Here is an excerpt from Looking for LaLa. Ellie Campbell the pen name for Lorriane Campbell and Pam Burks. This novel came out this last year but is worth looking into.
Not a sound is heard as it lands
silently on the mat. No drums rolls, crashing thunder, shafts of light. The
walls don’t start crumbling, the ground doesn’t vibrate with terrifying tremors
and a yawning fissure fails to zigzag across the kitchen floor and separate my
husband from his breakfast marmalade.
In short, I’ve no clue as to the impact
it’ll have on our lives. Mayhem. Marital breakdown. Murder. It should at least
have been written in blood or come in the beak of a dark-winged raven.
It is a postcard. “Love from London”
blazoned above a giant pair of pouting lips kissing a cherry-red heart.
At first sight it appears to be one of
those “Please Come to Our Rave” flyers which get thrust through my door
periodically. Now the chances of me, a world-weary, put-upon mother-of-two,
going to a rave are slim to none, but heck it’s nice to be invited.
I turn it over.
Dearest, sweetest Declan – it begins.
My eyes widen as I take in the blue spidery
handwriting and race to the
signature. ‘Love from La La.’
A tiny blip courses through me as I
beetle down the hall attempting to identify the exact emotion I’m feeling.
It’s – I recognise it now – excitement.
A blip of excitement forcing its merry way around my clogged up veins.
‘Postcard for you,’ I say nonchalantly,
opening the door and stepping back into the kitchen, ‘from La La.’
I had a blip when I first spotted
Declan at Bubbles, a dingy disco located east of the pier in downtown Bognor
Regis. It was Sandra Mason’s leaving work party and I was nineteen years old.
Sandra was tear-stained and puffy faced – partly from drink, partly emotion and
partly because she always had a fairly puffy face. We’d given her a pretty good
send off, bought her sexy underwear and filled an enormous padded card with
witty farewells and humorous poems, all of them sounding a whole bunch better
than my lowly “To Sandra, All best – Cath”.
The fifth yawn of the evening had just
wormed its way out of my mouth corner, when I spied Declan dancing under a
glassy mirror ball, had the blip and knew immediately we were destined to
become involved. I wasn’t sure how. Perhaps he’d introduce me to a mate or
better-looking brother. Not that he repelled me exactly, but spiky ginger hair
had never been top of my “must haves” and the way he was swinging those hips in
perfect rhythm with a blonde nymphet, well, they looked set for life. In and
out they gyrated to Unchained Melody, his large hands caressing her tanned
shoulder blades. I found out much later she was his long-term girlfriend, Lucy.
Juicy Lucy, I labelled her. Not very original maybe but it inevitably served
its purpose of getting right up Declan’s nose.
They made quite a couple. Lucy
laughing, licking her glossy lips, and my future spouse leering lovingly at
her, beads of sweat running down his freckled brow. I was entranced for a good
few seconds before being beckoned back to earth by Sandra, who wanted an
all-embracing photo of the girls from Credit Control. So, blocking out the
blip, I pasted on a wide cheesy grin and darted across the room.
He sits motionless, his knife suspended
in the Flora margarine, blue eyes gazing into the far distance, as he listens
to a heated political debate on Radio 4.
‘Postcard, darling, from La La.’ I raise
my voice, aware it’ll take a more urgent tone to break that level of
concentration. Either that or blasting out the latest match score. Arsenal 0 –
Manchester City 2. He reminds me at times of De Niro in Awakenings, forever
trapped in a catatonic state. I often wonder if I throw a ball at him whether
he’d whirl round in his chair and catch it in one swift movement.
‘What?’ He finally looks up, granary
toast perilously close to his open mouth. ‘Not more bills, surely?’
‘La La,’ I repeat, handing the postcard
‘Who the hell’s La La?’
‘Sounds like a telly tubby,’ I return
to my half-eaten boiled egg, disguising my curiosity. ‘Not sure which colour
though? Ask Josh and Sophie about it tonight.’
Our two children have been despatched
to school by Henrietta, a fellow mum. A ruse we’d come up with so we could have
“quality” time with our husbands on alternate mornings. Knowing Henrietta
she’ll be using her time to bonk Neil senseless. Me – I just aimed for a
halfway decent conversation and constantly missed.
He’s silently reading.
‘What does it say?’ I add a pinch of
salt to the last millimetre of yolk. Declan hates that I add salt to food,
wants it banned from the house, which makes it all the more decadent and
He fishes in the drawer for his
wire-framed reading glasses, perches them on the end of his nose, in a way that
hides his boyish face and makes him look nearer fifty than his “recently passed
He clears his throat. ‘‘Dearest,
sweetest Declan, I long to have you in my arms again. Ever yours.” A tinge of
colour slowly works its way up his cheeks. ‘And there’s a “Love from La La” at
the bottom. Well, how about that?’ He starts pacing the floor, a puzzled frown
etched on his forehead.
