Brought up on a seaside fairground, Vanessa knows all about what a rollercoaster ride life can be. Tragedy forces her to flee but when she discovers that her husband, a property developer, is cheating on her she returns. But the fair has gone, the land, bought by her husband, is now covered by luxury flats. Going back can be painful but this is just the start of the Helter Skelter for Vanessa. While she feels her life is spiralling ever downwards, there are the strong arms of a passion from her past to catch her at the end.
Vanessa Hamilton awoke to the sound of a child’s laughter. Caught between the limbo of sleep and wakefulness she shoved back the duvet and sat up in the dimness of the curtained room with a smile on her face. And then reality crashed in like a punch to the heart.
She was alone, although she could still hear the murmur of voices downstairs. Saturday morning kiddies’ television, she realised. Richard must have left it on. He always watched the news before he went to work. And the child’s laughter had reached inside her dreams.
It had been the sweetest of dreams. She and Jennifer had been playing hide and seek in the forest. Her daughter had been running ahead of her, feet crunching over pine needles, the white material of her dress flashing between the trees.
“Wait ’til I say ready, Mummy. No peeking.”
“No peeking,” Vanessa had agreed, covering her eyes with her fingers, but leaving a gap to check Jennifer didn’t wander too far from her sight.
Then she’d woken to find it wasn’t real. There were no pine needles cracking underfoot, no flickering of sunlight and shadow on the forest floor, and no Jennifer, and although the reality wasn’t as devastating as it had been in the early days it still hurt enough to leave her breathless.
Vanessa knew yesterday’s letter from Purbeck District Council had sparked it off. The letter was tucked inside a zipped compartment of her bag, but she didn’t need to keep it. She knew it word for word.
‘We are writing to inform you we are planning to carry out upgrades to Saint Mary’s memorial garden. Disruption will be kept to a minimum, but you might want to remove any personal effects temporarily for safekeeping.’
Vanessa had no personal effects on her daughter’s grave, but the letter had opened the raw wound in her heart. She’d planned to show it to Richard last night, but he’d been tired and irritable after a day spent on the phone arguing with a Spanish property developer, so she’d waited. The timing had to be right. She badly needed his support, but he wasn’t likely to feel the same way as she did. How could he when Jennifer wasn’t his child?
Aching, she reached across to touch the cold space beside her. Richard had been gone a while, but the bed still smelt of him. She breathed in the faint scent of his expensive cologne mixed with the more pungent smells of last night’s lovemaking
Then, swiping the last of the sleep from her eyes, she swung long legs over the side of the bed and padded, still naked, to the window. She drew back the heavy velvet curtains. Just for a second she’d expected to see something other than the leafy suburban road that lay beyond the nets. Just for a second she’d expected to see blue skies above a wide sweep of bay and the summer glitter of the sea. Jolted, she drew back into the room, the thick carpet soft beneath her bare feet.
It had been five-and-a-half years since she’d left the cliff-top fairground where she’d grown up and where she’d fallen in love with Garrin Tate, Jennifer’s father. Rationally, she knew it should be long enough for her to be able to move on, but sometimes she felt as though the past became more vivid as time went on. Sharper and more brightly coloured, as though she were viewing it through an immensely powerful telescope.
When she and Richard had got married, he’d made her promise she would break all ties with her previous life. At the time it was what she’d wanted, too. She’d been desperate to get away from the grief of losing Jennifer. Desperate to put the past behind her, but it had crept into her head more and more lately. It was the letter. It had stirred up more than the memory of Jennifer.
Last night as she’d lain beneath Richard, moving with the familiarity of years, she’d looked up into his blue eyes and she’d seen Garrin’s dark ones staring back at her. Time had fragmented; memories had sliced through her and she’d felt Garrin’s hands moving over her body, a musician playing a hand-made guitar with the grace of the ancients, neither learned, nor practised. She’d moaned softly, caught between two worlds. Then Richard had tensed above her and his face had come back into focus, his eyes smoky with passion, and in that moment she’d hated herself for the deception because he didn’t deserve it.
When she’d met him she’d been in pieces and he’d taken her away from Kane’s Funfair, ‘the best funfair in the world’ and he’d given her back her life. He’d been infinitely patient and kind. A rock when it seemed nothing else had been constant. Sometimes she felt she owed him her sanity.
"Della Galton is one of our best loved and most talented serial writers. I am delighted to see her first novel in print"
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Della Galton is a novelist, short story writer, and journalist; she is also the agony aunt for Writers’ Forum and has been writing and getting published for over twenty-five years. When she is not writing she enjoys walking her dogs in the beautiful Dorset countryside where she lives. Her hobby is repairing old cottages, which is lucky as hers is falling down.
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