Looking for La La

Looking for La La

by Ellie Campbell

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780991538119
Publisher: Across the Pond
Publication date: 06/18/2014
Pages: 372
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.77(d)

About the Author

Ellie Campbell is a pseudonym for sisters, Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell, who collaborate from their respective homes in Surrey, England and Colorado, USA. Their novels 'HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR SISTERS' and 'WHEN GOOD FRIENDS GO BAD' are published in the UK by Arrow Books and also available as e-books.

Read an Excerpt

Looking for La La

A Novel


By Ellie Campbell

Across the Pond Press

Copyright © 2014 Ellie Campbell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-9915381-1-9


CHAPTER 1

Not a sound is heard as it lands silently on the mat. No drums rolls, crashing thunder, shafts of light. The walls don't start crumbling, the ground doesn't vibrate with terrifying tremors and a yawning fissure fails to zigzag across the kitchen floor and separate my husband from his breakfast marmalade.

In short, I've no clue as to the impact it'll have on our lives. Mayhem. Marital breakdown. Murder. It should at least have been written in blood or come in the beak of a dark-winged raven.

It is a postcard. "Love from London" blazoned above a giant pair of pouting lips kissing a cherry-red heart.

At first sight it appears to be one of those "Please Come to Our Rave" flyers which get thrust through my door periodically. Now the chances of me, a world- weary, put-upon mother-of-two, going to a rave are slim to none, but heck it's nice to be invited.

I turn it over.

Dearest, sweetest Declan – it begins. My eyes widen as I take in the blue spidery handwriting and race to the signature. 'Love from La La.'

A tiny blip courses through me as I beetle down the hall attempting to identify the exact emotion I'm feeling.

Jealousy?

No.

Anger?

Nah.

It's – I recognise it now – excitement. A blip of excitement forcing its merry way around my clogged up veins.

'Postcard for you,' I say nonchalantly, opening the door and stepping back into the kitchen, 'from La La.'


I had a blip when I first spotted Declan at Bubbles, a dingy disco located east of the pier in downtown Bognor Regis. It was Sandra Mason's leaving work party and I was nineteen years old. Sandra was tear-stained and puffy faced – partly from drink, partly emotion and partly because she always had a fairly puffy face. We'd given her a pretty good send off, bought her sexy underwear and filled an enormous padded card with witty farewells and humorous poems, all of them sounding a whole bunch better than my lowly "To Sandra, All best – Cath".

The fifth yawn of the evening had just wormed its way out of my mouth corner, when I spied Declan dancing under a glassy mirror ball, had the blip and knew immediately we were destined to become involved. I wasn't sure how. Perhaps he'd introduce me to a mate or better-looking brother. Not that he repelled me exactly, but spiky ginger hair had never been top of my "must haves" and the way he was swinging those hips in perfect rhythm with a blonde nymphet, well, they looked set for life. In and out they gyrated to Unchained Melody, his large hands caressing her tanned shoulder blades. I found out much later she was his long-term girlfriend, Lucy. Juicy Lucy, I labelled her. Not very original maybe but it inevitably served its purpose of getting right up Declan's nose.

They made quite a couple. Lucy laughing, licking her glossy lips, and my future spouse leering lovingly at her, beads of sweat running down his freckled brow. I was entranced for a good few seconds before being beckoned back to earth by Sandra, who wanted an all-embracing photo of the girls from Credit Control. So, blocking out the blip, I pasted on a wide cheesy grin and darted across the room.


Declan?'

He sits motionless, his knife suspended in the Flora margarine, blue eyes gazing into the far distance, as he listens to a heated political debate on Radio 4.

'Postcard, darling, from La La.' I raise my voice, aware it'll take a more urgent tone to break that level of concentration. Either that or blasting out the latest match score. Arsenal 0 – Manchester City 2. He reminds me at times of De Niro in Awakenings, forever trapped in a catatonic state. I often wonder if I throw a ball at him whether he'd whirl round in his chair and catch it in one swift movement.

'What?' He finally looks up, granary toast perilously close to his open mouth. 'Not more bills, surely?'

'La La,' I repeat, handing the postcard to him.

'Who the hell's La La?'

'Sounds like a telly tubby,' I return to my half-eaten boiled egg, disguising my curiosity. 'Not sure which colour though? Ask Josh and Sophie about it tonight.'

Our two children have been despatched to school by Henrietta, a fellow mum. A ruse we'd come up with so we could have "quality" time with our husbands on alternate mornings. Knowing Henrietta she'll be using her time to bonk Neil senseless. Me – I just aimed for a halfway decent conversation and constantly missed.

He's silently reading.

'What does it say?' I add a pinch of salt to the last millimetre of yolk. Declan hates that I add salt to food, wants it banned from the house, which makes it all the more decadent and delicious.

He fishes in the drawer for his wire-framed reading glasses, perches them on the end of his nose, in a way that hides his boyish face and makes him look nearer fifty than his "recently passed forty-two".

