The stars are not in position – and Krystal Baker is determined to make them fall in line.
It’s Krystal’s 29th birthday. This year:
· Her boyfriend finally proposed after six years of dating (only for her to find out he cheated on her for five and a half of them)
· She landed her dream job as a writer at Craze magazine (which swiftly fell into administration)
· She moved into her dream flat overlooking the city (just for the pipes to explode making the place unliveable)
As she mourns everything wrong in her life, her best friend mutters the dreaded words: Saturn Return. The time in a woman’s life where Saturn returns to the position it was in on the day of their birth, 29.5 years ago, and, according to legend, everything falls apart. Krystal has never bought into astrology but maybe it’s time to re-evaluate – because if the stars got her into this mess, they can get her out of it. And she only has six months to make things right.
Loaded with crystals, horoscopes, tarot cards and a carefully aligned chakra or two, Krystal’s determined to have her life back on track by the time Saturn returns. No longer shall she brand herself a ‘human disaster’ because this time it’s not her fault, it’s written in the treacherous stars.
It’s Krystal versus the universe in a fight for her future that she’s determined to win.
Leo: Tension may help you get things done . . .Venus is in retrograde.
‘Although we’ve come to the end of the road, still I can’t let go . . .’
This really was the worst birthday playlist I had ever made. ‘Please Don’t Go’ by KWS, ‘Stay’ by Shakespears Sister and ‘Would I Lie to You’ by Charles & Eddie. All Number Ones from the year I was born, 1992, and all the things I didn’t want subliminally playing in the background whilst I kicked my boyfriend out of the flat.
Nearly 29 years after these songs were released, they mock me as they play through Bluetooth speakers in the kitchen. I’m not sure why it’s the playlist I chose to leave on during a break-up, but I was still reeling from the revelation that my entire relationship was a sham, so I’ll forgive myself.
‘Apparently every relationship is an open relationship?!’ I quickly added to my best friends’ WhatsApp group – ‘The Chamber of Secrets’ – feeding them the latest from my dramatic life. They replied almost immediately.
Tina: What a douche.
Tina: Do you want me to set him alight.
I snickered as the thought crossed my mind – too dark? – but I didn’t reply. Instead, I turned up the volume of my birthday playlist so that it was loud enough to cover David’s voice as he continued to tell me about his philosophy on open relationships – and that, apparently, we’d been in one for the last six years.
And that the photo I found on his phone is not one of a vagina but is actually a picture of a badly creased pink t-shirt. Firstly, this would be the only pink t-shirt with a landing strip in existence. And secondly, the vagina was attached to a woman whose Tinder profile was helpfully screenshotted along with his messages below.
Ahh you look so hot!!
Can’t wait to see you tonight.Your place again??
Can’t we go to yours?We’re always going to mine.
No. My housemate’s at home and doesn’t like me bringing back dates.
Funny that. I was his housemate, and his girlfriend – nay, fiancée as of last night.
He’d proposed a week before my birthday – to avoid the inevitable public proposal at my upcoming party – after six years of dating, over a Chinese takeaway and re-runs of The Great British Bake Off.
Out of pure excitement, I took endless selfies of us to commemorate the moment, using his phone because it was closest to me at the time. It was a full-on photoshoot, and David humoured me by going all out with the poses and various angles, encouraging me to take more shots even after I thought we must have got a good one.
And so, the next morning before work, while he was in the toilet, I excitedly scrolled through what felt like hundreds of photos of my squinty-faced smile and triple chins, searching for the cutest image to share on Instagram to announce our #BigNews.
On and on, my search went through countless selfies from different angles in different rooms; bad lighting, acne scars, he’s blinking, I’m blinking – wait – vagina was not on the photocall as far as I remembered.
He was cheating on me. And not even well. He hadn’t tried to hide the screenshot of the Tinder profile and infamous vagina pic in an unimaginatively named folder like work stuff or selfies, not even after we took countless photos together which he knew I would want to search through at some point.
