Written by Erin Green
My thanks to Melanie Price at Aria Fiction for including me in this Blog Tour
‘Look at you, jumping the gun – you’ll only be disappointed if he doesn’t ask,’ warned Marianne, buttoning her coat against the March chill. ‘Most men need an arm up their back or an unexpected pregnancy to force them into marriage. Take my Jimmy… twelve years of dating and still nothing.’
All three women shook their heads, knowing the tale of woe which would follow, each was word perfect in their practised lines for the retelling of Marianne’s one and only proposal story.
‘You ruined your chances by pushing your luck,’ began Penny.
‘Really?’ said Esmé in a bewildered tone, feigning interest, much like a first-time listener.
‘I made an appointment with the vicar, tea and sponge cake arranged…’ explained Marianne.
‘All proper and above board, then?’ asked Penny, knowing her lines.
‘I drove us to the local church and then bam… delivered the ultimatum – marry me or else!’ announced Marianne, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
‘Such a beautiful declaration of love,’ said Esmé, her eye lashes fluttered at Marianne.
‘Who’d have thought such a proposal could be perceived as a tad too pushy,’ said Penny.
‘Exactly,’ giggled Esmé. ‘Wasn’t it your fairy-tale dream?’
Marianne nodded in a comedic fashion, her maturity enabled her to laugh at herself, unlike five years ago.
‘I’ve lost count of the nights I’d dreamt of him springing such a gallant gesture, driving me to church and booking a wedding date.’
‘Locking himself inside your car and performing a one man sit-in for eight hours, while you pleaded with the vicar, was a definite cry for help,’ said Penny.
‘A definite answer, though,’ said Esmé, who hugged her friend.
‘The vicar was none too chuffed given his wasted sponge cake and tea platter,’ said Marianne, adding. ‘Seriously, Esmé – joking aside, what have you planned?’
Esmé gave a cheeky grin, before she stared at each colleague in a bashful manner.
‘Oh Lord, if that’s not the face of a woman on a mission!’ cried Penny, her wide eyes sparkling.
‘I’ve got it all planned… candlelight, champagne on ice, bubble bath for two, a slinky silk number ordered from Agent Provocateur and a fresh set of Egyptian cotton sheets,’ reeled off Esmé, trying to supress the shiver of anticipation that ran along her spine.
‘A dirty night on clean sheets, hey?’ said Marianne with a knowing smile. ‘That should do it.’
‘And not too much champagne… be giggly but not drunk,’ warned Penny, her blonde curls bobbing from side to side. ‘And above all… let him think it was his idea!’
‘If that fails, hail a cab, drive to your local church, present him with the ultimatum and see if he does a sit-in,’ laughed Marianne.
‘Andrew wouldn’t do a sit-in… not with a taxi meter running,’ said Esmé, tying the belt of her new coat. Esmé doesn’t like to criticise his habits, not even to her friends, but Andrew could accommodate both ends of the generosity spectrum. Self-indulgent with his own perceived needs such as designer suits, high-tech gadgets or boys’ nights out whilst a smidgen stingy where others are concerned. Esmé could laugh it off, everyone had their faults. Being ‘financially savvy’ as Andrew called it wasn’t Esmé’s style, she liked to be generous with those she loved.
‘Yet he’ll waste good money on a snazzy rental apartment,’ muttered Marianne. ‘The man needs sorting out, and quick.’
‘I’m trying,’ said Esmé, trying to keep her tone light hearted.
‘Enjoy,’ Marianne gave Esmé a quick squeeze and an air kiss, ‘but don’t hold your breath, lovey.’
‘Enjoy your weekend… whatever happens, OK?’ added Penny, hugging Esmé tightly before she and Marianne hastily departed for the bus station.
Since starting at Stylo Stationery some nine years ago, the trio had shared so many of life’s moments during office hours and coffee time: Esmé’s first date dress dilemma, post-date dissections – of which there had been far too many for Esmé’s liking, and numerous post-coital mishaps during her pre-Andrew existence, obviously. Since meeting Andrew, Esmé’s daily chatter had been the detail of their seven year love story: the occasions, the memories and the day to day routines. Events slowly evolved, reaching today’s pivotal moment – the evening of her happy-ever-after.
Come Monday, if tonight goes well, the three colleagues would be sharing celebratory drinks after work in a local bar. How exciting? But first, tonight.
St Martin’s church clock shows six o’clock.
Esmé watched the pair disappear amidst the bustling crowd. Her heart pounding faster, with anticipation, that the very next time she’d see either of them, she could be, might be, correction, would be starting a new chapter of her life.
A March engagement could easily become a June wedding; she’d plan like crazy between now and Easter – though seriously what was there she didn’t already know? She knew which dress, knew which cousins would be bridesmaids. Money wouldn’t be an issue thanks to Andrew’s astute saving habit and her parents’ additional gifts – she was their only daughter after all. The horse and carriage, the fresh flowers, matching rings, the once in a lifetime honeymoon in the Maldives and not forgetting the sumptuous reception at The MacDonald Burlington Hotel – perfect for a city centre wedding. How romantic would it be to have the reception where they’d first met? Or more precisely, above where they’d met in The Bacchus wine bar situated in the vaults beneath the hotel.
How had seven years passed so quickly?
A girls’ night out with Carys, her life-long school friend, was not supposed to be a ‘pick-up’ night. Simply two ladies sharing a bottle of merlot, a good chat and a few girly giggles. Yet, every time Esmé had looked up to speak to Carys, his dark smouldering gaze interrupted her focus. Could he have been more obvious? His constant staring had been verging on improper. And finally, after thirty minutes, he’d braved the distance between his group and their table to introduce himself.
She’d played gooseberry to Carys’s beaus on more than one occasion, so fair was fair.
Esmé smiled at the irony as her hands busily worked the duvet cover. Seven years of dating had led from one dimly lit room to another, though tonight would guarantee more than a scribbled phone number and a promise to call. Like then, she’d be ready and waiting. He’d made her wait three days. Carys had been certain he’d call in two given his reluctance to leave their table as his friends drank up and moved bars.
Esmé began flinging the medley of pillows and satin cushions to the far side of the room. The decorative headboard looked ugly and bare without the satin pillows. Another purchase chosen by Andrew, and which frequently embarrassed her in the throes of passion when it vibrated against the wall.
From the foot of the bed, Esmé grabbed the neatly folded hospital-bed corner of the spent cotton sheet, she gave one hefty pull in order to strip the mattress in one fluid movement and that’s when it appeared.
Esmé paused and stared at the offending item lying, as proud as punch, just off centre by their large headboard.
A gold dangling earring complete with a turquoise crystal. An earring that she had never seen before.
The handful of spent cotton dropped from her clutches and she slowly sidestepped towards the head end of their bed. She needed a closer look but any sudden movement might cause the item to disappear. It didn’t. It stared boldly at her.
Had he cheated? And, in our bed! Had she slept all week with another woman’s earring inches from her own gold studs?
Esmé wasn’t sure how long she remained statue like, staring in silence, but when Andrew arrived home from his shift at the airport the silence was broken for several hours.
Read my full review of The Single Girl’s Calendar here
About the Author
Erin was born and raised in Warwickshire, where she resides with her husband. She writes contemporary novels focusing on love, life and laughter. An ideal day for Erin involves writing, people watching and copious amounts of tea. Erin was delighted to be awarded The Katie Fforde Bursary in 2017 and previously, Love Stories ‘New Talent Award’ in 2015.
Erin Green Contact:
Twitter(her favourite) @ErinGreenAuthor
On Facebook: @ErinGreenAuthor