Authors: Christina Jones
Tags: #Fiction, #General
The Way to a Woman’s Heart
Never Can Say Goodbye
Published by Hachette Digital
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by Christina Jones
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
Little, Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment
London, EC4Y 0DY
To Moonpie – I love you.
With special thanks to Broo Doherty, Emma Beswetherick and Lucy Icke – you were all great when I needed you most.
‘So, how are your wedding plans coming along, dear?’ Dora Wilberforce’s elderly voice echoed from her shimmering Nook Green garden. ‘I bet you and Jay still have masses of things left to do before the big day, haven’t you?’
‘Actually,’ Erin Boswell, teetering precariously on the top of a rickety stepladder in the nether regions of Mrs Wilberforce’s extremely stuffy, dark and cluttered shed, called back, ‘there isn’t that much left to sort out. Most of the arrangements are made – and so far everything’s gone really smoothly.’
‘Has it? Then you’re a very lucky girl.’ Dora sounded slightly disappointed at this lack of prenuptial problems. ‘In my experience, most weddings seem to cause all sorts of complications in the planning – right up to the eleventh hour.’
Erin shook more grimy particles from her blonde ponytail, wiped dust from the front of her pink vest and beamed into the shed’s murk, ridiculously happy in the knowledge that she and Jay were clearly the only couple in the entire world to be having a stress-free wedding.
Then, mindful of
the shed’s possible immediate horrors, she stopped beaming and concentrated on squinting into the cobwebby gloom. Because this was always the tricky bit of the job.
OK … She closed her eyes.
Please, she prayed silently, please, p-l-e-a-s-e, don’t let there be any spiders.
Slowly opening one eye, then both, Erin exhaled. OK again. So far, so good – no spiders.
‘Oh, I know all about the nightmare wedding stories.’ Erin raised her voice a little higher. ‘That’s all everyone keeps telling us. That there’ll be all sorts of hitches and glitches. But honestly, our wedding hasn’t caused any problems at all. We’ve kept everything dead simple. Jay and I knew exactly what we wanted and, of course, it’s been easy for us because we’ve been able to do it without any interference, er, I mean help, from either family.’
‘Actually, there’s no need to shout, dear,’ Dora Wilberforce said. ‘I’m not deaf.’
‘Sorry. I thought you were still in the garden.’
‘No, dear. I’m here in the shed doorway now – ready to give you directions on finding the box. You’ll have to fight your way through a few more cobwebs first though. The shed hasn’t been touched for years. I’m afraid it looks rather like Miss Havisham’s house in there, doesn’t it?’
And then some, Erin thought with a shudder. ‘Mmm, it does a bit. And it’s quite dark. I should have remembered to bring a torch.’
‘Shall I fetch you one from the house, dear?’
‘No, I’ll manage, thanks.’ There was no way Erin was going to admit that she really didn’t want to be left alone for even a nanosecond with the
threat of spiders. Dora Wilberforce might be old, but at least she’d be
. ‘My eyes are getting used to it now.’
‘Good,’ Dora Wilberforce said happily. ‘Because actually I’ve no idea where my torch is and I’d have to search for it and that would have taken even longer and we’ve wasted quite enough time as it is.’
‘So,’ Dora continued, ‘you’ve made all your wedding arrangements yourself, have you? You and Jay haven’t had one of these newfangled wedding planners?’
‘Well, yes we have actually, oooh … excuse me …’ Erin sneezed as a whole veil of dusty cobwebs floated round her. She held her breath. No spiders. Again. Phew.
‘Jay and I knew what sort of wedding we wanted, so once we’d written everything down, we met Abbie, the wedding planner at the Swan, and gave her all the details. And now she’s working with us to make sure it all happens exactly to plan.’
‘Fancy.’ Dora chuckled. ‘It’s all a far cry from my day when the bride’s parents provided whatever they could afford, and if you got a bit of a sit-down spread in the village hall afterwards, you were grateful. And most couples had to move in with their in-laws after the wedding ’til they could get a place of their own. Honeymoons were a rare treat, too. If you were lucky you got a weekend in a seaside boarding house, but for most, the wedding night used to be a family occasion, so to speak.’
‘Oooh, that sounds terrible,’ Erin laughed. ‘Thank goodness times have changed. Jay and I have saved up and paid for everything ourselves, so we didn’t need to ask anyone else to help out financially. Or to be involved. It’s going to be our day, exactly the way we want it.’
‘I wish my wedding
had been more what I wanted. Mine was a very cheap do.’ Dora Wilberforce sounded quite nostalgic. ‘Mind you, weddings are big business now, aren’t they? Such a lot of money. I s’pose it all makes sense to you young ’uns.’
‘Oh, we’re not going mad with ours – we’re not having a castle and a Red Arrows fly-past and zillions of white doves and Cinderella coaches and eight million bridesmaids, or anything like that – but we do want a lovely day that everyone will enjoy.’
‘And your mum and dad, or Jay’s, haven’t had any say in it at all?’
Dora pondered this. ‘Wish mine hadn’t … Ah, well. Water under the bridge … And I s’pose your mum and dad
be involved under the circumstances, could they?’
