Authors: Jo Carnegie
Tags: #Chick-Lit, #Contemporary, #Drama, #Fiction, #Love Stories, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Romance, #Women's Fiction
Clementine sighed again. She knew she was fighting a losing battle. ‘All right, you win. But I can’t say I’m happy about it.’
Clementine put the phone down and rubbed her forehead. They badly needed the money, but she couldn’t help feeling that they were dancing with the devil. No matter what anyone said, the village was going to be taken over, right at a time when everyone’s focus should be on the competition.
People’s heads are turned by glitz and glamour nowadays
, she thought.
What happened to community spirit and principles?
Distractedly she picked up her fountain pen, twirling it through her gnarled fingers. It was all happening so
; in a few weeks an entire film crew would be descending on Churchminster, bringing God knows what with them. The terms had been thrashed out and they were to film at various locations in and around the village, starting with a manor house called Braithwaite Hall on the outskirts, before moving on to Clanfield Hall. Clementine was rather surprised Frances Fraser had agreed to open her gates, but then Frances hadn’t seemed herself lately. On the few occasions they’d met round the village, Clementine had thought she’d been rather preoccupied.
There was a thundering down the stairs and Calypso materialized in the doorway. ‘So you’ve said yes? Old Davey-boy sounded as keen as mustard.’
‘Were you listening on the upstairs extension?’
Clementine indignantly. Calypso rolled her eyes.
‘Course I was! I was dying to know what you’d say. I knew you’d come round. It’s a great thing for Churchminster to get involved with. I know you don’t think it, Granny Clem, but it might even
us in the BBV competition. Add a string to our bow and all that.’
‘I don’t think there’s a “how many actresses can you spot on the village green” category,’ said Clementine wearily.
Calypso gave a snort of laughter. ‘That’s quite good, for you.’
Clementine resisted a smile as Calypso started to move round the room restlessly, picking up things and putting them down again. ‘You look like you need to get out of the house,’ Clementine told her.
‘If only,’ replied Calypso, as she moved on to rearranging ornaments on the top of the fireplace. ‘I’ve got to wait for a call from a client on the office line, my mobile reception is crap here.’
Clementine eyed her granddaughter. There was some sort of stain from lunch on the front of her string vest, and her hair looked like it hadn’t come into contact with a brush for a while. ‘Darling, are you sure you’re not working yourself too hard? You look a bit rundown.’
‘I’m cool, I just didn’t realize running your own business was such hard work. Though hopefully, if things keep going like this, I can take someone on next year.’
Calypso was normally the most sociable of her three
, but Clementine couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a night out.
‘Why don’t you go out? See some friends.’
Calypso shook her head. ‘I’m about business, not pleasure, these days. That extends to my love life as well. I might as well be a nun.’
‘I’d rather not know, thank you,’ said Clementine.
A phone started ringing upstairs.
‘Shit, that’ll be them!’ said Calypso, flying out the door. Clementine could hear pounding up the stairs again and the door to Calypso’s office slamming shut. Clementine winced as the house shuddered, but she didn’t really mind. She was awfully proud of what Calypso was achieving.
A few seconds later Clementine’s own phone started ringing. She reached over the desk and picked up the receiver. ‘Churchminster 498.’
The voice at the other end needed no introduction.
‘My dear Clementine,’ exclaimed Veronica Stockard-Manning. ‘How wonderful to hear you! After all these years.’
Clementine sat up straight in her chair. Veronica’s over-modulated tones seeped into her ear like treacle.
‘Family keeping well? I had to ring up and offer my congratulations, you’re in esteemed company, you know, getting through to the final of Britain’s Best Village!’
‘Quite,’ replied Clementine acidly.
‘I was rather surprised, I must admit. I hear the place has been left looking like Armageddon after the flooding. But still, it was nice of them. You know, the head
Marjorie Majors is a close friend of mine. Typical of old Marjorie to bestow charity where it’s needed.’
Clementine was in no mood to listen. ‘Was there anything in particular you wanted, Veronica?’
