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Authors: Jill Mansell

The One You Really Want

BOOK: The One You Really Want
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The One You Really Want
 
 
JILL MANSELL
 
 
headline
 
Copyright © 2004 Jill Mansell
 
 
The right of Jill Mansell to be identified as the Author of
the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
 
 
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this
publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in
any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of
the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in
accordance with the terms of licences issued by the
Copyright Licensing Agency.
 
 
First published as an Ebook by Headline Publishing Group in 2008
 
 
All characters in this publication are fictitious
and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead,
is purely coincidental.
 
eISBN : 978 0 7553 5198 5
 
 
This Ebook produced by Jouve Digitalisation des Informations
 
 
Headline Publishing Group
An Hachette Livre UK Company
338 Euston Road
LONDON NW1 3BH
 
Table of Contents
 
 
Jill Mansell worked for many years at the Burden Neurological Hospital, Bristol, and now writes full-time. Amongst her many
Sunday Times
bestsellers are STAYING AT DAISY'S, NADIA KNOWS BEST, FALLING FOR YOU and MAKING YOUR MIND UP; a full list of her books appears on page ii.
To Gail Annan
 
And with many thanks to Jules for generously supporting Barts Cancer Centre of Excellence.
Chapter 1
‘Go on, you can say it,' Nancy offered, because it was so obviously what Carmen was longing to blurt out down the phone. Five-year-olds had more self-control than Carmen.
Five hundred miles away in London, Carmen replied innocently, ‘I wouldn't dream of saying I told you so. We all know what happens to best friends who do that. You're the one who married Jonathan, so it stands to reason you thought he was the bee's knees. If I'd told you then what part of a bee I thought he was, you'd have hated me. That's why I pretended to like him.'
Nancy smiled to herself, thinking that she really should be crying. ‘And that's why you don't have a Bafta. You may have tried to pretend, but it didn't fool anyone.'
‘Ah, but I didn't tell you I thought he was an idiot,' said Carmen, ‘and that's the important thing. You didn't feel as if you had to stick up for him the whole time, you didn't always have to defend him, d'you see, because if I had told you, you wouldn't have taken a blind bit of notice anyway. And we'd have ended up falling out.'
‘Would we?' Nancy couldn't imagine falling out with Carmen. They'd been inseparable since they were eight.
‘It wouldn't have been easy. Anyway, that's why I didn't. Which is why we're still friends,' Carmen said cheerfully.
‘You can still say I told you so if you want to.' Nancy was feeling generous.
‘Thanks, but I'll wait until I've put the phone down. I'm polite like that.' More seriously, Carmen said, ‘Are you sure you're all right?'
Was she? Who could tell? Nancy suspected that she was actually in a mild state of shock. It was Christmas morning, after all. Christmas was such a happy day, in her experience, that it was quite hard to take in what had happened. When you'd put so much effort into buying and wrapping presents, sending cards, choosing a tree and decorating the house - well, it assumed a momentum of its own. Actually holding up your hands and saying Stop! was easier said than done.
When you'd spent this long gearing up to Christmas, it was hard to imagine not . . . well, going ahead and having it.
‘I'm great,' said Nancy, because the last thing she wanted was Carmen worrying about her. ‘Mum's going to be here soon to give me a hand with lunch.'
‘And you're really not going to tell her?'
Nancy closed her eyes. ‘Completely ruin her Christmas, you mean?' Compared with the devastation this would cause, keeping the news to herself would be a doddle. ‘You know how Mum feels about Jonathan. She'd be distraught.'
‘OK, you're the boss.' Mischievously Carmen said, ‘Off you go, back to peeling the parsnips like a good little wifey. Ever tried them poached in honey and arsenic?'
‘If I had, I wouldn't be here to tell you, would I?'
‘See? You always were the clever one. I'd better let you go. Keep in touch,' said Carmen. ‘Give me a ring this evening.'
‘OK. Thanks.' Belatedly, Nancy said, ‘Are you all right?'
‘Me? I'm wonderful.'
Nancy felt guilty, because if anyone deserved to have a big fuss made of them over the Christmas period, it was Carmen. When your husband had died three years ago - and, unlike herself and Jonathan, Carmen had been totally devoted to Spike - you were entitled to be depressed. ‘Well, look after yourself. I'll call you tonight when I get a chance.'
‘Can't wait. And don't forget,' Carmen said chirpily, ‘the honey disguises the taste of the arsenic.'
 
