Today I’m pleased to be part of the blog tour for Living My Best Li(f)e. I’m sharing an extract with thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the blog tour and to the publisher for providing the extract.
This life-affirming and hilarious novel is the perfect balm for the Insta-weary mind – get ready to shatter the illusion that is #LivingMyBestLife
‘A fun, fresh debut that manages to be both quirky and deep as it portrays today’s obsession with social media’ MILLY JOHNSON
Recently dumped by her boyfriend of ten years, Bell is struggling to move on with her life – and surrender the fleecy pyjamas she’s been living in since January. Haunted by #blessed on social media, she can’t help but compare her life to those she follows online, wondering where she is going wrong . . .
In the world of social media, Millie is the successful online influencer @mi_bestlife. But in real life she’s just a regular single mum trying to make ends meet, while fending off the younger competition and tenacious internet trolls. Her Instagram feed is far more #BestLie than #BestLife, and soon Millie begins to wish her life was more like her filters.
It isn’t until Bell and Millie’s paths cross that they begin to realise what they’re both missing. Can Millie prove to Bell that life online isn’t always what it appears to be? And in return, can Millie learn that she needs to start living for the moment and not for the likes?
Bell’s eyes snapped open as she tried to work out whether the persistent hammering she could hear was in her head or in her house. She’d dropped off on the sofa while watching an early evening wildlife documentary about endangered species in the Andes, and the noise she could hear sounded more like someone banging on a window than the call of the yellow-tailed woolly monkey on the TV screen. Suddenly the cushion her head was nestled comfortably against began to shake alarmingly, and it took her another few seconds to realise her phone was vibrating beneath it. Still half-asleep, she jabbed at the green icon.
‘Finally! I’m outside; come and let me in.’
Bell managed to get her brain into gear enough to process the good news, which was that the constant knocking noise had, at last, stopped. The bad news, however, was that it appeared her best friend was on the other side of her front door.She shook herself fully awake, levered herself off the sofa and traipsed down the hall.
‘What? What’s going on?’ she stuttered, as she opened the door.
‘Duh! It’s me, Suze? You know, your best friend who you’ve been refusing to go for Saturday night drinks with for the past six weeks? Now, are you going to let me in or what?’
Before Bell could open her mouth, Suze stepped inside, closed the door firmly behind her, turned to face Bell and beamed.
‘Hi, Bellster! Tonight I’m your fairy godmother and you shall go to the ball! Well, into town to a bar full of lovely people, anyway. And I brought wine so I can drink it while you get ready. I might even let you have some if you go and get in the shower right now. I’m sure I can find the glasses.’
As Bell’s brain caught up with everything Suze was saying, she finally managed to do more than just gawp at her.
‘How did you know I was in? I might have been really busy this evening, for all you knew.’ Suze laughed gently. ‘Bell, darling, you haven’t been busy on a Saturday night since Colin broke up with you back in January. And despite the many excuses you’ve been giving me over the past few weeks, I took a wild guess that I’d find you ensconced on the sofa.’
Bell watched Suze take in her fleecy pyjamas and messy top-knot and saw how her friend’s expression transformed into the determined look she’d seen so many times before. She knew there was no point arguing, but she really didn’t think she could face a night out. Not yet. Seemingly reading her thoughts, Suze scooped her up into a hug.
‘I know you’ve been through a really tough time, but you can’t hide away in here for ever, Bellster. And it’s going to be a very chilled night, just me and Ellie and a load of mates, none of whom know anything about Colin so you don’t even have to mention him if you don’t want to.’
Suze pulled away and gave a delicate sniff.
‘Have you been wearing those PJs all day? Go on, jump in the shower. I’ll pour the wine and have a rummage through your wardrobe so you don’t even have to decide what to wear. That’s how much of a fairy godmother I am!’
Bell meekly allowed herself to be steered into the bath- room, and after standing under the jets of water for a few minutes, she already felt a bit better. She opened her bedroom door to find Suze rifling through hangers.
‘Right, moisturiser and hairdryer and then I’ll do your make-up for you,’ Suze ordered. ‘Oh, and get this down you. Cheers!’
She clinked her glass against Bell’s and Bell took a grateful gulp. She and Tesco’s £4.99 Cab Sauv had been insepa- rable for almost a month after Colin had dumped her, so she’d spent the last couple of weeks trying to cut down. But tonight definitely called for all the wine. She allowed her friend to primp and preen her, but drew the line at the strappy dress and sky-high heels Suze had picked out.
‘I haven’t worn this dress since I was at uni – which was many years ago as you well know – and I’m not about to start now,’ she said firmly. She pulled on her favourite skinny jeans and finally agreed to a lacy vest top that bordered on the underwear-as-outerwear trend she was sure nearly-forty- year-old women shouldn’t really attempt to wear.
‘Right, let me give you a refill and then sit down and I’ll do that flicky eyeliner I’m so good at.’ Suze grinned. ‘Don’t look at me like that, you know what happened last time you tried to do it yourself. The other evening I watched this ace YouTube video on how to do it properly every time. In fact, I sent you the link on Facebook. Didn’t you see my message?’
