Read Out of the Blue Online

Authors: Isabel Wolff

Out of the Blue

BOOK: Out of the Blue
5.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Faith Smith’s sunny life just got a little bit cloudy...

Faith Smith, AM-UK!’s face of the morning weather, is used to delivering the forecast. But this surprisingly unglam celeb is not used to being told the forecast—especially when it concerns her own marriage. After years of wedded bliss, there isn’t much about her husband, Peter, that this thirty-five-year-old doesn’t know. In fact, her quiet family life seems almost too comfy...until a casual remark from Faith’s ultra-glam best friend plants a seed of doubt that takes root and strangles all sense of Faith’s contentedness.

Faith begins to assess everything about her mild life—snippets of conversation, Peter’s surprising new look, the attentions of a handsome new acquaintance and the small fire burning inside her, licking at the possibility that, out of the blue, her life is about to change....

Isabel Wolff

Out of the Blue

For my godchildren
Nadia, Raphael and Laurie

The publisher and the author have made all reasonable efforts to trace the copyright owners of the lyrics of the songs contained in this publication. In the event that any of the untraceable copyright owners come forward after the publication of this edition, the publisher and the author will endeavor to rectify the position accordingly.

“Memories are Made of This” Words and music by Terry Gilkyson, Richard Dehr and Frank Miller. © 1955 EMI Blackwood Music Incorporated, U.S.A. Montclare Music Company Ltd, 8/9 Frith Street, London W1 for British Commonwealth (excluding Canada & Australasia) including Eire, Europe and South Africa. Used by permission of Music Sales Ltd. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

“Nobody Does It Better” Music by Marvin Hamlisch. Words by Carole Bayer-Sager. © 1977. EMI Catalogue Partnership and EMI U Catalog Inc. Worldwide print rights controlled by Warner Bros Publications Inc/ IMP Ltd. Reproduced by permission of IMP,
London W6 8BS.

“I Can See Clearly Now” Words and music by Johnny Nash. © 1997 Arnas Music, Dovan Music Inc. Vanas Music Inc and Artemis BV Warner/Chappell Music Ltd., London W6 8BS. Reproduced by permission of IMP Ltd., London W6 8BS.

“(There Are) More Questions Than Answers” Words and music by Johnny Nash. © 1997 Arnas Music, Dovan Music Inc. Vanas Music Inc and Artemis BV Warner/Chappell Music Ltd., London W6 8BS. Reproduced by permission of IMP Ltd., London W6 8BS.

“Merry Xmas Everybody” (Holder/Lea) © Barn Publishing (Slade) Limited. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

January

It’s funny how things can suddenly change, isn’t it?
They can alter in a heartbeat, in a breath. I think that’s what happened tonight
because, well, I don’t really know how to explain it except to say that nothing
feels quite the same. The evening started out well. In fact it felt like quite a
success. There we were, in the restaurant, enjoying ourselves. Talking and
laughing. Eating and drinking. Just eight of us. Just a small party. I wanted to
cheer Peter up, because he’s got his problems right now. So I’d planned this
evening as a surprise. He hadn’t suspected a thing. In fact, he’d even forgotten
that it was our anniversary, and he’s never done that before. But when he came
home it was obvious that today’s date had passed him by.

“Oh, Faith, I’m sorry,” he sighed as he opened my card. “It’s
the sixth today, isn’t it?” I nodded. “I’m afraid I completely…forgot.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said brightly. “Honestly, darling.
Because I know you’ve got a lot on your mind.” He’s having a bad time at work,
you see. He’s publishing director at Fenton & Friend, a job he used to love,
but a year ago a new chairwoman called Charmaine arrived and she’s been giving
him serious grief. She and her creepy sidekick, Oliver. Or rather “Oiliver” as
Peter calls him, though not to his face, of course. But, between the two of
them, Charmaine and Oliver are making Peter’s life hell.

“How was it today?” I asked him cautiously as he hung up his
coat.

