Million Love Songs

Million Love Songs

Carole Matthews

Chapter One

Hello, I’m Ruby Brown. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. What do you need to know? Let’s see. I’m thirty-two and I live at Princess Sparkle Palace, Great Holm, Costa del Keynes. It’s one of the nicer areas of the city and I live in an enormous four-bed detached home which overlooks a lake.

Well, I actually have a self-contained apartment over someone’s garage. Someone who is a lot richer than I am. OK, even that’s over-egging it. I essentially live in a rented granny annexe that you can’t swing a cat in. It’s not sparkly. It’s not a palace. It’s a granny annexe. But it’s my granny annexe, mine alone. And the lake is real. I try to convince myself that what my home lacks in size it makes up for by having a great view. Every morning I wake to the sound of quacking ducks. That has to count for something, no?

My birthday is 6 June. So I’m a Gemini. That makes me sociable, communicative and ready for fun. Frankly, a fat lot of good that’s done me. It doesn’t say ‘gullible’ anywhere on the list of Gemini Traits, but I am. Really, I am.

I’m actually trying really hard to be my most sociable, communicative and ready-for-fun self at the moment, as I’m recently divorced from my husband and am starting out on a New and Exciting Life as a footloose and fancy-free single woman once more. At least, that’s the plan. Though I have to confess that I’m currently feeling a little daunted by the whole thing. Simon and I had been together for five years and you kind of get out of the habit of being by yourself, don’t you? I feel as if I’ve lost one of my limbs. One that I’ll be able to manage without in time, obvs, but it’s still bloody tough getting used to it.

When Simon and I parted – more acrimoniously than was probably needed – I walked away from my job, my home, my friends, my everything. Madness, I know. But I was heartbroken – still am – and felt cut loose. I needed a fresh start where no one knew me, where my pain didn’t say hello before I did.

If you met me, you’d think that I was the most staid and responsible person on the planet. I’m not known for my irrational behaviour or my impulsiveness. I’m good old reliable Ruby. Look how far that got me! So I decided that I was going to become a new and different version of me. One that was open to adventure, spontaneity and fun. So I set about shaking it all up a bit.

My old job in finance at the council was the first major thing to go. I was comfortable in that job. It paid well and I’d accrued a ridiculous amount of holiday entitlement and an enviable, gold-plated pension pot. Though, in truth, I hated every minute I spent there. I hated the work, I hated my colleagues, I hated the beige carpet, I hated the group huddle we had every morning for fifteen minutes to discuss how we could ‘as a team’ improve our working practices. The whole thing made me want to claw my own eyeballs out. No one – except me – thought that stopping the stupid group huddles would be the best way forward. I did it because it was a ‘good’ job with virtually zero chance of being made redundant. And because I was a little bit frightened of change. That’s no reason to stay anywhere, is it?

As part of the New Year, New Me vibe I felt the world of local government finance would be better without my contribution. My boss would probably tell you that he felt much the same. There are better ways, I think, to spend your nine-to-five. I wanted to get out into the world, meet new people. New people who didn’t think that a suit from Asda was the height of fashion. I’m still young – relatively speaking – but I feel ancient and dull. I want to get out there and mix it up a bit before I am actually too decrepit to enjoy it. In the words of Freddie Mercury, I want to break free!

So I’ve entered the heady world of hospitality instead. I know you’re thinking Event Organiser or Wedding Planner, something exciting like that. What I’ve actually done is become a waitress at a posh gastropub on the outskirts of Milton Keynes. Which seems to mean nothing more than having a lot of pancetta and butternut squash on the menu and writing said menu on a chalkboard. The pay is terrible, the holidays even worse. Yet, strangely enough, I love it. I enjoy meeting new people every day. The customers are fun, mostly, and the team I work with is great. I know what you’re thinking. So ask me again if I still like it in a year’s time. However, this really is only a stopgap job until my confidence in myself is restored and I decide what I’m doing with my new and exciting life.

What else can I tell you? I love music, films and anything containing copious calories. I love Kylie Minogue, though I am probably twice her height and size. Unfortunately, the only thing I share with Kylie is that I have the same penchant as her for picking The Wrong Guy.

In my younger days, I did my share of dating truly dreadful men. Though, much like Kylie, I never actually managed to spot how dreadful they were until after the event. I even went as far as marrying one of them – the aforementioned Simon. More fool me. Though he wasn’t horrible when I married him.

He was lovely. We laughed a lot. He bought me roses. Only from the local One Stop Shop, but that’s more than a lot of men do. We were good together. I thought he was the love of my life. It was such a shock when it all went horribly wrong.

But all of life is a lesson. So now I’m done with relationships. I’ve given up on men, the lot of them. I’m concentrating on being Single and Fabulous. Though, at times, it feels like a steep learning curve. I’m opening myself to new opportunities. I’m going to be like that bloke who said yes to everything for a year. I’m going to see where life takes me.

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