What is next for Alice?

After her adventures and mishaps during the first book it may appear as though Alice is finally settling down.

The sequel 'Isn't Life Good' which has just been published on the Kindle follows her as she embarks on the next stage of her life. Things may appear good but there is still plenty to wrong foot her, besides there are so many people who she is yet to watch.

 

For a taster read chapter 1 below.

 

To download this book to your Kindle or Kindle app click the following link

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008QNMHWC

 

 

Isn’t Life Good

The World of Weddings According to Alice Templeton

Chapter 1 

Happiness

                Does life get to taste any sweeter than mine does at the moment?  Surely there are no clouds higher than the one I am on right now.

                I am officially engaged to be married.  Yes that’s right, me, Alice Templeton, the girl whose life has never been on a direct course to anywhere other than disaster.  Yet here I stand, or sit to be more accurate, a woman in love.  And not just with the wonderfully tasteful rock cluster now encircling the ring finger on my left hand, but also with the man who put it there seventeen minutes ago.

                My evening began in the flat that I have shared with my boyfriend for over a year, although he has only been my boyfriend for four months, two weeks and a couple of days.  Before that I loved him but was too stupid to realise it.  Many things had to happen to turn my little world upside down before I finally admitted what had been obvious to everyone around me for a very long time.  Ben and I are as perfect a match as anyone could be lucky enough to find.

                When Ben suggested an evening out I wasn’t in the least bit suspicious, when the taxi that he had ordered took us to this oh so romantic little restaurant I didn’t get any suggestive tingles.  If I thought that I had caught the smart Italian waiter winking to Ben as we were ushered to our secluded booth then I put it down to the fact that everyone, including waiters, must notice how sexy my boyfriend is and react accordingly.  If Ben appeared a little more edgy than usual then I just assumed that he felt uncomfortable about the waiter’s inappropriate attentions.

                Since the age of six, when my Granny first read Cinderella to me, I have dreamed of a scenario where I am sitting opposite a handsome, generous guy.  He looks into my eyes and tells me that I am the only woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with before handing me a perfectly fitting ring.  You’d think that I might have been a little better prepared for the day when it actually happens.  Did I tilt my head ever so slightly forward making me peek bashfully up through my eyelashes whilst delivering a glowing yet reserved smile?  Did I perhaps offer a perfectly manicured hand for him to slip the ring on before we leant across to kiss each other?  No of course I didn’t.  I half choked on my wine which I then spectacularly managed to spray through my nose all over the starters.  Classy?  Yes I know, less Miss World and more Miss Piggy.  This led to a massive sneezing fit and when I leant over to get my tissues from my handbag I knocked the table with just the right force to make my wine glass topple, spilling its contents on the already spattered food.

                Anyway, the details are not important, what is important is that the waiter swiftly brought a fresh table cloth and more starters and now we look just as we should.  A couple who have just got engaged.  Do you mind if I say that just one more time as I try to let it sink in fully?  I AM ENGAGED!!  Oh sorry, I didn’t hear you say no.  Well that is all that I shall say about it for now anyway.  I am going to enjoy the rest of the evening with my fiancé!

 

                I did sleep well last night and I woke up this morning with a big grin on my face.  Did I tell you that I got engaged last night?  Ok, ok, I’ll stop that now.  I am going to have plenty of opportunity to talk about it for the rest of the day.  This morning I am going to visit my parents to break the happy news and then round to Nick’s to spread the joy.  Nick is my big brother and also, coincidentally, he is one of Ben’s best friends.  In fact he played a huge part in getting us together in the first place so I am assuming that he will be delighted in his match making skills.  He lives with his very heavily pregnant girlfriend, Beth, who is just too good to be true.  I tried for several years to hate the girl who had come between me and my brother but in the end I had to give up and accept her for the angel that she is.  Now I find that I am as excited about telling her as I am about telling Nick.

                I really must get out of bed now, I know it’s Saturday but I have a busy busy day.  On the other hand it is a very sludgy December morning out there and I am so warm and content here with Ben. 

                Oh my, he has just turned over and welcomed me with a smell that can only be a result of the garlic bread and beer last night.  Might have to get out of bed after all, if he smells that bad then the chances are I do as well.  I have never seen this in any movie.  In Hollywood everyone always wakes up with perfect make up, glossy hair and sheets so white that they almost glow.  Nobody ever turns to the pile of shiny perfectness next to them and winces at their stonking breath do they? 

