Monday, 15 August 2016


The Girl Below Stairs
Jennie Felton

Anyone who knows me, knows I love a good old family saga and this series is no exception. I am delighted to show you the third in the Families of Fairley Terrace series and I can't wait to review this for you.

Published by Headline in hardback 25th August 2016 and paperback 12th January 2017.

Edie Cooper has grown up at Fairley Terrace, surrounded by a loving family. Now she spends her days working as lady's maid to Christina, the adopted daughter of the powerful Fairley family, and her nights dreaming of a life with handsome local lad Charlie Oglethorpe. Although broken-hearted when Charlie leaves to make his fortune in London, Edie finds consolation in her friendship with Christina, who asks for her help in uncovering the mystery of her true parentage. But someone in the grand house will stop at nothing to keep the long-buried secrets hidden. Will Edie be able to protect Christina? And will she find her own path to happiness with Charlie? 

The Girl Below Stairs is the third powerful saga from Jennie Felton, in her Families of Fairley Terrace series, in the grand tradition of Katie Flynn, Dilly Court, Maggie Hope and Josephine Cox, of secrets, romance, drama and triumph in the wake of a bitter tragedy.

To pre-order a copy of The Girl Below Stiars Click here

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Learning to Fly
Jane Lambert
Blog Tour

I'm delighted to be hosting the Blog Tour for Learning to Fly by Jane Lambert. I have an extract and guest post for you......enjoy!


Forty-year-old air stewardess Emily Forsyth has everything a woman could wish for: a glamorous, jet-set lifestyle, a designer wardrobe and a dishy pilot of a husband-in-waiting to match. But when he leaves her to ‘find himself’ (forgetting to mention the bit about ‘… a younger girlfriend’), Emily’s perfect world comes crashing down. Catapulted into a mid-life crisis, she is forced to take stock and make some major changes. She ditches her job and enrols on a drama course in pursuit of her childhood dream, positive that, in no time at all, she’ll be posing in Prada on the red carpet and her ex will rue the day he dumped her – right? Wrong! Her chosen path proves to be an obstacle course littered with odd jobs and humiliating auditions; from performing Macbeth single-handedly at Scone Palace to chauffeuring the world’s top golfers at St Andrews – and getting hopelessly lost.
If she is to survive, she must learn to be happy with less and develop a selective memory to cope with more than her fair share of humiliating auditions. She tells herself her big break is just around the corner. But is it too late to be chasing dreams?  


It is never too late to be what you might have been  ̴  George Eliot

Reasons for and against giving up the glitzy, glamorous world of flying:

  1. No more cleaning up other people’s sick.
  2. No more 2 a.m. wake-up calls, jet lag, swollen feet/ stomach or shrivelled-up skin.
  3. No more tedious questions like, ‘What’s that lake/ mountain down there?’ and ‘Does the mile high club really exist?’
  4. No more serving kippers and poached eggs at 4 a.m. to passengers with dog-breath and smelly socks.
  5. No more risk of dying from deep vein thrombosis, malaria or yellow fever.
  6. No more battles with passengers who insist that their flat-pack gazebo will fit into the overhead locker.
  7. No more wearing a permanent smile and a name badge.
  8. No danger of bumping into ex-boyfriend and his latest ‘I’m-Debbie-come-fly-me’.
  1. No more fake Prada, Louis Vuitton or Gucci.
  2. No more lazing by the pool in winter.
  3. No more ten-hour retail therapy sessions in shopping malls the size of a small island — and getting paid for it.
  4. No more posh hotel freebies (toiletries, slippers, fluffy bathrobes etc.).
  5. Holidays (if any) now to be taken in Costa del Cheapo, as opposed to Barbados or Bora Bora.
  6. No more horse riding around the pyramids, imagining I’m a desert queen.
  7. No more ice skating in Central Park, imagining I’m Ali MacGraw in Love Story.
  8. Having to swap my riverside apartment for a shoebox, and my Mazda convertible for a pushbike.    

