Guaranteed to make you smile, if you love Sophie Kinsella, Beth O'Leary and Nicola May, you'll LOVE Christina Bradley's hilarious and life-affirming novel of the search for happiness! 'P acked with humour, friendship and romance...it has a real life-affirming, self-affirming message that left me with a smile on my face and a spring in my step' Sophie Ranald, author of S orry Not Sorry *Previously published as Thirty* 'Will leave you with that rare thing - a warm, fuzzy, satisfied feeling in your stomach...will brighten up the dreariest of those summer days' 5* reader review 'Well written, witty and totally original' 5* reader review 'Hilarious, very entertaining and you don't want to stop reading!' 5* reader review 'Cheeringly good!' 5* reader review 'Laugh-out-loud funny' 5* reader review 'Funny, easy, addictive read!' 5* reader review 'Hilarious, on point read about being single!' 5* reader review Bella Edwards wants to change her life. With a significant birthday just a month away, Bella is aware that life isn't quite panning out the way she thought it would - or the way that the lives of everyone around her seem to be (if their constant social media updates are to be believed). In a moment of madness - or absolute clarity - Bella calls quits on her job and her life in London and hops on a plane to New York, seeking the comfort and wisdom of her best friend, Esther, who sets her a challenge. Bella is going to spend the next thirty days saying yes to every new date, following her wildest dreams - and finding out what will make her truly happy. What readers are saying about Which Way to Happiness? : 'Such a witty, fun character...the concept was super entertaining... I loved her writing' 'An entertaining read and I really liked the concept of this book... I hope there will be a sequel!' 'Fresh, sensitive and hilarious' 'Brings out real giggles in places but thought provoking too!' 'Amazing and on point' 'Funny, fast-paced and highly addictive' 'Original and witty'
Release date: June 1, 2019
Print pages: 489
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Which Way to Happiness?
There are so many people who have been part of my journey writing this book who I would like to thank. Those who have been there from the very beginning, I am eternally grateful for their love, endless encouragement and, quite honestly, their stamina for listening to me talk about this book for so many years. I couldn’t be more grateful or more blessed. And, to the people who have joined me on this journey more recently, I owe them the most tremendous thanks because, without them, this book simply wouldn’t be.
Enormous thanks to my dear friends Nancy Duncan and Rozanne Pilbeam. Nancy for believing in this book from the very beginning – without her unwavering support, friendship and deadlines, I wouldn’t have finished the first draft. And Rozanne – without her relentless enthusiasm, encouragement and all the hours spent talking about writing, I wouldn’t have finished the final one. Love and thanks to you both.
I owe special and significant thanks to my agent Amanda Preston and my editor Kate Byrne for their tremendous support, insight and guidance throughout the entire publishing process and, before that, for believing in this book and making everything else possible – I am deeply grateful to you both.
Huge thanks to my lovely family and friends who are a constant source of inspiration, support and love, and who make my life so much richer for simply being in it. My mum and sisters, I would not be me without the three of you – thank you for always being there. Neil Gunn, whose love, friendship and belief in me is like nothing I’ve ever known and means more than I can ever say – thank you for everything. I’m incredibly lucky that I have too many wonderful friends to thank here, but you all know who you are, and I’m grateful to each and every one of you.
And, finally, I would like to thank all the single women out there who have inspired this story, especially those who have shared their own stories and their hearts. This book was written for you my girls, with much love and respect – always!
What have I done?
While the rest of London busy themselves at their desks, here I am sitting on the floor, amongst an overwhelming number of joss sticks that smell like cat wee, waiting for a fortune teller. Yes, that’s right . . . a FORTUNE TELLER! A fortune teller who goes by the name of Mary Rose is about to read my palm and predict my future.
An hour ago, I told my boss to go and fuck himself.
My mother would be appalled. ‘Bella Edwards, there is never a need for that sort of language,’ I can hear her say. ‘You’ve made yourself look like a potty-mouthed tramp.’ And she would be right. I am a potty-mouthed tramp.
