Fiction, Illness, NetGalley, Women's

Excerpt From Five Steps To Happy: An Uplifting Novel Based On A True Story With #Disability Rep Blog Tour: Five Steps to Happy by Ella Dove

Five Steps to Happy is an uplifting story about a stroke of really bad luck with huge consequences and getting up from the ashes after it all. Heidi has a life-changing accident while jogging, passes out and wakes up with an amputated leg and not a real idea about what happened and how her life now seems to be in shambles. She is faced with the reality of having to re-learn almost everything she took for granted, and figure out what to do with her life from that point, and how to stand up both figuratively and physically. However, not everything is all bad – Heidi ends up making a lot of new, different friends and making a place for herself in this new world all on her own.

Today I present you a short excerpt from this novel, and I hope you enjoy it! If you’re curious about Five Steps to Happy, be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour stops:

Five Steps to Happy HB blog tour part two

Excerpt From Five Steps To Happy by Ella Dove: Chapter One

It took three and a half seconds for me to fall. And yet it felt like slow motion. I landed awkwardly on the canal path. Stones rough against my back. Blood wet on my forearm. My heart pounding.

‘Are you all right ?’

I opened my eyes and looked up. I’d forgotten that the man was still here. He had the whitest blond hair I’d ever seen.

His pale blue eyes darted nervously left and right. He looked as dazed as I felt.

‘Heidi,’ he asked. ‘Are you OK ?’

I touched a hand to my head. Had I hit it ? My hair smelt of stale smoke and dry shampoo – last night had been my fourth bar shift in a row, penance for yet another failed audition.

Three years out of drama school, and still no luck. These days, I was more of a barmaid than an actress. Stale-smelling hair and a sore throat from shouting drink orders over music had become my life. I’d planned to wash my hair post-run.
Now, tiny pieces of gravel were caught in the loose lilac strands that were stuck to my cheek. I was flustered and embarrassed.

‘Fine, yes . . . I think,’ I gabbled. Trust me to trip over in the midst of flirtation. Smooth, as ever. There was something wrong with my leg. I scrabbled up onto my elbows, wincing as pain shot through my knee. My face was hot. I felt drops of cold sweat on my forehead.

I had the urge to get up, to jog home to Dougie, who was back in our flat, sleeping off his hangover after joining me on a riotous post-shift night out with my work friends from Bar Conscience. His door had been closed when I’d left, blissfully unaware of my morning jogging ritual. He never understood why or how I chose to get rid of the toxins with a run. But when I was jogging, I felt free and at peace. My thoughts aligned with my feet on the pavement. The world made sense again.

‘Are you sure ?’ The man, Alexander, looked worried, blond eyebrows knitted together.

‘Yeah, yeah.’ I waved away his pity. Embarrassment stabbed at my gut. I tensed my stomach muscles and tried to sit up.

But the pain in my leg had intensified. There was a rushing in my ears. I collapsed back to the ground. Alexander was staring down at me. I fought the urge to cry.

‘My leg . . .’ I managed.

I felt sick. The sounds of the birds and the canal water against its banks now seemed loud and unnerving. What was happening ?

‘That doesn’t look good,’ Alexander said, uncertain. ‘It might be broken.’

‘Broken ?’

I screwed up my eyes. I thought about my plans for the day – a lazy brunch with Dougie, a Netflix marathon. I’d planned to learn my monologue for next week’s audition – not that I was feeling very hopeful about it. That night, I was due to meet Olly Burton-Powell from Tinder, a thirty-four-year-old chef from Hackney with a full beard and a mildly worrying taxidermy hobby. He was to be my third date this week – after sushi with a sales manager named Jeff who’d dropped a spicy tuna roll into his man bag, and non-alcoholic cocktails with Martin from Brixton (note : teetotal) who’d had his two front teeth knocked out by a BB gun during a re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo in an East London warehouse. Dating in your thirties was hideous. Let’s face it, all the best men had been snapped up already, stowed away with brides and babies, leaving people like me doomed to meet the same rotation of weirdos and narcissists online or else stuck on the ‘single’ table at weddings.