‘Cabin crew, ten minutes to landing. Ten minutes, please,’ comes the captain’s olive-oil-smooth voice over the intercom. This is it. No going back. I’m past the point of no return. 
The galley curtain swishes open — it’s showtime!
I switch on my full-beam smile and enter upstage left, pushing my trolley for the very last time ...
‘Anyheadsetsanyrubbishlandingcard? Anyheadsetsanyrubbishlandingcard? ...’
Have I taken leave of my senses? The notion of an actress living in a garret, sacrificing everything for the sake of her art, seemed so romantic when I gaily handed in my notice three months ago, but now I’m not so sure …
Be positive! Just think, a couple of years from now, you could be sipping coffee with Phil and Holly on the This Morning sofa …
Yes, Phil, the rumours are true … I have been asked to appear on Strictly Come Dancing. God only knows how I’ll fit it around my filming commitments though.
Who are you kidding? A couple of years from now, the only place you’ll be appearing is the job centre, playing Woman On Income Support.
This follow-your-dreams stuff is all very well when you’re in your twenties, or thirties even, but I’m a forty-year-old woman with no rich husband (or any husband for that matter) to bail me out if it all goes pear-shaped. Just as everyone around me is having a loft extension or a late baby, I’m downsizing my whole lifestyle to enter a profession that boasts a ninety-two percent unemployment rate.
Why in God’s name, in this wobbly economic climate, am I putting myself through all this angst and upheaval, when I could be pushing my trolley until I’m sixty, then retire comfortably on an ample pension and one free flight a year?
Something happened, out of the blue, that catapulted me from my ordered, happy-go-lucky existence and forced me down a different road …
‘It’s not your fault. It’s me. I’m confused,’ Nigel had said.
‘I don’t understand,’ I said, almost choking on my Marmite soldier. ‘What’s brought this on? Have you met someone else?’
‘No-ho!’ he spluttered, averting my gaze, handsome face flushed.
‘But you always said we were so perfect together …’
‘That’s exactly why we have to split. It’s too bloody perfect.’
‘What? Don’t talk nonsense …’
‘I don’t expect you to understand, but it’s like I’ve pushed a self-destruct button and there’s no going back.’
‘Self-destruct button? What are you talking about? Darling, you’re not well. Perhaps you should get some help …’
‘Look, don’t make this harder for me than it already is. It’s time for us both to move on. And please don’t cry, Em,’ he groaned, eyes looking heavenward. ‘You know how I hate it when you cry.’
I grovelled, begged him not to go, vowing I’d find myself a nine-to-five job so we could have more together time, swearing that I would never again talk during Match of the Day — anything as long as he stayed with me.
Firmly removing my hands from around his neck and straightening his epaulettes, he glanced at his watch, swigged the dregs of his espresso, and said blankly, ‘Good Lord, is that the time? I’ve got to check in in an hour. We’ll talk more when I get back from LA.’
‘NO!’ I wailed. ‘You know very well that I’ll be in Jeddah by then. We’ve got to talk about this now. Nigel … Nigel …!’
For three days I sat huddled on the sofa in semi-darkness, clutching the Minnie Mouse he’d bought me on our first trip to Disneyland, as if she were a life raft. I played Gabrielle’s ‘You Used to Love Me’ over and over. I wondered if Gabrielle’s boyfriend had dumped her without warning, leaving her heartbroken and bewildered, and the pain of it all had inspired her. If only I had a talent for song writing, but I don’t, so I channelled my pain into demolishing a family-sized tin of Celebrations chocolates instead.
Cue Wendy, my best friend, my angel on earth. We formed an instant friendship on our cabin crew training course. This was cemented when she saved me from drowning during a ditching drill. (I’d stupidly lied on the application form, assuming that it didn’t really matter if I couldn’t swim, because if I were ever unfortunate enough to crash-land in the sea, there would surely be enough lifejackets to go round.)
‘Look, hon, this has got to stop,’ she said in an uncharacteristically stern tone, a look of frustration on her porcelain, freckled face. (As a redhead, Wendy has been religiously applying sunscreen since she first set foot on Middle Eastern soil as a junior hostess twenty years ago; whereas I would roast myself like a pig on a spit in my quest to look like a Californian beach babe.) ‘Okay, so it’s not a crime to scrub the toilet with his toothbrush, but who knows where that could lead? You’ve got to stop playing the victim before we have a Fatal-Attraction scenario on our hands.’ 
‘Eight years, eight years of my life spent waiting for him to pop the question, and now he’s moving out to “find himself”. I think I’m entitled to be a little upset, Wendy.’  
Prising Minnie out of my hands and hurling her against the wall, she straightened my shoulders and looked deep into my puffy eyes.
‘I promise you that, in time, you will see you’re better off without that moody, selfish, arrogant …’
‘I know you never thought he was right for me, but there is another side to him,’ I said defensively. ‘He can be the most caring and sweet man in the world when he wants to — and I can’t bear the thought that we won’t grow old together,’ I sobbed, running my damp sleeve across my stinging cheeks.
‘Come on now; take off that bobbly old cardie. I’m running you a Molton Brown bath, and you’re going to wash your hair, put on your uniform and high heels, slap on some make-up and your best air hostess smile, d’you hear?’ she said, pulling back the curtains. ‘And while you’re in Jeddah, I want you to seriously think about where you go from here.’
‘But I want to be home when Nigel …’
‘You always said you didn’t want to be pushing a trolley in your forties, and how you wished you’d had a go at acting. Well, maybe this is a sign,’ she said gently, tucking a strand of greasy hair behind my ear. ‘It’s high time you did something for you. You’ve spent far too long fitting in with what Nigel wants.’   
‘It’s too late to be chasing dreams,’ I sniffed, shielding my eyes from the watery sunlight. ‘And anyway, I just want things to go back to how they were. Where did I go wrong, Wendy? I should have made more effort. After all, he’s a good-looking guy, and every time he goes to work there are gorgeous women half my age fluttering their eyelashes at him, falling at his feet. He can take his pick — and maybe he did,’ I whimpered, another torrent of tears splashing onto my saggy, grey jogging bottoms.   
‘Get this down you.’ Wendy sighed, shoving a mug of steaming tea into my hands as she frogmarched me into the bathroom. ‘And don’t you dare call him!’ she yelled through the door.  
Perhaps she was right; she usually was. She may be a big kid at heart, but when the chips are down, Wendy is the one you’d want on your flight if you were struck by lightning or appendicitis at thirty-two thousand feet.
For the last year or so, hadn’t I likened myself to an aeroplane in a holding pattern, waiting until I was clear to land? Waiting for Nigel to call, waiting for Nigel to come home, waiting for Nigel to propose, waiting until Nigel felt ready to start a family? 
Yes, deep down I knew she was right, but I was scared of being on my own. Did this make me a love addict? If so, could I be cured?   