“Awful,” he said wearily, running his hand through his
sand-colored hair. “The old bat was going on at me about the bloody sales
figures,” he said as he loosened his tie. “She went on and on. In front of
everyone. It was hideous. And Oliver just stood there, with a smirk on his fat
face, oozing sycophancy from every pore. I tell you, Faith,” he added with a
sigh, “I’m for the chop. It can’t be long.”

“Well, leave it to Andy,” I said.

A faraway look came into Peter’s eyes and he said, “Yes. I’ll
put my faith in Andy.” That’s Andy Metzler, by the way. He’s a headhunter.
American. One of the best in town. Peter seems to think the world of him. It’s
“Andy this” and “Andy that”, so I really hope Andy delivers the goods. But it’ll
be hard for Peter if he does have to leave Fenton & Friend, because he’s
been there for thirteen years. It’s been a bit like our marriage, really—a
stable and happy relationship, based on affection, loyalty and trust. But now it
looks as though it might be coming to an end.

“I suppose nothing stays the same,” Peter added ruefully as he
fixed us both a drink. “I’m not joking, Faith,” he added as I took the last
baubles off the Christmas tree. “I’ll be getting the old heave-ho, because
Oil
iver’s after my job.”

Peter tries to be philosophical about it all, but I know he’s
very depressed. For example, he’s not quite his normal genial self, and he’s
finding it hard to sleep. So for the past six months or so, we’ve been in
separate rooms. Which is no bad thing as I have to get up at three thirty a.m.
for my job at breakfast TV. I do the weather, at AM-UK! I’ve been there six
years now, and I love it, despite the hideously early start. Normally, I let the
alarm pip twice, slip out of bed, and Peter goes straight back to sleep. But at
the moment he can’t stand being disturbed, so he’s in the spare room on the top
floor. I don’t mind. I understand. And sex isn’t everything, you know. And in
some ways I quite like it, because it means I can sleep with Graham instead. I
love Graham. He’s absolutely gorgeous, and he’s incredibly bright. He snores a
bit, which annoys me, but I poke him in the ribs and say, “Darling—shhh!” And he
opens his eyes, looks at me lovingly, then drops off again—just like that. He’s
lucky. He sleeps very well, though sometimes he has nightmares and starts
twitching violently and kicking his legs. But he doesn’t mind being disturbed in
the dead of night when I get up to go to work; in fact—and this is really
sweet—he likes to get up too. He sits outside the bathroom while I have my
shower. Then I hear the cab pull up, I put on my coat, and hug him goodbye.

Some of our friends think that Graham’s a slightly odd name for
a dog. And I suppose it is compared to Rover, say, or Gnasher, or Shep. But we
decided on Graham because I found him in Graham Road, in Chiswick, where we
live. That was two years ago. I’d been to the dentist for a filling, and when I
came out there was this mongrel—very young, and terribly thin—looking at me
expectantly as though we’d known each other for years. And he followed me all
the way home, just trotting along gently behind, then sat down outside the front
gate and wouldn’t move. So eventually I invited him in, gave him a ham sandwich
and that was that. We phoned the police, and the dogs’ home, but no-one ever
claimed him, and I’d have been distraught if they had because, to be honest, it
was love at first sight, just like it was with Peter. I adore him. Graham, I
mean. We just clicked. We really get on. And I think the reason why I love him
so much is because of the sweet way he put his faith in me.

Peter was fine about it—he likes dogs too—and of course the
children were thrilled, though Katie, who wants to be a psychiatrist, thinks I
“mother” Graham too much. She says I’m projecting my frustrated maternal desires
for another child onto the dog. I know…ridiculous! But you have to take
teenagers very seriously, don’t you, otherwise they get in a strop. Anyway,
Graham’s the baby of the family. He’s only three. He doesn’t have a pedigree,
but he’s got bucketloads of class. He’s a collie cross of some sort, with a
feathery red-gold coat, a white blaze on his chest and a foxy, elegant charm. We
take him almost everywhere with us, though not to restaurants, of course. So
this evening Peter settled him on his beanbag, put on the telly for him—he likes
Food and Drink
—and said, “Don’t worry, old boy,
Mummy and I are just going out for a quick bite.”

