Just Haven't Met You Yet

Just Haven't Met You Yet

by Sophie Cousens

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Overview

From the New York Times bestselling author of This Time Next Year comes a heartwarming and hilarious tale that asks: What if you picked up the wrong suitcase and fell head over heels for its mystery owner?


Hopeless romantic and lifestyle reporter Laura’s business trip to the Channel Islands isn’t off to a great start. After an embarrassing encounter with the most attractive man she’s ever seen in real life, she arrives at her hotel and realizes she’s grabbed the wrong suitcase from the airport. Her only consolation is its irresistible contents, each of which intrigues her more and more. The owner of this suitcase is clearly Laura’s dream man. Now, all she has to do is find him.

Besides, what are the odds that she’d find The One on the same island where her parents first met and fell in love, especially as she sets out to write an article about their romance? Commissioning surly cab driver Ted to ferry her around seems like her best bet in both tracking down the mystery suitcase owner and retracing her parents’ footsteps. But as Laura’s mystery man proves difficult to find—and as she uncovers family secrets—she may have to reimagine the life, and love, she always thought she wanted.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593331521
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/09/2021
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 378
Product dimensions: 8.10(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Sophie Cousens worked as a TV producer in London for more than twelve years and now lives on the island of Jersey in the UK, balancing her writing career with working for an arts charity and taking care of her two small children. She is the author of This Time Next Year.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

"Shall we begin?" I ask the couple on the sofa. "If you just tell me your story as naturally as possible, and remember to keep your eyeline to me rather than looking directly at the camera."

Sian and Paul both smile and nod. She is a redhead with neatly drawn makeup. He is a bodybuilder type with a jaw square enough to put him in a Marvel comic. While the cameraman, Dylan, makes a few final lighting adjustments, Paul whispers something in Sian's ear, gently stroking her knee with the back of his hand. In the small studio, I am close enough to see the skin on her leg rise into goose bumps. When was the last time another person's touch gave me goose bumps? Seriously, when? I literally can't think of a time, unless you count two weeks ago, when someone barged into me holding a frozen chicken in the freezer aisle at the supermarket.

"All set," Dylan says, and the light on his camera stops flashing and settles to a constant red.

"So, Paul, Sian, tell me-how did you meet?" I ask. It is the question I start all these interviews with.

"Well, it's a little embarrassing," says Sian, pressing her fingertips to her lips like a fifties pinup girl. "I was criminally drunk after a friend's hen do, and when I got back to my flat in the early hours, I had the silly idea of making popcorn on the stove. Of course, I then forgot all about it and passed out on my bed."

"We got a call from a flat across the road, saying someone's kitchen was on fire," says Paul. "I'm a firefighter, see."

"I think they can see that, honey." Sian smiles, framing his torso with her hands to show off the fireman's outfit I asked him to wear for the interview. I don't know how he isn't boiling alive under all those layers. The studio is tiny and windowless; it's a single-camera setup with just a couple of studio lights, our distinctive red sofa, and the Love Life logo prominent on the wall behind. The lights heat the room up fast, but Paul and Sian still look like freshly unboxed Barbie and Action Man. Maybe it's only me who's feeling hot and flustered.

"I was oblivious to any of this." Sian laughs.

"I had to kick the door down, put the fire out, and rescue the damsel in distress," Paul says, turning to give the camera a brooding pout.

"Only I didn't think I needed rescuing. I was still a little hazy after too many gin slings." She gives me a wink.

"I had to carry her out over my shoulder-"

"A proper fireman's lift-I was kicking and screaming all the way down the fire escape."

"I got bruises," he says, eyebrows knitting together in mock hurt.

"I'm sorry, honey." She kisses him on the cheek, he squeezes her knee, and they give each other a love-soaked look. I can practically hear the crackle of electricity between them.

If you put "hot fireman to get rescued by" into Google, I'm pretty sure a photo of Paul would come up. If I were to ever set my kitchen on fire, I guarantee, it would be a scary schoolmarm-type firewoman coming to save me. Someone who would give me a stern lecture on smoke alarm maintenance. As I look at Sian and Paul gazing into each other's eyes, I'm torn between being super happy that they found each other, and just a tiny bit jealous that these situations never seem to happen to me.

"So, we sent Sian to hospital to get checked for smoke inhalation, standard procedure," Paul goes on, "and once my shift ended, I figured I'd go check how she was doing."

"Do you do that for everyone you rescue?" I ask, turning to give the camera my best knowing look.

"Well, she might have stuck in my memory more than most." He lifts his hand to stroke a tendril of her wavy, red hair. "This is one flame I never want to put out."

"Awww . . ." I say, feeling a genuine pang of emotion at their evident connection. Our viewers are going to love this guy-body of iron, heart of a marshmallow.

"He came to see me in the hospital," she says, fluttering her eyelashes, "but I'd sobered up by then. I was worried where my cat had got to in the fire, so I sneaked out before being properly discharged."