‘Go and fuck yourself.’ Oh God, it’s horrific. I’ve never in my whole life told anyone to go and ‘fuck themselves’ before. Ever. ‘Bugger off!’ is about as profane as it gets. Or maybe, if I’m very cross, I might manage something as threatening as ‘Up yours!’, but these instances are few and far between and, certainly, in light of today’s outburst, fairly minor offences. I’m pretty sure that by telling my boss to go and fuck himself I have, in no uncertain terms, completely outdone myself.
So here I am, sitting quietly yet semi-hysterically, waiting for a fortune teller. It’s almost completely silent except for what sounds like whale music playing from an old CD player in the corner of the room. I can hear sirens outside, which, ironically, I find more comforting than the whale music. Other than these minor audio distractions, I am left alone with my thoughts – my muddled, confused, partially inebriated, nonsensical thoughts. The most salient of which – I have completely lost my fucking mind.
Not only have I just turned down a promotion, quit my job and suffered what can only be described as a complete emotional meltdown, I now find myself sitting in a room that calls itself a ‘spiritual sanctuary’ but in reality is more like a crack den. To top it all off, I’m about to seek counsel from a con artist, out to make a quick buck off the vulnerable and the needy, a demographic that, as of an hour ago, I have put myself firmly amongst.
This is officially the new low point of my day.
And how I find myself in this shady predicament is once again through the power of clever advertising.
Are you lost? Are you in need of spiritual direction? (Have you just been offered a promotion and responded by telling your boss to go and fuck himself?) Then maybe you need the help of Gypsy Mary Rose – £28 for half an hour – CASH ONLY!!!
The smell of joss sticks is making my throat itch. It’s probably to mask the smell of illegal sex and crack cocaine. I wonder whether it’s possible to get high from burning incense but decide it’s probably not; otherwise, most of Asia would be permanently off their heads. Maybe they are. Maybe I should move to Asia. Maybe I should move into an ashram and ‘find myself’ like Elizabeth Gilbert when she Ate, Prayed and Loved. That could be me. Or maybe I should do something less extreme and try and get my job back. Would it even be possible? Would I actually be able to salvage anything from the wreckage that is now my career, my life?
There is always a chance it isn’t as bad as I think. Maybe Larry Hill – that’s my boss, or ex-boss now – thought I was being assertive. He’s always telling me I need to be more assertive, more trusting in my own judgement and intuition. I could say I was taking his advice, tell him he should be proud of himself, he should see this whole sordid business as a compliment to his mentoring skills. By tomorrow maybe, with enough grovelling, this could all be forgotten? Maybe I could walk back into that office with my head held high. Sure, I’ll probably need to make some sort of an apology to Larry for my bizarre behaviour, but I could do that. If that’s what it would take. I could even see whether that promotion is still on the table, once the dust has settled, of course. Whatever it takes. I just can’t lose my job, because if I lose that, I’ll have lost everything – I’ll have lost me.
I am seconds away from clambering to my feet and making a run for it when suddenly there is movement. The curtain masking what I can only imagine is the bedroom, or possibly the kitchen, certainly some sort of living quarters, dramatically swings open, revealing – Gypsy Mary Rose.
She looks an absolute fright, hardly the Earth Mother I was hoping for. We stare at each other, trying to work out what exactly we’re both being greeted with here. It’s hard to know whose face is more troubled. At last, Gypsy Mary Rose waddles over to where I sit. She sounds like a recycling truck. She clatters and clangs with all the jewellery laden over her limbs. Chunky gold bangles jingle around her chubby wrists. An arm cuff pulled all the way up to her flabby bicep on closer inspection turns out to be a snake wrapping itself so tightly around her arm her skin has turned purple and blotchy. It is so tight that folds of flesh spill from the snake’s venomous grip. It is disturbing. Her fingers are decorated with oversized rings. Her nails are painted fluorescent pink but the varnish is chipped and reveals dark yellow stains beneath. She also wears a fluorescent shade of eye shadow, liberally applied, extending all the way up to her painted-on brows. Her thick foundation makes her face glow a warm shade of orange. The overall look she’s achieved here is basically that of a transvestite. She is nothing short of terrifying, but I can’t help but love her immediately, which is possibly telling of my state of mind.