He clears his throat. "Dearest, sweetest Declan, I long to have you in my arms again. Ever yours." A tinge of colour slowly works its way up his cheeks. 'And there's a "Love from La La" at the bottom. Well, how about that?' He starts pacing the floor, a puzzled frown etched on his forehead.

'So who do you think sent it?' I ask eagerly.

'No idea.' The postcard's placed on the worktop. 'Practical joke, I guess.'

Forlornly I tackle the stack of plates lying accusingly in the sink.

'I seriously need a dishwasher,' I mutter, squeezing a generous helping of Fairy liquid onto a brown, greasy stain. 'Everyone's got one, even Patience Preston.'

Patience, mate of my closest friend, Raz, lives on her own in an immaculate flat.

'Hmm.'

'All she uses her fridge for is to chill vodka. Not a scrap of food's ever marred its spotlessness.'

'Hmmm.'

Sometimes my conversations went totally one way.

'She skips breakfast, buys herself wraps lunchtime and eats out each evening. And yet she owns a dishwasher. All I've got is an empty space waiting to be filled.'

'Patience can probably afford a dishwasher,' he says slowly. 'Because she has a job.'

My hackles raise a notch. 'Ah, but she doesn't have children to chase after all day, does she?'

'And nor do you. Now they're both at school till four.'

Another few notches of hackles are raised. 'Half three actually. And I have to leave ages before that to pick them up.' Rather than tromp through a well- planted minefield I decide to divert. 'Did you know Patience's mum owns a microphone once licked by Tom Jones?' Occasionally a little falsehood helped deflect the shrapnel.

It works, momentarily. 'Why on earth does Tom Jones go around licking microphones?'

'Dunno, maybe someone threw their knickers at it and knocked it into his mouth.'

He raises his eyebrow a fraction. 'Anyhow a dishwasher's not exactly a priority, is it? What with the roof space that needs lagging, windows needing replacing, boiler about to blow. Where the money's coming from, I don't know. My pockets aren't ...'

His diatribe's thankfully interrupted by his ringing mobile. It's in his hand faster than Wyatt Earp with a smoking gun.

'Hi. Mm. Sure, sure. Sounds good. When? Ha, ha, ha. Have you asked Jessica- Ellen? Uh huh. Uh huh. Cathy? Nah she's cool. 'Course. Eight p.m. it is.'

'Eight p.m. it is,' I echo under my breath as I scrub furiously at last night's saucepan.

'So,' his voice is casual as he slips his phone into his pocket. 'Wonder who sent it then?'

'Maybe someone at work fancies you.' My chortle halts abruptly when I turn and catch his expression. He's not been in the mood for jokes lately, his sense of humour apparently absconding the morning of his fortieth birthday.

Besides he knows he's attractive. I made the mistake of telling him he was voted "Body of the Year" by the Tuesday Twice-Monthlies – the Restaurant Research Group I attend each fortnight. Henrietta likens him to a ginger Nicholas Cage with his high cheekbones and well-defined eyebrows. Raz adores his muscley arms, "sex on elbows" she calls them. And everyone everywhere tells me how lucky I was in nabbing him. As if I was a total pleb who lured him with some secret charm they could never quite see in me. I want to rage at them all, 'I was the one "nabbed" sisters. I was the one "bloody nabbed".' Of course being a coward, I never do.

He turns the card over. 'If that were true, you'd think they'd pop it in my pigeonhole rather than send it to my home, wouldn't you?' He drops his cup into my washing up bowl. 'Right, I'm off.'

I wipe my hands on my dressing gown as I follow him down the hall.

'You couldn't just take my watch to be repaired? On the bedside cabinet.' He retrieves his umbrella from the pot by the door.

'Sure, honey babe.' I stand on tiptoes to tweak his tie.

'Oh and my black boots need soles.'

'Consider it done.'

'And do get the kids to clear up those toys in the back garden.' His face takes on a pained expression, strange love cards already dismissed. 'Neighbours must wonder who they're living next to.'

'I'm on to it.' I resist the urge to snap into a salute.

Pathetic, isn't it? These seem to be our new roles in life. Declan barking orders, me acting the subservient housewife. Usually I'm not so wimpish but since Josh started school six months back, I realise I'm on extremely shaky ground even if it looks like the same old floor tiles. Casual mentions of spiralling debts, sharing the load or even carrying it for a change have been accumulating faster than Victoria Beckham's Hermes handbag collection.

Too bad that as the bickering increases so does my morbid fear of rejoining the workforce. Once lodged comfortably at the back of my mind, like a suspicion of woodworm you'll get around to dealing with later, it's morphed to become a monstrous bugbear between us.

Rattle of keys. He's already mentally in his office as he pecks me on the cheek. Smack of suit pocket to check for his wallet, quick comb of the hair to confirm it's up to R A Wilson Inc standards, and he departs for work. I wave serenely on the doorstep before dashing back inside to put on Coral Duster's Greatest Hits.

As Coral's dulcet tones wash over me, I head for the phone.

