From an Australian TV scriptwriter comes a sparkling debut novel where the quest for love will surprise you.
Fall in love like nobody’s watching…
On the wrong side of thirty, Bonnie Yates wants a happily ever after. Problem is, she keeps choosing the wrong guys. When an ex returns to town with a fiancee in tow, history and temptation collide. Unable to shake her inappropriate feelings, Bonnie flees, becoming an unlikely contestant on popular dating show The One. Will she find what she’s looking for?
Working behind the scenes, Darcy Reed is a driven young producer dealing with a tyrant of a boss. Despite being surrounded by love at work, her own love-life with long-term boyfriend Drew is floundering. Producing a flawless season is her best chance at a promotion. But with the unrelenting demands of the show, how will she save their relationship while making that shot?
Penelope Baker has relocated to a small seaside town to hide away with her secrets and nurse a broken heart. But with The One beaming across the nation’s televisions, she can’t seem to quite escape the life she left behind…
Before cameras roll on the final ceremony, all three women will discover just what they’re willing to do in pursuit of the one…
‘If you’re looking for a book you can’t put down, this is The One.’ – Mamamia
Darcy glances to Ben, the cameraman who has been assigned to her for the day. ‘Ready?’
He nods. ‘Rolling.’
‘Okay, Bonnie.’ Darcy smiles, picking up a pen so she can make notes on Bonnie’s application form. ‘Can you tell us a bit about yourself?’
The woman is visibly uncomfortable and Darcy’s first thought is that she’ll probably look awkward on screen, but then Darcy glances at the monitor to her left and sees there’s a lovely vulnerability to Bonnie’s nervousness. Maybe she shouldn’t cast her off too quickly.
‘I’m Bonnie Yates, I’m thirty-three and I own a photography studio up the coast.’
Darcy already knows this due to the detailed application all the girls have completed. Today is more about getting a sense of how easily they talk in front of the camera and how they interact with the other girls. Thirty-three is getting on the old side, but they do need to cast at least one or two older contestants.
‘What about your living arrangements?’ Darcy queries. ‘Do you rent or own? Do you have housemates?’
‘I bought a townhouse about eight years ago. It’s just me.’
There’s a sting in Darcy’s heart at hearing the sadness entwined in Bonnie’s words. She should be used to the contestants’ loneliness by now; this is her fourth season working on The One but she’s still not as tough as she should be. She can handle desperation, but for some reason loneliness makes her want to hug them.
‘So, we want to know a bit about your dating history,’ Darcy says. ‘Have you ever been in love?’ In the early days of her job, she used to feel like she was rudely prying, but she’s asked the question so many times over the last few seasons that it now just falls from her lips.
‘Yes.’ Bonnie nods, her face serious as memories likely fill her head. ‘More than once. I fall hard and fast.’
Even though there’s a raw honesty about the words, it seems she’s hoping they’ll only lightly skim the subject and she won’t have to reveal too much history. The show needs girls who will fall in love fast. Darcy scrawls on the paperwork. She’s developed her own code of scribbles in case the girls get a glimpse of what she’s writing.
‘You’ve said here that you’re not sure why your relationships haven’t worked?’ Darcy refers to the application form in front of her.
‘My sister filled that out,’ Bonnie says, a slight annoyance in her voice that she tries to hide with amusement. ‘I know perfectly well why the relationships haven’t worked out.’
This surprises Darcy.
‘I’m always more in love with them than they are with me.’
Oh, this just about breaks Darcy’s heart.
Bonnie must realise this because she quickly bolsters a smile. ‘It’s okay. You don’t have to feel sorry for me.’
But Darcy does and suddenly has a longing to call Drew. She left home this morning when he was still asleep. ‘You mentioned your sister,’ Darcy comments. ‘What’s your relationship with her like?’
For the first time since the interview started, Bonnie glances at the camera self-consciously, her brown eyes almost hidden by a forest of lashes. ‘We’re close.’ Her voice is higher than it was before.
Darcy recognises the opportunity. ‘Were you annoyed she filled out the application for you?’
