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Lily Loves to Love

Lily Loves to Love

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Lily Loves to Love

587 pagine
10 ore
Jan 22, 2011


Have you ever read a book and thought I do not want the main character to end up with the predictable hero? I wish she had gotten with the other man instead. Well here is your chance to change that scenario and choose whom you would like Lily to love. In this book, many comical things tend to happen to and around Lily Lockhart. As she deals with her job, her love life and her family, not to mention her friends so like a lot of us, she is simply an ordinary woman trying to survive this modern world and not always getting it right before mistakes come back to bite her on the bum. As the quirky but lovable girl just cannot help herself sometimes. This is all before trying her hand at a spot of charity work, when she decides that life is far too short to spend it selfishly.

At the start of the year, she ends her engagement and before long, there is plenty of male interest heading her way. We are talking ‘The Handsome One’ (Sean) and ‘The Funny One’ (Tom). In addition, there is also ‘The Rich One’ (Peter) but Lily cannot choose between them. Therefore, in the closing chapters, it is down to you ‘the reader’ to decide who wins Lily's heart since there is a fun multiple-choice style ending to the story. Will you pick the boyfriend, the best friend or the boss? Only one problem, she is pregnant so ‘who’s the daddy’.

Jan 22, 2011

Informazioni sull'autore

Maureen Reil writes comic commercial fiction and has had over 35 books published, so far, but she's always working on a new manuscript so she wishes to add to that tally with lots of new titles before she's done and dusted. She was born in the city of Liverpool and resides in semi-rural Lancashire UK, but longs to live by the sea. It was always a dream of hers to become a novelist and thanks to her readers, she has fulfilled that ambition, so she couldn't be more grateful if she tried. And Maureen hopes you enjoying reading her books as much as she enjoys writing them.

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Lily Loves to Love - Maureen Reil

Lily Loves to Love

By Maureen Reil

Copyright ©2011 Maureen Reil

2nd Edition ©2017

This eBook is entirely a work of fiction.

The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

Maureen Reil asserts the moral right to be, identified as the sole author of this work.

Also by the author Maureen Reil

Chick-Lit By Any Other Name (Chick-Lit Collection)

Chick-Lit By Any Other Name 2 (Chick-Lit Collection)

Sleepyhead Shares A Secret

I Hate Me, Who Do You Hate?

I Did Write What I Know

Chick-Lit Saved My Life (Chick-Lit Trilogy book 1)

Chick-Lit Stole My Life (Chick-Lit Trilogy book 2)

Chick-Lit Staged My Life (Chick-Lit Trilogy book 3)

Chick-Lit Collection

Chick-Lit Trilogy

Mistletoe And Wine (Christmas Comedy Trilogy)

Mistletoe And Wine 2 (Christmas Comedy Trilogy)

Mistletoe And Wine 3 (Christmas Comedy Trilogy)

Christmas Comedy Trilogy

Let’s Get Married (Let’s Get Funny Fiction)

Let’s Get Together (Let’s Get Funny Fiction)

Let’s Get It Started (Let’s Get Funny Fiction)

Let’s Get Serious (Let’s Get Funny Fiction)

Let’s Get Ready To Rumble (Let’s Get Funny Fiction)

Let’s Get Physical (Let’s Get Funny Fiction)

The Finch Family Short Break (Comical Vacations Book 0)

The Finch Family Holiday 1 (Comical Vacations)

The Finch Family Holiday 2 (Comical Vacations)

The Finch Family Holiday 3 (Comical Vacations)

The Finch Family Holiday 4 (Comical Vacations)

The Finch Family Holiday 5 (Comical Vacations)

The Finch Family Easter Holiday 6 (Comical Vacations)

The Finch Family Bank Holiday 7 (Comical Vacations)

The Finch Family Christmas Holiday 8 (Comical Vacations)

A Granny Is For Life, Not Just Christmas

Let’s Get Funny Fiction 1 (Three-Book Bundle)

Let’s Get Funny Fiction 2 (Three-Book Bundle)

Let’s Get Funny Fiction (Six-Book Box Set)

Comical Vacations 1 (Three-Book Bundle)

Comical Vacations 2 (Three-Book Bundle)

Comical Vacations 3 (Three-Book Bundle)

Wed To The Wrong Wayne

Christmas Crackers

The Desperate Dater’s Intervention

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Things Can Only Get Better

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Maureen Reil’s Latest Novel

Luck Had Nothing To Do With It

Beatrice knows she’s blessed for having something in her world that makes it worth living, like her family and friends. Plus her job gives her a reason to get up in the morning but no matter how hard she works, she still senses that she’ll never truly be secure without owning the roof over her head outright. So that nobody can take it away from her, especially after facing eviction from her rented house, through no fault of her own she might add. Whilst there’s only one way she’s getting the chance of having a new home at the moment to prevent her from being made homeless and that’s by entering a property draw to win one. Then there’s the love life to sort out too, since that’s going nowhere fast. Will she get lucky enough to become a winner, or will she just become a loser in love by the end of the story? Only we all know it’s not going to be an easy ride along the way, because nothing ever is. And will Bea go a step too far to ruin everything fate has in store for her? All before she realises too late that some things are worth sacrificing, if you want to rescue something worth saving.

