As you dial the journalist’s number, you’re still undecided about what you’ll do. Or open-minded, at least. That’s what you tell yourself. The fact that you’ve already mentally spent the money is neither here nor there, of course.

When Harry the hack says all the right things, it only takes you moments to decide that yes, you will sell your story. You really don’t need much persuading. He explains that you can retain a reasonable amount of control. If you like, you can just give them the photos of Brian and Carly, and keep yourself out of the story. Of course, that way, you’ll get enough money for a couple of weeks in the sun, at best. At the other end of the spectrum would be a full on ‘my rock orgy’ story, with you posing for pictures (you know the type... a shot of you reclining in cheap high heeled sandals and a miniskirt) and providing a blow by blow account. For that you’d make enough money to go around the world, put a deposit down on a flat when you got home.

There is of course a third way: the path of moderation. This involves some graphic details on the night’s shenanigans, but you can draw the line at posing for pictures. The blurry phone shots of Brian and Carly, and a couple of you and Jed will do just fine. You can skip the one of you, Carly and Jed, and you can tell a couple of white lies to make yourself sound like less of an easy lay than you were.

Just like Amy Winehouse, Kate Moss or Abi Titmuss, you plan on lying low the day your story is splashed over the front page. Alice pops to the corner shop for milk and the Mirror, which she devours on the walk back. Bursting through the front door she screams,

‘Successful London executive Sarah Smith! He was a sensitive lover! Come on! It’s brilliant!’

Flinging herself on the sofa she watches your reaction as you read.

GEORGIE’S GIRL AND HER SECRET LOVER

The woman who tamed bachelor George Clooney still has a wild side of her own. We exclusively reveal Carly Woods’ secret fling with The Heat rocker Brian Ladd – and how the rest of the band get in on the action. STORY AND MORE AMAZING PICS PAGE 4

Flashes of horror and delight pass over your face, equally deeply felt. The horror element is sweetened by the thought of your bank balance, of course.

‘The ‘he was a sensitive lover’ piece is a bit much, isn’t it? Not sure what my folks will make of that one.’

‘You haven’t told them yet have you? They’re not expecting this.’

You sigh. You just couldn’t quite figure out how to drop it into conversation without laying yourself open to a barrage of questions. Plus there’s a part of you still hoping they might not see the story. It’s tomorrow’s fish and chip paper, after all.

‘Except that no-one really wraps fish and chips in newspaper anymore,’ Alice points out.

As the day goes by your phone is white hot with calls from friends and acquaintances. You become used to, and then bored of, trotting out the same lines. ‘It’s not as bad as it sounds’, you say, and ‘I had to spice it up for the paper’, and ‘he was sort of a friend of a friend’, and other white lies. Fortunately the story’s main focus – and therefore most people’s interest – was Carly and Brian. So you escape too much scrutiny.

Until your dad calls, of course. Someone had seen a copy at the rugby club and called to tell them. Your mother is too upset to speak, he says. He’s pretty wound up too, but still, unfortunately for you, capable of speech. Apparently this isn’t what they brought you up to do. What will people think? And so on. You listen in silence at his tirade, and trot out the same lines you’ve given everyone else. On top of the white lies you pile some rubbish about how you will use the money you made really sensibly.

‘Now I can put down a deposit on a flat, dad. I thought you and mum would be pleased at that, at least?’

‘The money’s not the point. It’s dirty money, isn’t it? I hope you’ll never be so short of money you have to sell yourself like this again.’

You sigh heavily and reiterate the weak justifications again, before resigning yourself to his rage.

‘At least it’s over,’ you say. ‘That’s the worst part dealt with. Now I can get on and enjoy the money.’

‘That’s the worst part?’ Alice says, sceptically. ‘You don’t think work tomorrow might be a bit hairy too?’

Your heart sinks. Yes, facing the inevitable flack in the office will be hard work. Still, you can brazen it out. By the time the money has cleared into your bank account they’ll be talking about something else altogether, you’re sure.

