The Things We Do For Love

I am so excited to bring you an extract from the lovely Alice Peterson’s latest novel The Things We Do For Love. I am currently reading it and am loving it so far! Alice has such a brilliant way with words and draws you right into her world. A review will be up super soon but for now here is an extract…!

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Prologue

A beautifully presented two-bedroom garden flat in a popular street, only a stone’s throw away from excellent local shops and restaurants . . .

Finally I stand outside the  front  door  of Flat 4a, 23 Priory Road. I catch  my  breath, handbag dropping to the  pave- ment, my back aching, puffy ankles throbbing. I reread the estate  agent’s blurb. I’m sure I’ve only passed a twenty-four- hour shop,  tattoo parlour and  a Tesco Express.  No sign of any restaurants. Surely they can’t mean that old hut across the  road  that sells kebabs?  I sigh. Course  they  do. They’re full of bullshit.

I glance  at my watch.  It’s coming up to half  past  one. I congratulate myself on being only ten minutes late when these days I can’t get anywhere quickly; I’m like a bus without wheels. What’s his excuse? I need to be back at work for a two thirty meeting. I’m bursting too.

Ten  excruciatingly  long  minutes later, after leaving Alex Whyte a couple of messages, I’m about to give  up when I see a tomato ketchup-coloured car zooming into  a tight space  on the  opposite side of the  street. Out  comes a stocky  man  whom I guess  to  be about my  age  – early twenties – with  short blond  hair,  chest  puffed  out,  clearly proud of his parking skills. Must be him,  he looks  like an estate agent. I pick  up  my  bag,  thinking this  place  had better be worth the journey. I can’t face walking round any more  depressing damp-ridden flats, agents advising me to strike while  the  iron  is hot.  This Alex guy is new  so with any  luck  he’ll  get  what I’m looking for:  a simple, small two-bedroom flat in West London, modern, a flat that  needs no work  . . .

I watch as Alex strides across the road in a dark suit and tie, talking on his mobile, his voice so loud that surely  the whole street can  hear  his business. He raises  an eyebrow in my direction and looks me up and down,  keys jangling. The first one  he locates  doesn’t  unlock the  door  and  he’s still on  his  phone, no  sign  of an  apology  for keeping me waiting. I feel like grabbing his mobile, throwing it on to the  ground and  stamping on  it.  Oh the  pleasure! ‘Yeah, mate, bang  on,’ he’s saying as he tries  another key. ‘Can’t, mate, the missus wants me back tonight.’ He rolls his eyes at me as finally we enter the building that . . . I sniff . . . smells of cat pee.

‘Okey-dokey!’ Alex hangs up and opens the front door to Flat 4a. ‘I’m all yours! I’m Alex by the way and I’m assuming you must be January.  Cool name. How you doing?  Having a good day so far?’

‘Not bad,’ I mutter, stepping into  the  hallway, painted olive green  with  an ivy-trellised border. I glance  down  the dark and narrow corridor, already  feeling disappointed. It’s like dating. All your hopes  are built  up and then you meet a man  who  tucks  his  jumper into  his  trousers and  wears white socks.

‘This is the hallway,’ Alex says, before walking  a few steps and turning left, ‘and this  is the  kitchen.’

Why  do they  always  say that?  Makes  me  want  to snap back,  ‘No, really  Sherlock? You don’t say.’ My bladder reminds me I need  the  loo.

‘As you can see, this property has a great  feeling  of light and  space,’ says Alex, repeating word  for word  what  is on my sheet, ‘and could  make  a terrific investment.’

I open one of the cupboard doors. A hinge is loose and the door swings.

‘Nothing that a bit  of DIY can’t  sort  out,’ claims  Alex, attempting to come  to the  rescue. ‘I’m sure  your  hubby or partner is a whizz  with the  screwdriver and  hammer, hey.’ He slams the door shut  and it falls off its hinge again.

‘Okey-dokey, moving on.’

‘Yes, let’s,’ I say, before  asking  him  if I can go to the loo.

‘So, how many  months are you?’ Alex calls through the bathroom door.

‘Er, hang  on,’ I call back.

‘My girlfriend always says I should never ask if a woman is preggers just in case they’re, you know, partial to one too many  doughnuts, but . . .’

Oh go away. You’re too close for comfort.

I flush  the  chain.  ‘Seven,’ I say, spotting mould around the bath. ‘Two months to go.’ I unlock the door and Alex steps inside  immediately, asking, ‘Is it safe or do I need  to hold  my nose?’ Another chuckle.

Is there a special school for estate agents, where they get gold stars  for being  the  biggest  knobs?

