Authors: Linda Huber
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Copyright © 2016 Linda Huber
The right of Linda Huber to be identified as the Author of this
Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright Designs and
Patents Act 1988.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this
publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form, or by
any means, with the prior permission in writing of the author.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any
resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
About the Author
Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, where she trained
as a physiotherapist. She spent ten years working with neurological patients,
firstly in Glasgow and then in Switzerland. During this time she learned that
different people have different ways of dealing with stress in their lives, and
this knowledge still helps her today, in her writing.
Linda now lives in Arbon, Switzerland, where she works as a
language teacher on the banks of beautiful Lake Constance.
is her fourth novel.
Visit Linda at
Follow her on Twitter
Also by Linda Huber
The Paradise Trees
The Cold Cold Sea
The Attic Room
Very special thanks yet again to my editor Debi Alper. Her
help and encouragement with this book were, as always, invaluable. Thanks also
to Julia Gibbs and Yvonne Betancourt for their proofreading and formatting
skills, and to Debbie Bright of The Cover Collection for the amazing cover artwork.
Many thanks to my sons Matthias and Pascal Huber and my
nephew Calum Rodger for technical help and information, and to Pascal for his
work on my website and book trailers. Thanks, guys – couldn’t manage without
Special thanks go to Eileen Shannon. A chance conversation
with her at a wedding gave me the original idea for this book. I still have the
paper serviette with scribbled information.
Yet more thanks to Di Napier, for information and advice on
garden plants, and to Bea Davenport for her help with the blurb.
And to the many, many people who have helped and supported me
in so many ways, with this book and my others, both in real life and on social
media – thank you SO much!
Information about adoption and adoption parties (adoption
activity days) in the UK can be found at
To Anne, Evelyn, Ann, Fiona and Hilary
Saturday 3rd May
Ella held her breath, squinting at Rick as he inched the Peugeot
into the narrow space between a battered Clio and a shiny new BMW. He was
nervous – of course he was, she was too – and it didn’t make the manoeuvre any
easier. The Peugeot crept forward until Rick yanked the handbrake up, and
Ella’s shoulders sagged in relief. A scrape on anyone’s car would have been the
worst possible start to their first adoption party.
‘I’ll need to get out your side,’ said Rick, glaring at the
Clio. ‘What a cattle market. I can’t believe we’re doing this – we’d be much
better waiting for Liz to find us a kid the traditional way.’
Ella opened the passenger seat door. Rick was a planner;
he’d never been the kind of person to simply have a go and see how things
turned out. She tried to sound encouraging. ‘Liz said these parties were a
great place for people to find a child they were – attracted to.’
It was the wrong choice of words.
‘I don’t want to be attracted. You don’t get to pick out an
attractive baby when you have one of your own, do you? I don’t care if he’s
blonde like you or dark like me, or whatever. All I want is a nice little kid –
a boy, preferably, one we can give a good home to and enjoy as he grows up.’ He
struggled across the passenger seat and emerged beside Ella in the car park,
crammed today with a motley selection of vehicles, including a tandem. People
attending adoption parties seemed to be a varied lot.
Ella took Rick’s arm as they walked towards the entrance.
The Majestic was the largest hotel in St Ives, a relic from a slower, more
elegant era, its white walls dazzling in the warm spring sunshine. She was
conscious of the nervous churning in her stomach – this was the first time they
would come face to face with children who were up for adoption. It was the
dream of a lifetime for Ella – how very much she wanted to read bedtime stories
and mop up tears and be frustrated because they couldn’t find a babysitter. And
this afternoon could bring them a huge step closer to doing just that. As of
last Thursday, they were panel-approved to adopt, so ‘all’ they needed now was
Ella was astonished when she learned about the adoption
party project. It sounded so lightheaded, like going to a salesroom and picking
out a new car.
Liz, their adoption society worker, had explained. ‘It’s
organised as a fun afternoon for the kids, with loads of games and activities.