                Well my life may not be straight off the silver screen, but it’s mine and I am very happy with it thank you.  I am going to make coffee and toast for my fiancé to enjoy in bed whilst I check that everyone I want to tell today is going to be available for the time slots that I can allocate them.

                Ben and I are now sitting on the train haring away from Paddington station on our short journey to Reading.  Whilst Ben and I both grew up in Reading, his parents no longer live there whereas mine will never go anywhere else.  My mother is far too ingrained in her little bubble to pop it and move away.  What would her bridge club, sewing circle and plethora of friends do without her if she did?  Their house still feels like home to me, though I haven’t lived there since I went to teaching college at the age of eighteen.  Even then I still opted to train at Reading University so I went back home at least once a week with a need of Mum’s cooking and a washing machine that wouldn’t turn all my clothes into shapeless piles of linty fluff. 

                Not much has changed at the house since those days.  Not a single room has been redecorated, although there was huge excitement a few years ago when they decided to rip up all the ancient, thread bare carpets and replace the lot with soft cream pile that caresses the naked feet.  The theory was that without children around to walk mud, ketchup, you name it, though the house it was worth investing in a chunk of luxury.  In reality they blew it when they decided to get Elsie.  Elsie is the most idiotic dog that you are ever likely to come across.  She is a wire haired terrier who comes stacked with character.  She may be small but she seems to fill the entire house.  My parents are soppy about her and let her get away with far more than Nick and I could have hoped to as children. 

                As I knew it would be, my father’s antique Volvo was waiting for us when we got to Reading.  I had told him that we could quite happily catch the bus but old habits die hard.  I think that to him I will always be a naive, little girl who makes a string of bad decisions and is still in need of parental assistance to help manage in the big wide world.  Not that I mind.  If I did then I would have cut the apron strings a long time ago.  As it is I always seem to find myself retying them whenever the going gets a bit tricky.  Only now I have someone else to be my life boat when I hit rough water so maybe it’s time to get the scissors out?  Or maybe I can just be looked after by them all, cushioned from all sides by emotional buffers.  I’m afraid I have never really embraced the life of the independent fully, still now I don’t have to do I!

 

                “Hi Dad, I told you not to worry, we’d have been quite happy to catch the bus.”

                “I know, but they have changed the routes recently and the twenty two doesn’t stop off where it used to.  You might not have realised.”

                “I think I’d have managed.”

                “Well I’m here now.  Hello Ben, good journey?”

                “Not too bad thanks Mr Templeton.  It’s good of you to come and meet us.”  Brown noser!

                “You see Alice, some people appreciate the small things.”

                “You know I do as well.  How’s Mum?”

                “She’s fine.  Cooking enough food for a rugby team just coming off the pitch so I hope you’re both hungry.”  I didn’t think that I was but my stomach has just let out a rather impressively thunderous, if slightly embarrassing, rumble.  I think that it is a mixture of nerves and last night’s wine more than hunger.  I am pretty sure that my parents will be pleased for me.  I know that they like Ben....a lot...they think that he saved me from myself as well as my previous dodgy choices in boyfriends.  No I am not worried about that, but will it seem a bit too soon to them?  We have only been a couple for less than five months and my parents were dating for two years before they got engaged and then it was another year before they married.  Ben and I are aiming for next July, only seven months from now. 

                I guess that I will find out soon enough what they think, here we are.  Number thirty, otherwise known as home.

 

                “Hi Darling.  How are you?  You’re looking well.”

                “Hi Mum.  I’m great thanks.”

                “And Ben, how are things with you?”

                “Good thanks Mrs Templeton.”  I have no idea why Ben still insists on calling my parents Mr and Mrs.  I suppose that it stems from the days that he used to visit our home as a pre-pubescent friend of my brother’s

                “Come on in, I’ll put the kettle on.  I’m sure you’re desperate for a cup of tea after your journey.” What all forty five minutes of it.

