The Real McCoy – Claire Cock-Starkey

Got a great book for you today – The Real McCoy and 149 other Eponyms, by Claire Cock-Starkey, author of The Book Lovers’ Miscellany and A Library Miscellany. It’s a fascinating little book, and I’ve got an extract to share with you today.

Did you know where ‘cereal’ orginally came from? Let’s find out!

CEREALfood grains such as oat, corn, wheat and rye

This word came into use in the nineteenth century to describe grains which are used for food, but it originates from the Latin word cerealis, which is derived from associations with Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture. Ceres was a benevolent goddess, the daughter of Saturn and Ops; she was believed to have given humans the gift to cultivate corn and brought fertility to the land. She is often pictured with a farm tool in one hand and a basket of fruit, grains or flowers in the other. The Romans explained the ebb and flow of the seasons through a myth related to Ceres. Ceres’ daughter Proserpina was taken into the underworld after lonely Pluto, god of the underworld, fell in love with her having been hit with one of Cupid’s arrows. Ceres was devastated to lose her daughter and plunged the world into famine, so Jupiter sent Mercury into the underworld to ask Pluto to return Proserpina to earth. Unfortunately while in the underworld Proserpina had eaten six pomegranate seeds – the fruit of the dead – and as a consequence she could not remain in the world of the living. Proserpina was allowed out of the underworld each spring and Ceres would celebrate by making the plants burst into life. Proserpina and Ceres would spend the summer happily together and plants would flourish, before Ceres would begin to grow unhappy at her daughter’s imminent return to the underworld, heralding the arrival of autumn. Proserpina was forced to spend the winter months back in the underworld with Pluto, and so in the world of the living nothing would grow while Ceres sadly waited for her return.

The English language is rich with eponyms – words that are named after an individual – some better known than others. This book features 150 of the most interesting and enlightening specimens, delving into the origins of the words and describing the fascinating people after whom they were named.

Eponyms are derived from numerous sources. Some are named in honour of a style icon, inventor or explorer, such as pompadour, Kalashnikov and Cadillac. Others have their roots in Greek or Roman mythology, such as panic and tantalise. A number of eponyms, however, are far from celebratory and were created to indicate a rather less positive association – into this category can be filed boycott, Molotov cocktail and sadist.

Encompassing eponyms from medicine, botany, invention, science, fashion, food and literature, this book uncovers the intriguing tales of discovery, mythology, innovation and infamy behind the eponyms we use every day. The perfect addition to any wordsmith’s bookshelf.

The Real McCoy and 149 other Eponyms by Claire Cock-Starkey is published by Bodleian Publishing in October 2018. You can find Claire on twitter @nonfictioness or at her website nonfictioness.com

And Then It Happened – Linda Green

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Linda Green’s And Then It Happened, and I’ve got an extract from the book for you.

Mel
Saturday, 27 March 2010

According to Wikipedia, it was Aesop who came up with that line about familiarity breeding contempt. Which kind of vindicates my belief that Greek philosophers are, on the whole, rather overrated. I have known Adam for two-thirds of my life now. Admittedly, that’s only a dot backwards on the great history timeline of things towards Aesop’s era in 600 BC. But the fact remains that for me it is a struggle to remember life BA (as I tend to think of the years before I met Adam). There is a blurry childhood involving a one-eyed teddy bear, under-the-knee socks and grazed knees, blackberry-picking along the canal bank, a less than perfect ponytail and sticking my tongue out at my older brother Martin, who was always the apple of Mum’s eye. And then there is the day I started high school and met Adam. That is when life as I know it really began.

