Authors: Jan Brigden
Copyright © 2015 Jan Brigden
Published 2015 by Choc Lit Limited
Penrose House, Crawley Drive, Camberley, Surrey GU15 2AB, UK
The right of Jan Brigden to be identified as the Author of this Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to actual 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, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying. In the UK such licences are issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1P 9HE
EPUB ISBN 978-1-78189-252-7
MOBI ISBN 978-1-78189-253-4
This book is dedicated to Dave,
with love always x
Firstly, thank you everyone at
Choc Lit including the fabulous Tasting Panel (Sara E, Claire W, Rosie F, Betty, Nicky S, Catherine L, Heidi J and Kim R)
for believing in my novel and for all your hard work, passion and enthusiasm. I’m proud to be part of the family.
Thank you to my editor for your brilliant editing skills and for holding my hand throughout the whole process.
Heartfelt appreciation to my
Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme
reader who saw the early promise in
As Weekends Go
and whose wonderful feedback on my story as it grew, reassured me that I could actually write.
Thanks also to
The Writers Bureau
– it was whilst completing one of their creative writing course assignments, (too many moons ago to mention!) that the idea for my story was born.
To my beautiful family whose collective love, cheerleading and belief in me has never wavered. I cannot thank you enough.
Likewise all my friends, especially
, who is the best buddy anyone could ever wish for. (Hands off, she’s mine!)
To my fellow bloggers
– it’s a privilege to be part of such a warm, loving, creative, talented, supportive group of friends. Thanks for the special times we share. And for your sparkle.
To all my buddies I’ve met via Facebook, Twitter or at the various writing events I’ve attended – I thank you for the friendship, support and encouragement you continually offer me, not to mention the laughs. In particular,
, whose phone bill must come with a warning, given our marathon writerly telethons. You’re an inspiration!
Finally, the biggest thanks of all goes to
, who has been chief cuddler, sounding board, morale booster, tantrum-dodger and counsellor extraordinaire all rolled into one. You are a husband in a squillion, let alone a million, and I couldn’t have done this without you.
And to you dear reader, thank you for buying
As Weekends Go
. I hope you enjoy it!
Rebecca scrolled through her emails, searching for anything she might need to address before leaving the house.
One stood out.
Abi’s message, which Rebecca presumed, at first, to be a wind-up.
From: [email protected]
Subject: Pack your bags, lady. We’re off!
I know I’m seeing you later, but I’ve only just heard about this and wanted to give you maximum time to digest it (she says, gnawing off her knuckles with glee).
As our men are deserting us this weekend, how do you fancy coming to York with me? Well, the outskirts, actually. We’d be staying at Hawksley Manor.
their website guestbook. See photo attached.
My boss and his wife – love every hair on their charitable heads – have had to pull out at short notice and have offered me their SUPERIOR twin room. They get it cheap anyway as they’re pally with the general manager.
And before you ask – no, I’m not in cahoots with your mum. Or your sisters. This genuinely happened today. Although, like me, I suspect they’d love you to say yes.
I know it’s Wednesday already, but come on, Bex, you could do with being pampered senseless after the year or so you’ve had …
We leave Friday morning. Did I mention it was a long weekend?
No regrets or excuses, please.
Love ‘n’ hugs, Abi xxx
See you tonight. 6.30ish.
The involuntary smile, the slight fluttering beneath Rebecca’s ribcage compelled her to open the photo attachment. ‘Oh, wow!’ She clamped her hand over her mouth, wary of alerting Greg, who’d come upstairs looking for a pen he’d mislaid. She’d offered to help but he’d huffed off into their bedroom where he was no doubt still rummaging around in search of it. He wasn’t going into work until after lunch; afternoon business meeting with some client over in north London somewhere.
She printed off Abi’s email and logged out.
Thank goodness Greg had arranged to play squash that evening; work off some of that grouchiness.
She swiped a hand across the top of the desk, sending a couple of toast crumbs into orbit. She and Greg had chosen the desk together when they’d decided to transform the box room into an office, not long after they’d moved into the house a year and a half before. She could see Greg now, sleeves rolled up, bustling in with the PC, wires trailing, face red with exertion from successive trips up and down the stairs. Newly promoted to sales director, he’d been as buoyant as Rebecca about their future.
Bit different to the Greg who was now staring at her from the doorway as though she were trespassing.
‘I thought you were going to your mum’s this morning,’ he snapped, wrapping his dressing gown further around him and pulling the belt as tight as it would go.
‘I am,’ Rebecca replied, swivelling the black leather chair to fully face him. ‘I’m leaving in about twenty minutes. Come with me if you like? Dad won’t be there, he’s working today, but I know Mum would love to see you. We don’t need to stay that long. Quick cuppa and a catch up.’
He scowled at her through dark, hooded eyes.
‘No need to look at me like I’m an idiot,’ she said, twiddling her wedding ring.
‘Well, can you blame me? I’m knee-deep in paperwork. You do realise the conference is
weekend? Or have you been walking round with your head up your arse?’
Was he joking?
