You know something.
You can’t share it.
You can’t discuss it.
You can’t stop thinking about it.
Audrey Fox never thought she’d tie the knot, especially after wasting eight years of her life with a man who couldn’t commit. But at the age of forty-two, fate throws her a lifeline and she finally has it all; gorgeous husband, thriving career, beautiful family and fabulous friends. Life couldn’t be better….until someone tells her a secret at a boozy dinner party; something that she wishes she could unhear; something that could wreck lives.
Burdened by the secret, Audrey’s perfect life begins to spiral out of control and the cracks begin to show. She longs to tell her husband but is fearful of the consequences; she’s desperate to discuss it with her friends, but her hands are tied. Then one morning, on impulse, Audrey does something drastic, but will she live to regret it? Because there’s no smoke without fire and everyone has secrets…don’t they?
sunset in wry amusement. It’s just the type of thing you’d expect
from Vicky, right up her street. I heart my sister-in-law’s Instagram
post, just to show my support, notching up her likes to thirty-six.
She’ll love that. I don’t bother adding a comment to the twenty-four
already listed. I’m not into dwelling on the past, not anymore.
I’ve let go – moved on. I’m a new woman now with a new name.
I slide my thumb up lazily, a picture of a fluffy cat fills the screen
followed by a bouquet of flowers, then a photo of my gorgeous
nephews with George, my brother, looking awful, eyes half closed,
mouth ajar. George will have a fit when he sees it. I laugh as I pinch
the screen to zoom in, but as I gaze at their familiar faces on my
iPhone, curiosity burns in my chest like a hot rod. I flick back to
Vicky’s meme and click on ‘View all 24 comments.’ A quick peek
at what her followers think won’t hurt, will it?
two A levels, not a great help in my job as a junior web designer
but nice to have all the same.
interest. I slide my thumb up the screen.
travel more – I’m not that keen on flying, to be honest. The furthest
I’ve travelled is the four and a half hour flight to Cyprus, and that
was only to visit my parents, because, much too my protest, they
retired there earlier this year. But no sooner had I waved them
off at Heathrow Airport blubbing hysterically like a five-year-old
child abandoned by her parents, than I was sipping a vodka and
tonic on a British Airways flight to Larnaca. Pathetic, I know, for
a grown, married woman. What can I say? I miss them terribly.
as I could read! – I snort at that one. I suppose we’d all like to turn
the clock back where youth is concerned. Although, thanks to my
mum’s genes, I’m often told I look much younger than my fortytwo
years. I certainly feel it.
got some amusing friends, no wonder she spends so much time
on social media, despite my brother’s protests. But it’s the eighth
comment that catches my attention. That makes me sit bolt upright
in my seat.
The writing becomes a blur and I have to blink a few times,
then as I glance up at the road I cry out in horror. “Watch out!” My
mobile phone almost hits the dashboard as Fearne presses hard
on the brakes bringing us to a screeching halt at the traffic lights
on Archway Road. “Flipping hell, Fearne,” I gasp, wishing that I’d
joined that long bus queue on Oxford Street instead of accepting
a lift home from my Formula 1 wannabe driver colleague. “You’re
going to get us killed!”
her rear view mirror, thin lips twisted in anger. “He’s been right up
our arse since sodding Camden. I mean, what’s the effing hurry?
We’re in rush hour traffic, for crying out loud.” She blows a loose
strand of wiry ash blonde hair off her sweaty forehead. Road rage.I’ve never succumbed to it but Daniel, my husband, is plagued
with it. In fact, I fear for my life each time I sit in the passenger seat
of his brand new white Audi Q7.
seat belt digging into my shoulder. Fearne does have a point.
That black four-by-four tank of a car with its elusive dark tinted
windows is uncomfortably close to us. “Oh, don’t let him get to
you, Fearne, he’s an arsehole,” I say, returning to Instagram. “Just
let him overtake us, that’s what I always do with impatient drivers.”
Fearne ignores me and puts her foot down the moment the
lights turn amber, hands gripping the steering wheel tightly,
brows furrowed. The four-by-four keeps its distance for a while
then suddenly overtakes us, swerves past the two cars in front,
then disappears in a cloud of smoke, leaving an orchestra of car
horns from irate drivers behind him. I shake my head. “He can
add dangerous driving to his list. Where’s the police when you
see her. I smile as I sink back into my seat, and we travel the rest of
the journey in companionable silence. I, pondering on comment
eight, and she happily humming the tune of my ten-year-old
nephew’s favourite song by Little Mix.
down over a road bump. Fearne likes to keep up with the street
lingo. She thinks it’s cool, but doesn’t realise that it doesn’t sound so
hip coming from a middle aged woman driving a Fiat 500.
Putting my phone into standby, I shove it into the pocket of my
beige mackintosh. “Just over here on the right please, Fearne.”
