Authors: Jane Costello
Tags: #Fiction, #General
Also by Jane Costello
My Single Friend
First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2011
A CBS COMPANY
Copyright © Jane Costello, 2011
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
® and © 1997 Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved.
The right of Jane Costello to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
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Simon & Schuster Australia
A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library
eBook ISBN: 978-1-84983-270-0
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real people, living or dead, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.
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Printed in the UK by CPI Cox & Wyman, Reading, Berkshire RG1 8EX
This book is dedicated to my friend Debbie Johnson
Thanks for everything, Debbie . . .
I’m sure you know why
I can never say thank you enough to the fantastic people who’ve worked behind the scenes on my books and played such a huge part in their success.
My agent Darley Anderson’s wisdom and support remain as invaluable today as when we first met – and for that I’m grateful to both him and his team, especially Maddie Buston and Kasia Thompson.
My friends at Simon & Schuster have, as ever, been an utter joy to work with, and I’d like to say a special thanks to Suzanne Baboneau and Libby Yevtushenko for the enthusiasm and tender loving care they continue to lavish on my books. I’m so grateful to you both.
I needed some technical guidance on aspects of
Girl on the Run
and owe a great deal to Phil Wolstenholme (a.k.a. Dad) for helping to shape my heroine Abby’s business affairs, as well as Richard Price for his knowledge of multiple sclerosis.
During the writing of
Girl on the Run
a series of events took place in my life that underlined several important truths for me, the greatest of which was the value of family and friends.
My parents have shown more love and support than I ever could have asked for and I’d like to thank both them and my children, Otis and Lucas, who grow simply more gorgeous by the day.
I have been lucky enough in the last year and a bit to be surrounded by friends – mainly women – with endless supplies of loyalty, patience, strength and good humour. In all sincerity, I don’t know what I’d have done without them.
For that reason, I’d like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Alison Bellamy, Emma Blackman, Debbie Johnson, Nina Owens, Rachael Tinniswood, Rachael Bampton-Smith, Cath O’Grady, Madeleine Little, members of the Friday Night Book Club and the scores of others with whom I’ve talked, laughed and shared a glass or two (ahem) of wine. You’re all amazing – and I’ll never forget it.
I live in fear of a four-letter word. One that pings through my brain almost constantly, teasing and tormenting me with the fact that, sooner or later, it’ll trip me up.
. As in, I’m going to be. Often catastrophically.
Okay, so the consequences have yet to be catastrophic, but it’s become inevitable, since lateness and I flirt with each other with scandalous frequency these days.
In the meantime, I stumble to presentations in the nick of time, sticky-browed and apologetic, realising as my cheeks flame to the shade of a well-hung salami that I’ve forgotten something. Such as a memory stick, or hand-outs, or . . .
Oh God, my knickers. Fortunately, I realised my error midway down the path this morning and raced to the house to start again.
But on days like this, when impossible scheduling means I drive to my next appointment as if on the run from the law, I can’t help but despair.
The frantic, twenty-minute journey has mirrored my day as a whole – a multi-tasking hell in which I’ve combined driving with several other feats: draining my phone’s battery on approximately seven calls, applying concealer to my bruised under-eyes and eating lunch. I use the word in its loosest sense, given that my anaemic fries and limp burger merely teeter on the verge of being edible.
I take a final bite and discard the burger’s remains on the passenger seat as I glance at the clock and register that it’s 3.45 p.m. In an attempt to distract myself from my wild palpitations, I instead focus on my presentation. I’ve memorised the first three lines, as instructed on the public-speaking course I did last year.
‘Ladies and GENTLEMEN.’ I grip my steering-wheel and smile demonically – the tutor insisted anything less enthusiastic would give off the wrong vibes. ‘A VERY good morning to you ALL.’
Brilliant start, Abby. Bloody convincing entrepreneur you are.
It’s a term at which I still cringe. As if I think someone like me – aged twenty-eight and still fumbling through the business world a year and a half after starting out – is in the same category as Richard Branson.
I may own my own company; I may possess business cards with the words
on them, but I doubt I’m fooling anyone. I couldn’t be a less convincing tycoon if my name was Miss Piggy.
‘I’M Abigail Rogers and TODAY I’m going to tell YOU about what River Web Design can do for YOU.’
That’s got to be too many vocal inflections. I know the tutor said to emphasise three words a paragraph, but I sound like
I often wonder if I’ll ever feel comfortable with the idea of being the boss. When I joined a big firm straight out of college, it wasn’t something to which I’d aspired. And I enjoyed my last job, so I can’t say I was driven to do this by a swine of a manager or vile clients who didn’t appreciate me.
On the contrary, it was hearing that I was good at what I did – and one too many episodes of
– that planted the grain of an idea which eventually made me take the plunge. I’ll only feel qualified to say whether it was the right decision in another year’s time. Or ten.
‘River Web Design is a small but HIGHLY PROFESSIONAL team of four. We pride ourselves on our CREATIVITY’ (strategically-placed pause), ‘our DILIGENCE’ (ditto) ‘and our ability to understand what clients and consumers REALLY WANT.’
Cue another demented grin.
I spend a ridiculous amount of time in my car these days; a fact which only mildly justifies the obscene amount of money I paid an insurance company to renew my policy yesterday.
I’ve been particularly unlucky on the automotive front in the last year; one scrape against a BMW while negotiating a supermarket place and another at a mini-roundabout with an articulated lorry has left me with the sort of premium they charge to insure a Lear Jet.
The lights change and I glance at my map, cursing the fact that I left my sat-nav in the office. I slow down and peer at a sign on the left, my heart flipping as a driver toots his horn.
‘Shit!’ I’ve taken a wrong turn.
I slam my foot on the accelerator, scanning my surroundings for somewhere to turn. With a convoy of exasperated drivers behind, I dart along a narrow road between two buildings and find myself in a small, tightly packed car park. I whisk round the steering wheel to begin a three-point turn.
Glancing at the clock, I pause momentarily to stuff a handful of fries in my mouth and wash them down with Coke. I slam the drink into the holder, throw the car into reverse and hit the pedal as I swallow my food and begin again.
‘Good AFTERNOON, ladies and gentlemen, and WELCO—’
The thud reverberates through my car as it stops suddenly, throwing me forward with a whiplash-inducing jolt. Panic races through my veins and I look down to see Coke glugging over the handbrake. Breathless and shaking, I turn to look out of the rear window.
But I can’t see anything except the concrete wall of the council building at least ten feet away. I must’ve hit a bollard. Oh, thank God – I’ve only hit a bollard!
I’m trembling when I prise open my car door. Then I see it.
It takes a second to register the hand with its immobile fingers, curled lifelessly next to my tyre. A gasp escapes from my lips and I find it difficult to breathe.
I don’t believe it. Have I killed someone? Have I actually gone and killed someone?
Oh. My. God.
I leap from the car and race round to the back as my heart, stomach and other vital organs go into meltdown. My victim is sprawled on his back, his helmet several feet away. The motorcycle lies on his muscular thighs, its dark blue paint glistening in the early July sunshine.
I bend to touch his hand and find it still warm. It’s a beautiful hand, big and strong, with tanned skin, scuffed around the knuckle. It strikes me how young it is. How, because of me, this hand won’t grow old and arthritic as it rightfully should.
‘I’m sorry,’ I whimper. ‘So very, very sorry.’ My eyes are heavy with tears as I attempt to think straight. I stand and scan the car park, but nobody’s around, only the sound of traffic tearing through the adjacent street. I sprint to my open door and reach for my handbag, in which I frantically locate my mobile. I hit 999 and press Call . . . when the battery dies.