And I didn’t need to ask for his password to his phone, it was 1-1-1-1 for Christ’s sake. Anyone who spent more than five minutes with him knew that because that was about as long as he could last without opening his lock screen and aimlessly checking his phone.
Who even saves a photo of a vagina anyway? Do people actually get off on that? And who sent the photo? It must have taken a lot of effort. I couldn’t get the angle right on my engagement picture, let alone manage to shoot my fanny in a flattering manner.
‘What’s he saying now?’ Paige asked in the group.
Kris: That monogamy is for baby boomers.
Paige: Ahh that motherfucker!
Tina: Well . . .
Paige: Tina! Don’t you dare.
Tina: He’s a bastard for doing it without permission! But . . .
Tina: Each to their own.
Paige: But not to Kris! And not after SIX years!
Tina: KICK THAT TRASH TO THE KERB WHERE IT BELONGS
Rubbing the space between my eyes, I put the phone face- down on the sofa and thought back to when, upon seeing David’s photos, I thought it must have been a first-time mistake; innocently assuming that his nerves at finally deciding to propose had gotten the better of him in the worst way.
But no! The revelations kept coming from that moment on.
How had I not noticed he was cheating on me?
Had he wanted me to find out?
I was always at home, working as a freelance journalist for most of our relationship. I cooked us breakfast – badly – and made us dinner – even worse – like I was a 1950s housewife in training; he was rarely late and never missed one without a reasonable excuse. He was out two nights a week at most, and I just assumed that that was the regular amount of me time he needed, and that he had planned to meet with friends – I had no idea that it was fuck friends he was meeting.
How could I not have suspected anything? How much had I ignored?
‘I don’t care, David,’ I told him, as he realised I couldn’t hear his excuses over the warbling sounds of Whitney Houston screaming ‘I Will Always Love You’. Well no, he fucking won’t, Whitney!
‘And not everyone’s in an open relationship!’ I chastised, turning to glare at him from the sofa, as my phone buzzed frantically with new messages from the girls. ‘I’m pretty sure both parties have to be involved for it to be classed as an open relationship! Otherwise, it’s just . . . ajar.’
He laughed at that. ‘This is not funny!’ I said, in my best attempt at my mother’s haughty disciplinary tone. She was never any good at it either, so I had no idea why I thought I would be.
David continued to laugh, but this time had the modesty to try and stop himself.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, for the first time. Typically, he wasn’t apologising for his affairs with Tinderellas, but for laughing at my poor attempt at light humour.
‘Sorry doesn’t cut it,’ I said definitively.
Did he, though? He was treating all of this like some light-hearted mistake, as if none of it mattered and it would all blow over within a few days.
This wasn’t just some minor argument though.
I turned back and picked up my phone as I considered my feelings for a minute. David grew silent in the background.
As I sensed, there was a storm of messages between Paige and Tina waiting on my lock screen. I ignored them and just wrote:
Kris: Six years of my life wasted on this shit.
Paige: Oh babe! They’ve not been wasted – you found us. We love you.
Tina: But not monogamously.
Tina: Sorry? Too soon?
Tina: Do you want me to make him into a meme?
Paige: Cancel culture is not healthy, Tina!
Tina: It’s basically a 21st century rite of passage.
Paige: How would that help?!
I shook my head, not even finding the energy to laugh at my friends’ awkward attempts to humour me.
This was not how I had expected my week to go down; the proposal after years of waiting, the unexpected fanny pic and the even more unexpected confession of David not believing in monogamy!
Why did he even propose in the first place?
People who are cheating on their partners should not propose marriage. You propose at the height of your relationship, when you realise you can’t live without the other person. That’s why I kept bringing it up in not-so-subtle-hints for the last three years. I thought we were perfect for each other, and utterly in love. We finished each other’s sentences, gave each other foot rubs and knew what to order from the takeaway whenever one of us had had a bad day. Our toothbrushes matched, and we had purchased personalised posters showcasing the day we met – it started with a swipe! – to adorn our new living room, as if it wasn’t already clear how much we adored one another.
