A sparkling novel by the bestselling author of THE VERY PICTURE OF YOU and A VINTAGE AFFAIR.Faith has arranged a surprise party at a West London restaurant to celebrate fifteen years of marriage to her publisher husband Peter. They have a lot to be thankful for – including two teenage children and the knowledge that, at thirty-five, they’ve hammered out an enduring partnership that, at this age, many of their contemporaries are only just themselves embarking upon.But something is niggling at Faith. A casual, barbed comment by her bitchy magazine editor friend Lily makes her wonder whether her world is as wonderful as it seems on the surface. Peter has been behaving slightly oddly recently – but is this purely because of stress at work?As the kernel of unease swells and begins to burgeon inside her, Faith finds herself on a quest that leads to a shake-up of everything she holds dear – but which, in the end, enables her to reforge her life.
Out of the Blue
For my godchildren Nadia, Raphael and Laurie
No dogs were harmed in the writing of this book.
Table of Contents
Cover Page (#ub2813029-69a8-5fa2-9c4f-f6bccd5e9872)
Title Page (#u6fa0faec-0136-52af-815e-19a1041bda59)
February Continued (#ua41d0611-5893-5831-9880-b980fc097f99)
March Continued (#litres_trial_promo)
July Continued (#litres_trial_promo)
About the Author (#litres_trial_promo)
Also by the Author (#litres_trial_promo)
About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)
It’s funny how things can suddenly change, isn’t it? They can alter in a heartbeat, in a breath. I think that’s what happened tonight because, well, I don’t really know how to explain it except to say that nothing feels quite the same. The evening started out well. In fact it felt like quite a success. There we were, in the restaurant, enjoying ourselves. Talking and laughing. Eating and drinking. Just eight of us. Just a small party. I wanted to cheer Peter up, because he’s got his problems right now. So I’d planned this evening as a surprise. He hadn’t suspected a thing. In fact, he’d even forgotten that it was our anniversary, and he’s never done that before. But when he came home it was obvious that today’s date had passed him by.
‘Oh, Faith, I’m sorry,’ he sighed as he opened my card. ‘It’s the sixth today, isn’t it?’ I nodded. ‘I’m afraid I completely … forgot.’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ I said brightly. ‘Honestly, darling. Because I know you’ve got a lot on your mind.’ He’s having a bad time at work, you see. He’s publishing director at Fenton & Friend, a job he used to love, but a year ago a new chairwoman called Charmaine arrived and she’s been giving him serious grief. She and her creepy sidekick, Oliver. Or rather ‘Oiliver’ as Peter calls him, though not to his face, of course. But, between the two of them, Charmaine and Oliver are making Peter’s life hell.
‘How was it today?’ I asked him cautiously as he hung up his coat.
‘Awful,’ he said wearily, running his hand through his sandcoloured hair. ‘The old bat was going on at me about the bloody sales figures,’ he said as he loosened his tie. ‘She went on and on. In front of everyone. It was hideous. And Oliver just stood there, with a smirk on his fat face, oozing sycophancy from every pore. I tell you, Faith,’ he added with a sigh, ‘I’m for the chop. It can’t be long.’
‘Well, leave it to Andy,’ I said.
A faraway look came into Peter’s eyes and he said, ‘Yes. I’ll put my faith in Andy.’ That’s Andy Metzler, by the way. He’s a headhunter. American. One of the best in town. Peter seems to think the world of him. It’s ‘Andy this’ and ‘Andy that’, so I really hope Andy delivers the goods. But it’ll be hard for Peter if he does have to leave Fenton & Friend, because he’s been there for thirteen years. It’s been a bit like our marriage, really – a stable and happy relationship, based on affection, loyalty and trust. But now it looks as though it might be coming to an end.
‘I suppose nothing stays the same,’ Peter added ruefully as he fixed us both a drink. ‘I’m not joking, Faith,’ he added as I took the last baubles off the Christmas tree. ‘I’ll be getting the old heave-ho, because Oiliver’s after my job.’
Peter tries to be philosophical about it all, but I know he’s very depressed. For example, he’s not quite his normal genial self, and he’s finding it hard to sleep. So for the past six months or so, we’ve been in separate rooms. Which is no bad thing as I have to get up at three thirty a.m. for my job at breakfast TV. I do the weather, at AM-UK! I’ve been there six years now, and I love it, despite the hideously early start. Normally, I let the alarm pip twice, slip out of bed, and Peter goes straight back to sleep. But at the moment he can’t stand being disturbed, so he’s in the spare room on the top floor. I don’t mind. I understand. And sex isn’t everything, you know. And in some ways I quite like it, because it means I can sleep with Graham instead. I love Graham. He’s absolutely gorgeous, and he’s incredibly bright. He snores a bit, which annoys me, but I poke him in the ribs and say, ‘Darling – shhh!’ And he opens his eyes, looks at me lovingly, then drops off again – just like that. He’s lucky. He sleeps very well, though sometimes he has nightmares and starts twitching violently and kicking his legs. But he doesn’t mind being disturbed in the dead of night when I get up to go to work; in fact – and this is really sweet – he likes to get up too. He sits outside the bathroom while I have my shower. Then I hear the cab pull up, I put on my coat, and hug him goodbye.
