A Standalone Romantic Comedy
Allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Niall Kerry. I’m almost forty years old, and I’m drowning in something that begins with ‘S’ – it doesn’t quite seem appropriate to write it down here.
After a lifetime out on a sports field, living as a champion – as someone who never had to ask for anything – I’ve suddenly found myself starting from scratch. I’m living in the middle of nowhere with my parents, I’m jobless, and I have a teenage daughter who hates me. Oh, and I have to try and regain the trust of everyone I know.
It’s not easy to convince people that, deep down, you’re not so bad; that you’re no longer that troublesome kid they once knew.
It’s not easy to work my way into the heart of my favourite headmistress, Jordan. It’s especially difficult when she wants nothing to do with me.
But you know what? I’m not the kind of guy who just sits back and accepts defeat, or who stops at the small print at the bottom of the page. I’m someone who plays right until the final whistle.
And when her heart is on the line, I’m ready to make my strict, sexy headmistress an offer she can’t refuse.
EXCERPT ~ CHAPTER 1
“Can you please get out of the car?”
Skylar crosses her arms and looks away.
“They’ve heard us. They already know we’re here.”
“Do you think I care?”
“At least give them a chance.”
“You told me it was a city!” she yells, glaring icily in my direction.
“It is a city.”
“We’re in the middle of fucking nowhere!”
“Don’t say that word.”
“Fine, we’re in the arse end…”
“Or that one. Please, not in front of your grandparents.”
She opens the passenger door suddenly, slamming it purposefully against my knee.
“Oh! So you’re allowed to say it?” She throws the door shut behind her, lifting her chin towards me, challengingly. “Good to know. It’s now my favourite fucking word.”
“I’m already losing my patience, and we haven’t even stepped through the doorway yet.”
“You should’ve thought of that before you dragged me here!” She stamps her feet onto the gravel of their driveway.
“And you should’ve thought before throwing yourself out!”
It would appear that our mental ages are roughly the same right now.
“You’re here!” The front door opens behind us. “We didn’t hear you pull in.”
Skylar rolls her eyes and stomps towards my parents’ house, dragging her heels deliberately through the stones.
“Honey, you’re… You’re…” My mother tries, but I don’t think she can find an appropriate adjective to describe her once-adorable granddaughter. “So colourful.”
Wow. I couldn’t have done better, myself.
My mother wraps her arms around her affectionately, but the gesture isn’t mutual. Skylar stands there, stock-still, with her arms clamped rigidly to her sides and her head turned away. She isn’t a huge fan of public displays of affection – or private ones, to be honest – and she especially hates hugs. They’re off-limits.
“Granddad is inside, waiting for you.” My mother loosens her grip and smiles at my daughter. “He’s in the living room. Do you still remember where it is?”
“Sure,” Skylar mumbles, without making eye contact, before stepping past her and into the house.
“It’ll take some time,” she says, looking at me. She stretches her arms out and approaches me. “It’ll all be fine, you’ll see. You’re home now.”
My mother hugs me, and I let myself sink into her arms. I don’t have the same problem as Skylar – lately, hugs haven’t seemed long enough.
“We’re so happy to have you both here,” she says once again, as if all her reassurances on the phone weren’t enough.
“Thanks, Mum.” I pull away from her with a heavy heart. “Just for a few weeks, until I can sort everything out.”
“Stay as long as you need.”
“I don’t want to take advantage of you.”
“Don’t be silly. This is your house, too. Both of yours.”
“I didn’t know where else to go. I’m so exhausted.”
“Come on, let’s go inside. Dinner’s almost ready, and your dad will have run out of jokes by now.”
I follow her inside, and the smell of burning wood wafts immediately into my nostrils, catapulting me back in time. I used to breathe in this smell every evening before I went to bed.
“Have you already got the fire on?” I ask, realising that autumn has only just begun, and that in the city, no one has turned on the heating yet.
“Have you forgotten how cold it gets here at night?”
She leads me into the living room, which is empty, apart from the crackling fire and the flickering TV.
“Where the hell are they?”
My mother shrugs, heading into the kitchen. She wanders around the island and steps towards the back door; as her gaze lands outside, she throws the door open suddenly.
“What do you think you’re doing?!” she yells into the garden.
I quickly catch up with her and freeze in the doorway at the sight of Skylar and my father smoking on the porch.
“Have you lost your mind?!” my mother screams at him.
“What?” he asks, innocently.
“Skylar, honey,” my mother says, trying unsuccessfully to soften her tone. “That stuff isn’t good for you.”
“He gave it to me.” She points to my father.
“Fionn.” My mother glares at him interrogatively, her arms crossed tightly.
“She asked me if I had any smokes and I said I only had cigars,” my father says naively.
“So you thought it would be a good idea to give a cigar to a little girl?”
My dad shrugs. I decide to intervene before my mother gets even more pissed off with him.
“Give me that thing.” I turn to Skylar.
“But I’m not finished,” she protests.
“Give it to me, right now, or I swear I’ll make you eat it.”
“Oh, yeah?” she asks, challenge etched onto her face. “How can I do that when it’s still lit? Or did you plan to put it out, first?”
“Don’t be cheeky with me,” I warn her.
“And you can fu—”
“Okay!” my mum jumps in. She snatches up the ashtray from the table and holds it under Skylar’s nose. She scoffs, but stubs out the cigar, muttering something we all pretend not to hear from between gritted teeth.
“You, too.” My mother moves the ashtray in my father’s direction.
“What have I got to do with this?”
“That stuff is bad for you.”
My father scoffs – in exactly the same manner as Skylar – then does as she says.
“Now I’d appreciate it if everyone would go and wash their hands before dinner.”
“Are she serious?” Skylar asks me, gesturing towards my mother.
“It’s best not to argue with your grandmother,” my dad advises her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders.
Skylar glances up at him, a look of disgust on her features, but she says nothing.
“Come with me. I’ll show you where the bathroom is.”
“I’m not senile, I remember where the bathroom is,” she snaps, making something burning and unpleasant explode in my stomach.
Skylar and my father step back into the house, as I patiently wait to hear my mother’s final sentence.
“You should’ve come here sooner.”
She isn’t accusing me. She seems more concerned than pissed off.
“The situation is worse than I’d feared.”
I can’t do anything but hang my head and agree with her.