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…!
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.
‘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.’
‘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.