Reconstructing Jennifer

This was the first book I ever wrote; originally called 'LABRATS' then changed because of a lame TV sitcom of the same name.
It took me 4 years to complete and was met with rave rejections from Literary Agents. Although during this time I also joined a wonderul online writing site and met a lot of my dearest writerly friends.  I love them all and they know who they are :) 



This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen.

If someone had told me – way back when – that by the time I was thirty-four I’d have been married five years to a handsome Italian solicitor, have a beautiful white cottage in the… okay, maybe not ‘country’ as such but a rural suburb of a town and be mother to the most amazingly beautiful four year old daughter in the world, I think I’d have cried with happiness.

Likewise – or contrariwise – if  someone had also told me I wouldn’t be having my hair pouffed every six weeks; wouldn’t have the enthusiasm or energy to stare at every available mirror I passed - but would be wearing minimal make-up with no sign of a (returning) waistline I’d have probably cried with shame.

And the fact that I was now sat, one muggy afternoon in August holed up in my parents’ poxy back garden in Netherstock enveloped by some elaborate excuse for a gazebo would have made my ‘way-back-when-me’ choke on whatever I’d been drinking at the time.

It wasn’t so much the marriage, husband, daughter-thing that was the problem - I’d grown accustomed to the way things had turned out (quite nicely to a point – this point in particular)  it was more the feeling of being trapped within this gazebo-type-thing that perplexed me so. 
A parent trap of sorts. 
But then it had been at my own suggestion, in fact, near-insistence – so perhaps I’d trapped us all.  Oh – far too philosophical for this time of the afternoon, and in this heat! 

One of my reasons for getting married was so that I could begin a new family and loosen the chains of my original family bonds – show my parents how it was supposed to be.  MY marriage was going to be better, more fun, more attuned, more, well … ‘Walton’esque – with everyone hugging a lot and cooking for an entire community and shoulders available to all at the drop of a bonnet.

 And it kind of was for a while.
When Roberto and I had lived together it had been.  We were always having people round for Sunday lunch, evening suppers; any day was a good reason for entertaining - even my parents. We liked it and let’s face it; we were bloody good at it.  Although after about eighteen months of hardly ever being invited back to anyone else’s it sort of dwindled slightly.  ‘We’ decided that ‘We’d’ had enough of being taken for granted.

‘But it was great the last time,’ I’d been close to sounding like a whining brat.
‘Yeah, Jennifer,’ Rob had started (ooh, used my full name, probably cross, then)
‘For them it was – look at all the trouble we went to to find that bloody wine Gerry said he liked and how much it bloody ended up costing us – and what do they do when they ask us back round?’
I winced.  Here it came.  But it was kind of funny now.  In hindsight. Wasn’t it? Clearly it still bugged Rob.
‘Become vegetarians!’ Rob had thrown both arms into the air in typical Italian melodramatic style and added a ‘Cah!’ for good measure.
I tightened my lips for fear of a giggle emitting.  Really it was funny now, surely?
This had managed to annoy Rob for nearly six months and all I could remember about the night was how very bloated and windy I’d felt myself becoming with each new vegetarian dish that lay before us.  We hadn’t stayed long into the night like they had done at our flat, and I was very glad we’d had the foresight to leave the car at home because we’d needed copious amounts of fresh air all about us on the journey back.  And Rob had insisted on picking up a burger from a van before we touched base too – just to make his point than Real Man Cannot Live By Vegetarian Alternatives Alone.

Actually it wouldn’t have bothered me to be honest, I would have carried on cooking and entertaining for as long as guests had the capacity to be entertained and the money for the taxi ride home afterwards. No, it had been Roberto who’d sowed the seed of doubt in my mind and watered it generously.
 I’d guessed that a suspicious mind was bound to stem from spending so much time in the company of – and representing in Court, no less - lying, deceitful little toe-rags down the Magistrates’ every day and I’d accepted the way he’d thought.  Compromise. Give and Take – all chapters in the Big Book of Pre-Marital Stuff. He’d probably have to put up with a hell of a lot worse from me if my parents were to be believed.
‘I pity the poor bugger that ends up with you my lady’, my father had oft been heard informing me.
‘He’d have to have no brains in his head whatsoever to put up with some of the stupid ideas you come out with my girl’ was another. (I’d been asking if I could stay on at school and do A-levels when I received this one).


Everyone remembers what happened on their wedding night, don’t they? A bit like The Kennedy Assassination, Princess Diana’s death, the Twin Towers - depending on your age. Roberto had got so pissed he spent all night throwing up in the bridal suite’s ensuite and I’d been so disappointed and dismayed that it was the end of the whole wonderful day (and possibly so pained by all that smiling) that I’d cried myself to sleep still wearing my wedding dress.  I still refused to take it off when breakfast had been brought to our room the following morning.
I think I’d have had it stuffed and mounted if it had been an option.
The Honeymoon was less enjoyable (than the wedding night – not the day - that’d been ok really.  No, really it had).  Two days later we were in Funchal.  Here we were to proudly display our His ‘n’ Hers H. Samuel wedding rings and skip gaily through the sunny streets holding hands and wishing for all the world that everyone could be as happy as we were.
A week in and we were bored and wanted to come home.   The island was holding some cycling mega-marathon and at the same time some huge political figures had decided to begin discussions in top-secret style round the corner from our Hotel.  What with frogs mating underneath our balcony all night, helicopters whirring loudly overhead from dawn ‘til breakfast and then finding all the roads cordoned off for the bike race, we’d had enough.
With another week booked, paid for but very unwanted, we concocted a tale of family bereavement and were flown home a week early to the derision of many friends who couldn’t believe how anyone could get bored whilst on a honeymoon, not less a foreign holiday that had been given as a wedding present.  Well, we insisted, we had…. Got bored that is.  We’d done all the usual sex & stuff on the balcony in full view of other balconies and walked through all the gardens and eaten all the local delicacies and just decided we wanted to be home instead.  Hadn’t ‘We’? Besides there’d been no beach to speak of, no pool at the hotel and Rob had begun to get very tired of my sexual ‘demands’.
Ho Hum.
Was this  how it was supposed to happen?
Dangerously George & Mildred.
Oh dear.


