blurb

Okay, here’s a sneaky peak at the first chapter of The Ex-Factor. Email me and let me know what you think.

I don’t know what to do.

This is worse than it sounds, believe me.

You see, the thing is, knowing what to do is, well, it’s what I do. It is my job, my raison d’etre, my thing. I’m Martha ‘Relationship Guru’ Seymore. Yes, the Martha Seymore, as in the Martha Seymore who fits between Real Sex and Your Stars on page sixty nine of Gloss magazine. The same one you can chat with live online every Thursday evening at AskMartha.co.uk. That’s me, the girl who gets paid to lend an ear to the cheated and jilted, the under-sexed and over-attached.

And the advice fountain never runs dry. I have an answer to every question, and believe me I get some good ones:

Dear Martha,
Is faking an orgasm deceitful?

Dear Martha,
Should I lose weight for my lover?

Dear Martha,
My boyfriend doesn’t want sex until our wedding night, should I wait for him?

Dear Martha,
My partner wants us to engage in a threesome with a farmyard animal, what should I do?

And, never one for false modesty, I am qualified too. A degree in Psychology and a Masters in the Clinical Characteristics of Love Relations are the crown jewels of my glittering CV. But here I am, a bewildered fresher on her first day at the University of Life: clueless and without a timetable.

I suppose it would have been easier if I hadn’t been naked. If Luke hadn’t decided to tell me when we were mid-foreplay I would have been able to walk out straight away, head held high, leaving all the inevitable questions happily unanswered.

But no.

I was in bed with him, enjoying one of our Saturday afternoon romps. There I was on top of the sheets, enjoying his kisses as they charted their way up inside my leg when, with no warning, he stopped.

‘I can’t . . .’

Confused at this abstract reluctance I asked him what’s up.

He lifted himself up off the bed, flashed a quick look at himself in the mirror, and then his face adopted a contorted expression, as if he was trying to pull a piece of glass from his foot.

‘Martha, I’ve got to tell you something.’

I watched as his cantilevered cock started to sag.

‘It’s about last night . . .’

Last night. Luke’s monthly bender with the geek squad from Internet Planet magazine. I’d spent the night at Fiona’s.

‘What about it?’ I asked, tugging the sheet back over my body.

He stared straight into my eyes, then paused, as if making some sort of calculation.

‘I slept with someone.’

The sentence seemed to be over almost before it had begun. Too quick to take in. I felt as I imagined like I had been stabbed. There was total shock, confusion, then nothing, then the pain set in. My face must have looked blank as the words took time to form full meaning.

Two hours before.
The city had been alive with traffic and noise. Luke and I were on New Bond Street, window-shopping with mock-intent and taking pleasure in the late Spring sunshine. Although he’d been quieter than usual, and had seemed less willing to humour me with his normal brand of arch-miserabilism, I had attributed this to the hangover his pink eyes were exhibiting.

Aside from his limited conversation, everything had seemed normal. In DKNY he sat and patiently flicked through the communal copies of Wallpaper and i-D while I tried on the entire second floor. In Prada he had nudged me discretely to point out a C-List celebrity contemplating an overpriced pair of slip-ons. And in Calvin Klein, when we were out of view of everyone except the CCTV, he’d whispered some horny ramblings into my ear while casually parking his hand on my bum.

Outside as we had weaved through the Saturday crowds we were a Couple in Love, soaking up the rays of the sun and the jealous eye-darts of the single. I didn’t detect any of the textbook hallmarks of infidelity: no elaborate cover stories, no perplexed forehead scrunching, no forced good humour, no sense of nostalgic longing for something which had been lost or thrown away.

‘I slept with someone.’

It’s funny, however many words it takes to build a relationship, it always only takes four to knock it to the ground.

The shock had more force than any I’d yet experienced because unlikely as it may sound, this was completely unexpected. There’d been no warning-signs, no fault line identified. Luke was faithful. He may have believed in nothing else but he believed in our relationship. So this excursion, this breach of faith, was an impossibility. The thought that he could search for pleasure elsewhere had never passed through my mind. Now it was there as a physical reality, I felt sick.

There was an emerging trace of anger, but this was initially overshadowed by a strange feeling of shame. I was naked in front of a stranger. A stranger I have shared a bed with for two years of my life but a stranger none the less. I looked for my knickers but couldn’t remember which direction I’d thrown them in. While I searched, Luke set about answering my unspoken questions.

‘ . . . I was pissed . . . I can hardly remember it . . . it was a mistake . . . a really bad mistake . . . I shared a taxi because we were going the same way home . . . I hate myself . . . I had to tell you . . .you have to believe me . . . I love you . . .’

When I have pointed out, as I have on a number of occasions in my ‘Do The Right Thing’ column, that the key to maintaining a successful relationship is to learn something new about your partner every day, this was not what I’d had in mind.

I looked up at him in disbelief, then down at his cock which was now the size and shape of a button mushroom. I located my knickers and bra and put them on awkwardly, trying all the while not to let my eyes give anything away. I moved across the room to the chair where my jeans and top were and finished dressing. Luke remained motionless, his bare arse and back bathed in gold light from the window behind him.

Fully clothed, a more complete sense of anger emerged. I looked for something to throw at him, something sharp enough to cause permanent damage. My shoes. The grey Fendoluccis with the lethal heels. One of them should do the job.

‘. . . you’ve got to believe it . . . it meant nothing . . . nothing . . .’

He was animated now, and could see the venom in my eyes.

‘ . . . well say something . . .’

But I wasn’t saying anything. He reached for his boxer shorts and held them over his groin, like a fig-leaf. I grabbed the shoe and flung it at him at full velocity. His reflexes were ninja-sharp – he moved quickly out of its path and the shoe hurtled on through the window.

Smash.

Fuck.

Picking up the other shoe I made my way out of the apartment.

‘Martha, wait!’

I turned as I opened the door and broke my silence.

‘Did you think of me?’

‘What?’

‘When you were fucking this girl did you think of me?’

“Why are you doing this to yourself?’ I couldn’t believe it. It was as if I’d brought this situation on myself.

‘Just answer the question Luke. Was I in your head?’
He looks at me, exasperated.

‘Yes of course you were. You were in there the whole time.’

It felt weird the way he was saying this, as if I’d been an accomplice, or at least a witness to the whole thing. However, the fact that I’d been there, within his conscious thoughts, did make it easier to walk out without hesitation. The idea that he could have been thinking of me while touching and kissing and fucking this nameless girl was somehow worse than if he’d blanked me out. It made the infidelity more extreme, more brutal.

‘It’s over Luke. I just hope she was worth it.’ My voice sounded strange, detached. As if pre-recorded.

Once outside I navigated my way around the chards of broken glass and recovered my shoe. Luke was left standing naked at the top of the communal stairway calling my name. The fucker.

There was an old couple on the pavement across the street staring at me as if I’d just escaped from somewhere. In a way I suppose I had. Although it didn’t feel like that - not yet anyway.

‘Martha, please, Martha-’

His voice was now vaporising into nothingness as I walked down the street towards Notting Hill Gate tube, dazed and distraught.

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