But Peter had no idea what I’d really planned. He thought we’d
just be having an impromptu dinner,
tête à tête
. I’d
told him I’d booked a table, but he’d assumed it was just for two. So when we
got to the restaurant, and he saw the children sitting there, with his mother,
Sarah, he looked so surprised and pleased. And I’d invited Mimi, an old college
friend of ours, with her new husband, Mike.

“It’s like
This Is Your Life!”
Peter exclaimed with a laugh, as we took off our coats. “What a great idea,
Faith,” he said. To be honest, I didn’t do it just for him. I did it for myself,
too, because I felt like marking the occasion in some way. I mean, fifteen
years. Fifteen years. That’s nearly half our lives.

“Fifteen years,” I said with a smile as we sat down. “And it
hasn’t been a day too long.”

I’ve been very happy in my marriage, you see. And believe me, I
still am. For example, I’m never, ever bored. There’s always loads to do. We
don’t have much money, of course—we never have had—but we still have lots of
fun. Well, we would do if it wasn’t for the fact that Peter’s working so hard:
Charmaine’s got him reading manuscripts most nights, and I have to be in bed by
half past nine. But at weekends, that’s when we catch up and really
enjoy
ourselves. The children come home—they’re weekly
boarders at a school in Kent—and we do, ooh, all sorts of things. We go for
walks along the river, and we garden. We go to Tesco for the weekly shop.
Sometimes we pop down to Ikea—the one in Brent Cross, though occasionally, for a
bit of a change, we’ll try the one in Croydon. And we might take out a video, or
watch a bit of TV, and the children go and see their friends. Well, they would
do if they had any. They’re both what you’d call loners, I’m afraid. It worries
me a bit. For example, Matt—he’s twelve—just loves being on his computer. He’s
an addict, always has been; he was mouse-trained very young. I remember when he
was five and I’d be putting him to bed, he’d say, “Please can you wake me up at
six o’clock tomorrow, Mummy, so I can go on the computer before I go to school?”
And that struck me as rather sad, really, and he’s still just like that now. But
he’s as happy as Larry with all his computer games and his CD Roms, so we don’t
like to interfere. As I say, he’s not what you’d call an all rounder. For
example, his written skills are dire. But as well as the computers he’s
brilliant at math—in fact we call him “Mattematics”. And that’s why we sent him
to Seaworth, because he wasn’t coping well where he was. But he wouldn’t go
without Katie, and it suits her very well too because, look, don’t think I’m
being disloyal about my children—but they’re not quite like other kids. For one
thing Katie’s far too old for her years. She’s only fourteen now, but she’s
so
serious-minded. She does nothing but read. I
guess she takes after Peter, because for her it’s books, not bytes. She’s not at
all fashion-conscious, like other girls of her age. There’s no hint of any
teenage rebellion, either; she seems to be just as “sensible” as me. And because
I never kicked over the traces, somehow I wish that she would. I keep hoping
that she’ll come home one weekend with a lime-green mohican or at the very least
with a stud in her nose. But no such luck—all she ever does is read. As I say,
she’s dead keen on psychology, she’s got lots of books on Jung and Freud, and
she likes to practice her psychotherapeutic skills on all of us. And when we sat
down at the table this evening, that’s what she was doing.

“So, Granny, how did you feel about your divorce?” I heard her
ask my mother-in-law. I made a sympathetic face at Sarah, but she just looked at
me and smiled.

“Well, Katie, I felt fine about it,” she said. “Because when
two people are unhappy together, then it’s sometimes better for them to
part.”

“What were the chief factors, would you say, in the breakdown
of your relationship with Grandpa?”

