I’m excited to announce I’m writing a new romantic comedy. This one is currently titled Roses and Lemonade.
In this excerpt from chapter 1, the main character, Charlie, is unwrapping her Secret Santa present from work while her family watch on – with disastrous results…
Excerpt from chapter 1:
All eyes were on me as I slowly unwrapped the package. I wanted to delay the moment when everyone groaned – which was guaranteed. I’d warned them it would be something cheesy, I explained that it was my Secret Santa from work, so they knew what to expect.
I removed the wrapping paper to find an innocuous box. I slowly screwed up the paper and tossed it towards the bin bag that Dad had brought in to collect all the rubbish.
‘Auntie Charlie,’ whinged Kiki.
I grinned as I slowly opened the box, lifting the lid and discarding it.
‘What’s that?’ Kiki asked as an eight-inch dildo slid out of the bottom of the box.
‘Oh my God,’ I yelled, scrabbling to catch it before it hit the floor. But I didn’t. It was Herman who, having slumbered in the corner most of the day had suddenly come to life. He clamped the dildo between his teeth and it began to vibrate.
Joe, jumping up, tried to wrestle it from Herman’s jaws. Marlene started hitting Herman across the back and shouting ‘drop, drop.’ But Herman wasn’t letting go of his prize.
‘Is it for Herman, Auntie Charlie?’ Kiki’s innocent voice filled a temporary silence. ‘That’s nice of your friends to think of him.’
‘What’s he got? What is it?’ asked Dad who hadn’t seen it properly before Herman got his jaws around it. ‘Is it a bone?’
I shouldn’t have laughed, I know, but I couldn’t help it.
While I laughed, Marlene and Joe wrestled Herman, Dad and Kiki looked on bemused; but it was Mum and Ben’s reaction which was priceless.
‘Disgusting,’ said Ben, who at eleven evidently knew what he was looking at. ‘You’re an old person.’ He shook his head at me and blushed.
I cringed with shame.
‘Charlene,’ shouted Mum. Oh dear, she was using my full name, my telling off name. ‘Do something.’
I jumped up and between the three of us, my brother, his wife and I, we bundled Herman into the kitchen and Joe finally got the dildo out of his dog’s mouth. He handed it – covered in Herman’s drool – back to me.
I stepped back. ‘No thanks.’
‘Okay.’ Joe flung it at the bin but Herman leapt into the air and caught it as it flew past him.
It was Marlene who tempted him to drop it a second time with the lure of a mince pie or two.
‘I thought he wasn’t supposed to have rich food,’ I said to Marlene once the furore had died down, the dildo was finally in the bin and Herman was on his third mince pie.
‘He’s not supposed to eat plastic and batteries either,’ she spat at me. ‘But he would have.’ She shook her head in disgust as we slinked back to the sitting room so the kids could open their final presents.
‘It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t buy it,’ I snapped back as I sat down.
‘That’s enough, Charlene,’ Mum said, as though I were a child.
Everything after that was an anti-climax – excuse the pun. We ate and drank more than we needed or wanted and slept in front of the TV until bedtime. Joe and I did manage a sly snigger about it in the kitchen when we were making coffee but other than that no one mentioned Herman and the dildo again.
That was Christmas day, done and over for another year. I was tired and even Herman’s snoring from the annex kitchenette didn’t keep me awake. But his howling woke me up from the deepest, sweetest sleep.
‘Shut up, Herman,’ I yelled through the wall.
He howled more. It went on and on and I waited for Joe or Marlene to come and sort him out. But no one came even when the howling got louder.
Finally, I hauled myself out of bed and yanked open my bedroom door.
The smell nearly knocked me off my feet.
I flicked the light on and Herman stopped howling, instead wagging his tail in delight at seeing me. He’d had diarrhoea all over the kitchenette; thank God the floor was tiled and not carpeted.
‘Urgh,’ I gagged putting my hand over my mouth and nose. I could taste it.
Herman seemed to take this as invitation to jump up at me, knocking me over. I slipped in his mess and he had obviously paddled in it because I had poo paw prints down the front of my brand-new pyjamas.
‘You’ve ruined my new pyjamas,’ I screeched. ‘You big shit.’
Herman hung his head in shame and started whining.
