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Authors: Giovanna Fletcher

Billy and Me

BOOK: Billy and Me
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Billy and Me
Giovanna Fletcher
Penguin Books Ltd (2013)
Rating:
****

Billy and Me
is a gorgeously romantic debut novel about the redemptive power of love by actress, journalist and blogger Giovanna Fletcher.

Sophie May has a secret.

One that she's successfully kept for years. It's meant that she's had to give up her dreams of going to university and travelling the world to stay in her little village, living with her mum and working in the local teashop.

But then she meets the gorgeous Billy - an actor with ambitions to make it to the top. And when they fall in love, Sophie is whisked away from the comfort of her life into Billy's glamorous - but ruthless - world.

Their relationship throws Sophie right into the spotlight after years of shying away from attention. Can she handle the constant scrutiny that comes with being with Billy? And most of all, is she ready for her secret heartbreak to be discovered and shared with the nation?

Charming, heartwarming and utterly romantic,
Billy and Me
will completely capture your heart.

Praise for
Billy and Me
:

'A gorgeous, gloriously romantic read with buckets of charm - I absolutely loved it!' Jill Mansell

'A sweet and sparkling debut from a lovely lady. Sure to be a hit' Carole Matthews

'Only the most hard-hearted could fail to root for Sophie as she falls for A-lister Billy and must take on the mad, bad world of showbiz. This sweet debut reminded me of
Last Night at Chateau Marmont'
Louise Candlish

'Wonderfully warm & cosy. The perfect comfort read to curl-up with and enjoy' Ali McNamara

'If you're looking for a romantic read and a summer treat that'll take you on a journey and leave you feeling like you've made a new friend, you'll love
Billy and Me'
Vanessa Greene

Actress and freelance journalist, Giovanna is married to Tom Fletcher from McFly. She grew up in Essex with her Italian dad Mario, mum Kim, big sister Giorgina and little brother Mario, and spent most of her childhood talking to herself (it seems no one wanted to listen) or reading books. Giovanna is a firm believer in the power of magpies and positive energy. To see what makes Giovanna smile, view her blog at www.giovannasworld.com or her Twitter page @mrsgifletcher.

Review

A gorgeous, gloriously romantic read with buckets of charm - I absolutely loved it! -- Jill Mansell A sweet and sparkling debut from a lovely lady. Sure to be a hit. -- Carole Matthews Only the most hard-hearted could fail to root for Sophie as she falls for A-lister Billy and must take on the mad, bad world of showbiz. This sweet debut reminded me of Last Night at Chateau Marmont -- Louise Candlish Wonderfully warm & cosy. The perfect comfort read to curl-up with and enjoy -- Ali McNamara

About the Author

Actress and freelance journalist, Giovanna is married to Tom Fletcher from McFly. She grew up in Essex with her Italian dad Mario, mum Kim, big sister Giorgina and little brother Mario, and spent most of her childhood talking to herself (it seems no one wanted to listen) or reading books. Giovanna is a firm believer in the power of magpies and positive energy. To see what makes Giovanna smile, view her blog at www.giovannasworld.com or her Twitter page @mrsgifletcher.

Giovanna Fletcher
 
BILLY AND ME

To Tom, for being my best friend, for believing in me and encouraging me to write, and for making me laugh until I snort

Me

When I was four years old, all I ever wanted was to have a weeing Tiny Tears doll. I’d never been into dolls really, but when my best friend was given one for her birthday I decided that a doll that cries actual tears and wets itself was exactly what my life lacked. After hassling my parents for a few weeks they eventually caved in – although, if I’m honest, it captured my attention for about a week and then the poor thing was left in a puddle of her own mess (oops!). I have no idea what became of her, but I’m guessing my mum sold her at a car boot sale or something similar.

When I was eight years old all I ever wanted was to appear on
Live and Kicking
and dance with Mr Blobby. There was something about that big dopey pink and yellow spotted blob that had me entranced for hours. Sadly, my desire never came true – but I still hold my Mr Blobby cuddly toy as one of my most treasured possessions and he happily accompanies me to bed every night (despite his missing eye).

