Authors: Cassandra P Lewis
By Cassandra P Lewis
Text copyright © 2015 Cassandra P Lewis
All Rights Reserved
Be you, be happy, be loyal, and be free
…but be safe!
Table of Contents
Don’t you just love the smell of a new journal? I don’t just mean the smell of the leather, but the paper too, and the feel of it, so crisp and eager for you to pour your heart into. I do; I get a certain buzz from every new one I buy. An excitement that comes from not knowing what stories will fill its pages, what experiences I’m yet to have. It’s something that is deep-rooted in me after more than two decades of writing down my adventures, my conquests and my feelings.
Feelings… now that’s a funny word to me. For a long time, I pretended I didn’t have them, pretended to other people at least, but my journals have always known everything there is to know about me. Every regret, every moment of shame, of pride; every time I felt beyond fierce and every time I painted on a smile, to hide my hurt. My journals were the only outlet for those feelings, where I would never be judged or berated. I guess that’s why I can’t live without one now.
My newest journal, the one that I am running my fingers over as we speak, was a pre-wedding present to me from my best friend, Rosie. When I removed the beautifully wrapped book from the thick paisley print paper a few minutes ago and opened the front cover, I was faced with a perfectly composed, handwritten message on the back of my favourite photo of the two of us.
’Fill these pages with the stories of your life.
The memories that you make, the times you enjoy and the people you love.
Step happily into the first chapter of your new book.
Happy Wedding Day,
Love, Rosie x’
Rosie is a writer, so you would think out of the two of us that she would be the one totally committed to the daily outpouring of life onto the empty page of a trusted journal, but it is not something she has ever done. Fictional life is more appealing to her I guess.
She gave me the gift, kissed me on the cheek and then cleared the room, giving me some time alone with my thoughts before I made the long walk towards the rest of my life, and the man I’m about to marry.
Holding it my hands now, sitting here with this pen poised and ready to make the first marks on the ivory coloured paper, I can’t help but think about the life that lies ahead of me. It looks bright and promises to be filled with more love than I ever could have wished for. It’s more than I could have dreamed of, and it was a very, long time coming.
I’m not normally particularly sentimental. I make my decisions with a swift
rather than a long thought out weighing up of pros and cons. The only time I ever truly spill the beans on the emotional side of me is with pen and paper in my hands. The idea of keeping my journals was always so that I could eventually look back on them. On days like to today, and see how far I’ve come, but I don’t ever actually do it. I don’t look back, I never have.
I take a second to close my eyes and consider the path that led me to today. It’s been a good one; it’s been bloody fun, and it’s been bumpy at times. I’ve been crazy and confident, loud and adventurous. I’ve been happily promiscuous, the perpetual bachelorette. I never wanted to get married, but look at me now, by the end of today I’ll be crawling into bed as a wife. Every stepping-stone that I have made my way across has led me to today, to this man, and I need to celebrate that. I’m not going to write about my wedding, my dress, how much cake I ate. Not yet, not until I’ve looked back.
I close the book in my hands and look over to the open window, the thin drapes blowing gently in the breeze. I can hear the hustle and bustle from below as my perfect wedding draws ever closer, and I’m drawn to it.
Standing on the balcony with the hot mid-afternoon sun on my face and the sea breeze in my long black hair, I smile as I watch the man of my dreams beam and laugh with our guests and chat to my parents. I love him; with every single fibre of my being, I love that man. He was made just for me, and I couldn’t be happier.
I close my eyes again, listening to the sound of the sea, as I start to think about the moments that have led me to today, and I see Ben. Not the handsome man that I see waiting for me at the other end of that aisle. But the Ben I grew up with, the one who loved me before I was successful; before I had boobs and money and a great career. The Ben who had absolutely no doubt that he would be the man waiting for me down on that beach.
I remember him so clearly, and I can’t keep the smile off my face as I do.
“You’re beautiful, Pippa, one day you are going to marry me, you know.”
I sigh as I reminisce about the cute, chubby, funny kid who washed the dishes at Rosie’s parents’ restaurant. He was a year younger than I was and like a little brother to us. We were into older boys, Rosie liked the ones who drove fast cars, and I liked the bad boys. The bad boys that smoked, drank, and fought, the ones who would kiss me without giving me a say in the matter. It was a thrill and Ben just wasn’t that guy.
The funny thing is, that as I stand here now, in front of the full-length mirror, and admire my second baby bump that’s just starting to show underneath the champagne-coloured lace of my wedding dress, I realise, that’s exactly, why I’m marrying him.
