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Authors: Kathryn Flett

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Separate Lives

BOOK: Separate Lives
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KATHRYN FLETT is a journalist who writes for numerous international publications and regularly appears on TV and radio. She was the TV critic for
The Observer
for ten years and currently reviews restaurants for
The Telegraph
Separate Lives
is her first novel. Kathryn lives in Hastings, England, with her partner and their four sons.

New York • London

Copyright © 2012 by Kathryn Flett

Cover image © plainpicture/Alain Caste

First published in the United States by Quercus in 2016

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by reviewers, who may quote brief passages in a review. Scanning, uploading, and electronic distribution of this book or the facilitation of the same without the permission of the publisher is prohibited.

Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.

Any member of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use or anthology should send inquiries to
[email protected]

e-ISBN 978-1-623-65509-9

Library of Congress Control Number: 2016017026

Distributed in the United States and Canada by

Hachette Book Group

1290 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10104

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, institutions, places, and events are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons—living or dead—events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


I know it's a cliché, but it was the text on Alex's phone that did it. And yes, obviously I shouldn't have been reading his texts, but if you dared look me in the eye and tell me you had never done the same thing, frankly I wouldn't believe you. Because we all have.

The text simply said:
Start living a different kind of life . . . P :-) xxx

Several thoughts jostled for my undivided attention simultaneously.

Who the hell is P? And what's with the smiley? (And how come they forgot to
?). Three kisses. P's a She . . .

Shit—Alex is getting out of the shower.

I tapped the phone in an attempt to return to the blank screen but only succeeded in opening the new
iPhone App that Alex had got for the kids. It was tempting—though only for a moment—to see what level they were “up” to. Instead, I shoved the phone back into Alex's jeans and rearranged a simulacrum of the heap of clothes he'd left on the bedroom floor. By the time he appeared I was tidying my
knicker-drawer. And humming. It occurred to me that tidying a drawers-drawer is pretty much at the bottom of the list of desperate displacement activities. And humming while doing so means you may as well have the words “GUILTY OF SOMETHING, M'LUD” tattooed on your forehead. In this case, pants-placement-plus-humming was just the easiest plausible thing I could pretend to be doing under the guilt-inducing circumstances. It was just as well that Alex remained completely uninterested by my presence. As was, increasingly often, the case.

“Nice shower?”

But before I'd even got past “nice” to “shower” I knew this was the most absurd non-question I could have asked. It sounded like something a guilty somebody might say in a soap. Alex, still dripping a little and clad only in a too-small towel that did nothing for his incipient paunch, frowned and looked at me as though I were a particularly stupid and annoying child to whom he wasn't even related.

“Yeah, you know—hot water, shower gel, that sort of thing.”

Alex leaned over to pick up his clothes. Relieved, I turned back to my drawers, unearthing a black Myla thong that had been in my Christmas stocking three—maybe four?—years ago, in the days when Alex probably didn't get smiley-face xxx texts from “P” and the prospect of hot, thongy sex with the missus wasn't the sexual equivalent of being forced to undertake a Bushtucker Trial on
I'm A Celebrity
. I pushed the thong to the back of the drawer. It would probably be another four years before I'd see it again.

“Right,” said Alex, “I'm going to drag the kids away from the TV. Hurry up, would you?”

“Yes, give me five minutes.”

As Alex went downstairs, I walked into the bathroom and looked at myself in the big old Venetian looking glass, the only mirror I'd ever owned that always seemed to go out of its way to flatter me. I tried not to wear my “mirror-face”; that pseudo-blank (yet ever-so-slightly Joan Rivers) makeup-application expression which, in the best light and with the right tools, means that reinvention isn't entirely beyond the realms of possibility. As I slowly began to apply my face-the-world mask to the blank canvas, the face peered back. I let it droop a little, stopping short of pulling the totally bonkers expression that might reveal the brutal, animated truth: that today I looked every minute of my thirty-nine years.

It was not a face that had ever been described as pretty—at least not since I'd hit puberty, shed the puppy fat, acquired cheekbones and suddenly appeared a lot closer to a legal sixteen than a jailbaity twelve—but it was still a good sort of face and usually scrubbed up OK. I'm a blonde, but not naturally—half-head-highlighted and therefore what my sort-of sister-in-law once described, slightly cruelly but entirely accurately, as “a school-run blonde.”

So: green eyes set slightly too far apart, pale Celtic skin, a neat nose and a serviceable sort of mouth currently distorted by being bitten at one side, my face arranged itself into a stillness that managed not to refer too obviously to the churning in my solar plexus. But there was definitely something in the eyes—a sort of panicky, adrenalized look, offset by exhaustion and the knowledge that this being Saturday morning, there were another forty-eight hours of varying degrees of domestic discomfort to be borne before Monday morning would allow me to reclaim my grown-up head and think properly about P's text and the emotional ramifications thereof.


