A hilarious heart-warming read about friendship, taking chances and finding love, second time round.
When Charlie’s husband leaves after ten years of marriage, her spirits hit an all-time low. She just isn’t sure how to pick herself up again. So, best friend Mercedes makes it her mission to put a spring back in Charlie’s step with the perfect bucket list.
As Charlie takes a chance and bungee jumps and belly dances her way through an array of adventures, her love life also begins to look up and she’s soon enjoying a few dates as a newly single woman. She begins to realise that finding romance, might not be so hard, especially when you’ve got someone like journalistJake who has an adorable little boy and is very easy on the eye.
But is Jake too good to be true? As Charlie’s challenges on the bucket list get bigger, so do her questions about Jake. Should she continue to hold out for the fairy-tale? Or should she take a chance on Jake and hope for a happy ending?
Charlie was acutely aware of an urgent drumming in her ears. The noise threatened to deafen her. She couldn’t move. Even if she had the wherewithal to make an emergency ascent, she was unable to. Her feet were weighted down, rendering her immobile. The bubbles of air that had been floating above her head like silver balloons ceased as she held her breath, transfixed by the sinister grey shape that was now focusing on her. If she weren’t so terrified, she might have admired the enormous shark. However, it had fixed its glassy stare on her and was heading towards her, not at speed, but at a teasing, leisurely pace, biding its time before deciding to rip into her flesh. She didn’t take in the sparkling white underbelly of the creature or the power of the muscular tail as it effortlessly guided it through the water. All she could see were row upon row of razor-sharp teeth all grinning at her.
Breathe, Charlie. She willed every muscle in her body to relax. Her vice-like grip on her regulator made her jaw ache. Remember to stay calm. Don’t show it your fear. The placatory voice in her head continued in vain as Charlie suddenly and uncontrollably began to shake. The shark picked up its pace. Why, oh why, did I allow myself to get in this situation?
Six months earlier
‘Thank you for your company the last two hours. Join me again tomorrow evening when we’ll have some smooth seventies tracks and more groan-inducing gags. In the meantime, snuggle under those bedclothes and enjoy the late show with Sam Sullivan who is coming up next. This is Charlie Blundell signing off.’ With that, ‘Dancing Queen’ filled the airwaves.
Charlie removed her headset and glanced up at the window separating her from the technician/producer. She could see Mercedes talking to one of the orderlies. Mercedes finished chatting, looked through the glass and gave Charlie a thumbs up. The door to the studio opened and Sam bustled in carrying his usual flask of coffee, balanced on a Tupperware container of sandwiches and cakes. A large man in his early sixties, and sporting a white beard and glasses, he reminded Charlie of Santa Claus. Sam presented the late show from eight to ten o’clock each evening on City Hospital Radio. He preferred the late show. It got him out of the house every night and meant his wife, Brenda, could watch all the soap operas and period dramas on television in peace. Sam wasn’t interested in those. He preferred his music and enjoyed his gig at City Hospital.
‘Great show, Charlie,’ he said as he unpacked his food. She beamed at him. Sam was one of her favourite colleagues. ‘Where do you find those one-liners? I expect half the patients will need their stitches replacing after tonight.’ He smirked and slipped into the chair now vacated by Charlie, fiddled with the mixing desk and sat back to wait for his cue. He waved at Mercedes who blew him a kiss. The youngest and keenest member of the team, Sean, had joined her and was hunched over a screen. Sean was interested in journalism and IT, but could not afford to go to university, so was learning the ropes at City.
‘Good evening, you are listening to the late show with me, Sam Sullivan. I have some excellent tracks tonight to help lull you to sleep and if you fancy a late night brainteaser, we’ll be doing Sam’s Teaser at half past eight. First, let’s start with some Simon and Garfunkel and one of my personal favourites, “The Boxer”.’
Charlie mouthed, ‘Bye!’ Sam nodded in acknowledgement, now concentrating on a sheet of A4 with his running order and notes scrawled on it. She slipped out of the studio and into the technician’s room where Mercedes was shrugging on her coat.
‘Hi Sean. How’s it going?’
‘All good thanks. I’ve been updating the radio website. I didn’t have much to do this afternoon so I hung out here, uploaded photos of the presenters and added a few words about each one so anyone listening to the station can now put the face to the name.’
‘That looks great,’ she said, leaning over and squinting at the screen. ‘You’re really clever with all this technical stuff.’
His face lit up. ‘I enjoy it. I like presenting even more though. I’m going to try and persuade Sam to let me read out some news stories later.’
‘Good luck with that. Once he starts talking, you can’t interrupt him. He adores that microphone,’ said Mercedes. ‘I think he loves it more than he loves his wife. Come on, Charlie. Let’s get going.’
Mercedes reversed her wheelchair and manoeuvred it towards the door that Charlie held open for her. Charlie accompanied her friend to the car park where she helped her into her adapted vehicle and folded the wheelchair away, slipping it into the back of the van. Mercedes was fiercely independent and even though a sporting accident in her late twenties resulted in damage to her spinal cord and the subsequent loss of her lower limbs, she lived life almost like any other thirty-five-year-old woman. She was married to Ryan, a police officer and the love of her life. They had no children but treated Bentley, their miniature schnauzer, like a spoilt child.
‘You still on for the weekend? I don’t want to think of you being on your own New Year’s Eve, but I know how difficult it is for you. You sure you’ll be up for it?’ Mercedes squeezed Charlie’s right hand.
‘I’ll be okay. Gavin is meeting me at the cemetery. I just can’t believe it’s been five years since we lost her. It only seems a short while ago.’
A vision of Amy, Charlie’s thirteen-year-old daughter, flashed before her eyes. So young, so beautiful yet not destined to live long. She blinked it away.
‘Well, if you want me to come along for support, give me a call. If not, we’ll see you at the house at seven before the others arrive. It’ll give us a chance to have a quiet drink before Ryan plays at being Pete Tong, shoves his favourite dance CDs on the player and we end up doing the Hokey Cokey around our garden. I made him promise not to set you up with another of his work colleagues like he did at the last party. I’m sorry about Tentacle Trevor. I had no idea Ryan planned that.’
Charlie laughed. ‘It was okay. You’ve apologised enough. I managed to fend off his advances in the end. Boy, that man had his hands all over the place.’
‘Oh god don’t remind me. I still cringe at the memory. So, see you Saturday. I’ll be thinking of you and if you change your mind…’
‘I’ll be okay… I hope.’