Rebecca had watched him obsess over nothing else for months!
‘Why are you shouting? I’m not standing in the garden,’ she said. ‘I know full well when the conference is.’ She tried to stay calm, not wanting to start yet another row. ‘I wasn’t aware you were working before lunch, that’s all. I thought you might appreciate a little break.’ She didn’t dare add, ‘especially as you see so little of my family these days.’ Her brother had already cracked the odd joke about forgetting what Greg looked like.
‘What I’d appreciate, Rebecca, is a bit of peace and quiet to concentrate,’ he said, each long, drawn out word ramming home to her how much of a nuisance he made her feel.
Before she could respond, he pointed at the printer. ‘Is that for me?’
‘No, it’s mine,’ she said, swiping Abi’s freshly printed-off email towards her.
Why did he do that? Overreact so badly, be so spiteful to her and then act all normal again? How could he possibly think that was acceptable?
Anger swelled within her, at herself as much as at Greg for letting things get this far; for not confronting what was happening between them.
Greg turned to leave, then swung back round. ‘Any reds left in the wine rack? I need to take a bottle with me to this meeting later to keep one of my contacts sweet.’
‘I picked two up yesterday when I went food shopping,’ she muttered.
‘Decent reds, I mean?’
She automatically grinned at him. ‘Wine snob!’ This should have triggered a laugh, eased some of the tension between them, their little in-joke from their early days together when he’d made fun of a certain sparkling white wine she’d loved. Mock champagne, he’d called it, and had then promptly gone and won a case of the stuff in his office Christmas raffle.
Greg had always been prone to the odd pompous jibe, but never the pretentiousness he’d shown lately. Some of the more tongue-in-cheek cards he’d received for his fortieth birthday earlier that year he’d refused to even stand on the mantelpiece, especially any mentioning grey hairs, even though his brown hairs outnumbered them ten to one. He’d have normally shrugged the cards off with a laugh. Instead he’d sneered at them.
Bit like he was sneering at Rebecca now, as though he’d never heard her ‘wine snob’ quip in his life, leaving her under no illusions, before he stalked downstairs clutching his precious bloody pen, that her attempt to humour him had spectacularly dive-bombed.
Things couldn’t go on like this.
When this big weekend of his was all over, Rebecca wanted answers.
She closed down the PC and slipped the printout of Abi’s email into her handbag.
Time to go to her mum’s.
Rebecca unlatched the side gate and followed the curved stone pathway round the back of the house to the garden, calling out the customary, ‘Yoo hoo!’ family greeting.
The scene that welcomed her squeezed her heart. Her two sisters, Lorraine and Kim, were sitting either side of her mum around the wooden patio table, roaring with laughter at whatever tale Mum was recounting; the warmth of it quelling the remoteness Rebecca had left at home.
Rebecca had only expected her younger sister, Kim, to be there. Kim still lived with their parents and, being a hairdresser with a half day off today from the salon, had offered to cut and colour Mum’s hair for her. Lorraine, though, would normally be working in the party shop she and her husband owned. How had Rebecca not noticed her van parked outside? It had red and yellow balloons spray-painted all over it. Then again, she’d been so busy mentally honing her acting skills on the way in, did it really surprise her?
Lorraine leapt to her feet as soon as she spotted her. ‘Hiya, Bex. I was just about to stick the kettle on again. Mug of tea?’
‘Ooh, yes, please.’ Rebecca planted a kiss on her older sibling’s cheek, inhaling the scent of her strawberry body mousse. ‘No shop for you this morning?’
‘No. I’m errand girl today. Picking up numerous supplies. Mum mentioned you’d be here so I thought I’d pop in for an hour, complete the daughterly trio.’
Sounded feasible enough, but such was Rebecca’s paranoia of late she did briefly wonder if she might have stumbled into the old three-pronged attack in waiting. Her whole family, dad and brother included, had been creeping around the Greg dilemma for ages, hoping she’d speak up first. It gave Rebecca a headache just thinking about it.
She kissed both her mum and Kim, then crouched to meet her parents’ six-year-old chocolate Labrador, Bailey, who’d dashed through the patio doors, back legs almost colliding with front in his excitement to see her.
‘Hello, boy!’ she said, rubbing her face against his warm, wet nose. ‘Are you pleased to see me then?’ He barked twice, earning another indulgent nuzzle before racing after Lorraine back into the house.
Rebecca stood up, plucking several stray hairs off her red cropped trousers, and sat down on one of the wooden slatted chairs at the table strewn with newspapers, half-drunk mugs of tea and a plate of shortbread fingers, aware of both her mum’s and Kim’s scrutiny; their earlier laughter replaced by strained smiles.
‘Hair looks nice, Mum,’ she said, desperate to maintain normality.
‘Thank you.’ Her mum patted her new honey-blonde waves. ‘Kim talked me into going a shade darker.’
Rebecca always thought the four of them resembled a salon colour card when all together – blonde, blonder, blonder still and Rebecca’s highlighted (also courtesy of Kim) blondest.
