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Perfect for fans of Marin Keyes and Motherland – and for all women who have found their happy-ever-after turned out to be no fairy tale. Grown-up, sparkling, funny, poignant and ultimately uplifting.
If she tries very hard, Ami can remember when she used to have a dynamic and exciting career and a husband who she loved more than life itself, and who was equally smitten with her…
Now she has two children, a terrifyingly large mortgage, and no idea who she has become – or why she and her husband can’t even be in the same room anymore.
With life as she knew it in tatters around her, Ami is heartbroken, and in no way pulling off ‘consciously uncoupling’ like a celeb. But she’s starting to wonder if she just might come out the other side and be….happier?
As funny as Helen Fielding, as poignantly touching as Marian Keyes, Fiona Perrin’s dazzling debut is a story that is as much about finding out who you really are again, as it is about the exhausting balancing act of motherhood. Unmissable for women everywhere.
‘That’s it. We’re getting divorced,’ Lars shouted. It was raining outside. He stuffed paperwork – bills, bank statements – from the kitchen dresser into a bag. I wanted to pull his shirt, tug him so he couldn’t move any more, but instead I just stood and cried.
The argument started because Lars claimed that I hadn’t told him the right date of Finn’s birthday party until it was too late to reorganise his trip to Russia.
It could, however, have been about anything – our arguments had been getting worse over the last few months, despite our going to marriage guidance counselling. They were always about one thing: how Lars spent so much time away for work and less and less time with us, his family.
I knew I’d told him about the party being on the afternoon of Finn’s birthday on Saturday. And why was it my job to remind him of stuff like that anyway?
‘I thought it was on the Sunday and I was going to be back for his birthday evening on Saturday. It’s obviously a mix-up but it’s too late now,’ Lars said. ‘I’ve got to go to Russia.’
‘But we’ve got the Animal Man coming and we’ve sent out all the invitations.’
‘Who’s the Animal Man?’
‘Who do you think he is? He’s a man with animals. Guinea pigs, God knows. He’s the entertainer.’ I sat down at the kitchen table and put my head in my hands. Then I took a deep breath. ‘Are you going to tell Finn?’
‘I’ll tell him the trip’s been booked for weeks and at least he’ll understand. Which is more than you do.’
‘It’s your son’s fifth birthday, Lars. For once, please put your family first. Come to his birthday party.’
‘I’ll be there as soon as I get back from the airport. I’ll still see him on his birthday.’
‘The party will be over by then.’
‘Ami, he’ll have other birthdays, with bigger and better parties. I’ll be at those instead.’
‘The trouble is you know damn well you won’t. You should stop pretending you’ll ever change because we both know it’s bullshit.’
My marriage had turned me into a person who spat out bile like rancid water from a gargoyle. Loving him so much had turned me into someone hateful.
‘That’s it,’ he shouted. ‘I’ve had enough. You go on and on about how bad your life is – so let’s just forget it, shall we? We’ll get divorced and you won’t have to tell me how awful I am to this family all the time.’
We’d both used the ‘D’ word before in the heat of the moment, but still it seemed impossible to me that it would ever happen.
‘How can it be a family when you’re hardly here?’ I whispered. ‘Even when you’re here you’re somewhere else in your head.’
‘I’m thinking about a future for you and the kids. But that’s not good enough for you, is it?’
‘What I want is for us to be equal. I’ve got a business to run too.’ That Monday, I was booked to see the finance director of the tiny advertising agency I’d set up the previous year and I knew he was going to tell me that my balance sheet was looking decidedly unbalanced.
I asked, ‘Lars, do you still love me?’ but he didn’t answer, just ran up the stairs two at a time and threw his clothes into suitcases. I thought I could cope with most things, but I didn’t know whether I could face the fact that he no longer loved me.
He turned from the open wardrobe door and said very quietly, ‘It’s not about whether we love each other any more – that’s not enough.’ This was somehow worse than shouting.
‘Please don’t go,’ I said, following him to the bedroom doorway. I hated myself for my lack of dignity in begging him to stay.
‘I can’t stand it – all we ever do is argue.’
‘We can try…’ I couldn’t carry on with this half-a-marriage, but could I stand to see him finally go?
‘We’ve tried everything.’ His voice was as wintery as the day outside. ‘It’s time to stop trying. I’m leaving, Ami, and I’m leaving for good.’
He said it firmly, as he always did when he’d made a decision.
He carried the bags outside and into the boot of his car, light semi-frozen rain coming down on his white-blond hair so that it stuck to his face. Then he opened the car door, jumped in and drove off.
He was gone and this time it looked as if there was no going back.
Fiona Perrin was a journalist and copywriter before building a career as a sales and marketing director in industry. Having always written, she completed the Curtis Brown Creative Writing course before writing The Story After Us. Fiona grew up in Cornwall, hung out for a long time in London and then Hertfordshire, and now writes as often as possible from her study overlooking the sea at the end of The Lizard peninsula.