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Read an extract About the book
  • Published: 30 April 2018
  • ISBN: 9780143791881
  • Imprint: Michael Joseph
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $29.99

Five Years From Now

Extract

Prologue: Forty

‘Oh, baby,’ I murmur, brushing Luke’s hair away from his forehead as he fights back tears.

He’s still my ‘baby’, even if he is almost fifteen years old.

‘I can’t believe I’m going to be holed up for the rest of the summer,’ he says in a choked voice. ‘And I’m going to miss Angie’s party,’ he realises.

I suspect this fact hurts him even more than his broken ankle.

‘She’ll probably get off with Jake and that’ll be that, then,’ he adds bitterly.

I lean in and squeeze his shoulder. ‘Angela Rakesmith looks at you like the light shines out of your backside,’ I say pointedly. ‘You have nothing to worry about there.’

Despite himself, my son grins, but it’s quickly followed by a grimace.

‘Do you need more painkillers?’ I ask with concern, my hand halfway towards the button to call the nurse.

He shakes his head. ‘They make me feel sick.’

‘I’m sorry you’ll miss the party.’ I am genuinely sympathetic. Luke has been looking forward to it so much. ‘That sucks. But think of all of the attention you’ll get when you go back to school. The girls will be clambering over themselves to sign your cast. Angie will be jealous as hell.’

His bottom lip wobbles and he swallows rapidly, but there’s no holding back his tears of misery and frustration.

‘I had so many plans for this summer! How did I do this surfing?’ He slaps his hand on the bed.

‘It could’ve been worse.’ I shudder at the thought.

He rolls his eyes, putting a halt to the direction my thoughts were taking. ‘It could always be worse. That doesn’t make me feel better, Mum.’

‘I know it might not make a lot of sense right now, but one day …’ A shiver goes down my spine as I hear myself saying the words, ‘… maybe five years from now, you’ll look back and understand why this happened.’

‘No, I won’t,’ he retorts grumpily. ‘I’ll just think I was a stupid dick for inviting Jensen to come surfing with us.’

I cast my eyes heavenwards.

That’s how it happened. Luke’s friend Jensen got caught up in the rip current and Luke went after him. They hit the rocks on their way back in. Jensen face-planted on the reef and had to have three stitches on his eyebrow, but was otherwise unharmed. My son was less fortunate.

‘You’re right. You shouldn’t have invited him,’ I say. ‘None of you should have been surfing at Porthleven in those conditions, especially Jensen, who is way too inexperienced.’

Unlike Luke, who has been surfing almost every day since he was ten years old.

He bites his lip, knowing that he hasn’t heard the last of this.

‘But,’ I persist with making my point, despite his earlier dismissal, ‘maybe some good will come of this. Maybe, one day in the future, Jensen will think twice about surfing in similar conditions. Or you will. Or one of your friends will, and it might save their lives. Or perhaps there’s something else you’ll do this summer, someone you’ll meet who you wouldn’t have met otherwise, who’ll have an impact on your life. This may strengthen Angie’s feelings for you, or it may not – but at least you’ll know and won’t waste your time on her. All I’m saying is, although this feels like the worst thing ever right now, one day, you might look back and realise it happened for a reason. My dad once gave me that “five years from now” advice and I’ve never forgotten it.’

Luke takes a deep breath, his face creasing with pain.

‘Are you sure you don’t need more medication?’ I ask worriedly.

He shakes his head. ‘I’m fine. Just … take my mind off it. Please,’ he adds in a strained voice.

‘You want me to tell you a story?’ I flash him a hopeful smile.

‘As long as it’s not about Fudge and Smudge,’ he replies, chuckling and wincing in quick succession.

‘How dare you?’ I ask mockingly. ‘Fudge and Smudge are my greatest creations!’

Not strictly true and he knows it.

He grins at me. ‘You know I love them, really. So when did Grandad say that “five years” stuff to you?’

‘When I was your age, funnily enough. But I overheard someone say a similar thing a whole decade before that.’

‘When you were five? And you remember?’

I nod. ‘Ruth was a hard person to forget.’

‘Who was she?’

‘The love of your grandad’s life,’ I explain. ‘And she wasn’t Grandma,’ I add with a significant look.

‘What happened to her?’

‘Well, that’s a whole other story.’

He gives me a rueful look. ‘I’m not going anywhere.’

‘All right, then,’ I say with a small smile. ‘I guess I’ll start at the beginning.’