‘You need a hospital,’ Alexander said. His voice brought me back to the present. He reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out his phone.

‘Really ?’ I lifted my head, attempting to survey the damage. But the world whooshed in and out of focus, forcing me back down against the gravel. Fear began to set in.

‘Ambulance, please,’ I heard Alexander say.

I blinked once, twice. Nausea rose. My vision blurred. I knew I couldn’t try and move again. My body felt rigid with shock, frozen to the ground.

‘Yes, hello, there’s a girl here by the canal in Stratford, she’s tripped over and hurt her leg. We’re on the towpath that runs towards Hackney – near Three Mills Studios.

‘Yes, she’s conscious. Yes, she’s breathing, she’s responding. OK great, thank you.’

He shoved the phone back into his pocket. I vaguely remembered a first-aid lesson from school. Wasn’t it better to stay on the phone to an ambulance ?

‘It won’t be long,’ he said.

His body language was twitchy. I remembered the way I’d seen him hurrying along the path, large black headphones blocking out the sound of my approach.

‘How are you feeling ?’

Hot tears sprang to my eyes.

‘So painful.’

‘Help is on the way, I promise.’

He squinted down at me through the morning sun. His shadow fell across my body.

‘Hold tight. Won’t be long.’

The pain made everything hazy. Practical thoughts floated through the panic. Would Dougie be awake yet ?

When would he realise something had happened ? Should I cancel my date ? Why the hell had I left my phone at home ?

Alexander crouched down beside me. He stared anxiously at my leg, his mouth set into a tight line. I could no longer feel my foot. My eyelids flickered. I tried to fight it.

‘You’ll be OK. Just hold on. The ambulance will be here soon.’

Was he reassuring me, or himself ? From inside his pocket, I heard a shrill, old-style ringtone. Alexander retrieved his phone and answered it.

‘I know,’ he said. ‘She told me. I’m coming.’

He ended the call and straightened up. He pressed the screen again, checking the time.

‘Look, Heidi, I’m so sorry. I’ve really got to go.’

‘What ?’ I craned my neck to look at him. I was sure I’d misheard.

Alexander began to pace. Dust from the ground rose up and into the air.

‘I need to go,’ he said again. His tone was tortured. ‘I am so sorry.’

His phone was still in his hand. Every couple of seconds, he checked it. I heard a series of beeps as a flurry of messages came through in quick succession.

‘Why ?’

Alexander didn’t respond. His attention was glued to his screen. Fear jabbed in my stomach. What about the ambulance ? Surely he didn’t mean it ?

‘Please,’ my voice was rasping and hoarse. ‘Don’t leave.’

There was no holding back now. Tears ran down the side of my face and dripped into my hair. I pleaded with him, his features blurring in front of me.

‘You can’t . . .’ How could anyone be so heartless ?

‘I really have to. I have a train to catch. Please understand . . .’

With every ounce of energy I had left, I tried one last time to force myself upright. Below my knee, I felt a slicing, tearing sensation. I held my breath when I saw my leg, twisted at a horrifying angle in my new green gym leggings. I felt a sound escape my throat. I realised I was screaming.

‘Is everything OK ?’

Another voice now, high-pitched and urgent. My world swam in and out of focus. A blur of pink with black clothing. But I didn’t hear any more. I took one last look at Alexander before he turned and strode rapidly away. The last thing I remembered was the cloud of conflict behind his eyes. It was the sad smile of a man who had tried to stop me from falling.

It was the regret of a man who had missed.

Five Steps to Happy is an uplifting story about a stroke of really bad luck with huge consequences and getting up from the ashes after it all. Read an excerpt: Click To Tweet

I thank the publisher for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.

The Triggers

Triggers include a jogging accident, amputation, hospital life, inability of family members to accept the new situation, being pushed away romantically.

Have you read any good disability rep books recently? What were they?

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There is an anthology by Marieke Nijkamp called Unbroken that I would highly recommend.