So ... the date for your diary is Thursday 12th December (my lovely mum's 86th birthday). You'll be able to download it on Amazon for under £2 or, if you prefer a paperback copy, you'll need to go to Lulu.com.
Presenting ... TABBY & KAT
Here's the yummy cover:
And here's the blurb:
Things are changing for Tabby and Adam.
With their friend Polly leaving ‘The Thunky Three’,
who will fill the void in their cosy house-share?
Enter … Kat
... and a whole heap of trouble.
And just to drag you in a little bit more, here's the first chapter. I really hope you enjoy!
ROOM TO RENT
Fifteen minutes from here
in large, airy house with garden.
Mad enough to share with
fun loving party animals?
(1 male, 1 female, 1 parrot)
It suddenly all seemed so final as I positioned the advert in the shop window and then went outside to check that it was straight and fully visible to the passing public. Polly had really left and Adam and I had to find a newbie to fill her slot at the house. The ‘Thunky Three’ were splitting and I felt a mixture of sadness and giggles as I thought back to how we came up with our ridiculous name.
Of course it had involved too many cheap bottles of cider and gut-rot wine as we celebrated our moving in together and Polly had balanced herself precariously on the coffee table with her full glass spilling everywhere. As she threw a very drunken arm up in the air and ground her hips to whatever beat we were listening to at the time, she toasted our new living arrangements.
‘Whoop! To the Thunky Three,’ she’d shouted. She’d then guffawed, fallen off the table while expertly managing to save her booze, and added as she landed, ‘Ooops! I actually meant ‘Funky’ - but I do believe I’ve just made up a lovely new word which should be inserted into the Oxford Dictionary forthwith.’
Adam and I had fallen about with laughter as she went on to tell us that she loved the words ‘inserted’ and ‘forthwith’ so very, very much (said with a drunken slur) and then proceeded to put them into various madcap sentences.
‘My rumbling stomach demands that we order some take-away pizzas and insert them, forthwith.’
‘I demand that you insert your manhood forthwith, Mr Darcy!’
And so we became ‘The Thunkies’ - even our large circle of friends would refer to our trio as such. We’d met at Uni, instantly hitting it off and deciding that when our time was done with our studies we’d hot-foot back to London and share a place together - it just seemed the natural progression for us. From then on, any invitations which plopped on our doormat were addressed to ‘The Thunky Three’ and texts or email would ask if The Thunkies would be at such and such event.
And now we’d split.
After nearly four years of living in each others’ pockets at Uni and another five in London, Polly was off to get married (and pop out a sprog!) and I was bereft and delighted in equal measures.
Of course Adam was a little bit upset that she was going but, as I’d just broken up with ‘Codface Callum’ he saw it as an ideal opportunity to make his move on me - again. Suddenly there could be just the two of us in the house and Adam liked that idea - he liked that idea a lot.
You see, Adam had been in love with me for as long as I could remember and he made no secret of showing it. And I loved him too - just not like that. We’d had a couple of drunken snogs at parties over the years and (from what I could remember) they were good - really good. You know, the type that get you thinking, ‘Wow! If I could just let this go a little further this could be something quite mind-blowing’. But I just never would … you know, let anything go too far. Because Adam … well, he was Adam!
Don’t get me wrong. He was no gargoyle. He was incredibly good looking with his floppy, messy chocolate brown hair, eyes to drown in and a fine pair of long legs (oops, I may have made him sound a bit like a Labrador there - but I guess if you combine the looks with the faithfulness and fun factor, he was a bit like a loyal Lab!). He was kind, thoughtful, had the most amazing sense of fair play and everybody said he was the nicest guy they knew but … well … he just wasn’t for me.
I went for the bad boys - you know, the ‘Say They’ll Pick You Up at Eight and Don’t’ type. The ‘Living on the Edge’ type. The ‘Sod Paying the Bills, Let’s Blow our Gas Money down the Pub’ type.
I liked the thrill, the danger, the excitement - and in a perverse way, the many broken hearts that came as part of the package. After the upbringing I’d had, it was all I knew really - settling with a kind and sensible man just didn’t seem an option.
Now, if that made me sound like a troubled child from an East End council estate with a drug-pushing dad and a street-walking mum, it couldn’t have been further from the truth. I grew up in a beautiful village in Surrey with my parents, brother and sister. But there was never a dull moment in our home - no peace, no normality, no calm - and, weirdly, we all thrived on it.