Some of our friends think that Graham’s a slightly odd name for a dog. And I suppose it is compared to Rover, say, or Gnasher, or Shep. But we decided on Graham because I found him in Graham Road, in Chiswick, where we live. That was two years ago. I’d been to the dentist for a filling, and when I came out there was this mongrel – very young, and terribly thin – looking at me expectantly as though we’d known each other for years. And he followed me all the way home, just trotting along gently behind, then sat down outside the front gate and wouldn’t move. So eventually I invited him in, gave him a ham sandwich and that was that. We phoned the police, and the dogs’ home, but no-one ever claimed him, and I’d have been distraught if they had because, to be honest, it was love at first sight, just like it was with Peter. I adore him. Graham, I mean. We just clicked. We really get on. And I think the reason why I love him so much is because of the sweet way he put his faith in me.
Peter was fine about it – he likes dogs too – and of course the children were thrilled, though Katie, who wants to be a psychiatrist, thinks I ‘mother’ Graham too much. She says I’m projecting my frustrated maternal desires for another child onto the dog. I know … ridiculous! But you have to take teenagers very seriously, don’t you, otherwise they get in a strop. Anyway, Graham’s the baby of the family. He’s only three. He doesn’t have a pedigree, but he’s got bucketloads of class. He’s a collie cross of some sort, with a feathery red-gold coat, a white blaze on his chest and a foxy, elegant charm. We take him almost everywhere with us, though not to restaurants, of course. So this evening Peter settled him on his beanbag, put on the telly for him – he likes Food and Drink – and said, ‘Don’t worry, old boy, Mummy and I are just going out for a quick bite.’
But Peter had no idea what I’d really planned. He thought we’d just be having an impromptu dinner, tête à tête. I’d told him I’d booked a table, but he’d assumed it was just for two. So when we got to the restaurant, and he saw the children sitting there, with his mother, Sarah, he looked so surprised and pleased. And I’d invited Mimi, an old college friend of ours, with her new husband, Mike.
‘It’s like This Is Your Life!’ Peter exclaimed with a laugh, as we took off our coats. ‘What a great idea, Faith,’ he said. To be honest, I didn’t do it just for him. I did it for myself, too, because I felt like marking the occasion in some way. I mean, fifteen years. Fifteen years. That’s nearly half our lives.
‘Fifteen years,’ I said with a smile as we sat down. ‘And it hasn’t been a day too long.’
I’ve been very happy in my marriage, you see. And believe me, I still am. For example, I’m never, ever bored. There’s always loads to do. We don’t have much money, of course – we never have had – but we still have lots of fun. Well, we would do if it wasn’t for the fact that Peter’s working so hard: Charmaine’s got him reading manuscripts most nights, and I have to be in bed by half past nine. But at weekends, that’s when we catch up and really enjoy ourselves. The children come home – they’re weekly boarders at a school in Kent – and we do, ooh, all sorts of things. We go for walks along the river, and we garden. We go to Tesco for the weekly shop. Sometimes we pop down to Ikea – the one in Brent Cross, though occasionally, for a bit of a change, we’ll try the one in Croydon. And we might take out a video, or watch a bit of TV, and the children go and see their friends. Well, they would do if they had any. They’re both what you’d call loners, I’m afraid. It worries me a bit. For example, Matt – he’s twelve – just loves being on his computer. He’s an addict, always has been; he was mouse-trained very young. I remember when he was five and I’d be putting him to bed, he’d say, ‘Please can you wake me up at six o’clock tomorrow, Mummy, so I can go on the computer before I go to school?’ And that struck me as rather sad, really, and he’s still just like that now. But he’s as happy as Larry with all his computer games and his CD Roms, so we don’t like to interfere. As I say, he’s not what you’d call an all rounder. For example, his written skills are dire. But as well as the computers he’s brilliant at maths – in fact we call him ‘Mattematics’. And that’s why we sent him to Seaworth, because he wasn’t coping well where he was. But he wouldn’t go without Katie, and it suits her very well too because, look, don’t think I’m being disloyal about my children – but they’re not quite like other kids. For one thing Katie’s far too old for her years. She’s only fourteen now, but she’s so serious-minded. She does nothing but read. I guess she takes after Peter, because for her it’s books, not bytes. She’s not at all fashion-conscious, like other girls of her age. There’s no hint of any teenage rebellion, either; she seems to be just as ‘sensible’ as me. And because I never kicked over the traces, somehow I wish that she would. I keep hoping that she’ll come home one weekend with a lime-green mohican or at the very least with a stud in her nose. But no such luck – all she ever does is read. As I say, she’s dead keen on psychology, she’s got lots of books on Jung and Freud, and she likes to practise her psychotherapeutic skills on all of us. And when we sat down at the table this evening, that’s what she was doing.
‘So, Granny, how did you feel about your divorce?’ I heard her ask my mother-in-law. I made a sympathetic face at Sarah, but she just looked at me and smiled.