I make my way downstairs and smile as my dad’s eyes fill with tears.
“Philippa,” he says, his voice filled with emotion, “You’re so very beautiful.”
He smiles and wipes away a tear as I do the same, he kisses me on my cheek and holds out his arm for me to take.
“Come on, Daddy, show me the way,” I say cheerfully, smiling wide as I look into the eyes of the first man who ever loved me. He squeezes my hand and passes me my flowers, before leading me out onto the sand.
As I walk along the beach on this warm June day, towards the man that I can’t wait to grow old with, following in our daughter, Holly’s, footsteps as she skips ahead throwing petals into the air, I know this is it. On this pristine, sun-soaked beach in Portugal, I, Philippa Carvalho, am about to get my happy ending.
I smile; There’s no better feeling on earth as Ben turns to look at me, his eyes filled with deep, honest-to-goodness, true love. I found him; despite it all, despite not wanting to find him, despite never wanting the romance and contentment of a monogamous relationship, and certainly never having the map of how to get here. I made it, and I’m going to celebrate the journey.
As I marry this man and get ready for my happy ever after, I make a decision, I’m going to remember the times in my life that have led me here, and I’m going to be thankful for them. But buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
If you’re expecting hearts and flowers, singing mice and a handsome prince or two then you’re reading the wrong book. This story isn’t a fairy tale; these are the memoirs of a wild child.
The journal Rosie bought me has been given a new purpose. Instead of writing down my future stories, I’ll be using it, or I should say, him, to write down my past ones. Those important stepping-stones I mentioned.
I’ve named him Vinnie. The swirly pattern carved into the leather reminded me so much of Vincent Van Gogh’s
The Starry Night
painting that I couldn’t shake it, so Vinnie it was. I always name my journals. It gives them a personality; it makes it easier to pour my heart out into them.
I didn’t write anything in Vinnie on the wedding day, and I haven’t in the three weeks since. I’ll share our big day with Vinnie soon enough, but we haven’t got to that part of my story yet.
So I sit, in the soft leather armchair in the front room of our new home in London, and open Vinnie’s front cover. I run my fingers over the blank page at the front of the book and consider where to start. My attention is grabbed by a loud clap of thunder outside, and I look at a sleeping Holly on the sofa, she doesn’t move. Just like her mummy, that girl loves her sleep more than anything, well, except food. She loves nothing more than food.
I smile as I picture the way my dad’s eyes light up when she’s around. He finds it so funny that Holly is so much like I was at her age; he loves her so much, from the tip of her toes to every single dark brown curl on her head. It’s great to know that my little girl is a chip off the old block. As I think about my dad, and my girl, I know where I need to start. Right at the beginning.
I take a breath and put pen to paper, taking Vinnie’s virginity with the gentle stroke of my biro.
Once upon a time in a Derby council flat, in 1986 to be exact, twenty-one-year-old Eduardo Carvalho smiled down at his nineteen-year-old wife Lalita, as she cradled their new baby daughter…me!
Things weren’t easy for Mum and Dad back then. Dad had moved to England from Portugal to wait tables in his uncle’s restaurant, Nuno’s. Money was tight, and people didn’t like foreigners, but he persevered. Dad was handsome with his tanned skin, jet-black hair and an exotic accent that intrigued the young ladies of Derby, but he only had eyes for one.
My mum, Lalita, was the daughter of Ashok, the owner of the Indian restaurant on the opposite side of the road to Nuno’s. Dad told me he would find himself staring at her through the glass front of the restaurant on weekends, as she swept the pavement in front of Ashok’s or strained to clean the windows. Her hair would shimmer like satin as it swayed in the breeze, or at least, that is what Dad always said. Honestly, I think my Mum was just a total hottie, and he couldn’t help himself.
When they met for the first time, Mum was sixteen, she had just left school so was working in the restaurant full time. After months of watching from afar, Dad decided that he needed to know more about the girl from across the way, he couldn’t wait any longer. One day, at lunchtime, Dad headed over the road and introduced himself. Mum said that, the moment she saw Dad, she knew that he was the one, my grandfather felt, distinctly, differently.
When I think back over all of the years of my life, and look back over my old journals, a recurring theme is how in love my parents were and still are. Even when I was adamant that I wanted to stay single forever, I was still always so proud that my parents, who I adored, were just head over heels for each other. Despite the obstacles they came up against.
