Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 10

This is a work of fiction.

All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this


novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

the jane austen marriage manual. Copyright © 2012 by Kim Izzo. All rights
reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s
Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

Design by Anna Gorovoy

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Izzo, Kim, 1967–


The Jane Austen Marriage Manual/Kim Izzo.—1st ed.
p. cm.
ISBN 978-1-250-00345-4 (trade pbk.)
ISBN 978-1-250-01582-2 (e-book)
1. Scotland—Fiction. 2. Courtship—Fiction. 3. Man-woman relationships—
Fiction. I. Title.
PS3609.Z98 J36 2012
813'.6—dc23
2012004627

First Edition: May 2012

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
1.

With Child
Vanity working on a weak head produces every sort of mischief. —Emma

six months earlier

I t is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman of thirty-


nine and in possession of a good complexion must be in want of
a husband. And a baby. Unless you are me.” My personalized version
of that famous line from Pride and Prejudice was a mantra of sorts for
me—a self-professed Jane Austen addict and an exception to this
truth. Not that it mattered. I was as swept up in other women’s preg-
nancies and new-mothering dramas as if I did want those things.
Modern life as we know it is divided into two camps: the haves and
the have-nots. The haves being those with children and the have-nots
those without. As a have-not it was up to me to be as supportive and
understanding of the haves as possible; after all, I had more dispos-
able time and income than they did. At least that’s how it was in the
beginning. “Get closer, all of you!” Gavin, a South Asian man of slight
build and large personality yelled at us. “Us” being the entire staff
of Haute—fashion magazine du jour—gathered in the staff ’s overly
stylish kitchen, chattering away, jobs forgotten. The occasion? Ba-
bies shower. The plural being necessary given that fi ve women on
staff were about to pop. To save catering costs the editor-in-chief,
Marianne—one of the five, eight months pregnant and my best friend
since college—decided to do an all-in-one shower. At least there were
cupcakes.
6 kim izzo

“Closer!” Gavin shrieked. He’s our fashion director and a complete


scream. “Don’t just stand there! Squeeze in as tight as you can to Kate.”
That would be me. Kate. The one minus the baby bump. The one
perched on the wooden stool surrounded by pregnant bellies swathed
in all-black designer maternity wear and teetering on four-inch plat-
form pumps. The women did as they were told and moved closer. Too
close. As they turned to check one another’s hair and makeup, their
five swollen tummies, hard as basketballs, knocked my head in rapid-
fi re succession. I fought to keep my balance on the stool and tight-
ened my grasp on the precious cargo in my hands.
“Don’t get those out of order, Kate,” snapped Ellie. She was seven
months along and also one of the smuggest pregnancy snobs I’d ever
met. Ellie routinely boasted about getting in the family way after only
one attempt, even when she knew others on staff were up to their ova-
ries in IVF treatments. Still, I smiled reassuringly, recalling my duty
to be supportive of all pregnant women no matter how unruly their
hormones made them.
“They’re irreplaceable, you know,” she barked.
“They” are the five-part series of ultrasound images I held in my
hands. For some inexplicable reason the mothers-to-be had decided
to bring their collection of ultrasounds to the party for comparison.
Somehow I was given the task of holding them before they were to be
pinned to the inspiration board that was normally reserved for fash-
ion tears and layouts. I wanted to ask if we could play a game of pin
the tail on the baby, but thought better of it.
“Say ‘cheesy,’ ” Gavin called. We did. He snapped away as if we
were supermodels striding down a Paris runway. “Perfection!”
That task complete, the women went back to sharing their child-
birthing anxieties and thrusting baby bumps in my face as though I
were invisible. I stood up to avoid the line of fi re—which made all the
difference because I’m five ten in bare feet, six two in my four-inch
Mary Janes—and that’s when I spotted Jennifer, twenty-seven, stick
thin, bottle blonde, drop-dead gorgeous, and the new features editor
at Haute. She was munching a celery stick and rolling her eyes at me in
sympathy. She had a reputation for being ruthless and had written
articles about how to network with winners and avoid losers; how to
the jane austen marriage manual 7