‘So who do you think sent it?’ I ask
‘No idea.’ The postcard’s placed on the
worktop. ‘Practical joke, I guess.’
Forlornly I tackle the stack of plates
lying accusingly in the sink.
‘I seriously need a dishwasher,’ I
mutter, squeezing a generous helping of Fairy liquid onto a brown, greasy
stain. ‘Everyone’s got one, even Patience Preston.’
Patience, mate of my closest friend,
Raz, lives on her own in an immaculate flat.
‘All she uses her fridge for is to
chill vodka. Not a scrap of food’s ever marred its spotlessness.’
Sometimes my conversations went totally
‘She skips breakfast, buys herself
wraps lunchtime and eats out each evening. And yet she owns a dishwasher. All
I’ve got is an empty space waiting to be filled.’
‘Patience can probably afford a
dishwasher,’ he says slowly. ‘Because she has a job.’
My hackles raise a notch. ‘Ah, but she
doesn’t have children to chase after all day, does she?’
‘And nor do you. Now they’re both at
school till four.’
Another few notches of hackles are
raised. ‘Half three actually. And I have to leave ages before that to pick them
up.’ Rather than tromp through a well-planted minefield I decide to divert.
‘Did you know Patience’s mum owns a microphone once licked by Tom Jones?’
Occasionally a little falsehood helped deflect the shrapnel.
It works, momentarily. ‘Why on earth
does Tom Jones go around licking microphones?’
‘Dunno, maybe someone threw their
knickers at it and knocked it into his mouth.’
He raises his eyebrow a fraction.
‘Anyhow a dishwasher’s not exactly a priority, is it? What with the roof space
that needs lagging, windows needing replacing, boiler about to blow. Where the
money’s coming from, I don’t know. My pockets aren’t…’
His diatribe’s thankfully interrupted
by his ringing mobile. It’s in his hand faster than Wyatt Earp with a smoking
‘Hi. Mm. Sure, sure. Sounds good. When?
Ha, ha, ha. Have you asked Jessica-Ellen? Uh huh. Uh huh. Cathy? Nah she’s
cool. ’Course. Eight p.m. it is.’
‘Eight p.m. it is,’ I echo under my
breath as I scrub furiously at last night’s saucepan.
‘So,’ his voice is casual as he slips
his phone into his pocket. ‘Wonder who sent it then?’
‘Maybe someone at work fancies you.’ My
chortle halts abruptly when I turn and catch his expression. He’s not been in
the mood for jokes lately, his sense of humour apparently absconding the
morning of his fortieth birthday.
Besides he knows he’s attractive. I
made the mistake of telling him he was voted “Body of the Year” by the Tuesday
Twice-Monthlies – the Restaurant Research Group I attend each fortnight.
Henrietta likens him to a ginger Nicholas Cage with his high cheekbones and
well-defined eyebrows. Raz adores his muscley arms, “sex on elbows” she calls
them. And everyone everywhere tells me how lucky I was in nabbing him. As if I
was a total pleb who lured him with some secret charm they could never quite
see in me. I want to rage at them all, ‘I was the one “nabbed” sisters. I was
the one “bloody nabbed”.’ Of course being a coward, I never do.
He turns the card over. ‘If that were
true, you’d think they’d pop it in my pigeonhole rather than send it to my
home, wouldn’t you?’ He drops his cup into my washing up bowl. ‘Right, I’m
I wipe my hands on my dressing gown as
I follow him down the hall.
‘You couldn’t just take my watch to be
repaired? On the bedside cabinet.’ He retrieves his umbrella from the pot by
‘Sure, honey babe.’ I stand on tiptoes
to tweak his tie.
‘Oh and my black boots need soles.’
‘Consider it done.’
‘And do get the kids to clear up those
toys in the back garden.’ His face takes on a pained expression, strange love
cards already dismissed. ‘Neighbours must wonder who they’re living next
‘I’m on to it.’ I resist the urge to
snap into a salute.
Pathetic, isn’t it? These seem to be
our new roles in life. Declan barking orders, me acting the subservient
housewife. Usually I’m not so wimpish but since Josh started school six months
back, I realise I’m on extremely shaky ground even if it looks like the same
old floor tiles. Casual mentions of spiralling debts, sharing the load or even
carrying it for a change have been accumulating faster than Victoria Beckham’s
Hermes handbag collection.
Too bad that as the bickering increases
so does my morbid fear of rejoining the workforce. Once lodged comfortably at
the back of my mind, like a suspicion of woodworm you’ll get around to dealing
with later, it’s morphed to become a monstrous bugbear between us.
Rattle of keys. He’s already mentally
in his office as he pecks me on the cheek. Smack of suit pocket to check for
his wallet, quick comb of the hair to confirm it’s up to R A Wilson Inc
standards, and he departs for work. I wave serenely on the doorstep before
dashing back inside to put on Coral Duster’s Greatest Hits.
As Coral’s dulcet tones wash over me, I
head for the phone.