Clambering to my feet, stumbling and slipping on the dog diarrhoea, I flicked open the bathroom door and nudged Herman inside. Luckily, the bathroom is a wet room, specially kitted out for Granny Suze, and as I sprayed Herman’s feet and his backside clean, I also peeled off my pyjamas before taking a quick shower too. Mum had put dark towels in the bathroom for me, and after drying myself and Herman I used them to mop up his mess in the kitchenette while he yelped in the bathroom.
Mum uses the annex kitchenette as a makeshift laundry room, which was particularly helpful as I loaded my pyjamas and the towels, as well as Herman’s sleeping blanket into the washing machine and set it going on the hot wash.
He whined a bit when I let him out of the bathroom but that was mainly because his beloved blanket had gone, but after a good sniff around he settled himself down to sleep and I was able to go back to bed. After tossing and turning, I finally managed to get back to sleep even though the stench of dog diarrhoea lingered in my nose.
When I told Marlene about it all the next day she had no sympathy but made a face which screamed serves you right, raising her eyebrows and half smirking at me, as though it was my fault.
‘Marlene seems to be blaming me for your dog shitting everywhere last night,’ I told Joe when he took Herman out and I went with him.
‘Yeah. Just ignore her.’ Joe laughed.
‘It’s not funny. I had to wash all that lot in the night and then again in the morning after Mum declared them not clean enough. The tumble dryer’s on full pelt now. My lovely new pyjamas were in there too. I fell in the shit; I had to have a shower in the night.’ I was really annoyed with everyone for not taking this as seriously as I thought they should. No one had apologised or empathised.
‘How’s work?’ Joe said, changing the subject.
‘Yeah. Fine. You?’
‘Yeah. Same. You working between Christmas and New Year?’
‘Yes,’ I said, smiling. We both knew I wasn’t but I always tell Mum and Dad that I am so I can make an early escape.
‘I wanted to leave early but Marlene wants to stay for New Year.’
‘That’s so she can sit on her arse while Mum waits on her.’ I said this laughing and Joe joined in but we both knew it was the truth.
When we got back Mum had folded all the dry towels and left my pyjamas on my bed. I held them up to me; they had shrunk and the colour had faded.
‘Shit bag,’ I muttered under my breath.
‘Who is?’ Kiki’s little voice came from behind me.
‘Oh nothing. Shall we have a go at that crochet kit Nanny bought you?’ I’m crap at crafts so it would be as much of a learning experience for me as Kiki.
‘No. I don’t really like that sort of stuff. Can I play with your makeup instead?’
An hour later Kiki and I both looked like clowns and Marlene’s pinched face when she saw us made me laugh in her face.
‘I’ll never get that off,’ she hissed.
‘At least it doesn’t stink like dog shit,’ I whispered out of Kiki’s earshot.
‘Ha bloody ha. Come on Kiki, bathroom.’
Boxing Day dragged on. Too much food, too much time together. Marlene, once she’d cleaned Kiki’s face, wanted to go through the exercises she had prepared for me. To keep the peace, I obliged in the sitting room while Mum gave helpful hints and Dad kept dodging from side to side in an attempt to watch The Great Escape on TV. He’s seen it so many times he must know it off by heart.
A reluctant Herman was dragged around the block before bed in an effort to ensure that there wouldn’t be repeat of the previous night. I told Joe that if there was they would be cleaning it up themselves. All six of my nearest and dearest had insisted that they never heard Herman howling. How convenient.
I wore my – by then – very snug, new PJs and went to bed early. Herman, bless him, didn’t disturb me at all, neither howling nor snoring. I had a blissful night’s sleep.
It was daylight when I awoke, rested and happy and not just because I’d slept well, but because I was going home, my home, London. Mum had mentioned something about lunch but I’d told her I needed to get back early and was catching a train around eleven. I’d already persuaded Joe to take me to the station, so Mum couldn’t delay my journey. And, I’d checked the live departure boards on my phone and a train was definitely running, not a coach replacement, not at that time.
I showered and dressed and packed my wheelie-case ready to go home. I assumed that one of the kids had taken Herman into the main house because I still hadn’t heard a peep from him. Only as I opened the door into the kitchenette did I see that he was still there.
‘Hey, poo poo,’ I joked, nudging him with my foot, ‘wakey, wakey.’
Herman didn’t grunt his disapproval, or snore or even acknowledge my toe poke. Herman didn’t move.
I stood over his inert body for several minutes willing him to wake up. Deep down, I knew he wouldn’t.
As usual, please excuse any errors, typos, etc.
Look out for the next excerpt – coming soon.