Which, for me, was when I was five years old …

Five

There was a boy on Nell’s bed.

Nell’s grip on Rabbit tightened as she stared down at him. He stared back sullenly.

‘Nell, this is Vian,’ Daddy said in his trying-to-be-jolly-nothing-wrong-here voice.

‘Vian, come off the bed,’ Ruth urged gently.

Nell had already met Ruth downstairs. Ruth had a nice smile and red curls that bounced when she walked. Nell instinctively liked Ruth. But if Ruth was the reason Nell had a boy on her bed, Nell might have to rethink her affections.

‘Vian,’ Ruth urged again.

Nell dragged her eyes away from the boy with his dark, unfathomable eyes and looked up at her father. ‘Why is he on my bed?’

Daddy seemed momentarily uncomfortable, but quickly put his jolly voice back on. ‘We thought you’d like to sleep in the top bunk, now that you’re a big girl.’

Nell shook her head. ‘I want my bed.’

Her father exchanged an awkward glance with Ruth.

Ruth knelt down. ‘Can you get up, please, Vian?’

‘No,’ Vian muttered, edging back until his entire body was flush against the wall. His dark hair looked stark against the white paint.

Nell’s eyes roved around the room, taking in the unfamiliar teddies on the duvet and the toy cars lined up on the narrow shelf behind the pillow. Something told her that Vian had been sleeping in her bed for some time.

And it was her bed. It had always been her bed and her bedroom. She even had glow-in-the-dark stars stuck to the wooden slats holding up the top mattress. Nell had a quick look to see if they were still there. They were.

‘It’s fine,’ Nell’s father brushed Ruth off, touching his hand to her arm. ‘Why don’t we all go and have a nice hot chocolate and a biscuit?’

Hot chocolate and biscuits before dinner? Nell loved the idea of this, but Vian continued to scowl. It was as though he thought she was the intruder.

‘Daddy, I don’t want to sleep in the top bunk,’ she whispered anxiously as she followed her father out of her bedroom, not understanding the reason for the upheaval. ‘What about my glow-in-the-dark stars?’

‘Daddy, I don’t want to sleep in the top bunk,’ she whispered anxiously as she followed her father out of her bedroom, not understanding the reason for the upheaval. ‘What about my glow-in-the-dark stars?’

‘We can get you some more to put on the wall,’ Daddy promised, turning around to scoop Nell up into his arms as he reached the bottom of the stairs.

‘But I like looking up at them,’ she said, her eyes pricking with tears as her father carried her the rest of the way into the kitchen.

‘Then we’ll get you some stars for the ceiling,’ Daddy replied.

‘But I like my bed.’

‘Nell, please.’ Her father’s forehead creased with impatience as he set Nell back on her feet. ‘Be a good girl, okay?’

Nell was stung. She was a good girl. She loved coming to stay with her daddy in Cornwall. This was their time. Why did things have to change? Why did these people have to be here, too?

Mummy had explained, of course. Daddy had a new girlfriend who had moved in ‘faster than the speed of light’ …

Very unlike your father. Completely uncharacteristic. I did wonder if he’d been brainwashed, but we’ve spoken and she seems nice enough. Probably do him good – stop him from being such a hermit. Plus you’ll have company because her son’s the same age as you, born literally two days before you. Your dad thinks it’s fate, that you’re going to be like Topsy and Tim twins or something.

Nell’s head had spun with all this information, but she had lapped it up because Mummy was usually too busy to talk and now she was actually laughing.

The only person who had made Mummy laugh lately was Conan, Mummy’s tennis coach.

Not that Mummy had played tennis with Conan in a while.

‘Ruth? Are you coming?’ Daddy called loudly.

‘Be there in a minute,’ she called back.

Daddy smiled at Nell. ‘Vian is a bit shy, but he’s really nice. You’ll like him, I promise.’

He had claimed as much on the phone.

‘Now, which biscuits shall we have?’ Daddy asked. ‘Custard creams or Bourbons? Or Jammie Dodgers?’

‘Jammie Dodgers,’ Nell replied with a smile. Her father beamed at her as he tore the packet open and upended its entire contents onto a plate. ‘Here they are,’ he said merrily, as Ruth appeared hand in hand with Vian.

The boy was about Nell’s height, possibly a couple of centimetres taller. Nell could see now in the light of the kitchen that his eyes were blue. Dark blue. He still looked very grumpy.

Nell cuddled Rabbit to her chest and stepped behind her father’s legs.