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Hayyaa’ala-s-salah, hayya ’ala-l-falah …’ came the haunting call from the mosque across the square, summoning worshippers to evening prayer. It was almost time to meet up with the crew to mosey around the souk — again. Too hot to sunbathe, room service menu exhausted, library book finished, alcohol forbidden, and no decent telly (only heavily edited re-runs of The Good Life, where Tom goes to kiss Barbara, and next minute it cuts to Margo shooing a goat off her herbaceous border), the gold market had become the highlight of my day.
Donning my abaya (a little black number that is a must-have for ladies in this part of the world), I scrutinised myself in the full-length mirror. No wonder Nigel was leaving me; far from looking like a mysterious, exotic, desert queen, full of eastern promise, it made me resemble a walking bin liner.
I read the fire evacuation drill on the back of the door and checked my mobile for the umpteenth time, then cast my eyes downwards, studying my toes. I know, I thought, giving them a wee wiggle, I’ll paint my nails. It’s amazing what a coat of Blue Ice lacquer can do to make a girl feel a little more glamorous, and less like Ugly Betty’s granny.
As I rummaged in my crew bag for my nail varnish, there, stuffed in between Hello! and Procedures To Be Followed in the Event of a Hijack, was an old copy of The Stage (with another DO NOT PHONE HIM!! Post-it note stuck to it). Idly flicking through the pages, my eyes lit up at the headline:

Former computer programmer, Kevin Wilcox, 40, went for broke when he gave up his 50k-a-year job to become a professional opera singer. ‘My advice to anyone contemplating giving up their job to follow their dream, is to go for it,’ said Kevin, taking a break from rehearsals of La Traviata at La Scala.

