Book review of “Weightless”
“Weightless” by Michele Gorman
Annabel’s not surprised when nobody recognizes her at her 10 year reunion. The spotty fat teen nicknamed AnnaBall by the school bullies is long gone. But standing on the edge of the popular crowd, she still feels like that girl. That is, until Jack, her teen crush, starts flirting with her. Much to her amusement, he has mistaken her for Christy Blake, Annabel’s chief tormenter before she moved to France in their last year.
It’s just a bit of fun at first, letting Jack believe she’s Christy. After all, he was nuts about her before she said au revoir to England. And when he asks Annabel out, the fun becomes something even more interesting. The more they date the deeper they fall for each other. So what if Annabel has to fib a little to keep up the façade?
As the lies start compounding, and she realizes that they’re falling in love, she has to tell him who she really is. But she’ll lose the love of her life if she does.
“Weightless” by Michele Gorman was a cute and whimsical short story, (64 pages). There were a lot of twists and turns that I didn’t expect and that’s what I liked most. The end surprised me a lot, making it anything but predictable. Annabel’s (Christy’s) character was very well written and I liked her quite a bit. Jack’s character was also very intriguing, up until the very end. (Nope, no spoilers!)
If you’re looking for a quick book that you can read in a few short hours, “Weightless” is the book for you. Michele Gorman is a very talented author and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!
I give this book 5 stars!
‘Ow.’ My beer bottle clinked against my teeth as I felt a hand gently grasp my shoulder from behind.
‘Oh my god, Christy, is that you? How great to see you!’
‘I’m not-’… Christy, I was about to say. But then I turned and saw whose hand it was. ‘Hi.’
‘Ten years, can you believe it?’ asked Jack as his smile threw me back to our last year in school. ‘You look… different but I’d still recognize you anywhere. Did you come from France or are you based here now? Wait, we both need another drink and then we can have a proper catch-up.’ He pointed to my bottle. ‘Another beer? I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere, okay?’
He loped off to the bar where our former classmates jockeyed for the overworked barman’s attention. And I admit it, dear Reader. I ogled him. I took in his broad shoulders beneath the fitted black jacket, his long jeans-clad legs and wavy blonde mop of hair.
Jack Winslow, my unrequited love, had actually just spoken to me. He was buying my beer! … All right, so he thought he was buying Christy’s beer, but still, beggars shall not be choosy about free drinks.
When the reunion invitation arrived with the school’s annual newsletter I chucked it into the bin. Those newsletters arrived every year in December, as welcome as a urinary tract infection. They’d wheedled my mailing address from my Dad and I didn’t have the guts to ring them to opt out for fear that they’d extort me for a donation for the playing fields or something. I’d been miserable on those fields. I hated every rain-soaked blade of grass that slipped me up and each ankle-twisting rut.
Jack returned with our drinks. He set my empty bottle on a nearby table for me. ‘Cheers. To old times,’ he said.
‘Cheers. Jack Winslow, I can hardly believe it’s you. Here’s to new times, eh?’
His grin faltered, then widened. Great work, Annabel. Two minutes into the conversation is just the right time to suggest a future together.
‘Believe it,’ he said. ‘So tell me what you’ve been doing for the last decade. Are you living in London now?’
I nodded. ‘I live in Notting Hill. Well, according to the real estate agents anyway. My closest Tube is Shepherd’s Bush though. Where are you living?’
‘Well as long as we’re speaking in real estate agent, then I’m in South Hampstead. If we’re being honest then I’m off Finchley Road.’ He stared at me. There were tiny lines around his grey eyes and his lashes were darker than I remembered. ‘I’m really happy you’re here.’
I smiled, surprised that he even knew who I was. Then I remembered that he didn’t. To him I was Christy. Of course he’d be happy to see her. Christy and Jack were our school’s answer to Brangelina, though I don’t think they actually went out together. They just swanned around the school in their own golden glow, the central figures in our teenage romantic fantasies.
Jack and I stood at the edge of the room together watching the crowd. Five minutes ago I was just Annabel Markham, aka AnnaBall, Annabell-end, all-round bully fodder and soft target. Suddenly I was promoted to head of the class.
What a difference short-sightedness makes.
‘Do you wear glasses?’ I asked before taking a swig of my beer.
His brow furrowed as he hesitated. ‘Ah, well, no. Why?’
‘Oh, well, I guess I remembered you with specs, that’s all. I wasn’t implying that you need them.’ Please shut up, Annabel.
