SALLY: A Steamy Chick Lit Novella
by L. Moone
Publication Date: December 2, 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Chick Lit, Romance
I don’t do relationships. I don’t do love.
The closest thing I have to a soulmate is my best friend and colleague, Becky, and I don’t even share myself with her. To me, men are fun playthings to be enjoyed in small doses. Luckily, Mark – my latest conquest, as well as our manager at work – seems to like it that way too.
One day my carefree existence is interrupted when a ghost from my past makes an appearance. My ex Gareth has tracked me down at work, and my world threatens to crumble. Old wounds are ripped open, and painful secrets are about to be exposed. I thought I was over him, but my once strong facade threatens to break down. On top of that, Gareth’s appearance has made Mark jealous, adding awkwardness to what was previously a perfectly casual affair.
Why is it that the harder I try to ignore these complications, the worse I feel? No matter how hard I try to run from it, the past is intent on catching up with me. Perhaps now it’s time to admit that it wouldn’t be so bad to confide in someone. To rely on someone other than myself.
Sally is the third book in L. Moone’s Undateables series. This women’s fiction novella features themes of loss, gender-nonconformity and plenty of colourful (British English) language.
“Is Sally Irving in?” This simple question, spoken by a familiar voice, rudely drags me out of my daydream and back into reality. It can’t be!
Despite the years that have passed since I last heard this voice, and the fantasy I had just been absorbed in, there’s no way I would make a mistake identifying this ghost from my past.
“You’re looking for Sally?” I can hear Cath’s clear soprano respond. As Mark’s assistant, she’s the one who usually deals with the occasional visitor to our floor. “How exactly did you get in here?”
I peek over my PC screen across the office towards the man with the bunch of tulips in his hand. He has his back turned towards me, not giving me much to go by, except the long-ish dark brown hair, broad shoulders, and faded brown leather jacket. Fuck.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK!
“Psst, Becks,” I whisper shout, but Becky next to me, is so focused on her computer screen that she’s completely oblivious to the disaster that’s about to unfurl around me. The furrow in her brow tells me she’s probably struggling with Excel again, which means she might as well have blinders on. She finally looks up when I throw a paper clip at her.
“What? Can’t you see I’m in the middle of-” The irritation sounds through in her voice. I know she hates interruptions, but this is an emergency, damnit!
“Shh!” I slink back into my chair and gesture at her to keep her volume down. “There. That guy Cath’s talking to. Please be a dear and get rid of him. Tell him I’m off sick or whatever. Or dead. Tell him I died last month. Try to make it convincing.” My heart is hammering in my throat, making it hard to keep my voice from cracking and I’m starting to feel faint like all the blood has drained out of my head.
Becky takes a moment, scrutinizing my face, before checking out the figure in brown leather. Please, don’t argue!
“Fine. I’ll do it, but only because I love you. Don’t think you can get out of this without providing some sort of explanation later!”
I put my head in my hands and shrug. “Whatever. Just please, make him leave.”
I hear her roll her chair back, followed by the click-clock of her heels against the shiny office floor.
“Cath, I’ll take care of this, thanks.” Becky’s voice sounds suspiciously upbeat as usual when she’s handling someone.
“So, who are you?” She asks the man. I half hope he’s just some random person who shares
some familiarities with who I’m thinking of. Maybe a courier, who happens to have a voice that sounds just like-
“Gareth Doyle. Sally and I go way back.” Fuck. It is him. Gareth. Now there’s a name I’ve tried so hard and nearly succeeded to banish from my memory. Gareth fucking Doyle.
“Right, Mr. Doyle.” Knowing Becks, and hearing the ridiculous tone she’s using to address him, I have to assume she’s enjoying this role a bit too much. Fine, as long as she does the needful. “Well it’s terrible timing, Sally’s actually on holiday at the moment.”
“Oh. When will she return?”
“Not for a couple of weeks I’m afraid.”
I lean up just enough to catch another glimpse, ignoring the risk of him turning around at some point and spotting me. At least from behind it seems he hasn’t changed too much, even the hair is almost the same as I remember.
“Oh well, not sure they will last that long, but perhaps you can tell her I came by and left these for her.” Gareth hands Becky the colourful bouquet.
“I’ll let her know. Thanks.” She keeps standing there, flowers in one hand, her other on her hip, waiting for him to make a move.
I breathe a sigh of relief, when after a few seconds of indecision, Gareth does indeed walk out the door. My hands are shaking, beads of sweat collecting around my hairline. What the fuck was he doing here?
And why am I so affected by him, despite everything that’s happened? It’s totally ridiculous, bizarre even. I’m panting, as if the atmosphere has thinned out and I simply can’t get the oxygen I need. Jesus.
