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Authors: Debbie Viggiano

Secrets

BOOK: Secrets
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Secrets

 

 

 

Debbie Viggiano

 

Secrets © Debbie Viggiano 2016

 

Kindle Edition published worldwide 2016 © Debbie Viggiano

 

All rights reserved in all media. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical (including but not limited to: the Internet, photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system), without prior permission in writing from the author.

 

The moral right of Debbie Viggiano as the author of the work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

 

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

www.debbieviggiano.com

http://debbieviggiano.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

Huge thanks to the wonderful Maureen Vincent-Northam and the lovely Rebecca Emin for assisting with hours of copy editing and formatting.

Thank you to the brilliant Cathy Helms for her artistic flair and talent in producing an amazing cover.

Thank you to my long-suffering husband who sometimes wonders where his wife has gone when she retreats into a world of fiction.

Mega thanks to my cherished family and friends in Canada for showing me around Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver as I researched for this book – David, Cecile, Zander, Donna and Kamran. I love you all!

Finally, sincere thanks to
you
, my wonderful reader. I hope you enjoy Secrets.

 

In memory of Graham

 

 

Chapter
One

 

Janey leant back in the bucket seat of the jumbo jet. Under her ribcage, her heart was painfully thud-thudding. She was running away.
She
knew it. Her
family
knew it. Everybody in her
road
knew it and thanks to Mrs Jones, the local gossip, the entire
village
knew it. The plane started to crawl slowly to the runway. As a stewardess went through in-flight safety, Janey closed her eyes. Her heart was doing very strange things now. She was anxious about the flight, but the palpitations had nothing to do with fear of flying. The cardiovascular gymnastics had been going on for the last six months. At one point, when even the act of breathing had become a monumental effort, Janey had taken herself off to the local surgery.

Doctor Godfrey had looked at her kindly. Some might have said pityingly. He’d heard the gossip too. ‘Stress,’ he’d diagnosed. ‘It’s perfectly understandable. Go away for a few days. Somewhere peaceful. A holiday would do you the power of good.’

Janey had dismissed the doctor’s advice. She privately thought lying horizontal on a baking hot beach might tip her over the edge. What, nothing to do except reflect on her disastrous private life? Listen to her mind regurgitating the incredulous voices of others? Even now she could clearly remember Mrs Fosdyke gossiping to Mrs Gager. The two pensioners had stood in the street openly nattering about Janey. She’d been walking to the corner shop, head held high, but the old women had been oh-so-audible.

‘Ooh, look over there,’ Mrs Fosdyke had jerked her head. ‘It’s Janey Richardson. Poor little duck.’

‘So it is.’ Mrs Gager’s eyes had bored into Janey’s back. ‘On the one hand I feel tremendously sorry for her. But on the other, well, she’s obviously a gullible idiot. I mean, how could she
not
have known?’

‘Mm,’ Mrs Fosdyke had agreed. ‘I couldn’t believe my ears when Mrs Jones told me. You’d have thought an educated woman like Janey would have had more intelligence. She’s meant to be a teacher after all.’

‘A
headmistress
.’

‘I bet she feels mortified.’

‘Not to mention ridiculous.’

‘Well quite. The whole thing is beyond humiliating.’

Janey shuddered at the memory. The ultimate prod in getting away from it all had been catching those two old biddies gossiping about her. However, Janey had dismissed her GP’s advice of booking two weeks in Torremolinos. Oh no. If you were going to put distance between yourself and the chinwags, it needed to be properly done. Once home from the corner shop, Janey had sat at her laptop. With trembling fingers, she’d typed into a search engine
Holidays for solo travellers
. She’d almost added the words
as far away as possible from Little Cobbleton
.

‘Canada?’ her mother had shrieked. Had it really only been two days ago? In that moment Janey had felt reckless and brave. Violet had tugged in agitation at the pearl necklace around her neck. ‘Why Canada? Do you know someone over there?’

‘Nope.’

‘But, darling. It’s thousands of miles away. You’ve never been further than France.’

‘I know, and it’s time for change. I’m thirty-three years old, Mum. What sad person am I to have only travelled to France? And even that was a day trip to Calais when I was fourteen.’

‘I think going abroad is very over-rated,’ Violet had sniffed. ‘You can’t beat holidays in Devon or Cornwall. And what about all those lovely breaks we had in the Lakes and Scotland when you and Joe were little?’

Janey had closed her eyes to block the sudden rush of tears that threatened to fall. ‘This isn’t about eating scones or paddling in the sea, Mum.’ She’d blinked rapidly until her vision had cleared. ‘It’s about escaping from this village. The constant nudges and whispers. The endless knowing looks. It’s been six months! But nobody lets me forget. How can I move on in my life when everybody treats me like I was responsible for the biggest scandal in history?’