And yet, during all that time, he never got down on one knee to ask me to spend the rest of my life with him.
And when he finally did, it was under the guise of an early birthday present. He hadn’t even got me anything else to commemorate my 29th birthday, just a ring.
Admittedly, a ring was all I wanted (I know, #BadFeminist, but after six years who can blame me?). I felt lucky to have David, and comfortable in our life. After spending almost a quarter of our lives together I thought we were ready to be more than just juvenile-sounding boyfriend and girlfriend. I wanted to be husband and wife, or partners at the very least. Something more concrete and dependable.
But now a ring was up there with the worst presents I’d ever received, in between a copy of Donald Trump’s book on making a deal and the butt plug David bought me for our anniversary, which he thought was a wine stopper.
Tina: If you kill him I’ll happily get the Central Line to help you hide the body.
Tina: And I wouldn’t do that for just anybody.
Tina: And I know how to get blood stains out of everything! Cold water and salt – who knew?!
Paige: Let your inner Uma Thurman out and go crazy bitch. And if that involves an axe/an assault rifle/a poison dart/a vat of acid/starving pigs/frozen toast I’m here for you! Whatever you need.
Kris: Thanks. You’re both real pals.
Tina: I’m sorry, frozen toast?!
Paige: That shit’s real deadly when cut on the diagonal.Then cover it in Nutella, it’s delicious! And the murder weapon is gone!
Paige: No weapon. No crime. No more cheating scum. Tasty brunch.
Tina: But frozen TOAST?
Paige: Oh don’t be pedantic!
‘So . . .’ David began, and I turned in my seat to look at him as he awkwardly swayed on his feet behind the sofa. ‘What are we going to do?’
I swallowed and closed my eyes, surprisingly still too angry – even after Paige and Tina’s Morecambe and Wise act – to so much as look at him, and also distracted by the fact that Madness’ ‘It Must Be Love’ had just come on over the speakers. This was seriously the worst playlist I’d ever made.
I tried to channel my inner Greta Gerwig and not let it bother me, to continue appearing to be the composed and reasonable one in this scenario. While internally wanting to scream about the stupidity of the patriarchy and how unfair it was that my life was ruined, not his. I opened my eyes.
‘You’re going to move out.’
I looked into the open-plan kitchen in my dream London flat – which I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford to rent without him.
We had only just moved in a few weeks beforehand. I’d spent the better part of July on my hands and knees building furniture until I had blisters and callouses on every part of my skin. David had built the bed – his priority of course – and then left me to do the rest, claiming that work was particularly busy at the moment. I now knew better.
The kitchen was the last room we completed, going on a special shopping trip to TK Maxx to spend the remainder of our joint account on showy Le Creuset kitchenware and overpriced utensils.
Now, I had no savings to my name, a dream flat that I knew I would likely have to leave and no boyfriend, after six years of never being alone.
‘Okay,’ David said now, nodding as if my telling him to move out was just a suggestion. ‘Whatever you need.’
‘Whatever I need?’ I burst out and stood up from the sofa, because even Greta Gerwig would throw her hands up at that statement! ‘You’re the one who’s been cheating, but you’re acting like I’m the one that’s overreacting.’
‘Well,’ he began, as if to suggest that I was overreacting. I held my hand up to stop him instantly.
‘No!’ I shouted. ‘Don’t you dare put this on me like I’m the one that’s done something wrong. I’ve only ever loved you and been there for you, and you’ve just completely shit on that!’
His lips curled over one another as he stifled a laugh.
‘Seriously!’ I yelled. ‘How is this funny?’
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, a little laugh escaping him. ‘I’ve just never seen you so angry before. It’s actually quite a turn-on.’ Without thinking, I began throwing the sofa cushions at him, it was the only thing that was near at hand. They bounced off his arms, protecting his face and chest, and fell to the floor. Well, that was pointless. Throwing cushions is a recommended course of action during a shitty break-up, but I expected it to feel more satisfying, quite frankly.