My mum and dad were artists - crazy, flamboyant, and both mad as a box of frogs. They loved one another with a fierce passion, fought like Taylor and Burton but always made up quickly. Mum taught at the local art school and I remember a childhood filled with various waifs and strays being brought home for tea or supper - which was always burnt, always unidentifiable and always made with the enthusiasm of ‘This time it will work!’ Dad painted massive canvases for swanky London houses and made a small fortune ‘extracting the urine and their cash’ as he liked to refer to it. He would lock himself away for an hour, fire up the spray cans and come out triumphantly proclaiming ‘That’s another pile of shit for The Titty-Farquhars that’ll cost them a cool ten grand. Pour us a port, someone - I’m shattered!’
Of course, there were no clients by that name but that was what he called all those who coveted his ‘art’ - the people he loathed for their stupidity and vulgarity. No one had ever wanted his delicate watercolours which took weeks of craft and thought - we’d have been a starving family had he not jumped ship and gone where the money was. ‘The Titty-Farquhars’ might have paid his bills but they also robbed him of his true passion.
‘I’m prostituting myself!’ he’d cry out after too many ports or bottles of Burgundy. ‘A whore. I’m nothing more than a paint-splattered whore!’
This would usually be the moment my mother would grab a feather boa or stick some sparkly nipple tassels onto her pinny and run through a Burlesque routine to cheer him up. My mum was sixteen stone of gorgeousness but boy did she know how to move it, so it usually had Dad chuckling and slapping his knee (or her fine rump) and forgetting his woes.
We’d sit by and watch in bemusement - me and my siblings - when we were younger. There was love in our house, we knew that, but it was sometimes a drain living where emotions always ran so high.
My brother, Tadge, was the eldest - a ballet dancer and straight to boot. He could be prone to bouts of self-doubt or crippling worry, but since he married Flo he’d been much more settled.
My sister, Ophelia, was the youngest - a poet (or so she claimed). I loved her to bits but she drove me up the wall with her weeping and wailing sometimes. Still living at home with Mum and Dad, she was a slip of a thing who dressed in bits of lace and Victoriana fripperies on the outside but was a lazy, spoiled cow on the inside.
Then there was me, Tabitha, or ‘Tabby’ as I preferred. I too was a struggling artist but I refused to sacrifice my dream of working in oils or to sponge off my parents so I supplemented my meagre income by helping out my friend Mims in her trendy gift shop. Sometimes I thought I was the only sane one in my family, but I guess the wildness of my upbringing must have taken its toll or I wouldn’t still be looking for ‘Mr Bad Guy’ and the thrill of the chase - I would have settled for Adam, wouldn’t I?
Which was never gonna happen! So we had to get a new housemate, quick sharp, before he got any ideas about us becoming a couple.
‘The Thunkies’ might have disbanded but things couldn’t always stay the same, could they? And who knew, maybe things would be even better?
I’d noticed a young woman of about my age watching me as I finished putting the sign in the window of ‘The Treasure Chest’ when I got to work that morning. There was something vaguely familiar about her but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it - she was probably a regular customer or one of the punters at our local pub, I thought as I returned to the counter and Mims.
‘Coffee there for you, Honey,’ she said as I tidied some greetings cards on a rack. ‘So the wedding’s this weekend is it? Polly all sorted?’ Mims dunked a chocolate Hobnob in her mug and quickly brought the biscuit to her mouth before it disintegrated.
‘Yep,’ I sighed. ‘Saturday at two. She’s been gone for two weeks now and Adam and I are heading down on Friday after work and staying in a B&B near Polly’s parents’ place.’
‘In separate rooms, of course,’ Mims joked.
‘We might share a house but we certainly don’t share a bed, Mims, and you know it.’
‘Well I think you’re bloody mad. Before I met Tim, I’d have killed for a bloke like Adam - what’s not to like? But the trouble is, he has eyes for no one but you, so you just take it for granted. I reckon if you took him up on his offer of paying two-thirds of the rent and ditched the idea of looking for a new housemate, you’d be an item within weeks - the temptation would just be too great.’
I began to sort through some paperwork and orders in an attempt to block Mims and her babble out. She was a hopeless romantic at heart and wanted nothing more than to see Adam and me together. When I’d told her of his plan to pay extra rent to save us from replacing Polly, she’d been beside herself with excitement.
Of course, it would have been great to not have to bother interviewing a whole heap of strangers to decide who would fit in best but I didn’t want to give Adam false hope by taking him up on his offer.
