Excerpt From Short Stack

The first bit of our journey to Brighton is nice as I sit beside Charlie watching his obvious happiness at being able to drive again. I look at his gorgeous face and dart occasional sly glances at the wedding ring swinging jauntily from the car keyring that he hasn’t noticed yet. I’m going to propose this weekend, and nothing is going to stop me.

However, I start to regret buying him the car when we hit the M25. It’s packed as usual, with cars darting into the smallest of spaces and huge lorries switching lanes as blithely as if we’re all fucking mind readers. And I suddenly remember the reality of driving with my boyfriend.

“Oh my god,” I exclaim as one lorry signals to come into our lane and Charlie accelerates.

“Stop worrying,” he scolds me. “You’re such an old woman.”

“I’d like to be an old man,” I gasp as he nudges past the juggernaut just before it hits us. “And that’s never going to happen at this rate.”

“What is the matter with you?” he ponders, reaching for the button on the car stereo.

“Wait. What are you doing?” I clear my throat, so my voice isn’t so high. “Hands on the wheel, Charlie.”

“I’m changing the music. I want to find my holiday playlist.”

“Has it got a lot of Madonna on it?” I ask cautiously.

He shakes his head. “Whose birthday is it, Misha?” I slump, and he grins. “Yep. That means I pick the music.” He looks at me. “All the way there and all the way back.”

“Watch the road please,” I interject, and when he groans in a long-suffering manner, I realise what he just said. “Hang on. When we come back, it’ll be Sunday and therefore not your birthday anymore.”

“But on the day we come back, there will be birthday cake, which I’m afraid means it’s still my birthday.”

“I’ve never met anyone whose birthday lasts for a whole weekend,” I say in a marvelling tone. “Even the queen spreads it out over the year.”

“I’m the queen of your heart,” he intones and laughs when I groan.

“Less laughing and more actual driving. Holy fucking shitballs!” I exclaim as I press the sadly non-existent brakes on my side of the car while he veers into the fast lane, waving a casual hand at the driver behind us. “Jesus Christ!”

“Misha, you’ve got the nerves of an Emily Bronte character. What is the matter with you?”

“Nothing. It’s just that you’re a tiny bit erratic with your driving, Charlie.” He stiffens, and I carry on babbling. “Only a bit. Probably because you haven’t driven in ages. I’m sure you’ll get better in time. It’s just that …” I trail off as he glares at me. “Maybe I’ll just close my eyes,” I say quickly. “Until we get there. Yes, I’ll shut my eyes.”

It turns out that travelling with Charlie is a hell of a lot better with your eyes closed.


Short Stack

Drawn together for the first time, this is a collection of Lily’s short stories about some of the much-loved men from her books. Follow them through wet and windy marriage…