Amy Cole is a stay-at-home mum and a woman on the edge.
After a very public breakdown and failed suicide attempt, Amy finds herself trying to make it through her everyday life as a high-functioning zombie.
Elle De Bruyn is a force of nature ready to shake Amy back to life whether she likes it or not.
After a fortuitous meeting, the two embark on a journey together which will change them both and help them find out exactly what they’re capable of when rock bottom is just the beginning.
This extract takes place at Elle’s art class, where Amy has come along to discuss her marital problems. Amy and Ben have encountered a sex drought and it’s come to her attention that she needs to do something about it:
I hated talking about this type of thing. I was always embarrassed at the thought of anyone asking me about my sex life, or worse still, anyone asking me for advice on it. I was never comfortable in my own skin and although I was finally kind about my body (mostly) I would never dream of a world in which I would gladly step into a lingerie department and kit myself out for a night of kink with the husband.
“When’s the last time you fooled about with him, or anyone?” She quizzed.
“Yeah, maybe you can’t be bothered boning him because you’re doing the nasty with someone else.”
“Just so I know, how many euphemisms for sex should I expect in this conversation?”
“Few hundred I suspect.”
“Excellent,” I replied flatly.
I explained that I wasn’t sleeping with my husband because the sheer effort to shave my legs was enough to put me off the notion completely, never mind shave anywhere intimate to impress a new man.
“What has shaving got to do with it? I once let my underarm hair grow so long I was able to dye it violet. I couldn’t deal with the upkeep though, the dye kept sweating off and ruining my bed sheets.”
“Can we stick to my problem please?”
“Well, no, actually I have to teach. The world doesn’t revolve around your little-repressed arse. Now, sit over there. Here’s a pencil and try to keep your clothes on during this class.”
I snatched the pencil and glumly walked over to a free space. I had no idea why I agreed to this class. I can’t draw nor do I want to learn how to draw a bunch of grapes in a fruit bowl. I decided on doodling on the paper until someone needed their brushes washed. I didn’t need to wait long before hush descended on the class and Elle commanded yet another room she was at the centre of. I was starting to see a pattern here.
“We have a newbie tonight guys, this is Amy and she can’t draw for shit. Everyone say ‘hi’.”
I glared at her direction as I heard an unenthusiastic welcome from my classmates.
“Right, you know the score. The model will be changing position every five minutes so you guys have to get used to the movement and the change in shadows from every angle. Let’s get to work then.”
Model? Great, now I get to stare awkwardly at anywhere but the direction of this poor shmuck student, who is so broke they need to get their kit off in front of a room full of strangers.
The first thing I noticed about this stranger was that he wasn’t remotely young. He was old, not death-knocking-on-his-door old, but still old enough to know better. He was balding at the back and was wearing a cosy looking gown. As he turned to face us and bare all, as it were, I looked at the man and quickly realised he wasn’t a stranger at all. Instead, I saw the man I respected more than anyone else on the planet, the man who I measured all other men up against, the man whose penis was eye level with me and I had nowhere to run.
“MOTHER OF GOD, PUT IT AWAY!” I screamed as loudly as my lungs could manage.
“Amy? Oh, Christ what are you doing here? You can’t draw. Oh Jesus, don’t tell your mother. Givemethetowel, givemethetowel!”
In his hurry to grab the robe he managed to tumble sideways giving me – and the rest of the class – a full view of his anus. I was tempted just to gouge my eyes out with the pencil just so this horror would end.
Elle was busy trying to help my dad up, whilst shooting daggers at me for interrupting her precious class. I sat wringing my hands as if I were Lady Macbeth trying to get that damn spot out and I hadn’t realised I was muttering to myself until I felt someone’s hand on my shoulder trying to shake me back into the room.
“What the fuck is happening, Amy?” asked Elle.
I couldn’t manage words yet, I was still trying to process what had just happened.
“Damien you don’t have to raise your hands if you want to ask a question, this isn’t a classroom. Well, it is but you don’t need to be such a brown-nosing little twat,” she said.
He sheepishly put down his hand and said: “Was that one of his poses? Should we be sketching now?”
“No, Damien,” I said in my best attempt at keeping my voice steady, “I would prefer if you didn’t spend the next two hours sketching my father’s arsehole from memory.”
Unfortunately, by the time I reached the end of the sentence I was screaming again. My fingers rubbed at my temples and I was waiting for the room to stop spinning. By the time I looked up my dad was nowhere to be seen and I could see Elle struggling to contain her laughter. I shot a look which seemed to convey ‘I dare you to laugh, I double dare you’ and it seemed to do the trick because her cheeks dropped and her face was serious once more.
“Where is my father?” I asked.
“He must be getting changed in the storeroom; maybe you should go have a chat with him?”
“You think?” I replied as sarcasm dripped from my voice.
I picked up my jacket and bag and headed towards the storeroom in order to confront my exhibitionist father. I knocked the door deliberately and louder than necessary to ensure that I wasn’t going to be walking into anything else mentally scarring.
He opened the door, just a fraction, so I could see one eye peering out from his cupboard of shame.
“Are you kidding me, dad?”
“Amy, just meet me outside. We can go grab a drink and have a chat.”
About Elizabeth McGivern
Elizabeth McGivern is a former journalist turned hostage-in-her-own-home surrounded by three men and a horrible dog named Dougal.
In an effort to keep her sanity she decided to write a parenting blog after the birth of her first son so she can pinpoint the exact moment she failed as a mother.
In an unexpected turn of events, the blog helped her to find a voice and connect with parents in similar situations; namely those who were struggling with mental health issues and parenting. It was because of this encouragement – and wanting to avoid her children as much as possible – her debut novel, Amy Cole has lost her mind, was born.
Elizabeth lives in Northern Ireland although wishes she could relocate to Iceland on a daily basis. To witness her regular failings as a parent you can find her on: www.mayhemandbeyond.com .