Authors: Julia Roberts
‘If she’s still on her own tonight we should ask her to join
us,’ Rosemary said to her husband as they strolled through the gardens hand in hand.
‘I thought that maybe she was meeting someone here but every time we’ve seen
her she has been on her own.’
‘Well, no harm in asking,’ Robert said, ‘she can always say
‘I’m sure she won’t be able to resist your charm,’ Rosemary
teased. ‘I know I never could.’
Changing the subject to avoid further teasing Robert said,
‘The old girl’s still looking pretty good.’
‘Robert,’ exclaimed Rosemary, a look of mock horror on her
face, ‘that is no way to talk about your wife!’
‘You know full well I didn’t mean you,’ he said, smiling
indulgently and gazing up at the hotel building. ‘I think they’ve only painted
her twice since the renovation works were finished and that must be sixteen
‘At least,’ agreed Rosemary. ‘We celebrated our first
wedding anniversary here the week she opened and it’s our eighteenth in
November, assuming we make it,’ she added.
‘Don’t talk like that, Rosie,’ he said, ‘of course we’ll
‘I don’t know what you were meaning,’ she quipped. ‘I was
meaning if I can put up with you for that long!’
She let go of his hand and ran down the sandy path towards
their room with Robert in pursuit. To onlookers they may have looked like a
couple of young newly-weds except that when they reached their terrace a couple
of minutes later they were both terribly out of breath. He swung her round to
face him and kissed her full on the mouth.
‘Why do you persist in joking about it?’ he asked, as he
unlocked the door to their room. ‘It’s really not funny.’
‘You know I’m only teasing, Bobby,’ she said, sitting on the
edge of the bed and kicking her sandals off, ‘and you used to like me teasing
He pushed her gently back onto the pillows and kissed her
again, allowing his tongue to push between her slightly open lips. He felt the
familiar arousal. He still fancied his wife like mad. The back of his hand
stroked her cheek and then travelled down her neck to rest on the top of her
‘I’m sorry, Rosie,’ he said breathing heavily, ‘do you want
me to stop?’
She pulled the top of her swimming costume down to reveal
her still firm breasts and moved his hand to caress them.
‘I’m dying, Bobby,’ she said, looking deep into his eyes.
‘I’m not dead yet.’
The bubbles were beginning to dissipate and the temperature
of the water was decidedly on the cool side which was not surprising as Holly
had been relaxing in the bath for half an hour or more, reflecting on an
interesting afternoon chatting to a group of young people whose mobile phone
company was rewarding their high achievements with a five-day stay in
Mauritius. It wasn’t quite the holiday they had been expecting as each morning
they had lectures or team-building activities, but at least the afternoons were
their own before they had to meet up for dinner.
They were mostly a good ten years younger than Holly but she
was used to being around younger people and was delighted when they had asked
her to join in a game of beach volleyball. It had been fun at the time but she
was already starting to feel her muscles tightening up despite the soak in the
I might have to book my complimentary massage at the health
spa for tomorrow, she thought, as she pulled the plug out and allowed the water
to drain away, while climbing out of the bath and wrapping a generous but not
overly soft towel around herself. She had hoped for an invitation to have
dinner with the group but apparently that was not allowed by the corporate
organisers, although cocktails by the beach post dinner were mentioned if she
was ‘up for it’.
To add to her disappointment the group were taking over the
whole of Roberto’s, the Italian restaurant, where she had been intending to
dine that evening. She sat on the bed, wrapped in her towel and read through
the resort newsletter to find out what theme the cuisine would be in the main
restaurant that evening. A smile crept across her face as she discovered it was
Italian anyway so she could indulge in the pasta she was craving.
Half an hour later Holly stood at the entrance to the main
restaurant waiting to be seated. It was busier than the previous evening,
probably due to Roberto’s hosting the private event, and most of the tables
inside seemed to be occupied. She looked out to the terrace and noticed the
British couple just being seated near the edge of the pool. The man raised his
hand and waved to her just as a waiter came up to show her to a table.
‘You know Mr Robert?’ he asked.
Holly looked at him questioningly.
‘Mr Robert,’ he said, indicating the man who still had his
arm mid-air in a wave. ‘You know him?’
‘No,’ replied Holly smiling and waving back to ‘Mr Robert’.
‘We travelled here on the same flight yesterday and our paths seem to have
crossed a few times.’
‘I think he wants you to join them,’ said the waiter.
