Thrown into salsa lessons by her therapist, Fiona stumbles her way from depression to happiness and, numerous disasters later, finally finds her rhythm again.
As if it wasn’t bad enough to be living back home with her parents after leaving the Two-timing Lying Bastard, Fiona also finds herself socially ostracized after a drunken dancefloor disaster at the Returned Servicemen’s League disco, resulting in her father practically frog-marching her off to a psychologist. Sounds very Hollywood, right? Except, when your parents are Scottish, it goes without saying that any therapist is of the budget variety.
As part of her plunge into the surreal world of therapy, Fiona’s instructed to have dance lessons to raise her self-esteem, in the process emptying her father’s wallet and threatening the sanctity of his prized spoon collection to foot the bill. And that’s despite Fiona’s three left feet, all of which are rhythm challenged.
Salsa lessons, secrets and lies, a riotous bachelorette night and a disastrous wedding see Fiona’s life spiraling as wildly out of control as her salsa. With her therapist’s help, she should be able to see the truth lurking just below the surface and finally take back control once and for all—that is, unless her so-called friends have anything to do with it.
Reader's Advisory: This book contains references to implications of emotional abuse and a brief description of dubious consent.
Publisher's Note: This book has previously been released elsewhere. It has been revised and re-edited for re-release with Totally Bound Publishing.
General Release Date: 11th April 2017
“I have nothing. No husband. No friends. No life. Nothing. I might as well be dead!”
Through a veil of tears, I stared at the wilting rubber plant in the corner and tried to pretend I was anywhere but there. I don’t think I could have been any more mortified. I sounded like a hack Shakespearean actor.
Crossing her arms over her matronly bosom, Margarita pushed a fresh box of tissues toward me before settling back in her chair. She didn’t appear the least bit put out by my hysterics and I wondered what it would take to get some kind of reaction from her. Talk about detached. Fifty minutes into our first session and she hadn’t even opened her mouth to impart any words of life-altering wisdom? For all I knew, she could be compiling her week’s menus and their subsequent shopping list in her head. Was it possible my father had stumbled across the only deaf-mute therapist in the country?
“Therapy. I still can’t believe I’m here,” I mumbled tearfully. Had I not been so totally consumed by my own misery, I would have been burning up with shame. “Who goes to therapy, anyway?” I cried, ignoring the frown appearing on Margarita’s face. “I’ll tell you who—celebrities, bored middle-aged housewives, people who’ve taken to curling up in corners and sucking their thumbs. Total nutters, that’s who! Not me.”
This had to be a mistake. I didn’t belong there. I didn’t want to belong there. I wanted to have my life back. But the very act of coming to therapy was in itself an admission I had failed at being a grown-up and was in need of rescuing.
On the drive there, I’d made a promise to myself not to get all caught up in that whole touchy-feely crap. Sure, I might have been led dazed and blinking from the dark recesses of my room―and my mind for that matter―clutching a ratty old stuffed rabbit, my normally well-behaved shoulder-length mousy-brown hair long gone wild and my usually striking blue eyes dulled and barely recognizable. But make no mistake, I was there for one reason and one reason only, and that was to get Dad off my back and, in the process, prove to him what a complete waste of everyone’s time and money this was. Alas, once I’d settled into that arse-numbing chair―no sign of a comfy leather couch, much to my disappointment―the silence, combined with the sympathy emanating from every pore of Margarita’s round face, had triggered something in my brain—the blabbing switch. Before I could stop it, my runaway mouth had embarked on a journey of its own, climaxing in my recent outburst, still hovering in the air between us like a bad smell no one wants to acknowledge.
God, what have I done? Unfortunately, I couldn’t take it all back now. I looked expectantly across to the Beige Linen Oracle—as she was from that moment christened—for any sign she’d come up with the magical solution for my ruined life. I’d done my bit. Surely it was up to her now to sort out this mess? But no, she merely stared back expectantly.
Waiting for exactly what, I wondered? A complete mental breakdown? By this time, I was little alarmed. Am I a lost cause? Maybe I really was losing my mind. Great, this is all I need. If it wasn’t bad enough to be a twenty-six-year-old recently discarded wife, on top of that I was doomed to suffer the additional humiliation of losing the plot, going la-la, floundering in the emotional cesspool of life without a float.