Veronica laughed. ‘Just a few friendly words of support! We’re all in this together.’
Clementine was about to end the conversation when Veronica stopped her dead in her tracks.
‘Of course, you’ll be really up against it with this film crew arriving. I would never have agreed to such a thing for Maplethorpe, although I suppose we aren’t as
as you for the money.’
Clementine couldn’t hide her astonishment. ‘How do you know about the film crew? It’s only just been agreed.’
Veronica laughed. ‘Oh, don’t expect me to reveal my sources. Let’s just say I heard it through the grapevine.’
If Veronica had expected Clementine to start begging to find out, she was wrong. ‘Goodbye, Veronica,’ she said.
‘Goodbye, my dear!’ said Veronica. ‘And good luck.’ She couldn’t resist a final put down. ‘You’re certainly going to need it.’
CAMILLA FLOPPED DOWN
in the Laura Ashley chair by the fireplace. Around her the little cottage sparkled and gleamed like a shiny new ten pence piece. She had spent the last three hours doing a thorough spring clean. All the cupboards in the kitchen had been scrubbed. Every window had been cleaned. Carpets had been Hoovered, wooden floors mopped and beams dusted. A scent of fresh pine and lemon wafted though the building like a blast of spring. With the help of Jed’s toolkit, Camilla had even mended the broken lock on the downstairs loo. She had always been the most practical of the three sisters.
Looking round, it was hard to believe that the room had ever been under six inches of water. The walls had dried out, and the tidemarks had been painted over. Camilla counted herself one of the lucky ones that only the living room, which was slightly lower than the rest of the downstairs, had been affected. Her mother, always an alarmist, had offered to stump
tens of thousands to have the whole cottage floodproofed, but to her surprise, Camilla had said no. Even Clementine had urged Camilla to take up her parents’ generous offer, but Camilla had explained she would feel uncomfortable, when everyone around her was struggling to cope. Especially as she was one of the least affected; it would be like rubbing people’s noses in it. Until a solution had been found for the whole village, Camilla was prepared to rely on sandbags and goodwill like the rest of them. Significantly, Clementine had backed down.
Normally a good bout of cleaning left her with a feeling of satisfaction, but Camilla was still fidgety. She reached over for her mobile and called her sister. Maybe Calypso fancied lunch in the Jolly Boot.
The phone went straight to voicemail. She was probably in a meeting with clients. Calypso had barely been at home since she’d started Scene Events, and so her famously messy ways had not unleashed themselves on the cottage much. Camilla wouldn’t have believed it, but she missed the ashtrays of overflowing fag butts, dirty plates, and fishnet tights hanging off the radiators.
She decided to call Jed instead, and was pleasantly surprised when he answered. Jed hated having a mobile and rarely took it out with him.
There was a lot of engine noise in the background and she could hear the ‘beep beep’ of a lorry reversing.
He had to shout to be heard. ‘Camilla? Are you all right?’
‘Yes, I’m fine!’ Camilla said. ‘How are you?’
‘Fine. Was there anything?’
‘I just wondered what you wanted for dinner tonight.’
‘I’m easy. You know I’ll eat anything you give me.’
‘How about some kind of chicken dish? I’ll use some of the herbs from the garden.’
‘Great! Look, I’ve to go …’
‘See you tonight. I love you.’
‘Love you too, Cam. See you later.’
Camilla put the receiver down happily. Jed was working so much at the moment, it was a treat to have him back for dinner at a reasonable time. She loved having a busy house, looking after people and feeding them with hearty home-cooked dinners. For a moment she envisaged their children sitting expectantly round the kitchen table, filling the room with their laughter and chatter while she stirred a big pot on the stove. They’d have little girls with blonde hair and a little boy with dark hair and green eyes, just like Jed. Maybe he’d take after his dad and go to work at Clanfield Hall. Camilla had a vision of father and son returning after a fulfilling day at work, dirty but happy …
She shook herself.