Bonnie glances at the camera again and tucks a dark strand of hair behind her ear, allowing herself a moment to pause before answering. ‘Carla just wants me to be happy. She’s married with kids and can’t understand how anyone can be happy without that.’
The tone in Bonnie’s voice isn’t lost on Darcy. ‘Can they?’ Darcy knows she’s treading on dangerous ground. Of course the answer is yes! But why is there a natural instinct to feel sorry for anyone who is unable to have children or hasn’t found a partner to share their life with?
‘Can we be happy without being married and having kids?’ Bonnie clarifies.
Darcy wonders whether she’s repeated the question purely to give herself more time to answer. She nods, curious to know her response.
Bonnie exhales on a breath of laughter. ‘I hope so.’
Bonnie can hear how nervous she sounds. A pounding hangover has wedged itself right behind her eyes. She’s trying her hardest not to stare down the barrel of the camera, but it’s too big and intrusive. She’s starting to realise what it must be like for the shy brides she photographs. It’s actually much harder to relax and pretend the camera isn’t there than she thought.
Darcy, the field producer interviewing her, is younger than she is, which in itself is depressing. Thankfully she isn’t wearing a wedding ring—that really would be rubbing salt in the wound, but maybe crewmembers take them off before spending the day with over a hundred single women looking for love.
‘So, we’d meet Carla, her husband and kids on your hometown date?’
‘Hometown date?’ Bonnie echoes and as she draws her eyes away from the camera, they lock with the cameraman’s for a split second. She can’t see the rest of his face but can tell by his gentle brown eyes that he’s friendly. She finds comfort in this but then cringes, wondering what he must think of her and all the other women signing up for a show like this. ‘Sorry, I haven’t thought about that.’ She can’t even think about taking home a guy she doesn’t know yet and introducing him to Carla. Her sister would jump the gun, assume Bonnie was the only woman for him. She’d be pushy and aggressive. Bonnie’s chest tightens at the thought of how much screen time they’d be allocated. ‘We could go to my best friend’s place?’ Bonnie suggests, knowing Paige would be a much safer option. ‘We’ve been friends since we were at school.’
But Darcy brushes away the suggestion of Paige. ‘Is there a reason why you wouldn’t want to take the suitor to meet your sister?’
Bonnie feels very aware of the camera and the man standing behind it but forces herself to keep looking at Darcy. ‘No.’ She shrugs. ‘I’m sure my sister would love it.’ That is probably the biggest understatement she’s ever made; Carla would almost die with excitement at being involved in The One.
Darcy studies her face for a moment, as though trying to decide whether or not to push the subject. But then she glances down at her question sheet and moves on. ‘Have you done much travelling?’
‘I always thought I’d travel but somehow I’ve never even left Australia. I was so determined to set up my business and make it a success that I kept putting it off. I’ve barely had any time off work in ten years.’
‘Wow.’ Darcy shakes her head. ‘That’s impressive.’
‘Or just stupid?’ She wonders if she’d do things differently if she had known that she’d have a successful business but still be single.
‘So, are there any places you’d really like to see?’
‘Anywhere. Everywhere.’ Bonnie is struck with a feeling of inadequacy about her lack of worldliness. She wishes this wasn’t being recorded. Her throat narrows at the thought of someone potentially picking through her interview and deciding what to broadcast on national television.
‘Can you describe your ultimate fantasy date?’
Even though Carla had prepped Bonnie with questions like this, Bonnie feels herself inwardly sigh. ‘Honestly? Trackpants, takeaway, good wine and Netflix.’
Darcy smiles politely, her pen scrawling something on the paper. Bonnie’s head cranes a little as she tries to see what’s being written, but Darcy pulls the paper a little closer.
‘Not exactly what you’re after?’
‘It’s fine,’ Darcy assures her. ‘It just gives us an idea of what type of activities you crave in a relationship and what dates to put you on if you’re chosen for the show.’
Bonnie tenses at the reminder that this is an audition.
‘Filming a date of you and the suitor watching TV probably won’t be very exciting. Is there anything else you’d like to do?’
