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Authors: Gabrielle Mullarkey

Tags: #lovers, #chick-lit, #love story, #romantic fiction, #Friends, #Contemporary Romance

Hush Hush

BOOK: Hush Hush
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Hush Hush

Gabrielle Mullarkey

Copyright © Gabrielle Mullarkey 1999, 2014

This
edition first published by Corazon Books 2014
(Wyndham Media
Ltd)
27, Old Gloucester Street, London WC1N
3AX
www.greatstorieswithheart.com

First
published 1999

The
author has asserted her right to be identified as the author of this
work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

This
book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, organisations and
events are a product of the author’s imagination and any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, organisations and
events is purely coincidental.

All rights reserved. This ebook is
licensed for the enjoyment of the purchaser only. To share this ebook
you must purchase an additional copy per recipient. No part of this
publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic, mechanical, or otherwise, without the prior
permission of the publisher.

Also by Gabrielle Mullarkey

Coming in spring 2015

A
Tale of Two Sisters

Keep
up to date with Gabrielle by reading her blog at
www.gabriellemullarkey.co.uk

Contents

Chapter
One

Chapter
Two

Chapter
Three

Chapter
Four

Chapter
Five

Chapter
Six

Chapter
Seven

Chapter
Eight

Chapter
Nine

Chapter
Ten

Chapter
Eleven

Chapter
Twelve

Preview:
Do You Take This Man?

Preview:
The Property of a Gentleman

Preview:
Lily

s
Daughter

Chapter One


Who is it?’ called
Angela, teabag poised over cup.


It’s
me!’ yelled Rachel through the letterbox.

When
are you getting your doorbell fixed?’

Angela poked her
head out of the kitchen and into the hallway. Rachel’s pursed
lips were framed on a canvas of blue air beyond the raised letterbox.


Hang on,
Rache, I’m coming. You’re gusting in a freezing draught.’

Rachel hurried in,
making exaggerated

brrh!’
noises. She was wearing a cream cashmere coat, a soft woollen scarf
in rich baroque colours slung with casual care over both shoulders.

Since Robert’s
death, Angela had found Rachel’s friendship both a tonic and a
trial. Woman to woman, Rachel was sensitive to Angela’s loss.
But all her adult life, she herself had been resolutely single, with
no discernible need for permanent male companionship.

Robert had only been
gone a year and a bit. But one day soon, Angela half-feared, Rachel
would launch a rearguard action, employing phrases like

It’s
time to move on’ or even

Mothball
those widow’s weeds, Ange! I know a bloke who’s dying to
meet you.’

They’d been
friends since meeting at school, loosely united by the local mark of
Cain

Catholicism

at Wilmesbury girls’ grammar, where black or Asian pupils were
an exotic rarity, let alone Papists. Rachel’s parents were
posh, English Catholics, Angela’s the less historically
fortunate Irish immigrant variety. Even among Rachel’s family,
Angela had felt like an interloper.


How’s
it going?’ asked Rachel in the kitchen, unwinding her scarf.

Having
a stick-your-head-in-the-oven sort of week, or a
mustn’t-grumble-could-be-worse sort of week?’ She knew
Angela well.


Somewhere in
between,’ admitted Angela.

Mum’s
been on at me to smarten up my act and go back to work.’


Well,’
began Rachel carefully,

why
don’t you? I’m not suggesting you brave the fleshpots of
London just yet. But how about temping locally?’

Angela slurped her
tea.
‘Work-wise,
I feel a bit rusty after four years out of the rat race.


You never
forget. It’s like riding a bike. Or sex.’

Hastily, Angela
changed the subject.

I
was hoping you’d come round to requisition me for mini-market
duties. I could make a few quiches or wotnot.’

Each March, the
church held a fête-cum-rummage-sale in the playground of the RC
primary school, to raise money for CAFOD. Rachel had long been a
stalwart stall-runner, organising a second-hand clothes stall with
the same ease and dedication she applied to her job as an
occupational therapist at Wilmesbury General Hospital.

Angela’s
mini-market role had always been peripheral. She guessed cake weights
and bought bric-a-brac in the belief it was as blessed to spend as to
get stuck in. Buying stuff at Rachel’s stall was always a
genuine pleasure. Many of the cast-offs came from Rachel’s own
wardrobe, which was infinitely superior to Angela’s.


Hands-on help
is always appreciated,’ smiled Rachel noncommittally.

Don’t
slog your guts out making quiches, Ange. After the year you’ve
had, no one expects


‘…
the
Spanish Inquisition,’ muttered Angela, slumping inwardly. She
was thinking of her mother

again. She couldn’t help it.