‘Not really, no.’
‘But even if they’ve been left out of the planning stages, they will still be popping over for it, won’t they? They’ll be here in time for the big day? They’re not going to miss it?’
Standing on tiptoe, Erin wobbled again and smiled to herself in the warm darkness. Mrs Wilberforce made it sound as if her parents lived just round the corner in Nook Green, or in the neighbouring village of Bluebell Common or something, rather than an entire world away in Sydney. She still missed them and wished they were closer. Especially now.
But, she had to admit, it had been much easier to plan the wedding without her mum – or Jay’s who lived in the Midlands – raising any objections or making unsuitable suggestions or demanding that some ancient and unpleasant rellie simply
to be invited.
course they’re coming over. They’ll be here ten days before. They do know what’s happening, though. We’ve kept them up-to-date with everything on email and Skype.’
‘Have you?’ Mrs Wilberforce, clearly never having heard of Skype and possibly not even email, sounded doubtful. ‘That’s nice. And it’ll be lovely to see them again. Mind, I could never understand why they went all the way to Australia in the first place. Rose and Pete were Nook Green people, born and bred. A trip to London or a holiday in Majorca was a big adventure for them.’
‘Mmm, yes, it was a bit of a shock to everyone.’
‘I know it was for your dad’s job but surely he could have found something nearer?’
‘Not at the time. Anyway, they’re really settled over there now and I’ve been happy living with Uncle Doug, and it means Jay and I have been left well alone to plan the wedding ourselves. It’s all gone really smoothly. There’s absolutely nothing that can go wrong now.’
Dora Wilberforce gave a little snort. ‘Now you be careful, young Erin. Don’t you be too cocky. Remember, there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip.’
Erin giggled. ‘My nanna used to say that too.’
‘Ah, a wise woman, your nanna. And such a jolly lady. We’ve all missed her so much at the Yee-Hawers Over Sixties Line Dancing Nights, not to mention the monthly Cheese and Wine parties.’ Dora sighed wistfully. ‘How she loved her glass or two of Blue Nun with a nice chunk of Caerphilly on a cream cracker. Ah, the life and soul, Muriel used to be. Always laughing, always the first up on the floor, always the last to leave. Still, nothing stays the same for ever, dear, does it?’
Guessing the question was rhetorical, Erin simply shook her head and continued
her rummage among Mrs Wilberforce’s stored clutter.
‘You must miss her too,’ Dora Wilberforce said sadly. ‘What with your mum and dad being in Australia and everything.’
‘I do, yes.’
‘And she’d have loved to see you wed,’ Dora sighed again. ‘Such a shame she got taken away.’
‘Taken away?’ Erin chuckled. ‘That sounds a bit dramatic. She was hardly abducted by aliens, was she?’
It had caused more than a bit of a hoo-ha in the village when Muriel, her sprightly widowed nanna, had put a lonely hearts ad in a national oldies magazine, had been contacted by, met, and fallen whirlwindly in love with the suave, also widowed and slightly younger Colin, and gone to live – in sin, according to the more strait-laced Nook Greeners – with him in his homeland of Malta.
‘Anyway,’ Erin finished robustly, ‘she was very happy to be
, actually. And she and Colin will be coming to the wedding.’
‘R-e-a-l-l-y?’ Dora Wilberforce exhaled noisily. ‘Muriel’s going to bring her fancy man back to Nook Green, is she? Well, I never …’
Erin laughed to herself. That would give the Yee-Hawers Over Sixties Line Dancers something to gossip about at their next hoedown – and then some.
Holding her breath for a moment, she carefully wiped a stray cobweb from her face. Fortunately, again, luck was on her side and there wasn’t a spider attached.
‘So, yes, my entire scattered family, all five of them, or six if you count whoever Uncle Doug brings as his plus one – and none of us are
sure who that will be – will be on my side of the wedding room to see me married.’
‘Surely, Doug will be partnered by young Gina, won’t he, dear? They’ve been walking out together for some time now.’
‘Who knows? I hope so because Gina is so lovely and really good for him – far too good for him, really – but you know what he’s like.’
‘Hmmm. Once a Lothario always a Lothario. He’s a naughty boy, your Uncle Doug. Such a bad reputation with the ladies.’
‘And still mightily proud of it, sadly.’
Although he was hardly a boy, Erin thought as she leaned even further into the shed’s upper recesses. Doug was in his mid-fifties, but as he’d clung on to the ethos of his 1970s laid-back love ’em and leave ’em hippiedom, his romance track record was pretty rocky.
Erin sighed. ‘I’m sorry, but I still can’t see the box you wanted in here.’
‘Can’t you? Oh dear. The shed’s a bit cluttered I’m afraid, dear. And the light bulb went months ago. The box is walnut with mother-of-pearl inlay. Top shelf to the right. You really can’t miss it.’
Erin thought she probably already had. Several times. Mrs Wilberforce’s garden shed was crammed from floor to ceiling with boxes and bags and broken things that no one would have made any use of for generations.