No Naked Ads -> Here!
No Naked Ads -> Here! $urlZ
Its now or never, p.1
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       It’s Now or Never, p.1

           Carole Matthews
 
It’s Now or Never


  It’s Now or Never

  Carole Matthews

  First published in Great Britain in 2010 by Headline Review

  Copyright © Carole Matthews 2010

  This edition published by Carole Matthews INK Ltd 2015

  The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Acknowledgements

  To our lovely companions on the Inca Trail trip to Peru – including our Canadian sanity and mobile medicine cabinet, Joanne and Brian. Also to Mick the Gadget, Big Mick, Henny, Simone and our guides, Crystal and Lobo. And, as always, to Lovely Kev, who pushed me up most of it and let me have all of the sleeping bag, and came to the loo with me in the night even when he was still asleep. The Andes are flipping steep and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. With hindsight, it was a very wonderful experience. But I am never, ever camping again – and you can quote me on that.

  For information and anecdotes about fishing, thanks to my uncle, David Coleman, and to top MX5 mates Craig ‘The Hat’ Hitchman and The Terrible Twosome – the fearless, the inimitable, the frequently very silly – Mr Richard Markus and Mr Owen Earl.

  Thanks also to Jill and Simon at The Pudding Club, the Threeways Hotel in Mickleton for facilitating my research. Would heartily recommend one of their Pudding Club dinners – yum! A lot easier than walking the Inca Trail but, admittedly, with more calories. Just leave the diet at home. For info go to www.thepuddingclub.com.

  CONTENTS

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  Chapter 65

  Chapter 66

  Chapter 67

  Chapter 68

  Chapter 69

  Chapter 70

  Chapter 71

  Chapter 72

  Chapter 73

  Chapter 74

  Chapter 75

  Chapter 76

  Chapter 77

  Chapter 78

  Chapter 79

  Chapter 80

  Chapter 81

  Chapter 82

  Chapter 83

  Chapter 84

  Chapter 85

  Chapter 86

  Chapter 87

  Chapter 88

  Chapter 89

  Chapter 90

  Chapter 91

  Chapter 92

  Chapter 93

  Chapter 94

  Chapter 95

  Chapter 96

  Chapter 97

  Chapter 98

  Chapter 99

  Chapter 100

  Chapter 101

  Chapter 102

  Chapter 103

  Chapter 104

  Chapter 105

  Chapter 106

  Chapter 107

  Chapter 108

  Chapter 109

  Chapter 110

  Chapter 111

  Chapter 112

  Chapter 113

  Chapter 114

  Chapter 115

  Chapter 116

  Chapter 117

  Chapter 118

  Chapter 1

  ‘Are we really related to her?’ I nudge my sister, Lauren, in the ribs.

  She looks up from the glass of champagne that she’s staring into, seemingly mesmerised by the bubbles.

  ‘I can hardly believe it,’ I add.

  ‘Me neither,’ she agrees, and tips more champagne into her mouth.

  Chelsea is gliding across the dance floor in the arms of her husband while her guests smile on benignly.

  It is our elder sister’s fortieth birthday party and, as always, she is a vision of loveliness. She’s wearing a floor-length Vera Wang gown in white that’s drenched in Swarovski crystals which burst into tiny rainbows whenever they catch the light. It fits like a glove, hugging every inch of her tiny frame. Her auburn curls are piled high and her head is thrown back in uncontained and joyous laughter, showing off the delicious creaminess of her throat and her perfect teeth.

  Her husband Richard is tall, tanned and has the rugged-jawed looks of a classic romantic hero. He’s something fabulous in the City, is stonkingly wealthy, is kind to small furry animals, remembers to empty the bins and puts the lid down on the toilet when he’s finished too.

  ‘What star sign is Chelsea?’ Lauren wants to know.

  ‘Gemini.’

  ‘And that means you’re the luckiest bitch in the world, does it?’

  ‘I think it means you’re a good communicator with a sunny disposition.’ With a tendency to be two-faced and selfish on occasions if you believe in the stars, but I won’t tell my sister that.

  Lauren tuts and throws back her drink. ‘What are we?’

  ‘Scorpio.’

  ‘And?’

  ‘We’re the most murdered star sign.’

  Another tut. ‘Fabulous.’

  This isn’t your usual fortieth birthday party. For mine – next year – I was thinking of having an At Home with a few family and friends, a readymade cake from Asda and some balloons – if I could summon up the necessary energy. Chelsea’s birthday party – like the rest of her life – is exquisite.

  We’re at the Dorchester Hotel on London’s Park Lane in the main ballroom, along with about 300 other people. Already I’ve spotted Jodie Kidd, Jamie Oliver and Richard Hammond – just a few of the celebrities that our sister counts among her closest friends.

  ‘Where did we go wrong?’ Lauren asks, as she slides down on her pretty silver chair. She sounds a little drunk. In the same manner that Gordon Ramsay uses a little bad language. Oh – and he’s here too, somewhere.