I look down at the red diary at the top of the pile next to me, ‘Kel’ named after the lead singer of the Stereophonics, my favourite band at the time. Scrawled across the front are the words ‘KEEP OUT’ in the bold black handwriting of sixteen-year-old me, I laugh at my high-security locking device, an elastic band stretched around the middle of the book. I pull it off, waiting nervously for the sound of alarms and gunfire, but I’m safe, so I open the book.
We all went to the barn dance in the village tonight. Rafe snuck in some beers and hid them between the hay bales, one of the perks of being on the set-up team. We found our spot, away from prying eyes and settled in.
We had so much fun, watching everyone line dancing and singing along to all the old songs. The barn dance is almost as popular as the Christmas carol concert; nearly the whole village turns out.
When it came to the slow songs, all the couples walked hand in hand to the middle of the floor and started to dance together. We laughed at Joaquin spinning and dipping Bernie and then kissing her, all the kids thought it was gross but Rosie and Rafe just rolled their eyes, they were used to seeing their parents like that. Then I saw my dad, spinning mum around the dance floor. It was like nobody else was there; they never stopped looking into each other’s eyes the whole time. I remember thinking, ‘that’s my parents, those two there’. I wanted to tell everyone, but I didn’t want to stop watching long enough to look at anyone else. They were perfect.
Okay, so sixteen-year-old Pippa was a little dramatic, but still, they were.
It was two years of secret meetings because they were forbidden to speak to each other, until Mum turned eighteen, and they married in secret. Mum and Dad had both saved up all of their wages, and finally they were able to afford a flat together. Things were tough, money was tight, and people didn’t like having a ‘paki and a spic’ in the neighbourhood. But ignorant racism never got my parents down, they adored each other too much to care.
Dad’s uncle Nuno helped them out where he could, but Mum’s family swore never to speak to her again, that is until I came along. I mean, how could they resist me right?
When Nuno decided to open up a bar in Buxton, he asked Dad to run it for him. So, with his two princesses in tow, he headed off to the small Derbyshire village to make his mark.
I lift the pen from Vinnie’s page and drop my hand to my stomach. Was that a kick? I think that was a kick. “Do it again, baby.” I plead, “Once more for Mummy, please.” But nothing, maybe I just have wind. Pregnancy is the best excuse in the world for just letting it all hang out; nobody is going to judge a pregnant lady, right?
Holly wakes from her nap, and when Ben comes in from playing football and agrees to go food shopping, she jumps up, eager to join him; She hates him going anywhere without her.
I love my girl; she brings me so much joy every day, but it’s nice to have some time for myself every now and again. I decide to take a nice long soak in the bath while I have the place to myself.
While the hot water fills the tub, creating a mountain of bubbles as it pours, I search into my bedside drawer for the small photo album I keep in there. Opening it up, I find the picture of a two-year-old me, sitting on my mum’s lap, with my dad smiling next to us. It was taken by Nuno on Christmas day and is one of my favourite photos. I pull it out of the sleeve and reach across the bed for Vinnie. Slotting the photo in, between the last two pages of writing, I smile, and put Vinnie on the bedside table, before making my way into the bathroom.
Sinking into the warm water, I sigh, immediately relaxed and calmed by the heat and the scent of the bubble bath. Music is softly playing, the rain is pelting the bathroom window, and I realise at that moment just how tired I am. I lean my head back, close my eyes, and drift peacefully into my second nap of the day.
So, I know people say not to fall asleep in the bath, but honestly I always do. I think that if I started to slip under the water. Which, by the way, isn’t easy, when your legs are as long as mine, but if I did, the water covering my face would wake me up. Sure I’d come up coughing and spluttering, but I’m pretty sure I’d come up, and that’s the main thing.
The biggest issue I have with falling asleep in the bath, is waking up cold. I wake in the cooled water, certain I’ve just felt another kick, but wonder if this baby is just toying with me. I get out, into some clean pyjamas and made my way back into the living room, with the intention of cleaning the kitchen, but the sofa and daytime TV seem more appealing.
As I lean back on the sofa and consider what I’m going to cook for tea, the door opens and a soaking wet, Ben and Holly, come running inside.
“Mummy, it’s waining.” Holly proclaims, holding her hands out to the side to make her point.
“I know baby; I can see that,” I reply, trying not to laugh at her still standing there, staring at me in total shock at the British weather.
