Unfortunately, 500 words — however excellent they are — is not quite enough for a self-help book. Your suggestion that we could “pad out the rest with photographs” is unfortunately not really workable.
Sadly, we have therefore decided that this is not a viable project and, as a result, would request that you return our advance forthwith.
With all best wishes,
Helping you to help yourself
OUT NOW! Jungle Survival by Brig. Roger Flintwood (deceased)
FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS, I don’t leave the house. I don’t answer the phone and I don’t talk to anyone. I feel physically raw, as though people’s gazes, or their questions, or even the sunlight, might hurt me. I need to be in a dark place, on my own. Suze has gone to Milton Keynes for a big sales and marketing conference with Hadleys, so I’m all alone in the flat. I order takeout, drink two bottles of white wine, and don’t once get out of my pajamas.
When Suze returns, I’m sitting on the floor in the sitting room where she left me, staring blankly at the television, stuffing KitKats into my mouth.
“Oh God,” she says, dropping her bag on the floor. “Bex, are you OK? I shouldn’t have left you on your own.”
“I’m fine!” I say, looking up and forcing my stiff face to twist into a smile. “How was the sales conference?”
“Well… it was really good, actually,” says Suze, looking abashed. “People kept congratulating me on the way my frames have been selling. They’d all heard of me! And they did a presentation of my new designs, and everybody loved them…”
“That’s really great, Suze,” I say, and reach up to squeeze her hand. “You deserve it.”
“Well. You know.” She bites her lip — then picks up an empty wine bottle from the floor and puts it on the table.
“So, did… Luke call?” she says hesitantly.
“No,” I say, after a long silence. “No, he didn’t.” I look at Suze, then look away again.
“What are you watching?” she says, as an ad for Diet Coke comes on.
“I’m watching Morning Coffee,” I say. “It’s the financial advice slot coming up next.”
“What?” Suze’s face creases in dismay. “Bex, let’s switch channels.” She reaches for the remote control, but I grab it.
“No!” I say, staring rigidly at the screen. “I want to see it.”
The familiar Morning Coffee music blasts out of the screen as the signature graphic of a cup of coffee appears and then melts away to a studio shot.
“Hello!” says Emma cheerily to camera. “Welcome back. And it’s time for us to introduce our new money expert, Clare Edwards!”
I stare at Clare’s familiar face, feeling a fresh humiliation seep over me. When they promoted her appearance earlier on I was so shocked I spilled my coffee on my hand. It still hurts.
“Who’s Clare Edwards?” says Suze, staring at the screen in distaste.
“I used to work with her on Successful Saving,” I say without moving my head. “She used to sit next to me.”
The camera pans away to show Clare sitting on the sofa opposite Emma, staring grimly back.
“She doesn’t look like much fun,” says Suze.
“So, Clare,” says Emma brightly. “What’s your basic philosophy of money?”
“Do you have a catchphrase?” interjects Rory cheerfully.
“I don’t believe in catchphrases,” says Clare, giving Rory a disapproving look. “Personal finance isn’t a trivial matter.”
“Right!” says Rory. “Of course not. Erm… so — do you have any top tips for savers, Clare?”
“I don’t believe in futile and misleading generalizations,” says Clare. “All savers should choose a spread of investments suitable to their individual requirements and tax status.”
“Absolutely!” says Emma after a pause. “Right. Well — let’s go to the phones, shall we? And it’s Mandy from Norwich.”
As the first caller is put through, the phone in our sitting room rings.
“Hello?” says Suze, picking it up and zapping the sound on the television, “Ooh, hello, Mrs. Bloomwood. Do you want to speak to Becky?”
She raises her eyebrows at me and I wince back. I’ve only spoken to Mum and Dad briefly since my return. They know I’m not going to move to New York — but that’s all I’ve said them so far. I just can’t face telling them how badly everything else has turned out too.