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Authors: Nicola May

The Bow Wow Club

BOOK: The Bow Wow Club
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About the author

Award winning author, Nicola May lives in Ascot in Berkshire. Her hobbies include watching films that involve a lot of swooning, crabbing in South Devon, eating flapjacks and enjoying a flutter on the horses.

First published in Great Britain
by Nowell Publishing 2013
Copyright © Nicola May 2013
Nicola May has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patent Acts 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictiously.
ISBN 978-0-95683-233-7

For Emma

Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.
Kahlil Gibran

Prologue

BANG! BANG! BANG! Ruby sat up in bed with a start. Sluggish from her heavy slumber, she couldn’t fathom where the noise was coming from. She rubbed her eyes and looked at her watch - 3 p.m. She was about to turn over and go back to sleep, when she heard a very familiar voice.

‘Ruby, for feck’s sake will you open this door. If you don’t come down in ten seconds, I tell ya I’m gonna call the Ginger Police.’ The Irish lilt cut through the silence of the warm summer air.

Ruby pulled on a stained white dressing-gown and hauled herself out of bed. She glanced at herself in the mirror and sighed. Her auburn hair was sticking up on end, her eye-sockets were hollow and her cheekbones far too pronounced.

Fi came bustling through the door armed with a huge bunch of yellow roses and a bright green wheelie case. Her black hair was tied back roughly and she was wearing a skimpy flowery sundress. Trying hard not to be taken aback by how dreadful her best friend looked, she went straight to Ruby and hugged her as hard as she could.

‘Right now, Mrs Stevens, the O’Donahue emergency cabaret has arrived. Go get some vases for these flowers and then sit right down there on that couch. I’ll be with you in a minute.’

Tripping over the untidy mess that depression has a habit of causing, Fi ran around, drew all the curtains and opened all the windows to let the air through the beautiful Lake District cottage. She pulled rubber gloves and cleaning products out of her huge case, ran up the steep old staircase and proceeded to scrub the bath clean.

Pouring in some fragrant bubble bath, she turned both taps on full and ran back downstairs, where Ruby was looking vacantly out of the lounge window.

‘I can’t do it any more, Fi, I just can’t.’ Her voice was flat and monotone. ‘My days go into nights, nights into days - and what for? I just don’t see any point in anything.’

Fi went to her side. ‘I know, darling, but it will get better, it will. I wish I could take away your pain, but only time can do that and it will. And as for running away up here, it isn’t good for you. You shouldn’t be on your own. Your ma, me, Sam - in fact, everyone - has been worried sick. I just knew you’d come to
Daffodils
.’

She drew Ruby to her chest and buffeted her tiny body with silent sobs of her own.

‘Now come on, let’s get you bathed. I’ll wash your hair and then I can make you something nice to eat. I’ve got all your favourites with me.’

A year earlier
– Chapter One –

‘Hi honey, I’m home.’

Ruby laughed. George’s cockney accent sounded so funny when he tried to be posh.

He sauntered into the front room of their Putney maisonette; Ruby was busy at her sewing machine. He kissed her lovingly on the forehead as she pushed her chair back.

‘Don’t be getting up now, Sarah Burton, you have designer dresses to finish.’

Ruby looked at her watch, it was only 2 p.m. ‘What you doing home at this time anyway?’

‘I’d like to say I’d come home to roger you senseless, but I forgot my wallet this morning and it’s a special someone’s birthday tomorrow, ain’t it?’

‘You’re so bloody last-minute.’

‘And you’re so bloody old. What are you now - thirty-six tomorrow? Good job you bagged yourself a handsome toy boy, eh?’

Ruby got up and swiped him jokingly around the face. ‘Thirty-five actually and yes, before you say it, I have seen some crows with feet this big.’ They both laughed and George hugged her to him tightly.

‘It’ll be our five-year wedding anniversary soon too, blimey! I’ve done my time with you, bird, but do you know what? I wouldn’t swap ya, ginger girl, not even for a younger brunette.’