‘All sorted,’ Ruth said jovially. ‘Vian will sleep in the top bunk from now on.’

‘But—’ Nell’s dad started.

‘Shh,’ Ruth cut him off. ‘It’s fine. He’ll be fine. Won’t you, darling?’

Vian glared at his mother and pulled a chair out from the table, the sound of the wood screeching across the floor tiles making everyone except the perpetrator flinch. He slumped down on the chair in a sulk, his bottom lip jutting out and his arms folded across his chest as he stared straight ahead.

Vian did not look fine.

Nell tried not to care. She had only restored what was rightfully hers, after all. And she really did like her bed.

 

Later that night, after what had been an uncomfortable dinner time – Nell’s father had talked way more than usual, while Vian hadn’t said a word – Nell sat on the floor, fidgeting, in the dark outside the bathroom. Ruth was helping her son to get ready for bed while Nell’s father cleaned up the kitchen. Nell was waiting to brush her teeth and go to the toilet, like Mummy always made her do on her own, but Vian and Ruth seemed to be taking ages. The door was open a crack and Nell could see Vian standing next to the bath, his head hanging down.

‘I don’t want to wear it,’ he mumbled and Nell mused that his face looked pink.

‘It’s only until you get used to the ladder,’ Ruth said in a low voice.

‘But nappies are for babies.’

Nell listened with interest. Did Vian wet the bed?

Vian sniffed.

Was he crying?

Ruth crouched down beside him. ‘It’ll be okay, Vian, I promise. Everything will be better tomorrow after you and Nell have had time to play together.’

‘She doesn’t like me.’

‘She doesn’t know you. This is very new to her, too, remember. She’s used to having her daddy all to herself when she comes here. It’s the only time she sees him.’

‘Why don’t I see my daddy?’

Ruth sighed heavily and straightened back up. ‘Come on, honey,’ she chided.

Nell’s mind ticked over. Who was Vian’s daddy? Where was he?

‘Put this on for tonight, to be on the safe side. You don’t want to have an accident when Nell is underneath you.’

Nell’s eyebrows jumped up.

When they were both in their PJs, Daddy read Nell and Vian a story on the downstairs sofa, not up on Nell’s bed as he usually did. Nell looked across at Vian, who was sitting totally still, listening intently. He had curls like his mummy, but they were shorter and came around his face, partly falling into his eyes. His hair was very dark brown, almost black.

Vian hadn’t spoken to Nell directly since she’d arrived. She couldn’t imagine how he could possibly become a playmate, someone she wanted to spend time with.

‘Right, that’s it. Bedtime,’ Nell’s dad said, patting both children on their bare knees.

Nell jumped up and kissed her father on the lips.

‘Night night, love you,’ she said.

Her father looked taken aback as she turned away and hurried up the stairs.

Nell had dragged bedtimes out as long as possible in the past, begging for just one more story, just one more kiss, maybe even a song …

But tonight determination carried Nell to her bedroom.

She threw Rabbit onto the top bunk and climbed up the ladder. By the time Vian appeared in the doorway, she was already snuggled under her duvet. He looked up at her with surprise.

‘You can have the bottom bunk,’ Nell said graciously. ‘I don’t mind.’

Vian tore out of the room, shouting: ‘Mummy! Nell says I can sleep at the bottom!’

‘Oh, what a kind, considerate girl!’ Nell heard Ruth gush from the living room.

Nell felt her insides expand with happy bubbles as she listened to her father’s footsteps on the stairs. He appeared in her room, his chocolate-brown eyes glowing with pride.

‘Thank you,’ he murmured, stepping onto the middle rung and planting a big kiss on his daughter’s cheek. ‘This means a lot to me. I really appreciate it. You did the right thing.’

Yes, Nell had.

And it honestly had had very little to do with the fact that she didn’t want Vian to wee on her head.

 

Nell’s father, Geoffrey Forrester, had lived in the same two-bedroom cottage on the Helford River his entire life. It had been passed down to him by his mother after her untimely death, and Geoff reckoned that he, too, would be carried out of it in a coffin.

Set at the top of a steep hill, with far-reaching views right down the river, Geoff liked nothing more than to sit on the bench seat in his garden, in front of the large purple hydrangea bush, peacefully watching the tide roll up and down the river from the nearby sea.

Today, however, he had company, and peaceful was not a word that could be used to describe the experience.

‘Ready, steady, go!’ Ruth called.

