To The Stars

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She has a lot to learn about herself, life and love. But she does not have time on her side. Can she learn all three lessons in time.

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Chapter 1

A Day in My Life

Autumn has turned and the clocks have gone back already. It is that time of year when it begins to get dark around quarter to four.

My name is Sarah Barns and I have the letters MSc and PhD after my name. I am thirty-two years old, five foot five, and Caucasian with a slim athletic build. I have long mousy blonde hair down to my shoulder. People would say that I have features similar to Sandra Bullock.

My personality is reserved; I am quiet and only open up to people I eventually get to know well. When I warm to people, I make funny sarcastic comments and cannot stop laughing at my own jokes and others. I have a good sense of humour and my friends and colleagues find my laugh infectious.

I think I look a tiny bit like Gwyneth Paltrow but that doesn’t mean I have men falling at my feet. How I wish.

My favourite outfit is a pair of bootcut dark blue jeans, flat brown boots and a thin jumper, in which I have in various colours - light blue, maroon, green and navy blue.

For work, I wear jeans with a blouse or shirt and a short brown blazer that sits above my waistline.

In my spare time, I like outdoor runs and going to the gym for fitness and staying healthy.

I have been single for my entire life. Anyone I make friends with puts me in the friendship box before I even get a chance. I have fancied a lot of guys in the past but never quite managed to start a relationship. They see me as their sister. I tried internet dating but I kept showing interest in the wrong kind of guy and so gave up.

I am an only child as my parents only wanted one.

I have not done much with my life as I chose to put that on hold and focus on my education. For example, stepping into the big wide world, I concentrated on forging a career in teaching Astrophysics at Oxford University. I think I am at a point now where I can focus on my personal life. I can finally start to live.

I have never travelled abroad due to focusing on my education, as well as being penniless as a student. Now I have my rent, travel costs, student loan and household bills to pay before I can consider paying for a holiday abroad. I have always wanted to go to North America. There is nothing else that I would like to do.

I live in Milton Keynes, in an area called ‘The Hub’, in a block of apartments above restaurants and bars. The restaurants provide a range of cuisine, from pizza and fish and chips to Indian, Chinese and even Caribbean food, but I prefer to cook for myself rather than run out of money eating a different country each night.

The ‘Hub’ is a square area with entrances on each corner. In the centre of the square is a concealed water feature with small steel-rimmed holes lying flush with the concrete. Water is pumped from underground and jets of water spout from the holes. They jump out three at a time and curve inwards as high as four feet. The feature only works in the summer if it is a warm sunny day.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights can be a little rowdy but being high up on the tenth floor with double glazing drowns out the noise.

My apartment has a short hallway that leads to a pokey kitchen on the left and two bedrooms on the right. Opposite the bedrooms is a small bathroom with a bath with a shower inside. At the end of the hallway is the living room where my window faces the square. The living room is big enough to house a dining table and two chairs, a three-seater sofa and a coffee table in front on a rug.

I have lived in Milton Keynes all my life. I grew up in ‘Shenley Lodge’ and my parents still live there. I went away to study at University and came back with no plans.

I studied astrology because I am fascinated with space and the stars. I believe that other beings are out there in the galaxy. I also believe that there is some kind of god out there because the theory of the Big Bang is just that; a theory. Something must have been the cause – it didn’t just magically happen.

I have a PhD in Physics and when I came back to MK, I applied to teach at Oxford University. I didn’t think I would get the job because I didn’t go to a private school or get my degree there.

They have a Physics department and, specifically, a sub-department in Astrophysics. The course allows me to passionately talk about how the universe came about and how many planets we know exist. This is probably the reason why I do not have a boyfriend as I would talk him to death on this subject!

My interview took place in front of a panel of three senior academic lecturers and a representative from HR. I was nervous, as I had not expected to even be granted an interview, but I have now been working here for five years. I am responsible for organising my own method of delivering the syllabus and I both lecture and hold classes.

I thought I would find it hard to stand up in front of highly intelligent students and wondered if the students would correct my teaching. I had even worried that I would get my PowerPoint slides the wrong way round. However, after a few weeks, it became easier and more comfortable standing in front of one hundred and eighty-one pupils.