‘Anyway, as you can see,’ Alex continues, ‘this is the bath- room  with  the  power  shower.’

I nod, staring at an old white hose attached to one of the taps.

‘Okey-dokes.’ Next he’s leading me down the corridor and into  a decent-sized room.  ‘This,’ he says, as if it’s the  pièce de résistance, ‘is the master bedroom with  its own en-suite.’ The  yellow  walls  look  suspiciously as if the  previous owner  smoked in bed and a white  shower curtain separates the shower from  the loo. If I was brave enough I’d tell him not  to waste  any more  time,  this  isn’t for me,  but  clearly I’m too polite  because I’m now following him  through the double doors  and  out  into  the  garden, which says in the blurb is well kept and west facing. ‘It’s not exactly well kept, is it?’ I can’t help  saying,  pointing at the  weeds  sprouting through the  paving  stones  and  peering into  a pot  of dead herbs. I wish my flatmate, Lizzie, was with  me. Right now we’d  be  trying hard not  to  get  the  giggles.  She was my closest school friend and the first person I lived with  when I moved to London at eighteen. During this past year I don’t know what I would have done without her. Lizzie has stood by me  every  step  of the  way since,  well, since  everything began  to go so horribly wrong.

‘Sure, sure,’ he says. ‘But you know  what, all this  place needs  is a lick of paint and a woman’s touch . . .’ he winks at me, ‘and Bob’s your uncle,  you’ve got a great little family pad  that ticks  all the  boxes.  So, how  do you feel? Do you think your husband . . . ?’

‘How many  years  are  left on the  lease?’ I ask,  my skin burning.

‘Not sure, but I can find out,’ he suggests, placing  an arm around my shoulder and  leading me back into  the  musty- smelling sitting room with its two plastic-leather sofas, the walls painted in lilac. ‘I was going to say, do you think your other half might want to take a look?’ He registers my face, but  continues, ‘I’m only asking  because we’ve had  serious interest and I can imagine you want  to move . . .’ he stares at my bump, ‘pronto.’

You  hate  it.  Tell him  you  hate  it  and  he  needs  to  do a whole  lot better next  time  if he wants to get a juicy commission.

‘You’re a first-time buyer, right?’ Alex carries  on before I have a chance to reply.

I nod.

‘You’re pretty young.’

I’m twenty-three. ‘Uh-huh. Anyway, thanks Alex, but . . .’

‘Lucky old you on the  property ladder, hey? Is your hus- band  a banker or something? Or let  me  guess,  you  guys won the  lottery?’

‘No, no, nothing like that.’ I struggle for the right words.

‘Unfortunate circumstances,’ is what  I come up with.

He  clicks  his  tongue against the  roof  of  his  mouth.

‘Nothing  unfortunate about being  on the  property ladder. A million people  would  kill to be in your shoes.’

‘Would they.’

‘Are you kidding me? I’m nowhere near  buying  my own place.’

As Alex continues, I see  myself  aged  five, holding my toy rabbit as my grandparents told me the  news about my parents’ death, Granny holding me in her arms. I remember going to an antiques fair for my tenth birthday and choosing a gold locket, Granddad telling me I could put a photograph of Mum  and  Dad on either side,  reminding me  that they were always close, inside my heart. I recall my grandparents telling Lucas and me, when we were  eighteen, that they’d invested the money  from the sale of my parents’ house, for us. It was our inheritance. Then I hear Dan’s voice inside my head and the pain deepens. When will it go away? They say time  heals,  but  how  can it when I have  his child  growing inside  me?  I’m in a dark  place,  a place  that sometimes I don’t want  to be. I touch my bump, feeling  guilty that I am plagued by doubt with  the choices  I have made.  How can I raise a child without his or her father? Am I mad thinking I can do this on my own? Will he come back? Where is he?

‘January?’ I feel someone touching my shoulder.

‘I have to go,’ I say, heading towards the  front  door.

‘So, give us a tinkle once  you’ve had  a chance to think about it and—’

‘I’ve thought about it,’ I cut him  off, before  reinforcing with  increasing frustration that this  flat doesn’t  tick  any of my boxes.

He must sense  my  mood  as  outside, in  the  cold  and drizzle, he says, ‘Can I give you a lift anywhere?’

‘I’m fine,  thanks,’ I reply.  Catching a bus  back  to work is infinitely preferable to another minute spent with  Alex and his wild assumptions.

But then I see something out of the corner of my eye and

Alex follows my gaze.

‘Oh shit!’ He races across the road just as a traffic warden plants a ticket behind his windscreen wipers.

***

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