The initial idea for Remember Me? came from me thinking: ‘What if you woke up and everything in your life was magically perfect?’
Now, this is never going to happen to any of us, but I made the story work with my heroine, Lexi Smart, waking up in a hospital bed having had a car crash – she has amnesia and she’s lost the last three years of her memory. All sorts of things have happened to her in that time, but she thinks she’s still 25, working in a boring job, with a boyfriend who just stood her up, and it’s all a bit rubbish. When she wakes up, she’s the boss of her department, she’s married to a millionaire, she’s had her teeth fixed, she looks amazing AND she’s got a Louis Vuitton handbag, and basically her entire dream life has come true.
It’s the story of how she copes with this, how she finds out how she got to be this person, and whether it really is as perfect as it seems. Because dream lives have a tendency not to be as dreamy as you think…
Lexi wakes up in a hospital bed after a car accident, thinking it’s 2004 and she’s a twenty-five-year old with crooked teeth and a disastrous love life.But, to her disbelief, she learns it’s actually 2007 – she’s twenty-eight, her teeth are straight, she’s the boss of her department – and she’s married! To a good-looking millionaire! How on earth did she land the dream life??!
She can’t believe her luck – especially when she sees her stunning new home. She’s sure she’ll have a fantastic marriage once she gets to know her husband again. He’s drawn up a ‘manual of our marriage’, which should help.
But as she learns more about her new self, chinks start to appear in the perfect life. All her old colleagues hate her. A rival is after her job. Then a dishevelled, sexy guy turns up… and lands a new bombshell.
What the **** happened to her? Will she ever remember? And what will happen if she does?
Of all the crap, crap, crappy nights I’ve ever had in the whole of my crap life.
On a scale of one to ten we’re talking . . . a minus six. And it’s not like I even have very high standards.
Rain spatters down my collar as I shift from one blistered foot to another. I’m holding my denim jacket over my head as a makeshift umbrella, but it’s not exactly waterproof. I just want to find a taxi, get home, kick off these stupid boots and run a nice hot bath. But we’ve been waiting here for ten minutes and there’s no sign of a cab.
My toes are agony. I’m never buying shoes from Cut-Price Fashion again. I bought these boots last week in the sale (flat black patent, I only ever wear flats). They were half a size too small but the girl said they would stretch, and that they made my legs look really long. And I believed her. Honestly, I’m the world’s biggest sucker.
We’re all standing together on the corner of some street in south-west London I’ve never been to before, with music pounding faintly from the club below our feet. Carolyn’s sister is a promoter and got us discounted entry, so that’s why we schlepped all the way here. Only now we have to get home, and I’m the only one even looking for a cab.
Fi has commandeered the only nearby doorway and has her tongue down the throat of the guy she chatted up earlier on at the bar. He’s cute, despite the weird little moustache. Also, he’s shorter than Fi – but then a lot of guys are, given she’s nearly six feet tall. She has long dark hair and a wide mouth, and an oversized laugh to match. When Fi is really tickled by something, she brings the whole office to a standstill.
A few feet away Carolyn and Debs are sheltering underneath a newspaper, arm-in-arm, caterwauling ‘It’s Raining Men’ as if they’re still on the karaoke stage.
‘Lexi!’ yells Debs, extending an arm for me to join in. ‘It’s raining men!’ Her long blonde hair is all ratty in the rain, but she’s still bright-faced. Debs’s two favourite hobbies are karaoke and jewellery-making, in fact I’m wearing a pair of earrings she made me for my birthday: teeny silver Ls with dangling seed pearls.
‘It isn’t bloody raining men!’ I call back morosely. ‘It’s just raining!’
I normally love karaoke, too. But I’m not in a singing mood tonight. I feel all sore inside, like I want to curl up away from everyone else. If only Loser Dave had turned up like he promised. After all those luv u Lexi texts; after vowing faithfully to be here at ten. I sat waiting all that time, watching the door, even when the other girls told me to give up on him. Now I feel like a sappy moron.
Loser Dave works in car telesales and has been my boyfriend since we got together at Carolyn’s friend’s barbecue last summer. I don’t call him Loser Dave to insult him – it’s just his nickname. No one remembers how he got it and he won’t tell, in fact he’s always trying to make people call him something else. He started referring to himself as ‘Butch’ a while ago, because he reckons he looks like Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction. He has a buzz cut, I suppose – but the resemblance ends there.
Anyway, it didn’t catch on. To his workmates he just is Loser Dave, the way I’m Snaggletooth. I’ve been called that since I was eleven. And sometimes Snagglehair. To be fair, my hair is pretty frizzy. And my teeth are kind of crooked. But I always say they give my face character.
(Actually, that’s a lie. It’s Fi who says they give my face character. Personally, I’m planning to fix them, as soon as I’ve got the cash and can psych myself up to having braces in my mouth, i.e. probably never.)