That was my life-changing moment; an affirmation that there were other people out there — perfectly sane people, who were not in the first flush of youth either, but were taking a chance. That’s what I’d do. I’d become an actress, and Nigel would see my name in lights as he walked along Shaftesbury Avenue, or when he sat down to watch Holby City, there I’d be, shooting a doe-eyed look over a green surgical mask.
‘What a fool I was,’ he’d tell his friends ruefully, ‘to have ever let her go.’ Hah! 
But revenge wasn’t my only motive. Faux designer bags and expensive makeovers were no longer important to me. I wanted the things that money can’t buy: like self-fulfilment, like the buzz you get on opening night, stepping out on stage in front of a live audience. Appearing through the galley curtains, proclaiming that well-rehearsed line, ‘Would you like chicken or beef?’ just wouldn’t do any more.
Inspired, I grabbed the telephone pad and pen from the bedside table, and started to scribble furiously.
  1. Apply to RADA/CENTRAL any drama school that will have me.
  2. Hand in notice.
  3. Sign up with temping agencies and find part-time job.
  4. Sell flat, shred Visa, store cards, cancel gym membership, and Vogue subscription (ouch!).

Subject: Audition

Dear Emily,
Following your recent audition, we of The Academy Drama School are pleased to offer you a place on our one-year, full-time evening course.
We look forward to meeting you again at the start of the autumn term, details of which are attached. 
Edward Tudor-Barnes 

Whey hey! It was reckless, irresponsible and utterly mad, but I was tired of being sensible or doing things simply to please others. Ever since I’d played the undertaker in a school production of Oliver! I’d wanted to act. Okay, so I may be running twenty-five years late, but now nothing and no one was going to hold me back.

* * *

About the Author

Jane studied languages at Stirling University then taught English at Hetzendorf Fashion School in Vienna.
On returning to the UK she joined British Caledonian Airways and visited some amazing, far-flung places she’d never heard of before.
However, she’d always dreamed of being an actress and at the age of 34 decided it was now or never. She sold everything to pay for drama school. People thought she was mad but she’s a great believer in seizing the day.
She has appeared in “Calendar Girls”, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” and “Deathtrap” in London’s West End. Her journey has been a rollercoaster ride but she wouldn’t change a thing. These crazy, amazing experiences provided the inspiration for “Learning To Fly” and its sequel, “Marriage, Mafia & Mozzarella”, due to be published next year.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

No Turning Back
Tracey Buchanan
Blog Tour

When radio presenter Anna Graves and her baby are attacked on the beach by a crazed teenager, Anna reacts instinctively to protect her daughter.
But her life falls apart when the schoolboy dies from his injuries. The police believe Anna’s story, until the autopsy results reveal something more sinister.
A frenzied media attack sends Anna into a spiral of self-doubt. Her precarious mental state is further threatened when she receives a chilling message from someone claiming to be the ‘Ophelia Killer’, responsible for a series of murders twenty years ago.
Is Anna as innocent as she claims? And is murder forgivable, if committed to save your child’s life…?


I was so eager to read this new book by Tracy Buchanan as I have read My Sister's Secret and loved it, so am delighted to be a part of the blog tour for No Turning Back.

Anna Graves is pushing her daughter Joni in her buggy along the seafront when she is confronted by Elliot Nunn. He is behaving very threateningly towards her and Joni and pulls out a knife. In a split second Anna tries to defend herself and Joni from her attacker and stabs him with a comb. He falls to the ground and dies from his injuries.

Anna works at the local radio station and it doesn't take long for the news to get out and instead of Anna debating the news on her radio show, Anna becomes the news. It doesn't help when it also appears that Anna has had a brief fling with her co-presenter Nathan. Anna's estranged husband Guy is enraged and insists Joni stays with him. Anna feels her world is falling apart and this is just the beginning.......

With Elliot's family on her back trying to find answers as to why Anna murdered their son, her own mother and brother so hostile towards her that the only person she feels she can confide in is her grandmother. Even the police don't seem convinced that Anna is innocent. 

Meanwhile, Anna is still trying to come to terms with the sudden death of her father, a man she always looked up to and admired. This and the emails she has been receiving from someone who is claiming to be The Ophelia Killer. This was someone who killed teenage boys over 20 years ago, but suddenly stopped until recently. 