We have barely gone a few weeks without seeing each other since that point. Yet far from make me look at him with a mixture of irritation and loathing, that familiarity has bred something deeper, stronger and altogether more wonderful than I ever thought possible. Don’t get mewrong, Adam is not perfect. He’s a man, for goodness sake. And this is a marriage not a fairy tale. There are, inevitably, a few things about him that cause me to roll my eyes and make the odd sigh or tut every now and again; he snores (though only when lying on his left side), appears to have a pathological fear of baths (I should point out in his defence that he does shower), refuses to go anywhere near a tapas restaurant (something to do with not being able to get one big plate of what you want to eat and having to go home and make cheese on toast afterwards because you’re still hungry) and is prone to going off on a bit of a rant if anyone expresses even the merest hint of admiration for either Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair (perhaps the most excusable of his foibles).

But that is as bad as it gets. A handful of silly little things that bug me. Nothing even approaching the foothills of contempt. Instead, I have all the lovely things that famil­ iarity brings: knowing that he understands when to back off and give me space and when to throw his arms around me and give me a hug; the fact that we can be comfortably silent together because sometimes we just know and we don’t need to say; the reassurance that if I have a headache he knows the exact spot on my shoulder where the knot causing it is and how to massage it away. And the fact that I know, as he sits opposite me at a rather swanky restaurant in Sowerby Bridge, top button of his shirt undone, brushing back the bit of dark brown hair which has always got in his eyes for as long as I have known him, exactly how he will respond to what I am about to say.

And Then It Happened by Linda Green is published by Quercus Books. You can find Linda on twitter @LindaGreenisms

How would you feel if the only man you’d ever loved was taken away from you? And imagine how he’d feel if he hadn’t really been taken away at all -but couldn’t find a way to let you know…

Mel Taylor was thirteen years old when she found Adam. Twenty years on, they are still blissfully in love. She has everything she ever wished for. But Mel’s happiness is spoilt by a secret from their past and a niggling fear that her good fortune can’t last forever. Despite her husband Adam’s efforts to reassure her that nothing bad is going to happen, Mel can’t shake the feeling that good things can’t last forever. But what she isn’t expecting, is something so terrible that their lives will be changed forever…

My Mother’s Secret – Sanjida Kay – an extract

Published by Corvus, 3rd May 2018

You can only hide for so long…
Lizzie Bradshaw. A student from the Lake District, forced to work away from home, who witnesses a terrible crime. But who will ultimately pay the price?
Emma Taylor. A mother, a wife, and a woman with a dangerous secret. Can she keep her beloved family safely together?
Stella Taylor. A disaffected teenager, determined to discover what her mother is hiding. But how far will she go to uncover the truth?
And one man, powerful, manipulative and cunning, who controls all their destinies.

Earlier this week Liz from Liz Loves Books tempted you with a peek at the prologue for Sanjida Kay’s new book, My Mother’s Secret. I’m here to whet your appetite further with a look at chapter one…

