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Uplifting fiction that will change your life

Love is a Thief

By CLAIRE GARBER

“An astonishingly good debut” – The Sun

Love is a Thief Book Cover

Love is a Thief asks the question – What didn’t you do because you fell in love? But it goes deeper than that. It asks – If you knew you were going to spend the rest of your life alone, no happy ever after, no one true love, no family and kids, a life, a lifetime, alone, what would make you happy? What would bring you joy? What would fill up your heart and your days for the rest of your long life?

Are you doing that thing already? 

Because those were the questions I asked myself shortly after my 30th birthday when my heart had been smashed to smithereens by my supposed one true love. What brings me joy? What makes me happy? What can I spend the rest of my life doing now that I am alone? 

The answers formed the basis for this novel, a work of complete fiction, following a heart-broken Kate Winters as she sets out to take back everything that love stole. I hope you enjoy it.

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Claire garber

/ Author

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The bog standard public display of being over your last relationship is when you get yourself into a new one. It’s like holding a giant banner in the air that reads:

‘Look at me, everyone! I have found someone else. I am OK. Someone else wants me. Someone else needs me. Someone else chooses to be with me. My last relationship was insignificant, barely noticeable in fact, like bellybutton fluff. My ex-girlfriend is just like the fluff from my belly.’

I think it’s all crap. I think the public sign you are over your last relationship is when you don’t care about the public sign. That said, I do have feelings, and Gabriel starting a new relationship just a few weeks after we broke up, well, that was emotional pain on a level I’d never previously known. Whether or not I believed in the validity of his stupid relationship with an emaciated French girl with fake tits and limited intellectual abilities, he had found someone else, they were on holiday together, and they were taking photos, lots of photos, and putting them on Facebook in an album entitled True Love while I was, well, I was bellybutton fluff.

But it wasn’t just that I had lost Gabriel, it was that I was so goddamn sad about breaking up with him that even the thought of being with someone else made me feel sick. I didn’t want to kiss anyone else. I didn’t want to have sex with anyone else. I didn’t want to share my home with anyone else. I wanted him.

So as I couldn’t cope with replacing him, and I couldn’t speed up the process of healing from him, I just needed to fill up the time.

Because the reality is, I might just be ‘that’ girl. You know the one. The girl who, for no particular reason, doesn’t get the guy, doesn’t have children, doesn’t get the romantic happy ever after. So I needed to come up with a plan. I needed to get back to basics. I needed to ask myself a few important questions:

What did I like doing?
What didn’t I get to do because I was with Gabriel?
What didn’t I get to do because I fell in love?

More importantly, what would I be happy spending the rest of my life doing if love never showed up again?

Now that was a starting point I was interested in

THE BEGINNING

‘Hi, this is Gabriel. I can’t come to the phone right now but if you leave a message I will call you back.’

In 1990 a man called Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web. He was trying to find a way for particle physicists to access the same information at the same time from wherever they were working in the world.

‘Hi, this is Gabriel. I can’t come to the phone right now but if you leave a message I will call you back.’

As with so many things in life, the end result turned out to be a little different from the initial objective. The seed he planted grew into something so far-reaching it touched every single one of us in an infinite number of different ways.

‘Hi, this is Gabriel. I can’t come to the phone right now but if you leave a message I will call you back.’

The Internet now provides us with free accessible education. It can teach you a second language, how to cobble a shoe, how to install a new kitchen or build a satellite that will orbit the moon.

‘Hi, this is Gabriel. I can’t come to the phone right now but if you leave a message I will call you back.’

You can run your business off it, meet the love of your life on it, find the recipe for a mushroom risotto before fixing your own kettle then learning the origins of the word ‘broken’.

‘Hi, this is Gabriel. I can’t come to the phone right now but if you leave a message I will call you back.’

You can also see images of just about anything you want. I’ve seen the inside of an atom; the surface of Mars; the expression on Mandela’s face the day he was released from prison.

‘Hi, this is Gabriel. I can’t come to the phone right now but if you leave a message I will call you back.’

But what the Internet has most recently shown me, its greatest gift of all, is a set of photos of my ex-fiancé on holiday with what I can only assume is his new girlfriend. And in these photos, although I’m no Tim Berners-Lee, I’m pretty sure I can see his fully functioning, fully operational, Internet-connected mobile phone. The very same phone he currently seems unable to answer.

‘Hi, this is Gabriel. I can’t come to the phone right now but if you leave a message I will call you back.’

‘Well, she’s obviously not going to get off the floor,’ Federico said, to my grandma. They’d stopped speaking to me about 45 minutes earlier. They spoke about me, around me, over me, across me, but never actually to me. My grandma reached down and tried to take the phone from my hand but my fingers were stuck around it like a human claw or a strange device that unconventional men might purchase in Soho.