Plummeting headlong into Loser Hell without a safety net.
“I wasn’t always like this, you know. Once upon a time, I had a future to look forward to.” I sniffed, trying to reclaim a little of my lost dignity. “I had a husband, friends and a social life.” Yes, all very well and good to point that out now, but the truth remained through no fault of my own, I found myself once again living at home with my parents in the same room I’d occupied throughout my rather tumultuous teenage years, complete with posters of Robbie Williams, Justin Timberlake and Ricky Martin. Ah, the nights I’d spent dreaming of marrying Ricky Martin—who knew?
Resentment had bubbled up inside me, heralding an ill-timed return of teenage angst, directed, not surprisingly, toward those near and dear to me. In all fairness to my long-suffering parents, I have to confess their decision to seek outside help for their loopy firstborn hadn’t been something they’d taken lightly. You might even say I’d driven them to it after they’d suffered through six hellish weeks of my rabid mood swings. This, I must point out, had come hard on the heels of the discovery that my moods were not the only things out there swinging.
Why is the wife always the last one to know?
Had it not been for the onset of a particularly nasty little rash on my privates, closely followed by the utterance of three little letters, STD―alas not the telecommunication kind―I might never have found out about my husband’s affair. God, the shame of it when my doctor, who, I might add, was old enough to have been practicing medicine before the discovery of penicillin, had turned a deep shade of crimson before quizzing me about my supposedly promiscuous past.
If I have one, it’s news to me!
Even while I continued crying buckets of shame in front of Margarita, I still found it difficult to comprehend how I could have been so blind not to see what had apparently been going on underneath my nose. Formerly known as ‘Amanda, the five-thirty-step-class-bimbo,’ from that day on I could only think of her as ‘husband-stealing-silicone-enhanced-Botox-junkie-slut-with-the-clap,’ or ‘that fucking bitch’ for short.
Not that I’m bitter or anything.
Naturally, I’d done what anyone in my situation would have done and scuttled crying back to Mum and Dad, who, I must say, had been more than a little surprised to have had their dinner interrupted by their wailing daughter. Dad had gone totally mental, even threatening to shoot the Two-timing Lying Bastard dead if he came within sight of the house, therefore saving me the trouble of obtaining a divorce. Don’t get me wrong, the thought of playing the part of the grieving widow had lifted my spirits momentarily, but having my shame plastered all over the newspapers—Venereal Disease Scandal Triggers Family Tragedy—wasn’t something I’d felt I could comfortably have lived with.
Six weeks later and my father had again been mumbling about inflicting grievous bodily harm on ‘the bastard’. But this time, I’d suspected that rather than a punishment for breaking my heart, it had been more out of retaliation for having inflicted a psychotic daughter on them in what should have been the peaceful twilight years of their lives.
In the end, out of pure desperation, Dad had decided to call in reinforcements, otherwise known as Rachel, Kim and Janine.
The four of us had been best friends since high school, since the time we’d found ourselves lumped together in the C grade team in the local netball competition. It wasn’t as though we’d been fat, unfit or socially awkward, but, looking back on it now, it might have been because I haven’t got a competitive bone in my body, Janine simply couldn’t give a stuff and Rachel and Kim are incredibly violent and, to this day, consider netball a blood sport.
Back then, I was a shy, awkward thirteen-year-old and they were the cool girls, with the short skirts and permanent sneers on their heavily made-up faces. They had attitude. They had respect. They had class. To say I was impressed would be putting it mildly. Me, well, I was the girl no one saw, or if they did, only to pick on or hurl insults at. They were my saviors—the answer to my prayers. Of course, even then I knew their friendship equaled more a case of pity than any real connection between us—and the fact I was willing to run to the canteen for them every lunchtime and act as lookout while they smoked in the school toilets. Yes, I was their lackey, their stooge, their social groupie, but at least I’d made the In Crowd, and for that reason, I was forever indebted to them for taking me under their wing that fateful day on the netball court.
