To kick off the book tour for Sonya Lalli’s new book ‘The Arrangement’, the lovely author has written a short story that will continue across the other websites of the tour.
In The Arrangement, thirty-year-old, fun-living Serena is on the sidelines. She shares a mutual friend with the novelâ€™s heroine Raina, and for a while dates one of Rainaâ€™s relatives. Even though Serenaâ€™s story doesnâ€™t make it into my novel, I wanted to share a bit more about her own dating misadventures â€“ and give you a few clues about whatâ€™s to come in ‘The Arrangement’!
â€œIâ€™m done with dating.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t mean that,â€ says Shaylee.
â€œThis time, I mean it.â€ Serena takes a sip of her lukewarm pinot grigio and thinks about every lousy boyfriend sheâ€™s ever had â€“ from first-kiss-worst-kiss Luke in the eleventh grade, to her most recent ex, Kris, who had the emotional intelligence of a granola bar.
Meanwhile, Serena had â€“ for lack of better words â€“ her shit entirely together. She was a successful marketing manager, had great friends and nearly enough in her savings account to finally buy that dream flat. She drove out to the suburbs every Sunday to spend the afternoon with her parents, attended yoga class every Tuesday and Friday morning, and â€“ she thinks modestly â€“ isnâ€™t entirely unattractive.
Wasnâ€™t she a catch? In the words of her spirit animal Charlotte on Sex and the City, â€œIâ€™ve been dating since I was fifteen. Iâ€™m exhausted. Where is he?â€ If Mr. Right wasnâ€™t here by now, Serena thinks decidedly, he wasnâ€™t showing up at all.
As Shaylee orders them a plate of nachos, Serena tucks her phone back into her purse to avoid checking it obsessively. Just hours ago, James had texted her a picture of his new kitten poking out of a tea cosy with the caption Garfield is looking forward to our date, too!
Now, her new coworker James â€“ whoâ€™d she been crushing on for weeks â€“had stood her up. Heâ€™d disappeared without so much as a â€œwait, actually, Iâ€™m just not that into youâ€ text, and let her sit by herself at a bar waiting for him. Now, she was still just regular Serena â€“ crushed and crush-less â€“ still on the mend from her breakup with Kris.
â€œOh, snap!â€ Shaylee slides her phone across the table. â€œThe cinema down the road is doing a midnight screening of Mean Girls. Should we go?â€
â€œItâ€™ll cheer you upâ€¦â€
â€œOK. I guess.â€ She smiles, thankful Shaylee had nothing better to do tonight than keep her company. â€œDoesnâ€™t Raina live nearby? Should we invite her? â€
â€œSheâ€™s on a date tonight.â€
â€œHer Naniâ€™s fixing her up, remember?â€
â€œMaybe her Nani should set me up.â€
â€œBe careful what you wish for, Serena,â€ Shaylee says, as she buys the cinema tickets on her phone. â€œSheâ€™s driving Raina crazy right now.â€
â€œWell, I guess Iâ€™d rather be alone than crazy.â€ Serena sets her hands on the table with purpose. â€œAnd in fact, I will be. I am never going to date again.â€
â€œYou still donâ€™t mean that.â€
Shaylee leans forward on her elbow, like sheâ€™s trying to read Serenaâ€™s face.
â€œIâ€™m serious. This is bullshit. Iâ€™m done with dating.â€
She reaches across the table and grabâ€™s Serenaâ€™s wrist, rotating the watch face upwards. 9:04 pm.
â€œWe have three hours until the movie starts,â€ Shaylee says. â€œThree whole hours to killâ€¦â€
â€œYour point is?â€
â€œIâ€™ll make you a deal. In the next three hours, Iâ€™ll introduce you to three men. Three men of my choosing.â€
â€œYeah,â€ Shaylee says. â€œTonight. And if you donâ€™t like any of them, Iâ€™ll leave you alone. I wonâ€™t say all the things friends are supposed to say about â€˜taking time for yourselfâ€™ or â€˜letting yourself healâ€™ â€“ or anything like that. Iâ€™ll let you give up.â€
â€œYouâ€™ll let me give up.â€
â€œNot just let you, Serena, Iâ€™ll enforce it.â€
Three men? Three hours? Would Shaylee pick them out in this very bar? Serena glances around the room, a few strangers already catching her eye. Or, would Shaylee go through Serenaâ€™s phone? Message men sheâ€™s met up with in the past but has already written off. Connect her with new ones on her dating apps?
â€œSo are you in?â€
Tapping her fingers on the table, she shrugs. Itâ€™s not like she had anything better to do, or at this point, anything to lose.
Three hours. Three mini-dates. This would be a walk in the park, and then she could sit down and embrace spinsterhood in peace.
If you enjoyed this short introduction to the characters, you can buy the book The Arrangement from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.