  I sigh before I answer, ‘I don’t know.’

  Needless to say, Lauren and I haven’t gone down the Vera Wang route of haute couture. I have chosen vintage Next – in other words, a dress that’s at least three years old. Not even a good vintage, I feel. My sister has opted for a little number from Coast that will be owned by her credit-card company for the next year or more and, I don’t like to mention it, but there’s some of the raspberry coulis
from our bitter chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis dessert – down the front of it.

  I’m Annie Ashton and my sister, Lauren Osbourne, is the one swaying slightly in her chair next to me. Lauren and I are twins. I’m the elder by five minutes and we have now both recently reached the grand old age of thirty-nine years.

  Our sister Chelsea didn’t buy into the whole Life Begins at Forty thing. Her life started when she slipped effortlessly from our mother’s womb and into an existence that has, ever since, been charmed.

  Lauren and I, born a scant year later, were breech twins who entered the world bottom first and, somehow, I think that set the tone.

  Chapter 2

  Lauren stifles a yawn. ‘I need to go to bed.’

  My sister twirls her long, dark hair languidly round a manicured finger. We have spent our entire lives fighting not to look exactly like each other. That explains my ultra-short pixie crop. Though I did stop short of dyeing it blond – mainly due to the expense rather than a submission of individuality. I’m a little softer round the middle than Lauren – something I blame on my two children, rather than my penchant for cake. Lauren looks more sporty than me – that’s because she is. Other than that, we’re two peas in a pod. Annoyingly, despite our advanced years, we still find we turn up in the same outfit to parties sometimes. This time, we took the precaution of co- ordinating our limited wardrobes well in advance by the medium of several dozen text messages. We had no intention of committing our usual fashion faux-pas at such a splendid do.

  ‘The night’s young,’ I remind Lauren. ‘You can’t be tired.’ The party is in full swing and the sounds of ‘It’s Raining Men’ pound out from the disco. There’s some dishy actor whose name I can’t remember from Holby City camping it up on the dance floor. The DJ is someone edgy and famous but, as I live my life under a rock, I’ve never heard of him. ‘Let’s have a boogie and see if we can bag you a celebrity boyfriend.’

  ‘I’ve already got a boyfriend,’ Lauren reminds me.

  I look around, theatrically. ‘So where is he?’

  ‘That’s mean,’ my sister says.

  It probably is.

  To fill you in, Lauren’s boyfriend of five years was invited but couldn’t make it at the last minute. This is a regular occurrence. The small problem is that Jude Taylor has the inconvenient encumbrance of a wife and two children, which makes spontaneous socialising with his long-term girlfriend somewhat tricky. Clearly, whatever excuse he’d fabricated to be absent from the marital home on a Saturday night didn’t pass muster when push came to shove.

  The reason my twin looks so toned is that she spends a lot of time in the gym pounding the treadmill out of sheer frustration.

  ‘I want to go back to the room,’ Lauren insists. ‘Jude said that he’d call and I’ll never be able to hear my mobile in here.’

  ‘That’s because we’re at the world’s most fabulous party,’ I tell her. ‘And everyone is having a great time.’

  ‘Everyone but us.’

  She’s right. I’m also miserable due to a lack of male company. And that’s because my husband has – point blank – refused to come. Greg hates this kind of thing. He’d rather have hot needles poked in his eyes than put a suit and tie on outside of office hours. The thought of being in a room filled with beautiful people doing beautiful things would make him go cold with dread. So, instead of coming to my sister’s high-end, celebrity-loaded knees-up with enough champagne to float a ship, he’s chosen to go night fishing on the Grand Union Canal with his exceedingly dreary mate, Ray. That’s all he ever wants to do.

  In twenty years of marriage, I have learned more about coarse fishing than I ever needed to. I could tell you the benefits of Dragon Barrel Pellets over Yellow Pop-Ups, if you cared to listen – or the differences between a waggler and a feeder rod. Call me sceptical, but carp, Greg frequently tells me, are very intelligent fish. I do not share my husband’s passion for fishing or his views on the tricksy carp – but that doesn’t stop him from regaling me with many tales of their wily ways.

  We did have a tiny bit of a row before I left. If I remember rightly, I said something like, ‘I’m so sick of my small, dull life. This is the only excitement I’ve had in years and you’re not prepared to share it with me. You’re a selfish bastard and if you’re not coming I’m going to have a great time without you. I have to put up with all kinds of things for you and your stupid fishing, and yet you won’t compromise when it comes to my needs. Well, that’s it! I’m off.’

  And Greg, I think, closed the door quietly behind him as he left. He didn’t even tell me to enjoy myself.

  ‘What a morose pair we are,’ Lauren says wearily. ‘Let’s clear off.’

  ‘Chelsea will be upset. We rarely see her these days.’

  ‘Our dear sister won’t even notice that we’re gone.’