Crunching the car into second gear, she pulls up outside my flat
on Dukes Avenue.“Nice pad,” she says, pressing her chest against the steering
wheel and eyeing-up the three-storey building. “I’ve always wanted
to live in Muswell Hill, but it’s bit too expensive for me,” she sniffs,
dabbing her nose. Fearne always seems to have a constant cold,
which she blames on a host of allergies. “I think I’ll be living in
my pokey two-bedroom flat in Edmonton forever,” she groans,
“You’re lucky to have a husband in the trade.”
married Daniel,” I say, fishing for my door keys in the abyss of my
handbag, which Daniel refers to as the Bermuda Triangle. But all
women’s bags are cluttered, aren’t they? It’s a girl thing.
Fearne looks at me, mouth agape. “Oh, gosh, Audrey. I’m so
sorry. Did you….I mean… was it…were you with, you know…?”
She waves the tatty tissue in the air and I instinctively jerk my
head back. I’ve got a thing about germs. I think it stems from
mum wearing a mask whenever she had a cold when George and
I were little. “Whatshisname?” Fearne says. I can virtually feel the
heat radiating from her red face; her dry hair looks as if it’s almost
standing on end. “When you bought the flat, I mean?”
“It’s okay, you can say his name, you know.” I fold my arms
over my leather bag and it hisses. We stare at each other in
silence for a few moments, and then, “Nick and I were together
when I bought it, yes,” I say finally, and a little whimpering sound
tumbles from her thin lips. “But I bought the flat on my own. It’s
is mentioned. Yes, he was the love of my life, and yes, I did want to
run away and marry him. Although God only knows why. He’s the
most unreliable, selfish man on the planet. But that’s all in the past
now. I’m a big girl. I won’t crack if I hear his name, for goodness’
sake.Louise, my childhood friend who’s hated Nick for as long as
I can remember, refers to him as It. Jess, her nineteen-year-old
daughter, calls him by the C word, with Daniel it’s always Him,
and to my family he’s known as That Twat. All plausible metaphors
given that he left me days before our wedding last summer and
then did a runner when I was mad enough to give him a second
chance just before Christmas. I think Tina, probably the easiest
going friend I’ve ever had, is the only person who actually calls
him by his name, but that might have something to do with them
being in-laws. Well, sort of. She’s dating his cousin Ronan, second
time around. They’ve got history.
assumed that Daniel had some stake in it, what with him being
in the business. Oh, God, Audrey. Soz.” She covers her face with
look big and wild between the gaps in her fingers. “Nick and I are
history. Over. We’ve both moved on now. He’s somewhere on the
globe finding himself and I’m happily married, remember?” I hold
up my hand and wriggle my fingers at her.
chest. “Daniel moved in here with you then?” she asks rhetorically,
hiccupping again. “You’ll be like an old married couple before you
know it.” Hiccup.
“What do you mean?” I unfasten my seatbelt and it flies across
“Oh, n..n..no.. what I meant was we tend to fall into complacency
once we’re married, don’t we?” Another hiccup accompanied
by an expression that makes her look as if she urgently needs
the loo. Now, usually I’d brush something like this off but given
what happened this morning, because of what I heard Daniel say,
my face is deadpan. “Do you know what I mean?” Fearne says,
desperate for reassurance. `
only a bit of banter. It’s not her fault that I’m in a shitty mood.
A thunderous sound filters through the car window and I look
round. My new neighbour is wheeling her bin onto the street,
reminding me that it’s collection day. Daniel’s in charge of bin
duties these days, which is just as well because I did have a bit of
a reputation for being the midnight wheelie bin taker-outer when
I was single, often disturbing the neighbourhood in my dressing
gown and fluffy slippers at ungodly hours. Although miserable as
sin, this new neighbour puts us all to shame. She’s like an alarm,
a wheelie-bin sergeant major, which we all secretly appreciate,
especially during the festive months when we’ve no idea what day
it is, let alone collection day.
randomly, gazing up at the grey clouds hanging ominously above
us. “Shame my husband couldn’t find it in his heart to remotely
feel one of them for me. Mind you, serves me right for marrying
him in haste. My mother did warn me.” Fearne’s husband walked
out on her recently, leaving her to bring up Kylie, his fifteen-yearold
comment number eight flashing in my mind.
“Oh, about six, seven months,” Fearne says absently to the
ruckus of wheels rolling against the pavement. “Stupid, I know.”
Lining up her bins in military fashion, my new neighbour
darts a glance at us, as if we have no right to look at her, and then,
with one final glare, she turns on her heel and scurries down
the path, black ponytail swinging from side to side like a bladed
pendulum.“And he’d been married four times before,” Fearne points out
to the thump of misery-guts-neighbour’s front door. “Bloody
lothario. I should’ve read the road signs, really. He had form.”
