‘You can’t be serious.’ My best friend Mel shoved up her glasses, peering at the newspaper ad I’d handed her. ‘A Museum of Broken Hearts? You working there?’ She snorted, and a crumb of cranberry muffin flew out from between pursed lips, landing on the small table in front of us. ‘You might as well stick Gandhi in a war museum.’
I shook my head and grabbed the ad. ‘No, it’s perfect. It’s in my field of expertise, and it’s a great chance for me to get involved in a project right from the get-go. Exciting new opportunity for assistant curator at London’s newest attraction,’ I read aloud, my excited voice echoing around the tiny coffee shop. ‘The ideal candidate will have a degree in sociology or anthropology, with experience coordinating and organising display materials.’ God, it really was ideal. ‘See?’
Mel sipped her espresso. ‘Sure, you’ve got the right degree and experience. But aren’t you forgetting something?’ Leaning back, she raised an eyebrow.
‘What? Oh, the notice period at my job?’ I made a face. ‘I wouldn’t worry about that. I could walk out tomorrow and no one would know.’ Stuck in a dusty room in the basement of the British Museum, I was more used to seeing arrowheads and fern fossils than actual human beings. I’d even started talking to Ernie, an ancient skull in the corner, for a bit of company. It was definitely time to move on.
‘No, no.’ Mel waved a hand in the air. ‘You, Rose, are the living, breathing definition of an incurable romantic. A poster child for happy endings. A—’
‘Okay!’ I interrupted. ‘I get the picture.’
‘For goodness’ sake, you almost didn’t pass your thesis defence because you didn’t want to downgrade the importance of romance in relationships.’
‘Mel, you’ve made your point.’ For once, I wished my friend didn’t feel the need to be so bloody direct all the time. My cheeks coloured as I recalled my thesis advisor’s words that while my paper was certainly one of the most creative they’d seen at the University College London, a little thing called biology undermined my theory that humans partnered primarily for romance. I’d barely scraped by, only just managing to graduate and land my horrendous job at the British Museum. Two years later, and I was still there. This position at a new museum could be my chance to escape Ernie and the arrowheads. Sure, I believed in happy endings. And yes, I thought romance was highly underrated. But so what? You didn’t have to believe in, um . . . the Berlin Wall to work at the Checkpoint Charlie museum, now, did you?
I downed my cappuccino and pushed back my chair. ‘I’m going to apply.’
Mel sighed. ‘Fine. Just don’t come crying to me when you run across a broken heart that can’t be fixed.’
A few hours later, on the Tube back to the tiny flat I’d shared with Gareth, I turned Mel’s words over in my head while trying to avoid breathing through my nose – something you never wanted to do in the sweaty rush-hour confines of the Central Line. In my educated opinion (and after six years of university and two degrees, I was nothing if not educated), no broken heart or relationship was beyond fixing.
Okay, so my parents were still divorced. Dad was currently shacked up with a twenty-year-old hippie in a housing co-op (i.e., squat) after “tuning in, turning on, and dropping out” of the corporate rat race. Mum couldn’t even bear to utter his name. But I knew one day, Dad would miss his old life and return to the spacious home in the affluent London suburb of Virginia Water, where Mum still lived. She’d drop the defensive act, throw her arms around him, and that would be that. All it needed was a bit more time. All right, loads more time.
Men had to have their own little rebellious phase before truly settling down, didn’t they? Just look at me and Gareth. There we were, sailing along for almost three years in a wonderful relationship chock-full of flowers and chocolate. Well, the first year was chock-full of flowers and chocolate. The second was pretty much just chocolate, and by the third, I was lucky to get a half-eaten Gummi Bear. But that was simply the normal transition phase from romantic love to solid, unshakeable love – or so I’d thought. Turned out that for Gareth, it had been a transition from London straight to Vietnam, where he’d been inspired to build a community school and teach for the past year.