Sure enough the man was gesturing for Holly to go across to
What a stroke of luck, thought Holly, it saves me having to
make the first move.
‘Well that would be lovely,’ said Holly, following the
waiter as he moved between the tables in their direction.
As she approached, the man she now knew to be Mr Robert
said, ‘It’s a bit busy in here tonight so Rosie and I wondered if you would
like to join us,’ and then hastily added, ‘unless of course you are meeting
‘No, I’m not meeting anyone,’ said Holly, ‘and it’s very
kind of you to offer. My name’s Holly,’ she added, holding her hand out to
shake his and then repeating the process with his wife.
‘I’m Robert,’ he said, ‘and this is Rosemary.’
While they had been making their introductions the waiter
had brought an extra chair for Holly, and a second waiter had laid a place for
‘The waiter called you Mr Robert,’ said Holly, ‘I thought
that was your surname,’
‘They’ve always called me that. I think Mr Forrester sounds
too formal and Robert is too familiar, so we settled on Mr Robert,’ he explained.
‘It sounds like you come here a lot,’ Holly observed,
wondering what this man did for a living to enable him to afford frequent trips
to a five-star resort in Mauritius. Maybe he really was a retired rock star,
although he didn’t look familiar.
‘Robert’s an architect,’ said his wife. Holly was surprised.
Had Rosemary read her mind about his occupation? ‘He designed and built this
hotel and the owners were so pleased with the result we are allowed to come and
stay whenever we want, provided they are not too busy. They even named the
Italian restaurant after him,’ Rosemary explained, positively glowing with
‘What an amazing coincidence,’ said Holly. ‘My—’ she stopped
herself just in time and recovered. ‘My goodness, what a lovely building.’
Robert and Rosemary were both looking at her expectantly,
waiting for her to explain the coincidence but she knew better than to deviate
too far from her cover story and create too many lies as at some point she
might forget a lie she had told. Instead of referring back to her slip she
pushed her chair back and said, ‘Shall we get some food? I’m really hungry
after a rather energetic game of beach volley ball I played earlier.’
When they sat back down at the table, their plates filled
with delicious-looking antipasti, the waiter, Siraj, approached with a bottle
of red wine.
‘Do you like red?’ Rosemary asked. ‘The waiters know it is
our preferred tipple so they don’t bother to take our order any more.’
‘I think I will stick to water this evening,’ said Holly. ‘I
enjoyed rather too much of a bottle of white last night, I’m afraid.’
‘Are you sure, because we can easily ask for a glass of
white if you would prefer that to the red. After all, you are on holiday,’
Holly thought she noticed just the tiniest hint of a
question at the end of Rosemary’s statement but she ignored it and answered,
‘No thanks, I’ll just stick with water although I may go crazy and have
sparkling if that’s okay?’ she said to Siraj.
‘No problem, madam,’ responded Siraj, leaving the bottle of
red wine on the table for Robert and Rosemary to help themselves.
‘So do you often holiday on your own?’ persisted Rosemary.
There was no escaping the direct question but Holly had been
expecting it so she was well-rehearsed with her answer.
‘No, I used to holiday with my husband,’ she said in a
slightly faltering voice, fingering the gold band on her left ring finger.
Funny how the little token of affection that Gareth had given her all those
years ago helped to validate her cover story. Holly was pretty sure it wasn’t
real gold so it was just as well she didn’t have to wear it all the time or she
may have ended up with green-fingers and not of the gardening variety.
There was an awkward pause during which they all
concentrated on eating the food on their plates before Rosemary ventured, ‘Are
you not together any more?’
‘He’s dead,’ Holly said quietly, a single tear rolling down
her cheek. It was a reaction this lie always produced because if it had been
the truth she would have cried, and Gareth had been dead to her from the moment
she had lost contact with him when he went to America.
The older woman reached across and placed her hand on
‘I am so sorry,’ she said with genuine remorse in her voice.
‘I didn’t mean to pry.’
Holly looked into Rosemary’s eyes and immediately wished she
hadn’t. They were full of compassion and concern. It was the look she had hoped
for from her mother when she had told her about the baby but instead she had
been met with a look of revulsion and disgust.
Holly shook her head to clear the image of her mother from
her mind, wiped the tear away and said, ‘It’s okay, I’m getting used to being
on my own,’ which was the first truthful thing she had said in several minutes.
‘We came to Mauritius on our honeymoon and I felt a need to come back, a kind
of closure I suppose.’