When I was ten years old all I ever wanted was to be a Spice Girl. I used to drive my mum and dad crazy, running around the house, shouting out the lyrics to
Wannabe
whilst performing a little dance routine I’d made up. I was constantly putting my hand on my hip and swinging it out to the side, making a peace sign with my other hand and shouting ‘Girl power!’ as loud as I could. I loved them so much that I even named my goldfish Ginger after
Geri – my favourite Spice. I was devastated when she decided to leave. The Spice Girls with no Ginger just wasn’t the same, and so my passion to become one of them simply ended (after crying my eyes out for hours, of course).

At some point that extrovert little girl who used to sing to anyone who would listen and dance without a care in the world, became painfully shy and bashful. I suddenly became less confident at school and around other people – preferring the company of a good book to an actual human. It’s bizarre how everything changed; at primary school I was the girl everyone wanted to befriend, but by secondary school I had become awkward and tried my best to avoid everyone. I hated attention, people asking me questions or putting me in the spotlight; I preferred to blend into the background unnoticed. I felt safer that way. On the odd occasion that anyone would attempt to hold eye contact with me I’d usually end up shaking like a leaf or turning bright red, causing me to stare at the floor for the rest of the day. Actually, I did have one friend, Mary Lance, who was equally as socially inept as I was. I say we were friends – but in reality we hardly ever talked to each other, so I guess she was more like a silent partner. It was just nice to have someone by my side at lunchtimes or in class, someone who wouldn’t pry into my life. I think we took comfort in the fact that we weren’t alone.

At the end of my A levels, when the rest of my year had either secured a place at university (Mary went off to study dentistry at Sheffield) or planned to take a gap year so that they could travel the world, I was still unsure of what I wanted from life. I decided to join those taking a gap year, although not to travel. Wandering aimlessly around the globe and experiencing what the world had to offer did have its appeal, but I just wasn’t quite ready to leave
my home or my mum at that point. I was simply going to stay in my home village of Rosefont Hill, deep in the Kent countryside, and get a little job to tide me over until I decided what I wanted to do with my days.

I started my job hunt by dropping off my CV in the village shops – there weren’t and aren’t that many to target. We have a bank, a library, a post office, Budgens, a florist, a few clothes shops, a hardware store, a café and a teashop … hardly the most riveting high street ever! The last place I entered was Tea-on-the-Hill, perched on the hill’s peak, with great views over the rest of the village.

As I entered the teashop, my eyes wandered over the seven tables covered in mismatched floral print tablecloths, each surrounded by two or three chairs – all different shapes and designs. The cups, saucers and teapots being used by the customers were also contrasting in their patterns. Absolutely nothing matched, but bizarrely it all fitted together perfectly. The smell of freshly baked scones filled my nostrils and 1950s jazz played softly in the background. I was staring at a secret little den for women – why had I never been in here before?

Flying around the room was a woman who I guessed was in her sixties. Her grey hair was set in a big rollered quiff at the front, with the rest of her curls held in underneath a net. I watched her dart between customers – taking orders, bringing out food and stopping briefly for a little natter here and there. She continued to keep a calm smile on her face, even though it was clear that she was running the shop alone.

I stood at the counter and waited for her to come over, which she eventually did whilst wiping her hands dry on her pink floral apron, which covered a glamorous light blue dress underneath.

‘Hello there, dearie. Sorry about the wait. What can I get you?’ she asked, with a broad smile and kind blue eyes.

In the previous shops I’d walked into I had just wanted to throw my CV into the manager’s hands and then bolt for the door, instantly feeling uncomfortable as panic started to consume me, but there was something about this woman that had me rooted to the spot. I even held her eye contact for a few brief moments and almost felt comfortable doing so.

‘Actually, I came to drop off my CV,’ I said, as I fumbled through my bag and pulled out a freshly printed one. The lady took it from my hands and casually glanced over it.