Nell concentrated on making her body as pin-like as possible before setting it in motion. She squealed as she rolled down the steep incline, hoping Ruth would indeed catch her, as promised, before she tumbled over the edge onto the riverbank. The tide was out, but the mud oozed, Nell remembered, having lost a welly boot to it the year before.

Ruth caught the giddy girl and swung her back onto her feet, but the sound of her laughter was drowned out by Vian’s war cry as he took his turn.

‘You rascal!’ Ruth exclaimed, catching her son at the bottom. ‘I wasn’t ready!’

Vian clambered to his feet, yelling, ‘Again! Again!’

He caught Nell’s eye and she knew that the competition was on, so she ran, ran, ran, up the hill as fast as she could, before launching herself, panting, to the ground.

Ruth squealed. ‘Oh, Jesus, Geoff! HELP!’

Ruth reached Nell just in time, while Geoff caught Vian, but he spilt hot tea on his hand in his haste to get to him.

Nell and Vian did feel bad when Geoff cursed out loud, but then Ruth threw her head back and laughed and everyone else joined in.

‘You’ve got grass in your hair,’ Ruth said later, picking recently mown lawn out of the children’s hair as they ate cheese sandwiches, made with crusty bread from the village shop. They were sitting at the kitchen table, which had a picture-window view of the wide river stretching out before them. The steep banks on either side were wooded with mature oak trees and the green tops looked soft, like cotton wool.

‘Yes, your mother told me I need to do a better job of brushing it this year or she’ll lop it all off,’ Geoff said wryly, patting Nell on her shoulder.

Nell was nonplussed. She knew the threat was an empty one. She’d already asked if she could have hair like Isabel’s from school, but Mummy had replied that Isabel looked like a boy and, from her tone, Nell had gathered that this wasn’t a good thing.

‘I’ll brush it for you,’ Ruth said kindly. ‘It’s such a beautiful colour. It’s like the wheat growing in the fields across the river.’

‘Do you want to go over there again this evening and paint?’ Geoff asked casually, and Nell remembered Mummy saying that Ruth was a painter. ‘I can look after the children,’ he offered.

‘No, I want to go, too!’ Vian said with excitement. ‘Can I?’

Ruth smiled at her son. ‘Of course you can.’

‘Yay!’ He shot a look at Nell. ‘I’m building a den,’ he confided.

‘Can I go?’ Nell asked her father hopefully. ‘Well, I suppose we could all go and take a picnic. I could help with your den while Mummy works.’

Everyone agreed that this was an excellent idea.
 

‘Where’s LouLou?’ she asked later of the rowing boat that had been named after her mother.

Her mother’s actual name was Louise. Nell had never heard anyone called her LouLou, but apparently her daddy had, once upon a time.

‘She was a bit too small for all of us so I bought a new one,’ her father replied.

Nell looked down at the bright-orange rowing boat rocking gently on the murky green, slightly pongy water.

‘What do you think about Platypus as a name?’ her father asked. ‘It’s Ruth’s suggestion.’

‘Platypuses are from Australia,’ Vian chipped in seriously. ‘My daddy is Australian.’

Nell knew the first part already – her teacher was Australian and often brought in books about native animals to read at storytime – but the second part was new information.

Nell took in the expectant expressions of the people around her, her gaze finally resting on Vian. ‘I like it,’ she decided.

Vian’s whole face lit up when he smiled and the sight filled Nell with warmth.

The tide came in and went out twice a day, but the tidal times differed daily. Today, and for the next couple of days, it was possible to traverse the river in the late afternoon and return home shortly after sunset, without the fear of getting banked.

Ruth took to the front of the boat, while the children sat at the rear, their bodies double their usual width due to the thick yellow life jackets they were wearing. Nell’s father was in the driving seat, but halfway into their journey, Nell asked to have a turn, prompting Vian to demand one, too. The boat wobbled precariously as Geoff exchanged places with the children, but after ten minutes of going around in circles, they swapped back so Ruth could get on with her work.

Once the boat was safely tied to the low-hanging branches of a tree, the new family of four made their way beneath the oak trees growing by the bank to the grassy slopes at the edge of the farmer’s field.

Nell watched as Ruth trudged on up the hill alone, a folded wooden easel tucked under her arm and a bag slung over her shoulder. Her curly red hair glinted in the afternoon sun.

Later, when the den-building lost her interest, Nell climbed up after Ruth, curious to see what she was up to.