“Pissing it down,” Ben mutters under his breath as he leans in to kiss me before taking the shopping bags into the kitchen.
“Did you get…?”
“Yes,” he interrupts, before raising his eyebrows at me as if to say ‘don’t start Carvalho’.
“You don’t know what I was going to say,” I laugh.
“Yes, Philippa, I do, because I’m your husband, this is your second pregnancy, and I know you too well. I got cheese, I got chocolate, and I got garlic bread. Oh, and I love you, you look beautiful, you’re glowing.” He grins, cheekily, knowing that he ticked all the available boxes on the ‘good husband’ test paper.
, you are good at this,” I say sarcastically, trying to hide my satisfaction at his doing so well, while peering into the orange Sainsbury’s bag in search of my bar of Galaxy chocolate. Life is bloody perfect right now.
After a takeaway pizza delivery and a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, I’m beat. I head into bed leaving Ben watching Family Guy on the sofa. A quick check on Holly on my way past her bedroom, and I am ready for sleep. Tomorrow is a new day and a new page.
I wake the next morning to the sound of Disney’s Sing-Along-Songs and Holly’s wailing. The poor girl inherited my singing voice. I hear Ben join in singing with her and then them both giggling, and it’s infectious. I drop my hand to my belly as I laugh, “You have all of this to come, little baby.” I promise.
My eyes fall on the box of journals on my side of the bed. Ben must have brought them in to me when he came through last night. I notice Vinnie sitting impatiently next to my bedside lamp, keen to know what happened next.
“Okay, okay,” I say aloud, as I reach for him and pick up my pen.
Dad says that Joaquin Alvez introduced himself within minutes of us arriving at the bar. He was excited to have another Mediterranean man in the village and was even more pleased when he found out about me. He had a daughter the same age and hoped that we’d become friends, little did he know we’d be more like sisters.
When I met Rosetta Alvez, my eyes lit up. I remember it so clearly. She had wild curly red hair and did everything at a hundred miles an hour. She was mesmerizing to me. The first time we spoke, she told me she liked my hair and asked if I wanted to have a race, just like that, all in one sentence. I never forgot it as it made me laugh even then. She showed me her toy cars and her bedroom; she had a typewriter and made me sit on the bed while she wrote a one-page story about us being best friends forever. She stuck it up on her bedroom wall along with what seemed like hundreds of other stories.
When her older brother Rafe came to tell us that dinner was ready, Rosie introduced me to him as Pippa, I guess Philippa was too much of a mouthful, so Pippa it was.
From that day on, the three of us were inseparable. Both Rosie and I were a good enough mix of tomboy and girl for Rafe and the other boys in the village to not mind us hanging around. We played football, climbed trees, and spent hours doing each other’s hair and makeup, unsurprisingly, Rafe didn’t take part in the last one.
We used to build tents in our bedrooms with the blankets from our beds and pretend we were camping. We’d have movie nights, not just Rosie and I, but Rafe and both our sets of parents too.
Rosie, Rafe and I bonded over our stupid sense of humour; none of us has ever taken ourselves too seriously. My default setting is ‘Maximum Sarcasm’ and that’s the way I like it.
As we got older, some of the meaner kids in school started to call us mongrel. At first, we didn’t really understand what this meant, but Rafe found out. It was because we had mixed heritage. It made Rafe angry, and he got into a few fights because of it. I think it upset him most because he and Rosie weren’t alike at all, she had her flame red hair and bright green eyes, and even back then, Rafe was tall dark and handsome. It upset him when people questioned whether she was really his sister.
It wasn’t until we got to about eight years old that Rosie and I realised that our dual heritage was something to be embraced. We found confidence in our looks and our backgrounds, and with that, we became much happier in our school lives. It’s hard to bully someone when they don’t find your jibes an insult.
When I was nine, my mum gave me my first journal and set me off on this journey of documenting my life. She told me that I should write in it every day, even if it was just one line to say what kind of day I’d had. She saw it as a way of reflecting on the day and letting go of any frustrations that I may have had. She was convinced it would help me to sleep better and even showed me some of her journals from when she was my age. Some of the passages were written in Hindi, and she would try to test me by asking me to translate them, it didn’t work, I just never had the patience for languages.
I can speak a little Portuguese thanks to years of holidaying in the Algarve with Dad’s family, and I know enough Hindi to be respectful to my grandparents, aunties and uncles, But really, I’m a typical English girl in the perfect body of an exotic goddess!