be a good frenemy to those who count; and how to rise above your
colleagues even if they’re better at the job than you are. She had even
complained about having to ante up cash for other people’s unborn
children and their toys. I smiled slightly and moved away.
“The fetus has turned,” Ellie gleamed to Marianne and glared at
me for daring to listen in on a story that I couldn’t possibly relate to.
Now that I think back, Ellie was a bitch long before the invasion of
the hormonal body snatcher.
I wanted to say “so has the worm,” but bit my tongue.
“I think the fetus is actually bigger than normal for this stage,” she
said proudly. “At least the doctor says the fetus is bigger.”
How many times can one person say “fetus”? Whatever happened
to “baby”? Now don’t misunderstand me, or my tongue, which some-
times speaks like it has acid reflex. I have nothing against babies or
pregnant women, and I offer my support whenever possible. That may
mean choosing the perfect gift or baking the perfect lasagna—my sig-
nature dish—for when a new mother arrives home with the baby and
can’t bear the thought of cooking.
I get along just fi ne with pregnant women. And pregnant women,
especially of a certain age (those closer to forty than thirty) were every-
where. Which was all right with me because my livelihood depended
on them. You see, I am hired to fi ll in for women on maternity leave at
fashion magazines. I work contract to contract, so I even keep a journal
of who is newly wed, who is trying desperately to get pregnant, and
which of the slutty girls at the various magazines around town had a
drunken weekend.
I had found my niche as a beauty editor, which means I spend my
days writing about the latest mascara innovation, lipstick shade, and
antiaging procedure. Or, more accurately, I’m an acting beauty editor,
emphasis on “acting,” making me the ideal solution for every pregnant
woman who still worried about her career before the birth, the sleep-
less nights, and diaper changes hit. Most women who have kids later in
life view their career as their firstborn, and so they panic when faced
with the prospect of handing the reins over to a stranger. That’s where
I come in. I’m a career contract player and I like it that way because
each contract comes with an end date and that comes with freedom:
8 kim izzo

freedom from office politics, freedom to frequently change scene,


freedom to freelance, and freedom to travel at a moment’s notice.
That I hadn’t traveled or freelanced or even changed scene as much as
I had envisioned was beside the point. I could if I wanted to. But none
of that mattered now because my pattern of short-term employment
was about to change. Darlene, whom I replaced three pregnancy con-
tracts ago at StyleView, a sister magazine of Haute, had resigned to be a
full-time mom. The magazine had to hire someone to fi ll the vacancy.
And that someone would be me. I had turned down permanent offers
in the past, so I knew the company wanted me. Just thinking about
it made me smile. This is where all those years of playing hard to get
would pay off in an above-average salary, private office, and—I was
convinced—a signing bonus. An injection of cash that I needed des-
perately because I was broke. Through no fault of my own. Or at least
not entirely. Put it this way: I had misjudged a man, but more on that
later. Besides, there comes a time in every woman’s life, even a self-
described intrepid one such as me, where stability is as sexy as adven-
ture. This job would give me what I needed to be happy.
Right now, though, I was hungry. Still clutching the ultrasound
images I spied the Magnolia cupcakes on the table and was about to
pounce when I felt a hand on my arm. It was Marianne. Wearing an
empire-waist tunic and leggings, she rocked maternity wear better than
anyone.
“I can’t believe I got the stroller I wanted,” she beamed. “You must
have told them.”
“Maybe,” I admitted. Marianne had her eye on this very posh
stroller from Germany that wasn’t available in America yet. But the
magazine had loads of European contributors, so I had made a few
phone calls and raised the appropriate funds from the staff—Marianne
was the boss, after all.
“Are you sure you could afford it?” she asked softly. She guessed,
correctly, that whatever we were short I had topped up. But that was
before the incident, the error in judgment that had made me broke.
“Don’t even think about it,” I said reassuringly, still eyeing the
cupcakes, narrowing my choice down to a red velvet one with vanilla
frosting.
the jane austen marriage manual 9

“Have you heard from him?” she said, bringing up the incident.
“Not a word, and not a penny,” I answered gamely.
Here’s what happened. I was living with a guy named Chris on the
Upper West Side for three years. We were content, sometimes even
happy, with how things were. I never wanted the big ring, the fluffy
wedding, or, even worse, the marriage, so cohabitation was for me. For
us. I believed that we were as committed as any married couple. I be-
lieved this so firmly that when Chris was laid off from his graphic de-
sign job and wanted to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a fi lm
editor I offered to put him through fi lm school. After all, we were a
couple and I’d amassed enough savings to make his dream possible.
He was ecstatic and we made room in the apartment for the state-of-
the-art edit suite he needed to practice on.
It was perfect.
Until he met a sexy postproduction coordinator. He moved out
almost immediately, swearing to pay me back the more than fifteen
thousand dollars I’d loaned him, not to mention the debt he’d run
up on my credit cards when his own were maxed out and he needed
new software or whatnot. Well, that was over six months ago and I’ve
not seen a penny. Just excuse after excuse about the low wages of an
apprentice editor, and could I try being a little more patient? Sigh. I
was a first-class sucker and now, along with my patience, all I had left
was my own retirement savings plan—mutual funds and the like.
I needed Darlene’s job. Badly.
“Really, I’m fi ne,” I insisted.
“I’m glad,” Marianne said sweetly and rubbed her stomach. “And
I’m looking forward to having this baby and eating some of your fa-
mous lasagna.”
I smiled. “The secret family recipe,” I said furtively. “You might get
more than one.”
“Kate, can I speak with you a moment?”
We turned around to see Gloria, the executive publisher of the
entire company, and Marianne’s boss, walking toward us. This must
be it. My job offer had arrived. I practically floated out of the kitchen
and into Gloria’s office.
“Sit down,” she said. I smoothed my hair and dress as I sat in the
10 kim izzo