‘Have you ever worked in a shop before?’ she asked, squinting at the paper.

‘Yes, a florist’s,’ I said quietly.

‘So you already know how to greet customers with a friendly smile?’

I nodded politely as I felt her scrutinize me from head to toe, the smile still plastered on her heavily wrinkled face.

Perhaps I should have told her at this point that I’d spent most of my time there washing dirty buckets in the back room out of sight and not with the customers at all; but before I could speak up she’d moved on.

‘How many hours are you looking for?’ she asked.

I hadn’t thought this far ahead, but one glimpse around the room told me that I’d gladly spend a lot of time here. ‘As many as you can give me.’

‘And – one last thing – do you like cake?’

‘I love it,’ I said, giving her a nervous smile.

‘Good to hear! You’re hired. You’ve come in at a very good
time actually, my last waitress unexpectedly quit yesterday – with no explanation!’

‘Really?’

‘Sadly, yes … although she was a grumpy chops so I’m not too bothered. I’m Molly, by the way.’

‘I’m Sophie.’ I offered my hand for her to shake but she looked at the hand, grabbed it and pulled me in for a warm hug instead. I can remember actually gasping at the intimacy, as it wasn’t something I was used to. At first I felt rigid and stiff but once the shock had subsided it became strangely calming and pleasant.

‘Now, do you have any plans for the rest of the day?’ she asked softly, releasing me from her embrace.

I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders.

‘Great, let’s class this as your first day, then.’ She slid a tray with a pot of tea and a cup and saucer in my direction. ‘Go take that to Mrs Williams, the lady in the cream blouse with the purple rinse to the left – the one with her nose buried in
Bella
. I’ll go dig you out an apron.’

Picking up the tray I made my way over to Mrs Williams and carefully placed the pot of boiling tea in front of her. She lowered her magazine and peered up at me over the top of her glasses; I instantly recognized her from out and about in the village.

‘You’re new here,’ she stated.

‘Yes, I’ve just started. Literally.’

‘You live in Willows Mews, don’t you? Your mum’s that lovely lady at the library.’

‘That’s right,’ I nodded, shyly.

‘Aw, she’s ever so kind – always helps me take my books
home. I’ve got greedy eyes when it comes to books, you see!’ She let out a childlike chuckle and screwed her eyes shut. ‘Send her my love then, won’t you, darling,’ she said, whilst pouring out a cup of tea and stirring in two sugars.

‘Will do, Mrs Williams,’ I said, as I walked back to Molly at the counter.

‘You’re Jane May’s daughter?’ Molly asked.

‘That’s right,’ I said, with a slight nod.

‘I thought so. Well if you’re anything like her then I’m lucky to have you on board,’ she said with a kind smile as she held out her hand and gave me an apron.

My first day working in the teashop whizzed by in a blur – there was one hairy moment when a plate managed to slip out of my hand, fly through the air and smash rather loudly into a billion pieces, causing me to blub dramatically – but other than that it went quite smoothly.

My gap year flew by before I’d even had a chance to think about what I wanted to do next, and so I extended it to two years … then three years … then four, until I suddenly realized that I had no desire to go to university at all; I was happy where I was, and am still just as happy eight years later.

Although I’d started as a waitress, Molly put a lot of faith in me and taught me all she knew about baking cakes and service with a smile. Every day we bake fresh scones, muffins and cakes, and experiment with new recipes, whilst putting the world to rights. At sixty-six years old Molly is continually being told by her doctor that she should be slowing down and starting to take things easy – but she’s not one to listen.

I didn’t just find a passion and career path when I stumbled
upon Tea-on-the-Hill that day; I also found a best friend. Looking back now, I know Molly had an inkling of who I was as soon as I walked into the shop. I also believe that, knowing who I was, there was no way she would turn me away without helping me, because it’s in her nature to help those in need of healing; and I certainly needed some of that.

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