Nodding, I pull a bottle of water out of my bag and offer her a sip;
she shakes her head without pausing, “Apart from his first wife,
who passed away, bless her, the other three couldn’t have all been
at fault, could they?” she reasons. I shake my head in agreement,
mouth full of water. “Anyway, what about you? I know you had a
bit of a whirlwind romance before you got hitched, but how long
have you actually known Daniel for? Years, isn’t it?” She watches
me as I take another glug of water. I’m so thirsty – must be that
pastrami baguette Raymond, our boss, treated us to at lunchtime.
Fearne waits out my water binge, her chest rising and falling
quickly with a silent hiccup. I hold up seven fingers, swallowing.
“Seven years.” Fearne nods approvingly, blowing her nose into a
fresh tissue. “Good girl. He’s an old family friend, isn’t he? Yes, I
remember you saying now. I wish I was as wise as you.”
“Months.” I screw the cap back on firmly, licking my lips. “My
parents only met him in Cyprus last September. And I’m wife
know what to say. I keep putting my foot in it today. It’s this frigging
menopause.” Hmm…Fearne blames a lot on her menopause, but I
didn’t realise that putting one’s foot in it was one of the symptoms.
Then suddenly her voice speeds up, this always happens when
she’s nervous. “Oh, please just ignore me. It’s just that when you
said your parents introduced you, I assumed you and Daniel went
way back. I mean, I know you were with…with….” She licks her
dry lips. I think she’s hyperventilating.
“Yes, yes, of course, with Nick. For years.” She drums her pink
varnished fingernails against the steering wheel nervously. No
wonder they’re all chipped. “But I genuinely thought that you
and Daniel were childhood sweethearts or something. It’s just, I
dunno, the way you talk about him, I suppose. My cousin only
knew her husband for six weeks before they got married,” she
prattles. “They met in Italy. A holiday romance in Rimini. He’s a
native.” She stares dreamily at shy Bob from number 32 chucking
a loaded bin bag into his wheelie, head down, long, thinning, dark
blonde hair falling onto his face. “They’ll be celebrating their silver
anniversary this year. They’ve hired a place in – ”
Don’t worry.” The poor woman looks exhausted. I bet this is the
last time she’ll offer me a lift home from work when there’s a tube
strike on. “Look, why don’t you come in for a drink?” It’s the least
I can do, and you’re allowed one drink, aren’t you? “I’ll show you
around.” I collect my M&S shopping bags from between my feet
and open the passenger door. “Or stay for dinner. Daniel will be
home soon, you can meet him.”
“Thanks, but I’d better get off, Audrey.” She turns the ignition on
quickly. “I’ve got to get home and cook for a hormonal teenager
whose only interest these days is Little Mix and Snapchat.” Ah,
that explains the Little Mix rendition earlier then. “And remember,
we’ve got an early start tomorrow.”
discuss the particulars for a new client – Sam Knight, the famous
author and body language expert. Fearne and I are working on
his website together. It’s an exciting new project, and it’ll give me
a chance to show Raymond what I’ve learnt on the web design
course he sent me on recently. I can’t wait to get stuck in and I
don’t want to let him down.I watch as Fearne’s little red Fiat becomes a red blob in the
distance before stepping onto the black and white chequered tiles
of my porch where I find Mr Gingernut, Alan and Margaret’s
one-eyed rescue cat from upstairs, whining at the door, sniffing at
something in the corner of my doorway. I hope he hasn’t brought
them another gift in the form of a dead bird or rat. I bend down
and stroke his back, and he purrs and pushes his head under my
full circle as I get to my feet, and that’s when I spot them, nestled
behind my pot plant. I shake my head, smiling to myself halfheartedly
as I read the note attached – Whatever I’ve done. I’m
swish of a pedal bike and a woman’s voice yelling, ‘Zach.’ Flowers
on my doorstep? Daniel must be gutted. He usually buys me shoes
– it’s our thing, how we met.
feet, tulips secured under my arm, then as I push the key into the
lock guilt darts along my spine like a stone skimming in water and
I shudder. Perhaps I was a bit harsh with Daniel this morning.
I mean, leaping out of bed and locking myself in the bathroom
does seem a bit childish now. I should’ve just come clean and told
him why I was upset instead of screaming ‘NOTHING!’ when he
rapped on the bathroom door and asked what was wrong. Because
I’m sure even Daniel knows that when a woman says nothing she
really means something, and it’s usually a mega something, isn’t it?
But what did he expect after what he said as we lay naked in bed,
limbs wrapped around each other?
start. But he’s still got a lot of explaining to do, because it’s going
to take a lot more than a bunch of my favourite flowers to forgive
him for calling out his ex-wife’s name while we were making love
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