It seems that recently, Real Life has pushed blogging to the back of the queue and therefor I have once again missed my allocated slot for a blog tour. (I wonder if you can get a “Sorry, I missed my Blog Tour Slot” Cards) Anyway, slightly later than billed, please find the next instalment of the short story that Sonya Lalli kindly wrote for five lucky bloggers.
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! Read here (Part 1 – www.handwrittengirl.com), here (Part 2 – @Bibliobeth) and here ( Part 3 – @hellosweety26)to catch up on Serena’s story and read about her first two dates. – Sonya Lalli
“He should be here any minute,” Shaylee says, as she flicks her eye towards the door.
Serena looks at her watch. It’s just past 11:15 pm.
“You’re running out of time.”
“He’ll be here, OK?”
While she’d been on her dates with Red Chinos and Michael, Shaylee had stealthily taken Serena’s phone and loaded up all the dating apps she could find: Hinge, Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, Match.com. Within minutes, she said she’d found a guy who seemed promising – a guy called Raj who, coincidentally, lived just off Yonge Street and was free for a “quick drink” before going to sleep.
Apparently, he had to be up early to volunteer the next morning. While Shaylee thought that sounded sweet, Serena’s almost sure it’s a line.
“There he is.”
Serena nonchalantly glances towards the door. The guy walking in is wearing thick-framed glasses, jeans and a sports jacket covering a body that’s lanky, yet fit. Annoying, he is exactly Serena’s type.
Shaylee waves him over and then heads towards the bar before Serena can play the panicked victim and force her stay. She knows that Shaylee has briefed Raj about the three-date deal, and that Serena hadn’t actually picked him out herself, but still she’s nervous.
But what did she have to be nervous about? He was late, so the date would be less than an hour. And then she could go watch Mean Girls with Shaylee, and forget the whole thing had ever happened. She could forget about all the guys who’d hurt her, and quit dating altogether.
“Hi,” she says, as he sits down.
He seems nervous, too, and they start with broad, easy questions. Raj was born in Chicago but has lived in Toronto for the past five years working in business development. He’s Punjabi Sikh, and when Serena tells him she’s Guajarati Hindu, he assures her that their different backgrounds wouldn’t be a problem for his family. She tells him that, in theory, it wouldn’t be problem for her family either.
An awkward silence follows, and so she flags down the waiter and orders another glass of wine. Raj orders a whiskey coke, and then they move onto other topics. The weather. The Toronto Maple Leafs. Their jobs. The more they talk, the easier it gets, and within twenty minutes she decides that she likes him. Or could like him.
“And what do you do when not working, Serena?” he asks, after she’s told him all about her company’s latest marketing campaign.
“I’m a foodie.”
“Toronto has such an amazing food scene – well, I just love eating out. I love eating, to be honest. And trying out new recipes. I run an amateur food blog.”
She nods. “It’s nothing special, but I get quite a few clicks these days. Kitchenware companies and new restaurants sometimes send me freebies.”
“Seems like you’re a good woman to know.”
She shrugs, unsure if that’s true.
“Have you tried El Dorado?”
She grins. “Have I tried it? It’s only my favourite restaurant – well, besides my Mom’s kitchen.”
When he returns a smile, Serena knows he’s about to ask her to dinner there. That he will now feel the need to wine and dine her, impress her, and pretend he knows as much about food and cooking and wine as she does. If they find other common ground, if they eventually shared their true selves with one another, then maybe they’d keep seeing each other. She’d go to gudwara with him, and invite him to her parents’ house for a homemade Guajarati feast. They’d keep dating, and grow even more serious…
And then? Maybe they’d get married, have children, buy a house together in Brampton. But more likely, one of them would break the other’s heart.
“Serena, would you like –”
“Raj, can I be honest with you?”
He smiles. “You’re not that into me?”
“I am. Well, I could be. You seem great. Any other day I’d totally, totally want to see you again.”
“But not today?”
She stares at him blankly, unsure about how to respond. Because the truth is that today, James – the first guy that has given her hope in ages – has stood her up. Today, it still makes her sad to think about her ex-boyfriend Kris, a guy she’d genuinely loved and with whom she’d wanted to create a life. Today, the idea of having to build something from scratch with a complete stranger seems utterly exhausting.
She looks at her hands, and eventually shakes her head. “Not today.”
He stands up, and she does too. They give each other a hug goodbye, and she insists on paying for his drink. She takes his number, promises to call if she changes her mind, and then he leaves.
Maybe she would change her mind. About Raj, about her quest to give up dating all together, but today’s simply not the day.
Release Date: 10th August 2017
Published by: Orion
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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.
Sonya Lalli is a Canadian writer of Indian heritage. She studied law in her hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and at Columbia University in New York City. She completed an MA in Creative Writing and Publishing at City University London in 2015, and currently works as a journalist at a legal magazine in London. She has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and loves travel, yoga, piano, reading and cocktail bartending..