I am pleased to announce that my fifth book, I’ve Got Sol, is available now.
Read an excerpt from the first chapter below:
Annie looked at me, her eyes already shrink-wrapped in tears by whoever had offered kind words into her tiny, elf-like ear, poking through her grown-out ginger hair. It had returned to its natural colour after years of peroxide abuse. As a result she looked like a completely different girl. I was drunk, but didn’t feel as far gone as she looked; a scale I used to justify my own binging.
We were in Agenda, one of the far-too-many trendy city-boy bars populating the golden mile of London. It was the kind of place where boys with smarmed over undercuts threw Ralph Lauren jumpers over their shoulders, thinking it was an acceptable look and not the uniform of the basic dick. I did not feel at home in Agenda, in my flapping flannel shirt, washed-out skinny jeans and cracked Converse. Give me personality and attitude, give me sticky carpets and the roar of the jukebox – not all those clean surfaces for coke, remixes of songs that shouldn’t ever be touched and overpriced cocktails.
‘I wish I could come with you’ I said, biting my lip in the hope it would prevent tears from accumulating.
‘You can come and visit me anytime, just book a flight and I’ll come and meet you.’ She seemed so much stronger than me, so much better too. She was really doing it. She was getting out.
It was no good. It was too much. I was going to cry.
Shortly after Annie and I returned from the Sahara she told me she planned to go travelling for a year. As a friend I supported her but reserved strong doubts it would come to anything. I know a league of people who said they would go travelling and see the world, shopping in the 9–5 in order to experience something. There were so many vague self-made promises and world maps littered with push pins hanging on the walls of rented bedrooms. I gave Annie my full support because I didn’t fully believe she would go through with it. I was naïve.
When we returned from our desert adventure I already had my next step booked. The same group who had organised the Sahara trek had announced the following year’s trek, traversing the Inca Trail in Peru to the ancient lost city, Machu Picchu. I booked my place. Annie didn’t have anything to look forward to. When I signed up, she told me she would love to go but had her own plans and needed to see them through. She promised me she would see South America, but that it came later, after her own plans. Annie’s wanderlust was admirable. I should have known I could only anchor her for so long before she made that next leap, like Sam Beckett.
As the months leading up to my Peru adventure shortened, her plans snowballed. Annie saved up; she started cutting nights out with friends from her regular agenda. She ordered travel guides that she read and highlighted during our lunch hours together. One payday she told me she had booked the first in her series of flights. A stone dropped into the well of my stomach. The ripples caught me. It was very real. She was going and without her, I wasn’t sure what I would do.
People we worked with asked if something was going on behind the scenes, a clichéd will-they-won’t-they romance. Annie and I were never Ross Gellar and Rachel Green. We’re not Harry and Sally. The truth is I was at a stage in my life when I was struggling with a number of things and she popped up. I’m a cynic at heart. I don’t believe in ghosts or Gods or fate, I struggle to understand exactly what, if anything, placed me on this planet. There was something about Annie and the way she came into my life I am thankful for. If a force of some kind brought her about then I owe it a humble respect. She’s the little sister to a boy only ever stuck with brothers.
There were no romantic intentions between the pair of us. Annie knows too much to ever consider me a worthy adversary. She always had that gun to my head.
Annie eventually handed in her notice, having kept quiet for so long about her plans. She sent out an invite to a leaving do. Far too many people asked what I was going to do without her. I’m still not entirely sure.
‘You can come and visit me anytime, just book a flight and I’ll come and meet you’ she said. Tears collected at the corners of my eyes. I failed to blink them away. One rolled down my cheek.
‘I’m really going to fucking miss you’ I said and I grabbed her in a hug. I was drunk I realised as the Woo Woo-infused tears disappeared into her hair. ‘I’m jealous of you and I’m going to miss you but I’ll come and see you, I’ll come and see you.’
I stayed clung to her until I could compose myself and then I sat back. Annie dabbed at her eyes with the back of her hand. I ground my teeth.
‘I don’t know what I’m going to do without you’ I said, while a voice in my head informed me I had said far too much and should hone it in a little. My damn sense of consciousness and self-awareness stepping in, knowing I had crossed a line.
‘I know, but I’ll be back’ she said. We hugged again.
Annie had booked her flight to Thailand before Bali and Indonesia. She planned to see how things went from there.
‘Don’t worry,’ said one of the women who worked on Annie’s team, ‘she’ll be back before you know it.’
‘That’s the problem,’ I said. ‘I don’t think she’ll come back at all.