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Authors: Penny Parkes

Out of Practice

BOOK: Out of Practice
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About the Author

Penny Parkes
survived a Convent education largely thanks to a ready supply of inappropriate novels and her passion for writing and languages.

She studied International Management in Bath and Germany, before gaining experience with the BBC. She then set up an independent Film Location Agency and spent many happy years organising shoots
for film, television and advertising – thereby ensuring that she was never short of travel opportunities, freelance writing projects or entertaining anecdotes.

Penny now lives in the Cotswolds with her husband, two children and a geriatric spaniel. She will often be found plotting epic train journeys through the Alps, baking gluten-free goodies or
attempting to prove that you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks.

Follow Penny on Twitter: @CotswoldPenny

First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2016

Copyright © Penny Parkes, 2016

This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
® and © 1997 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

The right of Penny Parkes to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
1st Floor
222 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8HB

Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney
Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4711-5304-4
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4711-5305-1

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Typeset in the UK by M Rules
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd are committed to sourcing paper that is made from wood grown in sustainable forests and support the Forest Stewardship Council, the leading
international forest certification organisation. Our books displaying the FSC logo are printed on FSC certified paper.

For Rosie and Bertie
With all my love, always


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 1

Holly blew her fringe from her eyes and the familiar hot prickle of embarrassment began to crawl across her chest. ‘Please don’t let anyone be watching,’ she
murmured under her breath, as she turned the steering wheel even harder to the right, until the ancient suspension on her beloved Golf groaned in complaint. Tentatively, she lifted her foot off the
clutch, gingerly checking that, this time, she actually was in reverse.

It made no sense to anyone who knew her. As a doctor, a mother, a bright, articulate woman, she had always been the capable one – the one you’d go to in a crisis – but somehow
the part of Holly’s brain that was required for parallel parking simply refused to engage.

The sound of metal on metal always made Holly shudder. This morning, her first day at her new job, the sound of Golf on Mercedes nearly made her sick.

It was hardly the first impression she’d been hoping for and Holly swallowed hard to regain her composure. She slipped out of her car to survey the damage. She was just reassuring herself
that her own car had taken the worst of the impact when a tiny powder-blue Fiat whipped into the car park. The driver was barely visible above the steering wheel, but nevertheless executed a
faultless one-two-slide into the minuscule space that Holly had previously given up on.

‘Perfect,’ muttered Holly, awkwardly rubbing at the ding in the Mercedes’ paintwork with her sleeve, ‘out-parked by a pensioner.’

‘Well, good morning to you!’ called the Fiat’s driver, as she attempted to exit her car and untangle herself from the seatbelt at the same time. Holly turned in surprise,
recognising the voice and struggling to place it. As she watched, a glamorous old lady, probably as vintage as her vehicle, emerged from the Fiat and it only took a few seconds for Holly to realise
who it was.

Elsie Townsend, star of stage and screen and Larkford’s resident celebrity, stepped out as if she were on the red carpet. She was sporting a glamorous confection of scarves and draping
cardigans that were clearly eye-wateringly expensive and belied the fact that they were standing in a rather muddy, country doctors’ car park at 8:30 on a Thursday morning.

‘Hi,’ managed Holly, quietly in awe.

‘Chatty little soul, aren’t you?’ said Elsie drily. ‘Don’t be shy now. Do please tell me that you’re the new GP. We’ve all been simply
for a lovely lady doctor.’

Holly felt her fingers being taken in a surprisingly strong clasp by a delicate hand that looked and felt like paper, but somehow supported a sapphire the size of a gull’s egg. Before she
could reply, she’d been pulled into a half embrace and powdery air kisses were whistling past both cheeks.

‘You’ll be like a breath of fresh air around here, young lady,’ Elsie said.

Holly felt her cheeks growing pink and she couldn’t help smiling. All the nerves this morning, not to mention the hideous sweatiness of the parking debacle, slipped from her mind in the
warmth of Elsie’s appraisal. ‘First day today, in fact. I’m Holly Graham by the way. It’s a pleasure to meet you Ms Townsend.’

Elsie’s eyes danced with delight at being instantly recognised, ‘Elsie, please. Well then, Dr Graham, may I be the first to welcome you to Larkford. We’ve all been looking
forward to your arrival. I’m afraid some of our residents may even have been speculating about your reasons for joining our little community. They can’t help it – not a lot to do
but gossip, some of these old biddies.’ She gave Holly a conspiratorial look.

Holly laughed, loving the fact that even though Elsie herself was clearly in her eighties, she certainly didn’t regard herself as one of the ‘old biddies’. ‘Ah, well,
then I’m sure I shall provide plenty of fodder for the gossip machine, especially if I make a habit of reversing into expensive Mercedes.’

Elsie shrugged and waved a hand. ‘That’s just Dr Bruce’s car. He’s actually a bit of a shit,’ she pronounced incongruously, ‘so I rather think you’ll
win Brownie points from the locals for that one. Might even bring him down a peg or two. If there’s one thing people round here don’t like, it’s uppity people looking down on
them, and Henry Bruce is just so full of himself, he can’t see how offensive he can be.’

‘Brilliant,’ said Holly quietly, having met the indomitable Henry Bruce at her interview and already suffered his condescension for having the nerve to be a woman, a mother and a
doctor all at the same time. She knew full well that he was the only partner not to have supported her application and now she’d reversed into his car!

‘Worry not, my petal. We, your loyal patients, will support you,’ Elsie announced, holding out an arm as if she were on the stage at Stratford and reeling off a bit of Will
Shakespeare. ‘Come on, or I’ll be late for my slot with the delicious Dr Dan. I’ve been summoned in for bad behaviour,’ Elsie confided disgustedly. ‘Again! It’s
unseemly, apparently, for a woman my age to be caught having fun. Gets all the neighbours in a pickle, you see. Quite why I can’t dance around my garden in a nice evening frock doing a bit of
gardening, I do not know. But here we are and the dementia drums are beating . . .’

Holly felt Elsie tuck her arm through hers. ‘Well then,’ Holly said, ‘we can’t miss your slot now, can we? Not if it’s with Delicious Dan Carter. He always was
rather easy on the eye, even when we were teenagers. He’s my best friend Lizzie’s cousin actually.’

‘Excellent,’ replied Elsie, ‘I do love a bit of healthy nepotism. I hope that’s why you’re here in Larkford?’

‘Partly,’ replied Holly diplomatically. The car park was hardly the place to divulge the intimate tangles of her life, but it did remind Holly that she needed to work out a public
version of events sooner rather than later.

BOOK: Out of Practice
12.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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