The Story After Us by Fiona Perrin
Published: 14th July 2018
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Perfect for fans of Marin Keyes and Motherland – and for all women who have found their happy-ever-after turned out to be no fairy tale. Grown-up , sparkling, funny, poignant and ultimately uplifting.
If she tries very hard, Ami can remember when she used to have a dynamic and exciting career and a husband who she loved more than life itself, and who was equally smitten with her… Now she has two children, a terrifyingly large mortgage, and no idea who she has become – or why she and her husband can’t even be in the same room anymore.
With life as she knew it in tatters around her, Ami is heartbroken, and in no way pulling off ‘consciously uncoupling’ like a celeb. But she’s starting to wonder if she just might come out the other side and be….happier?
As funny as Helen Fielding, as poignantly touching as Marian Keyes, Fiona Perrin’s dazzling debut is a story that is as much about finding out who you really are again, as it’s about the exhausting balancing act of motherhood. Unmissable for women everywhere.
Fiona Perrin was a journalist and copywriter before building a career as a sales and marketing director in industry. Having always written, she completed the Curtis Brown Creative Writing course before writing The Story After Us. Fiona grew up in Cornwall, hung out for a long time in London and then Hertfordshire, and now writes as often as possible from her study overlooking the sea at the end of The Lizard peninsula.
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Lars left me late on a Sunday afternoon in January. He threw a couple of bags into his car and drove off with a puff of smoke that could have been drawn by Walt Disney.
I stood at the top of the steps of our north London house as he disappeared around the corner of the road. I felt as if I were looking down at a sobbing thirty-seven-year-old brunette rather than that I actually was her. There was an overwhelming sense that, after ten years, it was Just Me Again.
But, of course, it wasn’t – now I had the kids. I rushed inside and threw cold water over my face at the kitchen sink, drying myself with a tea towel before I opened the door of the playroom. Four-year-old Finn and six-year-old Tessa were sitting on the sofa, frightened by the rowing and confused by the fact that they were allowed to watch a DVD when the rule was only an hour of screen time a day and that was when I needed to moan and drink wine.
‘Is everything OK, Mummy?’ Finn asked, walking over to kiss me. ‘Jemima’s coming to my party on Saturday. She’s my girlfriend and so is Tallulah. I’m going to marry both of them.’
‘You can only marry one person,’ scoffed his sister. ‘Can’t you, Mummy?’
‘Well,’ I said.
‘Except for Henry VIII,’ said Tess, whose special topic at school this term was the fat, monastery-burning Tudor. ‘When he went off his wives he chopped off their heads. You could chop off Jemima’s head and then marry Tallulah.’
‘But Jemima’s got lovely yellow hair,’ said Finn, clutching me.
‘You’d still have her hair if she was dead. You could keep her head in a corner.’
‘That’s enough, Tess.’ My daughter’s current favourite game was burying dolls in graves in the back garden and topping them with twigs. She also spent quite a lot of time on the floor pretending to be a corpse.
‘Daddy might not be back in time for your party,’ I said in a mock-cheerful voice. ‘He’s got to go away for work again.’ In fact, Lars missing his son’s birthday party had been the reason we’d had the enormous row that afternoon when he’d said he was leaving me and our marriage for good.
‘Oh dear,’ said Finn, who was very used to his father being away for his web business.
‘Can we watch another DVD?’ said Tess, who could spot a weak chink in adult armour a mile off.
I put my head into Finn’s neck so that they couldn’t see my face. ‘Yes,’ I said. How would they cope if we really were getting divorced? I worried so much about the impact all our recent rows were having on them; Tess was already really macabre and splitting with her father for good could only make that worse.
I wanted to crawl under my duvet and stay there in the foetal position, but it was approaching Sunday evening. I needed to do what every other family was doing: find PE kits, pack lunches, move miserably towards Monday while still mourning Saturday.
I rang Liv. ‘It’s the worst row we’ve ever had,’ I said, ‘and he says he’s divorcing me.’ She immediately said she’d come round. Then, like a robot, I made fish fingers, gave Tess and Finn a bath, packed their school bags, put them to bed and read them The Cat in the Hat, making an extra effort with my snarky Cat voice.
‘It’s you,’ I said. ‘Thing One and Thing Two,’ and they giggled. After that I poured myself a giant glass of red wine and waited for Liv on the sitting-room sofa, rocking back and forwards, as I relived the last few hours.