‘Darling Kate, you need to give me the phone,’ she said, trying once again to prise it away. I gripped on as if it were my only remaining portal back home. A small circle of people had formed around us. Apparently it’s not commonplace for a 30-year-old woman to sit in middle of Heathrow Terminal Five, surround herself with her own luggage and start weeping.
‘Just one more try?’ I pleaded with Grandma while Federico wandered from person to person regaling them with stories of the origins of my tears.
‘Well, I told her that, yes, I did. I told her when she moved there. I said, “You can’t trust the French,” and not on account of their political history, of which I am a great great fan, especially that adorable Marie Antoinette—have you seen the film? Fabulous costumes, fabulous, although terribly restrictive of the female form. No, I mean on account of the language barrier. Because how do you ever know if you are truly understanding one another? Who, for example, decided that a pomme was an apple? And what if they were pointing to a tree when they said pomme, but we were looking at an apple because we were a little bit hungry so we called a tree an apple, and now the French are confused by Tesco’s obsession with stocking as many different varieties of edible tree as is genetically modifiably possible to create? Well, it’s a complete disaster is what it is!”
“How can he be with someone else?’ I pleaded to my audience of 19 women of varying different ages and a security guard called Albert. The other security guard, Jim, had gone to speak with UK Border Control, who were concerned I was a suitcase-laden bomber. ‘How?’ I asked them again. ‘If one person is meant for one person then he must be feeling incomplete and restricted, like a piece in the wrong puzzle. He’s in the wrong puzzle!’ I said, getting high-pitched and red-faced. And I don’t think anyone thought Gabriel was in a puzzle, unless a puzzle was a dirty great metaphor. ‘So? What should I do?’
‘Perhaps she could try him one more time?’ one lady nervously suggested to Grandma. I looked around the human fence surrounding me and they all nodded confirmation. My grandma sighed and rolled her eyes. So I switched my phone to speakerphone and pressed redial for one final try. I held the phone in the air so everyone could hear. I looked at everyone. Everyone looked at me. Then we all looked at the phone.

‘Hi, this is Gabriel,’ the phone said. ‘I can’t come to the phone right now but if you leave a message I will call you back.’

Then everyone went a little bit silent. Actually I don’t think you can be a little bit silent. It’s an either/or sort of thing. We were silent. And no one would look me in the eyes. So I switched off my French mobile for the last and final time and I handed it to my grandma, who put it straight in the nearest bin.
Then I just sat there, on the highly polished floor of Heathrow Terminal Five, I just sat there, surrounded by every single one of my possessions, and I wept, and I wept, and then I wept some more. If every teardrop were a piece of my soul they would never be able to put me back together.”

SIX MONTHS LATER …

“It’s the thing I hate most in the world, after eating noises. First place definitely goes to the noises people make when they eat; mostly it’s the chewing-swallowing noises I hate, but also the preparation noises: the chinking of knives and forks against plates in a quiet room; the noise as someone opens their saliva-filled mouth; and Lord forbid if someone actually clinks their fork against their teeth when placing food into their noisy gob. But after that, after the food-noise thing, the thing I hate most in the world is heartbreak, and I am surrounded by it every single day at work, because after the ‘incident’ at Heathrow Terminal Five my friend Federico invited me to work with him at True Love magazine.
It was Grandma Josephine’s idea originally. She’d said it was important to keep oneself busy when one was feeling broken and empty on the inside. Then she’d said something about paying one’s own rent and there were mutterings about inflation and pints of milk. So now I go to work every day, Federico by my side, and once there I am exposed to a multitude of grotesque eating noises and bucketloads of daily heartbreak, although we never let our readers know about the heartbreak. No, True Love makes everything look love-covered and golden, and I hate that. I hate the love-covered golden heartbreak.
‘Well, it’s a twatting mystery is what it is,’ Chad said, pacing around the huge heart-shaped table in the middle of the huge heart-shaped boardroom. ‘When was the last time we had this much post?’ he said on his second circuit of the room. Loosie, his officious 24-year-old American assistant, strode after him flicking through her notebook like an obnoxious linesman.
‘Two thousand and one, Chad,’ she said, flipping to the correct page. ‘Just after 9/11.’
‘So what the fuck am I missing?’ Chad said, looking to everyone in the room. ‘Why are there 27 sackfuls of post? What the fuck did we write about last month?’ It was common knowledge that Chad never read his own magazine. He didn’t even check the copy before sending it to print. ‘Well? What did we advertise?’ he asked the room. ‘Have Royal Mail fucked up and forgotten to deliver the post for the last 11 years?’ He looked from face to face. ‘What-the-twat was so exciting about last month’s edition?’
Every face in the room turned to me. It was like white-faced choreographed mime at its most terrifying. I say every face turned; Chad’s didn’t. He’d started on his third circuit of the room, tearing around the enormous table, which was bright pink, glass-topped and viciously sharp-edged. In fact that table was more unexpected than the postal situation and had injured 11 members of staff in the last week alone: nine on the jagged edge of its glass top; the tip of the glass heart had drawn blood twice, and Mark from Marketing cracked his knee on it two weeks ago and still walked with a noticeable limp.
‘It’s not just the post, Chad,’ Loosie said, scowling at me, flipping over another page of her notebook as Federico emitted a strange squeaking noise from the other side of the room. If he could have climbed inside his Nespresso machine and drowned himself he would have done. I knew the minute the postman arrived we were in 27 sackfuls of trouble and I’d deliberately positioned myself next to the boardroom exit. And excuse me, but I’m not one of those girls who’s ashamed of running away. I’m not ashamed of anything after being forcefully removed from Heathrow Airport by mental health professionals.
Loosie opened her mouth to speak and Federico crouched down as if he were expecting an explosion. I leant forward and rested my forehead on the cool surface of the dangerous glass heart. There was absolutely no way we were going to get away with it.

Excerpt From: Claire Garber. “Love is a Thief.” iBooks.

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