EMMA

It’s as if we’ve stepped into a Constable painting, a bucolic vision of England. There’s a single oak ahead of us in the heart of the valley; the grass is lime-green and the steep sides of the Cotswold escarpment are covered in dense woodland. Even though it’s May, the sky is shale-grey; there’s a brooding mass of clouds on the horizon.
‘We could have parked right there! Why did you make us walk all this way?’ Ava whines.
‘Because you’ll appreciate it even more,’ says Jack.
Stella snorts. ‘Yeah, like anyone but you is going to “appreciate” a mouldering old church.’
‘It’s so creepy. I don’t like it,’ Ava says.
I have to admit, the lowering sky and the dark green of the trees surrounding us make me feel a bit hemmed in.
‘I’ve been bitten!’ she shrieks and jumps about, slapping at her ankles.
‘I did see a horsefly back there,’ I say.
‘It’s probably nothing. Just a scratch,’ says Jack.
‘Let me have a look.’ I turn Ava’s slim calf in my hands.
Sure enough, there’s a large red lump starting to form above her ankle bone.
‘Don’t worry, I’ve got some ointment,’ I say, sliding my backpack off my shoulders.
Stella rolls her eyes.
‘Of course,’ says Jack, ‘your mum is prepared for anything. Break a leg, and she’ll wrap you in her space-blanket while we wait for mountain rescue on speed-dial.’
‘You’re kidding, right?’ says Stella. ‘A space-blanket.’
‘I do have a space-blanket, as it happens. You never know when you might need one . . .’ I rub antihistamine into Ava’s leg and she stops whimpering. ‘It’s so light, it would be stupid not to bring it.’ ‘I told you,’ says Jack.
‘Oh my God, you are insane.’
‘We could use it to fly to the moon,’ says Ava.
‘Jesus, Mum, the Taliban carry those things to stop the US spying on them with thermal cameras,’ says Stella.
‘Multi-purpose,’ murmurs my husband.
I finish putting away my first-aid kit. Ahead of us are a tiny stream and the remains of an old bridge.
‘Look! The people who once owned this place probably swept down here in their coach and horses, right over that bridge and up to the big house,’ I say brightly.
‘Like, that’s even interesting,’ says Stella.
There’s a sign saying the ruined bridge is unsafe. A round, stone ball lies to one side, as if it has tumbled from the crumbling turrets. It’s now half-obscured by long grass. There’s a cowpat next to it. We head to the right; buttery-coloured Cotswold stones poke through the soil.
I start singing ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road’.
‘Spare me,’ mutters Jack under his breath, striding ahead of us. He’s smiling, though.
Ava joins in with the chorus, and we keep singing and she forgets to moan as the hill curves steeply upwards.
I don’t have my husband’s strength or resilience in the face of concerted opposition: I would never have managed to drag a fourteen-year-old and an eleven-year-old out of the house when they’d much rather be Snapchatting (Stella) or practising ballet (Ava). So I’m pleased Jack’s cheerily ignored any opposition to his plans, as he normally does, even if it means visiting yet another church. We haven’t been to see this one in a while, but sadly there’s no cafe nearby that the girls and I can escape to.
I’m out of breath. I really should lose some weight, I think, as I always do when Jack is marching us up some hill. He’s as fit as a flea. He goes to a posh gym in town and does kettlebells and something called HIIT in his lunch hour.
At the top, there’s a mansion that a family actually lives in, rather than opening it up to the public and allowing the whole world to traipse through the living room to raise money to repair the roof, plus a walled garden with stables and greenhouses that are also off-limits. The church is open but to reach it you have to walk round in a loop and double-back to give the owners a modicum of privacy. I get distracted by a lily pool and stop to take some photos on my phone. It’s surprisingly dark: there’s a thick hedge behind me, and beech trees overhead. I imagine this must have led to the main driveway for the house at one time. I lean over the fence, the metal cold against my stomach, and try and get a water lily to fill the frame in my camera. When I finally manage to take a halfway decent photo, I look up, ready to show Ava.
She’s gone. I can’t hear her or Stella and Jack, either. There’s the faint smell of horses and leather. It’s silent. It appears darker than before. The first spot of rain hits my cheek. I look round, but the narrow path is empty of walkers or my family.
I start jogging and call out, ‘Ava? Stella?’
I still can’t see them. The path grows narrower, the trees tower over me and it’s impossible to see over the hedge. Shrubs encroach. Something snaps across my face, stinging my cheek. I cry out. It’s a branch. I feel as if I’m in a tunnel. I run faster. A black shape explodes out of the bushes and I jump back. It’s a blackbird, disappearing into the wood in a flurry of feathers. I can’t breathe. There’s no sign of them, no sign that anyone else even passed this way.
I start screaming their names, over and over, the names of my family, my loved ones, the people I cannot live without. My heart is beating so hard it’s painful.
I must have missed the turn for the church, because now I’m on a wide driveway flanked by those giant beech trees, last year’s masts crunching beneath my feet, and the house is behind me, the windows shuttered against tourists. There’s still no one else around. No walkers. No one appears at the window. I can’t stop shouting; the silence will choke me. I feel as if my chest is in a giant vice that’s squeezing my ribs. I run to a fence and look down into the valley. There’s a girl on horseback a long way below me. She isn’t even aware that I’m up here, shouting for help. The path twists to the left, away from the fields, and disappears into a dark thicket of laurels. Is that where they are? I’m frozen. I don’t know where to search next, what to do.
And then Jack is running towards me. He puts one hand on my shoulder and looks straight into my eyes.
‘Take it easy. Deep breath. In. We’re all here. We’re safe. Breathe out.’
I see the girls peeking round a trellis draped with pink tea roses. Their faces are white. They’re fine, though, just as Jack said they were.
Once I’ve stopped hyperventilating, Jack folds me in his arms.
‘We were inside the church,’ he murmurs in my ear. ‘You know I’d never let anything happen to them, don’t you?’
I nod, and pull away. Ava comes and flings her arms around my waist.
‘Are you all right, Mum? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have left you. I thought you saw . . .’
‘It’s okay,’ I say. ‘It’s my fault, not yours. I should have kept up.’