"We were in the same lift before I realized it was her." He's started caressing her leg again.

"Then the lift goes and breaks-would you believe it?" Sian sighs, nuzzling into his shoulder. "Forty-five minutes later, I was in love."

"It only took me ten minutes to know she was the girl I wanted to spend the rest of my life talking to."

How many times have I been in a lift in my lifetime? Probably four hundred. OK, that was a complete guess, I've got no idea how many times I've been in a lift. But it's a lot, and not once have I been in one that's broken down, and I've certainly never been trapped in one with a remotely eligible guy. Maybe the part of the universe that is in charge of meet-cutes also has jurisdiction over lift malfunctions.

"Sweetie," Sian whispers as she tilts her face toward him.

They kiss for the camera, and it's not a demure, other-people-are-in-the-room kind of kiss; it's a proper let's-race-home-and-rip-each-other's-clothes-off kiss. I bet she gets him to wear his fireman's outfit in bed. I shake my head, trying to stop my mind from wandering down these inappropriate thought alleys. But then I look back up and she's nibbling his earlobe.

Maybe it was easier to do these interviews when I wasn't single. My ex, David, and I weren't exactly having goose bumps-inducing sex, but clearly it was enough to stop me from feeling jealous when faced with crazily loved-up couples.

What if I never find a connection like these two have? The thought brings a lump to my throat. Everyone assumes single girls approaching thirty spend their time stressing about whether they'll ever get to have a wedding or a baby. But for me, I'm more concerned that I'll never know what it feels like to have that kind of life-altering connection with someone, and that I'll never get to experience sex like they have in the movies. I know, I know, movie sex isn't real-it's all choreographed and everyone orgasms together, like a perfectly conducted orchestra, but surely someone must be having mind-blowing sex like they do in The Notebook. These guys, these guys are having sex like that.

"Don't try this at home, people," I say, turning to the camera with my most cheerful not-thinking-about-sex-voice. "We don't advise burning your house down to find your perfect partner. Ha-ha. If you've got a great story of how you met and would like to feature on How Did You Meet? please get in touch via the website. We love hearing your amazing real-life love stories! I'm Laura Le Quesne, reporting for Love Life-
'Love what you buy, buy what you love.'"

I look over at Dylan to signal it's a cut, then jump up to open the door and let in some cooler air. We hire the studio and all the equipment by the hour, so I need to be mindful of the amount of takes we do.

"Guys, that was perfect, you were brilliant, adorable," I say, then scrunch my eyes closed in frustration. "Oh wait, I forgot to ask about the cat. Was the cat OK?"

Silence for a moment, and Sian lets go of Paul's hand.

"No, well . . ." She hugs her arms around herself. "It turned out Paul's fire truck ran Felicia over. She had to be put down."

Paul squeezes Sian's shoulder and shakes his head.

"Oh-I'm so sorry," I say, mirroring their sad body language. "Well, I think maybe it's best we leave that detail out-might be a bit of a buzzkill for our viewers."

Sian flinches ever so slightly. It looks like I've killed the sexy mood by mentioning the dead cat, and now they're not going to rush home and rip each other's clothes off. No sex for anyone! Woo-hoo!

What is wrong with me? I'm a horrible person.

I have three more interviews scheduled that morning: a couple from Liverpool who met sheltering from a lightning storm (they called their first child Light Ning Jones-seriously), a couple from North London born in the same hospital on the same day who reconnected and fell in love thirty years later (what are the chances?), and a couple from Nottingham who met as cancer patients on the same ward. Their oncology doctor was the maid of honor at their wedding.

By the end of the morning, I am emotionally drained. When the cancer woman says, "I might have lost all my hair in that hospital, but I found my heart," I let out a sob so loud I have to ask her to say it again two more times so we can get a clean take.

Don't get me wrong, I love these stories. "How did you meet?" is my all-time favorite question-the first thing I ask anyone in a relationship. I love hearing how people's paths have crossed in seemingly random ways, and how that chance encounter has affected the direction of their lives so profoundly. I'm your classic hopeless romantic. And yet recently, perhaps since losing Mum, I've been finding it harder to witness other people's "happily ever afters."

Maybe it was easier to be happy for other people when I felt my own soulmate might be just around the corner, but I keep turning corners, and no one is ever there.



Once we've wrapped filming, I walk through Soho on my way back to the office and pass the alleyway off Carnaby Street where Vera's Vintage, a grotto of secondhand clothes and jewelry, is tucked away. I haven't been inside a shop like this since Mum died, but today I find myself standing in front of the window, peering into the Aladdin's cave within.

When I was a child, Mum and I spent every weekend driving around the country in her worn-out Morris Minor, following a trail of flea markets and vintage fairs. She could scour a car-boot sale for treasure better than anyone; she had a magpie's eyes. Mum used to tell me that objects hold memories. That the more owners an object had had, the more meaning that object possessed. If what she said was true, her drawers and cupboards had been stuffed full of more meaning than anywhere else in the known universe.

