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Authors: Hilary Boyd

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Tangled Lives

BOOK: Tangled Lives
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Hilary Boyd

First published in Great Britain in 2012 by


55 Baker Street

7th Floor, South Block

London W1U 8EW

Copyright © 2012 Hilary Boyd

The moral right of Hilary Boyd to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

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

eBook ISBN 978 0 85738 555 0

Print ISBN 978 0 85738 518 5

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

You can find this and many other great books at:

Also by Hilary Boyd

Thursdays in the Park

For my mother, Peggy Sandeman-Allen.
I still miss you.


Kent, 1967

‘It’s time.’

Nurse Julie stood beside the bed, but she didn’t look up at her. She just continued to stare at the baby, asleep, cuddled in the crook of her arms. He was already washed, and dressed in a brushed cotton nightie, knitted blue matinee jacket, matching booties and hat. The clothes seemed to swamp his tiny form and make him seem heart-breakingly separate from her.

‘Do you want any help?’

Annie shook her head and eased herself off the bed, turning to place the baby in the waiting wicker carrycot. He stirred as she laid him on the cool sheet and flung his arms outwards in a small spasm. She gently tucked the soft, white, wool blanket close around him, knowing how he hated being put down. Who would understand him now? Who would give him the minute-by-minute
attention that she, despite reminding herself there was no future in it, could not resist providing?

The ten difficult days of new motherhood had gone by agonisingly quickly, as if she were careering towards a cliff edge with her baby son. And as each day had brought her closer to this one, the shadow presence of his father grew ever more insistent. She should have told him; she knew it. But every time she thought about the conversation, she imagined the shock, the distaste, the embarrassment on his face. It would be the same expression her mother’s had worn since she’d heard the news. She couldn’t bear it. If only he’d been in touch after that night. Why …? Why hadn’t he called? But it was too late for all that now. She’d made her decision.

The rest of the morning was a blur. Formalities, kindly smiles, pity; she saw the pity. But it was businesslike and left no room for protest, as if she were no longer important in this drama about her baby son’s life, played out in front of her by these competent professionals. Which she wasn’t, of course.

And then she was in her mother’s car, being driven through the glorious spring day towards London.

‘I’ve had your bedroom painted while you’ve been away,’ her mother told her, in a crisp voice which seemed to Annie like a wall, a barrier that protected her mother from knowing – or wanting to know – what her life had been like over the past four months.

‘It’s still cream, but it looks terribly smart,’ her mother was saying.

‘Thank you. I can’t wait to see it,’ she replied, surprised by her own enthusiasm about the fresh paint on her bedroom walls.


North London, 2002

Annie Delancey stood in the warm, quiet kitchen and slowly peeled apart the last two pieces of streaky bacon. As she fitted them into the large skillet where the other rashers were already buckling and sizzling on the heat, she felt an overwhelming sense of happiness. It was Saturday. Her family was here for the weekend. She would do pancakes.

She glanced round at the neatly laid table, smiling with pleasure at the vibrant golden daffodils lighting up the centre, competing with the glass jug of freshly squeezed orange juice and the square of yellow butter on its white china dish.

Her son Ed, now twenty-six, worked unholy hours as the manager of a restaurant/bar in Islington, and she hardly saw him, so having him home was a treat for her. But this visit, she knew, was not so much to hang out with his
dear old mum as to avoid his freezing Stroud Green flat, where the heating was on the blink. When she’d heard he was bringing his girlfriend, Emma, she’d asked Marsha – her second child and barely a year younger than Ed – to come over for a late breakfast.

She took the maple syrup from the cupboard and set it on the table, then moved to the window and gazed out at the well-kept, mature garden with satisfaction. It was beautiful the way the pale spring sun lit up the frosty landscape. She and Richard had planted out the garden, mostly from guesswork, when they’d first moved into the house just before Ed was born. And it had worked, despite the inevitable restrictions of a long, narrow London garden. They had tweaked and improved over the years – mostly Richard’s doing – adding the inevitable wooden decking a few months ago. This was now bordered with earthenware pots of various sizes, planted up with herbs, ivy, narcissus, and some dark purple and yellow gold-laced primulas – all slow to bloom because of the late frost.

‘Mmm, great smell.’

Annie hadn’t heard her husband come in. Richard was leaning his tall frame close to the pan, sniffing appreciatively.

‘Shouldn’t these go over?’ he asked a little anxiously, prodding the rashers with the metal tongs.

Indeed, the bacon was already crisp and on the verge of being burnt. Annie grabbed the tongs from her husband and began to salvage the contents of the pan, decanting
the rashers onto a plate lined with kitchen towel before putting them in the warm oven.

‘Shall I tell them it’s nearly ready?’ he asked, pointing to the ceiling.

‘Leave them,’ she said with a smile. ‘They’ll smell the bacon if they’re even halfway conscious.’ She looked at her watch. ‘Mash should be here in a moment.’

And sure enough, on cue, the front door banged and she heard footsteps on the stairs leading down to the kitchen.

‘Hi, darling … you look frozen.’ Annie put the oven gloves down and turned to embrace her daughter. Marsha’s cheeks were pink from the cold, her blue eyes bright in her oval face, her long pale-blonde hair drawn back into an untidy ponytail. She shivered, slinging the post she’d retrieved from the doormat onto the kitchen table before rubbing her gloved hands together. She eyed the breakfast preparations hungrily.

‘Maple syrup … I know what that means!’ She gave her father a hug and took off her black coat, unwinding her red wool scarf before thinking again and wrapping it back round her neck.

‘Shall I wake them now?’ Richard asked again. And this time Annie nodded.