‘No, I didn’t.’ Bell took a large sip of her wine and then an even bigger breath in. ‘I don’t have Facebook anymore.’
Suze stared at her friend, her mouth agape.
‘Yes, you do, don’t be silly. This is you we’re talking about, Bell. You who can go barely ten minutes without checking social media.’
‘Well, I’ve deleted it. And Instagram and Twitter,’ Bell announced defiantly.
How dare Suze say that! Bell hardly ever checked her feeds. Only a couple of times after waking up and on the journey to work, and then a few times in the morning, then not till lunchtime and maybe a few times later on when she hit her mid-afternoon slump, and possibly she did a quick check before she left at the end of the day, too, and if she was at home during the evening she’d have a sneaky look, but – anyway, she wasn’t as bad as some people. She noticed Suze had stopped blending blusher across her cheeks.
‘What? It’s not that big a deal.’
Suze fixed Bell with a penetrating gaze and said, ‘So, you’ve deleted all your social media accounts. Do you want to tell me why?’
‘I just don’t think it’s healthy for me at the moment,’ Bell said quietly. Then, realising Suze’s arched eyebrow meant she wasn’t going to let her off that easily, she added, ‘And yesterday evening I saw Colin had been tagged in a picture.’
‘And? What was the picture of?’
‘It was a photo taken the other night of him and some people from his accountancy firm with the caption “Thursday night LOLs”. I recognised a few of his colleagues, like Matt and James, and then I saw he had his arm round someone else I recognised. Her name’s Tina and she’s one of the juniors.’
‘They could have just been cosying up for the photo, though,’ Suze reasoned.
‘Except that one arm was round her shoulders and the other was round her waist. And his lips were stuck to her face.’
‘Hmm, really quite cosy, then,’ Suze said, grimacing. ‘Yep. Christ, could he be more of a cliché? She might not be his secretary, but she’s as near as, dammit. It’s just so . . . annoying. Here am I at home every evening lying on the sofa cradling a bottle of wine and grieving for our ten- year relationship, and there’s him out on the town fondling some twenty-year-old. He promised, Suze, he promised there wasn’t anyone else. And now it appears not even two months later there is. God, he’s pathetic. Though not as pathetic as me. You’d have thought that in the last thirty-nine years I might have learned how to deal with heartbreak. But no, I’m still the sucker replaying every conversation we ever had, wondering if he ever thought about us getting married and staying together forever, and trying to work out what he really thought about me. About us.’
Tears pricked her eyes and her throat itched with sadness and frustration. She reached for her wine. She was too old to be crying over a man, plus she didn’t want her eye make- up to run.
‘What a knob.’ Suze said.
‘I know, but he was my knob. Anyway, I thought you liked him. You always said how nice he was.’
‘That was until he upset you, Bellster. No one gets to upset you and stay in my good books. And, yeah, he was always nice to me, and you guys seemed nice together. But maybe it was all a bit too, well, nice? Where was the passion? Where were the spontaneous romantic nights away? The uncontrollable laughter?’
‘I guess after ten years you can’t really expect that, though,’ Bell said defensively.
‘Why not? Of course you’ve got to be realistic and the honeymoon period can’t go on for ever, but there’s got to be a spark; you’ve got to keep the romance alive. Ellie and I are definitely not the perfect couple, but having a long-distance relationship keeps things interesting if nothing else.’
‘Maybe men are where I’ve been going wrong all this time,’ Bell sighed.
‘You’re welcome to join the club any time, sweetie! But I don’t think this is a man/woman thing, I think it’s a you/ Colin thing. I know you’re upset – it would be weird if you weren’t after ten years – but I do think in the long run it’s the best thing that could have happened to you.’
‘But maybe I was happy in a relationship that wasn’t interesting or spontaneous or passionate, or any of the other things you think it should have been.’
‘Were you, though? Were you really, Bell?’ Suze asked gently.
‘I really thought I was. Although the last few weeks have made me think . . . But why do it after ten years? Why didn’t Col say something last year or the year before, or however long ago he started to feel unhappy?’
‘For the same reason you didn’t, I expect. Because what you had felt safe, it felt nice. So why rock the boat? But then maybe he realised that all the things that were missing were all the things he missed.’
‘And all the things that dear Tina could provide!’ Bell spat. ‘I don’t even really blame her, though she’s not going to be top of my Christmas card list. And I also know that I can’t even blame Col one hundred per cent either. See, Suze, I haven’t wasted the last six weeks. But, still, what a dick.’
Suze giggled. ‘Yep. And cheers to that! And to you leaving social media. And to you not getting slapped with an ASBO for stalking your ex now you don’t have Facebook.’
They clinked glasses and Bell even managed a smile. She could see that a lot of what Suze had said was true and that she and Col had just got lazy, staying together because it seemed easier than arguing and having a full-on heart-to-heart. She was shaken out of her reverie by Suze saying, ‘Lips together and blot. Excellent, now what do you think?’
She stood in front of the mirror and barely recognised herself. ‘Could be worse, I s’pose,’ she smiled.
‘That’s the spirit! Right, come on, my friend, now you look the part let’s go party!’
Living My Best Li(f)e is available from Amazon.
You can follow the rest of the blog tour here: