Also by Dorothy Koomson
The Cupid Effect
The Chocolate Run
My Best Friend’s Girl
Marshmallows for Breakfast
The Woman He Loved Before
The Rose Petal Beach
Published by Hachette Digital 2010
Copyright © Dorothy Koomson, 2010
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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 permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
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is available from the British Library.
eBook ISBN 978 0 748 11548 8
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thank you . . .
I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this novel:
My family. Ever-growing and ever-wonderful, thank you for your unwavering love and support.
My agents. Ant and James, you’re true diamond geezers. And, Ant, I forgive you for the newspaper article.
My publishers. Jo, Jenny, Caroline, Emma, Nikola, Kirsteen and everyone else who has had a hand in bringing
The Ice Cream Girls
to the shelves, thank you, thank you, thank you.
My friends. You know who you are and you know how much I love you.
MK2. You helped to make writing this book possible.
You, the reader. Thank you for taking the time to read my book. I hope you enjoy it.
And, to G: Thank you for being you.
For My Little Angel
You make everything worthwhile
AS COLD AS ICE CREAM?
Serena Gorringe, one half of the so-called Ice Cream Girls duo accused of killing popular teacher Marcus Halnsley, is expected to take the witness stand today in her murder trial.
Gorringe, 19, is the older of the two and is widely thought to have been the driving force behind the pair’s cold-blooded plot to seduce, torture and murder her former History teacher.
Although Gorringe and her accomplice, Poppy Carlisle, went to the police after the murder claiming there had been an accident in which Halnsley was stabbed, evidence at the scene suggested he had been subjected to torture before he later died from a stab wound to the heart.
Both Gorringe, pictured eating ice cream and wearing a string bikini, right, and Carlisle deny torture and murder. They also both deny being the assailant who ultimately delivered the fatal blow to Mr Halnsley.
Daily News Chronicle
, October 1989
‘Serena Gorringe, I love you.’
Oh my God! It’s going to happen
. It’s really going to happen. After nearly 15 years of wanting this, hoping for this,
for this, it’s going to happen. He’s going to propose.
Or, maybe he isn’t. Maybe I’m having one of my ‘moments’ where I’ve so completely immersed myself in a fantasy, it seems real.
I glance around, searching for proof in my surroundings that I’m not making it all up. We’re at a table for two outside our favourite Brighton restaurant – a small, family-run Mexican cantina that sits on the edge of the beach. It’s a clear, warm night and the sky is teeming with stars. The rhythmic ssshushing of the dark sea mingles gently with the loud music spilling from inside the restaurant, while the smell of spicy food fuses deliciously with the salt air. To my left Brighton pier is adorned with hundreds upon hundreds of lights, and to my right Worthing pier’s lights seem more demure than its more famous cousin’s but are still pretty. This is such a perfect setting for a proposal, it can’t possibly be real, I
I focus on Evan again. He is down on bended knee, staring at me with a serious expression on his face. This is no fantasy. It can’t be. Because in all my imaginings, Evan has never been prostrate in front of me – it’s so far removed from his normal behaviour, I’ve never been able to conjure up what he would look like doing it. Big gestures with him are so few and far between that this one is like seeing a unicorn walking down Brighton seafront – I could only believe it if I saw it. So this must be real, because I am seeing it.
‘Serena Gorringe, I love you,’ he repeats, and I know this is definitely real. Only the real-life Evan would know that I would have flitted off into one of my ‘crazy worlds’ as he calls them, as soon as he got down on one knee and started speaking. Only the real-life Evan would know that I’d need to go into one of my crazy worlds to double-check this was actually happening. And only the real-life Evan would know that when I returned to this reality, he would have to continue by starting again.
‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’ He reaches out and takes my left hand in both of his large hands, holds on to me tenderly but securely. ‘I don’t normally say things like this, so when I tell you that you’ve made my life so much more than it would have been and I never want our time together to end, you know I mean it. So, would you do me the honour of marrying me?’
‘We’re already married,’ I reply.
My husband’s face softens from his serious expression into a huge, warming smile. ‘Again,’ he says. ‘Will you marry me, again?’
I slide slowly and gently into silence to savour this. This
I was robbed of this last time around. And this finally proves he wants to be with me for ever. Yes, he’s already committed to it by marrying me, but he actually
to do it. Last time it was all rather ambiguous and necessary when we decided to do it.
We lay fully clothed, side by side on the bed in his small London flat, staring at the ceiling. I’d just told him that the morning-after pill I’d taken after the condom split hadn’t worked and I was pregnant. A missed period and three tests had told me so. (I’d waited until we were horizontal to break the news because I suspected he’d fall over.) ‘Oh, OK,’ he said, before sighing a deep, slightly mournful sigh of resignation and defeat. I sighed, too, knowing what he meant, how he felt. It wasn’t terrible news, it wasn’t even bad news, it was just lifechangingly unexpected. I wasn’t ready, I was sure he wasn’t either. But here we were, ready or not. A baby was on its way.
‘We should probably get married,’ I stated.
‘To stop our parents freaking out,’ he replied.
‘Because they would,’ I said.
‘Freak out. Yeah.’
Evan didn’t realise that when I said ‘should probably’, I meant ‘have to’. If it was just about me, I wouldn’t have cared, I wouldn’t have minded not getting married. But after what had happened to our family a few years earlier, what I had put my parents through, I could not do this to them as well – I could not add ‘unmarried mother’ to my list of crimes . . . I had to show them that I wasn’t who the world thought I was, I was a respectable girl and I could do things the right way. I
to get married.
‘It’s not as if we weren’t going to get married at some point, anyway,’ Evan said, trying to rally, trying to rescue the situation by sounding positive. ‘We might as well do it now.’
‘Yeah, I suppose,’ I replied. And six weeks later we were married and that was that. No romance, no story to tell and retell, there wasn’t even an engagement ring to show off.
Ever since then, I’ve had a niggling doubt about where we would be if we hadn’t been married at the wrong end of a shotgun. Without doubt, if he knew Serena Gorringe at the end of the eighties, if he knew the person who was all over the papers and who had been accused of something terrible, he would not have married me. But he did not know her. He met and got to know the real me. And I’ve always wondered if the real me was good enough. If the real me was the person he
to marry, instead of
to marry simply to satisfy ultratraditional parents.
‘Last time, we didn’t get the chance to do it properly,’ Evan says. ‘I want that for us this time. I promised myself on the day we did that we’d do it again properly. Since our first wedding, I’ve been putting money aside so we could do it. Big church, white dress, huge party, honeymoon – the lot. We can have everything that we couldn’t afford or didn’t have time to do before, including . . .’ He reaches into the inside pocket of his favourite suit jacket and pulls out a small, blue velvet box. He opens it up to show me and there, languishing on a silk bed, is a large, many-faceted, square-cut diamond on a silver band.
The air catches in my throat.
‘An engagement ring. This time, an engagement ring as well as a real proposal.’
‘Is that a real diamond?’ I can barely form the words to speak in its presence let alone think about touching it.
‘Of course. We can afford it now. And it’s on a platinum band, from the same place where we got our wedding rings.’
My hands fly up to my face as tears fill my eyes and swell in my throat. He’s thought about it, he’s planned it and has done it all because I am good enough: he does want to be with me. He does want to be married to me, just as much as I want to be married to him.
I’ve never wanted to be with someone as much as I want to be with Evan. ‘
What about you-know-who?
’ whispers my conscience. It is the part of my conscience that lives in the past; it worships the past, clings to it, is always determined to drag the past into the present. ‘
Wasn’t you-know-who the love of your life?
My conscience is wrong, of course. Evan is The One. He’s the only one.
‘Are you sure, Serena?’
mocks my conscience.
‘Are you absolutely sure about that?’
I’m sure, I’m one hundred per cent sure. There really is no one but my husband for me. What I had with
wasn’t love, it wasn’t like what I have with Evan. It wasn’t even the same creature, how could it have been?