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Authors: MELISSA HILL

The Charm Bracelet

BOOK: The Charm Bracelet
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THE CHARM BRACELET
 

Melissa Hill

 
 
 
First published in Great Britain by Hodder & Stoughton, 2012.

 

Copyrigh
t
Melissa Hill 2012

 

The right of Melissa Hill to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author. You must not circulate this book in any format.

 

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Holly O’
Neill always figured that life was just like a snow globe. From the outside things looked peaceful, until you shook it and everything inside got jumbled up.

She
pressed her nose closer to the windowpane as a delicate snowflake landed on the glass in front of her before quickly dissolving into nothingness.

Holly
loved the first snowfall of the year. It meant that Christmas would be here soon – time for curling up next to warm log fires in her cosy walk-up apartment. It meant twinkling lights, mulled wine and pink cheeks, while immersed in a bustling city made all the more romantic under a blanket of snow.

Closing her eyes, she imagined the goodwill that seemed to automatically blossom in
Manhattan when the temperatures outside dropped, and general feelings of cheer permeated. She smiled in anticipation of the holiday season and wondered what fantastic things the snow would bring with it.

‘Mom! I can’t find my iPod!’

Holly opened her eyes and quickly brought herself back to reality. Smiling, she turned from the window at the same moment the door to the living room flew open to reveal a ten year old in the midst of a technological-related meltdown.

‘I don’t know where I put it, and I need it now. I just downloaded a new Kanye song and I want Chris to listen to it at school.’ Her son Danny stood before her, his bright blue eyes wide with worry, and the dark brown hair that Holly had already so diligently smoothed down with water once again in the throes of bed-head.

‘Danny, calm dow
n
I borrowed it, it’s right there.’ She pointed to the antique rosewood side table that she had rescued from certain doom at a thrift store on Canal Street.

He raised his eyebrows sceptically. ‘You … borrowed my iPod?’ He went to retrieve the little device and quickly turned it on, as if to make sure his technologically challenged mother hadn’t done anything to time-warp it back to a long-forgotten era. ‘I didn‘t know you even knew how to use it.’

Holly puffed out her chest. ‘Now, I’ll have you know, I have truly mastered the BlackBerry Carole bought me for my birthday.’ She thought back to her boss’s attempt at bringing Holly into the twenty-first century, thinking it would be valuable for her to have a way to easily manage the client list, deliveries and other goings-on at The Secret Closet, the Greenwich vintage store in which she worked.

‘Only cause I taught you, Mom,’ smiled Danny sheepishly as he scrolled through his playlist. ‘Uh, who is Dean Martin?’ he asked, as if he had just smelled something bad.

Holly threw up her hands in mock disbelief. ‘A son of mine who doesn’t know who Dean Martin is? “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that’s … Amore!”’ she sang while Danny rolled his eyes.

‘A song about pizza? Weird.’

Holly giggled. ‘It’s not about pizza; it’s about love. Listen to it, I downloaded it. I think my record must be somewhere in storage because I can’t find it.’

‘I’ll listen to it, if you listen to Kanye.’

Holly laughed. ‘Ha, quite the negotiator as usual. Maybe later, sweetheart, but we need to go soon. I’m running late, and the store has a shipment coming in this morning.’

Her son sat down on Holly’s expertly made bed, which was hidden behind a pretty silk curtain in the living room. She had given Danny the apartment’s only bedroom so he could have space for his things and privacy.

‘I don’t get it.’

‘Don’t get what, honey?’ Holly asked as she perused her closet, looking for the vintage Dior jacket she had salvaged from the bottom of a heap at work. Her employee discount was the only way she could afford beautiful clothes from another era, or more importantly, keep Danny in shoes and pay rent.

‘Why do people want to buy other people’s old stuff?’

Holly sighed. This was a conversation they had had many times before and, as always, she tried to explain about the appeal of vintage clothes, things that had a real history and had been worn when their previous owners fell in love, when they cried, and all throughout life’s great adventures. She truly believed the clothes that passed through the store were each unique in their own way: they had a personality; they had lived.

Danny, however, being a young boy, only truly loved the new Nikes on his feet.

‘Someday you will understand – or, more likely, you will meet a girl who understands.’

Danny rolled his eyes, a typical response. He was still at the age when girls were considered ‘gross’. Holly figured that in a couple of years or so, he would be singing a different tune.

‘Whatever, Mom.’


Whatever
, you’ll see. Many a man comes into our store desperately searching for a handbag, or a scarf, or a dress that his girlfriend, fiancée or wife saw and just simply
can’t
live without. Someday that will be you. Rummaging through a store like ours in search of a particular handbag.’

‘Not a chance. I’m
never
going to like a girl who is into handbags.’

Holly found the jacket that she had been searching for and turned around to face her son, a grin on her face. ‘Ha, that’s sort of like saying you only like fish that don’t swim. It’s simply not possible.’

Danny shrugged and conceded a tiny smile. ‘Well, I guess as long as she doesn’t make me listen to pizza music it might be OK.’

‘Ha-ha.’ Holly smiled, glancing around the room. ‘OK, I think I’m ready.’ As organised as she tried to be most days, there was no denying that she usually struggled to get out the door in the morning. ‘How do I look?’