To look at him, Roberto had the swarthy meandering looks of a young Sean Connery with a dash of George Michael (before he was gay).  He was my ideal pin-up.  He was my Hero.  My Knight.  My Happily Ever After.
I’d met him at one of the more Traditional Pubs in town.  I’d been out with my co-lodger Karen and during the course of the evening I noticed someone I thought I knew; remembered from somewhere.  Through alcoholic numbing, though, I couldn’t quite place his name or exactly where in my memory he quite fitted.  So I asked. Or rather told.

‘I know you, don’t I?’ I probably slurred.
He turned and looked me up and down.  ‘You do.’  He said.
Which didn’t help my memory progress any farther.
‘You’re a friend of someone I knew… I think…’ I continued.
‘Yeah, Jon.  Jonny?’
Right then I couldn’t speak.  This was a name that I couldn’t utter. Couldn’t repeat.  Had a hard time even registering in my brain without heavy thuds of pain thumping at my chest.  I’d nearly died because of … him.
‘Oh yeah!’  I finally managed to blurt.  ‘You’re er……..’
‘Pete.’ He helped, ‘you’re Jennifer.’  I probably looked like I needed reminding. ‘How are you?’
I think I muttered something about being fine and being with a friend and then I’d returned to Karen without the drinks I’d originally got up for.

I told Karen.  We decided to invite Pete and his mates to gatecrash the party we were going on to later that evening – simply because she quite fancied one of the guys sitting at their table.  What the hell.  So on the way out we passed by their table to give them hastily, wobbly scribbled directions for the party. 
It’s back to the Twin Towers thing again I’m afraid – but as we approached Pete and his table of friends, something weird started to happen to my feet and the whole of the pub around me seemed to blur into oblivion.  Sitting at the table, with his arms folded in front of him and his chin resting on them, sat the most beautiful vision of manly perfection I have ever seen (apart from Elvis in his hey-day).   His huge brown eyes were staring back up at me as I hovered stupidly above him, trying to proffer a scruffy piece of paper. 
He was olive-skinned, tanned and I had an insatiable desire to run my hands through his mass of thick black hair that fell over one eye.  He was edible.  He was a Greek God and looked like he couldn’t speak a word of English, which brought me up sharply.  Accents and even the slightest inability to grasp the Queens English kind of left me a little cold.  Mind you, holding a conversation with him was the last thing I had on my mind at the time.
‘We’re going on to a house party.’ I told Pete, staring not at him but at this vision of Godliness who was now smirking back sexily which made my belly lurch. ‘If you’re not doing anything later – here’s the address.’
Pete took the piece of paper.
‘Can I bring my mates?’
Thank God!  My Fairy Godmother must have been paying attention tonight!

We’d been great as newlyweds.  Just like Doris and Rock /Victoria and David.  We were your typical sick-making happy, attractive loved-ups who held hands, kissed in public and bought romantic little gifts for each other whenever the fancy took us.  I was one half of the perfect couple I’d always yearned for.  And I didn’t take it for granted – not one minute.  I felt truly blessed (if a little smug).
Rob had this great little flat – the ground floor of a Victorian terraced conversion in the heart of Sheldon.  We’d lived together for six months here before we got married and for another six months following the wedding.  We walked (hand in hand!) to work every morning – met for lunch whenever we could and when I left work I walked to his office every evening.  I can’t tell you the pride I felt watching him striding purposefully, deep in thought across his office carpet, Dictaphone in hand, reporting his memos and meetings from the day and reminding his secretary of plans for the following morning.  He was so masculine, so powerful, so in control; my very own Italian stallion… and yet I knew he was also so tender underneath that gorgeous three-piece Italian suit of his – I couldn’t wait to get him home and tear off his waistcoat!  Sometimes I really couldn’t understand what ever I had done to deserve such good fortune.
How on earth had I ended up here? Under this sorry excuse for a gazebo in Netherstock, I mean. 
Well, clearly the car had a great deal to do with the actual method. But actually? Milly had thankfully slept for three of the four-hour journey south so that had meant a thought-provoking three hours listening to Simply Red and UB40 back-to-back whilst the first hour had us both singing along to, well, ‘sing-along-songs’ that enchanted Milly to the point of deep sleep. And had I not been in charge of a metal machine that needed to be kept on the road then I’d probably have joined her.
The recurring picture of Rob in my mind was of him standing, arms crossed, in front of the kitchen sink in his beautifully tailored suit, tears welling up in his huge brown eyes.
‘I miss you already’ he’d said.
‘Both of us?’
He hadn’t answered that.  He’d sniffed and walked towards me. I could still feel my heart as it had leapt stupidly – hopefully.  Then he’d walked past me, out of the door to work.
For the first two hours I’d imagined he had meant both of us and I’d been slightly tearful remembering and thinking that.  Then, as the scenery changed and hills had beckoned us even further southwards, I’d felt our golden thread of attachment gradually pull thinner and thinner then slowly disappear.  I was going home.  A different kind of home.  And the home that held Rob seemed a long, long way away.