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Authors: Sally-Ann Jones

Love: Classified

BOOK: Love: Classified
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By Sally-Ann Jones






Cover design: Erin Steenson

Chapter One


Perth, Western Australia, January 2013


My life was miraculously transformed by a
classified ad placed by a lonely guy in the free suburban newspaper that got stuffed into my mailbox once a week.

I hardly ever read this paper, but it was a Sunday morning and I didn’t have any plans, apart from a bit of gardening and going to the office later. I’d read the major weekend press from cover to cover, cut out some of the recipes, finished the crossword and the soduku. And here I was in my favourite chair on the back verandah, flipping through the pages because I was bored. Towards the back of the almost week-old publication, the classifieds started.

Ads for tradespeople, dog-walkers, house-sitters. Under the banner “Possibilities” there were ads for the desperate: women seeking men, men seeking men, women seeking women, men seeking women. In this column – men seeking women – there were the usual pleas and it seemed to me that all the men wanted pretty much the same thing. Slimness. If I needed to be reminded yet again why I was single, why I hadn’t even been kissed by a bloke since the Year Twelve ball, this was it.

I went to stand up to put the kettle on for another cup of tea, which wouldn’t taste good unless there was a biscuit to go with it, when the paper slid off my lap. I bent to pick it up and for the first time noticed the ad under my right index finger.

“China or Elsewhere,” was the heading: “Looking for travel experiences to make the
Lonely Planet
guide wonder if they’re on the same planet? Then I’m the travel buddy for you. You’re over sixteen, under one hundred and six, and you’re packing for a holiday to who knows where, starting ASAP. First leg in my trusty camper van. Reply Voice Mail Box 4440005656.”

     I smiled. I liked the way the ad read. I’m a journalist, so I enjoy words and the way people can
make them their own. I could hear his voice, just from the ad. Or so I imagined. Anything could set off a fantasy. Me and a divine guy. The clichéd tall, dark and handsome hunk with a deep warm voice, holding me in his arms. Me. Size Eighteen on a good day. A mop of untamed hair – untamed because why would someone who looks like me spend more than a hundred bucks a shot at the hairdressers. Who’d notice? Me and my freckles and the hair that got in my eyes.
There we are, him and me.
Yeah. It was always going to be a fantasy.  

     So I tossed the paper on the kitchen table on my way to the kettle.
But the fantasy played on in my brain as I filled it. I imagined his broad hands travelling over my back and down, proprietorially, to my left buttock.
Ooh yes.
While he squeezes and kneads my soft bum as if he adores it, his mouth’s on mine, his tongue playing against my lips before forcing them open and thrusting inside my mouth, doing what I burn for him to do lower down with another part of his hard strong body. His hands slide up and around to my brea
– oh damn, the kettle was overflowing. I turned off the tap, ashamed of myself, so aroused that my knickers were wet. I’d had these kinds of fantasies since I was about fifteen.

It was high time I grew up. Accepted that no amount of dreaming would actually get me any closer to finding myself any kind of man, much less the perfect stud who lived in my imagination. I could go on a diet. Join a gym. Buy some stylish clothes. Sign up for one of those dating agencies that do dinners for six or outings for twenty or discreet one-on-ones. Or even an online meeting site. But hell, I was close to forty. Thirty-five, actually, but heading for the big Four-Oooh. I’d done the diets, lost weight for a few weeks or months and then put it all on again plus a few extra pounds for my trouble. If I had a dollar for every time I’d put my name down on a gym membership list over the last two decades I could buy myself a live-in personal trainer and feed him caviar and
beef every night. I’d joined a social club for people my age but I was always the wallflower or the one that other women confided in. The men took one look at me and stayed away.

I’d been on internet sites where you put in your credentials and wait for a virtual kiss but none had come my way. I couldn’t pretend to be beautiful – and beautiful is what every man wants. My profile always told it like it is: “Hi, my name’s Virginia Brook. I love people and dogs and beach rambles. I enjoy spending hours in the kitchen preparing scrumptious things for those who are special to me. My life isn’t empty, but I am looking for a certain person to spoil, a person who will spoil me too.” Nobody responded. The photo would’ve scared them off.

     I slunk back to my chair with the tea and a couple of chocolate biscuits. I dunked one into the mug
, sucked the melting deliciousness and looked at the chooks to take my mind off the ad and the possibilities, or lack of them to be more precise. The chooks are also some of the things I love but I didn’t put that in my profile because it might put people off even more. Who’s going to want a woman whose favourite way to spend the day – apart from going to the office – was staying in her PJs and flip-flops and mucking about with a dozen Isa Brown hens and a herb collection? The girls, as I call them, were doing their usual morning things – clucking about among the rows of sweetcorn and beans, peering under last nasturtium leaves for bugs, digging bowls in the soil for their sand-baths. Above them, willy wagtails and rainbow parrots darted in and out of the bottlebrush which was aflame with bright red blossom. And, in the background, the waves at Cottesloe beach a few streets away alternately purred and crashed against the sand. I smiled. Who needed a man, anyway?

