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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

His & Hers

A Novel

Alice Feeney; read by Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine

Macmillan Audio

MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK

Her


Anna Andrews

Monday 06:00

Mondays have always been my favorite day.

The chance to start again.

A clean enough slate with just the dust of your own past mistakes still visible—almost, but not quite wiped away.

I realize it’s an unpopular opinion—to be fond of the first day of the week—but I’m full of those. My view of the world tends to be a little tilted. When you grow up sitting in life’s cheap seats, it’s too easy to see behind the puppets dancing on its stage. Once you’ve seen the strings, and who pulls them, it can be hard to enjoy the rest of the show. I can afford to sit where I want now, choose any view I like, but those fancy-looking theater boxes are only good for looking down on other people. I’ll never do that. Just because I don’t like to look back doesn’t mean I don’t remember where I came from. I’ve worked hard for my ticket and the cheap seats still suit me fine.

I don’t spend a lot of time getting ready in the mornings—there is no point putting on makeup, just for someone else to take it off and start again when I get to work—and I don’t eat breakfast. I don’t eat much at all, but I do enjoy cooking for others. Apparently, I’m a feeder.

I stop briefly in the kitchen to pick up my Tupperware carrier, filled with homemade cupcakes for the team. I barely remember making them. It was late, definitely after my third glass of something dry and white. I prefer red but it leaves a telltale stain on my lips, so I save it for weekends only. I open the fridge and notice that I didn’t finish last night’s wine, so I drink what is left straight from the bottle, before taking it with me as I leave the house. Monday is also when my trash gets collected. The recycling bin is surprisingly full for someone who lives alone. Mostly glass.

I like to walk to work. The streets are pretty empty at this time of day, and I find it calming. I cross Waterloo Bridge and weave my way through Soho toward Oxford Circus, while listening to the Today program. I’d prefer to listen to music, a little Ludovico perhaps or Taylor Swift depending on my mood—there are two very different sides to my personality—but instead I endure the dulcet tones of middle-class Britain, telling me what they think I should know. Their voices still feel foreign to my ears, despite sounding like my own. But then I didn’t always speak this way. I’ve been presenting the BBC One O’Clock News bulletin for almost two years, and I still feel like a fraud.

I stop by the flattened cardboard box that has been bothering me the most recently. I can see a strand of blond hair poking out the top, so I know she’s still there. I don’t know who she is, only that I might have been her had life unfolded differently. I left home when I was sixteen because it felt like I had to. I don’t do what I’m about to do now out of kindness; I do it because of a misplaced moral compass. Just like the soup kitchen I volunteered at last Christmas. We rarely deserve the lives we lead. We pay for them however we can, be it with money, guilt, or regret.

I open the plastic carry case and put one of my carefully constructed cupcakes down on the pavement, between her cardboard box and the wall, so that she’ll see it when she wakes. Then, worried she might not like or appreciate my chocolate frosting—for all I know she could be diabetic—I take a twenty-pound note from my purse and slide it underneath. I don’t mind if she spends my money on alcohol; I do.

Radio 4 continues to irritate me, so I switch off the latest politician lying in my ears. Their over-rehearsed dishonesty doesn’t fit with this image of real people with real problems. Not that I’d ever say that out loud or on-air during an interview. I’m paid to be impartial regardless of how I feel.

Maybe I’m a liar too. I chose this career because I wanted to tell the truth. I wanted to tell the stories that mattered most, the ones that I thought people needed to hear. Stories that I hoped might change the world and make it a better place. But I was naïve. People working in the media today have more power than politicians, but what good is trying to tell the truth about the world when I can’t bear to be honest about my own story: who I am, where I came from, what I’ve done.

I bury the thoughts like I always do. Lock them in a secure secret box inside my head, push them to the darkest corner right at the back, and hope they won’t escape again anytime soon.

I walk the final few streets to Broadcasting House, then search inside my handbag for my ever-elusive security pass. My fingers find one of my little tins of mints instead. It rattles in protest as I flip it open and pop a tiny white triangle inside my mouth, as though it were a pill. Wine on my breath before the morning meeting is best avoided. I locate my pass and step inside the glass revolving doors, feeling several sets of eyes turn my way. That’s okay. I’m pretty good at being the version of myself I think people want me to be. At least on the outside.


Copyright © 2020 by Alice Feeney