Read this hilarious British novel to find out more.

Dedicated to my late father

Frank Reil

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Sean (The Handsome One)

Tom (The Funny One)

Peter (The Rich One)

Chapter 48

Chapter 1

Did I deserve that? To have the red berry fruit based cocktail drink poured over my head, which is in a giant jug that to me feels like it is the size of a fish tank. It was not the damp so much that made me yelp aloud but the ice cube, which had wedged itself down the back of my dress and was pressing against my spine to sober me in next to no time that had had more of an impact on my senses. As I fiddle about trying to remove something that feels like the iceberg that sank the Titanic. I ignored his pleas for us to stay together at my own peril.

Having never noticed until now how the smell of pubs had changed dramatically since the smoking ban. They do not seem like dens of iniquity anymore and that is simply because I cannot hide my feelings behind a fog of cigarette plume, as I used to in the good old days before I quit. Christ I could do with a cigarette right about now to deal with this scene. As the overgrown blond fringe seems to be getting on his nerves more than I am, when he blows it out of his hazel coloured eyes for the umpteenth time. His hair habit is starting to annoy me too. This much I do know so I may as well add it to the list of reasons why I would dump him. He picks up the engagement ring I took off.

‘I can’t believe you’re doing this to me . . . here, now, like this,’ he snaps whilst giving me a certain look and it’s true what they say about them being able to kill, kill the spirit more like. It is my 29th birthday.

‘I couldn’t go through with it. With this, this massive doubt is niggling at the back of my mind . . . it wouldn’t be fair to either of us,’ I say while grabbing a scrunched up napkin off the next table to dab at my damp face. Lord knows what my hair looks like but if I say drown rat, I expect it would be an appropriate guess. Everyone is staring at us. If we ignore them then they might get the message that we do not want to be disturbed whilst in the middle of such delicate negotiations.

So what is the best way to break-up with someone? If there is a right way to do it, I was in the dark about how to accomplish this without hurting him. Because I am not a bad person really, I am not, but I had to do it. It is an irritating fact of modern life that everything has to be ‘done to death’ these days and in a decent way or God forbid you upset anyone and then that person seeks revenge via our social networks. Seeing as I fell into the category of wanting to remain mates in respect of me thinking that, it would be the proper thing to do but he clearly wasn’t ready for that kind of friendship. Specifically, if it did not involve us becoming occasional bed buddies. As if.

It was definitely the saddest day of my life thus far, for my favourite designer dress was not worth the dry cleaning bill since that stain would never come out. Oh and I think I have never actually broken up with anyone before now. As I am usually the one to be dumped and I am sure that I even used the immortal line ‘it’s not me, it’s you’. Only I should have said it the right way around I suppose but at the time, I obviously was not in the correct frame of mind since I had certainly downed enough alcohol to sink a battleship (Dutch courage and all that). So why do my thoughts keep thinking of floating vessels? It has nothing to do with being wet. On the other hand, I got that sinking feeling again. Maybe, it has a hidden meaning for what would have become of us. Could I have felt anymore suffocated by our love?

To think the government wants to outlaw ‘Happy Hour’, while the likes of me depend on it just to get through the day sometimes. Especially when splitting up with one’s fiancé. I’d read that those things are usually best done in the glare of public humiliation as it’s supposed to take the sting out of the whole miserable situation and avoid any unpleasant scenes. How wrong can these so-called ‘relationship experts’ be? The ones that write in these flimsy magazines which always happen to fall out of those Sunday newspapers at the most inappropriate of times (like into your Sunday lunch to get covered in gravy). Well, they were very wrong. For I was condemned to drown in a cocktail version of hell for my sins by my now ex-fiancé as he suddenly smashed the barstool against the quiz machine in a right old huff and broke the leg before storming off to cry on his mother’s shoulder as per usual. This was certainly one birthday celebration that I will not forget in a hurry. So just to sum up the outcome briefly, I do not think our presence will be welcome in that particular entertaining establishment ever again. Do not get me started on stains; believe me they do not always do what they say it will on the tin as I looked down at my ruined shoes.

Anyway, that was just over a month ago. Now it is Valentine’s Day once more. This can go either way for me depending on whether I am single or not at the time. Say if I am with someone then it is such a joyous occasion to behold and I relish in the whole, commercial aspect of the thing. But if like today, when I have no one in my life then it totally sucks and I’d even considered having one of my ‘duvet days’ this morning where it would take a direct hit by an earth shattering meteorite to literally remove me from between those sheets. Only for the fact that my infuriating mother had wandered in brandishing a cup of tea to tempt me up (for she cannot abide laziness and I cannot stand people when they will not let you be when you need to simply be left alone). She then leaves my door ajar while the vacuum is sounding ‘less cleaner and more screamer’ to the point of piercing my eardrums even with a pillow around them. Thus forcing me to get out of bed and close the damn door. Which of course she knew that I would and once I am out of bed, well I very seldom return to my pit unless severely and clinically hung-over before nightfall.