This is a gripping and fast moving story and you can't help feeling sorry for Anna. She is trying to convince everyone she is innocent, but always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

A real page turner, right until the very last page. I for one am useless at whodunnits, but even I didn't have a clue as to who the killer was!! 

Thank you to Avon Books UK for sending me a copy of No Turning Back for review.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

The Brazilian Husband
Rebecca Powell

It's the first day of the Olympics in Brazil today, so I have a corker of an extract for you from Rebecca Powell with a Brazilian theme!.  

About The Brazilian Husband

“…scrawled in biro, the words which had brought me here…
‘Take me home’.”
Determined to honor her late husband’s final request, Judith and her teenage step-daughter, Rosa, set out on a journey from London to Brazil to track down his family and take his ashes home.
But when Judith’s search leads her to Ricardo, a handsome but haunted human rights lawyer, she begins to unravel a web of lies surrounding her husband’s past: a past which is about to come crashing into their present in the form of Rosa’s real mother.



Recife, July 1978

He didn’t hear her calling until the glass rolled out of his hand and shattered on the stone floor, jerking him awake; even then he mistook her voice for bats feeding in the trees outside his window.  He slowly prised his head from the desk, scratching at his unfamiliar stubble, and reached for the near-empty bottle of cachaça.  He stayed there a moment, listening to the insects in the yard and the click-clack of the ailing fan above him, wondering if he had imagined her voice, but then she cried out again, and this time there was no mistaking it. 
She was calling his wife’s name.
Fumbling to his feet he rubbed the back of his neck and flapped loose his white shirt, which had stuck to his skin in the heavy heat.  Still dazed, he stumbled out of the office and along the hallway, where he slid back the bolt on the front door.
He thought whoever it was had gone but then he heard the panting.  A figure lay crumpled at the foot of the steps: a child, shivering even in the heat of the night, her feet bare, her forehead buried in the tattered door mat, struggling to catch her breath.  He staggered down and scooped her up as she screamed again, clutching her swollen belly.  She swore at him and asked for his wife.  He said nothing but carried her back through the courtyard to the kitchen where he hoped there would still be water.
“Quero minha avó,” she kept saying, “I want my Nan.”
He didn’t know her Nan, but he knew her.  Even with her split lip and the raw gash across her cheek there was no mistaking her.
Once in the kitchen he lay the girl down gently on the floor and gave her a stick of corn to bite on, pushing her feet back during her contractions, just as the midwife had shown him hours earlier.  The shock of her had shaken him awake but the alcohol still left him confused and the tessellated patterns on the floor tiles made his head spin.
The baby slid like a skinned mango into his cupped hands.  It didn’t cry and his heart tightened.  He opened its mouth, ignoring the girl’s insults in his intense concentration.  The whole world had been reduced to saving this little life.  He dug his index finger into the tiny mouth and a thick black mass came out like pondweed.  He patted its back and rubbed its twig-like arms, whispering,
And it must have heard him, as it sputtered to life, kicking its legs into his chest.
Wrapping the baby in a tea towel he cut the cord with the cook’s bread knife.  The girl lay on the cold, hard floor, blood trickling like veins between the tiles, her hands still clutching the table leg.  His hands shaking, he held the baby out to her.
“It’s a girl,” he said.
“Take it away,” she hissed.
He stood in the humming light of the kitchen, the broken window hanging open on the thick night, and heard the first drops of long awaited rain start their tentative dance on the dry ground.  He breathed in the smell of wet earth and the decaying fruit of the cashew trees as he cradled her in his arms, this new little life already sucking at his knuckle, and lost in his own pain, and in the hopeless perfection of the child he had somehow delivered, his tears finally came.
Her life was in his hands now, he thought.
It would be many years before he came to realise that it was his life that was being held in hers.