Bonnie considers, aware that regardless of what she says, the dates on The One are going to be extravagant and over the top.
‘How would you like to be swept off your feet?’
Bonnie knows Darcy is waiting to be dazzled and feels like she’s about to let her down. ‘I just want to find someone who wants nothing more than to hang out with me. Of course I want the romance. I want that giddy feeling in your stomach and that longing to be with them when you’re apart. But I’ve been in enough relationships to know that eventually those feelings fade. What I want is to be with someone who, at the end of their day, wants to come home to me.’
Darcy doesn’t say anything, and Bonnie is fairly confident that she’s just screwed up her chances of getting on the show. Her relationship ideals must sound so boring. Earlier today on their drive to the audition, Carla had been beside herself with advice. Bonnie’s last-minute acceptance of her audition spot meant Carla, a dedicated The One viewer, had to squeeze everything she knew into their five-hour drive from Port Macquarie to Sydney. Carla insisted they’d cast bright, bubbly personalities, and Bonnie feels nothing but the opposite of that. Now she’ll have to go back home and face Ollie and her mistakes of last night.
She should feel nothing but dread, but there’s a tingle of hope that tries to dance inside her body. She feels her teeth biting
into her bottom lip, and pleads with herself to stop thinking about him.
She sits a little straighter, pushing her hair over her shoulder as she waits for Darcy’s next question. But Darcy seems momentarily lost, probably hypnotised by Bonnie’s boringness. The cameraman, his face covered with a scruffy beard, tilts his head to the side so she can see more of him. He offers a little smile before moving back behind the camera and Bonnie realises her response must have been so pitiable that even he feels sorry for her.
Bonnie’s words offer Darcy a reassurance she didn’t know she needed. But she’d be lying if she didn’t admit that some days she wonders if she missed out on the big romance. She’s known Drew since primary school. She wasn’t swept off her feet, they just happened to hook up at a party when she was sixteen, then did it again at another party, and then started going out. They fell in love but it wasn’t a magical, earth-shattering experience that some people go on about. Their relationship is certainly at the trackies and takeaway level and most days she’s okay with that. But some days she wonders what else is out there…
Ben, the cameraman, shifts and she glances up at him, but his eyes are still on Bonnie. Darcy assumes he’s subtly giving her the hint to keep things going.
‘Okay, so special talents,’ Darcy says, reading the next question. ‘Are there any hobbies or activities you’d like to tell us about?’
Bonnie’s face splits into a smile, a rumble of laughter in the back of her throat. ‘I’m sorry, but whenever I hear “special talents” I can’t help but think you’re expecting me to do fire twirling while hula-hooping in a bikini or something.’
Darcy almost snorts at this. Some of the videos that applicants send in are very close to that description. She feels Ben’s body shake with laughter next to her.
Darcy waves the question away. ‘Fair enough, let’s move on.’ She quickly refers to her checklist of questions. ‘What do you like to do for exercise?’
Bonnie shrugs apologetically. ‘I walk sometimes, but it’s usually followed by a glass of wine. It’s not really something I enjoy.’ Bonnie’s grim, as though waiting execution.
Darcy can’t help but like her. She seems so real and down to earth, which are qualities they don’t often get in applicants. ‘Do you have a favourite recipe you’d like to cook for the suitor?’
Bonnie rubs her forehead. ‘I feel like I’m a total disappointment here but no … I don’t cook.’
Darcy wants this girl on the show. She likes Bonnie’s honesty and knows they could have fun putting her on dates she’d be clearly uncomfortable with. Darcy imagines the audience will love her frankness. ‘I think that’s all we need,’ Darcy tells her. ‘If you go back to the holding room, we’ll come and grab you for some games shortly.’
The look on Bonnie’s face suggests she’s just been told she’ll be thrown into a tank of sharks. Darcy has to stifle more brewing laughter.
‘Great,’ Bonnie says politely. ‘Thanks for your time.’ She gets up and moves to the door.
Darcy scrawls a thick asterisk on Bonnie’s application before turning to Ben. ‘I like her.’
‘Yeah.’ He nods. ‘She seemed pretty awesome.’
