Home > You And Me, Always(8)

You And Me, Always(8)
Jill Mansell

‘No problem, I’ll sort it this afternoon.’

‘You’re a star.’ Dan paused. ‘How was the letter from your mum?’

Touched that he’d asked, Lily said, ‘It was so lovely.’

‘Good. Well I’d better get a move on. Sounds like the passengers are getting restless because we haven’t taken off yet.’

‘Yeah, right. Bye.’ She smiled, because he wouldn’t really be calling her from the plane as it waited on the runway.

Except a minute after hanging up, she received a message with a photo attached, of Dan wearing his pilot’s uniform and headset, grinning at her from his seat in the cockpit as he held up a piece of paper, across which was scrawled in red felt tip: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR TICKET COLLECTOR, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOUUUU! x

Chapter 5

Patsy was finding it hard to concentrate, what with the gigantic secret that was currently occupying her mind. Her heart did a double skip when Erica Braithwaite suddenly said, ‘So who was that fellow then, yesterday?’

OK, relax, she said yesterday. The secret hadn’t been blown; Erica was talking about Derek. Exhaling with relief, Patsy saw that she was being beadily observed via the mirror in front of them. Around the salon she could feel the antennae of the other clients begin to twitch. That was the thing about having mirrors everywhere; there was no place to hide.

‘Which fellow?’ It was pointless even prevaricating, but she did it anyway. Hopefully she just looked embarrassed, rather than as if she were harbouring a secret about someone else entirely.

God, though, it was stressful. How on earth did undercover policemen do it?

‘Come on, love, you know who I mean,’ said Erica. ‘On the bicycle made for two.’

Oh well, maybe a bit of distraction was what she needed.

Across the salon, Will was pretending not to be listening as he carried on combing out Jess Carrington’s freshly dyed hair.

‘It was a first date,’ said Patsy. ‘I think it’s safe to say there won’t be a second.’

‘Ah, bless your heart. Dumped you already, has he?’

‘No!’ Honestly, sometimes the urge to let the scissors slip and just give the tip of an ear a tiny nick was almost irresistible. ‘I was the one who didn’t want to see him again. He wasn’t my type.’

‘Well by all accounts he did look a bit of a wally,’ Erica retorted. ‘Then again, beggars can’t be choosers, can they?’

Were all old people the same, or were the elderly inhabitants of Stanton Langley truly in a league of their own? ‘Thanks, Erica,’ Patsy said, ‘but I’m not a beggar and I’m always going to be a chooser.’

‘Sure about that, love?’ Over by the row of sinks, Mary Southam spluttered with chesty laughter. ‘Only when it comes to men, you haven’t exactly made the best choices so far.’

That set them all off, naturally. Some jokes never grew old. Patsy was only too aware that she was a source of entertainment to many of her regular clientele. And they didn’t mean it maliciously, either; they just found her situation hilarious.

Which was fair enough, really; to any outsider, hers would be a comical predicament to be in.

Will wasn’t getting involved, but when she glanced over at him once more, she could see he was trying hard not to smile.

‘Will?’ Patsy called across the salon. ‘When you start cutting Mary’s hair, make sure you do her fringe lopsided.’

More laughter, then general conversation resumed, leaving Patsy to wonder if anyone’s life ever really went according to plan. When she thought back to her early twenties, she’d been so confident that her own life would. Some people enjoyed being single, gadding about and playing the field, the more partners the better. But she’d never yearned for those kinds of adventures, had known from very early on that all she really wanted was to meet the right man and settle down, get married and have babies, just be normal and happy and average, like a family in a children’s story book …

Oh yes, the single life had definitely never been for her. Relationship-wise, her late teens and early twenties had been messy and unfulfilling, until at twenty-three she’d met Sean and the longed-for story-book romance had miraculously begun to come true. She’d gone along with friends to a rugby club dance, and Sean had approached her with a typically laddish chat-up line, confiding that he knew she wouldn’t want anything to do with him, but please could she save him from the ridicule of his teammates and allow him to buy her just one drink?

It had ended up being such a great evening. Sean was lovely, with wavy fair hair and a gorgeous smile. He had a broken nose that only added character to his broad, chiselled face, and wide shoulders as befitted any self-respecting rugby player. They’d hit it off at once. She’d laughed at his terrible jokes, and in turn, he’d paid her compliments and sounded as if he meant them. They had danced together, not awfully well but with plenty of enthusiasm. And at the end of the evening he’d kissed her then said, ‘God, you’re amazing, I can’t believe this is happening … I had no idea this was going to turn out to be the best night of my life.’

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