     Later in the morning, I nailed chicken wire across the back corner of the garden and planted
out some basil I’d grown from seed. The sun drew the perfume from the leaves and immediately I was in Venice.
A tub of basil growing outside a canalside café. Two plates of gnocchi cooked with a sauce made of four cheeses and tiny nuggets of walnuts. Two glasses of prosecco, gondolas gliding past in both directions. I’m at a table under a sunshade, he’s opposite, about to raise his glass. He looks at me knowingly, appreciatively, a smile on his full lips. He knows everything there is to know about me: he’s been to every secret corner of my mind and to every private centimetre of my body. His pupils are huge, black, a sure sign he wants me again. I slip one sandal off and lift my foot to the hard bulge between his legs. He groans softly as my toes tickle the part of him that strains and bucks under my toes.
Instantly, a shiver rippled through me, reconnecting me with my own bulky body and not the one I owned when I was day-dreaming. I was back in my garden, ashamed of myself again, wondering why on earth I had the ability to bring myself to maximum pleasure when I knew for a fact that some women who look like models never experienced orgasm, even with the hottest man. As my breath slowed to normal, I wondered too why that damn ad was demanding so much of my attention, even when it was out of sight.

     I went inside, had a quick shower, got dressed and drove to the office. I edit
ed an online magazine called
It’s for women like me. Big women with big appetites. It was chock-full of recipes, home hints and tips for looking good. I didn’t write much of it and I mostly ignored the advice it gave. I had a team of writers working for me. It was funny, but none of them was supersized. Maybe that was why they could blithely dispense their words of wisdom. They really believed that if you decided you were going to give up carbs, you could do it. Even past day one. I loved pulling the mag together, laying out the pages, choosing the photos, writing the headlines. It felt more like a hobby than a job, yet it paid well. I liked being there on a Sunday because I didn’t get the emails and phone-calls that disrupted me during the week. Of course, I could have worked from home but I liked my office high up in one of the new buildings that pierced the Perth skyline, enjoying 360 degree views of the Swan River and, beyond, the Indian Ocean.


Peta was at her desk when I got there, which wasn’t unusual for a Sunday. She was as passionate about
as I was. We’d started out as cadets together on the city’s only daily newspaper and when I got the
job, I persuaded her to join me. She looked up from her computer and slid purple spectacles down from the top of her glossy silver-blonde head to her tiny retroussé nose.

“What’s up?” she asked, the diamond stud in her front tooth flashing. She wasn’t about to slide into dignified middle age any time soon. “You’re glowing, Ginny. Jeez I envy you. I feel like a shriveled old prune when I see you some days. What’s your secret?”

Oh I don’t feel as if I’m glowing,” I said, flopping into my big red swivel chair at the desk opposite hers. “I’ve been gardening out in the sun. Maybe that’s it. There’s lots of eggs today. If I’d known you were coming in I’d have brought some for you.”

     “No, it’s not just the sun that’s made you look so…” She searched for the word, rubbing her index finger along the side of her nose the way she always did when she was thinking. Her nails had diamond studs too. “Earth-motherish
,” she said. “You look positively fertile.”

     “That time of the month, I guess,” I laughed. “You should know. We always get our periods at the same time.”

     “Tell me about it. The one thing I won’t mind about being older is not getting them anymore.”

     “Actually, Pete,” I said while waiting for the computer to boot up, “I’m thinking of taking some leave.”

     “Yay! Who’d have thought? About bloody time. You never have a break. It’ll do you good. What will you do, though?”

     “Go away somewhere maybe, if
Jake wouldn’t mind looking after Barney, the chooks and the garden.” Jake’s the owner of the gourmet delicatessen on my street corner.

     “What’s brought this on?”
she asked, perching on the corner of my desk. She was wearing black leggings, bright red plastic sandals and a black tunic splashed with red roses. In her ears, big plastic rose earrings. Her lips were exactly the same red. “You never want to leave home.”

     “I saw this silly ad,” I confessed. “It got me thinking.

     “What ad? This isn’t like you, Ginny. You’re impervious to ads usually.”

     “It’s nothing,” I shrugged. “I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”

     “No, I can see it’s got to you. I knew something had happened the minute you
walked in the door. We go back a long way, Ginny. We look out for each-other. We’re like sisters. I’d tell you if I was considering a big change. So come on, out with it.”

     “You’ll think I’m crazy.”

     “I’d never think that. I know you too well. You’re the sanest person in the world.”

     “When I tell you about this ad, and my reaction to it, you’ll stop believing that.”

     “Oh come on. Spit it out. Now I’m intrigued.”

     I told her how I came to be reading the suburban rag and saw the ad with the line about the
Lonely Planet.

Jeez, Ginny,” she exploded, her red sandals almost smashing my face as she leapt off the desk and bounced down next to me, spinning my chair and jutting her face so close to mine that I could smell her toothpaste. “You’re right. I think you’re mad. If you answer that ad, you could be signing yourself up for all kinds of dangers and depravities. Don’t you dare do it. Look, let me go on the internet right now and find you something else. A cruise down the Danube. A four-wheel drive tour of Turkey. Cycling through the Loire valley. Elephant riding in India. Camels in Broome. Anything to distract you.”

     I shook my head and turned away from her. I amazed myself by being close to tears. What the hell had I been thinking? “You’re right,” I said. “It must’ve been sun-stroke.”

BOOK: Love: Classified
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