I open my eyes and it is the first thing I think: I went to sleep unpublished, and now I am published. Here, in this bed.
The sun outside is the same. The ticking of the clock in the hallway whose batteries have run out is the same; its ticks are dull and stilted, but still there. The way the cat seems to know I am awake and arrives noisily in the bedroom as soon as I open my eyes.
But now I am published.
I slept badly, knew it must be after midnight by the time I slept, but I ignored it. It was still today so long as it was dark. Tomorrow was for the morning.
And now it is tomorrow, and I am published.
I get up and pull my dressing gown around me. It was almost fifty pounds, bought from M&S the winter my first novel was rejected by publishers. I bought it to write in, and to comfort myself, and because handing my debit card over temporarily always seems to make me feel much better, and here I am now in the grey dressing gown with the white hood, an author published by Penguin, standing alone in her bedroom in the first of the spring sun.
We have a geeky itinerary, my boyfriend, my dad and I. They asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to go to every single location that was stocking my book. They did not roll their eyes or exchange looks, as they often do. They nodded back, seriously, and then we made a nerdy list.
I’m tired and feeling strangely feverish in the car – symptoms I will later see are clearly anxiety – and, on the way to my dad’s, we pass a Tesco, and I cannot – just cannot – resist. ‘My books are in there,’ I say, and my boyfriend indicates left and pulls in, no further words spoken.
We head to the news-stand and – oh! There it is. Not a surprise, or a defining life moment, or a shock, to see my book with its own poster and the Sun Book Club promotion, but actually more a quiet moment of recognition, like seeing a very old friend across a room. ‘I made you, and look at you now, out here in the wild,’ I think, and, unable to resist, I reach over and pat one, just on its shoulder. ‘I hope you do well,’ I say. My boyfriend looks at me like I am mad.
My father tells the woman in Asda that the book he is buying is mine. She doesn’t believe us, and he shows her his debit card, and my book. The surnames match, and she cries.
People on Instagram are using the #EverythingButTheTruth hashtag. A group of people who all get the bus to Hinkley are all reading it together and discussing it on the bus. Somebody bought it in Tesco to take on an aeroplane with them. Someone’s taken a photograph of their favourite quote in the book and filtered it. These things, they did not exist before I created them, and here they are, out in the world, a tiny speck of a legacy. Even if it is on bloody Instagram.
The sales email arrives. I have had cold hands all lunchtime, wondering when it will come. My eyes look for the numbers before the words, because I am like this.
There they are.
Then look again.
Then close the email, and immediately re-open it. After three days of sales, I – and Everything But The Truth, together – have become Sunday Times Bestsellers. We debuted at number 17. I close the email and go and find the Bookseller chart, then open it again. The chart position matches what it says in the email. It cannot be true. I cannot be this lucky. This fortunate.
I tell my boyfriend, who is (flatteringly) not at all surprised. He buys me peanut butter cups and a red wine I’ve recently enjoyed.
‘Weird, isn’t it?’ I say.
‘Very,’ he says back. ‘But kind of cool.’