Read One Minute to Midnight Online

Authors: Amy Silver

Tags: #Fiction, #General

One Minute to Midnight

BOOK: One Minute to Midnight
13.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Contents

 

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Amy Silver

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Copyright

About the Book

 

Nicole Blake’s New Year Resolutions, 1990
:

1. Start keeping a journal

2. Lose half a stone

3. Kiss Julian Symonds

If there are two things Nicole can guarantee about New Year’s Eve it’s that there are always fireworks and Julian Symonds is always there.

Since she was thirteen, no New Year has been complete without Jules. Through school, university and beyond, as friends come and go, Nic and Jules are at the centre of every party. Until one year everything changes…

Now, as another New Year approaches, Nicole has ghosts to lay and bridges to build – with her husband Dom, with her best friend Alex, and with Aidan, the man who broke her heart.

Life is about to change again, and once the fireworks are over and the dust has settled, this time Nicole is determined it will be for the better.

About the Author

 

Amy Silver is a writer and freelance journalist, and has written on everything from the diamond trade to DIY dog grooming. She lives in London and has a penchant for vintage clothes and champagne cocktails. This is her third novel.

Also by Amy Silver

 

Confessions of a Reluctant Recessionista

All I Want For Christmas

 

For Ben, my favourite New Yorker

Acknowledgements

 

Thanks to Lizzy Kremer and Gillian Holmes

Chapter One

 

Boxing Day 2011

I GET UP in darkness, while the house sleeps, slipping from the warmth of our bed unnoticed. I dress in the bathroom so as not to wake Dom, then pad down the stairs, taking care to walk on the left side of the staircase (less creaky for some reason). The dogs are curled up in their enormous basket in the corner of the utility room; Mick, the hulking great mongrel, an unholy mix of Alsatian, Rottweiler, some Pyrenean mountain dog and a host of unknowns, completely enveloping Marianne, our tiny, delicate golden lurcher. They look up at me sleepily as I open the door.

‘Come on, then,’ I whisper, jamming my feet into my wellies, the sight of which already has them scrambling out of the basket, Mick barking enthusiastically.

‘Shhhhh,’ I hiss at him uselessly, lunging for the back door so that I can let him out before he rouses the entire household. Wake everyone up and they’ll all want to come.

The dogs bound out onto a lawn turned crunchy and white by a thin layer of snow just freezing to ice. I zip up my parka to the very top, tucking my nose under the material, hunkering down against a bitter whip of wind. Fingers of pale winter sunlight are just beginning to creep across the lawn, warming nothing whatsoever.

Tails wagging furiously, the dogs are waiting for me at the back gate, Mick’s nose pushing against the latch. One day he’ll figure out that all he needs to do is flick his head upwards and he’ll be able to open it. Fortunately, he’s not too bright, so that day is probably a long time away. If Marianne could reach the latch she’d have figured it out ages ago.

I glance up at the window of the spare room. Blinds still drawn, in-laws still slumbering. Probably not for long. The three of us slip away, out of the gate and into the lane behind the house, making for Wimbledon Common.

We head north-west-ish, the dogs running ahead, Mick at a gentle canter, Marianne racing out of sight then returning a moment or so later, anxiously bobbing her head up and down like a meerkat, wondering what’s taking us so long. There’s not another soul in sight. Usually by seven-thirty on a weekday there are plenty of runners and dog-walkers around, even in the dead of winter. Not today. Everyone’s still sleeping off the turkey and mince pies. It’s eerily quiet, there’s no traffic noise, no birdsong, not even the faint drone of aeroplanes overhead. I quicken my pace, partly to warm up, but also because, despite myself, this silence is creeping me out a bit.

Dom hates me going out alone at this hour, with the sun barely up.

‘No one’s going to attack me when I’m with Mick,’ I tell him, although we both know that while our beloved dog might look fierce he’d run a mile if there were any real danger. I’ve seen him back down in an argument with next door’s kitten. Marianne would probably provide better protection; she’s got a fierce temper when roused.

(‘Just like you,’ Dom tells me with a wink, although he isn’t really joking.)

We get as far as the windmill and I know I ought to turn back. They’ll all be up by now, early risers my extended family. They’ll be wanting their breakfast. Failure to have it on the table will be regarded by my mother-in-law as a dereliction of my wifely duties. Yet another dereliction: does one more really matter? The dogs have barely been out of the house in two days, they need a proper walk. And I have things to think about, mental lists to write.