Rosemary nodded her understanding and Robert remained silent
with his head down, seemingly concentrating on his food.
Holly was glad that the lie had the desired effect of
closing the conversation about her private life, just as it always did, but she
was feeling terribly guilty about Rosemary’s reaction to it.
After Holly said goodnight to Robert and Rosemary, she didn’t
feel like going for cocktails on the beach with the youngsters from the mobile
phone company, choosing instead to return to her room and check if the Internet
was back on. She was relieved to find that it was for two reasons. She would be
able to send the work she had done that morning and, more importantly, she suddenly
felt the need to chat to Harry.
She was still feeling upset about lying to Robert and
Rosemary, which was strange considering she had told the lie about her dead
husband dozens of times to scores of people over the last eight months since
she had started this job. It was Rosemary’s reaction that had unsettled her,
looking into her eyes with such love for a person she barely knew, and she
could have sworn she had seen a tear fall from the end of Robert’s nose onto
his fried whitebait.
They really were a lovely couple, Holly thought, and
obviously still very much in love. They hadn’t mentioned how long they had been
married, probably not wanting to rub salt into Holly’s wound, but they had both
looked sad when she asked if they had any children and Rosemary replied that
they hadn’t been blessed with that gift.
Perhaps that’s why I’m feeling so wretched, thought Holly. I
fell pregnant a few months into a relationship with a man who obviously didn’t
love me as much as I loved him, and they are happily married and would have
been able to offer a child so much. It just didn’t seem fair.
Even though she had been frightened and alone, after her
mother had refused to speak to her and warned her dad that he mustn’t either,
Holly had never once contemplated having an abortion. She had no idea how she
was going to manage financially but she had loved her baby from the moment she
had felt the first tiny fluttering in her swelling belly.
She hated denying Harry’s existence to her new friends but
the less anyone knew about her real life the better and besides it had only
been a part untruth when Rosemary had asked whether Holly and her husband had
ever had any children.
Holly had never been married so technically she had no
children with a husband, but it had still felt wrong not to tell them about
Harry, although she had almost let it slip when Rosemary had revealed Robert’s
She reached for her iPad and pressed the Facetime button and
then selected Harry’s number.
Moments later her son’s smiling face popped up on the
‘Only a day late, Mum,’ Harry said in his good-natured
manner. ‘I noticed your blog wasn’t up so I wondered if you had been snowbound
‘Hi Harry, sorry but the Internet was down and I haven’t got
3G on this thing. It was pretty bad at Gatwick as it happens, we were probably
the last flight out. What’s it like in Bath?’
‘Two feet of snow,’ he enthused. ‘It’s been brilliant. We
just got back from a snowball fight and we’ve been racing down the hills on
campus on trays from the canteen. Look.’ He stood up and moved his iPad behind
his back to show his mum a big wet patch on his bottom.
‘Harry, you’re such a child,’ she teased. ‘Have you been
sitting on your sofa in your soaking wet jeans?’
‘Oops,’ he said. ‘Not to worry it will have dried out by the
time I get home from work always assuming there are any buses running. I’m not
risking Toby on those roads.’ Toby was their nickname for the ancient green
Vauxhall Corsa he had inherited when his mum had bought a newer car with her extra
earnings. The number plate started with T and ended OBY so the pet name had
been obvious. ‘You okay?’
‘All the better for seeing you,’ she said in a jokey manner,
but meaning every word. ‘I had dinner tonight with a couple who were on the
same flight as me yesterday. They seem really nice so I hated having to lie to
them. You’ll never guess what the man does for a living?’
‘Brain surgeon, astronaut, prime minister ... am I close?’
Holly laughed indulgently. ‘He’s an architect, he designed
and built this hotel. How weird is that?’
‘Shame you can’t tell him about me, he might have been
useful when I’ve finished my degree. Contacts and all that. Gotta go, Mum, I’ve
got a bit of coursework to finish before my shift at the pub. Love you.’
Holly just had time to say ‘love you too’ before Harry hung
up at the other end.
She marvelled at the young man her son had turned into, and
so handsome too. She hoped he wouldn’t break some young girl’s heart like his
She turned her iPad off and picked up her laptop, as she
preferred writing with a proper keyboard. Reading through her work from that
morning, she made one minor adjustment and then pressed send. Her shoulders
were starting to ache from the beach volleyball as she settled back onto her
pillows to make a start on Day Two.