Carla is waiting in the driver’s seat of her Pajero as Bonnie walks out from quite possibly the longest day of her life. Carla’s face is bright and expectant. ‘How’d you go?’
Bonnie slumps into the passenger seat next to her, noticing the back seat is filled with shopping bags. ‘It was awful.’
‘Come on, it couldn’t have been that bad?’ If Carla had just auditioned, it would probably rank as one of the best days of her life.
‘It was worse than I imagined. Three hours of hideous games with about thirty cameras recording our every move.’ She reaches for Carla’s water bottle and takes a swig, still trying to shake her hangover that has only gotten worse as the day has worn on.
‘What did they make you do?’ Carla doesn’t try to hide that she’s a diehard fan.
Bonnie groans. Where does she start? ‘The highlight was probably having to put ourselves in order from youngest to oldest, based on how we looked. Without talking.’
‘Really?’ Carla’s wide eyes reveal she’s enjoying this too much.
Bonnie grimaces as she remembers walking straight to the back of the line. It hadn’t even been comforting to learn that she wasn’t the oldest. Two other women were older than she was. Two out of one hundred.
‘Did you try to get lots of screen time, like I said?’
Bonnie makes a face. ‘Do you even know me?’
‘What were the other girls like?’ Carla’s whole body is twisted in the seat, facing Bonnie, eager for every word.
Bonnie considers. ‘Skinny. Young. Blonde.’
Carla, a skinny, young, (dyed) blonde herself, screws her face up at this. ‘Oh, come on, it’s not that bad anymore. Diversity is the new blonde.’
Bonnie smiles at this, impressed her younger sister even knows the word diversity, let alone how to use it in a sentence. ‘There was a slight mix of girls, I guess, but they were all attractive and mostly very loud.’
‘Any D-grade celebrities?’
‘Maybe?’ Bonnie shrugs; she wouldn’t know any if she fell
‘What about your interview? How did that go?’
Bonnie remembers the way the producer had smiled politely at her as she scribbled on her pad of paper, even the smile of sympathy the cameraman had offered. ‘I was dull,’ she says, grimacing. ‘I think they even felt sorry for me.’ She wonders if the crew are now off having a great big laugh at how pathetic she was. Mimicking her answers, mocking her desperation to find love. She feels sick.
A text message chimes on Carla’s phone. She retrieves it from her handbag, glancing down at the screen.
Bonnie stares out the window, watching as some of the other girls emerge from the studio. ‘Let’s get going.’ She wants to be as far away from here as possible.
‘You were out with Oliver James last night?’
Bonnie’s head moves sharply back to Carla, who has clearly just read this information on her phone. Maybe she shouldn’t be rushing back to her hometown. ‘We just had a couple of drinks and caught up.’ Bonnie tries to sound casual, but Carla sees straight through it.
‘Faith McKinnon just sent me this.’ Carla holds up her phone for Bonnie to see. It’s a photo of Bonnie and Oliver near the pool table. They’re standing much too close, smiling, lustful. There’s no way she can argue innocence.
Bonnie swallows hard, her lips remembering Oliver’s. She tries to think of something to say but words escape her. She’d wanted Oliver, he’d wanted her. ‘Please make sure that photo is deleted.’
Carla knows her well enough to know something more happened. ‘Bonnie, he’s engaged.’ Her tone is more sympathetic than Bonnie had been expecting. She’d assumed Carla would be angry.
‘I know.’ She can’t hide the sadness in her voice.
‘Oh, Bon.’ Carla’s face fills with concern. ‘You still love him?’
Bonnie quickly shakes the question off before it has a chance to settle. She will not let herself even think about loving a man who is engaged to somebody else. ‘We were just drunk, catching up on old times.’ She shakes her head. ‘It shouldn’t have happened.’
Carla looks stricken.
‘I didn’t sleep with him,’ she hastily adds. But she would have if Sophie hadn’t shown up when she did. The knot in Bonnie’s stomach pulls a little tighter.
‘Is that why you agreed to audition?’
