch. He thought it enough to enjoy the room and the balcony and the whole posh Paris hotel experience as fully and as enthusiastically as possible. Especially the bar, the breakfast buffet, the three gorgeous restaurants and the extensive room-service menu. He’d enjoyed the whole trip. He’d larked about photo-bombing people at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, stuffed his face with madeleines at Blé Sucré – whilst attempting a French accent that made him sound like a crumb-spitting Pepé le Pew – and danced up the escalator to the Louvre with a silly grin on his face… Oh, he’d had a great time.

He was enjoying himself at this very moment. As Imogen grabbed the balcony’s railing and flung her head up to the heavens and the grey Paris sky – to ask, Why? Why another bloody loser? – he was stuffed into a Chesterfield armchair and tucking into another sodding triple-deck club sandwich, irritatingly picking up each triangular section by the cocktail stick that held it together, and nibbling round the stick like an appreciative beaver. It was his fifth that weekend.

When he was done, he’d probably sniff, scratch his balls, burp and top it all off with a long and loud fart. This man couldn’t possibly be The One! He shouldn’t even have been a vague
someone
in her life.

He was a waste of space; he was lazy, greedy and quite repulsive. She’d been really stupid with this one. She wanted to get away from him as soon as possible. Their train home couldn’t come quick enough.

Imogen’s perfect nails dug into the palms of her Shea Butter-moisturised hands, and she silent-screamed again.

Thirty minutes before, she had arranged her legs into an attractive position on the bed. She had adjusted the long tulle skirt of her dress. Fanned her hair out on the pillow. The pillowcase alone probably cost two hundred euros. The suite was how much? Eight hundred and ninety-five euros, for one night. Imogen had thought it would be worth it. To stay in the same suite as Carrie Bradshaw in the last episode of
Sex and the City
. She had thought it would be romantic. It had turned out to be anything but.

Like Carrie, Imogen had been waiting, but not for Aleksandr Petrovsky, fiddling with a trendy light installation in a gallery somewhere across the city, but for Dave Holgate, who had been locked in the bathroom for absolutely ages and was showing no signs of coming out.

What the hell is he doing in there
? she’d thought, picking a down feather off the bed and tucking it under the coverlet.
He’s been at it for over twenty minutes
!

She’d sat up and sighed. She was bored and uncomfortable, and beginning to feel ridiculous with her hair fanned out like that. She wasn’t bloody Rapunzel. She wasn’t even some young, hopeful ingénue – she was a forty-year-old woman who had been there, done that and got several disappointment-stained T-shirts. She should be well beyond hair-fanning. She should be well beyond pinning any kind of hopes on any kind of pathetic man.

At last Imogen had heard the toilet flush and Dave had come out of the bathroom, in his boxers. He’d looked dishearteningly tubby. He’d put on a fair bit of timber since she’d met him, three months ago. As he stood by the window to the balcony and scratched his large bottom, Imogen sighed again. Oh dear. It appeared
she
had turned him into this chubby monstrosity. It was all those meals out they’d had, wasn’t it? All those dates. Dates she’d embarked on with a hope that gradually went the way of Dave’s greedily guzzled food: down the pan.

Their first month of dating – very successful and full of laughs, actually – they went to mid-range restaurants in London. His choice. The second, they started going to restaurants in hotels. Her choice. They did the rounds of all of them: The Marriott, the Dorchester, the Landmark, Claridge’s. Imogen
loved
restaurants in five-star hotels. She loved the whole thing: concierges in top hats showing you in, the clack of heels across marble lobbies, the uniformly attentive waiting staff and the fact there were hotel rooms above you where all sorts of glamorous things were happening – chocolates on pillows, Hollywood stars ordering room service, lovers loving each other, secret assignations. One day she’d be proposed to in one of these hotel restaurants.

It wouldn’t be Dave who would be proposing to her, at least she hoped not. By date six and the restaurant at The Mandarin Oriental, she’d realised he was a lost cause, but unfortunately it was too late. On a high, she’d stupidly booked a trip to Paris after their first, misleadingly brilliant month. A month that had ended with an email landing in her inbox advertising Luxury Hotels of the World, and her reaching happily for the phone with unfounded excitement.

She had had to persevere with him. They had Paris; his name was on the damn tickets. She’d thought if they kept going to all those fab hotel restaurants, even after she knew they were wasted on him (though his stomach would have said the opposite), they might somehow elevate their relationship, elevate
him.

They didn’t.

Equally and idiotically optimistic, Imogen had thought the romantic setting of the Hôtel Plaza Athénée might magically transform him, after three months of dating and dining, to someone she wanted him to be.

It hadn’t.

‘I’d give that ten minutes if I were you,’ Dave had said, with another giant sniff and a ping of his straining waistband.

Who said romance was dead?

He’d crossed the room and huffed his backside into an armchair, knocking a book that had been sitting on one arm to the floor. He hadn’t moved to pick it up. It was Imogen’s:
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
. She’d hoped to instil some culture in Dave somehow, by leaving it lying around. Fat chance.

Then he’d crossed his muscly, hairy legs. The foot that was raised pointed towards her, like a joint of meat. One big toe was nonchalantly being aired. It was a
really
big, fat big toe. Hairy, too. She was revolted. And not for the first time.

‘I can’t wait to get out of here,’ he’d sighed happily and inexplicably, all his actions suggesting the contrary. ‘I fancy pie and mash tomorrow night. Or we could go up Romford dogs. My treat. Who said I wouldn’t treat you like a goddess?’ He’d chuckled to himself, enjoying his own joke. Imogen had smiled sarcastically and resisted the temptation to flip him the bird. Instead she’d flapped her tulle skirt in a huff, allowing him a quick glimpse of her redundant Agent Provocateur underwear. He didn’t even seem to notice. What a waste. He didn’t deserve the underwear, the skirt, the suite. It was all wasted on the fat pig.
She
deserved better.

Dave Holgate had turned out to be huge mistake. She’d plumped for him for a
change
. A change from the steady and long-term succession of upper class twits and rich, Impressive On Paper city boys she had selected and then discarded – for being commitment-phobes, or freaks, or crashing bores, or arrogant sods, or cheats, or already married, or all of the above. She had thought a more down-to-earth man like Dave – a man not quite so Good On Paper – could give her what she wanted. Adoration, a good laugh and, perhaps, commitment; God knows no one else had come up with it.

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