A taxi comes into sight and I immediately stick out my hand – but some people ahead flag it down first. Great. I shove my hands in my pockets miserably and scan the rainy road for another yellow light.
It’s not just being stood up by Loser Dave, it’s the bonuses. Today was the end of the financial year at work. Everyone was given paper slips saying how much they’d got and started jumping about with excitement, because it turns out the company’s 2003–2004 sales were better than anyone expected. It was like Christmas had come ten months early. Everyone was gabbing all afternoon about how they were going to spend the money. Carolyn started planning a holiday to New York with her boyfriend Matt. Debs booked highlights at Nicky Clarke – she’s always wanted to go there. Fi called Harvey Nichols and reserved herself a new cool bag called a ‘Paddington’ or something.
And then there was me. With nada. Not because I haven’t worked hard, not because I didn’t meet my targets, but because to get a bonus you have to have worked for the company for a year, and I missed qualifying by a week. One week. It’s so unfair. It’s so penny-pinching. I’m telling you, if they asked me what I thought about it . . .
Anyway. Like Simon Johnson would ever ask the opinion of an Associate Junior Sales Manager (Flooring). That’s the other thing: I have the worst job title ever. It’s embarrassing. It hardly even fits on my business card. The longer the title, I’ve decided, the crappier the job. They think they’ll blind you with words and you won’t notice you’ve been stuck in the corner of the office with the lousy accounts no one else wants to work on.
A car splashes through a puddle near the pavement and I jump back, but not before a shower of water has hit me in the face. From the doorway I can hear Fi hotting things up, murmuring into the ear of the cute guy. I catch a few familiar words and, despite my mood, have to clamp my lips together so I don’t laugh. Months ago, we had a girls’ night in, and ended up confessing all our dirty-talk secrets. Fi said she uses the same line each time and it works a treat: ‘I think my underwear’s melting off.’
I mean. Would any guy fall for that?
Well. I guess, by Fi’s record, that they do.
Debs confessed that the only word she can use during sex without cracking up is ‘hot’. So all she ever says is ‘I’m hot’, ‘You’re so hot’, ‘This is really hot’. Mind you, when you’re as stunning as Debs, I wouldn’t have thought you’d need much of a repertoire.
Carolyn has been with Matt for a million years and declared she never talks in bed at all except to say ‘Ow’ or ‘Higher’ or once, as he was about to come, ‘Oh crap, I left my hair straighteners on.’ I don’t know if she really meant it; she’s got a pretty quirky sense of humour, just like Matt. They’re both super-bright – almost geeky – but cool with it. When we’re all out together the two of them throw so many insults at each other, it’s hard to know if they’re ever serious. I’m not sure even they know.
Then it was my turn, and I told the truth, which is that I compliment the guy. Like, with Loser Dave, I always say ‘You have beautiful shoulders’ and ‘You have such beautiful eyes.’
I didn’t admit that I say these things because I’m always secretly hoping to hear back from a guy that I’m beautiful, too.
Nor did I admit that it’s never yet happened.
‘Hey, Lexi.’ I look up to see that Fi has unsuckered herself from the cute guy. She comes over, pulls my denim jacket over her head and gets out a lipstick.
‘Hi,’ I say, blinking rainwater off my lashes. ‘Where’s lover boy gone?’
‘To tell the girl he came with that he’s leaving.’
‘What?’ Fi looks unrepentant. ‘They’re not an item. Or much of one.’ She carefully redoes her mouth in pillar-box red. ‘I’m getting a whole new load of make-up,’ she says, frowning at the blunt end. ‘Christian Dior, the whole lot. I can afford it now!’
‘You should!’ I nod, trying to sound enthusiastic. A moment later, Fi looks up in realization.
‘Oh bollocks. Sorry, Lexi.’ She puts an arm round my shoulder and squeezes. ‘You should have got a bonus. It’s not fair.’
‘It’s fine.’ I try to smile. ‘Next year.’
‘You OK?’ Fi eyes me narrowly. ‘You want to go for a drink or anything?’
‘No, I need to get to bed. I’ve got an early start in the morning.
’ Fi’s face clears in sudden memory and she bites her lip. ‘Jesus. I forgot all about that, too. What with the bonuses and everything . . . Lexi, I’m sorry. This is a really shit time for you.’
‘It’s fine!’ I say at once. ‘It’s . . . I’m trying not to make it a huge deal.’
No one likes a whinger. So somehow I make myself smile brightly, just to show I’m fine with being the snaggly-toothed, stood-up, no-bonus girl whose dad just died.
Fi is silent for a moment, her green eyes glittering in the passing headlights.
‘Things’ll turn around for you,’ she says.
‘Uh-huh.’ She nods, with more energy. ‘You just have to believe it. Come on.’ She squeezes me. ‘What are you, woman or walrus?’ Fi’s been using that expression since we were both fifteen, and every time, it makes me smile. ‘And you know what?’ she adds. ‘I think your dad would have wanted you to turn up to his funeral hungover.’