gray guest chair. I wondered if I could order a red one for my office.
“You obviously know the economy is in a slump,” she began.
Of course I knew. It was September 2008 and the economy was
big news. The words “fi nancial crisis” were everywhere. So maybe I’d
have to forego the signing bonus.
“We’re anticipating a heavy loss in advertising revenue,” she con-
tinued. “Not just Haute, but across the entire company. We have to
make cutbacks. I know you’re substituting for Claire but she’s back next
week.”
“And you have to fi nd Darlene’s replacement,” I interjected with a
knowing smile. “My salary requirements are negotiable.”
She stared at me and shook her head. Maybe I’d spoken too soon.
“Not anymore,” she said and averted her eyes. “We’re no longer fi lling
her position.”
I couldn’t decipher what Gloria meant because of a sudden sensa-
tion I might faint.
“Her assistant will be promoted and she’ll have to do both jobs
herself,” Gloria explained. Then seeing my blank expression, she con-
tinued. “We’ve also made the decision not to fi ll maternity leaves.
Existing staff will make up the slack. To be clear, once Claire returns
next week, you’re not needed here any longer. I’m sorry.”
I swallowed. “I’m fi red?”
“No, not at all,” she corrected me. “You were never an employee,
just a contract worker. We’re simply not renewing your contract.”
It was suddenly very hot in Gloria’s office. I thought back to the
kitchen full of my now former colleagues. The Ellie types, the Jenni-
fer types, and all those in between. “Does everyone know?”
“No, not even Marianne,” she said. “I wanted to tell you fi rst.”
I marched to my cubicle, my Mary Janes clipping and clopping so
loudly on the hardwood floor I felt like a cavalry officer or his horse.
My plan was to slip away without having anyone see me. I was no lon-
ger in the mood for cupcakes.
“Kate, darling!”
I nearly tumbled over when Claire appeared and threw her arms
around me.
“I brought a new photo of Peanut,” she said smugly and plopped
the jane austen marriage manual 11

down a glossy five-by-seven of her son. “I hope you don’t mind. I’m
back next week and, well, it’s not like you have photos to put up.”
She hovered, opening packages of makeup, rifl ing through my in-
tray. There went my plan.
“I’ll be right back,” I said and trounced off to the ladies’ room in
the hope that Claire would be at the shower by the time I came back.
I shut the stall door and leaned against the metal partition. That’s
when I realized I was still clutching the ultrasound photos. Fuck. This
meant I would have to return to the party. At that moment I heard
two women walk in and begin to preen in front of the mirror.
“Why was Kate in the photo?”
Did she mean me?
“It’s like she wants to be one of them,” the other voice chimed in.
“All she does is cover maternity leaves. It’s weird.” They were defi-
nitely talking about me.
“Why doesn’t she have kids of her own?”
“Instead of hanging around all the pregnant women? I heard her
boyfriend dumped her.”
“Really? Why?”
“He met someone else after Kate put him through school! He left
her with a big, empty apartment and loads of debt. She had to move
back home to Scarsdale,” one of them said with a snicker.
I sat there gripping the toilet. Should I remain silent and keep my
dignity? Or confront the cows then and there? I chose option two. I
stood up, opened the door, calmly walked out, and washed my hands.
Seeing me, one of them grabbed on to the counter as though she were
about to topple over. I refused to make eye contact but I recognized
them; they worked down the hall in ad sales. What was obvious was
that they were both pregnant, but forget Yummy Mummies. These two
were Monster Mamas. They had been at the shower but were too early
in their pregnancies to be included in the actual celebration. I wiped my
hands dry, tossed the paper towel into the bin, turned and faced them,
and, making a show of staring at their swollen bellies, I smiled warmly.
“Did you know that half of all men start an affair during their
wives’ fi nal trimester?” I lied pleasantly.
I went back to my desk, grabbed my things, and ran, but not before
12 kim izzo

stomping back into the baby shower to find Ellie. I didn’t do it on pur-
pose but as I stuffed the ultrasounds into her hand, the images flew
onto the floor like a deck of cards, scattering in all directions. I heard
the surprised shrieks from the women but I didn’t stop to help. Maybe
I was crying.
Marianne tried to chase after me. But that’s the thing about preg-
nant women: They’re easy to outrun, even in four-inch Mary Janes.