What’s it all about?:
You can’t choose who you fall for…but it helps if there’s a list
Raina, twenty-nine, is still unmarried much to the dismay of her family who think that by now she should have been married in a dream Indian wedding. The pressure to settle down reaches new heights when her grandmother, Nani, decides to play matchmaker in order to find her the perfect man.
Eager not to disappoint her family, Raina goes along with the plan but when the love of her life returns – ex-boyfriend Dev – she’s forced to confront her true feelings and decide what she really wants.
Funny, feelgood and heart-warming, The Arrangement shines a light on being single in your twenties, societal and cultural expectation of women, and modern day arranged marriages. Perfect summer read for fans of Ayisha Malik’s Sofia Khan is Not Obliged and Aziz Ansari’s Master of None.
Hello everyone and welcome to a very special post on my blog. The Arrangement, published by Orion Books, is due to be released on 10th August but prior to that the author, Sonya Lalli is providing a short story about one of the characters in the novel to give you a bit of a taster of what The Arrangement might be like. The story will be published by five lucky bloggers in five parts.
Over to the author, Sonya Lalli :
In The Arrangement, thirty-year-old, fun-living Serena is on the sidelines. She shares a mutual friend with the novel’s heroine Raina, and for a while dates one of Raina’s relatives. Even though Serena’s story doesn’t make it into my novel, I wanted to share a bit more about her own dating misadventures – and give you a few clues about what’s to come in The Arrangement!
The first part was published yesterday by Bronagh, The Handwritten Girl so if you want to read it please click HERE for her post. Today, bibliobeth is host to the second part of the story:
“Red chinos. Ten o’clock.”
Serena casually glances to her left, but all she can see is a group of women decked out in neon pink and sparkles huddling around a bride-to-be. None of them are wearing red chinos.
“No, my ten o’clock, silly.”
She looks right, and instantly spots him. Red Chinos is one of the only men at the bar not on his cellphone, and he has his legs crossed so tight Serena wonders if he has to pee.
“He’s bachelor number one.”
“He’s not really my type.”
“How has your type worked out for you so far?”
Serena sticks out her tongue, and the next thing she knows Shaylee’s up from the table and walking towards him. She taps him on the shoulder and a beat later they’re both looking at her. Serena shrinks lower in her seat.
What had she just agreed to? Was she really going to go on three dates in three hours just to prove a point?
She watches them converse, and a few minutes later Red Chinos gets off the barstool and Shaylee hops on. Serena can’t help but notice the smirk plastered all over his face as he draws nearer.
“Serena,” he says, sitting opposite her in the booth. “Your friend over there said you think I look interesting.”
“So let’s just get to the point, shall we?” He leers at her. “I’m cute. You’re cute. Wait, how tall are you?”
Her mouths drops a little as he sizes her up.
“About 5’2” or around?” He nods, as if pleased with his ability to measure her sitting down. “I usually prefer taller women.”
“I usually prefer –”
“So should we get out or here or what?”
Serena glances at Shaylee across the bar. She’s made friends with the woman on the stool next to her, and they’re laughing at something on Shaylee’s phone. There was no being rescued from this, was there?
“I think my friend wants us to get to know each other,” Serena says eventually. “Here.”
In public, she thinks.
“And what do you want, Serena?”
Why had Shaylee picked her the creepiest guy in the whole bar? Was she trying to prove a point to Serena? She racks her brain for what to say.
“Uh, what’s your… name?”
“Why are you laughing?”
“You can’t expect me to believe your name is really Noah.”
“It’s just… that’s the name of Ryan Gosling’s character in The Notebook.”
He stares at her blankly.
“And, if you walk into any bar into Toronto, chances are 95% of women my age are going to think of Ryan Gosling the minute you say that name.”
“Noah is my name.”
“Nobody is actually named Noah. You clearly use that name as some sort of… move to pick up women.”
Serena presses her lips together, trying to conceal a smirk. Normally, she’d be the last of her friends to call out a guy for being a creep. But if Shaylee was going to screw her around like this, she might as well have some fun.
She leans forward, smiling cockily. “Tell you what. I’ll go home with you if your driver’s license actually says Noah.”
“Is that so?”
He reaches into his wallet – a little too quickly. Seconds later, he slides across his Ontario drivers license.
“I can’t hear you with your foot in your mouth, Serena.” He leans forward to grab the license. “Or is that even your real name? Maybe I need to see your ID.”
“Listen,” she sits up. Her face is burning hot. “I’m sorry. I didn’t… I don’t, I’m not – ”
“Don’t worry. I’m not expecting you to come home with me.”
She sighs in relief, and is suddenly overwhelmed by embarrassment. Why had she called him out like that? Had she been too rude? Maybe he wasn’t the creep she thought he was?
Standing up from the booth, he leans down so close to her face she can smell his dank-IPA breath.
“I’m looking for something easy tonight, sweetheart – and you’re not worth the effort.”
After Red Chinos leaves the bar, she regrets having not spray painted a warning sign on him for the other women who would cross his path that evening. She sinks bank in the booth as Shaylee walks over to her.
“So how did it go?”
“Are you kidding me?”
“Yeah, I was just taking the piss with that one.” She sits down, rubbing her hands through her hair. “When I walked up to him, he said, ‘mademoiselle, what are you le drinking ce soir?”
“I hate you.”
“No, you don’t.” Shaylee grabs her drink, which she’d left at the table, and throws down the rest. “OK, I’ll pick a better one this time. I promise. It can only go up from here, right?”
Serena glances around the bar, completely disheartened. She liked being in love. She liked chasing, and being chased; falling, and then letting someone catch her. Kris had caught her in the beginning, and then let her fall, hard, until she was all by herself, staring up at something and someone she didn’t even recognize.
She thought James would be different – James who made her laugh as they waited for the kettle to boil, who spent half the workday communicating with her on Slack primarily with emojis, GIFS and compliments. Then he’d stood her up. At least he’d let her down early.
“Hey,” she feels Shay’s hand on hers. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for this to bum you out.”
“No, it’s okay.”
“Thinking about James?” She shrugs, and Shaylee continues. “Any guy who doesn’t treat you right doesn’t deserve you.”
“I know that. In theory.”
“Well, in theory, one of the next two guys I’ve lined up for you just might deserve you.”
“And if they don’t,” says Serena, reminding her of their deal, “I’m never dating again.”
For my review of The Arrangement by Sonya Lalli, please come back and visit on the 10th August when my review will be published!