The money clears on Wednesday morning, but you are still hot gossip in your office. Every hour it seems someone new gets to hear about it, and approaches you. You experience the full gamut of curiosity from direct and inappropriate questioning, to lingering and staring without saying a word. You prefer the former, for at least that way you get to set the record straight.

You decide to spend some of your money on a much needed drink. As you say to Alice, you’ve kept yourself out of society for too long already. Though, she points out, it has only been 4 days. Still, you get a bit of a crowd together for a cheeky pint in the Steeles. Even Simon is heading over from West London, and you suspect there’s more appetite than usual for a mid-week drink because you have added cachet now you’ve kissed and told. Well, every cloud has its silver lining. By way of rewarding your public for their interest, you buy champagne for the table.

Simon really didn’t need to bring a copy of the story. After all, everyone has seen it. But he does, neatly folded, with key paragraphs highlighted. He insists on reading it out, and quizzing you on the interesting bits, and you rather enjoy being the centre of attention. At least your mates are cool about it. Everyone, that is, except Charlie. Jay has dragged him along, but he doesn’t look too happy to be there, and scowls through Simon’s 20 questions.

You turn to him, when the conversation finally moves on, and ask him how he is.

‘Not bad,’ he mutters, folding his arms across his lovely broad chest.

‘I’m fine too, thanks for asking,’ you say, tartly.

‘Well I know how you are. I read it in the papers.’

‘You sound disapproving. Do you disapprove?’

He intensifies his scowl, shifts uncomfortably in his chair, and denies it unconvincingly. ‘No, I don’t disapprove. It’s not for me to comment really, is it? I just... I just didn’t expect it of you, that’s all.’

You roll your eyes. ‘Well, it’s amazing the different side of yourself you discover when there’s fifty grand up for grabs.’

‘Right.’

You give up, and turn away to chat to the others. Goodness knows why he’s being so stiff about it all. When Charlie gets up to leave the table – he’s eschewing your champagne in favour of Stella – you ask Jay if he knows what’s wrong.

‘What do you mean?’ he says, topping up your glass.

‘He’s being really weird with me about the Mirror story. Really like super-disapproving. I don’t get it, he’s not that moral, is he?’

‘I don’t think it’s a moral issue. More personal.’

‘What?’

‘He’s just gutted that you snogged this other guy, and then told the world. Look at it from his point of view. It’s not so bad that you pulled someone else, which was probably inevitable. I mean, he knows it had to happen at some point since you broke up. But selling the story suggests that you don’t care what he thinks about it.’

‘Well, why should I care? He dumped me, for God’s sake.’

‘Yeah, but come on Sarah, you can’t be so blind as not to know he still cares for you. And you don’t factor him in at all. But he’s trying to get over you. I think he still thinks you might get back together – or at least, he did until this.’

Charlie’s return from the bar prevents you discussing it further. You say nothing, but sit and watch as the others chat, and your eyes keep returning to Charlie. It’s silly of him, but you do feel bad for hurting his feelings. If he feels that way about you still he probably wouldn’t even kiss another girl – let alone tell the world about it. So you’ve jeopardised a potential reunion.

But how were you supposed to know? Bar those drunken texts back in Chapter One, he’s given you no sign that he still cares for you. You thought you were doing the ‘just good friends’ thing, and that was fine with you. This (combined with the champagne) is confusing. And it’s also a little annoying. So he doesn’t tell you he’s interested, makes no attempt at a reunion, but judges you harshly for going off and living your fabulous/ torrid single life. And sits there looking all handsome and grumpy ruining your fun night. Damn.

You get to your feet, slightly unsteadily.

‘There’s still some left in this bottle,’ calls Simon from the other end of the table.

‘No, I don’t want any more to drink. I’m going home.’

‘It’s early,’ says Alice, looking her watch. ‘Come on, stay for another. Simon’s just ordered some food.’

Your resolve leaves you. ‘Alright, maybe one more glass.’