Becky returns to our desks, and I can’t face her. All I want to do is curl up into a ball and vanish. My stomach is all twisted up, confused and achy. If I’m not careful, I’m going to be ill right here.
“So. These are for you.” She drops the flowers on top of my IN tray and sits down.
“Hey… Hey, Sal, are you OK?”
I once again cover my face with my hands, unable to wrap my head around what just happened.
“You didn’t tell him I was dead. He’s going to come back. I need to-” I can’t finish; my throat feels dry, and I’m no longer sure what I was going to say anyway.
“What’s wrong? You eat guys like that for breakfast, what’s with this one?” Becky puts her hand on my shoulder, but I shake it off.
“I can’t. Gimme a second.” I get up and rush off towards the exit. God, please make it so he’s not lurking out in the hallway. Make it so I don’t get caught!
Luckily, the coast seems clear and I make a dash for the facilities. I need some alone time. No questions, no talk, just time.
The knot in my stomach is tighter than ever. Before I know it, I’m forced inside a stall, and faced with what’s left of my lunch inside the bowl. Sadly, that doesn’t do much to calm me down, just makes me angrier at myself. How dare he just drop right into my life while things are going exactly how I want them to? How fucking dare he?
My phone buzzes inside my pocket and I fish it out, with shaky fingers, managing to narrowly avoid dropping it into the mess in the toilet. It’s Mark.
‘Meeting just finished but you weren’t at your desk. Let’s go out, somewhere nice. French food maybe, or anything you like.’
Clutching the phone in my hands, I sink down to the floor, with my back against the stall door.
Taking a deep breath, I type out a typo-littered response. Sure, dinner would be nice. I guess. Ugh, I don’t know anymore…
I was happy, dammit. Things were going pretty well with Mark, who seems to understand me in a way most guys don’t. And now, all I see are complications.
I hate complications. That’s the main reason I don’t date, never have, ever since…
Why, of all times, does Gareth have to turn up now? It’s been eight years, and only the latter half of them were worthwhile. After the hell he put me through, it took a whole four years to find my way back to normality again. Now, within seconds of seeing him, it’s as if years of progress have been wiped away.
I thought I was over all this. I thought I was over him.
“Sal?” Becky’s voice echoes against the tiled walls.
Shit, can’t people get a hint? I decide to ignore her, but she knocks on my stall soon after.
“Sally, are you OK? Don’t make me bust the door in.”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I snap.
“Alright.” Becky doesn’t sound convinced, and predictably I don’t hear her walk away either. “Then why are you sitting on the floor?”
Fuck, she’s right. I take a deep breath, trying to focus my attention on the task at hand. Pass for normal, get the fuck out of here and think later. Or ideally, don’t think at all, I’ve got dinner with Mark to survive without losing my shit.
“There, happy now? I got up,” I say, after getting up and flushing away any evidence of my breakdown. If I’m going to make it to dinner, I’d better brush my teeth first.
“Sal? Who was that guy?”
“Didn’t you hear him? His name’s Gareth. Just some guy I used to know.”
“It seems like there’s a lot more to that story than what you’re letting on.”
“Whatever.” I shake myself off, breathe deeply another few times to let my nerves settle, and open the door, attempting to act normal.
Once outside, I blank Becky and walk straight to the mirrors along the wall to fix my hair. Well at least I didn’t cry. He didn’t manage to break me completely. It’s hard to look and feel halfway normal, with makeup smeared all over your cheeks.
“You know you can talk to me, right? You don’t have to be some kind of lone crusader in all of this, it’s OK to let people in sometimes.” Becky is right, but I can’t face her or anyone right now.
“Mark is taking me somewhere nice for dinner, I should probably finish off for the day and pack up my stuff.”
Becky’s reflection in the mirror shrugs and turns towards the door.
“If you change your mind, you know where to find me. Anyway, I have a date with Alex tonight too, so…” Her use of the word date grates at me. What Mark and I have planned is so not a date, and I intend to keep it that way.
When the door shuts behind her, I breathe a sigh of relief.
Her barging in here and insisting to check on me served its purpose as a distraction, but talking it out means releasing everything I’ve worked so hard to bury for years. I can’t risk that.
Realistic characters, pure emotions, true passion. Everything I write is about the characters: how they interact, what’s going on in their heads, how the passionate relationship develops and affects them. I don’t believe in keeping things hidden, or dressing them up just for show. Some of my characters are potty-mouths, most of them are less than perfect (yes, even physically). I aim to write a happy ending for all of them, without keeping anything behind closed doors.