It’s always so exciting to be part of a new book’s publication day, and I’m thrilled to have an extract from The One by Maria Realf to share with you on Linda’s Book Bag.
Published by Harper Impulse, today 22nd March 2018, The One is available for purchase here.
Lizzie Sparkes should be the happiest girl in the world – she’s three months away from marrying The One in the wedding of her dreams! But then The One before the One walks back in to her life with a bombshell.
Alex’s unexpected return changes everything and now Lizzie faces an impossible dilemma. Because how can you leave the past behind you, when it’s standing right in front of you…asking you for one more chance?
An Extract from The One
13 weeks to go . . .
Finally, I’ve found The One! Lizzie Sparkes gazed at the full-length mirror in the changing room, hardly daring
to believe that it was her own reflection staring back. The Grecian gown was perfect, with tiny beads twinkling along the asymmetric strap, and a delicate train skimming the carpet as though it was practising for the Oscars. It wasn’t too tight, it wasn’t scratchy and it didn’t make her look like a human doily. The only downside was the eye- wateringly expensive price, but she had decided to overlook that part. It’ll be worth it when Josh sees me walking down the aisle, she reassured herself, a lump rising in her throat. I look almost . . . beautiful.
She was afraid to step out from the safety of the cubicle, in case the look on her mum’s face – or Megan’s – betrayed the fact that they didn’t feel the same. They were both polite when it came to watching her try on wedding gowns, and had patiently sat through some 30 or so now, but she knew them well enough to read the signs. When her mum wasn’t keen on a dress, she blinked three or four times in quick succession, while Megan pulled a weird half-smile that made her look as though she’d had a dodgy facelift. It was a total giveaway, every time.
Lizzie drew a deep breath and swept back the purple velvet curtain. She took a slow step out into the centre of the boutique, her dark hair swishing loosely behind her like a glossy veil. ‘W-O-W,’ said Megan.
Her mum promptly burst into tears, which was a more confusing reaction.
‘Mum? Don’t you like it?’
There was a long pause while Lynda Sparkes rummaged through her overcrowded handbag, before pulling out a crumpled tissue and nearly poking herself in her right eye. ‘Oh, Elizabeth,’ she sniffed, mascara smudging into her crows’ feet. ‘You look like a movie star.’
Yep, this is definitely The One . . .
The store manager tottered over in her nude skyscraper heels, clearly anticipating a hefty commission. ‘That dress looks amazing on you,’ she gushed. ‘It fits so well, you’d hardly need any alterations. We could maybe just take it up an inch or two.’ She bent down and folded the hem with her hands by way of demonstration, though it didn’t seem to make a great deal of difference. ‘What do you think?’
‘I’ll take it.’ The words popped out of Lizzie’s mouth before she had a chance to peek again at the price tag.
‘Excellent!’ The manager clapped her manicured hands loudly and two blonde minions, one tall and one tiny, raced over. ‘Let’s open some champagne, please, for Ms . . .’
‘Sparkes. Soon to be Cooper.’
‘Of course. I assume we’re all having some bubbly?’ ‘You assume right,’ said Megan. She was not the kind of girl to turn down champagne at any hour, especially if it was on the house.
‘Marvellous.’ Moments later the two blondes reappeared, one bearing a tray of glasses and the other carrying a bottle of fizz. The manager made an elaborate show of popping the cork and pouring it out with a flourish. ‘Well, congratulations!’
‘Thank you,’ smiled Lizzie, edging away from the drinks so as not to spill anything down the pristine white silk. After six long months of searching, she was still in shock that she had found the dress of her dreams. Everyone kept telling her that she would know the right one when she saw it, but she’d been starting to suspect that might be a bridal myth. Last week she’d had a nightmare that she arrived at the wedding in a gown made from loo roll, which began to unravel in front of all their guests. She’d woken up covered in sweat and couldn’t get back to sleep, but Josh thought it was hilarious when she relayed the story the next morning. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll still marry you if you turn up in Andrex,’ he joked. ‘And think how much money we’d save . . .’
It was easy for him to laugh, of course; he’d chosen his suit after just two shopping trips and looked like a male model in it, the slimline cut complementing his lean, athletic build. ‘You’re not supposed to upstage the bride,’ she’d only half-joked when he tried it on, feeling the pressure to pick an equally special outfit increase tenfold. It was a huge relief to have finally found something so perfect. ‘I can’t believe you’re getting married!’ squealed Megan, the bubbliness of the champers already kicking in. ‘And in that fabulous dress.’ She glanced over at Mrs Sparkes, who had finally managed to stop sobbing long enough to take a sip of her drink. ‘Mrs S, we’re really going to have to get you some waterproof eye make-up.’
‘Oh, I don’t think I can manage anything else today, love. I’m completely shopped out.’
‘Fair enough, but you’ll want some for the wedding. I’ll see what I can find at work.’ Megan was a journalist for a popular style website, and was sent so many samples that her bathroom was starting to resemble the cosmetics hall at Harrods. The retail worth of her monthly beauty booty was probably twice her modest salary.
She turned her attention back to her friend. ‘You’ll need to start thinking about bridal make-up too, Lizzie – plus there’s hair, underwear, shoes, not to mention my brides- maid’s outfit . . .’
‘I think I’d better get out of this dress first,’ said Lizzie. ‘Can you give me a hand, Meg?’
‘Sure, no problem. As long as I don’t have to help you to the loo on the day.’
Just then Megan’s mobile squawked like a melodramatic duck, and they both burst out laughing. ‘What on earth is that?’ asked Lizzie.
‘It’s my new email alert,’ grinned Megan, reaching for her phone. ‘It quacks me up.’
‘Oh, please stop. I swear your jokes are getting worse.’ She waited for the witty riposte, but suddenly realised her friend was no longer smiling. In fact, all the colour had flooded from her face, leaving her skin whiter than the row of wedding dresses behind her. ‘Megan? What’s wrong?’
The sound of her name seemed to snap Megan out of her trance, and she shook her curly blonde bob. ‘Nothing. It’s not important. Now, where were we?’ She put on her most lopsided smile, and Lizzie knew she was lying.
‘You were about to stop being weird and tell me what’s going on. Is everything OK?’
‘Yes, everything’s fine. I’ll fill you in later.’
‘Please fill me in now. You’re starting to freak me out.’ Megan looked around nervously, as if hoping someone might interrupt this awkward exchange, but Mrs Sparkes was deep in conversation with the manager, waffling on
about her own 1980s bridal gown. ‘Megan! What’s going on?’
‘Alright, I’ll tell you, but promise you won’t stress out, OK?’
‘Stress out about what?’
There was an uncomfortable pause. ‘Alex is back.’
(Now isn’t that tempting?)
About Maria Realf
Since graduating with a degree in multi-media journalism, Maria Realf has worked for many of the UK’s best-known magazines, including The Mail on Sunday’s YOU Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Cosmopolitan Bride, Fabulous, Marie Claire, Now and You & Your Wedding. In her spare time, Maria is also an all-round movie obsessive, theatre lover and karaoke enthusiast.