Meet Ellie, 21 years old, a college student—and a virgin, but not by choice. The heroine of the most comedic novel in years, Ellie is on a mission to get rid of her V card no matter what it takes. Whether she succeeds (or not), one thing is certain—you’ll be talking about Ellie, and laughing about things you thought you could only share with your best friends.
Not That Easy
Ellie used to be a virgin, but now she’s a woman with sexual experience. Well, some sexual experience. She also has debt, an unpaid magazine internship, and three flatmates who left her with the single room to match her single status.
That’s okay. She doesn’t want a boyfriend anyway—she wants several. And if the sex is exciting enough, her ruthless magazine-editor boss can exploit her dating life for a column.
But after countless hookups and forced attempts at seeming sexy backfire, Ellie starts to witness the emotional wreckage she’s leaving in her wake. Turns out that sex can be hard—and there’s a downside to giving it up too easy…
AN EXCERPT FROM VIRGIN
21 years old
I stared in horror at the words on Dr. E. Bowers’ computer. The status of my hymen was plastered across her screen in capital letters.
The letters glowed luridly on the green computer screen, the kind used before Steve Jobs figured out Apple. They imprinted themselves into my mind in an eighties blur. A lump of anxiety lodged itself into my throat and my cheeks started burning. I felt sick.
My humiliating secret was all over my medical records and Dr. E. Bowers was going to see it. I didn’t even know what the E in her name stood for but she was about to find out that in the two and a half years I had spent at uni, not a single boy had wanted to deflower me. Not one. I was twenty-one years old and I still had my V-card.
“Ms. Kolstakis?” she asked, pushing her rimless glasses up her nose. “You’re a final-year student at University College London, and you’re here to register, is that correct?”
I forced my paralyzed face into a smile and tried to laugh politely. “Yep, I don’t know why I didn’t join earlier. I, uh, I think it’s because I’ve just never been sick, you know?”
She stared blankly at me.
“Um, also, you can call me Miss Kolstakis, or just Ellie, if you want,” I added.
She turned her head back down towards the forms, creasing her brow as she struggled to read my messy attempt at writing in block capitals.
I wiped the sweat from my palms onto my jeans and told myself to be calm. She was a doctor. She wasn’t going to be shocked by meeting a twenty-one-year-old virgin. Besides, she was probably just going to ask me about the Kolstakis family history, and the worst thing I would have to tell her would be about Great-Granddad Stavros smoking a pack of cigarettes every day from the time he was nine. He didn’t even die from lung cancer in the end; he choked on an almond at the age of eighty-nine.
She breathed in sharply. “Mm, oh dear—this isn’t very good at all. You have more than seven alcoholic drinks a week?”
Oh, God. If she figured out I had deliberately rounded down by three drinks, I would probably be on the first bus out of here to rehab.
Dr. E. Bowers cleared her raspy throat.
“Oh, sorry.” I giggled nervously in a way I hadn’t since Girl Guides. “I don’t always have seven drinks a week; obviously it’s just during term-time. We normally go out on Thursdays. Oh, and Mondays. Sometimes Wednesdays, but that club night is kind of full of freshmens these days so we don’t go as much.”
Dr. E. Bowers furrowed her forehead and pursed her lips together. She started tapping away at her keyboard and I held on to the edges of the chair with anxiety. I focused my gaze on her computer. The six letters were no longer there. She had scrolled down the page without commenting on them. I breathed out an audible sigh of relief.
A sentence appeared at the bottom of the screen. Over seven drinks a week, heavy drinker, binge drinks.
“Wait, I’m not a binge drinker!” I cried. “In fact, I’m not even a heavy drinker. I’m a normal drinker—I barely drink anything compared to my friends.”
“Ms. Kolstakis, seven drinks a week is still rather a lot. You should think about cutting down, or you’ll be back here asking for a new liver in ten years,” she said severely.
She tucked her Princess Diana–circa-1995 hair behind her ears and continued. “I see you’ve left this section about sexual health blank on your forms. Are you sexually active?”
Am I sexually active?
I couldn’t even talk to my friends about just how un-sexually active I was, let alone Dr. E. Bowers. Someone who wore glasses with no frames was never going to understand how traumatic it was to be a final-year student who had never had sex. I bet she lost hers through a hole in a bedsheet like they did in the Middle Ages. She stared into my eyes as though she could read my mind. I felt my body perspiring. I wished I’d worn a black top.
I fidgeted in my seat. “Oh right, well, I’m actually not really very sexually active so . . . I didn’t bother filling in that section. I’m not pregnant, never have been and never will be at this rate!”
Her lips stayed in a thin line and she blinked her anemic-looking eyes at me.