‘I agree Little Cobbleton is a bit insular,’ Violet had said in a pacifying voice, ‘but what do you expect in a village where you aren’t truly accepted until your ancestors can be traced back five-hundred years? Mrs Jones still refers to your father and me as
The Newcomers
and we’ve lived here since before you and Joe were born.’

‘That is precisely what I want to get away from,’ Janey had nodded. ‘All the narrow-minded nonsense. Everybody knowing everybody else’s business.’

‘Sweetheart, I don’t believe you’re thinking this through properly. You’re talking about visiting a vast country where you won’t know a soul.’

‘Exactly. Which means nobody will know anything about
me
.’

‘But what if you get homesick?’

‘Mum, I’m going for two weeks. Not two years.’

‘Okay, but those two weeks might
seem
like two years when you’re practically on the other side of the world. You’ll be all by yourself with nobody to talk to.’

‘I’m not going by myself,’ Janey had said quietly.

There had been a pause while Violet digested this. ‘Oh, darling! Why didn’t you say? Are you going with Joe?’

‘Most certainly not!’ Whilst Janey dearly loved her younger brother, going to Canada with him was not part of her plan. Joe had escaped from Little Cobbleton when he was eighteen, after the gossips had discovered he was gay. Ensconced in digs near the Middlesex London University, he’d studied fashion and design and fully embraced a flamboyant lifestyle. Now, ten years later, he lived in trendy Islington with his artist partner, Sanjay. Having created a brand together specialising in creative prints, they jointly ran
Designs on You
and had made quite a name for themselves. Joe rarely came back to Little Cobbleton, but when he did it was alone and without the silk scarf around his neck.

‘So who are you going with?’ Violet had persisted.

‘I’ll be with a bunch of people wanting some adventure and fun.’

‘I don’t understand.’ Violet had been perplexed. ‘Where did you meet these people?’

‘On-line.’

‘Oh my Lord,’ Violet had gasped. ‘Now I know you’ve lost your marbles. You can’t go away with
strangers
. What if they’re dodgy? What if you get mugged? Or murdered? Or–’

‘Mum, please!’ Janey had rolled her eyes. Trust her mother to see danger everywhere and think the worst. ‘It’s a kosher website for people who want to go on holiday, but for their own private reasons they have nobody to go with.’

‘Is it one of those dating websites?’ Violet had asked suspiciously.

‘No! It’s a companionship website. Nothing more.’

‘I hope you know what you’re doing,’ Violet had finally said.

And now, as the jumbo roared along the runway, Janey was starting to wonder the same thing.

 

Chapter
Two

 

Four years earlier

‘Happy birthday!’ cried Susie, swooping on Janey, arms outstretched. Janey found herself in the midst of a doorstep hug. Cold November air swirled around her legs. Her best friend released her and thrust a badly wrapped present at her. ‘For you.’

‘You shouldn’t have,’ Janey protested. She allowed Susie to brush past her and enter the narrow communal hall.

‘Don’t get too excited.’ Susie flapped a hand as if to say
give over
. ‘It’s only some chocolates. You know I never have any money.’

‘You and me both,’ said Janey as she trekked upstairs to the top part of the terraced house she rented. ‘The landlord has put the rent up again, plus my car had a service last week which I’m sure cost more than the wretched thing is worth.’

The women went into Janey’s small kitchen. ‘Well at least you’re working,’ Susie said. She pulled out a mismatched chair from under a hideous Formica table. ‘I’m between jobs at the moment. All I have is my dole money.’

Janey swallowed irritation as she reached for the kettle. Susie always did this to her. The women had known each other from their first day at Little Cobbleton Primary School. They’d spent years almost joined at the hip. It had seemed only natural to apply for the same university in their quest to be teachers. Susie would probably have made a fine teacher if she’d not been side-tracked by a dread-locked Rastafarian called Femi who loved smoking spliffs and spending Susie’s student loan. “Get rid of him, Suze,” Janey had said. “The guy’s a user.” Susie had been miffed and for a while the two women had hardly spoken. Then suddenly Susie announced she was jacking in uni to live a boho life with Femi in his clapped-out VW camper van. They were going to drive around the world and it was going to be far out, man, making love and promoting peace, not war. They’d got as far as Dover International before Femi was arrested for having a boot full of crack. Susie, shocked to the core, was very lucky not to be implicated. For a while she’d sworn off men, particularly Rastafarians. “Come back to uni,” Janey had implored. “Nah,” Susie had said rebelliously. “It’s for intellectual losers, so count me out.” Stung, Janey had carried on, graduating with Honours while Susie chucked her education away to work in Woolworths. And that was how Susie had been ever since. Her CV had to be a mile long. She never held a job down for more than two months before boredom set in.

