Authors: Robyn Harding
Table of Contents
Praise for Robyn Harding’s debut novel,
The Journal of Mortifying Moments
“Painfully funny...Harding is a skilled writer who is able to transcend and even exploit cliché...
The Journal of Mortifying Moments
is light fiction executed by a writer who knows her craft.”
—The Boston Globe
scores with Kerry’s laugh-out-loud tales of shame.”
“Kerry’s cringe-worthy worst memories are laugh-out-loud funny, and fans will applaud her honest efforts to break bad behavior patterns.”
Also by Robyn Harding
THE JOURNAL OF MORTIFYING MOMENTS
THE SECRET DESIRES OF A SOCCER MOM
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2007 by Robyn Harding.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without
permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of
the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
BERKLEY® is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “B” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Penguin Canada trade paperback edition / July 2007
Berkley trade paperback edition / December 2008
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Unravelled / Robyn Harding.
eISBN : 978-1-440-64119-0
1. Single women—Fiction. 2. Female friendship—Fiction. 3. Knitting—Fiction. 4. Knitters
(Persons)—Fiction. I. Title.
A WHAT? ” I asked, into the phone.
“A stitch ’n bitch club,” my friend Angie explained. “You know... a knitting circle.”
“Uh . . . aren’t we about forty years too
to be in a knitting circle?”
“Get with it!” Angie laughed. “Knitting is the new yoga. It’s replacing watching TV—or, at least, reading. All the stars do it.”
“Julia Roberts . . . Catherine Zeta-Jones . . . even Brad Pitt.”
This sounded vaguely familiar. I was sure I’d seen a photo in a magazine of Russell Crowe knitting a pair of baby booties. Besides, Angie knew all about trends. As cohost of the cable television talk show
it was her job to identify all the latest fads. She was up on the hottest clubs, movies, bands, and books. She knew the hippest styles in clothing, accessories, housewares, and hobbies. According to Angie, being cutting edge was more than her career: It was her
She considered herself the Yoda of pop culture.
But even if knitting was the latest craze, was it right for me? My only experience with yarn and needles had been in Brownies when I was eight. I’d had to knit a pot holder in order to get my handicrafts badge. After several weeks of painstaking work, I had produced an irregular, lumpy orange square, which I displayed to my troop leader, Brown Owl. She inspected it, with the very slightest of sneers, and grudgingly gave me my badge. I later gifted the pot holder to my grandmother for Christmas. She was, of course, delighted, until she tried to use it to remove a tray of cookies. The cheap acrylic wool turned out to be highly flammable. This feature, combined with a number of gaping holes in the weave, left my grandma with a second-degree burn at the base of her thumb. Since then, knitting had always carried sort of a negative connotation for me.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m not really a
type of person.”
“Oh, and like I am? Come on. It’ll be fun.”
“It’s not really my cup of tea.”
“You’ll be able to make thoughtful, yet inexpensive Christmas gifts.”
“But I’m left-handed.”
“Enough with the excuses!” Angie cried. “It’s been two months since you and Colin broke up. It’s time you got out and met some new people.”
“New people?” This made the whole knitting circle idea even
appealing. But I knew Angie was right: My social life had slowed dramatically since I ended my four-year relationship with Colin. When we were together, we had done couple-things with our couple-friends: dinner parties, movie nights, girls vs. guys games of flag football . . . Since the split, I hadn’t felt like insinuating myself into any of these cozy pairings, playing the poor, lonely third wheel. I wasn’t about to call up my married, engaged, or cohabiting girlfriends and beg them to let me tag along. I could almost hear them explaining to their significant others: “Hon... do you mind if Beth comes with us to hear that new jazz trio? I know it’s a pain, but she’s a spinster now and I’m afraid she might kill herself if we don’t include her.”
But meeting new people? I wasn’t ready for that. I was content with my current social network. It wasn’t like I had
single friends. I did!—two, to be precise: Angie, and Mel, a twice-divorced forty-three-year-old with an uncomfortably close relationship with her golden retriever. But I was enjoying spending time alone, really getting to know myself again. It wasn’t like I was a shut-in, or some kind of a recluse.
