Chasing Chris Campbell is the hilarious and charming second novel from the author of Husband Hunters, Genevieve Gannon. The author has kindly provided me with an excerpt of the book that I can share with you below.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Violet is saving money: living on rice and beans and denying herself chocolate éclairs all in the name of saving for a home deposit. Once they save enough, she and Michael can buy a house, settle down and live happily ever after. But when Michael does the unthinkable, Violet is forced to rethink her life choices.
A chance encounter with Chris Campbell (first love, boy-next-door, The One That Got Away) spurs her into travelling to exotic locations she never dreamed she’d explore – Hong Kong, Vietnam, Varanasi – on a quest to catch up with Chris and lead a life of adventure.
Armed with hand sanitiser and the encouraging texts of her twin sister Cassandra, will Violet find true love before it’s too late? Or will the nerve-wracking experience of travelling send her back to Melbourne in search of safety and stability? Can she work out what she really wants before she is left with nothing?
‘Is this the stupidest thing I’ve ever done? Am I going to wake up in Hong Kong alone and $900 poorer and realise I’m the stupidest person that ever lived?’
‘Of course not,’ Cass pulled her hair up into a topknot. ‘You’re going to have an adventure.’
I wiped my brow. Melbourne airport was so bloody hot. The terminal wobbled behind a wall of rising heat. Bulging suitcases were lugged out of car boots. Tearful goodbyes were exchanged. Tight packed cars and cabs danced an awkward routine of rolling, breaking and honking. There was flesh on show everywhere and all of it was flushed and shiny.
‘It will be exotic and romantic over there. You’ll fall in love, get married and have dozens of babies. Just like you wanted.’
I was having doubts. I had never been overseas before and in ten hours I would be stepping off a plane (only the second I had ever been on) into a world of God knows what.
I put my hand into my pocket and felt the folded edges of Chris’s email that I had printed.
Cass was the only one I’d told about the email. To my parents I said I needed to expand my horizons. To my friends I said I needed an adventure. And to Michael, over and over again, I said I needed to think.
He’d called a few times since our fight, to ask how I was, and we’d chatted like distant relatives. Our conversations were cordial and vague. When I’d told him I was going on a trip he’d made a noise like a kicked puppy, and I’d had to remind myself of the motorcycle and what it had meant.
‘I’m not going to lie to you,’ said Cass. ‘There’ll be times when you’ll feel lonely. There will probably be times when you’ll feel scared. But that’s what travelling is all about. The good will far outweigh the bad. You’ll come back with a whole new perspective. And if things get really tough we’re only a phone call away.’
She rummaged in her handbag.
‘Here,’ she said, holding out a small wrapped package.
‘What is it?’
‘It’s a present. Also known as a gift, presents are given from one person to another to mark significant events. You’re supposed to open it.’
I punched her arm and ripped off the paper to find a small bottle of Dettol hand sanitiser. I laughed.
She gave me a sly look and told me she had wanted to get me a broom but wasn’t sure it would fit in my suitcase.
‘Thanks,’ I said, and added the bottle to the two others in my daypack.
Cass threw her arms around me and squeezed. I swallowed and tried not to let the tears escape. My throat ached from the effort.
‘You’re going to have an amazing time.’
I nodded. ‘I’m prepared.’
When she hopped into the station wagon I instantly wanted to call her back.
‘You go,’ I’d tell her, shoving my tickets and passport into her hands. ‘I can’t do this.’ But I didn’t. Instead I waved and smiled, my legs frozen stiff with fear. She drove off honking and waving. I swiped my eyes with the back of my hand.
‘Bloody Michael,’ I muttered, heaving my daypack onto my shoulder and heading towards the terminal.
I looked like a paranoid boy scout. There was a name tag on every piece of clothing I had with me. My zips were fastened with locks, the keys to which were on a chain around my neck. And Dad had sent me a money pouch that would be strapped to my waist for seven more minutes until Mum’s car was out of sight at which point it would be re-gifted to the rubbish bin.
I’d checked twice to make sure there was nothing in my bag that would attract the attention of sniffer dogs. On my only previous flight – to the CSIRO in Canberra – I got lost at the airport when I arrived back in Melbourne. I ended up in a restricted area, and had to be escorted to the taxi rank by two customs officers. They confiscated my apple and gave me a stern lecture about fruit flies and interstate quarantine. I was scared I was going to unintentionally break a law and find myself in Kerobokan sharing a cell with a housewife from Toowoomba who also didn’t realise disinfectant wipes were illegal in Asia.