In work, the ever cheerful Gwen Davies (well she is in love after all and it shows because she wants everyone else to feel it too) when she comes over towards me. Only my strawberry blonde-haired friend soon loses her happy smile to give me a pitying look and pouts at me while thrusting the envelopes in my weary direction. She knows my situation so she feels sorry for my single status. Hell I hate having sympathy poured down on me from such a great height. Well she is tall in stature, all 6ft of her in her stocking feet plus the high heels of course only adding to the tower block feeling as she hovers over my desk to snuff out what little sunlight I had managed to secure through the slit in the window blind. It is as if I am in a heavy dull shower without an umbrella for protection as she heaves and signs on my behalf. While I realise that there is not a damn thing I can do about it, except grin and bear it I suppose. This is going to be a long day.

Whilst I snatch this morning’s mail from her loose grip as I put down my coffee before glancing at the address on the top one. Having noticed that the writing is in an all too familiar hand, well it was not one that I relish reading so I reach over to dispose of the offending item as quickly as I could without opening it. As I somewhat already know the type of words, it might contain and I have absolutely no desire to see them. In my haste to do so, I had clumsily knocked over my large vase like cup (with the flowery pattern on, which had been a present from the ex-fiancé when I had complained about my previous one not being big enough to last long so I was always having to get up and refill it). The warm liquid had not only spilt all over the papers on my desk but also reached as far as the case of my computer. Bollocks.

‘Are you not even going to read his latest begging letter then?’ asks Gwen as she watches the pink envelope disappear into the hungry mouth of the office shredder and then, it stopped halfway through because it had only gone and jammed the bloody thing (great).

‘It wasn’t a letter this time. It was a Valentine’s card and quite frankly, I’d rather do without Joseph’s input today of all days,’ I replied while stopping my mopping up action and looking out of the window, just to check that he hadn’t hand delivered the envelope and was waiting for a response. Well I know what he is like and he would too.

‘Do you want another coffee to replace that one?’ She offers me her wastepaper bin since mine was already overflowing with rubbish.

‘Yeah, yes please . . . but I’ll have tea this time, no sugar, lots of milk thanks.’ I wonder how long it will take me to type up those friggin letters again, for I am not exactly the world’s speediest typist and I will definitely miss the post at this rate if I do not get a move on.

‘You don’t have to tell me how you like your tea. I’ve known you far too long to get it wrong now,’ said Gwen with a soothing smile.

‘Err; can you make that another coffee instead?’

‘What are you like, Lily Lockhart; I am not surprised that this ex-fiancé of yours does not give-up. He probably thinks that you’ll change your mind about him too.’ Gwen has her back to me but pours one sugar into my cup for she knows that I cannot possibly drink bitter coffee.

It should have been our anniversary today but I ended it having concluded that I was not sure I really truly madly deeply loved Joseph, never mind wanting to get married to the man. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling and mine was telling me that he was not ‘The One’. Therefore, I just resumed my mundane existence without him and tried to forget the big grip that he had held on my heart. Only he will not go away and let me get on with my life. I look at the shredded bundle of love letters that he sent me over the course of our courtship. What a waste of paper, I mean honestly, who writes them anymore. You are lucky nowadays if you get an email or text message off a dude. Whereas the message sent is probably just sticking to the basics to do with what, why, when and where. In addition to how much he wants to bend you over that desk and do naughty things to you. Oh yes, I have had plenty of those types in the past but then again what modern woman about town hasn’t. I thought I could settle for Joseph and he was a safe bet. I guess I could not.

The village of Little Clovervale where I live is a small farming semi-rural community that is on the outskirts of a bustling Lancashire market town in the northwest of England called Brickerton. The area has everything a young girl growing up could want, but Little Clovervale did not have everything that a young woman would need as in a variety of handsome single men who could string a coherent sentence together and did not have dirty fingernails to hand. On the other hand, I want one that actually listens to you and is not just nodding along while you prattle on whilst he’s busy thinking about what’s he’s missing on the sports channel, or how he can get in to your knickers in the least amount of time and with the minimum of fuss. Is that such a tall order to ask for in the big restaurant of love?

My official job title is an Administrators Assistant or put into other words, a secretary. Yet another tedious working day was in store for me at the office of Haus and Holmes property services. Mr Igor Haus usually ignores me and I know absolutely nothing about him, except that he smokes cigars and that is only because I can smell the pungent aroma around him when he rarely ventures into the office. He is more of a silent partner (literally, for I have never actually heard him speak). And as for Mr Howard Holmes, well he often lets me leave early and come in late, particularly, if I’ve got what he terms to be ‘women’s problems’. Not that feeling ill due to an over indulgence of liqueur has ever been just an issue for the fairer sex, but I don’t bother to correct my boss if he wants to think that it’s something else then let him. Well, we women have to suffer more than men do so why not.

