Home > You And Me, Always(7)

You And Me, Always(7)
Jill Mansell

This was when the perennial problem had arisen: would they be able to keep a long-distance relationship going when they were separated by a distance of over four hundred miles?

The answer had turned out to be no; it would have been just too hard, the distance that bit too great. There had been endless agonising, tears had been shed and the hopelessness of the situation had been discussed over and over again. But finally they’d conceded defeat and agreed to go their separate ways. The love affair was over.

Eventually, of course, her mum had met someone else and ended up accidentally getting pregnant. When the new boyfriend had found out about the pregnancy, he’d wanted nothing more to do with her. Whereupon her mum, devastated but far too proud to beg, had granted his wish.

What a charmer.

Anyway, who needed a man like that in their life? You’d have to be mad or desperate. Lily did what she’d always done and mentally erased the thought of her biological father from her mind. Instead she watched as Coral finished reading the letter. When she came to the end, unshed tears glimmered in her eyes and she drew Lily to her for another hug.

‘Her letters sound just like her. It’s as if I can hear her saying every word.’

Lily nodded. ‘I know.’

‘It’s a beautiful letter,’ said Coral. She checked her watch. ‘Forty minutes before we have to open up. We’d better go inside. There might be more cards and presents to open in the kitchen.’

It had turned out to be a busy morning; it might be her birthday, but there was still work to do. When Coral and Nick had inherited Goldstone House from Nick’s parents, they had taken over the business too. Goldstone Salvage & Treasure was a destination reclamation company that attracted visitors from miles around. Amateurs and professionals alike came to Stanton Langley in search of items for their homes, gardens and businesses. Every day was different; you never knew who would be buying or selling, or what might pass through the yard. Flagstones, wooden beams and French antique radiators jostled for position with giant chandeliers, period fireplaces, garden sculptures and eclectic items from theatre companies and old film sets. Next to a selection of ornate bed frames and church pews was a Tornado jet fighter cone. Stone gargoyles sat between mullioned windows and a cast-iron kissing gate. Wooden wall panels and original red postboxes mingled with a giant swan-shaped bed and life-sized statues of Adam and the Ants.

It was now midday. Lily had just finished helping a man load an Italian marble sink into the back of his Volvo.

‘Well I’m impressed.’ The man’s wife shook her head in admiration. ‘I can’t believe you just did that.’

‘I know, I’m stronger than I look. There, all done.’ Lily dusted her hands on the sides of her shorts and waved the couple off as the phone in her pocket began to ring.

‘Lily! Happy birthday,’ said Dan.

‘Hi! Thanks for the flowers. They’re amazing.’ The florist had delivered them an hour earlier, a typically over-the-top explosion of birds of paradise, stunning yellow roses, deep purple gerbera and fuchsia-pink peonies the size of dinner plates.

‘They’ve arrived, then? Good. I asked for thistles, nettles and a few old dandelions.’

‘That’s exactly what they sent me.’

He laughed. ‘Listen, that’s not why I called. I’ve messed up and I need you to help me out.’

‘Have you crashed your aeroplane? Because if you want me to take the blame and say I was driving at the time, they might be suspicious.’

‘If you’re going to call it driving, the authorities might have an inkling you’re not a qualified pilot,’ said Dan.

‘Honestly, you people are so pernickety. Go on then,’ said Lily, ‘tell me what you’ve done.’

‘OK, I bought Patsy tickets to see Beyoncé in concert for her birthday and they arrived yesterday. I checked everything was in order and thought I’d keep the envelope in my suitcase so Patsy wouldn’t find them. But I searched the case this morning and the envelope isn’t in there. So it has to be somewhere in my room. I must have thrown it and missed, and it’s on the floor under the bed.’

‘Ah,’ said Lily. Patsy was a fiend with a vacuum cleaner; she even cleaned bits of the house that didn’t show.

‘And if I tell her there’s something under the bed but she mustn’t look at it, she’ll just—’

‘Look at it.’ Lily nodded; the ability to resist temptation had never been one of Patsy’s strong points.

‘Exactly. And there are photos of Beyoncé all over the wallet holding the tickets. So look, can you get in and hide them? Or better still, take them out of the house?’

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