Authors: Debbie Howells/Susie Martyn
Impossible Search for the Perfect Man
Copyright © 2013 Susie
The right of Susie
to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in
accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All characters and events in this
publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and
any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of
this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording or otherwise, without the express permission of the author.
love is the answer, can you rephrase the question?
where every girl in the world wants to be.
serenely through Tesco’s.
In the middle of the
And there’s no-one here, which is odd…
it’s surprisingly peaceful, meandering up and down the wide empty aisles with
only some vegetables for company. But hold on just a moment, I can hear
Or rather someone...
Not just any old someone either.
positive vision appears around the corner, a knowing smile playing on his lips
as I find myself gazing at Zac Efron and Ryan Reynolds, all rolled into one
beautiful, jaw-dropping specimen.
to his lean, sculpted frame is one of those tight t-shirts that leaves nothing
to the imagination – I can make out every muscle, every curve of his tanned,
glorious body. As he comes towards me, there’s an intense look in his
dark eyes and I’m getting a funny feeling, like goose-bumps all over.
close my mouth, smooth
my hands over my T-shirt, sucking in
my tummy and attempting to look nonchalant, as though I bump into sex-gods in
crap. I don’t know what to say now, because there is no T-shirt. In
fact, I’m horrified to find I’m not wearing anything at all… Where the
luminous hands on my alarm clock read just before 3am when my eyes ping open to
the sound of the heaviest of April showers hammering torrentially on our
roof. I’m still blushing from the realisation that I’m completely
starkers in the middle of a supermarket, with a gorgeous stranger giving me the
once over - except I’m not of course. I’m at home in my bed, fantasy and
reality blurred for a few delicious moments longer as I contemplate the man of
my dreams, still unmistakeably here in my head. What a time to wake up,
just when things were about to get interesting… But by now, one thing I most
definitely am is annoyingly wide awake.
So it’s not the first time I’ve had a vivid, outrageous dream and as I lie in
bed, I wait for the full-blown assault from my insecurities that always
follows. General unease then escalates into complete and unreserved
paranoia of mind-boggling proportions, while I explore the entire range of
catastrophes waiting to befall me. Bankruptcy, life-threatening illness,
divorce… because they’re all there waiting to get me.
I lie in my favourite pyjamas (I checked, just to make sure) I toss and turn
restlessly, my imagination in full swing, at its absolute, spectacular
worst. If I’m going to dream about flaunting myself at gorgeous men, why
can’t it be on a tropical island? Or is there hidden significance to
dreams about lust among the veg aisle at Tesco’s… More likely I just have a
The warm, inert body next to me doesn’t
exactly help, emitting porcine snores at regular intervals, every so often
interspersed with a particularly hoggish one – the kind that has about four
syllables – putting an end to any hope of sleep. Arian is a world class
snorer, and not even a well-timed elbow in the ribs has any lasting effect on
the din emanating from his nostrils.
My lovely husband is also a world class
duvet-hogger. I tug the covers back over me – he doesn’t even stir, but
then Arian can sleep through anything. If the house fell down around us,
he’d be oblivious to it, but he’s oblivious to most things these days.
I know my fears and suspicions will
shrink back to normal, only mildly paranoid proportions by daylight. And my
imagination, I’m the first to admit, is inclined to get carried away.
However, just lately, I’m beginning to wonder whether this is simply in my
head, or if indeed something is going on.
Arian flies large aeroplanes for a big
airline. We met six years ago when my best friend, Leonie, married his
best friend, Pete. Leonie’s cabin crew and we’ve been the best of friends
since secondary school, where with characteristic chutzpah and a few well-chosen
fuck off you pikey bitches –
stuck her oar in and her finger up at the bullies who made my life a misery.
Leo’s beautiful, with smooth olive skin
and long dark hair. After leaving school, with the same audacity that had
endeared her to me in the first place, she lied about her age and pursued her
dream to take to the skies. I meanwhile, as was my due, accepted the
rather less enthralling option of a secretarial job, in the dingy offices of
It might not have been so bad, if only
Leo’s life hadn’t been full of excitement. A never ending whirl of exotic
destinations, fab shopping and hot men in uniform – I preferred to gloss over
the 4am check-ins and the night Tenerife’s - but it all served to make my
lacklustre nine to five existence answering dreary Mr McKenzie’s phone seem
even more tedious than it was.
But when we were together we kicked our heels
up, determined to misspend every second of our long-awaited freedom. We
were far too young, we agreed, to tie ourselves down to just one man, so it was
absolutely only fair, we told ourselves, to go on dates with lots of
So many men and so little
was us for years, until that fateful nightstop in Tangiers when she met Pete,
who was understandably smitten at first sight.
Tall and sandy haired (Leo’s word,
Pete’s a ginger), he’s besotted. And it was totally his fault I met Arian,
then kept meeting Arian at theirs, again and again, because they’re friends.
As I discovered, pilots can yap for
hours - about holding procedures and rostering agreements, and other pilot-ish
topics of conversation, such as dwindling pensions and the new junior with the
. And then Arian asked me on a
It was easy to be infected by the magic
between our friends. One date turned to many, culminating months later in
a drunken proposal that surprised both of us. I detected a flicker of surprise
when I told her. Or possibly it
was a flicker of uncertainty, which being Leo, she then hid forever behind a
mask of enthusiasm and delight.
Oh my God, oh my
Leo had jumped up and down
When’s the wedding? How did he propose
Lou, this is the best news ever! Oh, I’m so excited!’
All without pausing for
before she’d dashed off to tell Pete.