The portly Howard has been married to his glamorous spouse for about twenty years now. She became his second wife after the previous one divorced him for being boring (his words not mine). He also has a grownup daughter from his first marriage, named Felicity. She who ‘must be obeyed’ is certainly keen to assume her father’s role when making regular visits to this office and orders me about as if she is already in charge. Seeing as she had me on my knees last time, cleaning her boots whilst still wearing them since she could not be bothered to take them off her feet. His wife’s father was Howard’s old boss and when he suddenly died of a heart attack while working at his desk, well, he had left behind a couple of property shops for his bewildered daughter to manage. Only she had no head for such matters and found herself overwhelmed by the whole situation at first.

That is when Howard Holmes stepped into her life and took control, before turning the business into a successful chain. Whereas, I have worked here since falling out of love with the education system and falling in love with my first boyfriend, this being the heartfelt reason that I stayed behind when everyone else I knew left to pursue their dreams. My own particular one was to find the man that would melt my heart faster than an ice-lolly on a hot summer’s day. I am still looking by the way and have not given up hope, just yet.

Valentine’s Day is when my mother Sadie can guarantee to make a packet on such occasions, therefore, she regularly wishes for more ‘forced’ flower giving days of celebration. Because she owns the local floristry outlet called Petal Passion. I on the other hand have had to endure my work colleagues getting gifts and cards. One massive bunch even came delivered with a rhyming messenger man. There was none for me of course but my co-workers were getting the love. The fit bloke spoke with a false foreign accent as he charmed Gwen with words of poetry. Only to me, he sounded more like that famous French police officer in those comedy movies I watched with Dad. (Inspector Clouseau is the name that eluded me until I looked it up.)

The dreamboat of a man could obviously feel me lusting after him as I gave out the lonely vibe so he turned and gave me a beguiling smile that actually made me catch my breath. That is, before I coughed like some sixty cigarettes a day old man for I took a swig from my cup and it went down the wrong way so I ended up dribbling the excess over my chin. It was not exactly the competent and mentally alert person I was trying to portray myself as, which he witnessed. My desk meanwhile lay empty and devoid of all the usual signs of this day and now, I am stressing that maybe I should have sent myself a card just to stop me from looking like a right sad sack. Therefore, I swiped at the half-eaten envelope and rescued the card from the shredder before plonking it proudly in front of me. It fell over so I propped it up with my stapler. Actually, it’s Gwen’s stapler that I borrowed and never gave back to her. I look at the card and my eyes start to well up, not because of the sentiment but because I have a staple in my finger so I remove it with a wince as I not only felt a prick but feel like one too.

‘The ‘Handsome One’ as I’ve just recently named him, simply shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head at me as he left the premises. He must have got the message that I was off limits, to him anyhow (if I was willing to put up a wrecked and wonky card to prove that I was indeed someone’s sweetheart). For I have to set my sights higher than the player type of dude. As I do not want to waste my time with someone who will just use me for his own ends and never be faithful, so it will be doomed from the start. I do not need the hurt in my life. I do not want the hassle but I do want someone to love in the long term. Well everyone wants somebody to love, surely.

Having decided that Valentine’s Day is not to remind lovers to show their feelings for one another, but to show everyone else what they are missing instead. It was then that I gazed out of the office window and saw my neighbour waving to me as she walked past. The oddball that we all affectionately call ‘Crazy Daisy’ around here was wearing a fancy-dress costume consisting of a heart shaped outfit for this special day. Everywhere that I looked at present seemed to make sure that I could not escape the sight of romance. This of course resulted in making me feel even more alone than usual. I hate being single but should I really rush into another proper relationship only to regret the rebound. Maybe I should take my time and play the field a little to see what is out there before I choose the right person to be exclusive with and then we can concentrate on building something for the future.

Next I witnessed a pair of doves nuzzling up to each other whilst perched on a fence so I considered if they mate for life or like me, just seemingly fleeting with destiny’s charms and getting nowhere fast. I want to be in love too damn it but I know that you can’t force these things as it will only end in tears, tantrums and then taken away by ‘men in white coats’ if you try. However, I was never very good at being a ‘singleton’ since it just does not feel right to me. As I firmly belong in ‘couple town’ since that is where I am happiest to live.

It was another cold day to shiver through while leading towards the warmer weather that I very much preferred to this dreary outlook. I even fretted if I was maybe suffering from that SAD illness I had read about somewhere. Was I simply confusing being fed-up with sunlight deficiency? My boss and work colleagues, meanwhile, could not wait until spring as the housing market usually picks up roundabout then. As I busied myself by printing out some sales details with extra interior photographs of a particular property for sale and set about getting on with the task in hand. All before, I plan to sneak off towards my friend’s desk for a good old natter about her latest boyfriend. I adore hearing about other people’s relationships because it takes the worry out of my own woes and makes me feel more human I suppose. In that, I am not the only one to have dealt with men who do not always turn out the way you would like them to.