                “I’d love one thanks Mrs Templeton.”  Oh wow that is going to get seriously annoying

                “Ben, will you drop the Mr and Mrs, my parents are called Carol and Harry and I really don’t think that they’d consider you rude if you were to call them that.”  Oops, now I have made Ben turn pink.  That is another reason why I can’t help loving him.  Until I met Ben I was the most easily embarrassed person that I knew.  Someone only needs to look at me in a certain way and I begin to blush.  As soon as I feel the blush it is as though it becomes its own catalyst and I feel it deepen and spread across my face.  It is an affliction that cannot be understood unless you too suffer from it, and Ben does.  As well as the cursed blush Ben also knows what it is like to flounder around in search of words when confronted with a potentially nervous moment.  It is just as well that we felt easy in each other’s company from the very first day otherwise the pair of us might never have been able to hold a conversation without stumbling over every word, turning red and shuffling off to cringe in opposite corners!

                “Sorry Ben.  It’s just that I think, taking things into consideration, maybe Carol and Harry is more appropriate.”  Oh this has floored Mum.  I can see her trying hard to work out my cryptic choice of words whilst looking as though she didn’t even notice.

                “Ben, don’t you think we should put my poor mother out of her misery?”

                “Oh Liss.  Are you pregnant?” What?

                “What? No!  No I am not pregnant.” But I am thinking that a diet might be necessary.

                “But you do have news?”

                “I do, that is we do.”

                “Oh Alice, I am so happy for you. For you both.  That is truly wonderful news.”

                “But I haven’t told you what it is yet.” Have I?

                “You don’t have to.  When I thought you were pregnant I looked at your finger and that beautiful ring is a bit of a giveaway isn’t it?”

                “I suppose it is yes.  So you don’t mind?”

                “What a very peculiar thing to say!  Why on Earth would we mind?  Ben is such a lovely man and it is clear that he makes you very happy.  Isn’t this what every mother wants for her children?”

                “Thanks Mum.”

                “Huhmm, congratulations Ben.”   Two awkward males of the species shaking hands at a key moment in their lives.  Both clearly realise that masculine acceptance of each other is required but both not quite comfortable with how to show this.  I think Ben just attempted a lean in to a manly embrace but Dad was either not expecting it or not sure what his part was so stepped back making Ben drop to a weird sort of semi bow.  Hilarious to the onlooker but I don’t think that either of them appreciated the donkey like guffaw that couldn’t be kept in.

                Mum and Dad were clearly delighted for Ben and I. I’m not sure whether that was partly to do with the fact that they may have been giving up hope of ever seeing me walk down the aisle.  Or perhaps the thought of potential grandchildren to add to  Nick and Beth's baby stirred a euphoria in them both.  I like to think that the main reason for the bonhomie of our visit to my parents is simply that they can see how happy I am and are pleased.

                Now back to London to bear the glad tidings to Nick and Beth.

 

 

                “Wonderful, so my best friend ends up marrying my sister.  Isn’t that the biggest cliché?”

                “You think it’s too soon?” For some reason I have always sought Nick’s approval in any life choices.  Not that I have ever let his opinion change my decisions, but I always feel happier knowing that he is on board.

                “Of course not.  I pride myself in having a small part in the year’s biggest romance and, as I have perfect judgement in everything, it is obviously a brilliant match.”

                “Oh Lissy, that is such good news.” If Beth really thinks this then why is she weeping as though I had just told her that the child inside her is actually going to come out looking like Mick Jagger’s even less attractive cousin.

                “Then why so gloomy?” A completely just question I think.

                “No, not gloomy, really happy.” Oh God, fresh sobs and now a hug that is a notch too tight and little on the soggy side, not to mention slightly awkward due to the enormous bump that Beth is carting around these days. 

                “Don’t worry Liss, she won’t be like this for much longer.  It’s the hormones I’m told, better than dope for mood swings.”

                “Excuse me Nicholas but I am standing right here.  You try having a real human being inside you tap dancing on your bladder whilst practising street boxing on your bloody ribs.” I think that is the first time that I have ever heard my perfect sister in law raise her voice.  I am liking this pregnancy effect.  Especially as it is having its effect on someone who isn’t me.

                “Oh shitting hell balls.”  Now Beth is stepping it up another notch...you go girl (no I realise that I can’t pull that off but it is something that I have always wanted to say but wouldn’t dare out loud.)

                “Beth, what’s the matter?  Is everything alright?”

                “Yep.  I just need to sit down for a minute.  Must be those fake contraction things that the midwife told us about.  I’ve been having them all day, it’s just that one was a bit stronger than the others.  Little Bean must be getting ready to make an appearance.” Don’t worry, they aren’t really planning on naming their first born after a vegetable.  Bean is the name that they have loaned him or her until they know whether it is a him or a her.

