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Authors: Carol Mason

The Love Market

BOOK: The Love Market
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The Love Market



by Carol Mason









Copyright 2012 by Carol Mason. All rights reserved.



First Kindle Edition: March 2012



First published in Canada in 2012 by McArthur & Company

322 King Street West, Suite 402

Toronto, Ontario, M5V 1J2


Cover Design:
Streetlight Graphics




All rights reserved. This eBook is licensed for the personal enjoyment of the original purchaser only. This eBook may not be resold 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. If you are reading this eBook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.




The characters and events portrayed in this book are a work of fiction or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Table of Contents
















































About the Author




Someone once told me that there’s no such thing as a coincidence, only a synchronicity. That like-minded people often travel down similar paths that can converge unexpectedly. That’s why you’ll bump into the mother of your daughter’s school friend in the wine shop at six o’clock on a Friday, or your old art history professor while touring the Louvre. But sometimes chance encounters don’t seem to result from any kindred purpose. And you’ll see someone from your past in a place that is so unlikely for either of you to ever be in that you can’t quite explain it. You can’t even read into it, because very often life, just like who we end up loving, is a random thing.

In my case, I happened to get off the bus at the wrong stop.

I wasn’t really paying attention to where we were, given that we seemed to spend ninety per cent of the journey proceeding at the snail’s pace of London traffic on a Saturday afternoon. What was far more fascinating at that time than anything outside the window was my left earlobe reflected in the glass; the fiery little diamond twinkling away with each slight movement of my head. I happened to glance at Mike sitting in the seat facing me. He was grinning at me and slowly shaking his head, in affectionate despair.

‘It’s too lavish!’ I said to him in the jewelry store the day before, as I reluctantly handed the little diamond studs back to the salesman.

‘No it’s not. I want you to have them.’ Mike cocked me a glance that said he was quite enjoying being the big man footing the bill for the expensive anniversary present, just this once. ‘Try them in again,’ he said.

‘We can’t, Mike! They’re a thousand pounds.’

‘We’re taking them,’ Mike pulled out his credit card with a flourish.

He knew I’d had wanted little diamond studs for a while. I’d managed to drop them into the conversation just enough times to have the hint tiptoe across his consciousness so that buying them would seem like his idea—a romantic gesture—rather than just him caving in to shut me up.

‘But Mike, we could finish our bathroom with that money. Or put it toward a new car. Or Aimee’s education fund...’ I thought
please God don’t let me talk him out of his generosity.

‘You’re right,’ he said. ‘Let’s put them back.’ He pretended to pocket his credit card again, and to try not to see how my face must have fallen. Then he smiled. ‘One thousand pounds, Celine. What’s that work out to over ten years of marriage? You don’t think you’re worth that to me?’

I rubbed my chin, deviously. ‘When you put it like that… Maybe I should try a bigger pair.’

Mike snapped his card down on the counter. ‘Done deal.’ I tripped out of there like I was Ginger Rogers. Mike said small things please small-minded people, and he was pleased he wasn’t born a girl. I slept in them, and, this morning, grinned while I was brushing my teeth. Mirrors, windows, backs of spoons have all become irresistible.

‘Come on,’ he says. ‘We’re getting off.’ He pulls me up out of the seat, spoiling my love-in with my own earlobes.

‘But I thought we were staying on until Knightsbridge?’ We’re going to Harrods, because I can’t go home to the North East of England without buying my sister something for Christmas that comes in a green and gold carrier bag. Even if it’s just a box of tea. Which is probably all we can afford now.

‘You can stay on if you want, but I’ll hurl if we don’t get off this bus,’ he says, dragging me through the throng of people.

Mike and his legendary travel sickness. Some people suffer from piles, eye twitches, or gluten allergies; with Mike it’s an overdeveloped gag reflex whenever he’s on anything that gathers speed and turns corners. He jumps off before the doors close, pulling me with him, and for a moment I feel like I’m flying. But not in a good way.

We’re only down here in the first place because Mike got given tickets to see Van Morrison, through his job as a radio producer for a late night chat show on Newcastle’s Blaze FM. The palm-greasing from the station’s advertisers usually just runs to tickets for a football match, which always makes my upper lip curl because I happen to be the only person in Northern England who doesn’t give a damn about football. So this was quite exciting. Plus Aimee is staying with my sister; Mike and I rarely get away just by ourselves any more.

The bus belches diesel into the air, and Mike does a wet burp. I stroke the back of his head. His hair is rapidly going grey for someone not quite forty. The style has been the same since the day I met him: collar-length and side-burned; a 1950’s male rockabilly pompadour. I remember when I first laid eyes on him in the coffee shop on Newcastle’s Grey Street thinking he looked remotely like Henry Winkler from
Happy Days.
While this wasn’t a selling feature in itself, there was something appealing about the way he didn’t conform to the “David Beckham blond highlights” standard that every other bloke did in 1996.

‘Are you all right?’ I ask him.

Another wet burp. ‘Ergh!’ he says. ‘Come on, let’s walk.’ He takes hold of my hand, his hot and clammy fingers lacing between my cold ones. Given he’s not feeling well, I will lift my ban on handholding this one time. The problem is that at five feet nine inches tall, I’m an inch and a half bigger than him in my bare feet. Now there are some men who love the idea of doing a Dudley Moore, and I have a feeling Mike is one of them, but it’s not reciprocated. I will often joke with him that by the time you put me in shoes, I sometimes feel like I’m taking my child for a walk.

‘Hang on, I think we’re going the wrong way,’ he says now, when we suddenly arrive at Sloane Square, with its skeletal trees strung with blue and white Christmas lights. ‘Harrods is back there.’

We’re just turning to go back the way we came, and I’m just registering an uncommonly carefree feeling: no work, no Aimee to get off to school or pick up, the endless round of gym classes, meals to make, shopping, cleaning, work… when something shocking happens.

There is a man coming out of a building about fifty feet ahead of us. This wouldn’t be odd at all if it weren’t for the fact that I know this man. I know him so well that it makes my world become a surreal sort of still.

It’s the stature that’s unmistakably him. The height: a not-so-common six feet four. And the physique: muscular enough to save him from looking lanky, yet not so bulky that you’d think he must have to work at it. But it was the way he held himself that made him stand out in a crowd: that difficult-to-strike balance of confidence and graceful masculinity. Patrick would never think to stoop to anyone’s level. Not literally or any other way. And just looking at him you knew that, and you’d be torn between admiring him and assuming he’d be an arrogant bastard.

My mouth has gone dry. My heart is a strange clash of surprise and sadness.

I am dragged back to twelve years ago. Me, just twenty-one, on an around-the-world adventure, not knowing that I was about to find out what falling in love is. We met in Sa Pa, the misty mountain village in Vietnam, in the famous Love Market—the place where young lovers find one another, and old ones come to remember. We were the only two Westerners there. Patrick was twenty-eight, a Canadian foreign correspondent working in Asia. He was in the Love Market looking for a story. And I had heard all about this place, and what went on here, and the concept of it had taken hold of me. I remember how he stood across the square and held my eyes, and never once looked away. And in that moment, I knew I was going to have a grand, ground-breaking, heart-crushing romance. He was it. Nobody had to make the first move. It was somehow already made.

But it can’t be him. Patrick lives in Canada. How could I possibly find myself in London for the weekend and see Patrick, who doesn’t even live in this country?

BOOK: The Love Market
2.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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