‘Talking of hair,’ came Lorraine’s voice from behind Rebecca, one of her hands depositing a mug of tea on the table, the free one softly tugging Rebecca’s ponytail, ‘that’s the longest I’ve seen yours, Bex. Are you growing it?’
‘Only to my elbows. I’ve hardly worn it down lately, it’s been so warm.’
‘Eighty degrees by the weekend according to the local news this morning,’ said Kim, balling her fists in the air in cheer. ‘Who needs the Canaries when you’ve got sunny south London, eh?’
Rebecca thought of Abi’s email.
Or sunny York, perhaps
The four women sat discussing everything from Dad’s new rotary lawnmower to how Lorraine’s three were doing at school, with Rebecca, as ever, gobbling up any niece and nephew updates with relish.
Then came the inevitable lead-in from Mum. ‘Is everything okay, Becky? You look dog-tired, love.’
‘I thought that the minute you walked in,’ agreed Kim.
Even Bailey wandered over, tongue lolling, as if to say, ‘you can’t fool us, Mrs.’
Perils of being a close family, Rebecca supposed. Imagine telling them she sneaked downstairs most nights and sat at the breakfast bar drinking mugs of tea at four a.m., mulling over her marriage problems.
‘I’m fine,’ she fibbed, leaning over to stroke Bailey. ‘Just a bit sluggish.’
Silence descended like an unwelcome stranger.
‘Greg still as busy as ever, is he?’ Lorraine eventually asked, her voice displaying just enough concern to counterbalance the sarcasm. ‘He’s in Brighton this weekend, isn’t he?’
‘Couple of miles outside,’ said Rebecca. ‘Conference starts at ten o’clock on Saturday morning. He’s going down on Friday to help set things up.’
She saw a look pass between the three women.
‘Talking of busy,’ she reversed the spotlight onto Lorraine. ‘Any decisions yet on the shop window display?’ Lorraine had previously asked her for suggestions. Rebecca often designed posters and flyers for her sister’s shop, even worked the occasional stint behind the counter if needed. For the window idea, she’d immediately thought ‘beach party’ – tropical meets traditional – incorporating as many props as possible: rainbow-coloured cocktail glasses, giant ice cream cones, garlands, plastic palm trees. She was certain she’d even seen an old surfboard in the stockroom.
‘Actually, yes,’ said Lorraine, purposely fluttering her eyelashes. ‘I agree we should go props galore. Will you help me position everything? You’re far more imaginative than me. It’s almost July and I want the display to run right through the summer holidays.’
‘Of course! We can do it next week if you like? Wednesday or Thursday suit you?’
‘Wednesday would be ideal!’
‘Blimey, Becky! What with that and your quiz writing. I wish I knew who you inherited your arty streak from,’ said her mum, as she always did, gathering up their empty mugs.
‘Funny you should say that, Mum. I’ve just finished compiling a Wild West themed quiz for a sixtieth birthday do.’
‘Really? The mind boggles. Although, joking aside, love, you should expand on all this creativity. I mean, I know that was the eventual plan anyway … you know … when you were made …’
‘Redundant? It’s okay, Mum, you can say it,’ said Rebecca, ignoring the tightening in her chest.
‘Well, it’s just that I always associate it with—’
‘I know,’ said Rebecca, cutting off her mum’s sentence.
Rebecca’s redundancy had clashed with Greg’s big promotion. She and her whole admin team had lost their jobs when their firm had relocated to Liverpool. ‘Perfect timing!’ Greg had unfortunately announced to anyone who’d listen, in view of their imminent plans to start a family.
Before his then subsequent notice of deferral, that was.
Six months, he’d initially said, while he settled into his new role; the added training, travel, etc. ‘
No shortage of clients wanting to lease reprographic equipment, Rebecca
!’ She was already used to him being away a fair bit, so hadn’t really seen why her becoming pregnant would cause a problem.
Then came one or two hints from him about a possible joint venture with another company, no elaboration, just lots of power meetings and aloofness. Then finally the real culprit of all – this upcoming sales conference he’d been tasked with organising. Six months escalated to a year, most of which Rebecca spent furthering her art and design studies, mastering new software and exploring home-based freelance possibilities.
She glanced up at the three inquisitive faces before her, unable to bear the silence any longer. ‘It’s all gone a bit weird,’ she blurted, swallowing hard. ‘I mean, I’m really proud of Greg’s achievements and everything, and I do appreciate his workload, but something huge must be riding on this conference. I’ve never seen him so driven. It’s like it’s possessed him.’
‘Does he not talk to you about it?’ Lorraine gently probed. ‘Any of it, I mean, including trying for a baby?’
‘No. If I question anything, he shuts me out. It’s like …’ Rebecca knew she should slam on the verbal brakes. Divided loyalties. Slapped her every time.
‘Like you can’t do right for doing wrong?’ suggested her mum.
Rebecca nodded, easing a tissue out of her pocket.
‘Hey, you’re only just thirty-one,’ said Kim, reaching across the table to her. ‘Plenty of time to have children.’