Had it only happened this morning? Was it really less than three hours ago that her world had tilted and begun to crumble?
OK, maybe not her whole world, but certainly her marriage.
Nancy, her breath misting up the bedroom window of their four-bedroomed detached house, gazed out over the frosty garden, sparkling iridescent in the sunlight like one of those glitter-strewn Christmas cards her Auntie Mags was so fond of sending. The sky was cloudless and an unseasonal shade of duck-egg blue. In the distance, beyond Kilnachranan, the mountains rose up snow-peaked and dramatic. The garden itself, all three-quarters of an acre of it, was wreathed in a glittery whiteness and heartbreakingly beautiful.
And down there on the stiff white grass stood the cause of her current torment. Her Christmas present from Jonathan.
It was all thanks to this . . .
thing,
that her life was about to change in a pretty major way.
The card had arrived ten days ago, among half a dozen others, as Nancy had been upstairs cleaning the bath. Even the sound of Christmas cards
phflummping
through the letterbox onto the mat was a thrilling one. They definitely made a more exciting noise, she had thought happily, than boring old bills and circulars. Because you never knew who might have sent you a card, completely out of the blue and against all the odds. Prince William perhaps, or Bono from U2, or Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones . . .
Well, she couldn't help thinking it and getting that lovely squirly feeling in her stomach, the one she always used to get when she woke up on Christmas morning and saw the bulging pillowcase of presents from Santa at the foot of her bed.
And incredibly, this time, there
was
an intriguing-looking envelope amongst the rest, a heavy expensive cream one addressed in handwriting she didn't recognise. Incapable of saving it until last, Nancy cast aside the others - from Auntie Jane and Uncle Denis in Brighton, the boring Matthews family across the road, Jonathan's smug cousin Edgar in Dundee - and ripped open the mystery envelope. The picture on the front of the card was a snow scene of an Edinburgh street. The rank of shops depicted in the painting rang a vague bell. Cavendish Row, that was it. Opening the card, Nancy read the printed inscription inside.
Christmas and New Year greetings to a valued customer, from all at Rossiter and Co., Fine Jewellers.
To personalise it, there was a formless squiggle of a signature at the bottom, the kind a monkey might have made. Tuh, so much for being sent a card by someone exciting. This was from someone who was barely human.
What's more, Nancy thought crossly, Jonathan's surprise had now been ruined. He'd clearly paid a visit to Rossiter's on Cavendish Row and bought her something from there for Christmas. Bought her something expensive, more to the point, because they were unlikely to send classy greetings cards, with Valued Customer on them, to every Tom, Dick and Harry who needed a new watch battery and popped into the shop. Except it hadn't occurred to the not-so-clever people at Rossiter's that cards sent to the home of a married male customer stood a good chance of being opened, completely innocently, by his wife.
And since the whole point of Christmas presents was that they should be a fabulous surprise, her own Christmas morning was now spoiled.
Well, that was what she'd thought ten days ago. Gripping the window ledge, Nancy gazed down at her present. Having discreetly disposed of the greetings card in the dustbin, she'd spent ages practising her surprised-and-delighted face, because that was how she'd planned to react when she opened the satin-lined box containing whatever item of jewellery Jonathan had ended up choosing for her.
Instead he had steered her across the bedroom, instructed her to close her eyes, then pulled open the curtains with a triumphant flourish.
‘Ta-daaa! You can open your eyes now,' Jonathan had proclaimed, and Nancy had obediently opened her eyes, mystified as to why he would have wanted to put the jewellery box containing her Christmas present out on the windowsill.
Except, of course, he hadn't.
‘It's a lawnmower.' It had taken her a good few seconds to get the words out.
‘The sit-on kind,' Jonathan informed her with pride.
‘It's . . . it's . . .'
‘You just wait, you won't know how you ever managed without one.' Jonathan was beaming now, incredibly pleased with himself. ‘No more pushing and shoving that old petrol mower, this takes all the effort out of doing the grass. Trust me,' he slid his arms round Nancy's waist and kissed the back of her neck, ‘you're going to love it.'
It took a little while for all the implications to sink in. When they finally did, Nancy felt like the slow girl at school, the very last one to get the punchline of a joke. If Jonathan hadn't bought some mystery item of jewellery from Rossiter's for her, then he must have bought it for someone else.
Hadn't he?
OK, OK, it was a mess, but not an entirely unexpected mess. If she was honest, there had been hints before now that Jonathan might be up to something, but never any that had been concrete enough to act upon. Nancy knew that girls who were overly possessive, jealous if their men so much as glanced in the direction of another girl, did themselves no favours at all. One of her old student flatmates, Doug, had got himself saddled with one of these. Having convinced herself that he was playing away, Ella had interrogated him endlessly, demanding to be kept informed of his every movement, even rummaging through his dirty laundry bag in order to go through Doug's tatty jeans pockets for phone numbers, and to sniff the collars of his shirts for traces of Other Women's Perfume. Nancy had caught her doing this once, at two o'clock in the morning. In a way, she'd felt sorry for Ella but at the same time she'd known the girl was making a terrible mistake. Everyone had laughed about her behind her back, and Doug had been embarrassed because, let's face it, lookswise, he was no Johnny Depp. Girls weren't exactly falling over themselves to go out with him. If it had taken him six months to pluck up the courage to ask Ella out on a date, how likely was it that he'd be simultaneously seeing several other girls on the side?
BOOK: The One You Really Want
9.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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