Bonnie had outright refused when Carla turned up a couple of weeks earlier, announcing she’d secretly sent in an application for Bonnie to be a contestant on The One and that she’d made it through to the auditions. Bonnie almost choked. She might have been lonely in love, but she wasn’t desperate enough to try to find it on a reality TV show.
But that had been before Oliver James moved back to town. Before she’d had something, someone to run away from.
Penelope’s phone vibrates. She knows it’s him ringing again without even checking the screen. Her throat tightens, knowing a text message with a blur of words will arrive within minutes. She won’t read it. She’s learned that the hard way. His words make her doubt her decision. Instead she looks out to sea and tries to focus on the calming waves rolling in onto the shore.
Warm memories try to come to the forefront of her mind. Her skin prickles at this, craving the sweetness of such thoughts to take over her body. But she forces her mind to take control. She clamps her eyes shut and makes herself focus. A cold ocean breeze comes whipping and chills her to the core.
As a waitress brings her a small pot of green tea, Penelope hears a soft sob and turns her head to the table beside her. There’s a woman of a similar age to herself sitting alone with a glass of wine, her face etched with sadness. She catches Penelope looking at her and is visibly embarrassed. Her hands move to wipe away tears and push hair off her face. Penelope feels bad for catching her in such a moment and tries to look away.
‘Sorry, I’m not usually like this,’ the woman says, calling Penelope’s attention back.
Penelope gives a small smile, ready to turn away and offer her some privacy in the small cafe by the sea.
But the woman goes on. ‘My mum died a month ago.’
‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ Penelope’s heart stings, as it always does, remembering the pain. It rushes back a little too quickly today.
The woman waves away the condolences; she’s no doubt been offered the same sympathetic expressions for the past month. ‘I think I must have been in shock when it first happened because I’ve been fine.’ She reconsiders her words. ‘Maybe not fine, but coping.’
Penelope nods. ‘It’s horrible when the reality of it sinks in.’
‘Your mother died too?’
Penelope hadn’t intended on telling this woman anything about her own experience. ‘A while ago now.’
‘You must have been young?’
Penelope can tell she’s studying her face, probably trying to determine how old she is. ‘Seventeen.’
The woman’s eyes fill with sympathy. ‘What a horrible time to lose your mum.’ She shakes her head, realising what she’s said. ‘Oh, you know what I mean. Any time is awful, but at seventeen you should be out partying and having fun.’
Penelope feels her face strain, thinking back to those dark days. Looking back, she realises she missed out on pivotal milestones in her teenage years but she’s glad she hadn’t cared about it at the time. She hadn’t been longing for nights out with her friends, parties till dawn or to fool around with guys. All she’d wanted was more time with her mum. Seventeen years hadn’t been enough. She’d greedily wanted more, decades more, but as it had been coming to an end, all she’d wanted was another day, another hour.
‘I guess I should count myself lucky. I’m thirty-five. I got double the time you did,’ the woman says, somewhat chastising herself.
‘There’s never enough time.’ Penelope’s still trying to come to terms with that.
‘I thought we had years before I’d have to say goodbye,’ she says, leaning forward to have another sip of her wine. ‘She just turned sixty-two.’
‘That is young.’ Her own mother had been only weeks away from turning thirty-nine, but it wasn’t time to compare.
‘Dad called me at work and said, “Your mother’s dropped dead on the golf course”. At first I thought he was joking, not that it’s something you’d ever joke about, but he just sounded so
‘He mustn’t have really processed it.’ Penelope remembers calling a few of her mother’s friends to tell them after her mum died. She hadn’t even been teary. The words had come out of her mouth as though she was talking about a character on a television show.
The woman shakes her head. ‘No, I guess not.’
They sit in silence for a moment, their eyes drawn to the ocean. Both thinking of death and loss and grief. What could have been, what will never be …
The woman lets out another sob, her pain still raw. Penelope can hear it, fresh like a newborn baby’s cry.
‘I’m sorry, I’m such a mess.’
‘Please don’t apologise.’
The woman wipes at her face again, a little rough this time, seemingly angry with herself. ‘I got sent home from work.’ She shakes her head, ashamed. ‘So unprofessional.’