She collected old jewelry to repurpose it, to give it new life. It started out as a hobby, but then she found people wanted to buy what she was making. Her jewelry was the one thing I didn't know what to do with when I packed up her house. I'm still paying forty pounds a month to keep the boxes in a storage locker in Wapping; a tax on deferred decisions. I press my hand against the shop window. Just looking at the treasures on display sends a skewer of pain into the everyday ache of missing her.

At the front of the shop window, near my hand, a ruby brooch-a beautiful stone in a weathered silver setting, the trace of writing just visible. I feel a flutter of excitement; is there anything more romantic than an old engraving? I imagine those scratched letters to be a clue, waiting for me to unravel the story they hold, just like the coin I've worn around my neck since I was fifteen. My hand reaches up to the pendant, the place my hand always goes to when I'm thinking about Mum. As I'm inventing a romantic backstory for the ruby brooch in the window, a man in a long camel coat leaves the shop. He drops something, a piece of paper, so I pick it up and call after him.

"Excuse me, you dropped this."

He turns around and looks me square in the eyes. He's in his thirties with salt-and-pepper hair, deep-set eyes, and a regal nose. He's attractive, in a Roman emperor sort of way. And for some reason, maybe it's the emotional morning I've had, or the fact that I'm thinking about Mum, but I just get a feeling that maybe this could be the beginning of my "How did you meet?" Sexy Caesar drops a receipt, I pick it up, we get to talking about vintage jewelry, stare into each other's eyes, and then kablammo, we just know: This is it; we've finally found each other.

"What?" he says.

"You dropped this." I reach out my hand to give him the piece of paper, tucking a strand of blond hair behind my ear and furnishing him with my warmest smile.

"I don't need it." He waves a dismissive hand at me and turns to go.

"Hey, wait," I call after him. "You can't just drop paper in the street."

The man stops, turns, and scowls at me, as though I'm a small dog that's just peed on his gray suede loafers.

"Who are you, the street police?" he asks, shaking his head as he turns to leave.

"If everyone dropped their receipts, then where would we be? We'd be ankle-deep in old receipts, that's where!" I call after him, still inexplicably waving the piece of paper in the air as though I've found one of Willy Wonka's golden tickets.

"Piss off, litter witch," he calls over his shoulder. I let out an indignant puff of air. OK, maybe that wasn't my "How did you meet?" after all. I've probably dodged a bullet, anyway. He might have been good-looking, but I wouldn't want the love of my life to be a litterbug.



Jersey Evening News-23 May 1991

FOUND: Half a ha' penny, with "Jersey, '37" just legible on the reverse. Inscribed on the face are the words: "the whole world is for me divided . . ." Seeking information about the origins of this coin. Are you or your family in possession of the other half? It may be inscribed with the words, ". . . into two parts." Any information, please contact Annie; Bristol PO BOX 1224.


Chapter 2

Pushing through the double doors on the third floor of the Beak Street building, I can see Suki already holding court in the glass-walled meeting room. A dozen of my colleagues sit in two neat rows listening with rapt attention. Editor in chief of Love Life, Suki Cavendish is a slim four foot eleven with a keen aversion to heels, yet she always manages to be the most prepossessing person in any room. Today she is dressed in a tailored cream jumpsuit with her black hair pulled into a taut chignon.

Carefully opening the glass door of the meeting room, I creep to the only free seat left, right at the front. The only thing Suki hates more than lateness is"‘freegans who shun consumer society". I'm only two minutes late, but Suki stops talking and everyone turns to look at me. My friend and flatmate Vanya shoots me a sympathetic look from the end of the row.

"Nice of you to join us, Laura," Suki says, one eyebrow darting up her forehead. "Since you’re already standing, perhaps you can help me today?"

Oh great – I'm in the hot seat. Suki likes to punctuate her monthly round-ups with a Q&A full of impossible rhetorical questions. It's like being on a game show that you can never win.

"What are we doing here, Laura?" Suki’s lips pout in my direction, like a canon preparing to fire.
"Having a meeting?"

Everyone laughs, which makes me even more nervous. I wasn’t trying to be funny; Suki does not like funny.

"No, what are we doing here?" Suki glares at me, lifting her hand up to indicate I should stay standing while I’m in the hot seat.

Though Suki is short, she refuses to raise her eye level to look at people taller than her. I once heard her tell a male client that she didn't see why she should give herself neck ache – if people want to look her in the eye, they can come down to her level. As a result, when you speak to her, you find yourself hovering in a crouch position. Vanya swears that she once saw a particularly tall IT guy have a whole meeting with Suki on his knees.

"Do we all show up at this office for fun?" Suki asks. "Are we here designing blueprints for atomic submarines? What are we doing, Laura?"

"Um, working for one of the top lifestyle platforms in the UK?" Yes! I remembered to call it a lifestyle platform. Suki doesn't like it being referred to as a website, she thinks it's reductive. Love Life started out as purely interiors, but now covers everything from real life stories to beauty products and travel. 

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