“It’s like you’re a shut-in, or... some kind of a recluse!”
“No, I’m not.” I laughed nervously.
“It’s time you got on with your life, Beth.
ended the relationship after all.”
“Yes, and you know why,” I snapped.
“I know. I know.” Angie was beginning to sound exasperated and I could practically hear her eyes rolling. “Listen . . . the first stitch ’n bitch will be next Thursday at my apartment. You’ll need to buy some needles and some yarn. And feel free to bring a friend along, if you want.”
“Okay,” I said glumly.
“I’m asking everyone to invite someone they’d like to get to know better,” Angie continued. “That way, we won’t end up with some cliquey group reliving old times. We’ll have a great, diverse bunch of people we can really open up to.”
It was sounding worse and worse. There was no way I was going to open up to a collection of individuals with nothing in common but the desire to create a homemade scarf.
“So you’ll come, then?”
“I don’t know. I’ve got a deadline,” I answered lamely.
“It’s just what you need, hon: a new hobby and some new friends.”
“Yeah . . . maybe.”
“Gotta run. I’m having a holistic scalp treatment done on camera. The owner guarantees it will give you plumper, shinier hair that smells like a basket full of strawberries.”
Hanging up the phone, I shuffled across the scuffed hardwood to the apartment’s small galley kitchen. Gently, I opened the fridge door, careful not to disturb my roommate’s, Kendra’s, collection of frog magnets. Leaning over, I peered inside. The top two shelves were burgeoning with various condiments, deli meats, a variety of cheeses, and several stackable Tupperware containers. These shelves belonged to Kendra. The lower two, allocated to me, were bare but for two Coronas, and a small plastic tub of hummus. What the hell . . . I reached for a beer. I deserved it after all I’d been through. If I were a guy, no one would fault me for lying around in my underwear, not shaving, and drinking beer at ten in the morning. A glance at the microwave clock indicated that it was actually 4:17, which was a far cry from 10 A.M. And of course, I was fully clothed... But my legs were extremely hairy! (I didn’t really see the point in shaving them anymore . . . )
Taking my beverage back to the living room, I flopped on the overstuffed floral couch and took a big swig. Angie didn’t know what was best for me. I didn’t need a new hobby and new friends: I needed to
Why did people insist I
Get over it
? I had suffered an enormous loss! If Colin had died, they wouldn’t insist I heal so quickly. But because he was alive and well and working as a graphic designer downtown, everyone was on my case to get out of the apartment, meet new people, and take up handicrafts.
Colin and I were together for four years...four blissfully happy years. Okay,
was a bit of an exaggeration. We had our little problems, like all couples do, but they were nothing more than petty annoyances. We connected in all matters of importance: sense of humour; taste in music and television programming; general world view... and the sex was amazing! He was even a Virgo—an ideal astrological match for my sign, Scorpio. I had finally found him: the perfect guy for me. And he
perfect, in every way but one.
They say timing is everything, and for Colin and me, it seemed to be true. We met at a party when I was twenty-nine and he was twenty-eight. I’d had a number of passable, if uninspiring, relationships: He had sown his wild oats with several fun, but not entirely appropriate, girlfriends. We connected almost instantly, and since we were both attracted to each other, both available, and both
we were soon a couple.
Two days before I turned thirty, I moved into Colin’s apartment. I hadn’t quite met my personal goal of being married before I reached that milestone birthday, but I wasn’t worried. I’d found my soul mate, and that was more than half the battle, right? I felt confident that, eventually, everything would simply fall into place. Besides, as long as I had a baby by the time I was thirty-five, I’d be happy.
Our friends were dropping like flies. In our four years together, we went to no less than seven weddings! And three baby showers! Yes, I was counting. Each one reminded me of a bikini wax: a little awkward, a tad uncomfortable, but not unbearably painful. Because then, I was still hopeful! Every Christmas, I was sure I’d receive a diamond instead of a sweater or a gift certificate for a pedicure. Each New Year’s Eve, I predicted a midnight proposal. Oh well, Valentine’s Day was just around the corner! And then, my birthday was only nine months away! But every occasion passed without that symbolic gift.