'Urgent sturgent! Urgent sturgent!' I can't disguise the thrill in my voice. Me with news? Something unexpected from the Cathy O'Farrell home front. I move aside Declan's raincoat and Sophie's puffa jacket, rub a hole in the dusty oval mirror and glance at my reflection. My eyes are so alive they're practically dancing. The whites are whiter than I've seen for ages, the iris a more attractive shade of green and my pupils have almost doubled. Even my hair, though badly in need of brushing, seems to have a few extra auburn glints.

'What's up?' Raz says excitedly.

I knew she'd be all ears. I don't call her "Nose-ache Nora" for no reason. Her name's really Rosa. Rosa Alison Zimmerman, but Raz was a pet name one of her ex's gave her and it had kind of stuck.

We met in the toilet of Johnson & Phillips Surveyors, both escaping for a clandestine ciggy and to get away from the oppressive atmosphere of the miserable men with their clacking rulers. During our regular smoke-outs we found we had much in common, i.e. sneaking off for two-hour lunches and rating the hotness factor of every guy we ran into. That was fifteen long years ago. We'd lived together, loved and lost together. We know each other better than we know ourselves.

She listens quietly, as I spurt it out in a waterfall of words. 'You think this postcard could be serious?' she says finally.

'Nah,' I giggle. Even my lips have a bee-stung feel about them. 'It's just somebody winding him up.'

'Sure about that?' Her imagination virtually scales the same heights as mine, except she's got minor sanity in her life – an office, desk, own direct line and, best of all, colleagues.

Colleagues. Thing I miss most about working. Especially male colleagues that I can banter with, groan at their silly jokes and amaze with clever solutions to their insurmountable problems. 'By gad you've got it, Cath!' They'd exclaim in awe. 'We've been struggling with that one ages' and I'd reply, 'No worries, lads,' and feel their admiring eyes on my bottom as they watched me leave.

Only that was before my bottom sagged to resemble Dumbo's and my pre-children brain cells were sparkling crystals, free from today's pea souper fog. Nowadays the only thing I could bring to the conference table would be the tea trolley.

Raz and I are both silent. I'm thinking about Declan and his endless meetings and oh-so-vital budget reports. Could he really sweep them all aside for unbridled, illicit sex? Raz, from the sound of things, is drawing on her first fag of the morning. I can almost smell the sweet aroma.

'You're obviously really really worried about it,' she adds. 'So ...'

'I'm not really really worried about it,' I say, starting immediately to really really worry.

'I'm on my way.'

The sound of creaking and clopping, platform shoes on wooden stairs, reverberates throughout the house.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Looking for La La by Ellie Campbell. Copyright © 2014 Ellie Campbell. Excerpted by permission of Across the Pond Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Looking for La La 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Sheri-A-Wilkinson More than 1 year ago
Looking for La La by Ellie Campbell  Cathy is a stay-at-home Mom and bored with her life. When her husband Declan receives a postcard with lipstick on it and signed "Love La La", Cathy's guard is up. Is her husband having an affair? Cathy starts to investigate, and soon more letters arrive. With the help of her friends, she is determined to find out who La La is and if her husband is cheating. What she doesn't know and will find out, is everyone has secrets. Not only are there secrets, but it turns to be dangerous with a possible murder. Cathy is the average Mother, but her life turns more than "boring" once the post card arrives. I did like Cathy and could relate to her inner problems. Declan was a person I was not sure I could trust, not sure if I liked him.  The suspect list (for who La La could be) is high. Just when I thought I had it figured out a new event or  secret would occur, and I changed my mind. I like that suspense in a story. The plot is original, most of the characters are likable (some are not). The story moves along smoothly and everything falls into place where it should. Overall I found Looking for La La to be an enjoyable read, and I recommend to readers of all genres.
Kristin_S_Kim More than 1 year ago
"Tell them I got hit by a bus." Disclaimer: I received an e-copy in exchange for an honest review. Cathy is a stay-at-home mom, but that's starting to be an issue for her husband. He thinks all she does is sit at home all day, now that both kids are in school most of the day. He harps on her about joining the workforce again, but she has her own issues and reasons for not wanting to go along with it. Then, random postcards start arriving in the post from a person called "La La," talking about Cathy's husband. Is he having an affair? Is THAT why he wants her otherwise occupied with a job, so she's not home as often? Or is it just someone messing with him, with her? As Cathy and her trusted friends try to figure out the identity of the poison penner, their "perfect" suburban lives start to go through downward spirals. With all this other chaos going on, how will Cathy even find the time to figure out who La La is, much less be able to nab a job? This is such a fun little mystery, and it has all those juicy tidbits that also pull you along for the ride; you know, the ones we all watch reality shows and soap operas for. Cathy and her friends are such interesting characters, and I honestly can't tell you how many times I flipped back and forth on La La's identity, as well as how I felt about certain people in her life. All of this, while still trying to be a wife and mother; it's craziness, I tell you! I'm definitely looking forward to reading the next one in the series, and will actually be starting it upon publishing this review. Loved it! 4 1/2 stars