Just Friends by Holly McCulloch

Just Friends is the hilarious rom-com debut from author Holly McCulloch. Read on for an exclusive extract from the first chapter.

Just Friends cover image

Chapter 1

I am not happy.

I am angry. On this, my Best Friend’s Wedding Day, I am angry.

And not (just) because I haven’t eaten.

I am angry because some dickhead has just made me angry on a day when I want to be genuinely full of happy. I have spent the last eighteen months helping my best friend, Mia, gear up for this day, agreeing to wear a dress that doesn’t suit me and shoes that hurt, running increasingly random errands, glue gunning (is that even a verb?) diamantés on to orders of service, and kindly offering to sit next to her crazy Uncle Geoff at dinner the night before. Who even spells Jeff that way? He spoke to me for hours about his coffee preferences, and I listened kindly, my jaw muscles aching from all the over-enthusiastic fake smiling. And why? Why am I doing this?

I’m doing this because, no matter where I am or what friend group I’m in, I am always known for being the happy one, and happy people don’t flip their lid at having to listen to Uncle Geoff drone on about the proper way to make an Americano.

Today I am on the verge of losing it. Today I have worked hard to be the best maid of honour a person can be.

But the truth is, inside, I am not happy – I’m a mess. I don’t know what I want to do with my life, I’m stagnating at work, I avoid all awkward conversations, and instead live with a growing well of frustration inside me and an increasingly loud internal narrator, who I try to keep quiet because not many of my thoughts are that happy these days.

But I pretend to be happy because I want to be happy. And because all of my friends like this happy version of me, and because I like my friends and I want them to stay my friends, I keep up the ruse. It’s really fucking tiring. Most days I manage it quite well.

But today is not most days.

Today I am on the verge of losing it. Today I have worked hard to be the best maid of honour a person can be. I helped calm people down in the morning, I helped find ribbon, I stood where I needed to in church, I left my wedgie where it was throughout the whole ceremony, and I even delivered a thoughtful yet amusing maid of honour speech. I haven’t eaten a proper meal in two days because of the nerves. But I was happy to do it. 

And now this fool has had the audacity to tell me that I need to work on the way I answer the question ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ Apparently my reply (‘Ha, no’) totally put him off. He kindly informed me that he could have been my next boyfriend, if only I’d answered that question differently.

He can speak Latin but he can’t bake a potato...

There’s too much rage in me to reply like an adult – a happy adult. And so instead, I’ve been standing here, silent and open-mouthed for an uncomfortable amount of time, unable to make any words reach my mouth.

Eventually I decide to say nothing and hobble away as fast as my pinched feet will take me. As soon as I leave, I worry that I have disappointed all the feminists. I’ve definitely disappointed myself.

Already too late to turn back with a quip (and still too stunned to think of one), I continue on my path. As I head past the obligatory awkward dancing and over to the bar, I hear someone yell my name.

‘Bea! Bea! Let me buy you a drink!’

I turn and see Peter – Peter Bodley, Oddly Bodley to his closest friends. I do feel kinda bad that the name stuck. I probably should have kept it to myself. But the thing is, Peter is just a bit odd.

He can speak Latin but he can’t bake a potato, he knows every European capital but he can’t paint a room without getting more paint on himself than the walls, and he wears some of the most subtly strange outfits. At university it became quite a well-known fact that his mum would try to organize his clothes for him in a way that made it impossible for him pick out offensively clashing colours and patterns. He frequently found ways to go rogue.

Looking at him now, not much has changed. He’s wearing a very nice suit, but he’s also wearing a really old- fashioned shirt, and the grubbiest trainers I have ever seen.

‘It’s an open bar, you idiot. And I can get my own drink.’

But still, we wander over together and order a couple of whisky sours.

‘Ugh. I know Tomorrow Me will regret this. The older I get, the more I like whisky, but the less it likes me.’

‘I’ve always liked whisky. Although I do prefer a sherry.’

Of course he does...

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