I have spent my whole life on my education and career, firstly telling myself that a college diploma would be good enough for me. Then I told myself that a university degree would give me satisfaction. After I achieved that, I thought a master’s degree would be enough for me but that did not satisfy me. So, I thought a PhD would be enough, but that did not fulfil me either. Now, despite being a University lecturer, I still do not feel totally complete.

In the past, I have tried to rack my brain to work out what is missing in my life. Is it travelling, being in a relationship, or are there other challenges I want to achieve? For now, I have my job and my own place, even though it’s rented and not far from my parents.

However, I envy five friends who I am close to. They are in relationships and fulfilled. I am not jealous of their relationships, but I do envy them finding their happiness.

On weekdays, my alarm wakes me at six o’clock. I leave my apartment by seven o’clock. I drive towards the A421 that leads to the A43 and, eventually, the M40 motorway. I stay on the M40 for one junction to join the A34 at junction nine. I travel along the A34 until I come off the slip road for the A44, which takes me along minor roads, to eventually reach Haldane Road. At the end of the road is a parking area.

I arrive about half-past eight and don’t start my lectures until ten o’clock, so, I go to a well-known coffee shop, about a ten-minute walk from my office.

I have a medium latte and an almond croissant. I take my time, staying there for about forty-five minutes. Once I have finished my coffee, I head back to the university, pick up my lecture work from my office, then head to my first lecture.

I have a tiny office the size of a shoebox. I check what subject and topic I will be lecturing for the day and prepare my PowerPoint slides ten minutes before the lecture begins at ten o’clock.

I have my lunch at one o’clock when I go with a work colleague to the same pub in town.

After lunch, we rush back for lectures which start at two-thirty. When I finish at five o’clock, I go straight home, via the A34, without stopping for anything. There are three ways of getting to work and back but I like to use the same route every day.

During the week, my evenings consist of eating dinner and having a glass of red wine. I am usually too tired to cook from scratch, so I have a microwave dinner. If I do not have work to take home, I will watch my favourite soaps to make the evenings fly by. If I have time, I will go for a short run around the block.

Weekends are spent washing the clothes I have worn for the week and hanging them on clothes racks in my living room and bathroom. I then get some errands done, like shopping, getting my car serviced and fuelled up, sorting out the post and any other business. I can get most of my shopping at the local supermarket which is quite nearby, so apart from sorting out the car, I don’t need to drive.

I visit my parents once a month, on a Sunday for a roast, so they can see that I am healthy and alive. I make a habit of seeing them on the last Sunday of the month, so I do not need to work out in my head when to see them.

I go to the gym on Saturday and Sunday nights as I do not have a social life, then, come Monday, life starts all over again.

I have four genuine close friends who I do not get a chance to see often due to their family life. I have known them since school and college. I am also close to a work colleague who has been a friend since I began at the university. She also has a family and I only see her at lunchtime when we go to a local pub.

I do not have a social life, which is why I go for runs and attend the gym. I have been recommended to join a social club but that is not actually for me as I am content with my own company.

I see my four friends roughly every three months when one of them will arrange a night out at the weekend. I leave it to them because they are better at organising the date than I am.

My friends are Natalie Lamb, Georgina Wells, Kerry Mason and Mercedes Hunjan. My friend at work is Belinda Jenkin.

Natalie is married to her university sweetheart, with two children aged four and six. She is Caucasian with shoulder-length brown hair and a slim build. She is five foot nine inches tall. She is thirty-one years of age.

She tends to wear a pair of jeans with a T-shirt and a hoody, and a pair of pumps on her feet,

She is always smiley, upbeat, easy to talk to and the life and soul of the party. She always has an ear to lend if you are going through problems. If I had an issue, she would be my first point of call. She mostly instigates a night out and arranges where to meet.

Her husband is quite reserved and I wonder how they met as they seem opposite to each other? But he is great with the kids and keeps her feet on the ground. She will come up with hair-raising ideas and he will rein her in.