                “Can I get you anything?”

                “Thanks Liss but it’s fine now.  Just a little.....owww....not so little, crap that hurts.”

                “Sweetie I think it might be a good idea to take you to the hospital.”

                “Don’t be absurd, Bean isn’t coming for another two weeks and I am certainly not going to be staying in any hospital bed for that long.  If we go they will take one look at me and send us straight home so let’s cut the middle section and just stay put shall we?”  If the look in her eye came with subtitles they would read ‘disagree with me at your peril.’

                “Ok boss lady, whatever you say.  Now there’s a bottle of something fizzy and cold that we were saving for when Bean arrives but now seems a proper time to pop it.”

                “Thanks for the thought mate but you can’t do that.  Save it for the baby.” Nice sentiment Ben but I quite fancy a proper toast.  Besides Nick always buys really nice Champagne, not the half price cava substitute that I go for.

                “Beth seems to think that we have another two weeks to replace it.  It’s not every day my sister gets engaged.  I am officially celebrating handing over the responsibility of Alice and that, my friend, is something worth celebrating.” Oy!! I resent that. 

                “Excuse me but I have never been anyone’s responsibility.”

                “No that is true.  You have lived a very independent existence.  Remind me how many months you have lived on your own in your life?”  I am not going to tell him that it was actually a matter of weeks rather than months. 

                “Woahhooaah.”

                “Beth?”

                “Grrrmph....shit, ouch, tits and balls OUCH”

                “Another one?”

                “You think?”

                “Hospital?”

                “Okay, have it your own way.  Cart me off.”  Such a touching conversation between lovers!

 

                And so we swiftly left Nick and Beth to get to the hospital, giving Nick strict instructions that he was to phone me before anyone else if there was any news.

                Last port of call, telling the friends.

 

                “What time did you say we would meet everyone?”

                “Not until seven, I thought we’d be a bit longer at Nick’s.  Didn’t bank on being kicked out early.”

                “Not really kicked out Liss.  Anyway it’s nice.  It’s been a mad day already, it’s a treat just sitting with you for a bit.  I feel as though I have had to share you all day when I just want to keep you to myself and do all kinds of things together that cannot be done in front of this steady stream of company.”

                “Hmmm.  I’m almost tempted to stand this lot up and rush straight back home to hold you to your promise.”

                “But...?”

                “You know very well what Claud and Hattie would do to me if that were to happen.  Not to mention Jem and Orlagh.  If they ever found out that I had left it for longer than twenty four hours to tell them something so huge then I would probably have to find myself new bridesmaids.”

                “So you’ve picked your bridesmaids already?”

                “Of course.”

                “That was quick.”

                “It’s been a made decision since Hattie, Claud and I were at school.  It was the groom and not the bridesmaids who needed a little longer to find me.”

                “Oh I see.  And what else have you had planned since you were at school?”

                “Nothing really.”  Am I blushing?  Cursed overly zealous cheek circulation. “Okay, well maybe one or two tiny details.”

                “Like?”

                “Maybe I have some idea of the dress.”

                “And for some idea you mean....”

                “Alright so I know exactly what I want.  I have a picture of my great grandmother getting married in the nineteen twenties and I think that she looks perfect.  I am saying no more so you can stop it right there.”

                “And will I get any say at all in the wedding.”

                “You have me all wrong Ben.  I am not some wedding obsessed girl who has been cutting out clippings from wedding magazines ever since she was old enough to be let loose with a pair of scissors.  I may have thought about the bridesmaids and the dress but that is because they are very personal and important to me.  As to the rest of it I don’t care.”  How does he get that eyebrow to raise so infuriatingly on its own?  “It’s true.  We can get married on the top of a hill with a picnic for the reception and I would be happy.  As long as our families and friends are there and you don’t chicken out at the last minute.”

                “And you have the perfect dress.”

                “Well yes, but that’s all.”

                “So no need for flowers?” Maybe a small bouquet, just so that I have something to throw.

                “No.”

                “And no champagne or catered tiny things on trays?”  Mmmm, I do love wedding food.

                “No, don’t need them.”

                “So we don’t need to bother with a gift list?” 

                “No, not necessary for happiness.”  All those pretty things that I see in catalogues and can’t buy for myself.  Maybe people would like to buy us presents anyway, even without a list.

