Book Excerpt – The School Run by Sophie King
After taking her children to school, Harriet reflects on the argument she had with her husband, Charlie, before he went away on a business trip …
It seemed almost impossible that two months had passed since that terrible evening when the phone had beeped in the bedroom while Charlie was showering and she had automatically pressed the open-message button in case it was something urgent from the office.
‘Thanks for last night.’ That was all. Followed by a row of Xs. No name.
As she had stood there, staring with disbelief at the screen, he had come out, a towel wrapped round his waist. Unable to speak, she had merely handed him the phone.
He glanced at it uninterestedly. ‘It’s not what you think.’ He looked at her straight in the eye, unblinking. ‘She’s just a girl in the office who’s a bit friendly. I helped her with a file last night and we’ve had the odd drink but that’s it.’
Harriet’s voice came out as someone else’s: ‘Charlie, she sent you a row of kisses.’
He snorted. ‘She’s a kid. They all do that. Stop making a fuss, Harry. And haven’t you got any more towels? This one’s wet.’
‘Sod the towel.’
‘So you don’t believe me?’
His eyes challenged her and she hesitated. Unlike her father, Charlie simply wasn’t the type to be unfaithful. He was too straight, sometimes too abrupt. But totally honest. They both were. She could never understand how people lived their lives in any other way. ‘Yes, I do believe you, but I think we need to talk.’
He turned round to slip on his pyjama bottoms and she suddenly realised, with a shock, that he didn’t want her to see him naked. ‘OK, if you want to talk, Harriet, we’ll talk. I haven’t been having an affair but if I had no one could blame me. You never show me any affection and it’s as though I come in at the end of your day like an appendage. As for sex – well, forget it. It hardly ever happens.’
Her chest tightened. ‘That’s because you’re tired and so am I. You don’t know how much time the children take up. And I never ask you to do bedtime or get up in the night when they wake.’
‘Harriet, I’ve got a job to do.’
She’d been scared then, really scared. ‘Don’t, Charlie, don’t say any more.’ She tried to put her arms round him but he pushed her away, then sat on the edge of the bed, looking up at her, his eyes hard and angry.’
‘Can you honestly say, Harriet, that you never wonder if there’s more to life than this?’
‘More to life than our children? What else is there?’
He stood up when she tried to sit next to him. ‘Exactly. That proves my point. Look, the office wants me to go to Dubai to handle the takeover. I was going to do it in several trips but I could stay there for the two months it’ll take. Let’s use it as thinking time. We’ll tell the kids it’s a business trip.’
‘You’ve got it all sorted, haven’t you?’ Harriet’s legs felt like water. She’d read about this happening. Seen it from a distance with other mothers at school. But no one had ever told her that it was like being run over or having your breath squeezed out of you while you felt violently sick. She glared at him. ‘I suppose this admirer of yours from the office will be there too?’
He shook his head. ‘No. And I told you. She meant nothing. She was just someone who showed me the kind of care and affection that you don’t.’
Book Excerpt – Love is a Secret by Sophie King
Magazine journalist Caroline is finding life tough since her husband had an affair …
Maybe, thought Caroline, studying Diana furtively as the editordissected the beauty editor’s ideas on non-surgical face lifts, it was easier not to be married. Diana was a single mum, an elegant, contented one. She had a younger boyfriend in advertisingwith whom she didn’t live, and a nine-year-old son at an expensive private day school in London. She was always impeccably groomed with her hair cut in a spiky black style, and her clothes were generally from East. She had enough empathy with her staff to understand when things went wrong – not that she knew anything about Roger – and enough grit to demand action when itwas needed.
Marriage would probably destroy her.
‘Right. Moving on to Parenting.’ Diana’s nails – French-manicured – drummed on the pad in front of her. ‘I want to get more relationship-y. This page is beginning to focus too much on the poor-little-me side of parenting. Don’t you think, Zelda?’
‘Depends how you see it, really.’ Zelda glanced nervously acrossthe pale beech conference table at Caroline. ‘Actually, we’ve got a great idea here. Are mums becoming selfish?’
Diana pursed her impeccably lined lips. ‘Exactly what I don’twant. Anyway, Just For You did something similar last month. I want to help readers get through the impossible stuff thathappens in their lives.’
‘Like bad sex,’ ventured the girl from Practicals. A titter ranround the table.
Caroline cleared her throat. ‘What about How to rewire yourdead marriage?’ The What Mums Know discussion topic – she’d spotted it after her laptop had unfrozen itself on the train – had ironic potential.
‘I fancy Infidelity,’ mused Diana.
Caroline’s mouth dried. ‘What angle were you thinking of?’
‘Did you see that new survey about marriage? No?’ Her eyesnarrowed with disapproval. ‘Pity. One in four couples who have experienced infidelity are now trying again to make their relationship work compared with one in seven five years ago. I want youto find me three case histories who’ll come clean. Yes, Zelda, identified with pics. Women who can say that their husband had an affair but are prepared to start again.’
‘Men, too?’ demanded Zelda, sharply.
‘If you can get one.’