‘I got a dodgy back, sweeedhart,’ she growls in her thick cockney accent, looking at me as I sit awkwardly on the floor. ‘I ain’t gonna last five minutes down there.’
She has the voice of someone who smokes about three packs of cigarettes a day and is permanently on the cusp of a coughing fit. I scramble hastily to my feet as she informs me that the tie-dye rug is more of a prop to ‘set the scene’ and what we really need are some chairs.
Now that she’s made her grand entrance she has no problem yanking back the curtains, destroying any thin illusion she might have created by revealing the backstage area. As it turns out, it’s the kitchen. Gypsy Mary Rose then disappears, returning a few moments later dragging two bar stools that she positions opposite one another. Awkwardly, she mounts herself upon one stool and makes a gesture suggesting I should do the same.
‘Well . . .’ is all she gets out before collapsing into an inevitable fit of coughs. After two revolting minutes of listening to this woman hacking up her lungs, she lets out one final, violent roar, with so much force I nearly come off my stool, and then, finally, she continues, ‘You look like you’ve ’ad a shitty day. What do you say to a little vodka, sweeedhart?’
I say totally inappropriate. I am paying twenty-eight quid for this woman’s professional service and her plan is to sit here and get drunk together.
‘I’d love one.’
She clambers down off her perch and once again disappears into the kitchen, returning with two tumblers of neat vodka in one hand and the bottle in the other. I feel giddy but grateful just looking at them. Placing one of the tumblers in my hand, she quickly clinks the glasses aggressively, causing the vodka to spill from my glass, drenching my hand. Gypsy Mary Rose fails to notice – she’s far too focused on making her toast.
‘’Ere’s to good ’ealf and being able to drink vodka on a Tuesday afternoon. Cheers, sweeedhart,’ she slurs.
‘Cheers,’ I reply, pouring down the liquid, squeezing my eyes shut as it burns my throat.
‘So then, young lady, what brings ya sweet-self ’ere?’
And so I begin. I recount the entire woeful tale of my afternoon. Gypsy Mary Rose laps it up with pure glee. When I eventually arrive at the end of my story, which is right here, sitting and staring into the glazed eyes of a fortune teller, desperately looking for her to tell me it’ll all be all right, she doesn’t. Instead, she says absolutely nothing at all. She just shakes her head, attempts to take another sip of her drink, which has long since disappeared, and then, after a good few minutes of complete silence, she speaks.
‘Sweeedhart,’ she rumbles, looking me square in the eye. ‘D’ya not fink ya might ’ave overreacted a little bit?’
Good grief, you stupid woman! I was offered a promotion and responded by telling my boss to go and fuck himself. Yes – I overreacted. This surely can’t be the depths of this woman’s wisdom; if it is, I’m demanding a refund. Recently unemployed, I refuse to pay for someone to simply state the painfully obvious.
‘I think it’s entirely possibly, yes,’ I respond politely.
‘All right, then, giv’ us yer ’and and let’s see what’ll become of ya, yer daft ole cow.’
She snatches my hand, bringing it close to her face, but even at this close range it seems that, whatever it is she’s looking for, she can’t find it. She’s probably either too blind, too drunk or doesn’t have a clue what she’s looking for in the first place. I fear it could be all three. Attempting to resolve this problem, she lifts my hand, looking for some light – the new problem being that we’re in a windowless room and there is no light. Momentarily grappling with this issue, she reaches into the pocket of her smock-like gown for an alternative solution. She then presents a mini-torch, the type of torch you get free if you spend more than twenty quid at Halfords. I’m becoming increasingly sceptical about the professional standards of this place. Gypsy Mary Rose, still holding my hand firmly within her own, traces the torchlight over my palm as if she’s searching for a splinter. She does this slowly at first but then becomes more vigorous until, suddenly, the tiny beam of light stops. The torch hovers, semi-steadily for a woman with the tremors, over a tiny area of my palm. She lowers her entire face so that it’s just centimetres away from my hand.
