The product: Jessica Wild
I’m a product now?
Look, either we do this my way, or we don’t do it at all.
Fine. I’m a product. Whatever . . .
Project mission: To rebrand product in order to make it irresistible to target audience, prompting target audience to declare its undying love for product and to propose marriage.
Timescale: 50 days
Target audience: Anthony Milton (product’s boss and gorgeous-looking advertising world A-lister)
Objectives for new brand:
1.To be attractive to Anthony Milton.
2.So attractive that he asks product out.
3.And then asks product to marry him.
4.Oh, and this all has to happen in 50 days. Including the wedding.
5.This is the most stupid project I’ve ever worked on.
And the most lucrative. Remember, we’re talking about £4m here. That’s not to be sniffed at.
I’m not sniffing. I’m just planning what I’m going to do when it all goes wrong.
It won’t go wrong.
Easy for you to say. You’re not the one who has to do any of this.
Key features of product (positive): Um . . .
Small waist. Nice legs. Bit too serious, sometimes. And seriously crap when it comes to men.
Barriers to rebrand/issues to tackle:
1.Target audience has so far shown no interest in product.
2.Product not remotely interested in target audience, either.
The gorgeous Anthony Milton? Come on, you must be slightly interested.
Not even a little bit. He’s not my type.
You have a type? You never go on dates. How can you have a type?
I don’t have a type; I just know who isn’t my type.
That’ll be men in general, then . . .
This is a bad idea. Maybe we should rethink . . .
Oh no you don’t. You agreed to do this. You can’t back out now.
Yes I can.
No, you can’t. Anyway, you don’t have a choice in the matter. We’ve already gone over the alternatives and they don’t exist.
Thanks for the reminder.
-Could I delegate this? Hire a supermodel to marry Anthony instead?
-Kind of defeats the point, doesn’t it? Look, it’s not that hard. You just need a haircut. Some new clothes. To learn to smile properly. And a bit of training in the art of seduction.
-I like my clothes. And my smile. And I’m not interested in the art of seduction.
-You will be when I’ve finished with you.
-You’re finishing with me? Is that a promise?
My flatmate Helen screwed up her nose. “Why do I get the feeling you’re not taking this entirely seriously?”
“I have no idea,” I said innocently. “Because I’m taking it very seriously indeed. In fact, I’m thinking about going to the library and researching marriage over the past two thousand years. You know, to glean top tips.”
Helen rolled her eyes. “Come on, Jess. This isn’t a joke. Are we doing this or not?”
I sighed. “Look, maybe we didn’t think this through properly. I could just call the lawyer. Come clean. Apologize and then forget all about this ridiculous idea.”
“Is that what you want to do? Really?” Helen demanded.
I went red and shook my head. There was no way I was calling up the lawyer and admitting the truth. It would be too awful, too humiliating. It just wasn’t an option.
Helen shrugged. “So then tell me exactly what you’ve got to lose, Jess. I mean it.”
“My dignity,” I said immediately. “My independence. My . . .”
“Debts?” Helen suggested. “Your nonexistent social life? Come on, Jess, when was the last time you went out?”
“I don’t want to go out. Going out is highly overrated. As are marriage and relationships.”
“How would you know? You never have relationships. And anyway, this isn’t a relationship; it’s a business proposition.”
I bit my lip. “Anthony won’t know it’s a business proposition. You’re saying you’re going to make him fall in love with me, but it’s never going to happen. This really is a huge waste of time.”
Helen narrowed her eyes and stared at me. “You’re not scared, are you?”
“No!” I said defensively. “Of course I’m not scared. I just think it’s a crazy idea.”
“I don’t believe you,” Helen said, shaking her head. “You’re scared. Jessica Wild, Miss ‘I Hate Marriage,’ is scared of rejection. Admit it.”
I rolled my eyes, irritated. “I’m not scared of rejection,” I said, pointedly. “I just know Anthony is never going to fall for this . . . this project. Or me, in fact. And I don’t particularly want him to, either. I’ve got better things to do with my time than go chasing after some womanizing man.”
“Better things to do than inheriting four million pounds? Don’t be silly. Anyway, I think it would do you good to have a boyfriend.”
“I bet you do,” I said. “But I’m afraid that’s neither here nor there. Contrary to your belief system, I don’t think that men are the answer to everything. I don’t want a boyfriend. Don’t need one to validate me. I’m perfectly happy on my own.” The words came out like a mantra, I’d said them so often. And I believed them, too. Marriage was fine for pretty young things who were happy to depend on a man, but it wasn’t for me. I knew better.
“On your own and broke, you mean. So, fine, you’re happy on your own. But if this works out, you don’t just gain a gorgeous husband; you make four million pounds. I mean, come on. That’s got to be worth a shot, right?”
I shrugged uncomfortably. She had me there. Four million was huge. It was a life-changing amount of money. “I’d still be married,” I said.
“You could always get divorced.”
I frowned. Sure, I didn’t believe in marriage, but I didn’t much like the idea of divorce, either. It smacked of failure, of having made a bad choice. Maybe Anthony and I could separate, I found myself thinking, then kicked myself. I was beginning to believe Helen’s hype. I wouldn’t be separated or divorced, because I wasn’t getting married. I might be humoring Helen, but Project Marriage was never going to actually work. “I guess.”
Helen smiled at me. “So you’ll do it? You’ll give it a go?”
“I’ll give it a go,” I said hesitantly. “But I’m not doing anything I’m not comfortable doing. And I still think it’ll never work.”
“Well, if it’s not going to work, you’ve got nothing to worry about,” Helen said. “Have you?”
I sighed. “You think this is funny, don’t you?” I said accusingly. “You think this is just a game.”
“It is a game.” Helen grinned. “It’s a game show. And the prize is huge. Come on, Jess. Lighten up.”
I caught her eye and frowned. I didn’t want to lighten up. I wanted this all to go away. But I knew it wasn’t going to. So instead I shrugged. I knew when I was defeated.
“Yay!” Helen clapped her hands together. “So, then, let’s go and get your hair cut,” she said, handing me my coat. “Before you change your mind again.”
Excerpted from The Importance of Being Married by Gemma Townley. Copyright © 2008 by Gemma Townley. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.