                “Don’t look so worried Liss.”  Do I?  “It’s such a lovely sentiment but I won’t hold you to any of it.”  And that is why we get on so well.  Ben actually understands me!  Excuse me, I think a little privacy is needed.  We haven’t been alone much today and Ben’s mouth is looking mighty inviting.

 

 

                “Ok, ok, break it up.  If you can’t keep your hands off each other then don’t invite us all out for the evening to watch you.  Stay at home next time.” Sounds like the mob has arrived.  Or at least part of it.

                “Hi Claud.  I truly apologise for our rude display of affection.  Sit down and I’ll get you a drink.”

                “Thank you Ben.  I’ll have a pint of Guinness.”  Claudia is tiny.  She looks like the love child of Titania the Fairy Queen and one of Santa’s elves.  Though small in size she is a mighty drinker and will happily start with a pint or two of Guinness before moving on to wine with her meal and then who knows what after that.  Some men are put off by this but Ben has known her long enough now to not question such a meaty choice for such a sprite.

                “Guinness it is.  And Hattie?”  I don’t know why he is asking.  Hattie’s choice of drink hardly deviates from the usual.

                “Dry white wine please Ben.”

               

 

                Where are Orlagh and Jem?  Trust them to be late.  I am dying to share my news but I have to wait until everyone is accounted for so that they all hear together and nobody feels hard done by. Childish yes but then so are my friends on occasions! 

 

 

                At last, all present and correct.  Everyone has a drink and the food has been ordered.  Perfect moment and I can feel myself glowing with the excitement of my news.  Here goes!

                “Now that you are all here I have something to tell you.”

                “Huhmm!”

                “Sorry Ben, we have something to tell you.”

                “Oh wow, you’re pregnant!”  Not Hattie as well.

                “No!  Although I am definitely thinking of going on a diet.”  Why is that the first thing that people think when I tell them I have news.  Have I really let myself get that out of shape?  “Actually Ben has asked me to marry him.”  Cue congratulations, kisses....anything....anyone?

                “What did you say to him?”

                “What do you think I said Hattie?  Ben is sitting right next to me.  Don’t you think that it would have been a bit of a cruel stunt to have turned him down and then brag about it to you all in front of him?”

                “So you said yes?”  A bit more enthusiasm would be nice here.

                “Of course I did.”

                “Are you mad?” Thanks Claud, just what I was hoping for.

                “Leave the poor girl alone.  I think it’s brilliant news Lissy.”  Thank you Orlagh.

                “It’s nice to have support from at least one of my friends.”

                “Sweetie of course you have all our support.  You just took us by surprise. Orlagh’s right it is absolutely brilliant.  Congratulations both of you.”

                “Thanks Hattie.”

                “Sorry Lissy.  Of course it’s good news.  I couldn’t imagine it for myself but then you are not me.”  I’m not sure that Claud means this but it’s a step forward from her last comment.

                “Thank God for that!”

                “Well I think it is very exciting.  Can I give you away Alice?”

                “That is such a very kind offer Jem but I think that I might just let my Dad do that.”

                “Well Ben, can I be your best man then?”  I can see that poor Ben doesn’t really know how to answer this.  On one hand the answer has to be no, but then Ben hates upsetting people so he won’t want to just blurt it out.  He has opted for the good old half laugh as way of pretending that the question was made in jest.

                “So....?”  Jem isn’t going to let him get away with that clearly.

                “Um, the thing is Liss’s brother is my oldest friend from school and so I thought that I’d ask him.” 

                “Don’t worry Ben, I’ll be quite happy as Liss’s chief bridesmaid!”  Judging by Ben’s confused expression he has taken Jem seriously.  You’d have thought he’d have learnt! 

                “Liss is that your phone?”

                “Don’t worry.  If it’s important they’ll leave a message.”

                “And if it’s Nick?”  How could I have forgotten?  Even with all the excitement how could it have slipped my mind?   Quick, answer before it rings off.

                “Hello?”

 

                “Champagne all round on me!! It was Nick to say that Beth has had her baby.  A little boy, only six pounds but very healthy.  No name yet but Nick says that he is voting for Corky as he popped out so quickly.”  Let’s hope that he was joking.  “By the way you do all know that I can’t actually afford champagne all round, but a bottle of cava would be alright wouldn’t it?”