This is unpleasant! I can feel her stale breath on my skin. Instinctively, I retract my hand, but that’s met with a sharp slap. I don’t move my hand after that.
‘Ooooh,’ she says, now totally absorbed in her own charade. ‘I see an awful lotta alcohol in your future, sweeedhart.’
Again, not instilling any confidence in this woman’s ability to read palms. It’s 3 p.m. on a weekday and we’ve both just necked a beaker of straight vodka. It’s a pretty safe bet to suggest there might be alcohol in my future.
‘Go on,’ I say sharply.
And so she does. ‘Oh yeah, I see it clear as day. The booze is gonna play a big part in your future, gal, you mark my words.’
Losing all patience, I decide to just do it. I ask her the big question ‘Do you see any . . .’
But for some reason I can’t do it. I can’t get the words out. Despite not believing a word this woman says, the question I really want to ask, the answer I desperately need to know, feels too weighty. The stakes are too great. It is, after all, the root of my entire future happiness. There’s a lot riding on this. I try again, and this time the words come out as nothing more than a breathy whisper.
‘Do you see . . .’
The fortune teller leans in closer, her eyes willing the words from my mouth.
‘Do you see . . .’
‘Go on, luvvie . . .’ encourages the fortune teller.
‘Do you see a man?’ I manage to spit out. ‘I mean, does my palm say I am going to meet someone?’ I add casually, trying not to sound as desperate as I feel. ‘Eventually, I mean . . . at some point in my future, I do meet someone, don’t I?’ I ramble hopelessly. ‘I do meet “The One”, don’t I? I do find him?’
And there it is. The question that seems to lie at the root of pretty much everything these days. I squeeze my eyes tightly shut and wait for her answer.
The silence is endless. Except for those fucking whales that won’t pipe down.
And then, finally . . .
‘No,’ she says bluntly. ‘You don’t.’
What the heck?!
‘I don’t?’ I mouth back in horror.
Definitely not the answer I was expecting. Sure, I always say I’m never going to meet anyone, but that’s in a clichéd ‘woe is me, when will it be my turn’ sort of way. We all say that kind of stuff when we’re single. No one, deep down, believes it’s true. I certainly didn’t think it could be true, that I really won’t meet anyone, that I truly am destined to be single for ever. It’s surely a matter of time, not destiny.
‘Well, not in the common way.’
‘What?’ I splutter.
‘I don’t see ya meetin’ a man in the common way, I don’t. You might wanna bit more voddy as I explain this one to ya.’
My eyes ping wide open. I automatically extend my glass in the direction of the vodka.
‘What does that mean, exactly? Do you, or don’t you?’ I say, sounding like a woman on the edge. The fortune teller clumsily fills my glass with one hand and with her other continues to clutch mine desperately. Except now she’s holding it like someone who is about to break some very bad news.
‘Now, sweeedhart . . .’
Oh, just spit it out, you old hag.
‘One day,’ she begins. Oh, for God’s sake. This doesn’t need ramping up for dramatic effect. This isn’t an episode of a soap opera – this is my life and my entire future happiness.
‘Go on,’ I snap. I can’t take much more of this.
‘Well, one day, ya gonna choose the wrong road.’
‘Wrong road?’ I repeat her words in frenzied dread. ‘What does that mean?’
‘Well, if ya’d shut up a second, sweeedhart, I’ll explain, so I will.’
I immediately do as I’m told.
‘That road, luvvie, it’ll be dark. It’ll be very dark and it’ll be very dangerous.’ The words ‘dark’ and ‘dangerous’ hang ominously in the air. ‘And you’ll be scared, and you’ll be desperate and you’ll feel all alone.’
‘Scared, desperate and alone,’ I repeat quietly back to her. She nods, satisfied I am taking it in. ‘On a dark and dangerous road?’
