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Read an extract of Radhika Sanghani’s Thirty Things I Love About Myself

Thirty Things I Love About Myself

Chapter 1
Taurus season

Season: 20 April–20 May
Element: Earth
Themes: Self-care.
Sensuality. Pleasure.
Best time to: Set goals to make your dreams come true.

Nina did not want to spend her thirtieth birthday in a prison cell. But, unfortunately, it looked like that was exactly what was about to happen.

‘Here we are.’ The fifty-something police officer who’d been in charge of Nina ever since she’d been led into Leicester police station with handcuffs around her wrists and mascara smudged around her eyes stopped abruptly outside a heavy metal door. ‘Not quite the Ritz, but at least you’ll be alone.’

‘Alone?’ Nina looked up at him in alarm. ‘No, no, I don’t need to be alone. I’ll be fine in one of those group cells with the bars.’

The police officer laughed at Nina’s lack of knowledge.

‘Those only exist in America. In Her Majesty’s police stations, you get your own cell.’

‘But I thought that being in isolation was a punishment?’ asked Nina. She was trying not to panic, and up until now, she’d been fine. She’d barely made any drug-smuggling jokes when the female police officer saw her washing out her mooncup in the toilet, she’d handed over her shoelaces without pointing out just how difficult it would be to hang herself with them, and she’d only made one reference to the last time she’d worn handcuffs.

But that had been before Nina realised she’d actually have to spend the night in a cell. Alone.

‘It’s normal procedure when someone has been arrested at night,’ said the police officer, struggling with the key to the cell.

‘Not on Orange is the New Black,’ muttered Nina.

‘This isn’t TV,’ he replied, pushing the door open. ‘It’s Leicester.’

‘Please,’ said Nina, in one last futile attempt to avoid her fate. She looked at the name on his shirt. ‘Look, DC Spencer, you know I’m innocent. I didn’t do anything wrong. Is it really necessary for me to stay the night? Can’t I just come in tomorrow morning for the interview?’

DC Spencer sighed impatiently. ‘You’re under arrest,’ he said. ‘Which means you’re going to have to spend the night in this cell. So get in there.’

He moved aside and jabbed his thumb towards the tiny room behind him. The whole thing was made of concrete and painted to look like faux marble. It hadn’t worked. There was a ledge built into the wall with what looked – and smelled – like a blue plastic gym mattress placed on top of it, as well as a much smaller blue plastic lump that Nina presumed was the pillow. There was no bedlinen.

‘That’s the toilet,’ said DC Spencer, pointing to a hole in a smaller faux-marble ledge. ‘But also where the water comes out to wash your hands.’

‘Oh good,’ said Nina faintly, trying not to inhale the musty odour. ‘An eco-friendly ensuite.’

‘If you like. At least you’re dressed for it.’ He looked at her oversized jumper, checked her pyjama bottoms and large puffa coat.

‘I only popped out of the house to get a falafel.’ Nina crossed her arms. ‘I didn’t expect to get arrested.’

They both looked down at a series of white stains on her pyjama bottoms.

‘Hummus,’ explained Nina. ‘It’s not easy to eat a falafel wrap when you’ve got handcuffs on.’

‘Oh, good, so you won’t be wanting dinner. Right, well, that’s it, then.’

‘Wait!’ cried Nina. ‘Is there anything I can do? I’m guessing there’s no TV. But do you have any magazines? Books? A guidance leaflet? I’ll read anything.’

‘God, I don’t remember the last time anyone asked for books.’

‘Do you . . . think you’d be able to find something? Honestly, I don’t mind what it is. I just know I won’t sleep, so anything to keep me distracted would be great.’

‘I think all the books got ruined by a stag-do.’

Nina opened her mouth to speak, but DC Spencer shook his head. ‘Don’t ask,’ he said, as he walked out of the cell.

‘Hang on. Before you go, would it be possible to get a hot drink or something?’

‘Will tea do?’

‘Oh, an Earl Grey would be amazing,’ said Nina gratefully. ‘Or a chamomile, actually. I guess it’s a bit late for caffeine.’

DC Spencer barked with laughter. ‘Chamomile! The tea comes from a machine. It’s powdered.’ At the sight of Nina’s horrified face, his voice softened. ‘They have a hot chocolate that isn’t so bad.’

‘My mum keeps saying I should eat less refined sugar,’ said Nina. ‘Apparently, it’s why my life is so bad.’

DC Spencer raised his eyes to the concrete ceiling. ‘You’re about to spend your birthday under arrest. You can have a hot chocolate.’

‘Oh, all right,’ said Nina. ‘I’ll take two.’