She had on a brown pencil skirt that skimmed her slim figure and a white blouse with a ruffled cravat that complemented her orange brushed velvet jacket. Slouched brown leather knee-high boots finished off the ensemble.

She wasn't very tall, and only stood about five foot five in her stocking feet, so she felt compelled to wear heels almost all the time. So the boots, though lovely, were also impractical, as they sported two-inch heels. Fortunately Holly had been wearing heels for so long that she was adept at walking in them, and wore them as if they were a pair of running shoes. She was reasonably slender, though in her mind she was never slender enough. She never really dieted, but tried to stay away from junk food, and of course all the walking helped. What didn't help was living so close to some of the
Manhattan modelling agencies.

Her auburn hair was piled loosely on her head and her emerald green eyes sparkled, setting off the creaminess of her skin. With a surname like O’Neill, and looking the way she did, people naturally assumed she was of Irish background. But while Holly had been brought up by Irish parents, she wasn’t altogether sure if she was Irish by blood, as she’d been adopted by Seamus and Eileen O’Neill when she was just eight months old.

They were practically New Yorkers by then, having emigrated from different parts of Ireland in their youth, and met and fallen in love in Queens, where Holly’s mother still lived. Sadly her dad had died years ago.

Danny was sizing her up. ‘Actually,’ he said pensively, ‘I think you’re missing something.’ He smiled at her, wiggling his hand back and forth to see if she would catch on.

Holly looked down at herself, a frown on her face. ‘Well, I don’t see what … oh!’ She pulled her sleeves back, displaying a left wrist that was usually adorned with a very important piece of jewellery.

Danny got up and walked to Holly’s dresser, and looked through a small crystal bowl that contained several pieces of jewellery. He found what he was looking for and turned around to face his mother.

‘Here you go.’ He placed a silver charm bracelet in her palm. ‘You almost forgot.’

Holly smiled warmly at the boy who knew her so well. True, she rarely ever took her bracelet off, but she’d removed it the night before when she was cleaning the kitchen, afraid to tarnish it or snag it on something. But even if Danny hadn’t reminded her about it just then, she knew she wouldn’t have gone far without realising it was absent from her wrist. She felt naked when she didn’t have it on.

‘Can I see my charm again?’ her son asked.

‘Of course,’ she said, fastening the bracelet around her wrist. ‘There it is, right here.’ She wiggled the bracelet and displayed a charm in the shape of a stork carrying a small bundle, a baby. ‘I got this one not long after I found out I was going to have you.’

Danny studied the tiny trinket. ‘From Dad, right?’

Holly smiled tightly, her heart speeding up a little. ‘Erm, yes, I think so. Anyway, it’s time to go. You don’t want to be late for school, do you?’ She hoped to distract Danny from asking any other questions about his father. Holly really didn’t feel like going down that road again, at least not now.

Danny caressed the charm one more time. ‘OK, let me grab my backpack. Are you picking me up from school today?’

She shook her head, regretfully. ‘No, not today, but I should be home a little earlier than usual. Kate has a date,’ she said, referring to her good friend who usually did the honours with the school run.

‘Oh OK,’ he said, slightly melancholy all of a sudden.

She leaned down to his level, worried. ‘Hey,’ she said, tilting his chin up. ‘What’s wrong? You like Kate, don’t you – you guys always have fun.’

He shrugged and avoided Holly’s eyes. ‘I know, she’s cool. It’s not that. It’s just … ’ He stalled for a moment, looking ashamed and uncomfortable.

Holly furrowed her brow. ‘What is it Danny? What’s going on?’

‘It’s nothing, it’s just I know you work so hard, and Kate is a lot of fun. But sometimes, the other kids, their dads pick them up at school.’

She smiled sadly. The subject of ‘Dad’ was always such a sensitive topic, and one Holly usually worked to avoid at all costs, but inevitably it came up. Usually during the worst times, like now when she was running late.

Danny looked up at her guiltily. ‘It’s just the other moms, they have help from the dads, you know? I wished you had some help sometimes.’

She smiled at her son’s gallantry. ‘Hey buddy, I have everything I need. Don’t you worry about me. I think we make a good team, don’t you?’ She pinched his cheeks and kissed his forehead.

‘I just want you to be happy. The other dads buy their moms flowers and jewellery and stuff. Someone should do that for you.’

Finally, she laughed. ‘What do I need flowers and jewellery for when I have you to educate me on the finer workings of the iPod? Trust me Danny. I’m fine. I have you and that means I have everything I want. Now let’s get you to school. And maybe later on this week, you and I can head down to the Apple Store –
 see what you want from Santa this year. Christmas is right around the corner, you know.’

Danny rolled his eyes. ‘Mom, you know I don’t believe in Santa any more. That’s for little kids.’

Holly gathered up her handbag and looked again to the window where the snow was coming down, harder than before. She smiled in anticipation of getting outside and smelling winter in the air, of feeling the wind on her face. During this time of year, New York truly was like a fairy tale.

She hustled Danny out through the door as she switched off the light. ‘Well, humour me for now, OK? I happen to believe in him. Anyway, take it from
me, you’re never too old to believe in a little magic.’

BOOK: The Charm Bracelet
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