‘Hello there,’ Ruth said with a kind smile. She stood amongst the biscuit-coloured wheat fronds, holding an orange-tipped brush in her left hand. ‘Does your daddy know you’re here?’

‘Yes, he said I could come,’ Nell replied, breathless from climbing the hill. ‘What are you painting?’

‘That,’ Ruth said, nodding at the view.

Nell looked over her shoulder. The clear blue sky arced above her head, caressing the tops of the fluffy-looking treetops on the other side. The river below was so still that it created a mirror image and, off to her right, their cottage and the annexe stood at the top of a green hill, shining brilliant white in the sun.

‘Do you want to have a look?’ Ruth asked, indicating for Nell to come around to her side of the easel.

Nell did.

She was surprised by what she saw. The canvas burst with colour: vibrant blues and greens, vivid yellows and oranges, and shimmering reds and purples. It was pretty, but it didn’t look at all realistic.

‘Do you like it?’ Ruth asked.

‘Yes,’ Nell replied honestly.

‘I don’t always paint what I see,’ Ruth explained. ‘Sometimes I paint what I feel.’

Nell thought about this. She glanced at Vian’s mummy. ‘Are you happy?’

Ruth laughed, her freckled nose creasing and her blue eyes dancing. ‘Yes, sweetie. Yes, I am.’ She smiled at Nell. ‘Do you like art?’

Nell nodded seriously. ‘I do it at school.’ But her pictures never looked as bright or as beautiful as this.

‘Well, sometime you can have a turn with my watercolours. Would you like that?’

Nell wasn’t sure what watercolours were, but she grinned from ear to ear.

‘You are so sweet,’ Ruth mused, her lips pursed. ‘One day, maybe I can paint you?’

She said it like a question, so Nell nodded.

‘Look,’ Ruth said, snapping off a golden ear of wheat and holding it against Nell’s hair. ‘I wasn’t far off. See?’ She gathered a lock of Nell’s hair and twisted it around to the front of Nell’s face so she could compare the colour. ‘But your eyes,’ Ruth said, with a frown of concentration. ‘Your eyes are more difficult … They’re like … Like the colour of runny honey. In sunshine,’ she added, thinking aloud as she scrutinised the small girl. ‘Very, very beautiful.’

Nell liked this description a lot.

At that moment, her father called out to her from the riverbank below, his brown hair lifting from his forehead in the breeze as he beckoned for her to return. Nell saw that he had laid out a red-and-black chequered rug, upon which Vian was sprawled, already tucking into the picnic. Nell smiled at Ruth one last time and then set off at a run, her blonde hair streaming behind her as her feet carried her downhill.

 

‘What’s your favourite colour?’ Vian asked Nell later as they lay in their bunk beds.

‘Green,’ Nell replied without a moment’s hesitation. It had always been green, ever since she could remember. ‘What’s yours?’

‘Red,’ he replied. ‘But it used to be blue.’

‘Why does your daddy live in Australia?’ Nell asked, jumping miles ahead in small-talk terms.

No reply came from the bottom bunk. ‘I don’t know,’ Vian said eventually.

Nell heard a rustling sound and, a moment later, Vian’s face appeared at the top of the ladder. ‘He sends me postcards,’ he mumbled, passing her a cardboard rectangle.

Nell sat up and looked at the picture in the fading light, the yellow fabric of the curtains being too thin to snuff it out, even at this hour of the evening.

The scene was of a boat on a vast blue ocean.

‘He’s a fisherman,’ Vian said, hooking his skinny arm around the bunk’s wooden safety railing.

‘Do you miss him?’ Nell asked, because she missed her daddy a lot when she was in London. Cornwall was too far away to come for weekends and in the last year she had only been able to see him during the school holidays.

Vian shrugged. ‘I don’t know.’

Nell thought this reply seemed strange. ‘Do you like him?’ she asked.

‘I don’t know,’ Vian said again, startling Nell further. ‘Mummy says she’ll take me to Australia one day to meet him.’

‘You haven’t met him?’ She wasn’t sure she had understood that correctly.

Vian shook his head and took back the postcard, ducking underneath Nell’s mattress to his own.

‘Are you sad?’ Nell asked.

‘No,’ Vian replied.

But Nell wasn’t so sure.

 

After that first week of Nell’s month-long stay in Cornwall, Geoff had to return to his day job. He was a gardener at Glendurgan, a National Trust property across the river from Helford, and Nell often accompanied him to work. She preferred it to staying with the moody teenage girl up in the village who had babysat her in the past, but even though Geoff kept her busy with small tasks like dead-heading flowers and weeding, the days felt long to a girl of her age.

So when Ruth said that Nell could stay at home with her and Vian, Nell seriously considered the offer. In the end, she chose to stick with what she knew, but as she meandered alone through the maze, while her father trimmed the hedges, she found herself missing her new playmate.

In the last week, they had built dens on riverbanks and sandcastles on the beach. They had flown kites on blowy hilltops and run head first down steep dunes. When Vian had dropped his ice cream on the sand, Nell had shared hers. And when Nell had admitted to missing the stars that her father hadn’t got around to replacing, Vian had peeled off half of her old ones and attached them to Nell’s ceiling with Pritt Stick.

Reaching the tiny thatched hut in the middle of the maze, Nell sat down on the wooden seat and allowed her mind to wander back to last night. She and Vian had once again kept each other awake with their whisperings, telling stories and talking about their mutual longing for a puppy. Nell had remembered that she’d left her cuddly dog, Barky, outside in the garden, but as she’d left her room to retrieve it, she’d overheard Ruth talking to her father in the living room. At the mention of her own name, Nell had paused.

‘The look on Nell’s face today was priceless,’ Ruth had said, and Nell had guessed that she’d been smiling, even though she hadn’t been able to see Ruth’s face. ‘That little laugh of hers when she ran down the sand dune after Vian … She’s adorable, Geoff. Already I love her to bits.’

Nell’s heart had warmed and her daddy had responded with a gentle, ‘Aah.’

Hearing a noise, Nell had shot her head around to see Vian creeping out of their bedroom. She’d pressed her finger to her lips and pointed to the top stair, then they’d settled down, preparing to eavesdrop.

‘When I found out I was having Vian, I thought my life was over,’ Ruth had said, and Vian’s grin had frozen on his face, causing Nell to tense up at the sudden, strange turn in the conversation. She had hooked Vian’s little finger with hers.

‘I had to go back and live with Mum and I was so scared. But if I had known then where I’d be in five years’ time,’ Ruth had continued, ‘I never would have worried. I love you, Geoff. Vian does, too, and we are so very happy here with you and Nell. Thank you for everything you have done for us.’

‘No, thank you, my darling,’ Nell had heard her daddy reply and she’d noted that his voice sounded gruffer than normal. ‘You’ve brought light back into my life. I feel incredibly lucky to have you all here with me.’

Nell had breathed a sigh of relief before meeting Vian’s eyes. He’d sweetly returned her smile and then they’d both crept back to bed, Nell deciding that Barky could survive outside for one night.

Now, as she sat in the middle of the maze, a thought came to her. She jumped to her feet and went to find her father.

‘Daddy,’ she said, tugging on his green shirt and gazing up at him hopefully.

‘Almost time for a tea break and a biscuit,’ he promised, figuring that was his daughter’s reason for seeking him out.

She shook her head. ‘Vian and I have been talking.’

‘Oh?’

‘Can we have a puppy, Daddy?’ she asked, watching as her father’s bushy eyebrows pulled together. Before he could say a word against the idea, she pressed on. ‘Please, Daddy? We would really, really love a puppy! We’d take it for walks and feed it and we’d play with it all the time. Vian and I both really want a dog and we promise you that we’ll look after it!’

Nell had begged her father for a dog before, but he had always said no – he worked too much and Nell was hardly ever in Cornwall. But now, for the first time ever, he actually seemed to be considering it.

By the weekend, Geoff had crumbled under the pressure and, with the cottage puppy-proofed in anticipation, he drove Ruth and two extremely excited children to a village a few miles away where the owners of the local pub had a litter of mongrels ready for rehoming. They named the black-and-white fur ball they chose Scampi, as a nod to the establishment from whence he came.

It was the greatest summer of Nell’s life, and as August rolled to a close, she didn’t want to go home. She cried when Vian tried on his new uniform, all set to begin Year One at the small school up in the village, and Nell begged and pleaded to be able to stay in Cornwall so she could attend with him, rather than return to her strict private school in London.

But alas, it was not to be. At least, not for another two years, when it suited Louise to up sticks and move to the French Riviera in pursuit of a man. Then Nell got her wish, and when she next made the long journey to Cornwall, she was finally going to stay.


Five Years From Now Paige Toon

The heartbreaking, romantic and utterly compelling new novel from international bestselling author Paige Toon

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