‘That’s right, luvvie,’ she confirms solemnly. ‘And, sweeedhart . . .’
‘You’ll be in serious danger.’
‘Serious danger?’ I mouth it like a small child being told a horror story, which is exactly what this is turning into.
‘That’s right,’ says the fortune teller, raising her voice in thundery doom. ‘Deep, dark danger, and you won’t have anywhere to turn.’
‘Nowhere to turn?’
‘And you’ll be so desperate to be saved you’ll just reach out.’
‘Yes, darlin’. You will. You’ll reach out to be rescued and . . .’
‘Yes . . .’ I beg, leaning my entire body towards her, my mouth open, my eyes fixed on her eyes.
‘And, sweeedhart . . .’
‘Yes?’ I whisper again.
‘Rescued you will be!’
‘Oh, thank Christ.’ I exhale in relief. I hadn’t realized I’d been holding my breath this whole time.
‘Well, it’s funny ya should say that, because that is exactly who rescues you,’ the fortune teller continues.
‘I don’t understand.’
‘Christ, sweeedhart,’ she says, pointing vigorously in an upward direction.
‘I still don’t understand what you’re saying!’ I snap, my nerves frayed and jangled.
‘CHRIST!’ she roars back at me. ‘It’s Christ that will save your sorry self.’
She then lowers her voice to a hushed whisper, pulling herself even closer to me, and looks me right in the eye. Her breath makes me want to retch.
‘Christ will save you and, through him, you’re gonna find your faith.’
Satisfied with her work, the fortune teller shuffles back on her stool. She reaches into her smock pocket.
‘When?’ I ask, in a small and frightened voice, like I’m asking how much longer I have to live.
‘By the time you reach thirty,’ she says, lighting an already half-smoked cigarette she’s managed to find in the pocket.
My blood runs cold.
‘I turn thirty in thirty-three days!’ I say in a trance, my voice shaking. I know this because I’m counting. I’m counting down to turning thirty, like I’m counting down to the end of the world.
‘Well, Christ will be waiting for you then, sweeedhart.’
‘And that’s it? That’s all you see?’ I ask in quiet despair.
‘Yep. That and an awful lotta booze!’
‘You said that already.’
‘Just want to paint the full picture for ya, luvvie.’
Gypsy Mary Rose looks at me as if she’s expecting me to be rejoicing in my Cinderella story but instead sees my expression of horror at my life of celibacy, alcoholism and new-found faith in Christ. And the only words I can find in this moment of painful discovery . . .
‘Please may I have some more vodka?’
It seems I’m already well on my way to fulfilling her prophecy.
When I burst out of the fortune teller’s front door, the winter sun hangs low in the sky. Having spent the last half an hour in a black box, I’m blinded by the daylight. Standing shakily in the bustling street, confused, disorientated, I steady myself on the building I have just stumbled from, acclimatising to the outside world. It’s a world that suddenly looks very different to me. I imagine this is how those Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe children must have felt after their adventures in Narnia, resurfacing from the cupboard only to discover that, although everything is as they left it, nothing will ever be quite the same. Reality has shifted. And now all I want to do is get as far away from my new reality as I possibly can.
I begin to walk. I have no idea where. I just walk. Sucking in deep breaths of air, I walk faster and faster so my thoughts can no longer keep pace. Thoughts of quitting my job, thoughts of the fortune teller’s bleak and terrifying predictions, thoughts of my fate, my future and myself are all banished from my mind as I try desperately to outmanoeuvre them. And maybe if I had enough stamina I would. In reality, the only thing I manage to outmanoeuvre is some ambling pedestrians and an elderly man driving a motorised wheelchair. My thoughts keep up, never letting me out of their sight.