Mother and daughter
were still recovering from the ordeal of Christmas Day, spent at
Sadie’s. Angela had cried a lot. It was her first Christmas
without Robert. Sadie had been alternately soothing and helpless.
During Angela’s worst blubfest, post-sherry and pre-Queen’s
speech, Sadie had worn the look of a rabbit trapped in car
headlights, albeit a rabbit wearing a star-spangled paper crown.


A
nyway,
I’m off,’ announced Rachel, draining the last of her tea.

I
only popped in on my way to the ossie. There’s a job going
there, you know. Secretary to three of the consultants. Can I tempt
madam?’

Angela gulped.

To
be honest, I’ve already made moves on the job front,’ she
lied feebly.


Ooh!’
Rachel looked up eagerly.

Anything
doing?’

Angela tried to look
mysterious and thoughtful.

I’ve
applied for a couple of jobs I saw o
n
The
Guardian
website this week. Thought
I’d give the old sub-editing in London another try. The money’s
better than temping.’


Good for
you!’ grinned Rachel.

I
know you hate London, but you might be right to get out of Wilmesbury
on a day-to-day basis. I knew you could do it, Ange!’

Her encouraging
shoulder-squeeze made Angela feel mortally depressed. She
did
dip into ‘Media Jobs’ on
The
Guardian
website from time to time, but mostly as a guilt-induced antidote to
searching for surf-boarding cats. Now she’d probably have to
invent at least one interview and endure Rachel’s sympathy when
nothing came of it.

Rachel didn’t
know exactly why Angela hated London. Angela hadn’t worked for
the past four years. Not since the

incident’
on the Underground ‒ at Tufnell Park on the Northern Line, to
be precise. As assistant manager of Hartley’s, the travel
agency in the High Street, Robert had earned enough to keep both of
them in non-luxurious comfort.

Despite his
playfully rotund features, Robert hadn’t been an obvious heart
attack candidate. He’d walked briskly to and from work. He’d
been spared the early morning scrum over the footbridge at Wilmesbury
station for the half-hour train journey to Victoria that had normally
taken Angela an hour.

After giving up
work, she’d found it surprisingly easy to fill her days. She’d
cooked meals for the first time in their marriage

proper meals instead of frozen blocks slung in the microwave. She
wasn’t much of a cook, but Robert had appreciated the gesture
of real mashed potato and pan-fried cutlets after a hard day
accommodating punters with unrealistic expectations: ‘they want
sunsets and private butlers on tap for the price of a last-minute
room-filler to the Costas,’ he’d sigh, sawing into his
cutlet, and she’d tsk loyally while itching to say that half
the time, people set their expectations too
low
.
Wasn’t she a case in point?

She had done some
GCSE English tuition, helping out a couple of kids as a favour to
their parents. They’d waved away her protestations that she
wasn’t a teacher. She’d had a job checking the English on
a women’s magazine, hadn’t she? That was good enough. She
and Robert had been so lucky that, in retrospect, it couldn’t
have lasted.

With Rachel finally
on her way to work, Angela sat down on her saggy green sofa and
cried.

It wasn’t as
if she had nothing to do. The saggy green suite needed replacing. But
she didn’t have the money to replace things willy-nilly.

Robert had died
suddenly, nine years and six months into his latest job, without
qualifying for the company’s ten-year pension plan. As a
couple, they’d never squirrelled away for rainy days. It wasn’t
that they’d thought themselves invincible. It was simply that
time seemed infinite and money better spent when you were a
late-thirties couple with no children and no intention of having any.

Drying her eyes,
Angela looked around the room. The whole place was a bit tatty. On
the far wall, the white undercoat glimmered through a thinning top
layer of buttercream. The tacky painting over the fireplace gazed
back at her, the Spanish urchin’s fat crocodile tear glistening
on his cheek like a crystalline wart. Robert had snapped it up at a
house clearance. Angela had always hated it.

Maybe Sadie could
give her a few pennywise redecorating tips. Sadie was always
discovering stuff in skips. Only this month, she’d rescued a
claw-footed chair and reupholstered it in rose-striped silk.

What
do you think?’ she’d asked Angela, unveiling the chair on
a recent visit.


Lovely.
Chippendale is it?’ Angela couldn’t refrain from asking.

Sadie had given her
A Look.

It’s
not for sitting on, mind. It couldn’t take your weight.’
This was more to do with woodworm than Angela’s dimensions. She
was a skinny creature anyway, just like her mother.

Angela decided to
make a sandwich, but found the breadbin empty. She blew her nose
self-pityingly. She had nothing to do all day, and still couldn’t
keep the breadbin stocked. The kitchen cupboards yielded a stock cube
and a tin of curried beans. She emptied the tin into a saucepan and
sniffed suspiciously. Curry powder and baked beans seemed an
unnecessarily explosive combination.

Ingredients,’
she read out loud on the back of the tin,

starch,
emulsifier, added sugar.’

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