I had asked if anyone would be interested in seeing chapter 1 of Hopeless Vows before it releases, and the response was overwhelmingly yes! So, here it is!!
“You’re insane, you know that?” Janey, my best friend of eight years, says. Even though I can’t see her through the phone, I can picture her with her mouth and bright blue eyes wide open.
“Are you really that surprised?” I respond.
“Well, actually, a little. This isn’t like a spur of the moment trip you’re taking. This is serious, Jillian.”
I let out a sigh. “Trust me, I know. It’s not something I’m taking lightly. It just feels…right.” If I’m being honest with myself, I’m nervous as hell to marry a complete stranger. Most will probably look at what I’m doing and think I’m certifiably insane, and who knows. Maybe I am. But I have faith in the system, in the experts.
“So what happens next?”
“I’m not in yet. I have another round of interviews to go through before a decision is made.”
“How are you so calm about this? I’d be flipping my shit right now and you’re acting like you’re ordering a pizza,” she shrieks. Janey’s always had a flair for dramatics, which is fitting since she moved to New York with hopes of becoming an actress. Unfortunately, it hasn’t exactly panned out for her yet and she’s waiting tables. That’s actually how we met. I was waitressing while going to school when she came in looking for a job. We’ve been best friends ever since.
I shrug even though she can’t see me. “I don’t know. Like I said, something about it just feels right.”
“Are you nervous at all to be on TV? I mean, you’ll have cameras around you constantly.”
“A little, I guess. All I can really think about is who they’ll would match me with if I’m selected. The other stuff has kind of been pushed aside.” I’m sure it’ll be weird to have my every move recorded for the viewing pleasure of America, but I can only focus on one nerve wracking thing at a time.
“When do you go for this last interview?”
“I’m supposed to go on Monday.” Butterflies hit my stomach. That’s only four days away. The closer I get to the end, the more anxious I feel.
“How does it all work?” she asks.
“Out of the thousands of applicants, they narrow it down to four matches. Those four couples will be married, except they won’t meet each other until they walk down the aisle. They know absolutely nothing about each other. Their names, occupation, age, looks, nothing. After eight weeks, they decide if they want to stay married, or divorce.”
“How can you marry a complete stranger?” she asks incredulously.
“I guess because I don’t look at him as a stranger. He’s going through the same rigorous process with the shrinks as I am. So I kinda feel like I know him through them, if that makes any sense.”
“Not really, but it’s your life,” she says with a small laugh. “Let me know how it goes.”
I promise to keep her updated and hang up the phone to go to work. After walking down the steps to the front entrance of my apartment, I wave down a cab and take the ten-minute trip to the office. After paying and exiting the taxi, I look up at the tall building where I work. Glancing around, I take in the essence of the city. I love the way it looks. Some find the smoggy air, crowded streets, and high-rise buildings unappealing. But I think it looks like freedom, like opportunity.
Walking across the tiled floors in my six inch stilettos, I mentally prepare myself for the day. I’m trying to get ahead in case I need to be out of the office for a few days. I still haven’t told my boss what I’m doing. The thought alone is terrifying. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost this job. My boss is a real ball buster. When I started working here, I thought she hated me. Nothing I did was ever right or to her standards. Soon, I started to realize that while she may be harsh with her suggestions, she was only trying to make me a better columnist.
“Jillian!” I hear her all too familiar voice shout at me as I’m walking past her door. Halting my forward progression, I spin around and enter her office.
“Good morning, Mrs. Van der Boor,” I greet as I approach her desk. When I first met Karen Van der Boor, she reminded me of the bitchy boss from The Devil Wears Prada. She even has her dismissive, snotty mannerisms. Given this is a fashion magazine, I’ve been tempted to ask her if it’s just coincidence, or if that character was based off of her. She scares the hell out of me, so I keep those thoughts to myself.
I started working here as an intern. I didn’t get paid, but I just needed to get my foot in the door. So I became the office bitch, running to get coffee, making copies, answering phones, whatever needed to be done, I did it.
“Where’s your article?” she asks, forgoing any pleasantries. “You know you’ll need time for corrections.” Her eyebrow arches at the last part. It’s like she’s daring me to argue with her little jab, but I know better.
“I finished it last night. I was going to email it to you first thing this morning.”
“Okay, move along then,” she says with a wave of her hand as she glances back down at the papers on her desk. I leave her office and head toward mine. While my workspace isn’t nearly as nice as Karen’s, I still love it. Plus, I’m proud of it.
Growing up the way I did, I never imagined I’d be doing what I love at one of the top fashion magazines. Hell, I barely knew what was going to happen to me from day to day. Planning my future was my last priority. Once I turned eighteen, I ran as fast as possible from my past and busted my ass to ensure I made something of my future.
I look my article over one last time before sending it off to my boss. Once I proved I could write, Karen would throw me an assignment here and there. Articles on who wore it better, worst dressed, things of that sort. Finally, I got a steady spot in the magazine covering the latest accessories each month. I’ve been moving up ever since. My goal is to cover the coveted Fashion Week one day. I know I’m not writing about world peace or anything life altering, but it’s a passion of mine and it makes me happy. And, given the way my life started and the path it was headed toward, happiness is all I’m really looking for.
Seven o’clock rolls around before I walk through my apartment door. I kick off my heels and flop down in exhaustion on the couch. After two revisions on my article and several hours researching the newest trends on the runway, I’m ready to relax with a glass of wine and some television.
Looking around my small apartment, I can’t help noticing how empty it feels. Most times I stay so busy I don’t have time to dwell on it. But moments like this make it hard to ignore. You’d think I’d be used to it. My parents were never home when I was a kid. When I was forced to live with my grandmother, I was so angry and upset with the world that most of my days were spent locked away in my room. I craved solitude then. Now, it only serves as a constant reminder of how lonely I really am.
I’d give anything to have a person in my life to share my day with. Despite my best efforts, I haven’t found a man who I could see myself settling down with. At twenty-eight years old, I started losing hope I would find that one person made for me. If he even existed at all. Hence why I’m going through this insane, unconventional process. I just hope this isn’t a huge mistake.
Copyright © 2016 by Rachael Duncan
Hopeless Vows releases February 22nd, so it's right around the corner. Reviews have been AMAZING so far, and I couldn't be happier that everyone seems to love it. Check it out here on Goodreads to see some of those. You can preorder your copy now and have it as soon as it goes live at midnight.
I can't wait for you guys to read Jillian and Austin's story. It's one that I'm super proud of and really feel like it's my best work yet. My only hope is that you love it as much as I do.