He grabbed his wallet off the side and put it into his pocket.

‘What do you want for your birthday anyway?’

‘Well, whatever it is, it won’t beat last year’s gift, that’s for sure. I still can’t believe you did that.’

‘Patrick couldn’t ever leave you, I told you that. He was far too much of a character. Even I shed a tear when the old boy went, and as I said at the time, if Janine Butcher can have one on
EastEnders
, then so can you.’

Ruby thought back to the moment when she had unwrapped her stuffed black and white moggy. He even looked like he was smiling.

‘And if anything ever happens to you, Rubes, I’m doing the same. I may get your hand put like this.’ He rolled his hand into a wanking shape. ‘Then you can still pleasure me as well as you always do.’

‘You’re wrong in so many ways, George Stevens, but that’s why I love you. Now piss off and go get me some Cartier earrings.’

‘Cartier? I’m only going to the cash and carry.’

Ruby shook her head. ‘See you later. Oh, and could you be a love and pick up some fish and chips on your way back tonight? I’ve really got to finish these bridesmaids’ dresses.’

‘Sure. I may even share my Saveloy with you.’

‘Depends on the present and that’s all I’m saying.’

‘You so know you want it, you dirty minx. See ya, darlin’.’

He kissed his wife on the lips and was gone.

– Chapter Two –

The doorbell rang. Ruby checked herself in the mirror and smirked. George was always forgetting his bloody keys. She quickly threw on the green mac he liked her in and touched up the red lipstick he loved to kiss off. He adored it when she did this for him. They could warm up the fish supper later.

The day they had got married had been the happiest of her life - and that happiness had continued. Since getting her fashion degree, her dressmaking business was going really well and just last week they had discussed starting a family. Their life would then be complete.

With a big grin on her face and without caring if her neighbours saw, she threw open the front door.

Shouting ‘Voila!’ as she did so, she let her mac drop to the floor to reveal her sexiest cream underwear - stockings, suspenders, the lot.

‘Ruby Ann Stevens?’ a stern-looking policeman asked, without flinching once at her attire.

‘Um, yes, that’s me.’ She scrabbled around on the floor and untidily threw her coat back around her.

‘Can we come in?’ the softer voice of the accompanying policewoman continued.

***

They said it had been instantaneous, he would have felt no pain. The other driver was drunk; hit him head on as he rounded the corner to the fish and chip shop. Bloody fish and chips! If she hadn’t been so lazy and just cooked, he would still be here. Her warm, loving, caring, funny husband would still be here!

Her face was contorted in grief, she couldn’t do this on her own. She had to talk to someone. She dropped the orange carrier bag holding George’s belongings and grappled in her bag for her phone.

‘Mum…’

– Chapter Three –

‘You know what date it is, don’t you?’ Ruby asked, adorned in Fi’s red silky dressing gown, feeling clean and lovely for the first time in ages.

‘Of course I do, Rubes. It may not have seemed like it but I’ve been with you all the way through this, darlin’. But after today, the first anniversary of the funeral will have passed and it will be another stepping stone.’

‘Maybe.’ Ruby put her head back on the armchair. ‘A whole year, I can’t believe it. That’s a long time to silently scream, isn’t it?’

‘It is,’ Fi said gently. ‘But I think you needed to do that. However, now I think you need to start making little steps out into the world again. I mean, who the feck is going to make the wedding dress for Prince Harry’s future bride apart from you?’

She pushed a stray, wet hair from Ruby’s forehead. ‘Actually, you best measure me up - it’s surely only a matter of time before he realises he wants a piece of the Donahue.’

Ruby smiled. It was good to hear someone joking and not tiptoeing around her, frightened of setting her off.

‘But you can’t run up here to
Daffodils
every time you feel sad,’ Fi went on. ‘You must talk to us.’

‘Who says I can’t? It’s so beautiful here in the Lake District though, Fi. It helps me to see things more clearly.’