It was just typical of my luck that the printer decided at that point to go on the rampage and spit out lots of sheets all at once, as I frantically tried to grab them away before they jam the allotted gap. I have come to the long drawn-out conclusion that machinery and I do not get on, never have done and never will do. And I’m well-known for being a bit of a ‘butterfingers’ as the papers slip out of my hands and scatter all over the carpeted flooring before I know it. So there I am, busy fumbling around and trying to pick up the distributed mess when I get the distinct smell of cigars. Oh no, Mr Haus had been watching and waiting close by for how long I’m not sure seeing as he says nothing but just stares at me in a manner that frankly gives me the creeps. However, that is probably just me as I reckon that others find him endearing. Well Mr Holmes must like him or he would not be his partner for a start. Mind you, you do not necessarily have to enjoy their company if it is only business you have in common.

During my coffee break I whipped out my Gal-Pal magazine which I’d just purchased, all because the freebie this month was a pair of gloves and believe me I need some seeing as I’m always losing mine. I proceeded to delve into the pages of pure escapism in their short story section. Only my lovesick thoughts soon turned to my non-existent romance without a leading man in my life. I guess that is my own fault though since I was the one to end things citing that old adage about the man that I married having to be not so much ‘Mr Perfect’ but perfect for me. Whereas I could not bring myself to set an actual wedding date to marry Joseph so I knew it was never going to happen. It does worry me sometimes that I could end up alone, having dumped the only man to have ever loved me. Maybe I could have grown to cherish those superhero underpants just as much as he did.

My daydreams were abruptly broken as I caught sight out of the corner of my eye, something that was happening outside so I observed a couple of hooded youths spray painting graffiti on to the sidewall of a brick built garage. Recently, my own mother’s shop had been a target for these wretched vandals and my boss had moaned how this sort of thing could lower the house prices in the area. And now I have them in my sights so I ask Gwen to man the phone for me as I explain that I’m nipping out to buy a sandwich for lunch, while she cheekily expresses a liking for anything with prawns in and I can take a hint.

This sees me borrowing a fur lined navy-blue snorkel coat that my boss Howard Holmes had left behind. Even though it swamps my frame and gives the impression of bulk, I definitely do not otherwise have. I wear it regardless of how I look in it. Then I replace my heels with the green wellington boots that the staff members have the use of (whilst out on farms or land for sale) since I did not want to traipse across the bridle path, which is mainly used for horse riding and dog walkers to get my own footwear all covered in filth. As I put-up the large hood and applied my big sunglasses to my face, after all, I was incognito. Because these feral youths of today were prone to revenge if they recognise you, so I was taking no chances there.

It was apparent to me that I would have to carefully approach the lads so as not to frighten them off before I demand in a deep put-on voice ‘what are you two doing out of school?’ Only the little sods raced off before I could finish saying that I wanted to inform their parents about what they got up to, whilst not attending class. As I stubbornly follow them to see where they live since I fully intend to ‘tell on them’ but instead of going straight home, the troublesome two get out their spray cans and start to write swear words on the wall of the library. I was really peeved now for the little buggers having not only spelt a couple of words wrong as in ‘BASTERDS’ and ‘BIATCHES’, but also for the fact that they could have such little regard for a place used by the whole community. I grew up with that library. I love books and I was once a child who would not like to see those rude words defiling the place. Not that they may know, what defiling meant for that matter but that is not the point. The point is in this case, it was pure vandalism and not art so I was in the right to stop them doing it.

Therefore, I bravely stomp up and grab one hoodlum by his shoulder. Only he struggles to wriggle free, transferring some of the lime green paint off his hands onto mine. Then the little reprobate began to leg it off across the grassy square (that people have picnics on in the summer months) with me in hot pursuit, which I believe was not that easy. Especially seeing as I was trying to run as fast as I could whilst wearing Wellington boots which were too big for me. It was after this that I found myself tripping over my own feet and doing a sort of rough rugby tackle on the boy. In the process, I also managed to accidentally pull down his baggy jeans and not so clean underwear. This in turn revealed his spotty bare bottom to the world, as we lay motionless on the ground in a crumpled heap. I had seized the villain.

‘I’m taking you home,’ I told him in a growling low voice for I did not want to use my own. I hoped that he had the type of parents that will dole out a suitable punishment. As I rubbed at my sore knee through my trousers that must have gotten a bruise during the heavy fall but deep down, I felt no lingering pain when feeling like a hero for having made something of a citizen’s arrest all on my own.

‘Huh, you can just piss off, you pervert,’ replies the young hooligan as he thankfully pulled not only his pants up but himself as well.

As he goes on to shout his head off for someone to call the cops because a paedophile was attacking him, not that he could have spelt it but he sure knew how to gain attention by repeating the horrid word. I thought bloody teenagers, why can they not learn to tie their belts properly instead of having their ass’s half hanging out anyway. Whereas, I suddenly felt awkward and embarrassed by the assailant so I did what any law-abiding civilian in a falsely accused predicament would do. I sadly panicked and fled the scene before I was in trouble.