I made a mental note to stop trying to distract her with failed attempts at humor and quickly added, “Honestly, I definitely don’t have any STDs or anything. It’s completely impossible.”
“Ah, so you’ve been tested recently for chlamydia and so on?” she asked.
“Well . . . no. I just can’t have chlamydia. I’m . . . well, I’m a . . . I mean . . .” My voice broke and my words trailed into silence. I couldn’t bring myself to say the word out loud. My best friends grew up just knowing this stuff and I’d spent the last three years hiding it from everyone I’d met at uni. I opened my mouth to try again but no words came out.
“Yes?” Dr. E. Bowers blinked and looked directly at me. “You’re a . . . ?”
“I’m a v . . . a vi . . .” Great. On top of everything, I’d managed to develop a stutter.
I took a big breath and tried again. This time the words tumbled straight out of me. “I’ve never had sex before so I can’t have any STIs. Or STDs. Well, neither.”
She blinked again. “But you are sexually active?”
Um. Does one failed attempt at a blow job and a few fingers jabbing into my vagina count as being sexually active?
“I don’t know,” I replied miserably. “I mean, I’ve never had sex but I’ve kind of been to third base.”
She sighed. “Ms. Kolstakis, are you sexually active or not? This is a confidential space. I just need to know whether or not to give you a chlamydia test.”
My stomach plummeted straight down into my Keds, taking my jaw with it. My own doctor didn’t believe I was a virgin. “No! I’m telling the truth, honestly. I’ve never had sex. I don’t need a chlamydia test.”
She squinted at me as though she was looking for any traces of a postcoital glow on my face. “Do you have a boyfriend at the moment?” she finally asked.
I lowered my eyes in shame. What kind of student was I, who had never had a boyfriend and was unable to answer a single question about sex when I was in my sexual prime?
“No,” I mumbled.
She turned to her screen and scrolled up without warning. I started in panic as the six letters emerged on the monitor. I threw my hands up to my face, shielding my eyes from the V-word.
She sat looking at the screen for twenty-seven seconds before she clicked it away and turned back towards me. Slowly, I lowered my hands from my flushed face.
She looked at me with something resembling pity. “Right, then, Ms. Kolstakis, I’m going to give you this chlamydia test to do at home. It is self-explanatory, but essentially you just use the cotton bud to swab your vagina and mail it to the address in the pack. You should hear within a couple of weeks. Is that all right?”
I stared at her with my mouth gaping open. “I . . . What?! I just told you that I’ve never had sex—why do I need a test?” I cried out.
“We offer free chlamydia tests for everyone over the age of twenty-one who is sexually active or has been in close contact with someone else’s genitalia.”
“But you know I’m not actually sexually active.” I blushed furiously. “I have never been, well . . . penetrated.” I stumbled over the last word.
Dr. E. Bowers raised her eyeballs to the ceiling. “Ms. Kolstakis,” she said, “I am now well aware that you are a virgin. However, I advise that you take this free test I am offering you to ensure that you do not have chlamydia. It is still possible—though very rare—to catch it in other ways.”
“But what other ways? Surely fingers can’t give you chlamydia?” I blurted out.
“No, they cannot. However, you can catch it from oral sex or if a penis has been around your vagina, even without penetration.”
How Dr. E. Bowers knew that James Martell’s penis had touched my VJ but never actually gone in, I will never know. I stared at her mutely, impressed for the first time by her medical abilities.
She pressed the packet into my hands with a knowing look. I stood up, clutching it. I could barely see past the bright green letters flashing in my head so I walked in an undiscerning daze back out through the waiting room. My throat felt parched and scratchy from mortification so I stopped off at the water cooler. As I poured myself a plastic cup of water, I felt something fall behind me.
I turned around in surprise and saw an upturned cardboard box lying in the middle of the room surrounded by small silver packets scattered all across the waiting room floor and under the waiting patients’ seats. Oh God. My satchel must have knocked it off the shelf behind me.
I closed my eyes briefly in shame before forcing myself to bend down and pick it up. The waiting patients in the room were staring so I pulled my jeans up, hoping my faded knickers weren’t on show. Crouching on my knees and trying to pull my jumper down to hide my VPL, I started picking up the packets. I was half-finished shoving them carelessly back into the open box when it suddenly hit me. These weren’t just shiny silver packets that I was picking up from under people’s feet. They were condoms.
The irony was not lost on me as I fled the doctor’s office, my eyes swimming in hot tears. I ran out into the street and chucked the brown envelope straight into the first bin I saw. My face burned red-hot as I watched it sink in with the empty McDonald’s paper bags, taking my dignity down with it.
I was nothing but a twenty-one-year-old VIRGIN.