‘OK, but just let us know if you hotfoot it off again, won’t you?’

‘Yes, yes, telling-off over. Now, do you know what I really fancy?’

‘Johnny Depp in a thong?’

‘You’re bloody insatiable, girl. No, I fancy letting my hair down and having a few drinks, Fi Donahue - that’s what I fancy.’

‘You really mean that, Rubes?’

‘Hell, yeah! George would be fuming thinking that I’d wasted a whole year moping about. Come on, the Maltsters pub up the road does the most amazing home-made pies. We shall drink their finest Sauvignon and scoff pastry.’

***

‘Shite, I nearly fell in the fecking stream!’ Fi squealed as they arrived back at the cottage at midnight.

Ruby laughed. It had been a while since she had been drunk and she was actually enjoying herself for the first time in a year. ‘And you’ll never guess what I’ve done?’ she chuckled. ‘Only gone and locked the door keys inside.’

‘Thank goodness it’s summer - we can kip on the lawn.’

‘It’s fine. It’s so safe up here I’ve always kept the key in the same place dear old Lucas used to.’

Guided by the moonlight, Ruby walked around to the back garden and poked about under one of the many statues of athletic, naked Romans.

***

Once inside, they both sat at the big table in the beautifully fitted kitchen. Sipping on another bottle of wine that had been in Fi’s ‘emergency’ holdall, Fi began to reminisce.

‘I wish I’d met Lucas, Rubes.’

‘So do I! He was just the funniest, campest man - I actually loved him. I only nursed him for a short while, but that was enough to get to know him. I still can’t believe he left me this place in his will.’

‘I remember that day so well, it was unbelievable. We’ve all had such a laugh here, haven’t we?’

Ruby was thoughtful. ‘Yes, it holds so many memories dear.’

‘One of them being that I very first shagged James on this here chaise longue.’

‘You’re such a slapper!’

‘Not any more, Rubes. I’m sure he’s going to make an honest woman of me soon. I can’t wait to be Mrs Fiona Kane.’

Ruby bit her lip.

‘Shite - I’m sorry, always putting me fecking size nines in it. I’d been doing so well, too.’

‘You’re fine, Fi. I’ve got to toughen up now. Life goes on. People get married. Bring on the world, I say. Maybe I should set myself another mission.’

‘Oh bejaysus. It was more than funny when you set yourself your twelve-month, twelve-job mission. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard, seeing you dressed up as Dopey on that stage in your finale as an actress. It was beyond belief. But so worth it when you got your degree at fashion college.’

‘Yes, so worth it. It was after my stint at Oxfam that I realised exactly what I wanted to do. Life is just so weird.’

‘Do you remember that wannabe starlet at Cliveden, whose birthday party you helped me arrange?’

‘No,’ Ruby stated. ‘Nor does anyone else.’ They both snorted and took a slurp of wine at the same time.

‘I wouldn’t be sitting here if I hadn’t worked at the old people’s home for ex-celebs either,’ Ruby went on. Then: ‘I miss George so much,’ she said quietly. ‘Every time the doorbell rings I think it may be him coming home, and that it’s all been a terrible dream. I can’t sleep in our bed any more either. Had to move into the spare room the day it happened.’ Fi said nothing; let her friend go on. ‘It’s just so hard to explain. When Dad died it was bad, but this is worse. All my hopes, dreams, shot down in flames. I so wanted a family with him. We’d have made lovely babies. In fact, the night - you know, it happened - we were going to try.’ Ruby’s face screwed up and big ploppy tears fell onto the table.

‘Come on, darling. Let’s get to bed, eh? We’ve had enough wine.’

Fi guided her friend up the stairs and into the master bedroom. She undressed her, then got into bed and cuddled up behind her, holding her tightly.

‘Poor, sweet Ruby,’ Fi said under her breath once she heard her best friend deeply breathing in slumber.

BOOK: The Bow Wow Club
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