It wasn’t until our final Christmas together that panic began to set in. I was already two years past my marriage deadline, and the baby target was fast approaching. There was still time, I told myself. If Colin proposed at Christmas, we could have the wedding next fall, and get pregnant on our first anniversary. That way, our baby would be born a few months before I turned thirty-five. It would all work out according to plan.
But on that December 25 morning, when I unwrapped a pair of black suede gloves and a digital camera, I couldn’t hide my chagrin. “What’s wrong?” Colin had asked.
“Nothing!” I croaked, though the tears in my eyes belied my claim. “This is . . . really nice.”
“I know it’s not the most expensive camera out there,” Colin explained. “But it’s a pretty good one. I thought it would be nice to have when we take that trip up to Vancouver Island.”
“Yeah . . . it’s just that . . .”
It took me a moment to summon the courage, but finally, after a deep, ragged breath, I spoke.
“We’ve been together almost three years, right?”
“And we’ve been happy, right?”
“And you do love me, don’t you?”
“Of course, I do!” he said, quite emphatically, I thought.
“So, I guess I just sort of expected... I mean, it seems like we’ve been heading in this direction for quite a while and . . . Well, we’re not getting any younger...”
Colin was silent, his eyes unreadable. Finally, he pulled me to him and held me tight. “I know,” he muttered into my hair. “I know.”
So I waited. Now that I had made my expectations clear, it was only a matter of time. All through the year, I continued to drop subtle hints, like:
“Oh look, another wedding invitation just came in the mail. What do you think of this font?”
“God, I sure hope we get married soon.”
Still, my lover remained noncommittal.
But then, on a crisp November day, my thirty-third birthday arrived. Colin woke me up with a kiss and whispered, “Happy birthday, baby. I’ve got a surprise for you tonight.”
I was to meet him after work at a romantic restaurant on Seattle’s waterfront. Wear something nice, he’d instructed. I spent hours preparing: hair, makeup, slinky black dress far too skimpy for the late autumn weather . . . When I walked into the dimly lit bistro, my heart was beating frantically. The hostess led me to the secluded table where Colin was already seated. He looked up at me and smiled that warm, boyish smile that had first won my heart. The lock of sandy hair that usually fell forward into his green eyes had been slicked formally to one side. I noticed that he was wearing his special occasion jacket. He never wore that jacket—except on special occasions! This had to be “the night.”
When Colin had poured us each a glass of expensive red wine, he fumbled in the pocket of his special occasion jacket. “Beth . . .” he paused, his hand still under the table. He seemed a bit nervous. How cute! I could not have loved him more. “You know I love you, right?”
“And I love you too,” I gushed.
“Well...happy birthday.” He handed me a tiny black velvet box.
“Earrings?” I screeched. It was like some kind of sick torture!
“They’re emerald cut diamonds,” he said feebly. “And they’re from northern Canada so...you know . . . they’re
I couldn’t pretend anymore. “I didn’t want fucking earrings, Colin!”
His handsome face was pale and his voice shallow, when he said, “I know...”
“So, you don’t want to marry me?” I asked bluntly.
“It’s not that, Beth. I mean, I really want to be with you but... I’m just not sure that I want to . . . you know... get married.”
“My parents had such a bitter divorce. I’ve just never really wanted to . . . uh . . . make that
He was getting paler and beginning to fidget. “Well, you never know... I mean, one day, down the road... maybe I’ll see things differently.”
My eyes upon him were stony. “How far down the road are we talking here?”
“Oh . . . I don’t know.” He laughed nervously. “Fifteen . . . twenty years?”
Fifteen or twenty years!!! I’d be far too old to get pregnant by then! Well, I suppose with all the medical advances it was possible, but I didn’t want to have a baby when I was fifty! I wanted one when I was thirty-four! And call me traditional, but I wanted to be married to its father!
“What about kids?” I asked. “Do you want your children to be
?” Now, I was sounding downright Amish, but I didn’t care.
“I—I don’t want kids, Beth.”
It was like a punch in the stomach. “Never
?” I managed to croak.
“No,” he said, quietly. “Never ever.”