‘Tabby, I can afford it,’ he’d stated very simply. ‘Business is booming and it’s no great hardship for me to pay a bit of extra dosh. Give it some thought, please. No strings, I promise. Just two old buddies sharing a house.’
It was true. His web design business was booming. He worked from home in one of the spare rooms and already paid a little extra for that privilege. Mr Organised was in charge of all the bill paying, housekeeping and any odd jobs that needed to be tackled. He’d never been in any sort of debt or financial instability as he always lived within his means and was now reaping the rewards.
In short, he was everything I wasn’t. Mims had once joked that if Adam suddenly announced that he hadn’t got his rent or that he’d blown his savings on a motorbike, I’d drop my drawers in a flash because he’d suddenly become everything I usually looked for. Not true. He was my friend, that was all, and I’d hate anything to ruin that.
Mims broke into my thoughts again. ‘Hey, supposing you get some gorgeous floozy move in and Adam falls for her instead of you? Would you be upset?’
‘Don’t be so daft!’ I sipped at my coffee and thought about her question.
‘What? Don’t be so daft because it wouldn’t bother you, or because you’re so sure it would never happen?’ Mims flicked me with an elastic band she’d found by the till. ‘You be careful who you decide on, Miss Tabby. You take in a looker, and the gorgeous Adam might not stick around and wait for you forever. Then you’ll be looking for two replacement housemates!’
I guess Mims’ words must have got to me more than I thought because whenever any sexy, nubile bit of stuff came in the shop and enquired about the house, I told them the room had gone and then ushered their pert little bottoms to the door. I then had to contend with Mims’ knowing looks and smirks.
‘Yeah, good move there, Tabby. That one was way too sexy to have floating around in a G-string, seductively munching on a croissant every morning, eh?’
The trouble was, I could control the applicants who enquired in the shop but I had no control over the list that Adam was compiling from the calls he had on his mobile - all female, or so I heard.
‘He’s doing it to wind you up, Petal,’ Mims soothed as we began checking off a delivery of gift bags and paper. ‘He’s going to pick the best looking girl and hope that you crumble and relent on his suggestion. Trust me.’
‘Yeah, well that’s fine. I’ve had some pretty hot blokes come in and ask for details too - a couple of really cute Aussies and a French hunk who could offer me his baguette any old time. So, I’m ready for his plan - and we have to agree on who we take in, so it’ll be fine.’
The shop had been quiet that day, with only a handful of customers coming through the doors, and I was suddenly aware of a small cough from the corner where we kept our tiny teddies. I was almost certain it was the young woman who had watched me as I’d put the ad in the window and, as she saw me turn to her, she replaced the bear she’d been considering and left the shop in a hurry.
I didn’t know her but there was something about her that made an involuntary shudder run right through me.
She had poker straight blonde hair, I had flame red flowing curls - chalk and cheese - but there was something about the eyes. People often said I had cat’s eyes and in many ways I agreed - green, keen and slightly slanting.
In that brief moment when our gaze met, it had been like looking into a mirror - a mirror which reflected a little piece of me.
I continued to work through the huge delivery and pushed the thought to the back of my mind. Plenty of people had a similar look. And what did it matter anyway? I was just over-reacting.
‘So we’ve got three lined up for Monday night - your losers. And three lined up for Tuesday night - my little honeys,’ Adam told me as he scooped more Chinese takeaway onto our plates.
‘And we promise that we both have to agree wholeheartedly on who we give the room to - based on our strict marking system and gut feeling?’ I asked as I struggled with my noodles and chopsticks.
‘Yep. And if none of the six are suitable, you’ll concede that my idea was the most sensible one all along. I’m not spending weeks interviewing no-hopers, Tabby.’
‘It’ll be fine, Adam. I really think you’ll like Jean-Charles. He’s got a Porsche and works in advertising.’
‘I hate him already. I’ll match your stinking, garlic-munching frog with a rather tasty Swiss girl called Eloise. She emailed me over some rather saucy pics this morning - most accommodating of her, I thought.’ He winked and grabbed another prawn cracker from the bag.
This was not going to be easy and I sighed into my egg foo yung. We had a lovely summer wedding to go to and yet the prospect of finding a new housemate would be hanging over us the whole time.
Maybe I should have just taken Adam up on his offer and become ‘The Thunky Two’. Platonic, of course.
Nah! We’d see what the applicants were like and decide from there - how bad could interviewing them and finding out a bit more about them really be?