I finally give up the chase and come to a defeated stop at the bottom of Primrose Hill. Collapsing on the damp winter grass in a crumpled heap, I swallow thick gulps of cold air, focusing only on my breath. This is an exercise my mum always recommends to ‘quieten the mind’. She does it at the beginning of all her art classes, it’s a way of ‘neutralising oneself’, apparently. Well, I need to be neutralised. If I can’t outmove these stubborn, disturbing thoughts, perhaps I can expel them from my body altogether, replacing them with thoughts of nothingness. I can obliterate them. One by one. Exhale steady stream of despair. Inhale absolutely nothing. And repeat.
It takes some time. In fact, it takes a very long time. There is an awful lot of neutralising that needs to be done today. Miraculously, though, after enough deep breaths, something starts to happen. A slight shift in my thoughts, in my consciousness. A gentle ripple of calm begins to nudge me. It’s a nervous calm, tentative, unsure how close it can come before the dark thoughts, now pretending to be asleep, wake up and scare it away. The residue of crazy is like the gatekeeper of my mind, refusing to allow friendly visitors to enter.
No sudden moves!
I breathe in nothing – I breathe out crazy – I repeat.
Then, from behind the foggy haze of my mind, clarity begins to emerge. And with it, a clear, strong voice. A voice I don’t recognise speaks to me.
‘Damn it, Delia. Come on!’
I imagine this voice must come deep from within me. It’s worryingly masculine and very aggressive and not at all what I imagined my inner voice to sound like. And who the hell is Delia? Then I hear the voice again, and this time it ricochets across the entire park, which is when I realise this cannot possibly be my inner voice. Rather, it’s the voice of a big, burly man standing a few metres away from where I sit. The man is wearing a leather jacket and his sleeves are pulled up, exposing arms covered in faded tattoos. He is standing so close I can see that stamped on his knuckles are five single letters, spelling out the name D.E.L.I.A. The letters are clear thanks to his tightly clenched fist which is gripping a metal chain stretched taut in front of him. At the end of that chain is Delia – a bulldog.
Delia is defiantly straining against the pull of her lead, clearly not wanting to be moved from the patch of grass she’s currently enjoying. The man has other plans. He pulls harder on the lead. Delia plants her paws into the wet grass and braces herself against the force of her owner. Her paunchy face becomes swallowed by thick folds of fur until her eyes are completely covered and she can’t see a thing; she’s blinded by her own forehead. With one last and final wrench of the lead, it’s all over. At the risk of being throttled, Delia has no choice but to admit defeat. She lets out a disgruntled snort and then obediently follows in the direction she is being pulled in.
Poor Delia, I think, not in charge of her own destiny. Pulled in a direction she doesn’t want to go but with no choice but to follow.
Son of a gun . . . I’M FUCKING DELIA!
I see it now. As clear as I see the chain around my own neck, my lead gripped by a tight-fisted Larry Hill. Only Larry Hill doesn’t look like himself any more, he looks like Jesus Christ. And his knuckles are tattooed not with the word D.E.L.I.A. but the word B.E.L.L.A. Larry and Jesus are both pulling on my lead. It’s like a tug of war, both pulling me towards my destiny. Unfortunately, this is where it gets a little confusing and the dual personality of Larry Hill morphing into Jesus Christ throws me. Is Jesus Christ pulling me towards him and the future the fortune teller predicted, or has Larry Hill forgiven me and is now pulling me back towards him and my career so that I can continue on with my present?
‘A-ha!’ I exhale dramatically, at last making sense of it.
I am at a crossroad. I am being pulled in two different directions, pulled towards a future I have no say in and a present I don’t want. This realisation causes my mouth to drop open, because it’s only right now, in this very moment, that I realise I don’t want this present, not the one I woke up living this morning, and definitely not if it’s leading me towards that future. So, is it my present that’s holding me back from a future I do want?
I think all this breathing has somehow elevated my emotional intelligence. That or the fortune teller drugged me.
‘Delia!’ For just a split second I think it’s my inner voice again, until I see her. I see myself – sprinting up Primrose Hill. Delia is making a run for it. She’s broken free. She is choosing a different destiny for herself. She is making her own rules.
‘You go, Delia!’ I shout.