You can find Sanjida at her website, or on twitter @SanjidaKay

Atholl Brose – an extract from Rebellious Spirits by Ruth Ball

Today I’m delighted to take part in the blog tour for Rebellious Spirits, by Ruth Ball, “A delicious history of Britain’s secret, exciting and often dangerous love affair with booze.”

Rebellious Spirits was shortlisted for the Fortnum & Mason Food Debut Drink Book of the Year Award in 2016, was one of the Guardian’s Best Drinks Books of 2015, and features 50 delicious cocktail recipes.

Glasses all topped up? Right then.  I’ve got an extract from the book for you – a look at the fascinating history (and a couple of recipes) for Atholl brose, an intriguing concoction!

Without further ado, over to Ruth…

Atholl brose

When looking for a good recipe you’ll find that there are as many variations of Atholl brose as there are Highlanders. To make matters worse, the only recorded recipes tend to be in the diaries of confused English tourists. But one thing on which every recipe agrees is the need for whisky and good heather honey.

The name comes from an old tale about the Duke of Atholl, who supposedly filled the well near a rebel leader’s camp with whisky, oatmeal and honey to make him too drunk to fight, although there’s no evidence that the story has any basis in truth. The name also comes from the mixture of oats and water that was carried as a drink by shepherds and was called brose, even though some modern versions choose to skip the creamy oatmeal in favour of rich dairy cream. In every version the Atholl brose is beaten to a froth and sometimes eggs are added to hold the froth a little better.  I have tried to combine a little of all of these to make my own version.

ATHOLL BROSE: THE ORIGINAL

Athol-brose – A compound highland drink. Sometimes, merely honey and whiskey; at others, honey, whiskey, oat-meal, and new milk.

Major Walter Campbell, The Old Forest Ranger (1850)

THE ALCHEMIST’S VERSION

50g rolled oats 350ml water 3 tbsp heather honey 2 egg yolks 250ml single cream 350ml whisky

Prepare the brose in advance by mixing the oats and water and leaving to stand overnight. In the morning, strain this with a cheesecloth or by pressing the liquid through a sieve with the back of a spoon. Beat the honey with the egg yolks in the bottom of a jug until pale and then mix in the cream. Add the brose and the whisky and whisk everything together until you have a good head of foam.

Queen Victoria was apparently fond of Atholl brose, and when she visited Atholl Castle she drank hers from a glass that had once belonged to the famous fiddler Niel Gow. So try to drink yours from a glass that once belonged to someone famous if you want to play queen.

 

Rebellious Spirits, by Ruth Bell is published by Elliot & Thompson (www.eandtbooks.com) in April 2018.  Huge thanks to Alison Menzies for the review copy. The blog tour continues tomorrow!

The Perfect Victim by Corrie Jackson: blog tour

Delighted to be a part of the blog tour for Corrie Jackson’s The Perfect Victim.