Looking back, her excitement was always greater
than mine. Isn’t a wedding, after all, just about the biggest day of your
life? The biggest decision you ever make, and worthy of at least some
peripheral soul searching before you tie the knot? Maybe for most people
– but for me, it was the natural order of things.
The lead up to our wedding simply
flew by, filled with meetings with photographers, florists and of course food
tastings, not to mention fittings of my elaborate and frightfully expensive
Vera Wang wedding gown. Barely having a moment to think, I allowed myself
to go with the flow, and just took completely for granted that this was how it
My mother - Lord bless her -
is her nature, complained about everything and secretly revelled in every
stressful minute of it. A total mother-of-the-bride-zilla, she was in her
element, organising everything to a degree that gave a whole new meaning to the
word, positively terrifying everyone she came across.
But at last I was doing something she
approved of. Oh yes, she was thrilled to bits that her previously
slightly disappointing daughter had bagged herself such a good catch.
Truth is, I think she was a teeny bit smitten herself, but there was absolutely
no doubt that she wanted our wedding to be impressive, with no expense spared, with
hundreds of guests, white doves after the ceremony, flowers simply everywhere
and those hideous wedding favour things on the table that no-one knows what to
do with. She even managed to rustle up ten tiny bridesmaids I’d never
even seen before and drafted in a professional speech writer, just in case my
poor father let the side down.
I’m afraid to say that I was happy to
take a back seat and let her. And it
an incredible day.
After it was over, things between me and Arian
just ticked along fairly uneventfully, much as they had before. Wasn’t
there supposed to be more?
With Arian away so frequently, it’s like
he has a double life - at home he does a bit of DIY and mows the lawn, but the
moment he puts on his uniform, he steps into a parallel universe I have no part
And so, in between times, I am quite
used to getting on with my own, somewhat less glamorous way of life. In a
funny sort of way, it’s worked, or so I thought. My biggest worry has
been what to pull out of my extensive and mismatched wardrobe each
This isn’t a conclusion I’ve come to
easily. And terrified though I am to confront it, there have been rather
too many last minute flight changes, more than ever before. He’s
extremely amiable these days, when he’s here that is, which is less and less
frequently. And he hums a lot in the bathroom.
this, despite the fact that we haven’t had sex for two months, which probably
goes a long way towards explaining my night-time fantasies about frolicking
with Latino-type males in Tesco’s.
But recently I’d go so far as
to say that my husband has been avoiding all bodily contact suggestive of
intimacy. I know in daylight hours, I’ll convince myself that I’m just
being paranoid, that nothing’s changed and it’s the gremlins of the night out
to get me again. But...the fact remains. Arian has always liked a lot of
In the beginning, just being in the same
room as him would fill my head with carnal thoughts. Arian would walk
through the door after being away for a night and barely say hello before we’d
be tearing each other’s clothes off like there was no tomorrow. Even his
unpredictable working hours had their use.
we won’t be able to make lunch
tomorrow. No, Arian’s just had a week of night flights again and needs to
catch up... Yes, poor thing, he’s exhausted…
Ha. Not much sleeping went on, I
can tell you and it was easy enough to overlook any guilt at lying to a mother
who’d long ago switched allegiance to her son-in-law.
Of course the frequency wore off a bit
as the years went by, but nothing
Two whole months?
My alarm wakes me at 6am. I long
to close my eyes and drift back into oblivion, but I can’t. The space
next to me is empty and there are splashing sounds coming from the bathroom,
against a background of energetic humming noises. Galvanising my weary
body into action, I stagger bleary-eyed down the stairs to make a cup of tea,
to be greeted by the mad, black creature that leaps up maniacally and wags her
whole body at me.
Elmer is rather a scruffy flatcoat
retriever. There aren’t too many of them about and if you’ve ever lived
with one, you’ll know why. Reading my thoughts, she grins madly at me,
one eye squinting, while grabbing at my pyjamas with grizzled jaws.
I let her outside; it’s really far too
early to be dealing with a demented dog. It’s a beautiful spring morning,
and I stand for a moment breathing it in, watching Elmer pogo madly across the
grass. Rays of early morning sun are poking through the trees, catching
the dew on the grass so it sparkles.
It’s quiet and still and calms the
madness in my head for a moment. I’ve always loved this garden, with its
gently sloping grass and gnarled apple trees. There’s an old garden bench
among them, my favourite place on Sunday afternoons, curled up on a pile of
cushions with a trashy book.
In the opposite corner, there’s a
bigger, very ancient oak, perfect for climbing and even more perfect for just
sitting under in the height of the hottest summer, then at the far end is
Elmer’s stream, where she wallows for hours.
Arian appears and kisses me
perfunctorily on the cheek. I feel a pang of I’m not sure what. Since
when does my husband kiss me like he would his mother? Before, he’d have come
and stood quietly behind me, his arms wrapped around me, his lips nuzzling my
hair, hinting at far more than just a kiss.
Tall, with longish hair that’s still
damp from the shower, he’s suspiciously bright-eyed and bushy tailed this morning.
It’s good to know at least one of us slept well. And he’s annoyingly
going on with him?
‘Sleep well Lou? You were out of it this
morning,’ he remarks happily.
Ironically because I was awake all night
worrying about our marriage, buster
, I almost say, but
‘Oh, my Lisbon’s turned into a
night-stop, so I won’t be back until Saturday,’ he adds oh-so-casually, not one
iota of guilt on his face as he carefully avoids eye contact. ‘Still,
I’ll cut the grass on Sunday and we could go out with Pete and Leonie then, if