‘Get out!’ I shouted, pointing to the front door. ‘Leave!’
‘Oh Kris, come on,’ David said, stepping towards me still suppressing laughter.
‘Don’t you dare.’
‘Babe, I’ve got to at least pack.’
‘Fine. Then pack.’
He looked around the room. ‘I can’t pack all my things tonight.’
‘You don’t need to! Just pack some fucking clothes and go.’
‘Well, what about . . .’ he looked at the kitchen and pointed to the appliances. Some of them were still in their boxes, waiting for an excuse to be used. Like I was ever going to use a pressure cooker or a bloody steamer; I could barely cook a Pot Noodle without burning it.
‘You want to pack the kitchen sink?’ I asked, dramatically. ‘Seriously?’
‘No, not the sink. The blender?’
‘The blender? I bought the blender.’
‘No,’ David said, his brow creasing in surprise. ‘I did. We got it from Tesco.’
‘No,’ I said, unbelievably. ‘We got it from Asda, and I paid for it!’
‘Oh, come on,’ David slapped his hands down. ‘You don’t even use it.’
‘I might!’ I said, instantly recalling the hours I had spent scrolling Pinterest for smoothie recipes and how to make homemade soups. I had also created boards for dream wedding inspiration, my eyes glazed over with white dresses, themed cakes and pro/con lists for having photo booths at receptions.
‘Really? You use the kitchen?’
I reached down for another sofa cushion, but there weren’t any left. We should have spent the money on throw cushions, not bloody appliances.
‘Oh, fuck off David! Just get out. Get out!’ I reached for the next best thing to throw, a vase, and threw that at his head. My aim was so bad it completely missed him and, as the vase was made of cheap plastic, it just landed and bounced along the laminate floor noisily. The downstairs neighbour we had yet to meet began bashing on their ceiling and shout- ing incomprehensible profanities.
‘Sorry!’ David and I both shouted, looking at the floor like we had just awoken hell.
Appropriate, as that’s where I felt like I was.
My anger was starting to subside to a place of deep discomfort. I so badly wanted him to just leave so that I could cry and eat copious amounts of chocolate and call the girls to bitch about what an absolute bastard he was. Or, in their case, plan his brutal murder.
But at the same time, I also wanted him to hug me and tell me how much he loved me and what a mistake he had made cheating on the best thing in his life. Not that he would ever say that.
He was never good at romance and I accepted that – I was ready to live a whole life without romance if it just had him in it. I just assumed he hadn’t got around to realising how much I wanted us to be married, and to be each other’s family.
But I knew that wasn’t true anymore. I was just a habit he couldn’t kick, an annoying clinger-on who was always planning outings to bizarre London museums – the Vagina museum was a personal favourite – and holidays to Greece. Never questioning him about his work life or why we never hung out with his mates as a couple, or why he never came up with ideas for a weekend that expanded past take-out or going to the gym.
I went to the gym for this man! That’s how dedicated I was. I wore uncomfortable leggings and sweated in public, desperately holding in farts as I squatted and lifted stupid kettlebells off the floor as if it was fun.
Paige always told me that a man who thought the gym was a couples’ activity was a patriarchal sadist. But Tina, the ever-polar opposite of Paige, seemed to think that it would bond us and lead to inevitable sweaty, beach body sex. It may have led to that for David, but not with me.
‘Every time I look at you, all I can think about is you with another woman. It’s like every memory I have of us being together has another person in it, because I don’t know what you were doing before or after you were with me. I used to trust you,’ I told him, not looking at him as I scrunched my eyes together, desperately hoping to hold in the tears that were seriously burning my irises. ‘I can’t trust you anymore.’
‘Babe,’ he said softly, and I felt his hands on my shoulders. I immediately shoved them off.
‘Please get out,’ I repeated, unable to hold in the angry tears any longer. A painful lump rose in my throat and threatened to choke me.
For once, though, it appeared as if David had listened. I heard him walk slowly to the bedroom and pull down the suitcase from the top of the wardrobe. Technically, it was also my suitcase, as we only owned the one. He was going to leave me with our suitcase.