The savagely bitchy atmosphere that prevailed throughout our formative high school years further strengthened our sisterly bond. By Year Nine, we were indisputably top of the teenage-girl food chain and ruled the Block A girls’ toilets with a ruthlessness that would have had seen Saddam Hussein crossing his legs and holding it in rather than risk running the gantlet of the smoky cubicles. Yes, we had finally found our foothold in the vicious world that constituted senior high school.
“It’s not my fault, you see,” I sobbed, grabbing another handful of tissues. “If I hadn’t been bullied into going out with the girls, to that stupid RSL club, I wouldn’t even be here. Jeez, it’s not like we’re still at school. But, no, my Dad had to get me out of the house, even if it meant going straight to Loser Hell, thanks to that bloody retro disco.”
Not that I would be gyrating my wobbly bits on the dance floor. My role as passive observer and handbag minder had been firmly established years before with my girlfriends’ decree that my ‘unique style of dance-floor expression’ was scaring off any potential action of the male variety. It wasn’t all bad news, though. In recognition of my noble sacrifice I’d be kept supplied in alcohol as payoff to ensure my ongoing cooperation. Thus continued my role as protector of the sacred table.
After all, as Rachel was quick to point out, where you sit in these social occasions is a direct reflection of your status within the hierarchy of the nightclub. Sit too close to the bar, you’re labeled an alcoholic. Too close to the toilets, you must be a lesbian. Too close to the door and everyone spills their drinks on you, and the only people who sit right next to the dance floor are, of course, losers.
Our table therefore was strategically the most sought after in the nightclub and jealously guarded. Not only did it give us a clear vantage point from which to spot any hunks as they walked through the door, but it was close enough to the toilets―but not too close to be considered creepy―in the event one of us might have mixed our Kahlua and milks with one too many bourbons, white wines or worse still, Tequila Slammers, and a toilet bowl and a moment of solitude were desperately required.
Walking into the foyer of the RSL that night, I experienced a mixture of disappointment, excitement and apprehension after my six-week self-imposed exile.
Excitement at finally, after three years, being able to fit into my favorite black leather miniskirt again―a broken heart is infinitely more effective than a Jenny Craig diet. Apprehension at the remote possibility of running into the Two-timing Lying Bastard as I made my triumphant return to society. And, to my disappointment, the Club foyer was still hideously furbished in the same bold purple, red and brown décor that once enjoyed a very brief period of being fashionable―May 1977 to January 1978, to be precise―before the rest of the civilized world moved onto the shag-pile and orange Formica era.
I’m not sure what I was expecting. Maybe a brass band to welcome me back into the fold. But realizing that everyone else’s lives had carried on in my absence, callously unaware of my recent lifestyle changes, began to put things in perspective for me.
That was until I went to sign in.
Then I experienced a stab of uncertainty. After all, for the first time since the breakup I’d been faced with the question of whether I’d be resorting to my maiden name, or simply tack a Ms. to the prefix of his devil-scorned surname. A difficult decision to make, seeing as the Two-timing Lying Bastard’s surname was the only decent thing I got out of the marriage.
For two years, five months and four days I had proudly gone by the name of Mrs. Fiona Maxwell, grateful at last to finally leave behind forever Miss Fiona McCrutchen, a name that had caused me endless grief since the moment of my conception, peaking to excruciating torment during my school years.
For months prior to my ill-fated marriage I had proudly practiced writing Mrs. Fiona Maxwell, Mrs. F. Maxwell and even Mr. and Mrs. T. Maxwell over and over for hours on end, until even the girls had begun hinting that maybe I was just marrying him for his nice, normal-sounding surname. In hindsight, they might have been right. After all, using marriage as an excuse to lose a last name that had plagued me since birth might not have been a solid enough reason to vow before God and eighty invited guests, to love, honor and cherish until death do us part—and in the process nearly bankrupt my parents with the cost of the wedding.
Well, decision time. I halted my hand at M and considered my options. Reverting back to McCrutchen would surely reopen the trauma of a childhood spent trying to ignore the chants of horrid little boys yelling “McCrusty, McCrusty”, but, on the other hand, remaining normal, sane Fiona Maxwell was almost akin to saying I still hungered after his body. Ummm, somehow, I don’t think so!
And with that last thought, Ms. Fiona McCrutchen was officially welcomed back into the Merryland’s Returned Servicemen’s League.