Husband, friend, colleague . . . killer?
Charlie and Emily Swift are the Instagram-perfect couple: gorgeous, successful and in love. But then Charlie is named as the prime suspect in a gruesome murder and Emily’s world falls apart.
Desperate for answers, she turns to Charlie’s troubled best friend, London Herald journalist, Sophie Kent. Sophie knows police have the wrong man – she trusts Charlie with her life.
Then Charlie flees.
Sophie puts her reputation on the line to clear his name. But as she’s drawn deeper into Charlie and Emily’s unravelling marriage, she realises that there is nothing perfect about the Swifts.
As she begins to question Charlie’s innocence, something happens that blows the investigation – and their friendship – apart.
Now Sophie isn’t just fighting for justice, she’s fighting for her life.

Here’s an extract from the book.
~~~~~
PROLOGUE

His heart bumps against his ribs as he pulls a torch from his pocket and shines it into the space behind the washing machine. He pulls out a brick and his fingers close around something feathery. The baby bird is as light as dry leaves. He’s amazed it’s still alive. It’s been in there for days. There are others buried deeper in the wall that haven’t been so lucky. He folds one hand round the bird and, with the other, he opens the laundry basket and digs around. The Blue Nun bottle is at the bottom, where his mum hid it. He waits a beat, then springs up the steps to the kitchen.
As he tiptoes past his mum, a car shoots past, its headlights turning the sitting-room shadows cartoony. He freezes, not used to seeing cars in this remote place. His mum shift s, snorts, rubs her stomach with a stubby red fingernail. He counts to fifty. The bird quivers, soft and sick, in his hand. He places it on the carpet, beside his sleeping mum, where it twitches, then settles. It looks peaceful but its eyes are milky with death. The boy unscrews the bottle lid. Then he pours the liquid on the carpet, trails it around the sofa, over the cigarette butts, the ashtray, the empty wine boxes, the remains of a congealing pizza. It splashes onto his shoes, drips down his wrists. He saves the final drops for the baby bird.
The boy takes one last look at his mum, then flicks the green lighter. The tiny flame shivers and he realises his hand is trembling. He cocks his head to one side, then snaps the lighter shut. His trainers squeak as he lurches – a childish zig-zag – across the kitchen and rips the crayon drawing from the fridge door. He rolls it into a cone then lights one end and tosses it onto the carpet. As the flames shoot forward in an angry orange stripe, words fill the boy’s head: He himself will be saved, but only through fire.
The boy waits, his eyes watering, lungs filling with smoke as he watches the fi re swallow up the bird. Then he drops to his knees and crawls into the hallway. He is about to open the front door when he hears coughing. It’s coming from the sitting room. His mum is awake. His hand hovers over the door handle. Then he remembers the crayon drawing.
The woman. The boy. The heart.
He opens the door and darts out into the dirty moonlight.

~~~~

The Perfect Victim by Corrie Jackson is published by Zaffre and is released on 16th November 2017.

Anita Robinson Photography

Corrie Jackson has been a journalist for fifteen years. During that time she has worked at Harper’s Bazaar, the Daily Mail, Grazia and Glamour. Corrie now lives in Greenwich, Connecticut with her husband and two children. Breaking Dead, her debut novel, was the first in the journalist Sophie Kent series and was described by Glamour as ‘Gripping . . . crime with a side order of chic’ and by the Sun as ‘Original, amazingly written and tense’. You can find Corrie at her website corriejackson.com or on twitter @CorrieJacko.

The Cardinal’s Man – MG Sinclair

I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for M.G. Sinclair’s The Cardinal’s Man. Set in Cardinal Richelieu’s 17th-century France, this is a story about how great figures of history can pass by unnoticed. Those that have been born in the wrong body, sex or society at the wrong time; reminding us ‘that for every Archimedes of Shakespeare, there have been other seeds which have had the misfortune to fall on far stonier ground’.

Intrigued? Here’s an excerpt from the start of the book!