Kris: He’s finally leaving.
Tina: Oh babe.
Paige: Do you want us to come round?
Tina: I’ve got Pimm’s!
Paige: And I’ve got grown-up alcohol.
Did I want them round, though? I knew it was pathetic to drink alone and gorge on chocolate, but in all honestly, I couldn’t face another few hours of dissecting disgusting Tinder messages and David’s infidelity.
I let the tears spill now, turning my energy towards keeping my lips together to avoid sobbing overzealously. Once I had been told I cried like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, all fat tears and noisy gasps; a completely pathetic spectacle. It wasn’t exactly the last image I wanted David to see of me after hours of trying to hold it together.
We had spent all morning in the flat talking about this, or rather him talking about it, while I sat texting the girls on the sofa, barely able to keep up with his nonsensical ramblings on natural urges that aren’t fulfillable in a monogamous relationship.
I didn’t even interrupt to point out that open relationships literally depend on open communication, and secretly cheating on me is not what an open relationship is.
It was only after he rambled on for over an hour that I asked him why he had never told me any of this before; a question he danced around like an oily politician, never giving an answer but acting as if he had.
I had called in sick to my new job in order to deal with the revelations of his extra-curricular sex life, unable to face going into the office without confronting David first.
The editor at Craze, the magazine I had just started working at, likely thought I was the flakiest employee he had ever hired. I had gone from passionate – or slightly annoying – in my first week, to a no-show in my second. But I knew that there was no way I would be able to go into work and act as if everything was fine.
I couldn’t be the woman who cried at the office because her fiancée was playing away in my second week! That was at least a two-month privilege; a bit like doing a shit in the toilet or coming in fifteen minutes late in order to have got a seat on the tube.
Kris: I’m good.
I texted the girls quickly.
Kris: Just want to get into bed and sleep the rest of the day away. I’ll deal with it all tomorrow.
Paige: Are you sure?
Kris: Let’s meet up tomorrow instead. Just can’t tonight.
Paige: Okay lovey.
Tina: No worries. I’ll send you a surprise Deliveroo tonight though.
Paige: It’s hardly a surprise if you just told her about it . . .
Tina: What I order will be the surprise.
Paige: Still not a surprise.
I put my phone down on the coffee table and put it on silent, leaving the girls to have their petty discussions on their lonesome. A surprise Deliveroo, however not much of a surprise, would still be nice. Particularly as it was unlikely I would be able to afford take-out for a while.
‘Do you want me to leave the hangers?’ David shouted from the bedroom.
I sighed loudly. For fuck’s sake, no wonder he kept stringing me along for years – the bastard couldn’t even pack on his own.
‘I’ll do it,’ I said, shaking my head and walking zombie-like to the bedroom to take his clothes and pack them for him. He wouldn’t remember to pack pyjamas or socks otherwise, and the last thing I needed was for him to come knocking unannounced in the next few days just to fetch a manky t-shirt that he’d had since university or a pair of thermals for the gym.
I shoved him out of the way with my hip, still refusing to look at him as I focused my attention solely on getting his plain black and white tees off the hangers and all of his ripped jeans into the open suitcase on the bed.
For a moment there was nothing but the sound of sliding hangers to fill the silence between us, much like forks on ceramic plates. We had reached the awkward stand-off in a break-up, where if either one of us were to say something, it would end with either instantly regrettable break-up sex or – more likely – a screaming match.
Knowing my luck, I would get pregnant during the break- up sex, á la my mum and dad. So that was a definite must-not-happen on my list.
Silence broken up by the sound of sliding hangers was all that I could allow at that moment. For the first time, and also the last, David respected that choice and said nothing.
That was the true end of the relationship right there. David had finally shown me respect.
Everything had changed, and as Felix’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’ played from the kitchen, I accepted that he never truly wanted me at all.
Publishing in paperback, ebook and audiobook editions June 3rd 2021