‘Oh, you mean reading glasses. Yes, I did sometimes, for my astigmatism. But that’s been corrected now.’
He kept staring at me like he had more to say. Surely he’d figured out that I wasn’t Christy. Aside from being among the tallest girls in our year, we looked nothing alike. My hair had been much darker, for one thing. And my waistline had been much bigger for another.
But he really did seem to think I was Christy. Which wasn’t at all how I imagined my night would go when I’d first walked in.
I nearly didn’t turn up at all. Who willingly goes back into the bear pit once they’re freed? Someone who’s flippin’ out of her mind, that’s who.
My heart started rattling in my chest before I’d even set foot through the Richmond pub’s door. Upstairs, a table was set up beside the function room’s entrance. Two women waited to label the alumni but I didn’t recognize them and it was easy enough to sidestep their markers and Scotch Tape. I was well-practiced in the art of creeping about.
I should never have let Kate convince me to come. Of course all the feelings I’d packed away over the years wouldn’t stay neatly stowed. They’d wait till I was surrounded by my classmates to spring their locks.
To my relief, at least there was no break in conversation when I stepped in to the room. A few faces turned curiously but, recognizing neither friend nor foe, quickly turned away again. After twenty minutes I was still alone on the fringes of the party. I may as well have been sixteen again.
Actually, that’s not quite true, because I was rarely left alone then. Given the alternative, this was a bit better.
So Jack’s chattiness came as quite the surprise. He’d said about ten words to me during the whole of secondary school.
‘Do you see any of the old crowd yet?’ he asked, scanning the room.
My skin suddenly crawled with dread. What if Christy herself was somewhere in the room? Or her friends? They’d know in a second that I was an imposter. Then they’d single me out in front of the whole room and it’d be eleventh grade all over again. ‘No, no, I don’t see anyone.’ I started edging toward the door.
‘Me neither. But I might not recognize some of them. People can change a lot in ten years.’ He glanced again at the crowd. ‘Isn’t it odd? When you’re in school you can’t wait to get away from everyone and when you’ve left you’re excited to see them again.’
Speak for yourself. ‘Surely you didn’t hate school though. What’s there to hate when everyone loves you and you’re the teacher’s pet?’
He laughed before catching himself. ‘You’re exaggerating. I was never the teacher’s pet.’
‘But everyone did love you, so there’s no use denying it.’
‘What about you? The school went into mourning when you moved to France. Seriously, they flew the flags at half-mast. Bereavement counsellors were called in.’
I could think of at least one girl who wasn’t in mourning when Christy moved away. ‘No black arm bands?’
‘They changed our uniforms. Head to toe widow’s weeds for the girls and black suits for the boys.’
‘Well that was a long time ago,’ I said. ‘They probably renamed a building or something and went back to the usual uniforms eventually.’
He touched his beer to mine. ‘Immortalized in concrete. That’s my dream. Hey, what do you say we get out of here? No one else is here that we know anyway.’
‘Definitely! Let’s go.’ Before Christy sodding Blake turned up.
I’d tell him later about the confusion.
To my relief, we left Richmond completely. The last thing I needed was for poor Jack to see Christy sodding Blake and think he was having a doppelganger moment on the sidewalk. Though I still couldn’t believe we actually looked alike.
The Christy I knew had cold blue eyes. Cold-as-a-shark, dead-soul blue eyes. This detail was burned into my memory because she never looked away when she tormented me. That girl had not one ounce of shame in her.
My eyes were green. Dad said they were beautiful, like cat’s eyes, but he had a parental duty of kindness.
People can change a lot in ten years and small details get forgotten or misremembered. So Jack didn’t seem to notice the color change as we chatted all the way into Soho. I was surprised when he pointed to his office on Soho Square. I’d always pegged him as the City type.
‘You really work for Fox?’ I said as we found a tiny corner table in the crowded pub nearby. ‘Oiling the great wheels of Hollywood? Do you get to walk down the red carpet and get papped falling out of nightclubs with your knickers showing?’
He looked uncomfortable as he sipped his winter ale. ‘I’m not an actor, or Paris Hilton, despite the tiny dog I like to carry around in my gym bag.’ He saw my face. ‘Joking,’ he said as I laughed. ‘I don’t go to the gym.’
‘You don’t really have a-’
‘Dog? No. And I’m just a lowly marketer. I’m the cog inside the cog inside the cog inside the great wheels of Hollywood.’
‘Do you like it?’