‘We all have bad days. I’m sure your boss would have understood.’ Penelope hears her phone vibrate again and tries to ignore the longing in her heart to answer it.
‘I guess.’ She swallows hard. ‘I always feel like I’m letting them down. I only work three days but I’m constantly running late and scooting off early, asking for extra time off.’ She drains the last of her wine. ‘Do you have kids?’
Penelope shakes her head, not trusting her voice. She tries not to let her mind wander.
‘I never feel like I have enough time to get anything done, let alone have a minute to myself.’ She glances at her empty wine glass and suddenly looks guilty. ‘I know it doesn’t look like it,’ she indicates around her, ‘but I’ve never done this before.’
Penelope knows that the woman feels like she’s being judged, but if she tries to tell her how much she doesn’t care what this woman does with her time, she’s only going to sound rude, which wouldn’t be her intention at all.
‘When my boss told me to go home, I couldn’t actually face it. The kitchen still has breakfast dishes all across the counter, the floors need a vacuum, there are so many piles of washing that I don’t know what’s clean and what’s dirty.’
Penelope wants to ease the woman’s mind, but she’s had conversations like these before and knows how it goes. Penelope doesn’t have kids, so she doesn’t understand what it’s like to have constant mess and no time. ‘You should enjoy your time out then,’ Penelope says as kindly as she can, hoping to put a full stop on their conversation and turn away.
‘Are you a local? I haven’t seen you around before.’
Penny shakes her head. ‘New to town.’
The woman’s face lights up. ‘Oh, welcome!’ She looks genuinely pleased at the possibility of friendship. ‘What street are you on?’
The woman considers this a moment. ‘I didn’t know anything had sold along there?’
‘I’m renting one of the furnished units,’ Penelope says, feeling a little unsettled at giving out so much information.
She looks relieved that she’s gotten to the bottom of it. ‘My husband works at the local real estate,’ the woman explains, ‘so I usually know when new people have moved to town.’
‘I’m renting privately.’ Penelope’s words are clipped.
‘Join me?’ The woman indicates towards the wine. ‘I thought I might have another glass.’ Her eyes are hopeful and friendly.
But Penelope doesn’t let herself be tempted. ‘I really better be going.’ She begins to gather her things.
‘What a shame.’ The woman’s face falls. The rejection seems to hit her harder than Penelope had anticipated and for a moment she feels a stab of guilt.
She offers a polite goodbye before hurrying off, craving a walk, a release from once again feeling like she’s let someone down. She digs into her bag for her phone, forcing herself not to look at the screen. Instead she flicks open the back, rips out the SIM and chucks it into a bin without letting herself give it a second thought.
‘I ran into Parko today,’ Drew says as he gets out of Darcy’s parents’ shower and wraps a towel around his waist.
‘Yeah?’ Darcy leans towards the mirror as she applies some mascara, getting ready for a little family barbecue to celebrate her dad’s birthday. She’d finished audition week on The One and even though she could have slept the whole weekend away, they’d decided to drive up to their hometown. She curses under her breath when some mascara clumps at the end of her lashes. She bought a new brand last week and every time she uses it, she ends up spending more time pinching the clumps off than she does applying it in the first place.
‘He said there’s a position coming up.’
Parko is the head of PE at Gloucester High, their old high school. ‘What? Here?’ Her fingers are now black with mascara.
‘Yeah,’ Drew says, leaning across her to grab his toothbrush. She prickles as he drips water onto her dress. She steps to the side, straddling the toilet to give him space.
‘For you?’ She’s confused.
‘Yeah, why not?’
Darcy almost laughs. ‘Because we live in Sydney. It’d be a bit of a commute, wouldn’t it?’
He’s started brushing his teeth, but pauses for a second, watching her reflection in the mirror. ‘It’s probably just going to be a ten-week block. It’s mine if I want it.’
Her heart starts racing a little faster, nervous about where this conversation is going. ‘But Drew, you have a job.’