People who’re panel-approved can meet the children in an informal setting.
There’ve been several successful events around London, though this one’s the
first in our part of the country.’
Ella wasn’t sure she’d understood. ‘So we have a look and
see if there’s a child that might suit us?’
‘It can make a difference when you see a child in person.
I’ve known several instances of a couple saying beforehand they’d only consider
a baby, or they must have a girl – and then they go to a party and fall in love
with a completely different child. Of course you still need to go through all
the normal channels afterwards.’
‘Sounds a bit plastic to me,’ said Rick, and Ella knew by
his tone if he hadn’t respected Liz so much he’d have called the idea something
a lot worse than plastic.
And now it was party day and Rick was showing his nerves, so
Ella had to be the calm one. She took a deep, steadying breath as they joined
the other prospective adopters in the dining room. A woman name-badged Kirsty
stood up and went on to tell them everything Liz had already gone through. Ella
could feel Rick twitching beside her. Why was this so hard for him? It wasn’t
as if they had to make a decision today.
‘And of course, the most important thing about this
afternoon is that the children have fun. So on you go and have fun with them,’
said Kirsty, gathering her papers at the end of her talk. ‘The foster carers
will be available for questions, and this room can be used if anyone wants a
Ella squeezed Rick’s hand as they joined the general shuffle
towards the door. This was it. The search for their child had begun. The sound
of excited young voices floated across the garden, and anticipation fizzed
through Ella. Any second now they might come face to face with the little boy
who’d be their son.
‘It’s well organised, isn’t it?’ Her eyes flitted across the
garden, where a bouncy castle, a couple of donkeys, and a clown were already in
action. A marquee with games was set up to one side, and the smell of coffee
came wafting over the grass.
‘Hm. So we find a kid and start talking?’ said Rick, and
Ella gave his arm a shake.
‘Yes – and give it a proper chance, please,’ she said
Rick shot her a hunted look, and Ella felt the tension
creeping back into her shoulders. She fought against rising resentment. This was
supposed to be a fun day and she wanted to enjoy it. But if Rick went on like
this he would ruin it for both of them.
After a few minutes the procession of adults dispersed
around the garden, and the children became more visible. Some were clinging to
foster carers, more were playing independently. A lump rose in Ella’s throat –
all these children needed a forever home, and all these ‘parents’ wanted a
child. Surely some of them would find what they were looking for.
They stopped by a dark-haired boy of about three and Ella
crouched down. ‘Having a good time?’ she asked, patting the plastic tractor the
child was riding.
‘I’m a farmer,’ said the boy, whose name badge identified
him as Joey. He pedalled his tractor over the grass, and Ella smiled as he swung
it round and parked beside Rick. This little boy was just what they were
looking for – could they have struck gold already?
A woman with a foster carer’s badge appeared and handed the
child an ice cream.
Ella stepped across and spoke in a low voice. ‘Has Joey been
with you long?’
‘Eighteen months,’ said the woman, taking Ella a few steps
to the side. ‘Lovely kiddie. He has epilepsy but it’s well-controlled.’ She
turned to smile at another couple who were hovering.
‘Oh,’ said Rick blankly when Ella told him what Joey’s
foster carer had said. ‘I’d wondered if we might consider him, but now – no
way. I wouldn’t cope with that.’
Ella nodded. Rick had said right from the start that he
didn’t want a child with a disability, and she’d accepted it.
They stood for a while with a group watching the clown, then
moved inside the marquee to help two small boys build a tower with wooden
bricks. Disappointment and frustration were gnawing away inside Ella. She’d
been imagining the equivalent of love at first sight bowling both her and Rick
over – that they would see a child and know immediately ‘that’s the one’. And
it wasn’t happening. The little boys jumped up and down on the wooden marquee
floor, and the tower swayed elegantly before crashing to the ground amid shrieks
Rick was grinning too as they turned away. ‘Fun, but not
quite what we’re looking for.’ He pulled her towards the queue for coffee.