‘I love it! What’s not to love about getting to see new releases before everyone else?’
‘Are you the one who hires the cheesy voiceover man? One man, one banana, one unholy love story,’ I intoned in my best radio announcer voice.
‘I wish I was, but they’re cheesed up before I get my hands on them. We’re the ones who create the marketing for Europe. It’s not glamorous but I work with a lot of nice people. What about you? Did you stay in France after school?’
Uh oh. There was really no way to answer his question without fibbing. A guilty pang made my stomach lurch. Was this where I had to tell Jack the truth, and watch that friendly, open smile fade as he realized we didn’t really have a history together? I knew what would happen then. The easy banter we’d shared all evening would dry up. It wouldn’t matter that it had nothing to do with who we’d been ten years before. Then he’d quickly finish his ale and make some excuse to leave.
I didn’t want that to happen. Not when we were having so much fun.
I could, however, tell him the truth about me. At least then it was just one omission rather than a series of lies that he’d hate me for.
‘I went to university here. In Leeds. I’ve been in England all along. How about you?’
He hesitated. Maybe when he said “school”, he meant university. Christy probably kept in touch after she moved, wrote him long letters that were definitely not postmarked Leeds. I steeled myself for his next response.
‘I took a year out and then went to Edinburgh,’ he said. ‘What a great city. Have you been?’
Relief flooded through me. Then I remembered that it was only a momentary stay of execution. ‘I’ve been up for the Fringe a few times,’ I said. ‘It is a great city. Did you travel the world on your year off, just you and your backpack and your little dog?’
‘Something like that, minus the dog and the backpack. What are you doing now?’
I told him about my dietetics practice. Like Jack, I loved my work. Unlike him, my job was about as far from glamorous as you could get without cleaning motorway lavatories for a living. ‘I’m really glad we ran into each other,’ I said as we sipped our drinks. My tension was easing away with distance from our old classmates. I was having a tremendous time, the kind of time I’d dreamed of all through school. There was no harm in carrying on the charade for a bit longer, just until I found a natural way to introduce the fact that I was another person altogether. No big deal.
‘I nearly didn’t go to the reunion,’ I said. ‘I didn’t-’
‘How could you even think about not going? You were the most popular girl in school!’
I clamped my mouth shut on my next words. I was about to tell him about not wanting to see the girls who’d bullied me. Girls like Christy. Must remember you are Christy. Obviously I’d make an excellent secret agent. Lips as secure as Fort Knox, that’s me.
‘It’s fate,’ he continued. ‘I mean really, what are the chances?’ He was staring into my eyes with a look that I’d begun to recognize in the past few years, since losing seventy pounds and gaining a social life. It wasn’t fate on Jack’s mind.
‘Well, it was a gathering of former classmates,’ I said, not daring to believe what I was seeing. ‘It would have been more fateful if we’d run into each other randomly in London.’
I hadn’t just had a crush on Jack in school. I truly thought I could love him one day, if only he knew I was alive. But I was about three miles below his radar, which was ironic since in those days I was probably visible from space. So I gathered bits of him wherever I could. His every utterance, and the cloying, spicy scent of his AXE Fusion, were committed to memory. I went to all his home football matches, even when it rained, even when I was almost the only one standing there, sodden at the edge of the hated playing field.
‘Well, fate or not, this is fantastic,’ he said.
He was doing it again. Looking at me like I was the last handful of Doritos in the bag. I nodded, not trusting my voice.
‘Could I see you again, do you think?’
Again I nodded. I wondered how he felt about muteness in a date. Wait a minute. Was he asking me on a date?! ‘I’d love that.’
Gently he leaned forward and put his warm lips to mine. It was a deal with the Devil, sealed with a kiss. By the time we traded cell numbers and said good night, I was floating about six inches above the London sidewalk.
**From February 11th to February, get “Weightless” for FREE on Smashwords, using the coupon code: ZH34Q (not case-sensetive)**
Michele Gorman is the #1 best-selling author of Bella Summer Takes a Chance and the Single in the City series. She also writes upmarket commercial fiction under the pen name Jamie Scott. Born and raised in the US, Michele has lived in London for 16 years.
Michele is represented by the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency (www.hardmanswainson.com).
Michele can sign eBooks for yourself or as gifts through http://www.authorgraph.com/authors/expatdiaries. The personal inscription goes straight to the email or kindle of your choice.
**For enquiries please contact michelegormanPR@nottinghillpress.co.uk**