Chapter 1

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As I stood outside an Irish pub in Leicester Square with a glass of horrid yellow wine in my hand, I thought about how a puppet had just made me reflect on my life choices. Even for an ABC girl like me (Anything But Chardonnay), this wine was especially awful. I kept drinking it anyway.

Some man wearing a grey peacoat and smoking a cigarette was telling me and my friend Dee about how he was saving to buy a house, I suppose to defend why he was living with his parents in Richmond. When he paused to take a drag, I mentioned a house in Richmond I'd recently seen on Location, Location, Location. He told us he never watched TV because he didn't have the time.

'Why's that then?' asked Dee, aiming her face away from us to blow smoke towards a couple walking by on the street. The couple quickened their pace and stepped diagonally towards the traffic. Dee let out her trademark cackle and turned her attention back to grey peacoat. 'What do you do for a living then, Tom?'

'Ah.' He grinned and scratched his goatie. 'I don't really tell girls that until I know them a bit better.'

Dee and I frowned in unison.

'Do you work for the secret service or something?' I asked.

'I find that some girls are only after men for their money,' he said without a hint of irony. 'Besides, I like to keep a bit of mystery.'

'I like to keep a bit of mystery, too,' I replied, dreading the inevitable 'And what do you do?' back at me. Grey peacoat was probably unemployed, like I was. Well, I wasn't technically unemployed. I was temping. It was mostly reception work in various non-descript offices around south-west London. They blurred into each other after a while - similar phone systems, grey carpets and women named Jan or Roz who worked in accounts.

However, my work situation, like his alleged living situation, was temporary in more ways than one, in that I hoped not to be temping forever. I'd landed in London three months ago from Perth with a PhD in English and no career experience. Endless meetings with recruitment agents for jobs that involved writing in any capacity - any capacity at all - had rapidly lowered my salary expectations. Those meetings, teamed with nights starting with wine, continuing with tequila shots and ending in kebabs, had kept me busy.

However, the wine wasn't turning off my thoughts tonight. I kept thinking about that stupid puppet. What was his name again? Princeton, that's right. Princeton the puppet. Dee and I had just seen Avenue Q, the musical that was like an adult version of Sesame Street. As soon as the curtains opened, we were introduced to Princeton, who was anxious about his future career prospects because he had a BA in English. The audience got a good laugh out of that one.

'Oh come on!' I'd exclaimed out loud to myself. Dee, of course, had cackled away.

She gushed after the show about how her favourite character was Lucy the Slut because she was 'misunderstood' and wasn't a bitch for not wanting anything more than sex from 'that whiny Princeton.'

'And what the hell was with that goody-goody Kate Monster?' she asked. 'How annoying was she?'

'Hey!' I slapped her arm in mock protest. 'If that puppet came to life, it'd probably be me! She was definitely on the annoying side, though. And boring.'

'Honey, you're not boring,' said Dee. 'You packed up your life and moved to London, for god's sake.'

I took another sip of wine, shuddered, and nodded along to Tom's knowledge of the London rental market versus the buyers' market. I could tell that Dee clearly thought Tom was a dickhead, because she gulped the rest of her wine and nudged my arm.

'Hurry up and finish your wine,' she urged. 'We need to go.'

'Wait, where are you ladies going?' asked Tom. 'I can see where my mates are heading.'

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