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About the author:
Next in the Skinny companion adventures is a story about Michelle Vermont (her nickname Mickey), in the novel Skinny Cappuccino. Please email Alicia or look out for its release in the Kindle store in May 2014.
What inspired you to write your book?
Swimming is of course a life long skill. I hope people will enjoy my book, but of course, for those who can’t swim, they might consider dipping their toe in the water. My book explores the phobia / deep rooted fear which faces adults who can’t swim and from the bottom of my heart, I hope to encourage people to learn. The intention of my book is to use humour, and of course romance to explore the topic – and I truly hope above all that you enjoy the book.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Three months trying. Two letters, fourteen emails, thirty phone messages, but still no connection. She’d leave another message, and another, and another…if it came to it. Why couldn’t he just pick up the phone, and return her calls? Sophie Smart felt closer to becoming the modern female version of Alexander Graham Bell. Pushing the boundaries of technology and communicating with an extraterrestrial seemed much easier. Surely these possibilities were far closer, far more realistic than speaking with Matthew Silver.
And now, at the very last minute, Matthew Silver accepted her invitation to meet her at the London Annual Advertising Awards, a gala evening and the most prestigious night in the advertising calendar. Who did that? Only a rich kid or spoiled man, who possessed no manners, nor consideration for anyone else, gave no notice.
“Pick up your phone?” Sophie thought, sitting in her Volkswagen Beetle, outside the Highbury and Islington flat, gripping onto her cell phone. A beep sounded for his voicemail.
“Leave it,” his voice message said. Leave what? Another message? She felt like a stalker! Oh, how she wished she could “leave it” and let him hear her wrath. Holding onto her cell, she needed to say something. Be polite.
“Hello,” she started. “This is Sophie Smart from Clarks, Clarks and Clarks Advertising Agency.” She slowly relaxed her coiled fingers from their smothering hold on her phone. “I’m just letting you know I’ll be a fraction late tonight for the London Annual Advertising awards gala. Why don’t we meet at the table? Please call me back.”
His extensive wealth probably meant he could snap his fingers, and any whim, any wish would be granted as if he were the bearer of Aladdin’s magic lamp. Just one rub and all his desires were given. Sophie’s world was not quite the same. What she would give for one of those lamps. Thoughts of her first wish hovered in her mind, and they were not to speak with Matthew Silver.
He was the heir to the Silver Family Leisure Group, a multimillion pound corporation. The Silver’s owned a chain of swimming centers, hotels, gyms, stadiums, theme parks, theatres, restaurants, and retail shops.
Matthew shared his ‘Silver love’. His work – and massive advertising budget – were divvied up between different clawing advertising firms. Sophie only worked on the chain of swimming centers, the smallest part. This allocation was a tiny sliver of Matthew’s advertising budget. For this reason, Matthew, despite his riches, was considered ‘small billing’ by her firm.
But there was always opportunity, Sophie reminded herself. His hotel business was under extreme pressure and she might be just the girl to help him. Tonight, at the gala, was her chance to charm him and drag his business across the line.
Tossing her mobile phone inside her large handbag, she closed her eyes, only for a second. Was she losing it? Had she lost perspective on what was important? Her personal life was crashing round her shoulders. She was sitting in the only place she could afford. Her red Volkswagen Beetle, parked outside a strange flat in Highbury. She was homeless.
She had nowhere to sleep, shower, cook dinner, or keep her possessions. Running her hand over the cardboard box on the passenger seat, she’d taken only her bare essentials. The trunk was crammed full with work clothes, shoes, nail polish, and her collection of Jamie Oliver cook books – only necessary items.
There hadn’t been time to pack everything properly while Derek was so upset. There would be another time when she was invited to return to Derek’s house, her old home. After all, they had lived so happily together until a moment of madness swept over him and he asked her to leave. Derek would miss her wildly. He would surely beg her to go back. Of course he would, wouldn’t he?
Initially Derek was attracted to her because he thought she was pretty enough, and he liked pretty. She was also smart enough to be employed by the prestigious Clarks, Clarks and Clarks Advertising Agency – Clarks for short – with offices in New York and London.
He labeled her his Little Ad Girl. She was petite and she perfected an art, moving papers round her desk whilst managing to impress the two Mr. Clarks, the partners at the firm. Darren Clark was the founder, based in New York, and Bradley Clark was her boss, based in London. Sophie became bored of shuffling papers, answering phones, and photocopying. A desire grew, and drove her. It gripped her to do something more with her life. Derek had convulsed; his Little Ad Girl was getting too big for her boots.
But Bradley Clark took notice.