Escape
(1608 – 1632)

Sebastian Morra was born in Camoches, a village in the hinterlands of Normandy. Forty miles from Caen, it lay on an outcrop facing five thousand miles of open Atlantic, clinging to its spur like some barnacle to a whale. It was the ocean that brought the whiting, the bass, the mackerel, the bream and the crab. But it was also the ocean that brought the wind. A hard easterly that stung the eyes, that blew away the earth and left only sand and rock behind; that brought clouds and driving rain from September to June, an incessant wetness which made its way through every wall, roof and into the damp logs which sputtered in every fireplace. Dark and unrelenting months as the air tugged and squalled, wearing the people down as they protected their soil behind low walls, binding it as best they could with beans, beetroot and turnip, or else braved the water, with its currents and rip tides – moods that answered only to the earth and the sun.
The only release came with summer, both a blessing and a curse, a momentary respite from the scrabble and toil, a few weeks to revel, drink and forget. But always too brief and always with the same bitter ending, when the wind returned and the sodden cycle began all over again.
The village was a quarter of a mile from the shore, a straggle of no more than sixty dwellings, all in varying states of disrepair. Sebastian’s was no exception. Like its neighbours, it was walled with mud and stone. Timber was avoided, the fishermen knowing all too well how their boats suffered in the salt and the breeze. But while rock could resist the elements, whatever the mortar, the wind would pick it out, leaving the loose stones to crumble – particularly high up, near the thatch. And no matter how much his parents tried to repair the seaward side, they could never seal all the cracks or keep out the chill which followed every setting sun.
The inside was divided into two. One room for his parents. The other, larger, was used for everything else – a place to eat as well as a bedroom for him and his brothers at night. It was dark. The only light came through the open chimney and a door on the landward side, and Sebastian was to remember it more as a burrow than a home. A life of shadow. All of them packed together like a litter of newborns. Evenings spent crouched tight round the fire, with its familial stench of smoke and sweat that made its way into their clothes, skin and nose until everything they drank or tasted was overpowered by it.
Both his mother and father shared the local physiognomy, flat faces that had been ground to the nub, though it was there the similarity ended. His father was black-eyed, sullen and lean, dressed in his dark tunic, either away at sea or staring into the fire with a drink in his hand. She was the opposite. Blue-eyed, always around and busying herself in her dress and shawl, nudging and cajoling, a whirl of good humour and chat. They squabbled incessantly but seemed to fit each other’s absences well enough. She found comfort in his silence while he found sanctuary in her warmth. And each seemed content in their role, she taking care of the children, he fetching the water and catching the fish.
Sebastian was their first child, and as such, his birth was celebrated. However, by the age of three it was obvious something was wrong. While his chest was normal enough, his back, limbs and jaw remained of infantile proportions – the skull outlandish on his tiny body. Consequently, many of his earliest memories were of distorted faces: the expressions of horrified relatives, visitors flinching as they caught his eye, the stares of unfamiliar children peering round doorways.
Revolted, his father avoided him whenever possible. Instead the boy took sanctuary in his mother’s company. Pitying him, she swaddled him close, at first within the confines of the crib, and then when, aged five, he was able to escape it, she still kept him close to her skirts – safe from his two younger brothers Charles and Audrien who rampaged through the gloom, a pair of clumsy giants oblivious to his presence. And there he remained for his earliest years, secure in his orbit. A speck in infinite space, yet safely revolving around a single star.

The Cardinal’s Man is published by Black & White Publishing on 11th July.

Sebastian de Morra is born with as difficult start as one would care to imagine. A dwarf, born to a peasant family, he has only two things going for him – a first-class mind and a determination to find refuge from the sharp edges of the world.

Using his disadvantage to his advantage, he becomes a jester at the Parisian court entertaining the nobility. Making enemies easily, he also makes a powerful ally when one of history’s most notorious figures, his Red Eminence – the Cardinal Richelieu – requires his services. Under the Cardinal, he finds himself facing and even crossing swords with some of the greatest names of state, until his final task – an undertaking on which the entire future of his country depends.