London, March 1994

When we got married, even I only gave us a year.  I’d been giving us a year for the past fifteen years.
That summer was our anniversary and I was planning a surprise for Edson – not that we ever celebrated anniversaries - we weren’t that kind of a couple – and in any case, there hadn’t been much cause to celebrate over the last few years.  We’d covered it all: for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, but that evening, despite it all, despite all those nights alone with a bottle of gin, and those often equally lonely nights together with our backlog of baggage, I was determined we were going to celebrate.
It was dark before it should’ve been, the cold London night devouring the last crumbs of the miserable end-of-winter day.  My feet were throbbing after a double shift on the jewellery counter.  As my new trainee Denise locked up the display cabinets, I slipped out of my blistering heels and stretched my toes, imagining sinking them into the soft, warm sand of a Brazilian beach, thousands of miles away from this crummy job; this crummy weather.  That was going to be our celebration – my anniversary present to Edson; my apology for the past and a promise for the future.
It had taken me the best part of two years to save up for the trip – squirrelling away the pennies and the pounds, steadily, stealthily, secretly building up enough to take us all away - and at lunch time I’d finally done it; I’d walked in to the travel agents across the road and booked our first ever two-week holiday as a family: me, Edson and Rosa.  I couldn’t help but grin as I imagined the look on their faces when I showed them the tickets later that night.
A voice interrupted my daydreaming.
It was Mike, our manager.  He’d flung open the double doors and was striding over to the counter.
“Which of you lot was the last one in the stock room?”
The rest of the staff hurried towards us.
“Anyone want to own up?”
No-one made eye contact with anyone else, and for a moment it looked like no-one would admit to anything, but then beside me I saw Denise slowly start to raise her hand.  Denise was twenty-one and a single mother of two boys.  She was bordering on incompetent but I liked her refusal to let lack of skill or experience curb her enthusiasm.  She was like a little clockwork mouse; wind her up and off she went, smiling, helpful, eager, as long as I pointed her in the right direction.
“Would any of you go out and leave your house without locking the front door?” Mike asked, “Well? Would you?”
I felt everyone hold their collective breath, waiting to see what he’d do.  The week before he’d fired Suzanne from lingerie because she’d knocked over a display and torn an expensive dress.  I glanced at Denise.  She was biting her lower lip and staring at the floor, her hand hovering by her hip.  Her mum, who’d promised to look after the boys whilst she was at work, had flown off to Ibiza with a man she’d just met and Denise was having to fork out for childcare.  I didn’t know what she’d do if she lost her job - she’d only been there two months; she was still on probation.  I, on the other hand, had been there two years and had a perfect record.  I couldn’t let him fire her over something so inconsequential.  Besides, I was still buzzing from the high of finally booking our holiday.
I reached out and gently lowered her hand.
“Sorry, Mike,” I said, “that was my fault.”
“It doesn’t take a genius to lock a door.” He was looking at Denise.
“Like I said, it was my fault and I’m really sorry.”
“And you’re absolutely sure you want to take responsibility for this?” he asked.
I had been, until he’d said that.  Nevertheless, I nodded.  The most I’d get would be a wrap on the knuckles.  I’d had worse.  It’d be worth it if it meant Denise got to keep her job.
“Well, because the door of the stock room was left open, some idiot has made off with half our stock – including the watches.”
I looked up, horrified.
Mike glanced at the others and then back at me, flicking his finger towards the door, “Collect your things and leave,” he said, then looked around, addressing everyone, his voice a warning, “Zero tolerance, you all know that.  One strike and you’re out.  I don’t care who you are.”
“But,” I started, only he was already heading back out the door to the stairs.  I looked at Denise, who was staring at me with tears in her eyes.  I turned and ran after him.
“Come on, Mike,” I called up over the banister, taking the stairs two at a time to catch up with him, “you’re not serious, right?”
He stopped and watched me as I stumbled up the last few steps towards him, still barefoot, pink-faced and puffing.
“It wasn’t your mistake to own up to,” he said.  He didn’t sound angry, he sounded disappointed.
“Then don’t fire me.”
“I have to.”
“Because you lied.”
I looked at him, mouth open as if to speak, but nothing came out.  I couldn’t stop shaking my head.
“You lied to me, Jude, in front of all those people.  What was I meant to do?”
“Come on Mike, you know I really need this job.”
“That’s not what it sounded like to me.  Sounded like you wanted to play the Good Samaritan.  Sounded like you were doing what you always do - flying to the rescue of yet another lost cause.”
“Mike,” I called after him but didn’t move.  I knew this was about more than the stockroom. 
I hadn’t known he was married when it started, or else it wouldn’t have started at all.  I already knew it was beneath me, sleeping with the boss, but I couldn’t help it.  He’d made me feel like I still had something; could still feel something - until that afternoon, when I’d found out he was married and naively asked him when he was planning on leaving his wife.
“I’m not leaving my wife,” he’d laughed, “no more than you’re ever going to leave your pathetic excuse for a husband.”
As he’d said it, I knew it was true.  I wasn’t going to leave Edson, but I realised that I’d simply wanted him to want me to. 
 “You don’t understand,” I’d said, but then stopped.  He was married.  It no longer mattered what the truth was about Edson and me; about our arrangement.  I’d been an idiot and it was over.  And Mike had clearly welcomed this excuse to clear up his mess and get rid of me.
He paused as he reached the top of the stairs and looked back, “It’s been fun though, right?  No hard feelings.”
I watched as his office door clicked shut behind him.