Bradley empowered her, thinking she possessed a unique personality. A special combination. A cross between an artsy, creative type, and a charmer, often seen in used car salesmen. She was soon promoted to Junior Executive. Clarks held her in high esteem, placing her on an upward trajectory. A fast track program, groomed for senior management. Her new improved role was to project manage. The job involved innovative and creative marketing campaigns. But, there was a downside. She was required to help bring work in the door. She needed to sell.
Selling was only a small problem for Sophie. She had no experience in sales, but a huge desire to learn. This took time and time became a rare commodity. No time to email Derek back instantly. No time to do all the food shopping. No time to make elaborate meals or eat them. No time to do his laundry. No time to vacuum or wash the floor. No time to go to the bathroom and shave her legs. No time, no time, no time! The equilibrium changed in their relationship, causing a jagged rift, like walking along a fault line.
Derek’s attitude shifted. He didn’t like Sophie working at Clarks anymore. The label, his Little Ad Girl, disappeared. It was for the better, really, because the term had never felt particularly flattering. Rather, Sophie felt patronized. Tension built, smothering any love they had left, and trapping them like they lived in a pressure cooker.
He smashed crockery, vases and picture frames. Glass splintered over the tiles and carpet. He raged, throwing a Jamie Oliver cook book at her. With his devilishly good looks, Jamie deserved better than being tosses to the floor.
Derek was consumed with jealousy, and puffed around the living room, complaining how Sophie had wronged him. He pointed his finger at her because she hadn’t cooked for him.
Cooked for him? When had Sophie done more than order take out? Sophie herself subsisted on tins of tuna and crackers. Survival was easy. All Derek had to do was use a tin opener.
Yes, she owned a collection of Jamie Oliver cook books, watched Jamie Oliver on television and insisted on going to his restaurants. It didn’t mean she could rustle up a Jamie Oliver fifteen minute meal. As easy as it sounded, a mere fifteen minutes, she was building up to that. Besides, her tin opener was still in good working condition.
Also, the relationship with Derek was not a reenactment of the hunter-gatherer scenario, so why was she responsible for grocery shopping and cooking for him? Was it because she was, should she dare say it, a female? And yes, she agreed Derek worked hard. But she worked hard too, and was equally tired.
There was a difference in opinion.
There was no turning back, veins protruded from his neck. Derek treated her as like she had done something unforgivable. Adultery? Affair? Secret betrothal? Matters didn’t help when Sophie leant down, and lovingly picked up the Jamie Oliver cook book from the floor. She stupidly admitted her secret fantasy. Who wouldn’t want to be married to a celebrity chef? Of course Derek didn’t see the humor. He lost it, and told Sophie the way he saw things. The facts of his life.
The fight wasn’t about cooking and Sophie knew that. Derek was angry because he felt that she loved her work more than him. Cooking was just an example of something she would do, to prove her commitment to him. Quite simply, he felt second best.
He gave her an ultimatum, to choose between working at Clarks or on their relationship. A letter of resignation would suffice. Since Derek owned the apartment, he held the final say and if she wanted to continue at her job, she needed to find a new place to live – immediately.
Sophie packed. She wouldn’t quit her job and with an ultimatum like his, she certainly wouldn’t cook for him. She wouldn’t even open his can of tuna. Nothing. She’d do nothing for him.
Her choice was evident when Sophie loaded her car with boxes. Sophie left Derek – only last night. No time for tears. He’d miss her. He’d come round. She was strong and she could handle this separation, and still perform at work.
She slept in the backseat of the car and went to work the very next day. No one at work was the wiser.
The fight was less than twenty four hours ago and she was barely holding herself together. Her work still expected to attend the gala evening, although she didn’t want to get dressed in the back of the car. She would find an alternative. Sophie Smart was a solutions kind of girl.
She thrust the car door open, plastered a grin on her face. Think positive, think winner. Smiles were an important part of the sales process. They were cheap, and often closed deals in the sales game. A flat interview was no different. This time, she was selling herself.
Holding a printout of the online advertisement, she checked the address and identified house number 129. The advert specified the room was available immediately. If this flat interview didn’t work out, her solution would involve another night in her Volkswagen Beetle, or possibly a low budget hotel. She desperately didn’t want to ask her parents or friends for any form of assistance. She didn’t need help.
There was a small gate to 129. She walked up the set of steps. A feeling of déjà vu flooded her body, the steps. This was after all the third ascension to an unfamiliar house she’d visited this afternoon, for three separate flat interviews. Feeling panicked, the two previous flats hadn’t worked. Would this one be okay?
Shifting her shoulders back, she inhaled the fresh September air and took a deep breath in. Third time lucky, right?