You’re getting carried away
. She’d only just come off the Pill, and things might not happen for a while. Her older sister Caro had taken ages to get pregnant with her first child, Milo. Camilla could already feel herself getting swept away with it, though, wondering, waiting …
Giving herself another shake, Camilla went to start on dinner.
The next day, as she drove back from another frustrating morning at Top Drawer Travels, Camilla’s good mood was somewhat dimmed. She had been doing some research of her own on South America, and had found what she thought would make a great new tour, but when she’d broached it to her boss, Mr Fitzgerald, he’d looked at her as if she was mad.
‘You stick to what you know, and I’ll do the same,’ he’d told her. ‘Be a good girl and stick the kettle on, will you?’
Camilla had gritted her teeth. She was beginning to feel more like a glorified dogsbody than a trainee travel agent. Hopefully things would start to pick up.
Her stomach rumbled. Camilla decided to stop at the shop and pick up something nice for lunch, maybe a piece of one of the home-made quiches Brenda had started selling recently. A local farmer’s wife made them; Camilla would never risk her teeth on Brenda’s famously rock-hard cuisine.
The upcoming film had made the front page of the
two days running.
‘RAFE TO RUN RIFE IN THE COTSWOLDS!’ said today’s headline on the board outside the shop.
The bell on the door tinkled as Camilla entered. Brenda popped up from behind the counter. ‘Afternoon!’
‘Hi, Brenda, how are you?’
Brenda slid a copy of the
across the counter. ‘’Ere, what do you think about this! Rafe Wolfe, in Churchminster! I never thought I’d live to see such a thing.’
Camilla looked at the front page, which had a picture of Rafe in a dinner jacket on a red carpet somewhere, looking extremely dashing. ‘Yes, it is exciting, isn’t it? I saw his last film at the cinema, it was awfully good.’
Brenda cackled. ‘I’ll say. Cor, if I was twenty years younger! I’m driving my Ted up the wall going on about it.’
The quiche was still warm in the brown paper bag as Camilla left the shop and made her way round the green to No. 5. It was a rather blustery day and Camilla saw an empty crisp packet flutter across the road. She went to pick it up.
A blacked-out Mercedes pulled up beside her. Camilla’s heart stopped. The passenger window slid down and Camilla leaned eagerly in the window. To her disappointment the glorious vision of Rafe Wolfe was not sitting there, but a rather bloated, raddled man with an outsized diamond stud in his left ear. He reminded Camilla of a downmarket Simon Le Bon.
‘Howdy. I’m Wes Prince.’ He had a strong transatlantic twang. ‘Director on
A Regency Playboy
‘Oh, hello!’ exclaimed Camilla. Wait until she told Calypso about this!
Wes flashed Colgate-white teeth. Even in the gloom of the car, Camilla could see he had rather orange-coloured skin. ‘Yeah, just got back from LA, and thought I’d come and do a recce. Nice little place you’ve got here. Can you recommend any good sushi joints or wheatgerm bars for lunch?’
Camilla pointed out the pub. ‘The Jolly Boot does delicious food. I’m sure they can find you a table.’
Wes flashed the teeth again. ‘We’ll give it a whirl. Ciao.’ The window slid up again and the car glided off down the road.
As Camilla let herself in through the front door of No. 5, she was surprised to see her sister’s handbag lying in the hall, its contents spilling everywhere. She called out. ‘Calypso, are you here?’
A voice sounded from the kitchen. ‘In here, Bills.’ ‘Bills’ was a nickname for Camilla her family and close friends used. The kitchen Camilla had left sparkling now had milk and sugar all over the surfaces, while breadcrumbs were scattered all over the table. Calypso looked up from her chair. ‘Came home for some tea and toast.’
Camilla’s maternal instinct kicked in. ‘You can’t just have that for lunch. I’ve got some home-made quiche here, would you like a piece?’
Calypso’s eyes lit up. ‘Wicked!’ Even though she was as slim as a rake, her appetite was legendary.
‘I’ll dig out some baked potatoes as well, and pop them in the microwave.’ Camilla put the quiche down on the side. ‘You’ll never guess who I’ve just seen!’