My intrepid traveller look was completed by a proud red suitcase I had purchased on sale. It had a retractable handle, an expandable middle, and wheels that were the evil twins of supermarket trolley wheels. They went in all different directions at once and flew spiralling out of control at the slightest loss of ground integrity.
I joined the back of the check-in line and opened up my Global Maverick Guide to Hong Kong. It was from 1994 and had been inherited from Dad. It was missing its back cover and had a soup stain on one of the maps which made it look like most of the CBD was underwater. I was feeling a flutter of curiosity and excitement, when suddenly someone knocked into me with a giant backpack.
‘Sorry,’ he said grinning eagerly. ‘Hey, same book.’ He produced his own copy of the guidebook, only his was the 2014 edition.
‘You know it’s best to get the current editions,’ he told me. ‘Prices change and hotels close all the time.’
He was tall but baby-faced, with a mop of shaggy brown hair that grew out of from his head like dandelion spores. He manoeuvred a pair of binoculars around his neck and offered me his hand.
‘I’m Jim,’ he said. ‘Hey, we should see if we can get seats together. It’s a long flight, it’d be good to have company.’
‘Umm …’ I tried to think of an excuse.
He was already launching into his theories on travel.
‘Studies have shown people who are well travelled are far more tolerant and overall have higher incomes.’
‘Really,’ I said.
He prattled on about maybe doing some unpaid work.
‘I think it would look great on my resume,’ he said. ‘And the beer is supposed to be really cheap.’
I shut my ears and wondered what Chris was doing; if he was sitting in a bar in Hong Kong somewhere right now, drinking a San Miguel or Tai Po beer. I already knew all about the local brands because of Michael’s devotion to Asian ales. Then I couldn’t help but wonder what Michael was doing.
Shaggy-haired Jim’s monologue had stopped. ‘Is it a secret? Do you work for ASIO or something?’
‘I said, why are you going to Hong Kong?’
‘Oh.’ Since the first of January I had been subjecting everyone I came across to my relationship autopsy. Co-workers, relatives, and people sitting next to me on trams were given all the details whether they wanted them or not.
‘Michael had looked great on paper,’ I’d tell them.
‘I’m just going for a holiday,’ I said.
Jim nodded, encouraging me to elaborate.
‘More of an adventure, really. Like you. I’ve never left Australia before … You see, I just got out of a long-term relationship.’
Suddenly I was wading into it. How I had always wanted to get married. How hard I’d saved and how I’d always thought Michael and I would start a family.
The long queue of people in front of us were checked-in and sent to security as I told Jim about the motorcycle, the eclair I couldn’t buy, and the incessant diet of lentils and rice we’d subsisted on as we’d scraped together a house deposit.
‘I just started to think, is this all there is? You know?’
‘Mmm.’ Jim said and looked at his watch.
Next I was pulling Chris’s email from my pocket and showing it to him. ‘We were together for six perfect weeks. It was our last summer of high school.’
I told him about the party and The Deadbeats and how Chris and I would have fallen in love, if only we’d had the chance.
‘He called me “the one that got away”. I’m going to meet him now. And then everything will be back on track –’
‘Oh look,’ Jim cut me off. ‘It’s my turn. Good luck with, um, everything. Nice talking to you.’ He heaved his giant backpack off the floor and hurried towards the check-in desk.
‘But –’ Bugger, I thought. He was the first friend I’d made on my ‘Forget Michael’ tour of Asia and I’d blown it. ‘Shall we get seats together?’ I shouted after him.
‘Um, gee, I just remembered I’ve got a lot of reading to get through,’ Jim said without stopping. Then he turned and urgently thrust his passport at the airline staffer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Genevieve Gannon is a Melbourne-based journalist and author. She wrote stories for music and fashion street press magazines while at university before moving to Canberra to do a journalism cadetship. In 2011 she joined the national news wire, Australian Associated Press, where she covered crime, politics and entertainment. Her work has appeared in most major Australian newspapers including The Age, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph. She currently lives in Melbourne where she is a court reporter. At night time she writes romantic comedies. Chasing Chris Campbell is her second novel.