This resulted in me dashing in to the library to gather my thoughts over what had just happened, when I worryingly spotted the local bobby heading my way. This was going, from bad to worse as I then noticed the incriminating spray paint on my palm that transferred from the boy’s hands. So I couldn’t be easily identified, I turned the coat I wore inside out and now sported a rather unfashionable fake fur lined garment and removed my shades to appear normal. While I shamefully hid my face with a large book, which I had grabbed off the endless rows of bookshelves before sneaking into the side room and closing the door behind me as quietly as I could manage it.

Having backed into the room whilst checking that nobody saw me entering it, I feel secure in my hiding place that I can wait it out here in peace. Only for me to turn and find myself greeted by the local pre-school group. Blooming heck, I hold my chest in surprise. Meanwhile they had eagerly gathered around me for a storytelling session. How do I get out of this one? The adorable little darlings sat cross-legged on the carpeted floor and gazed up at me with their big innocent eyes waiting patiently to spark their imagination into action. While I soon realise that this situation could look detrimental, if caught by the police with an accused paedophile in a room full of young kiddies so I tried to blend in by announcing that I was there to read to them. One little angel even asked me if the big bad wolf was in this story and I told him rightly, that that depends on his politics.

Having flung open the book I was holding before summarising about the theories of Karl Marx to the bewildered group. Just as I notice, the police officer passes by the window and heads off in the opposite direction whilst the real reader arrives with a Beatrix Potter storybook tucked under her arm. Whereas I wave goodbye to one of the children and pretend that I knew him as the blond boy in question stares at me strangely but does not answer to Jonny. This was nothing compared to the look that I got off the woman in charge. It was only then that I took my chances and headed back to the comfort of my office, without any sandwiches, so lucky that Gwen was out. As I solemnly vow that, I will not be quite so keen to stop a major crime from taking place in future while I scrubbed my hands clean of the lime green paint.

The same police officer was patrolling up and down the road outside and stopping people to enquire if they had witnessed anyone acting suspiciously and were hanging around in a navy-blue snorkel coat and green wellington boots. ‘Have you seen my coat?’ asks Mr Holmes and blows his nose noisily into his cotton handkerchief that he always keeps handy in case his sinuses are playing up and they are.

I cannot believe anyone actually still uses cotton handkerchiefs nowadays as they are so unhygienic. Especially, when he does not put it straight into a sealed plastic bag to deposit into the laundry bin for a boil wash but replaces it back inside his trouser pocket for use later on. He may as well have wiped his nose on his sleeve for all the good it will do the rest of us, if we catch his cold. While I blatantly lie when I shake my head and try to pretend that I am so busy, I have no time to search in the small stock cupboard at the back of the building where I hid the coat in shame. And it’s a good job Gwen is out of the office too seeing as she saw me borrow the said item of clothing so it would then force me to own up to my guilt. Whereas luck is on my side for once and I have gotten away with any wrongdoing. Only I am not quite sure what it is that I have done exactly that is so bad.

‘Oh, here it is,’ says Mr Holmes from the tiny room at the back. Shit.

‘I don’t think you’ll need that. It’s not that nippy out today,’ I said rather loudly in a bid to change his mind so it was more an order than a suggestion. Did he hear me with his phone occupying his attention?

‘I’ll be out for the rest of the afternoon, Lily. So I’ll expect you to hold the fort while I’m gone,’ replies Mr Holmes and ignoring my advice so perhaps he did not hear me. Should I say it again? He grins at me before rushing towards the door while looking at his watch.

I grimace back when I notice the wellington boots on his feet. I had all but forgotten about his appointment down on the strip of farmland that Joseph’s mother was selling off. I probably blocked it out on purpose, since anything that reminds me of him is not necessarily a good thing for my mental health nowadays. How am I supposed to get over the dude, when his life intertwines with mine on almost a daily basis? As I shield my eyes from sight with my hands and shake my head in angst when the boss leaves this sanctuary and heads straight into the oncoming path of the local bobby. Obviously, I knew this was going to be one of those days. This proves it. I should have stayed in bed and faked a sick day as I was planning to do, so I blame my mother for forcing me into work and look where that led me.

Chapter 2

Gwen was meeting her boyfriend after work in The Pup and Pony pub. I decide to tag along, especially after the kind of day that I have just had when realising my need for a drink or two in order to overcome it. The police questioned Mr Holmes but cleared him because he is a) the wrong size, since the man they are looking for is far smaller in build and b) the lucky fact that he has a solid alibi.

On entering the premises, I scan the dimly lit place. The usual mature male faces abound in their regular seats. Then I noticed that one youngish face did stand out from the crowd as in, the dreaded ex-fiancé (namely Joseph). There he stood staring in my direction with his holier-than-thou look before breaking into a big welcoming smile. My half-baked grin I aimed back at him was going to fool no one into believing that I was feeling comfortable around his presence.

