Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square - Chapter 1

Hello everyone! Thank you so much for coming back to read the first chapter of Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square, which the fabulous Books and The City Team have agreed to let me share with you ahead of publication. If you missed the prologue on Monday, it is still available, so just scroll down to find the post. Happy reading!

Chapter 1

Eight years later

‘What I don’t understand is why you feel you have to go at all.’
     This had been the initial reaction from David when I told him I was moving out of our house and leaving London for good, and he had been adding to his arguments to try and make me stay every day during the weeks that followed.
     ‘There’s absolutely no reason why you should go,’ he had said when he realised I was actually serious about making a clean break and not playing some game of cat and mouse.
     My days of playing at anything were well and truly over, but I had struggled to make him believe it. I had struggled to make myself believe it for a while. There had been times when his offers to start over had sounded almost appealing but in the end, I knew I couldn’t live with a half- arsed happy
ending. There was no way now that I could ever have what I had once been so content to forgo and what was left over simply wasn’t enough. It was all a far cry from the promises we had made on our honeymoon eight years ago.
     ‘I’ve left you alone, haven’t I?’ he now said reasonably.
     He had. In fact, he had behaved impeccably throughout the proceedings and complied with every stipulation my legal team had suggested.
     ‘I’ve moved out,’ he continued, ‘even told you that you can have this place, every last brick of it and that solicitor of yours has already screwed me for more than half of the business.’
     ‘The business that we grew and developed together,’ I gently reminded him.
     ‘Yes,’ he said, slumping down on the sofa, ‘sorry. I know it’s what you’re entitled to. I just can’t bear the thought of you being so far away and it’s making me say stupid things.’
     ‘I’m not going to be that far away,’ I sighed, ‘and besides, you lost all rights to keeping me close when you—’
     I bit my tongue to stop the words tumbling out and reminded myself that it was my badgering which had triggered the ruinous chain of events in the first place.
     ‘I know I did,’ he said, shaking his head, ‘I know, but there are only so many times I can say sorry without it losing its meaning.’
     He sounded absolutely miserable and I cursed the naivety which had led me to think that I could bend him to my will once we’d settled companionably into married life. Had I respected the bargain we’d struck, his friends would still be marvelling at the fact that I’d somehow tamed ‘the old rascal’ with the dire reputation whom they all loved so much.
     ‘Talking of the business,’ he said, thankfully changing tack, ‘Francesca Lucca was asking after you today. She wanted to know if you’d found anything for that new place of hers in Florence.’
     I stopped packing and stood with my hands on my hips.
     ‘Please don’t tell me you haven’t told her.’
     ‘How can I?’ David shrugged. ‘She’s a good Catholic woman. Divorce doesn’t feature on her radar.’
     ‘Well, it didn’t feature on mine until you—’ I stopped myself again and took another deep breath.
     It was a miracle that our sniping had never escalated into anything really regrettable, but it was getting harder rather than easier. This move was happening just in the nick of time as we strove to keep our increasingly terse exchanges on the right side of civilised.
     ‘Well, you’ll just have to look after her yourself now, won’t you?’ I told him bluntly.
     David and I had built up our bespoke business, travelling the world sourcing antiques, artefacts and curios which would delight our list of discerning clients, who were prepared to pay handsomely for the ‘seeker’ service we provided. Francesca Lucca was one of our wealthiest and fussiest and she had always preferred to work with me rather than ‘that naughty boy’. At almost fifteen years older than me I couldn’t see David as a boy, but she was spot on with the ‘naughty’ tag.
     ‘Are you leaving all of these?’ he asked, pointing at a little side table which was full of photographs.
     ‘Yes,’ I shrugged, averting my eyes and wondering if he’d noticed I was no longer wearing my wedding band. ‘I have a head full of memories, David. I don’t need photographs as well.’
     There was one picture I had kept, though. It was taken the summer we met, just before my final year at university. I hadn’t wanted to go home for the holidays, so needed to work to pay my rent. I had ventured into an antique shop after a particularly awful interview for a job in a fast- food chain, hoping to be appeased by looking at beautiful things.
     Galleries and museums were my usual go- to soothers, but access to the shop was both conveniently close by and free. It belonged to a friend of David’s and the man himself happened to be there bartering over the price of a small statue. They somehow roped me into their conversation and the shy, gauche twenty- year- old I was at the time fell hard for the sophisticated smart- talking man who paid over the odds for an art deco figure just because I said I liked it.
     ‘Let me take you out to lunch,’ he had said once we left the cool emporium and were outside in the heat of the midday sun. ‘It’ll soften the hit my bank balance has just taken.’
     I insisted on paying and the only thing I could afford was burgers and chips which we ate outside under the shade of a tree in the park. It was a strange beginning, an unusual afternoon by any standard, but by the end of it I had a job to see me through the summer and a heart brimming with love that my housemates warned me was bound to end in heartbreak.
     Heartbreak . . .
     ‘You can keep them,’ I said quickly, returning to my half- filled box. ‘And the statue.’
     ‘Oh, Kate,’ said David, mournfully shaking his head. ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’
     ‘Me neither,’ I sniffed.
     I had always assumed that when relationships came to a difficult end there was shouting and recriminations, drama and things being thrown and torn, but our untangling hadn’t been like that at all.
     ‘If only I could hate you,’ I sighed, wishing that, in spite of everything, I wasn’t still a little bit in love with him.
     I had watched other people’s relationships break down and they seemed to instantaneously lead to loathing and bitterness, but I couldn’t get anywhere near either emotion, even though the repercussions of what David had done had been so mortifying. Perhaps if I hadn’t felt so responsible for the mess our relationship had become I would have been able to conjure something stronger, but I did feel responsible and therefore I couldn’t.
     ‘If only I could at least really lose my temper with you,’ I said out loud, while wondering if an angry outburst would purge me of some of the pain.
     ‘Perhaps you can’t lay into me because we aren’t meant to go our separate ways,’ David said hopefully. ‘If you really can’t hate me then perhaps that means we should try and patch things up. I could go to therapy, counselling or something.’
     I knew that all the counselling in the world wouldn’t be able to give me the outcome I had been craving.
     ‘No, David,’ I said firmly, ‘absolutely not. The decision’s been made and now we have to stick to it. I want to stick to it,’ I reminded him, just in case he was still labouring under the illusion that there was a glimmer of hope for us.
     ‘Where did you say you were moving to again?’ he asked quickly, trying to catch me off guard as he stood back up.
     ‘I didn’t.’
     It had been hard not telling him about my new home in Norwich. It was neatly nestled in a place called Nightingale Square and sat opposite a grand Victorian pile called Prosperous Place. The pile was just the sort of property we had been employed to furnish and I knew he would have been as intrigued by its fascinating history as I was.
     ‘But it’s not all that far.’ I added. ‘And you can get in touch via my solicitor, should you need to. Try not to get into too much mischief now you’re young, free and single again, won’t you?’
     ‘I only want to be one of those,’ he said sadly.
     And that summed up part of the problem, which I had realised far too late; there was a piece of David which had always been the naughty boy who didn’t want to grow up.

Poor Kate! I do feel sorry for her, even though I know exactly how things are going to turn out! Pop back on Friday to find out what happens when she moves into Nightingale Square and do feel free to use the comments box below to let me know your thoughts on David. Again, thank you so much for reading!

H x

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