I knew Edson would have been expecting me home hours ago, but not trusting myself to hold it together in the tomb-like tunnels of the underground, I’d sought refuge huddled against the window at the back of the night bus, staring at the pale reflection of my face as life hurried past outside.
“No need to come in again,” Mike’s personal assistant had told me, slipping on her jacket and reaching for her handbag to let me know we were finished.  “I’ll forward you the necessary paperwork.”  She’d looked down her nose at me with what was either pity or disdain, I couldn’t decide.  She was half my age, newly engaged and one of those people who still believed that there were no problems, only solutions.  She hadn’t a clue.
I leant my forehead on the cool glass and felt my heart sink.  I’d messed up everything.  I’d been planning this evening for so long; the evening where I’d tell Ed about our holiday to Brazil; where I’d listen as he told me again of the beautiful house on the beach where he grew up; of his surgeon dad and his politician mother; of his beautiful sisters and his successful friends.  I’d wanted to wait until I was sure we could afford it; a surprise; the best present I could ever give him; the one thing he longed for more than anything in the world – to go home.  I’d even taken up Portuguese classes again, like he always wanted me to.  Only now I’d gone and ruined everything.
A group of young girls giggled in the seats in front of me.  I shut my eyes and listened.  How had I got there?  Crumpled on the late bus, alone, thirty-eight years old and out of a job – again.  My life was being sucked away from under me and what was I doing about it?  Just ignoring it, letting myself fade away, like that was normal, like this was all my life was ever meant to be.  I knew Edson would be disappointed if he knew about Mike.  He’d always been my biggest fan, the person who believed in me, even when I stopped believing in myself.  He’d say ‘what were you thinking?’; he’d say I deserved better.  That was easy to say though, wasn’t it?  Doesn’t everyone think they deserve better?  As if the world owed any of us anything.  But where would we be if we all got what we deserved?