Janey blasted water into the kettle, slapped the lid down and flicked on the switch. ‘You know, Suze,’ she said, pulling two mugs from the tiny overhead cupboard, ‘don’t you ever regret not completing your degree?’

Susie shrugged noncommittally. ‘Too late now.’

‘It’s never too late,’ said Janey. She reached into the compact fridge and extracted a small carton of milk. ‘You were so brainy, and far cleverer than me.’ She cautiously sniffed the milk before pouring some into the mugs. ‘You could go to Open University and still get your degree.’

‘I’ll think about it,’ said Susie. ‘Meanwhile I have an interview on Monday. It’s for a shelf packer position in the warehouse of Argos.’

‘And how long do you think you’ll be smitten with a job like that?’

‘Long enough to have a bit of cash in my pocket,’ said Susie glibly as she accepted her mug of tea.

Janey put her own tea on the table and swept some papers out of the way. She’d been planning next week’s lessons for her students, marrying up science and nature. What she’d really like to do was take her class of eight-year-olds to a nature reserve. However, there weren’t too many of those to be found amongst the tower blocks of inner London. Sometimes Janey longed for the open spaces of Little Cobbleton. Rolling green hills. Trees soaring up. Branches stretching into an uninterrupted skyline. One day she’d go back – when the timing was right. Meanwhile she’d make do with polluted air, congested roads and a skyline littered with endless chimney pots and satellite dishes.

‘So what shall we do to celebrate?’ asked Susie as she slurped noisily at the tea.

Janey shrugged. ‘I’m perfectly happy chilling in front of the telly.’

‘Don’t be daft. It’s your birthday. We’ve got to go somewhere exciting. I take it Brian hasn’t been in touch.’

Janey nearly choked on her tea. ‘No. Not since I walked in on him bonking his sexy blonde flatmate.’ Brian had, until a fortnight ago, been Janey’s boyfriend of several months. Her love life hadn’t exactly flourished throughout her twenties. The thought of next year’s Big Three-Oh was slightly daunting. In the pit of her stomach, Janey had a feeling she’d end up an old maid like her Aunt Peggy.

‘Bastard,’ said Susie with relish. Secretly she was glad Brian was off the scene. It meant Janey would be more likely to hang out with her socially. Susie’s own love life consisted mainly of one-night stands. She’d stopped counting how many men she’d slept with when the number had reached fifty. However, now that she was edging towards her thirties some deep primeval part of her seemed to be hankering for a soul mate. She couldn’t deny there was a desire to put down roots and settle. However, finding the elusive soul mate was proving hard work. ‘I think we should go to the pub tonight.’

‘I told you. I don’t have any money.’

‘So bash your credit card.’

‘But you told me you don’t have any money either.’

‘So I’ll bash
my
credit card.’

‘I thought you didn’t have one?’

‘I don’t,’ Susie grinned impishly. ‘But I’m happy to borrow yours. Oh come on. Don’t look at me like that. I’ll pay you back when I’m working at Argos.’

‘If you get the job.’

‘Of course I’ll get the job!’ said Susie confidently.

Janey sighed. This was why she hated going out socially with Susie. She always ended up funding her friend’s social life.

‘Oh, okay,’ Janey relented. ‘But just the one drink. And I mean it.’

‘Fab,’ said Susie happily. ‘Let’s go to The Green Man. They know how to entertain the punters.’

‘Isn’t it a bit bawdy?’ Janey looked alarmed. ‘The police always seem to turn up at some point on a Saturday night.’

‘We’ll be gone before any trouble starts,’ Susie assured. ‘There’s a band playing tonight, so we can have a bit of a boogie. Having a dance doesn’t cost anything.’

Janey didn’t like to point out that dancing was thirsty work, plus Susie only ever drank rum and coke. Oh, what the heck. If she ended up buying Susie several rounds, so be it. Birthdays only happened once a year.

A few hours later, dressed in their best and wearing lashings of lipstick, the women walked to the pub. The band could be heard half way down the road.
Carbon Vendetta
was playing a medley of Jagger-type songs. As the girls swung through the pub’s double doors, Susie’s eyes immediately fell on the lead singer. He was a dark-haired Adonis with a worked body, and up on the stage he was giving it all he’d got.

‘Phwoar!’ Susie yelled over the din. She elbowed Janey in the ribs. ‘Cop a load of him.’ Susie’s eyes glittered with lust. Come hell or high water, she was getting that guy into bed before the night was over.

Janey turned to look and, as she did so, felt as if she’d been slugged in the solar plexus with a sack of cement. Little did Janey know this first encounter with Jake Miller was about to turn her life upside down.

BOOK: Secrets
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