Thursday 24 August 2017

Exclusive Short Story by Sonya Lalli, author of The Arrangement

Published by Orion on August 10, 2017

In The Arrangement, thirty-year-old, fun-living Serena is on the sidelines. She shares a mutual friend with the novel’s heroine Raina, and for a while dates one of Raina’s relatives. Even though Serena’s story doesn’t make it into my novel, I wanted to share a bit more about her own dating misadventures – and give you a few clues about what’s to come in The Arrangement! Read here, herehere and here to catch up on Serena’s story.

Part Five - the final part

“How did it go?”

Serena’s head is lolled back onto the top of her seat. Without lifting it up, she shrugs.

“Raj seemed nice.”

“He was nice.” She doesn’t volunteering any more information as Shaylee slips into the seat across from her. Closing her eyes, her mind glides past the three mini-dates Shaylee had put her up to that evening, and goes straight to James. The way he always angled to sit next to her at their company’s weekly meetings, or always found excuses to use the photocopier near her desk. The way things were going so, sowell – until he unexpectedly stood her up.

“You know,” Serena says, staring up at the bar’s grainy ceiling. “I thought I was going to be on my first date with my future husband right now.”

“There you go again,” she hears Shaylee say. “This is what you always do, Serena. You put so much pressure on yourself for things to work out, before you even know the guy.”

Serena forces herself to sit up straight, her head spinning slightly as the blood rushes through. She watches Shaylee run her hands through her hair, looking slightly annoyed.

“What do you mean?”

“What I mean is… this isn’t about James. Or your ex Kris. Or about any guy you’ve ever dated. This about you. And you need to screw that little voice in your head that’s telling you that you need to settle down ASAP and have a marriage and kids and all that. There’s no rush!”

Serena laughs. “Says the girl who just got engaged.”

“Do you think Julien and I knew we were going to get married when we first met? That before our first date, I’d started planning our wedding?”

“I wasn’t planning our wedding…” Serena whines, wondering if apart of her actually had jumped ahead. Maybe Shaylee was right. Serena had only known James for a few months, but in her head had they already been a couple? Planning date nights, weekend getaways at the cottage, even a life together?

“I guess I just really liked him,” she says after a while. “I really wanted it to work out.”

“I’m sorry James let you down.” Shaylee smiles at her, and then reaches for her hand. “You know I wasn’t actually going to hold you to our bet tonight, right? I just wanted to distract you.”

“I know.” Serena sighs again “God, Shaylee. I’m so bummed out right now.”

And you’ll feel bummed out for a while. But you know, pretty soon someone else is going to come along, and you’ll get excited again. And maybe it will work out with that guy, and maybe it won’t. But either way, please stop putting so much pressure on yourself, OK?”

Serena rolls her eyes, and then slumps forward on the table.

“Did you hear me?”

“I heard you.”

“Good,” Shaylee says, tugging on her arm. “Because we’re late for Mean Girls. It starts in five minutes!”

They quickly grab their things and make their way outside. It’s warmer on the street than it was in the bar, and Serena peels off her cardigan and ties it around her waist.

“Your phone’s buzzing,” Shaylee says, the exact same moment Serena notices her purse his vibrating. She fishes out her phone.

“You didn’t give my number to any psychos, did you?”

Shaylee rolls her eyes and starts walking in the direction of the cinema, Serena a step behind her.

“Hello?” she says answering the phone.

“Serena? It’s James.”

Serena’s mouth drops, and she taps Shaylee on the shoulder until she stops walking.


“Serena, I’m so sorry.”

She switches her mobile to speakerphone, and looks up at Shaylee, unsure what to say.

“I really screwed up.”

“Yeah,” she says after a moment has passed. “You did.”

Shaylee opens her mouth as if she’s about to bark something at him, but Serena smothers her hand over her face.

“So where were you?” Serena asks.

“I lost my phone – ”

“Sure you did.”

“Really,” he laughs, and suddenly Serena notices how upset he sounds. “I had dinner with my brother’s family and left my phone at the restaurant. My nephew, he’s obsessed with Angry Birds, remember? I told you about him? He lost it, the rascal.”

“Uh huh.”

“That’s the truth, Serena. And I was so excited when we were texting earlier today that I completely blanked on what you bar you’d suggested. I remembered it was Yonge Street – but do you know Yonge Street is like 86 km long, right? I spent an hour walking up and down trying different bars looking for you.”

Serena isn’t quite sure how to respond, and she’s thankful when Shaylee whispers that she should ask him how he eventually found her number.

James laughs. “Tell your friend I managed to track down Cindy in HR and told her it was emergency. She only just got back to me.”

“Emergency, huh?”

“I didn’t want you to think I stood you up the whole weekend.”

She glances at Shaylee, unsure whether to buy her story.

“Serena, I really like you. This will never happen again.

Shaylee pouts at her from the side, and then makes a heart with her hand and holds it in front of her chest.

“Look, tell me where you are. I’ll catch a cab and be there in ten minutes.”

“It’s kind of late…” She can see Shaylee waving at her, urging her to go meet him, and hears James let out a disappointing sigh. But she shakes her head resolutely. “Thank you for calling. Let’s talk on Monday, yeah?”

“Is that a… let’s talk Monday and pretend none of this ever happened... or let’s talk Monday about giving me another chance?”

Serena laughs. “It’s a … let’s see on Monday.”

After she says goodbye and hangs up, she intertwines her arm through Shaylee’s and they set off towards the cinema.

“We’ve seen Mean Girls a thousand times, Serena. It seems like an honest mistake. You should have gone! He sounds adorable.

“He is adorable.”

“So what’s the problem?”

Serena stops walking and turns to face her, suddenly thankful James had stood her up and she’d met up with Shaylee instead. Her annoyingly-wise, hilarious friend. “You were right, Shaylee. If he’s the one, he can sure as hell wait.”

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