She met my dad a couple of times. She’s probably right.
‘Hey, Lexi.’ Fi’s voice is suddenly softer, and I brace myself. I’m in a pretty edgy mood as it is, and if she says something nice about my dad, I might cry. I mean, I didn’t know him that well or anything, but you only get one dad . . . ‘Do you have a spare condom?’ Her voice pierces my thoughts.
Right. So I probably didn’t need to worry about the sympathy overload.
‘Just in case,’ she adds with a wicked grin. ‘I mean, we’ll probably just chat about world politics or whatever.’
‘Yeah. I’m so sure.’ I root inside my birthday-present green Accessorize bag for the matching coin purse and produce a Durex which I discreetly hand to her.
‘Thanks, babe.’ She kisses me on the cheek. ‘Listen, d’you want to come to mine tomorrow night? After it’s all over? I’ll make spaghetti carbonara.’
‘Yeah.’ I smile gratefully. ‘That would be great. I’ll call you.’ I’m already looking forward to it. Aplate of delicious pasta, a glass of wine, and telling her all about the funeral. Fi can make the grimmest things seem funny, I know we’ll end up in stitches . . . ‘Hey, there’s a taxi! Tax-ee!’ I hurry to the edge of the pavement as the cab pulls up and beckon to Debs and Carolyn, who are now screeching out ‘Dancing Queen’. Carolyn’s glasses are spattered with raindrops, and she’s about five notes ahead of Debs. ‘Hi there!’ I lean through the window to the taxi driver, my hair dripping down my face. ‘Could you possibly take us first to Balham, and then—’
‘Sorry love, no karaoke.’ The taxi driver cuts me off, with a baleful glance at Debs and Carolyn.
I stare at him, confused. ‘What d’you mean, no karaoke?’
‘I’m not ’aving them girls in ’ere, doin’ me ’ead in with their bloody singing.’
He has to be joking. You can’t ban people for singing.
‘My cab, my rules. No drunks, no drugs, no karaoke.’ Before I can reply, he puts the taxi into gear and roars away down the road.
‘You can’t have a “no karaoke” rule!’ I shout after the cab in outrage. ‘It’s . . . discrimination! It’s against the law! It’s . . .’
I trail off helplessly and look around the pavement. Fi has disappeared back into Mr Cutie’s arms. Debs and Carolyn are doing the worst ‘Dancing Queen’ routine I’ve ever seen, in fact I don’t blame that taxi driver. The traffic is whooshing by, drenching us with spray; rain is drumming through my jacket into my hair; thoughts are circling round my head like socks in a tumble-dryer.
We’ll never find a taxi. We’ll be stuck out here in the rain all night. Those banana cocktails were noxious, I should have stopped after four. I have my dad’s funeral tomorrow. I’ve never been to a funeral before. What if I start sobbing and everyone stares at me? Loser Dave’s probably in bed with some other girl right this second, telling her she’s beautiful while she moans ‘Butch! Butch!’ My feet are blistered and they’re freezing—
‘Taxi!’ I instinctively scream the word, almost before I’ve registered the distant yellow light. It’s coming up the road, signalling left. ‘Don’t turn!’ I wave frantically. ‘Over here! Here!’
I have to get this cab. I have to. Clutching my denim jacket over my head, I run along the pavement, skidding slightly, yelling till I’m hoarse, ‘Taxi! Taxi!’ As I reach the corner, the pavement is crowded with people and I skirt round them and up the steps to some grand municipal building. There’s a balustraded platform with steps going right and left. I’ll hail the taxi from up here, then run down and jump in. ‘TAXI! TAAA-XEE!’
Yes! It’s pulling up. Thank God! At last. I can get home, run a bath, forget all about today.
‘Here!’ I call out. ‘Just coming, wait a sec . . .’
To my consternation I notice a guy in a suit on the pavement below heading towards the taxi. ‘It’s ours!’ I roar, and start pelting down the opposite steps. ‘It’s ours! I hailed that cab! Don’t you even dare – Argh! Aaaaargh!’
Even as my foot skids on the wet step I’m not sure what’s happening. Then, as I start falling, my brain rushes with disbelief. I’ve slipped on my stupid, cheap, shiny-soled boots. I’m tumbling right over, down the steps, like a three-year-old. I scrabble desperately at the stone balustrade, scraping my skin, wrenching my hand, dropping my Accessorize bag, grabbing for anything, but I can’t stop myself—
The ground’s coming straight towards me, there’s nothing I can do, this is really, really going to hurt . . .
“Women need chocolate. It's a scientific fact.”
If easy-to-read girly humour is your bag, Kinsella certainly ticks the right boxes
A deliciously intriguing and hilarious novel that will have you hooked til the end
A superb tale *****
A gripping romantic read - we loved it!
Sophie Kinsella returns with another cracker... A page-turner by arguably the best pop-fiction novelist
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