Lucy was first down. Annie saw her wince as her bare feet hit the chilly terracotta floor tiles, tugging over her hands the sleeves of a navy jumper that covered her tartan
pyjamas. Rounder than her sister, with wavy auburn hair and soft brown eyes, Annie always marvelled that they had produced two such different daughters; different in looks as well as personality.

‘It’s freezing,’ Lucy complained.

Her father smiled. ‘My sweater not keeping you warm enough then?’

She glanced down and looked a little sheepish.

‘Just borrowing it, Dad. None of mine are big enough.’

‘It’s only my best cashmere. I don’t want syrup down it.’

Annie rubbed buttered paper round a clean pan, and removed the saucer she had put over the jug of pancake batter. She loved the whole process of cooking. The careful preparation, the smells and the warmth and her pleasure in feeding her family. Ladling a small amount of batter out of the jug, she waited till the pan was smoking before pouring the mixture carefully onto the hot surface to form a number of creamy-yellow rounds.

The four of them settled at the large oak table, a steaming pile of pancakes between them. Richard slowly pressed the plunger down on the cafetière. ‘We’re not waiting for Ed and Emma?’

Marsha shook her head vehemently. ‘No way!’

‘How was the party?’ Annie asked her elder daughter.

Marsha shrugged as she loaded her pancakes with maple syrup.

‘OK, the usual media mob. But yeah … I met an interesting
guy. He had things to say beyond who you know and your latest project. Makes a change – you wouldn’t believe the morons out there.’

Annie looked at Richard and raised an eyebrow. This was more information than Marsha usually divulged about her evenings out. A grunt or two, a mind-your-own-business look, a vague ‘got smashed’, was all they had learnt to expect from the twenty-five-year-old.

‘Cute?’ Richard ventured, to receive a scornful roll of his daughter’s eyes.

‘Sorry, who’s cute?’ Lucy, still half asleep, asked. She had a habit of zoning out of family conversations.

‘Nobody,’ Marsha muttered, then grinned. ‘You should see your faces! Every time I mention a man, you all seem to hold your breath.’

‘Tell me about him, Mash, I missed it,’ Lucy insisted.

‘Nothing to tell. I liked him, but he wasn’t my type.’

Lucy groaned. ‘Always the case, eh? They’re either fascinating but look like a geography teacher, or drop dead gorgeous and brainless pillocks.’

‘No way did he look like a geography teacher.’

‘So are you going to see him again?’

Marsha shook her head. ‘It wasn’t like that. We didn’t swap numbers or anything, just sat and talked for ages. He’s bound to have a girlfriend somewhere.’

Annie noticed a certain wistfulness in her daughter’s tone. Marsha hadn’t been serious about anyone since Ben, her college boyfriend, who’d gone to Japan to teach English
for three months and fallen for a Japanese girl, breaking her daughter’s heart.

Richard was checking through the pile of mail. ‘All for you.’ He pushed it towards his wife. She found a credit card statement, a promotional letter from the gym, next week’s copy of
The Economist
in its plastic wrapper. ‘You said you’d cancelled this,’ she said, waving the magazine at her husband. ‘They just pile up and we never read them.’

‘I do – occasionally,’ he insisted.

The last letter was a brown envelope with a red stamp saying, very indistinctly, Kent Social Services. She turned it over, puzzled. Her name and address were handwritten in blue biro.

‘Morning … morning, all!’ Ed jumped down the last three stairs, coming into the kitchen with a fanfare. Emma trailed sleepily behind him. Despite the chill, he was dressed only in a pair of patterned boxers and an old grey sweatshirt. Emma, luscious and big-breasted with permanently tousled dark hair, huge, soulful brown eyes and a porcelain skin, was almost swamped in the folds of Ed’s navy towelling dressing gown.

‘Hope you haven’t eaten everything.’ Ed looked anxiously at the ravaged breakfast table.

‘Serve you right if we had,’ Marsha retorted.

Annie was surprised at the sharpness in her tone. She had worried from the start about Ed going out with his sister’s lifelong best friend and now flatmate. But her worry had been for her son – Emma’s reputation as a player when
it came to men had been established as far back as her teens. She hadn’t thought of the toll the relationship might take on Marsha. Her eldest children had been almost like twins growing up – Lucy a bit of an outsider. Was Marsha feeling left out now that the two people closest to her were so wrapped up in each other?

‘How was last night?’ Emma was asking Marsha.

‘She met a cute guy!’ Lucy answered for her.

‘Shut up! I didn’t. He
cute, beautiful in fact, but I told you, he wasn’t my type.’

Emma shook her head at her friend. ‘Nothing new there then! Can’t remember the last time you had the hots for someone … well, I can, but …’

‘Just because you fancy everything that moves,’ Marsha interrupted.

Emma laughed. ‘Yeah, it’s easier that way.’

‘Thanks, I’m flattered,’ Ed said, frowning.

Emma leant forward and planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek. ‘And so you should be.’

Annie saw her elder daughter turn away, and knew she had been right.

‘I’ll make some more pancakes in a sec,’ she said as she turned the letter over and pulled at the brown flap.

‘Oh, Mummeee … you spoil us.’ Ed bounced round the table and draped his arms round his mother in a tight hug. She returned his embrace, so happy to have him home. But he wasn’t looking well, she thought. He’d never had much colour, inheriting her own blonde
hair and the same grey-blue eyes, but now he looked almost pallid. No sunlight with all those ridiculous hours he puts in, she thought, noticing the padding that had recently appeared round his waist. He wasn’t tall like herself and his father, more stocky, but he was too young to start putting on weight.

BOOK: Tangled Lives
6.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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