I pushed open our peeling blue front door and felt the stale warmth of home hit my face.  I slipped off my shoes and felt the worn carpet, rough under my feet.  Adding my hat and coat to the pile of paraphernalia already hanging over the banister, I made my way as quietly as I could past the living room door and into the kitchen.  A holdall seeping dirty washing told me that Rosa was home from whichever friend’s house she’d been staying at these last few days.  She’d been staying over more and more of late and when I asked where she was, she’d avoid the question and just say that Dad had said it was okay.
“Jude? That you?” Edson’s voice came from the front room, his Brazilian accent still thick even after fifteen years in London.
 He’d always be waiting for me to come home after a day on his own.  I’d change his catheter and we’d laugh together as I told him about some daft thing someone had done at work, or the palaver I’d had with a particularly obstreperous customer.  At least, that’s how it usually went, except when he was deep into one of his depressions.  After almost fifteen years, he was still my best friend in the world and I loved him with every part of me.  I knew he couldn’t control his depression, the doctors had told us it was to be expected, and I tried not to blame him.  It came in cycles and we dealt with it the best we could, but those last few weeks he’d been worse than I’d ever seen him; monosyllabic at most.  I hadn’t managed to get even the hint of a smile out of him.  I knew it had something to do with the call from his ex-lover, but he refused to discuss it.  Instead, we’d discuss what he wanted for dinner; he’d want something I didn’t have and then he’d try to goad me into an argument about it.  I’d make his bed, tidy away his left-over lunch and pretend I hadn’t heard, telling myself that it would all be forgotten once I told him about the holiday I was planning.
Only now there wasn’t going to be a holiday.  I’d blown it.  I was going to have to go and persuade the travel agent to give me a refund.  We’d need the money to see us through the next few months, whilst I looked for another job.
“Just a minute,” I forced a breeziness into my voice as I reached in to the cupboard for the bottle of gin, only to remember I’d drunk the last of it the night before.  I stood staring at the empty shelf.  How could I tell him I’d lost my job?   How were we going to manage without my wages?  I couldn’t lay that worry on him, not when he was like he was.  I’d promised him a long time ago that I’d take care of everything and I wasn’t about to let him down.
 “Jude!” He was getting impatient.  Dinner would have to wait.
I kicked the bag of clothes toward the washing machine and gathered the dirty mugs, glasses and plates from the worktop just as Rosa decided to turn up the stereo in her bedroom and the ceiling started to vibrate.
“Hey!” I shouted up, noting the growing watermark emanating from under the bathroom.  One more thing to add to my interminable to-do list.  When there was no response, I shouted again.  And again.
I stormed to the bottom of the stairs and called up.
“Rosa!” Shouting made my head hurt.
No reply.
“Rosa!” I yelled, my frustration mounting, my anger at Mike and at myself for being such an idiot making it far worse than it should’ve been.
“What?” came the reply.
“Turn that music down!”
Just then Edson called again, “Jude!”
“In a minute, Ed,” I snapped.  At times like that I resented his dependence on me.  I craved freedom.  I wanted to be elsewhere, anywhere, for just one night: one night when I had no one to look after.  I suppose that had been the allure of my sad affair with Mike.
The music clicked off.  I lifted my head to shout up again but was caught off guard by Rosa’s face appearing over the banister.  At fifteen she was so tall, so awkward with her still undecided beauty.
“Alright Mum?”
“Where have you been?”
“At Sal’s.”
“I thought you were at Jenny’s.”
“Same difference,” shrugged Rosa, slouching down the stairs and rummaging under my things to find her bag.
“And who do you think is going to do all that washing in the kitchen?”
“Don’t start, Mum.”
“Why, where are you going?”
“Who with?”
“I thought you were with Kenny.”
“I just said don’t start, Mum.”
“I’m not starting.  I liked Kenny, that’s all.”
“Kenny’s a shit.”
“There’s no need to…”
“Well, I just hope you’re being careful.”
“You know what I mean.”
“God, Mum, shut up, I’m not a kid.”
“You’re still only fifteen. And I don’t want you regretting anything, that’s all.”
“Hello, this is the twentieth century.”
“That doesn’t mean you can go around being a…”
“A what, Mum?”
“Never mind.”
“No, go on, say it.”
“I said forget it.”
“You think I’m a slapper, that’s it, isn’t it?”
“Watch your tongue.” I knew I sounded like my own mother and cringed.  When had I let myself become such a nagging middle-aged cliché? 
“Oh my God, that’s what you think I am, isn’t it?”
“Of course it isn’t.” Who was I trying to kid?  I wasn’t talking about Rosa.  At least Rosa was having fun.
“Better than being a frigid old cow,” Rosa shouted.
I slapped her hard across the face.  I didn’t mean to, it just happened.  We froze; both of us knowing a line had been crossed, unsure where to go from there.
Just then Ed called me again, this time more urgently.
I stormed in to the living room, shaking and angry with myself.
“What?” I snapped, then fell silent as I saw him, lying between the television and his wheelchair, the remote control on the floor next to an open bottle of tablets.
“Rosa!” I screamed into the hallway.

The front door slammed shut.

About the Author

Rebecca Powell was born in Bristol and has a degree in French and Portuguese from the University of Leeds.  In her early twenties she worked for a year at a women's shelter in the northeast of Brazil, before moving to London, where she continued to work for a number of national charities.  She now lives in the South West of France with her husband and three children. 


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