  Lauren’s right again. Chelsea is too busy socialising with all of her rich friends to notice if we slope away. It makes me sad that we’re not closer to her, but Chelsea now lives a crazy jet-set life, splitting her time between the UK and Dubai where her husband is for most of the year. She’s just swooped in for the party – if not on a private jet, then certainly first class.

  ‘Don’t drag me away, Lauren,’ I plead. ‘Let’s have some fun.’ I might just find myself a celebrity boyfriend. See what Greg would think to that.

  ‘I’ve got a headache coming on,’ my sister whines, and gives me her most pitiful pout.

  So we head for the door – Lauren a little unsteadily.

  We pass a table groaning with champagne and Lauren grabs a bottle and two glasses and we take those with us to continue the party on our own.

  As we stand and wait for the lift, Lauren takes out her mobile phone. ‘Damn,’ she says. ‘I’ve missed Jude’s call.’

  Quickly, she checks her voicemail and there’s a whispered message that I can just about overhear – even though Lauren tries to press her phone close enough to her ear so that she thinks I can’t.

  ‘Sorry, I couldn’t make it, darling,’ Jude’s smooth tones coo. ‘But you know how much I love you. I’ll speak to you as soon as I can.’

  I don’t even bother checking my phone as I know that Greg won’t have bothered to call me. He wouldn’t coo sweet nothings even if he did. My husband is not a cooey sort of man. I’m more likely to get sweet FA than sweet nothings.

  Lauren hangs up.

  The desperation in her tired smile makes my heart want to break.

  ‘He said he loves me.’

  I just can’t help a disbelieving tut at that. It’s out before I can stop it. If he loves Lauren so much, then where is he tonight, eh? Answer me that.

  ‘He does,’ she insists crisply. ‘And one day we’ll be together. You’ll see.’

  ‘I have to admire your optimism, sis,’ I say, as gently as I can.

  Then, as we wait to be whisked away from the ball and back up to our bedroom, I marvel at how Lauren can be so optimistic despite the odds being stacked against her. I also take time to wonder where my own optimism has toddled off to.

  Chapter 3

  Chelsea has very generously booked us a suite in this outrageously posh hotel for the night – and paid for it – even though we could have easily gone back to Lauren’s flat in a taxi.

  The room we’re in is truly gorgeous – an understated extravagance of cream linen and dark wood – and is bigger than my entire house. We have two bathrooms, a double bed each and a lounge with four sofas in it and a television the size of a multiplex cinema. The artworks look as if they’ve been lifted straight from the walls of Tate Modern.

  I want to live here. For ever.

  Though it’s not yet eleven o’clock, Lauren and I are washed, brushed and ready for bed. We’re sitting up, dwarfed by our vast neighbouring beds in our jim-jams, a glass of champagne in hand.

  Lauren knocks back her fizz and huffs, ‘She’s like bloody Cinderella and we’re the Ugly Sisters.’

  ‘Thanks.’ I do
n’t point out that we’re the ones who have scarpered from the ball before midnight. The Ugly Sisters were the ones who hung around till dawn having a fab time and schmoozing with the Prince, if I remember rightly.

  ‘You know what I mean.’

  More’s the pity for us that I do know what she means.

  ‘So what are we going to do?’ I ask. ‘We’re both forty next year and I feel that our lives are slowly slipping away from us.’

  ‘Speak for yourself,’ Lauren says as she swigs.

  ‘You can’t be happy with your situation.’

  Lauren’s chin juts out. ‘It won’t always be like this.’

  Unfortunately, this is a song I’ve heard before. Lauren has been with her married lover for over five years now and he’s not showing that he’s in any imminent danger of leaving his wife for my sister despite her blind optimism in the face of reality.

  Lauren works for Jude Taylor at the web company he owns. That’s how they met. It’s called Happening Today and they send out funky daily missives about what’s ‘happening today’ in London and various cities round the country. Lauren is one of the sales executives who sells advertising on the site. And very good she is at it too.

  Jude is as lavish with his money as he is with his love and helps Lauren pay the mortgage on her tiny flat in West Hampstead – primarily, I believe, so that she is close at hand and he can visit her whenever he wants. She has a great car too. The only thing she doesn’t have is her man’s full-time attention. Which, obviously, is the only thing that she really wants.

  Much as it pains me, I have to admit that Jude Taylor is pretty hunky. He has dark and brooding looks, tousled hair and an astonishing line in trendy clothing for a guy. Almost the perfect man. Apart from the resident wife, of course. And the amount of heartache he’s caused my sister over the last five years.

  ‘It will all work out just fine for me,’ Lauren says as she glances surreptitiously at her phone again; I can almost feel her willing it to ring. ‘Jude and I are soulmates. We both feel it. He will leave. The timing just has to be right.’

  Perhaps that’s true, but there always seems to be some sort of feeble excuse that keeps him bound to his double life – a school play that must be attended, a visit from one or other set of grandparents, a forthcoming family holiday. Always something that couldn’t possibly be postponed or disrupted. As if walking out on your wife and children isn’t going to cause enough disruption.

 
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll
Add comment

Add comment