My friend Gwen soon hands over a drink she ordered for me since I couldn’t make my mind up to save my life as always, just too much choice I guess so I insisted that I would have whatever she was having. The boyfriend of Gwen arrives and the loving way in which he held her and they had openly smooched in front of me, well, the situation made me uneasy. It felt like I was trying to slip in the sheets between them (so let me state for the record that this is not something I would ever do before you get the wrong impression of me). As I suggest we go and sit-down because this scenario had a hint of a tacky threesome about it, the way Gwen kept hugging me towards them just so I would not feel left out of the equation. I had already spied some vacant seats in a stall by the warming fire, which blazed in the deep hearth and I could smell the homely crackling embers drawing me over to them even before I walked through the door to be honest.

However, in my rushed attempt to attain the coveted alcove, I bump in to another woman with the exact same idea. This in turn spilled my vodka tonic over a bewildered old man, who looked up at me in a confused manner ‘is it raining?’ he asked and squinting his eyes at the bright lamp above his head. I nod sweetly at him as I tried my best to dry his damp baldhead with a used paper tissue from my pocket. As an instant recognition takes place between the woman and I, seeing as she was an old mate of mine and just as we were about to speak at the same time, the noisy jukebox blasts out a love song from Joseph that was clearly meant for me but fell on deaf ears. I gesture to Clare O’Connor with my hand that we should move across to the quieter side of the pub for a chat. She was flanked either side by her two friends but they left us to go to the bar for more drinks.

‘Well, Lily Lockhart, you’ve certainly changed a lot,’ said Clare looking me up and down with those big bright eyes of hers.

‘Yeah, I suppose I have really. I’m no longer the nerdy girl you’ll remember, that’s for sure.’ Having long since taken her advice to dye my locks from dark to light blonde as it suits my colouring better, or so they tell me anyhow. My first DIY dye job turned my hair orange.

To which I thank her for putting me straight on that front since the men really do seem to prefer the improved Lily these days and yes, it is true that blonde-haired girls do have more fun. As for my teeth, well they have gone from being British to Hollywood once the mouth full of metal was gone. I have also had laser surgery to correct my vision so it was goodbye glasses forever, which was a bit of a relief since my ears do not seem to align. As for Clare, well she was slightly shorter than my average height with long black hair that was so shiny you could probably see your reflection in it, if you looked hard enough. My friend meanwhile had blossomed into that swan from a signet. I was probably only one species up from the ugly duckling and still honing my ‘ordinary-girl-next-door’ look to become beautiful.

I must say that while I have had a relatively easy time of it, poor Clare on the other hand had to make-do with her struggling family. Her mother had worked all hours as a cleaner here, there and everywhere in a bid to support them and the local drinking establishments. Since the drunken father constantly wasted what little they did have in those types of venues. So Clare had to play ‘Mummy’ and look after her two younger brothers, which was not an easy task given that they weren’t always the best behaved of boys. Clever Clare had won a scholarship to our school, unlike me, who would never have made the grade if my parents had not paid the fees.

‘So what have you been up to these days that took away half your body mass and left you with this lean but voluptuous figure?’ I ask, feeling thoroughly deflated when I glance at my own little letdowns in the boob department. My wishes never did come true there.

‘Oh, why thank you kindly. I work in a gym as a fitness instructor/personal trainer. I even have a couple of local celebrity clients in my yoga sessions. But I don’t want to mention any names as it’s pretty much strictly confidential in my game,’ replies Clare, while tapping the side of her pert nose with her forefinger.

‘As if I’d tell anyone anything, apart from my social media sites so I might let it slip out,’ I mutter, sounding untrustworthy even to myself.

The pretty friends of Clare return from the bar with a tray full of drinks and sit down at our table, without introduction. As Clare ignored them and went on to explain ‘I depressingly used to work in a financial planning office but just sitting at the desk all-day did nothing for my battle with the weight. In fact, it was going up.’ Clare changed her career, her lifestyle and her weight issue all in one move. ‘I’m a lot happier and healthier for it.’ I could certainly do with something similar to end my shitty little existence nowadays because I have been a bit down lately. I need something such as a new job, hobby or man.

Clare then proudly informs me about her voluntary charity work as the chief fundraising organiser for HARVEY’S HOUSE (this is the hospice down Orchard Lane). It is the same place, where we used to rob the cherries on the way home from school and have cherry throwing fights up by the old railway line. I suddenly felt guilty that I did not ever bother doing anything personal for charity, other than giving on the odd occasion to those faceless TV appeals and celebrity filled extravaganzas. I only do that just to pretend I care but do not expect me to put myself out for them since I have never done a fun run in a decorated bra or swam the channel and forget a bike ride.

It was after this that Clare started recalling her unhappy childhood days where they teased her for being a little too much on the plump side of acceptance. As I realise that seeing each other would bring back some mixed and rather emotional memories for the both of us. They called me names too for my tomboyish appearance and while it was me, who insisted on looking like that because I really could not compete with the pretty girls so I decided that I would be different. My father was not too bothered of course since I had almost turned myself in to the son that he had always wanted and did not have anything to do with boys but my mother fretted about me turning in to a lesbian. Until that is, I got my first boyfriend and went all girly on his ass so sorry to disappoint you Dad. The lad dumped me soon after. Maybe he was secretly gay and really wanted a boyfriend too.