She is an intelligent woman, a Corporate Banker in London, employed at a merchant bank. She deals with the financial affairs of medium to large corporate companies, such as loans, mergers and acquisitions.

Georgina is in a long-term relationship with her girlfriend. She is Asian with long black hair and has an athletic build. She is five foot six inches tall and aged thirty-three.

Her choice of fashion is a pair of trousers and a striped shirt with a thin tank top. The shoes she tends to wear are plimsols.

Her personality is placid; it is difficult to enrage her and she has a calming effect on people.

She met her girlfriend through a dating website that catered for both mixed and same-sex people. She is engaged to a beautiful black girl who is a couple of years older than her. They have been together for a couple of years.

Georgina works as a manager for a mobile communication company. She has to travel to Newbury for work, which takes her a little over an hour.

It is quite sad as she and her partner are struggling to have a baby. They cannot find a surrogate who would carry the child.

Kerry has two children, aged three and one, with her long-term partner. They are not married or engaged. They are content and do not feel it necessary to tie the knot.

She is a size thirteen after having two children and enjoying her food. She is Caucasian with blonde hair down to her shoulder and her face is slightly filled out. She is thirty-five years of age.

Because of her work, she wears jeans, pullovers and waterproof walking shoes for both work and personal life.

Her personality is free-spirited and she can be a bit scatter-brained. She does not conform to a daily routine and so she juggles with family life. When having a conversation, she can waffle a lot about what is happening in her life. It can be hard to keep her on track with topical conversations and talk about what is happening in your own life, however, she will be there for you physically if you need a shoulder to lean on.

Kerry works as an Agricultural Manager, which involves taking care of a farm. Her duties include administration, budgeting and hiring of staff. You would think that she would be organised at home considering what she does for a living.

Mercedes is also married but with no kids. She has been struggling to fall pregnant and both Mercedes and her husband have been struggling to come to terms with the thought of not having a family.

She is Indian with silky black hair that falls to the base of her neck and she wears it in a ponytail. She is very slim and petite at only five foot four inches. She is naturally beautiful with a flawless complexion. She is thirty-two years of age.

Her personality is bubbly and she has an optimistic view on life. She has not one bad bone in her body, much like the rest of us. I know that she is struggling with not being able to have her own children, however, she masks the hurt inside quite well with her sparkling upbeat mood.

She is a Recruitment Consultant in the medical profession. She focuses on recruiting for specialist consultants and surgeons.

Belinda is married with three children aged two, five and eight. She is Chinese and wears her natural black hair dyed maroon. She wears her hair tied up at the back. She has a pear-shaped frame and is a size sixteen. Her face has some blemishes but she is still extremely pretty. She is five foot nine inches and so she carries her frame well. She is thirty-nine years of age.

Her personality is similar to Kerry where she can get carried away talking about her life, forgetting to ask about yours, yet she is a good listener and is always able to give you advice. She is open and not opinionated.

She is a lecturer herself but she is at a senior level and so gets involved in course coordination and updating course syllabuses. She is my supervisor but she does not behave like she is. We go for lunch together every working day. She always has some form of engagement at the weekends whether it is seeing family or going away. I always hear about it on Monday.

Finally, my parents. They are in their sixties now and both still work. They cannot afford to retire early, so must continue until they reach retirement age.

My mum works as a nurse and my dad is a car mechanic for an independent garage. He always had the dream of running his own workshop but that never materialised.

Mum is quiet and reserved. She is very approachable if I need a mother/daughter talk. We are the same height and she has a slight waistline due to her age. She adores my dad and they still do romantic things together which makes me want to have a relationship.

My dad’s personality is similar to my mum’s which is probably why they get on so well. They met while going to dancing lessons. My dad swears that he went there to impress someone other than mum. He never told me who that was. My mum claims that the teacher always coupled them up and naturally they fell for each other. I roll my eyes every time they tell me that story.

Dad is taller than my mum at six foot six. He has a solid frame but through years of standing under a car, he has a slight hunch. He is still able to do his job; he simply has to focus on less physical work.

My parents’ names are George and Terrie.

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