“Is it in there?” a friend says to me across a pub table. Well, no, not a pub table. A table in the bar of my father’s squash club, to be precise. We’ve set up a quiz team. We go sometimes on Thursday nights, when we have time. I drink too much Coke and eat cheese-flavoured crisps and put my feet on the radiator and laugh at funny things my friend, my boyfriend, and my father say. I don’t think about foreign tax forms or edits or anything adult at all on these Thursday nights. Not usually, anyway.
“Here it is,” I say, getting my book out. I take it, sometimes, to meet my friends.
I hand it across the table and pass it over. “Your nephew.”
“Nephew?” Dad says, looking at my friend who is holding the book, looking down at it.
“If I had a baby, my friends would be its aunts and uncles,” I say, which seems to make sense to me. My Dad shrugs, smiling. He is always smiling, these days. Since I sold my book.
“Look at it,” my friend says. “Mate, this is real.”
We look at my book on the table, saying nothing, until one of my Dad’s friends ambles over. “What’s this?” he says, nudging my book along the table.
“That would be my daughter’s book,” my Dad says, visibly puffing up. “Everything But The Truth.”
Dad’s friend picks up the book and looks at me. “Yours?” he says, looking flabbergasted. I nod.
Dad leaps up and points out the quotes on the back of my book. “It is a domestic noir.”
“Is it?” the man says, looking at me.
“Available for pre-order on Amazon,” my friend says. “See for yourself.”
“Thank you, sales and marketing,” I say, looking at the book. I used to wonder how authors whose books were out felt. Did they feel the same about each and every book, I would wonder; like having thousands of children, out in the world, whose form you would recognise in the train station and across the library and in the basement at Waterstones? But now there are already five copies of my book in my house and, tomorrow, after I finish this can of Coke and go home and go to sleep, many, many more books are being printed and sent out into the world. To bloggers and newspapers and authors and – well. The world.
I reach across the table, my fingers inching towards my novel, and I touch its beautiful grey matte cover. These are our last moments together, me and my book, with my close friends and my dad. It is still ours. This amazing thing that happened to us all. This thing we never believed could happen to somebody as ordinary as me.
Tomorrow, it becomes everybody else’s, too.