Is it your imagination or does Charlie look pleased? You sit back down, next to him, and rack your brains for a change of subject. Perhaps you should just keep in neutral and ask him about work. Just when you’re trying to remember the name of his boss, who he hated and used to rant about, he comes up with a question of his own.

‘So, what will you do with the money?’

Oh. Same subject. Still, it’s slightly less tricky territory. ‘I think I’ll have to do the sensible thing with it,’ you reply. ‘Put down a deposit on a flat.’

He nods. ‘Right. Simon said something about travelling?’

‘Yes, I thought about it. But I’d have to go on my own – no-one else seems to want to jack in their job for six months.’

Hanging in the air, unsaid, is that you were going to go travelling together, the two of you. One day, anyway.

‘No, I suppose not. It’s a bit different, going on your own,’ says Charlie. ‘Well, I suppose you can always save a bit. You remember those things – savings accounts – that I used to talk about? They do really exist you know.’

You laugh, acknowledging his neat reference to that old argument. The reason, he reckoned, that you’d never gone on any exotic holidays with him, and weren’t able to put down a deposit on a flat, is that you’d never saved. You used to say you didn’t believe in saving, as if it were an act of faith.

Guiding the conversation onto still safer territory, you ask about his holiday plans. He has none, and looks momentarily forlorn. You wonder whether he was waiting for a reunion before booking anything, and dismiss the thought immediately. Jay should never have told you he was harbouring those feelings really.

‘Okay, Alice, I’m definitely ready for off now.’

She’s halfway through a bowl of chips, but you don’t want to wait. Ever the gentleman, Charlie offers to walk you home.

‘That’s very chivalrous of you,’ you say.

‘Well, it is only 5 minutes away,’ he replies, clearly keen not to look like he’s making a big effort. You appreciate that.

You walk the short distance in silence, and when you get to your front door you offer a coffee in the knowledge that he will decline. You’re not about to go up there and chat like old friends. It’s just not quite like that between you. Not yet anyway.

So he takes you by surprise with his hug.

‘Ah, Sarah,’ he says, his mouth on your hair, his arms around you. ‘It was good to see you tonight.’

‘You too,’ you reply, into his chest.

He steps back a little, his hands on your arms, and says, ‘Take care.’

And then you kiss. It’s a slow, chaste kiss on the lips. Not a snog, but not a platonic peck, either.

‘Charlie?’ you say, disentangling yourself, and looking at him quite seriously.

‘Yes?’ he looks at you expectantly.

You know you need to have this conversation, but you also need to tread carefully. And you’re not in the best state to do that. So you start hesitantly.

‘Are you... well, you’re pissed off with me. Aren’t you? Because of this business with that guy Jed?’

‘No. No I’m not.’ He doesn’t even look like he believes it himself.

‘Come on. Jay said you were.’

‘Well, yes, alright, it did piss me off a bit. I just... I suppose I’d thought maybe there was a chance for us...’

‘What, and now there isn’t?’ Careful Sarah, don’t suggest something you’re not sure you want. ‘And how come you didn’t tell me you felt that way?’

‘I don’t know. I wanted to give you some space.’

‘You gave me space, and I used it to get on with being single. And now you’re pissed off with me because of it. It’s not fair.’

‘Are you saying you’d have behaved differently if you knew how I felt?

‘Oh god, I don’t know. I’m confused.’

‘Yeah,’ he says, ruefully. ‘Me too. Maybe we should talk about this sometime when we can do it properly. Not standing outside your front door.’

‘Right.’

You agree to meet up at the weekend, give him a quick hug and say goodnight, and hurry indoors.

When the weekend comes around, what will you do? Do you want to get back with him? You were just starting to enjoy single life. There’s no denying you still have feelings for Charlie. But is it just giving up, taking the easy option, to get back together with him?

You need to go to your post break-up summit with an open mind – but clear intentions. This is your final choice.

 

If you decide to give him another choice, go to Chapter Seven II to face the consequences

If you decide to continue ploughing your single furrow go to Chapter Seven XVI to face the consequences