This extract from the novel’s opening chapter is the first time we hear from Caroline, best friend of the main character Julia.
Yes, of course I remember how I met Julia. On the day our kids started nursery I was outside chatting with my pal Vick when I noticed this tall blonde with spiky hair and cut-off denims. My immediate reaction was to think she looked like a Scandinavian tennis player and then, almost simultaneously, how much Lee would fancy her.
But that didn’t put me off. I kept hoping our paths would cross and we’d get to be friends. Quite soon it happened, when her little boy hit my daughter and she came to find me after nursery to apologise. From that minute we got on, and I was right about Lee fancying her. He thought she was marvellous. And so did Daniel, Vick’s husband, but I shouldn’t say any more about that because of what happened with him and Julia.
She’d probably always been the kind of woman who attracted stares. Not that she ever sought attention, and that explains her appeal; she was unselfconscious about being so lovely, though after Harry left she lost all confidence in how she looked. I remember her saying nobody else would want her and I told her not to be daft, they’d be queuing up at the door. She just cried.
Vick and I couldn’t believe Harry had gone for good. We kept telling her he’d come back, he must be depressed, but she showed us the note and then we believed it. He’d written a terse little message saying he’d got a transfer to an architects’ practice in the West Country and was going to live a simpler life with less pressure. No apology, no explanation and no mention of the woman who we later found out was sharing his new home. Bastard.
Julia was about as cut up as anybody could be. At first she was stunned and quiet, carrying on as usual, so Vick and I thought she was handling it all. Then a couple of weeks later reality must have sunk in and she fell to pieces. Poor Matty didn’t understand what was going on; first his dad wasn’t around any more, then his mum was lying on the sofa and crying all the time.
Vick’s son, Aaron, was Matty’s best mate. Their birthdays were a few days apart, they loved all the same things, and Vick had sleepovers for them a couple of nights a week. Other times I’d have Julia and Matty round for tea. Every evening Vick or I would make sure one of us had spoken to her, just to check she was coping and Matty was OK.
When the worst of the shock died down, she told us we’d saved her life. Of course we hadn’t; we acted how any good friends would in that situation. Lee and Daniel were happy to pop round and help with practical things that needed sorting, like when her shower had a problem or when the window in Matty’s room started leaking. Between the four of us we felt we were really looking after her.
What we hadn’t bargained for was the arrival of someone like Brendan.