“Well, darling,” she said as she lowered her menu, “I think we
just married too young.”

People sometimes say that about Peter and me. We married at
twenty, you see; and so people do sometimes ask me—and to be honest I wish they
wouldn’t—if I ever have any regrets about that. But I don’t. I never, ever
wonder, “What
if
…?” because I’ve been happy really,
in every way. Peter’s a decent and honest man. He’s very hard-working, he’s
great
with the kids, and he’s kind and
considerate to his mum. He’s quite handsome, too, though he needs to lose a
little weight. But then, funnily enough, this evening I noticed that he
is
looking a bit more trim. I expect he’s shed a few
pounds recently because of all his stress. He’s well turned out at the moment,
too—I’ve noticed he’s got a couple of lovely new ties. He says he has to be
ready to slip out to interviews at the drop of a hat, so he’s been dressing very
smartly for work. So despite his present anxieties, he’s looking pretty good.
And after such a long time with Peter I could never fancy anyone else. People
sometimes ask me if I
do
fantasy—sorry,
fancy
, anyone else—after fifteen years with the same
man, and the answer is absolutely, categorically, definitively hardly ever. I
mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m made of flesh and blood. I can see when a man’s
attractive. For example, that chap who came round last week to mend the washing
machine. He got my delicates cycle going again. And yes, objectively, I could
see that he was a handsome sort of chap. Yes, I admit it—he was a bit of a hunk.
And to be honest, I have been having some rather strange dreams about him
recently. Quite vivid ones, featuring all sorts of peculiar items like a mobile
phone for example, a TV remote control, and—this is
really
odd—a tub of blackcurrant sorbet! God knows what it means. I
asked Katie actually, and she gave me this rather peculiar look and said it’s
just my
id
, running wild. As I say, I always humor
her. No doubt my dreams are just the product of my rather fertile imagination.
So no, I don’t look at anyone else, although I do meet lots of attractive men at
work. But I never fancy them, because I’m a very happily married woman, and sex
isn’t everything, you know. And of course Peter’s very preoccupied right now.
But yes, to answer your question, my marriage is in great shape, which is why I
wanted to celebrate our fifteen happy years. So I booked a table at Snows, just
down the road at Brook Green. We don’t eat out very often. Peter has to go out
to dinner with authors and agents sometimes, he’s been doing quite a bit of that
of late, but we don’t do much ourselves. We can’t afford it; what with the
school fees—though luckily Matt got a scholarship—and of course publishing
doesn’t pay well. And my job’s only part-time because I’m home by eleven every
day. But I thought Peter needed a bit of a treat, so I decided on a party at
Snows. It’s actually called Snows on the Green, which was rather appropriate
because today the snow
was
on the green. More than
an inch of it. It started to fall this morning, and by late afternoon it had
built into gentle drifts. And I love it when it snows because there’s this eerie
hush, and the world falls silent as though everyone’s dropped off to sleep. And
I just want to rush outside, clap my hands and shout, “Come on! Wake up! Wake
up!”
And snow always reminds me of our wedding,
because it snowed on that day too.

So I was sitting there in the restaurant, looking out of the
window for a minute, watching the flakes batting gently against the panes and
idly wondering what the next fifteen years of my life would bring. And I was
feeling the slightly dizzying effects of the champagne. Not real champagne,
obviously—just the Italian sparkling, but it’s
very
good, and only half the price. I glanced round the table, listening to the low
babble of conversation.

“Are your parents coming, Faith?” Sarah asked me as she nibbled
on an olive.

BOOK: Out of the Blue
5.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Sagaria by John Dahlgren
Peony in Love by Lisa See
Tool of the Trade by Joe Haldeman
The Boy from Left Field by Tom Henighan
Broken: A Plague Journal by Hughes, Paul
A Bodyguard to Remember by Alison Bruce
The Reckoning - 02 by D. A. Roberts
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh