Home > You And Me, Always(4)

You And Me, Always(4)
Jill Mansell

Together they watched as Derek, for the second time, cycled off down the street.

‘And another one bites the dust,’ said Dan.

Barbara, the huge black Labrador who belonged to one of the most regular of the pub’s regulars, placed her paw on Patsy’s knee as if sympathising with her tragic still-manless state.

‘I did ask him not to ride through the village, but he ignored me.’ Patsy relived her horror when she’d realised he was going to go ahead and do it anyway. When you were on the back of a tandem, you didn’t have much choice in the matter.

‘I don’t think I want to speak to you any more.’ Dan was shaking his head at her. ‘You shameless strumpet, plastering your face in … eurgh, all that disgusting make-up.’

Patsy picked up a cardboard beer mat and spun it at him like a weapon. Frustratingly, he employed his lightning reflexes to catch it, then flipped it into the air so that Barbara could leap up and grab it in her mouth.

‘Come on then.’ Lily finished her drink and stood up, gesturing to Dan and jangling her keys. ‘Let’s get you back to your car.’

Dan rose to his feet and gave Patsy a hug. ‘Bye then. See you in a couple of weeks. And don’t worry, there has to be someone decent out there. We’ll find him for you eventually.’

She hugged him in turn; they might tease each other endlessly, but he was her little brother – albeit a foot taller than her – and she loved him to bits.

‘Don’t worry about me. I’m fine. And you look after yourself.’ Drawing back, she shook her head at him. ‘I still can’t believe they let you fly actual planes.’

Dan grinned. ‘That’s nothing. I can’t believe I let you cut my hair.’

He stowed his travel case in the back of the van, ruffled Barbara’s ears by way of an au revoir and jumped into the passenger seat. Lily, starting the engine, leaned out of the driver’s window and said, ‘See you tomorrow.’

Tomorrow was Lily’s birthday; she would be twenty-five. Patsy smiled, because they all knew it was set to be an especially significant day. She nodded and waved at them both. ‘Oh yes, you definitely will.’

The van pulled away and disappeared up the road. Barbara, panting in the heat and now in search of shade and a bowl of cold water, wandered back inside the pub. And Patsy, finding herself with an unexpectedly free evening, set off in the direction of home.

As she was letting herself into the cottage, her phone began to ring. Surprised by the name on the screen, she answered it and said, ‘Rosa, hello! How are things with you? It’s been ages.’

Rosa had worked for her here at the salon years ago. Now married and living in London with her taxi-driver husband and three young children, she’d stayed in touch via Facebook, but they hadn’t seen each other since the birth of Rosa’s middle child. The good intentions were always there, but – as they had a habit of doing – life and work had simply got in the way.

‘Everything’s great!’ Rosa sounded buoyant. ‘OK, now listen, I’ve got something to ask you. And this might sound a bit weird, but I promise you it’s not bad weird.’

‘Okaaay.’ Intrigued, Patsy picked up the crumb-strewn plate and empty Twix wrapper Dan had left on the coffee table; honestly, for someone without an ounce of fat on him, he didn’t half eat some rubbish. ‘What’s it about?’

‘A friend of a friend needs a favour. Nothing illegal. But it has to be someone who can definitely keep a secret.’ Rosa paused, as in the background another phone began to ring. ‘Which is why I thought of you.’

Chapter 3

A bird was singing loudly in the honeysuckle outside Lily’s bedroom window. Coral would probably know what kind of bird, but Lily didn’t have a clue. It sounded very cheerful, though. She opened her eyes and saw from the dazzle of light slicing through the gap in the curtains that it was destined to be another hot, sunny day.

It’s my birthday. I’m twenty-five!

And so lucky …

She slid out of bed, knowing that when she opened the door, the tray would be outside. It always was; over the years it had been a tradition from which they’d never wavered.

And indeed it was there, on the wine-red landing carpet, the rectangular silver tray bearing a single rosebud in a squat silver vase, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, a sealed envelope and a small flat package wrapped in silver and yellow striped paper and tied with curly silver ribbons.

From her mum.

Lily bent down, picked up the tray and carefully carried it back into her room, laying it on the bedside table so nothing would topple over. Drifting up from downstairs she could hear sounds of movement, the clink of china, the murmur of voices on the radio, doors being opened and closed.

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