This has to be a sign. I have to make a run for it too. I have to get away. If Delia can do it, so can I. I’m neither going to try and get my job back, nor am I going to accept the fate the fortune teller has laid down before me. Just like Delia, I’m going to make a run for it, in the opposite direction. Right now, I have no idea what that direction is – all I know is that I have thirty-three days to do it, thirty-three days before I turn thirty and my fate is sealed and I’m single for ever. I have to do this. I have to run because, even before the fortune teller brought me face to face with my future, one thing has never been clearer to me: my present isn’t the future that I’d imagined it was going to be, and my disturbing proximity to a pile of dog crap I’ve just spotted right next to me seems to suggest the same.
I retrace my route back to Camden Underground, my mind spinning. I have no idea where to go from here, what I should do now. What I need is another sign. Just one last clue from the universe to point me in the right direction because, if it comes down to me alone, quite frankly, I’m screwed. I’m about to enter the Tube station when I hear my phone ring. Retrieving it from the depths of my bag, I see the caller name and, as much as I hate to, I know I have to answer it.
‘Hi, Dad,’ I chirp, feigning cheerfulness, masking all trace of the hellish realities of my day.
‘Bella, thank God,’ comes his familiar voice, a mix of worry and relief. ‘Are you okay?’
‘I’m fine,’ I reply gingerly.
‘Thank God,’ he says again. I can almost feel his entire body exhaling, loosening with relief. ‘I got so worried, little one.’
I don’t know how he knows, or what he knows, but I know he knows.
‘And why’s that?’ I casually reply, downplaying everything.
‘Bella, is there anything you want to share?’ He sounds like a hostage negotiator trying to safely release ‘my truth’.
‘No,’ I say thoughtfully, pretending to wrack my brains. ‘Nothing I can think of.’
God, I’m good at this. If I hadn’t lived through it, I would even have myself believing today was a typically uneventful day.
His mood switches.
‘Funny that,’ he says, sounding suddenly cross. He knows I’m lying, withholding my truth.
‘Is it?’ I waver, now sounding uncertain. I’m losing my nerve.
‘Yes, it is, Bella Edwards, because I have just come off the phone to your HR department.’
Oh, no – this is bad.
‘They felt the need to alert your next of kin – sadly for all of us, that’s still me – that you have apparently suffered a “nervous breakdown” today.’
Oh God, this is really bad.
‘No one quite knows what it was triggered by. “Bizarre and deeply worrisome” were the words the HR woman kept using.’
Worse than bad. This is a living nightmare!
‘They wanted to inform me that you had fled the building, that they have no idea of your whereabouts but that they were extremely anxious for your safety and, potentially, the safety of those around you. Bella, sweetheart, what the hell is going on?’
Damn Human Resources! And damn being a grown woman and still having my dad as my next of kin. Moving forward, I am updating all records, changing my next of kin to my mad next-door neighbour with the pet tortoise. He would be totally unfazed by all this.
‘Bella?’ my dad presses, demanding some sort of response.
‘I don’t know what to say, Dad.’
‘Well, that’s unfortunate, Bella, because HR certainly had more to say.’
Make this stop.
‘They told me that you verbally assaulted your boss.’ He sounds very disappointed in me now. ‘Verbally assaulted your boss. Bella, is this true?’
No, I wouldn’t say it’s true. It’s utterly embellished by those spiteful HR women. Sure, I swore at my boss and dropped the f-bomb, but that is a far cry from verbally assaulting him.
‘You need to talk to me, Bella. I thought you loved your job – you live for that job. Tell me what on earth happened today.’
How can I, when I don’t even know what happened today?
‘Bella, did you tell your boss to go and fuck himself?’
My dad stops talking and waits for me to speak, thinking there is more to come. There isn’t. ‘Dad’ seems to be the extent of what I have to say. Forced to elaborate but not able to continue with this conversation, I say the only thing I can think of that is true.
‘I have to go.’
‘Go where, Bella?’ I’m pretty sure the only place he thinks I?
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