The only child of two writers, M.G. Sinclair grew up in a world that revolved around literature. Breaking the family tradition, he rebelled and joined the corporate world, where he worked as a copywriter and marketing executive. However, unable to escape the inevitable, he has now completed his debut, a historical novel inspired by a trip to the Prado in Madrid.

author photo (C) Orlando Gili

The blog tour continues tomorrow…

Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough

Today on the blog I’ve got an extract from Sarah Pinborough’s masterful thriller, Behind Her Eyes.
behind-her-eyes-jpg

Much acclaimed all over social media towards the end of 2016, Behind Her Eyes is a beautifully written thriller which gradually winds you in, then smacks you about the chops with one of the most original and surprising endings I’ve ever read. The hashtag on twitter is #WTFthatending – entirely appropriate!

Without further ado, here’s a snippet from the chapter four.

~~~~~

LOUISE

No names, okay? No jobs. No dull life talk. Let’s talk about real
things.

‘You really said that?’
‘Yes. Well, no,’ I say. ‘He did.’
My face burns. It sounded romantic at four thirty in the afternoon two days ago with the first illicit afternoon Negroni, but now it’s like something from a cheap tragi-romcom. Thirty-four-year-old woman walks into a bar and is sweettalked by the man of her dreams who turns out to be her new boss. Oh God, I want to die from the awfulness of it all. What a mess.
‘Of course he did.’ Sophie laughs and immediately tries to stop herself. ‘No dull life talk. Like, oh, I don’t know, the small fact I’m married.’ She sees my face. ‘Sorry. I know it’s not technically funny, but it sort of is. And I know you’re out of practice with the whole men thing, but how could you not have known from that he was married? The new boss bit I’ll let you off with. That is simply bloody bad luck.’
‘It’s really not funny,’ I say, but I smile. ‘Anyway, married men are your forte, not mine.’
‘True.’
I knew Sophie would make me feel better. We are funny together. We laugh. She’s an actress by trade – although we never discuss how she hasn’t worked outside of two TV corpses in years – and, despite her affairs, has been married to a music exec for ever. We met at our NCT classes, and although our lives are very different, we bonded. Seven years on and we’re still drinking wine.
‘But now you’re like me,’ she says, with a cheery wink. ‘Sleeping with a married man. I feel less bad about myself already.’
‘I didn’t sleep with him. And I didn’t know he was married.’
That last part isn’t quite true. By the end of the night, I’d had a pretty good idea. The urgent press of his body against mine as we kissed, our heads spinning from gin. The sudden break away. The guilt in his eyes. The apology. I can’t do this. All the tells were there.
‘Okay, Snow White. I’m just excited that you nearly got laid. How long’s it been now?’
‘I really don’t want to think about that. Depressing me further won’t help with my current predicament,’ I say, before drinking more of my wine. I need another cigarette. Adam is tucked up and fast asleep and won’t move until breakfast and school. I can relax. He doesn’t have nightmares. He doesn’t sleepwalk. Thank God for small mercies.
‘And this is all Michaela’s fault anyway,’ I continue. ‘If she’d cancelled before I got there, none of this would have happened.’
Sophie’s got a point though. It’s been a long time since I’ve even flirted with a man, let alone got drunk and kissed one. Her life is different. Always surrounded by new and interesting people. Creative types who live more freely, drink until late, and live like teenagers. Being a single mum in London eking out a living as a psychiatrist’s part-time secretary doesn’t exactly give me a huge number of opportunities to throw caution to the wind and go out every night in the hope of meeting anyone, let alone ‘Mr Right’, and I can’t face Tinder or Match or any of those other sites. I’ve kind of got used to being on my own. Putting all that on hold for a while. A while that is turning into an inadvertent lifestyle choice.

~~~~

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough is out now, published by HarperFiction. You can find Sarah Pinborough on twitter @sarahpinborough.

Sarah Pinborough