‘I know this isn’t my area,’ drawled the beauty editor, ‘butnowadays that just doesn’t happen. My brother-in-law had an affair and my sister threw him out of the house before he could pack his iPad. Any self-respecting woman would do the same.’
‘Not according to the marriage expert quoted in the survey.’
Diana’s fingers were drumming again. ‘What do you think, Caroline?’
‘I think it’s going to be tough to find people who’ll be identified,’ she said quietly.
‘Try online.’ Diana tossed her hair dismissively. ‘Find someself-help group. All kinds of idiots want to be in print. I don’t need to tell you that. Pay them a hundred each. Two if you have to. There’s got to be someone out there who’ll talk.’
Caroline glanced at Zelda, whose face shone with unspokensympathy. Poor you. She didn’t know or she wouldn’t have suggested it. Are you all right?
Second Time Lucky by Sophie King
Ageing but feisty actress Molly de May still gets visits from her beloved husband, Gideon, even though this scene takes place at his funeral …
‘And by the way, Nigel, don’t think I’m moving. Because I’m not.’
‘Mother, what are you talking about?’
‘You know perfectly well!’
Her voice rose like a stage whisper; she was aware in a rather satisfying way that other guests (such a stupid word for funeral panderers) were staring now the service had finally finished. Nigel flushed a rather unattractive deep red, just as he used to as a child when caught out lying.
‘You’re advertising my home.’ She waved the paper in front of him again. ‘Thought you could sell it without telling me, didn’t you?’
‘Dad, you didn’t?’ Flora tugged at her father’s arm. ‘Let me see. But Gran, this says it’s a three-bedroom apartment. You’ve only got two bedrooms, haven’t you?’
‘Bloody hell,’ said Gideon, drawing on his cigar. ‘We got that wrong, didn’t we, Mollie?’
‘Let me look.’ She pulled the cutting out of her granddaughter’s hand. Elegant three-bedroom apartment . . . Whoops!
‘It’s all right, Mother.’ Nigel was patting her shoulder. ‘You’re upset. It’s understandable. Mistakes like this happen, especially with everything you’ve had to go through. Clearly, one of the other apartments in your block is for sale. Although – and I wasn’t going to talk about this until later – perhaps you should think about moving. Meanwhile, everyone’s waiting for us. Shall I tell them you’re not feeling up to it?’
Mollie pulled herself up to her full height. Think Lady Macbeth for courage, she told herself. The reviews some thirty years ago had been astounding. She still had the curled, yellow cuttings. ‘I’m perfectly up to it, thank you. Gideon expects it of me. And we most certainly are not going to discuss moving later on. There is nothing to discuss.’
Nigel patted her hand. ‘Of course I can’t sell your apartment over your head – it doesn’t belong to me. But you must admit that you can’t go on living in that place for ever on your own. You could have a fall. Anything could happen. You need people around you.’
‘But I do. I have your father. Don’t I, Gideon?’
‘Most certainly,’ said Gideon in her ear.
It was so good to hear his voice! ‘What’s it like on the other side?’ She’d asked him before but never got a satisfactory answer.
Gideon had always been good at that; lots of description but a clever knack of getting out of the practicalities of life. ‘Not that different really. I’ll tell you later.’
‘Gideon? Gideon? Where have you gone?’
She looked around wildly. Gideon had indeed disappeared. In fact, the entire church had emptied now, apart from Nigel and Flora, who were both regarding her with concern, and the bloody vicar hovering by the hymn books. Botheration. He was coming up now, his chin bobbing above his cassock. She couldn’t stand men who pretended that a few straggling hairs on the chin constituted a beard.
Whipping out the little gold compact case which Olivier had once given her, she pretended to attend to her face.
‘How are you feeling, Miss de May?’ The vicar’s face was twisted with sickly sympathy. ‘I do hope my sermon gave you a little crumb of comfort?’
‘Flora.’ She snapped the compact shut and turned to her granddaughter. Another advantage of being old was that you really could be extraordinarily rude and no one sent you to bed without supper. ‘Will you come with me to the hotel, dear? I’m absolutely gasping for a stiff G and T!’
Sophie King is the author of six novels and a collection of short stories about families, friends and lovers. Her first novel, The School Run, was a bestseller when first published in 2005, and it was a bestseller for the second time when republished by Corazon Books in 2012. Sophie also supports new romance writing through her annual writing competition The Sophie King Prize.
In between novels, Sophie writes short stories and has had hundreds published in magazines. She also gives regular talks/workshops at bookshops and literary festivals. For three years, she was writer in residence at HMP Grendon, a high-security male prison. Sophie lives by the sea, in Devon, England. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association; Women in Journalism; the Society of Women Writers and Journalists and the National Union of Journalists.
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Buy the Books!
The School Run: www.amazon.com/The-School-Run-Sophie-King-ebook/dp/B0090R7NUY/
Falling in Love Again: www.amazon.com/Falling-previously-published-Divorce-Beginners-ebook/dp/B00AR1EIYG/
Love is a Secret: www.amazon.com/Love-Secret-previously-published-Mums-ebook/dp/B00CNTMIR4/
Second Time Lucky: www.amazon.com/Second-Time-Lucky-Sophie-King-ebook/dp/B00FI33CR2/