On 29 December, in just three days’ time, we’re flying to New York. New York for New Year! Just the thought of it is thrilling: carriage rides through the park, ice skating at the Rockefeller Center, cocktails at the Met. But it’s nerve-racking too. Of the many, many skeletons in my closet, a surprising number of them have, for one reason or another, decamped to Manhattan. They’re waiting for me there. That aside, I’ve just got too much to do before we go: I need to take down all the Christmas decorations (too early, I know, but it’ll depress me to come back to them after our holiday’s finished and Christmas is well and truly over), I need to clean the house (our lovely Albanian cleaner is away until the end of January for some reason); I have to drive to Oxford to do an interview for the
Betrayal
TV programme I’m producing, email my assistant with our New York contact numbers, read through (and decline?) the
Girls Gone Mild
proposal from i! TV, shop for a dress to wear to Karl’s party, get my hair cut, my eyebrows threaded and my nails done
and
take the dogs to Matt and Liz’s place in Sussex. Oh, and at some point I probably ought to reply to that email from my father.

The first communication of any sort I’d had from him in more than two years, it had arrived on Christmas Eve.

 

Dear Nicole,

 

I hope this message finds you well. I imagine you’ll be spending Christmas with your mother. Do give her my regards.
I’m afraid I write bearing bad news. I have been feeling rather unwell lately and after many doctors’ visits have finally been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The doctors assure me that my prognosis is good, the cancer is not too advanced. However, I am due to go into hospital for surgery on 2 January.
I was wondering whether you might be able to come and see me before I go under the knife? It is relatively minor surgery of course, but one never knows, does one? It’s been so long since we talked, there are things I feel I ought to say to you.
I know that for one reason or another our relationship is almost non-existent these days. You might not believe me, but this is a matter of great regret for me.
I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Happy Christmas,

 

Dad.

 

I still haven’t told anyone about it, not even Dominic. It’s not just that it would have put a dampener on our Christmas celebrations, it’s more that Dom can be a bit …
prescriptive
when it comes to my dealings with my father. It’s only because he wants to protect me, I know, but I need to figure out what I want to do about it by myself.

The dogs and I get to the northern end of the Common, the point at which it meets the A3. Usually, we would cross over the road and carry on through the Robin Hood Gate across Richmond Park, right up to the brow of the hill. Not today. It’s almost quarter past eight already. By the time we get back home it’ll be after nine o’clock. I might just make it in time to start breakfast before Maureen, Dom’s mum, is bathed and coiffed and downstairs ready to make me feel bad.

No such luck.

‘There you are,’ Dom’s dad says, looking up from his fry-up as I come into the kitchen. ‘We were wondering where you’d got to.’

Maureen is standing at the cooker, her back to me. ‘You are going to eat this morning, aren’t you?’ she asks, without turning round. ‘I’ve done you a couple of fried eggs and some sausages.’ I turn to close the door between the kitchen and utility room, but I’m too slow. Mick pushes past me, padding mud across the white kitchen tile.

‘Oh, do keep the dogs out of here, Nicole,’ Maureen says, wrinkling her nose in distaste at Mick, who’s now standing next to Dom, having a sniff at his breakfast. ‘You should never have animals in the kitchen. It’s so unsanitary. Just look at the mess he’s making.’

I grab Mick’s collar and drag him out, slamming the door before he has time to barge back in again. ‘Sorry, Maureen,’ I say guiltily, slinking back to the kitchen table like a scolded child. Dom squeezes my knee and gives me a wink.

We eat in silence, the minutes ticking by. Dom and his father wolf down the remains of their meal while I push the lukewarm bits of greasy egg white around my plate. I can’t bear fried eggs but I’m not about to tell Maureen that.

Eventually, Peter, Dom’s dad, interrupts the quiet.

‘So, when are you two off to the States?’

BOOK: One Minute to Midnight
13.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Redeeming Jack by Pearce, Kate
Her Wedding Wish by Hart, Jillian
Home Goes The Warrior by Jeff Noonan
Hot Wheels by William Arden
Dovewing's Silence by Erin Hunter
Just One Kiss by Susan Mallery
The Runaway by Katie Flynn
Baptism in Blood by Jane Haddam
His Poor Little Rich Girl by Melanie Milburne