My old friend couldn’t believe that I was still living here after all this time, seeing as I was the one who swore that I would runaway and escape to a vibrant more exciting life. As I owned up to being just a boring secretary at the boring estate agency here in this boring village so nothing fancy with no hubbies knocking about and definitely no kids. Clare flashed her diamond engagement ring, whilst she explained about it being a family heirloom as I took hold of her hand to admire the workmanship that had gone into producing it.

‘It had belonged to his grandmother and he wanted to give it to someone just as special as she was. And he chose me to wear it.’

‘My god, pass the bucket because I think I am about to be sick with all this soppy talk. You’d think it was Valentine’s Day or something.’

‘What about you? Hasn’t there been anyone special?’ She asks with raised eyebrows, whilst taking a swig from her drink at the same time.

‘Oh, I used to be in the fellowship and had one of those rings. Only I gave it back and someday, I’ll tell you all about it but not right now.’

It was not long before I found out that her fiancé was a man named Ross Rider. I had met him many years ago. He used to drive the minibus when we went on trips or to the swimming meets, seeing as our school only had a small pool. Whereas, our track and field was also not up to Olympic standards due to the naturally raising water table at certain times of the year so we often went elsewhere for sporting events too. It turns out that he left his wife for Clare since they got together far too young before tying the knot (literally, as my friend assures me that that was part of the ceremony they had had). Mind you, the marriage was not even legal anyway. They had only been ‘blessed’ by a tribal chief of all things whilst on an exotic holiday. Apparently, Ross swears that he must have been delirious with malaria at the time because he hardly remembers agreeing to it.

‘Do you and Ross have any plans for this evening?’ I ask, feeling a little thirsty since I have spilt my only beverage of the night so far.

‘Huh, I’m a limo driver’s widow I’m afraid and my lovely fiancé is far too busy making money on a night like this. So we’ve already had our special time yesterday.’

I suddenly started thinking that all my friends were getting ‘loved-up’ and married off. At this rate, I might have to do something drastic and look on the internet for a man while we all know what a dating minefield that can be and how it can quite easily and quickly blow-up in your face if you’re not careful. As all of a sudden, I could feel the eyes of Joseph locking on to their target whilst I continued to share my old friend’s company. I can sense this because I know him too well.

Clare and I soon swap numbers and promise to keep in touch, just as some bloke pushes past us heading out of the toilets. I stand up and close the door that had the horrible smell from within leaking through the gap. Well I cannot stand seeing doors and drawers left open as it does my head in so I do my door ritual of opening and closing it three times. I hope nobody notices me behaving oddly but I cannot help it.

‘Do you want to join us for a fag?’ The friends of Clare ask as they get up to nip outside and indulge in pleasures for the weak willed, like me. It was hard to resist but I did it before adding a patch on my arm.

‘Have you tried hypnotherapy? Because I know a few smokers who’ve managed to quit for good by using that method,’ Clare suggests with all the good intentions in the world. It does not stop me from wanting a cigarette when I think of Joseph lurking somewhere.

‘Yeah, I’ve tried that a couple of times . . . but it doesn’t work for everyone. I do not think I will ever get the sound of that bell out of my mind. I still twitch every time I hear my friend’s ginger cat go by.’

Clare emits a little squeal; just as she did back in the day before letting me know of my quote ‘cute as a button’ admirer, who could not seem to take his eyes off me. Oh God, here we go.

‘Are you talking about the blond-haired, kaki jacketed guy who looks like he belongs in a boy band by any chance?’ I ask her before giving out an exaggerated silent yawn and covering my mouth over.

‘Why, yes. Do you already know him?’ Clare was amazed I knew who she meant and without looking to give the fit bloke the come-on.

‘Oh just ignore him. That is only my ex-fiancé Joseph . . . who seems to be stalking me sometimes with a fool’s hope of a reunion between us. But he’s harmless enough,’ I reply, rolling my eyes.

After which I turn around and give Joseph the usual go away glare before looking over to where my ‘loved-up’ workmate was preparing to leave the bar and go have dinner with her boyfriend. I then whined to Clare that I didn’t feel like spending ‘Valentines’ at home (all alone) as even my parents were off out somewhere. She suggests that I go out clubbing with them instead. As I shoot straight over to say goodbye to Gwen before nipping outside to phone home to speak to my mother but of course my father answers as usual. They insist on using the house phone in the house but mobile when mobile, do not ask me why. My parents call me Lillian by the way, which always makes me bear an angry frown across my brow since I dislike that name for I think it is very old-fashioned and adds years on to me.

However, my parents will insist on using my full title and not my chosen version of it. At one stage, I thought about changing it altogether but my mother emotionally blackmailed me into keeping the one that I was born with. All because I was named after a beloved grandmother (the one that I never actually knew, I might add). Whilst my father had stressed that, the family will always call me Lillian so why bother calling myself something else. I settled for Lily after much debate and tears before bedtime.

I know that it is embarrassing to be living with my parents after a certain age, but I simply cannot afford to get my own flat around here and carry on enjoying the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed. Besides, I was planning on setting up a ‘love

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