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Authors: Juliet Ashton

These Days of Ours

BOOK: These Days of Ours
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About the Author

At home in Surrey, JULIET ASHTON writes all day in her small study while her two dogs stare at her. The rest of her house, which is full of music and books and comfy places to
sit, she shares with her twelve-year-old daughter and her husband, who’s a composer (hence the music). She believes wholeheartedly in the power of books to improve lives, increase
understanding and while away happy hours.

Praise for Juliet Ashton:

‘Funny, original and wise’ Katie Fforde

‘Cecelia Ahern fans will love this poignant yet witty romance’
Sunday Mirror

‘You’ll laugh and cry your way through this original and touching love story’

‘It’s a gorgeous ride with a hell of a final shock’
Star Magazine

‘A fast paced story with a most unexpected twist’
Image Magazine

Also by Juliet Ashton

The Valentine’s Card

First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2016
A CBS company

Copyright © Just Grand Partnership, 2016

This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
® and © 1997 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

The right of Juliet Ashton to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
1st Floor
222 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8HB

Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney
Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4711-5505-5
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4711-5506-2

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Typeset by Hewer Text UK Ltd, Edinburgh
Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Group
(UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd are committed to sourcing paper that is made from wood grown in sustainable forests and support the Forest Stewardship Council, the leading
international forest certification organisation. Our books displaying the FSC logo are printed on FSC certified paper.

This book is for

Kate Furnivall


Please Come to Kate’s 5th Birthday Party!

You Are Invited to Becca’s 18th Birthday Bash!

Love Is ...

Kate & Julian Ames

Charlie and Becca

From: [email protected]

Yulan House



From: [email protected]

Ho! Ho! Ho!

You are cordially invited to

Qīn‘àī de kăītè

Mum, Mary , Becca, Leon, Charlie, Anna, Flo, Aunty Marjorie & Uncle Hugh

Merrion Books

if you believe in fate

The crumpled invitation had somehow survived thirty-five years and numerous house moves, its words still legible, though faded:

Kate tucked it into the corner of the dressing table mirror as she leaned in, eyeing her reflection sideways, as if trying to take it unawares. ‘Not bad. Not
But not bad.
Happy Birthday, me!’

The invitation slipped a little and caught her eye. Kate had shared her fifth birthday party with Princess Diana’s wedding day. She was ambushed by peachy nostalgia: the whole nation had
been so in love with Lady Di. She remembered the mums around the TV set, ooh-ing at the new princess’s dress.

And then Becca broke my new Action Man
. Kate sighed.
Her cousin had been unable to comprehend why a girl would want an Action Man, but their classmate Charlie had

Kate conjured him up. Slightly whiffy and very scruffy. The other kids gave Charlie Garland a wide berth because he was different. Kate had overlooked the nits because he was also
different; quiet but not boring, Charlie didn’t tease the girls just for being girls.

A sudden noise jerked Kate back to the present. It sounded just like the idiosyncratic yawn of the front door scraping open. She listened hard, but heard only the silence of an empty house, a
silence that is actually a gentle soundtrack of ticks and creaks.

Turning back to the mirror, Kate regarded her tired but merry eyes.
This is what forty looks like.
Kate tapped the underside of her chin in case it harboured any ideas about drooping on
the threshold of her – gulp – fifth decade. All in all, her reflection didn’t look too bad if she left out her contact lenses.

Standing up, Kate paused at a ghost of a noise, more a
than an actual sound. She wondered at her jumpiness.
God knows, I’ve had enough practice at being alone.
as on every other day, her house curled around her, snug and calm.

And empty. For many, forty was the perfect excuse for a party but Kate had opted out; a lifelong party goer/giver, she’d let the usual suspects know that this milestone would pass with no
birthday ‘do’.

Reaching into the wardrobe, Kate’s hand found the dress immediately. She marvelled again at the weight of it. Pale satin, with the milky sheen of pearls, the dress was cut with a
devastating simplicity that echoed more elegant times. Kate could testify to its waist-shrinking, arm-flattering superpowers.

Heavy layers of satin and tulle swooned against Kate as she held the frock against her dressing gown, holding it like a lover. The dress made her feel like Audrey Hepburn. A lumpy Audrey,
admittedly, with a few more miles on the clock, but a very happy Audrey all the same. Waltzing dreamily, Kate withstood the urge to reflect and ruminate on this landmark birthday. She
wouldn’t dwell on the missed chances, the fluffed catches, the absentees she missed so deeply . . .

But sometimes the past pushes in without asking. Suddenly Kate was five again, blowing out the candles on her cake. Charlie had sidled up to her, to stand very close and say ‘I like your
dress’, low and urgently, like a small spy passing on classified information. Kate remembered snapping ‘What?’ She’d been suspicious of compliments, mistrusting them as much
as Becca craved them.

Charlie’s hands had gripped his paper plate so hard it trembled. ‘I love you,’ he’d whispered.

Kate hadn’t hesitated; she’d pushed Charlie’s face into the iced sponge.

Now, Kate replaced the dress in the wardrobe, where it effortlessly outranked its denim and cotton peers. She stroked it regretfully, as if it was an exotic pet that had to be put down.
I’ll never get to wear you
. Kate shut the door on the wonderful confection, its skirt puffing out and resisting. Even if she dyed it or took up the hem, a dress like that could never be
anything but a wedding dress, which rendered it quite useless to Kate.

She wheeled at the unmistakable sound of a foot on the stairs. Kate crossed to the door. ‘Who’s there?’ she called, certain now that she was not alone.

Becca’s parties were legendary.

This one was particularly well attended thanks to Becca’s promise that her parents would be out for the whole evening. With a wink, she’d guaranteed, ‘It’ll be the best
party in the history of the known world.’

A couple of hours in, and on her second glass of suspiciously strong punch, Kate agreed. Not because of the Everest of cocktail sausages she’d helped build, nor the plastic bin filled with
ice and beer, nor the fairy lights that transformed the ground floor of Aunty Marjorie and Uncle Hugh’s over-tasteful sitting room into a magical grotto alive with possibility.

Tonight would be memorable – downright historic – because, for Kate, tonight was

She would
do it
. She would shrug off her pesky virginity. She would have sex. That phrase made Kate wince so she amended it speedily to Make Love, awarding it capitals because, as all the
magazines said, as her ‘experienced’ friends declared, it was a giant step in a girl’s life.

BOOK: These Days of Ours
12.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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