He spits out a mouthful of foam, burying his head in the sink rather than looking at her. ‘You know how much I hate that school.’ The all-girls school has proved to be nothing but a challenge for Drew who resents the teenage girls who let him know they have the world at their fingertips because of their parents’ bank accounts. ‘I need a change.’
‘Okay,’ she says slowly, wanting to be more supportive than she’s feeling. ‘So, I’d just stay in Sydney and you’d be here?’
‘Yeah, I mean I’d come down some weekends and you could come up here.’
He’s suggesting long distance?! ‘If you’re really keen to give up your job, why don’t you look for something else in Sydney? Even if you can’t find something permanent, you could teach casually for a while?’
‘Because teaching back here would be awesome.’ His eyes are bright as though he’s a kid talking about Santa Claus. ‘I already know heaps of the families, Parko said he’d be happy for me to help out with the footy coaching and, who knows, it could lead to a full-time position.’
A full-time position? Here? He’s got to be joking. But at the look on his face she knows he’s nothing but serious.
‘Don’t you miss it?’
Frankly, no. She loves her family but not one part of her wants to be back in Gloucester for more than a long weekend. ‘Not really.’ She’d spent the afternoon at Lauren’s place. They’ve been friends since preschool. Lauren is now married with kids and a mortgage, and Darcy had watched her friend with amused admiration. The mess, the noise, the chaos. Lauren was certainly dishevelled but appeared
as though she actually enjoyed it. Darcy had left wondering if she’d be able to spend her days like that, and she’s still plagued with doubt. She knows Lauren’s happy with the life she has, but in all honesty, Darcy felt suffocated just being at her place. Knowing she gets to drive back to her life in Sydney tomorrow is liberating.
Drew’s jaw tightens, and she sees a flicker of disappointment cross his eyes. She knows he wishes she could feel as fondly towards their hometown as he does.
‘I think I’m going to take it.’
‘What?’ Darcy’s indignant. ‘So I don’t even get a say?’
‘Don’t be like that.’ He’s annoyed. ‘It’s ten weeks. You won’t even notice I’m not around. You’ve barely been at home all week and it’s only going to get worse as the job goes on.’
He’s right. Every season of The One has had her working twelve-hour days, but she still wants to see him each night before crashing into bed. ‘Drew,’ she begins, searching for the right words.
‘I know it’ll be hard,’ he says, stepping in close, ‘but we’ll make it work.’ He kisses her on the forehead, signalling the conversation is over.
Darcy takes another gulp of her champagne. It’s the only thing stopping her from starting a fight with Drew. She keeps going over the discussion they had. They’re a couple. They’re supposed to discuss things and figure them out together. The more she thinks about it, the angrier she becomes. How could he just dump this on her in her parents’ bathroom? He knew she wouldn’t make a scene. If they’d been at their place in Sydney she would have yelled and stormed off and probably even slammed the door.
She sees her mum approaching, laying the last of the salads on the table, now just waiting on her dad to finish barbecuing the meat. By the look on her mum’s face she knows Drew’s shared his news.
Darcy braces herself as her mum sits down beside her. ‘I just heard about Drew’s new job.’ Her mum’s voice is steady, fishing for Darcy’s reaction.
Darcy meets her eye, and in that moment, her mum knows exactly how she’s feeling.
‘Oh, darling, I’m sorry.’ She places her hand on Darcy’s, giving it a light squeeze. Darcy can smell her mum’s lavender hand cream. ‘It mightn’t be as bad as you think.’
Darcy notices her own fingers gripping tightly onto the bottom of the champagne glass and forces herself to loosen them. She wants to tell her mum that things haven’t been great with Drew recently, that the last thing they need is more time apart, but she’s not about to get into that kind of conversation with the rest of her family only metres away.
‘Drew seems really excited about it.’ Her mum looks at her with hopeful eyes, reminding Darcy that Drew’s happiness is important. Maybe she should be more understanding.
‘Yeah, he does,’ Darcy murmurs as she watches him talking animatedly to her brother and his wife. She hasn’t seen him smile like that in months. She should be relieved but seeing him happy only highlights how unhappy he’s been … living with her in Sydney.
It terrifies her to the pit of her stomach.