Meet Katie: she’s about to marry the most wonderful man in the world. The planning is done, the checklist is checked. The future is set.
Having spent her twenties and thirties enjoying life with good friends, and building a career she loves, it’s taken Katie until her forties to contemplate settling down. And she couldn’t be more delighted she waited.
So, why is her perfect groom standing gawping at her, wearing mismatched socks and sweating buckets? This can’t bode well.
With her special day in tatters, Katie has a decision to make. Does she snatch back the reigns of her old life, and tighten her grip even more? Or should she take a chance on change? Will she find the key to happiness at a Pilates class in a smelly old hall? Or is the curve ball heading her way too huge to handle?
Els, thank you so much for inviting me to post an extract from my new novel, Colouring Outside The Lines on B for Bookreview.
The extract I have chosen shows the main character, Katie, being manipulated into doing not only her boss’s work, but also an abseil down the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle for charity. She is already going through a difficult time in her personal life and her boss does nothing but add to her woes, rather like some of the managers I’ve met in real life. I hope it makes you chuckle.
“… Jonathan Vanhough tapped on the door and limped into the office before Katie had a chance to put on her other shoe.
‘Oh, come in, Jonathan,’ she said, quickly shoving her foot into the shoe and kicking her trainers beneath the desk. Katie wondered what he wanted. He wasn’t the worst line manager she’d had during her years in the NHS, but he was the laziest, and a personal visit, rather than an email or phone call, made her suspicious.
‘Aargh,’ cried Jonathan, mid-crouch over the seat at the other side of her desk.
‘Sorry, did you say something?’
‘Ooh,’ he moaned, his face screwed up. ‘Bear with me,’ he said in a strangled whisper, as he struggled back up and lumbered across to the window.
‘Are you all right?’ said Katie. ‘Should I get help?’
He leaned against the windowsill and stretched out his leg. ‘No thanks, I’ll be fine.’
Katie’s suspicions were further raised by this performance. Though his slick hair, sharp suit, and smarmy charm might fool others, she’d always thought beneath the superficial façade lay a sly fox.
Jonathan circled his eyes in their sockets, as if trying to focus, hobbled back and eased himself down into the chair.
‘Should you be at work today?’ she asked, wondering if he might actually be in pain.
He shook his head with a hint of stoic bravery. ‘I’m fine – most of the time. It’s just sitting or standing too long that sets it off. Sciatica.’
‘Have you self-referred to Occupational Health?’
‘No, I haven’t.’ He gave a little laugh. ‘Funny you should mention Occupational Health, though.’ He grimaced and readjusted his position on the chair. ‘That’s what I was coming to speak to you about.’
‘No need, it’s all self-referral for musculoskeletal issues now.’ A fact he would know if he bothered to read organizational updates to hospital policy.
‘Not for me. And not so much Occupational Health as Health and Safety. It’s about the new moving and handling training slides. Health and Safety have raised a concern about them. I was due to guide them through the presentation this morning. But, as I’m sure you can imagine, Katie,’ he said, sucking in a breath over his teeth, ‘it’s going to be very painful for me.’
I knew it. ‘So, are you asking me to stand in for you?’ Katie’s heart rate ramped up. There was no time to prepare, to reorganize her schedule, to panic, calm down and re-set.
‘Would you mind?’ he said with a pained expression. ‘Thanks, I really appreciate it.’ Without missing a beat, he stood up. ‘I’ll send the questions over, but don’t worry, you’ll be able to troubleshoot as you go, anyway.’ He stepped towards the door, then turned back and tapped his teeth with his index finger. ‘There was one more thing…’
There’s more? ‘What’s that?’
‘It’s sort of work. But more fun. A fundraiser.’
‘Well, send me the link to your sponsor page,’ she said, unable to think of an excuse to refuse.
‘No need. I’ve already raised the money. Well, the WRVS ladies have – sort of sponsored me with a cake bake. No, the thing is…’ he grimaced at his leg, now stuck out in front of him as if it were made of wood. Even his foot was tilted up at a right angle from the floor.
Katie bristled. ‘Can’t you even flatten your foot to the ground, now? You really need to get that checked out, it’s obviously getting worse by the minute.’
Jonathan gingerly pressed his foot into a more natural position and wiped his bone-dry brow with the back of his hand. ‘Basically, the hospital needs someone to represent our department. The write-up is already scheduled for the trust newsletter. Would you mind?’
Katie felt her heart sink. ‘Not the Mighty Hike? I couldn’t possibly walk that far. No, sorry.’
‘Oh, no. I wouldn’t ask you to do something like that.’ He laughed. ‘Good grief, no. It’s an abseil down the Tyne Bridge. It’ll be over in a couple of minutes.’
Katie sucked in a sharp breath as the poster from the community centre noticeboard flashed into her mind. The Tyne Bridge was really high.
‘Sorry, I can’t. I have a prior engagement,’ she said, her heartbeat banging against her ribs. Despite her new attitude, this felt like too many unplanned things dropping on her from all sides.
Jonathan pulled his face into a serious expression. ‘Unless, of course, it would be too much for you. You know what with your recent stressful circumstances.’ He gave a side-nod to the dent in the door.
Katie felt her cheeks burning. She thought she’d gotten away with that.
‘I have to say, I was hoping you might be interested in a secondment into my role when I go off to do my master’s degree.’ He shrugged. ‘But if you don’t feel up to the challenge. Or do you think you might even need some time out from your own job? I’d completely understand.’
She sat up straighter. ‘I certainly do not need time out, thank you very much. It’s not that I can’t do a little abseil. Hardly a challenge, I might add – I once spent a whole summer abseiling, kayaking and hiking at camp in the Lake District. As I said, I’ve got a –’
‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend.’ Jonathan cocked his head to the side, as if he was studying her. ‘As long as you’re sure you’re coping.’
She picked up some papers and tapped them together on the surface of her desk. ‘Of course I am.’ Stop staring at me, go away, get out. ‘Look, email me the details. But I’m not promising anything.’
‘Thank you, Katie. You’re a brilliant team player.’ He clapped his hands together and limped out of her office.
Katie slumped back in her chair and blew out a slow breath, glad to see the back of him. But, as soon as he was out of sight, she heard the fast clip clop of his heels along the corridor. ‘That sly little fox. He must think I’m stupid. Well, if he thinks I’m doing that abseil, he can think again.’
She was still fuming when the moving and handling email pinged into her inbox. It was swiftly followed by the details of the abseil. Only with that one, Jonathan had simply copied her into his email to the organisers, giving her name as his replacement. …”
Thank you, Amanda Paull and Rachel’s Random Resources.
About the author
Amanda Paull grew up in the North East of England and couldn’t wait to move away. However, after studying and then living both in England and abroad, she returned to the North East and wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else now.
After a short career in teaching, she retrained as a nurse. She recently retired from her post as a Sleep Nurse Specialist and now spends her time writing Women’s Fiction novels and Romantic Comedy short stories.