Dear Mum,

It's been a while since I've done this, so where to start? Where to finish? Maybe it's just best to write until I run out of words. No idea where that will end up, but . . . I should probably start with the text from Lisa, inviting me to dinner with her and Guy. I nearly turned it down at the last minute because it was—a bit randomly—on a Wednesday and I'm often a bit done-in on Weds after the gym. And then there was Hal's senior school interview, at College Hall, on the same day, which meant that he'd either be all wired and wanting to be on the Wii all night, or morbidly miserable because he'd screwed up . . . and wanting to be on the Wii all night. So either way I didn't feel as though I should be going out. And then the weather was starting to get me down—that last-gasp-of-spring sort of weather that always seems to turn up just when you think summer is finally under way and it starts raining and looks as though it will never ever stop.

So I wasn't going to go but then it turned out that Hal was cool with the whole College Hall interview thing, and said, “Don't stress, Mum, I've totally walked it” (twelve-year-olds), then he actually said, “You should go out, Mum—you deserve it.” (Er, hello?) And so I got Marta to babysit at the eleventh hour and just chucked on the first clean pair of skinny jeans I could find and didn't even bother washing my hair and turned up at Lisa and Guy's place in West Hampstead with a bottle of wine.

It was just six of us—Guy and lovely Lisa, obviously, and Guy's mate Steve, who used to be the Harlequins' physio but is now the go-to personal trainer for about six
north/northwest London postcodes (luckily I'd seen him in
just last week so I was up to speed), and Steve's sweet wife, whose name I've already forgotten—she's a senior stylist at John Frieda who has just got an OU degree in Eng Lit. And then there was Guy's twin, Alex, whom I'd heard about from Lisa but never actually met. I think he was there by accident, having stopped by to see Guy after work, before Lisa persuaded him to stay for the chili.

So it was a good evening. Easy. No big deal—just a bunch of people chatting about this and that. No politics, or religion, or political religion (thank God!) and I really hardly spoke to him until dessert (Ben and Jerry's or cheese—it was totally Wednesday) and when we first started talking it was just the usual polite probing: “So,” (me to Alex) “what do you do?” “Oh I work in magazines. I'm the publisher of
Excellent Fitness
Max Men
. And you?” . . . “Oh that's cool. Well, I used to be a model agent—Lisa was one of my ‘girls'—but now I'm mostly a mum, and not so yum.” And Alex said, “From where I'm sitting you look pretty yum,” and I laughed, and Lisa overheard this and raised an eyebrow across the table at me, as if to say “wooooah!,” but I'd had three glasses of a delicious Bordeaux (not mine, incidentally—mine was a so-so Sauvignon) and it was only 10 p.m. and I knew Marta was good till 1 a.m., and tomorrow wasn't exactly looking busy, so, whatever (as Hal would say. And now, apparently, do I).

Anyway, Lisa was kind of locked into a conversation with . . . um, I wish I could remember her name . . . and Guy and Steve were off on one about some great rugby match, which just left me and Alex to shoot the breeze. And after the breeze had been well and truly blown away, it got a bit personal.

I didn't really want to talk about David, but once I'd explained that I was a single mum of a twelve-year-old boy
and Alex asked what had happened to Hal's dad, I ended up (and I blame the Bordeaux) telling him all about meeting David at one of those model-heavy parties (perhaps model-lite is a better description, given the amount of canapés they weren't consuming) I hadn't really wanted to go to, and how he'd pretty much swept me off my feet (not least by saying that models didn't do it for him . . . anymore). How our first date had involved David chartering a private plane and taking me for Sunday lunch in Le Touquet, and how we'd walked along the dunes and he'd explained what a hedge fund was in language I could actually understand and then said that while he loved his work he wasn't ever going to be defined by how much he earned, that there was a big world out there and more than anything he was looking to meet the mother of his children because, without a family, what was the point of all that hard work—and money? And how I'd actually fallen for all of that.

Anyway, on I went and Alex was a really good listener. Such a good listener, in fact, that I made him listen when I would have been better off changing the subject. Instead I told him about the engagement ring in the soup six months later at the Aman in Bali, the wedding six months after that at Luttrellstown Castle, falling pregnant with Hal on our honeymoon in the Maldives, moving into the house (that bloody house) in Hertfordshire . . . I had practically got to the end of the marriage before I remembered to ask Alex about himself. Which is not like me, but he made it too easy. Though I did tell him other things too—all the family got brief name-checks, in case you're feeling sidelined, though I may not actually have covered all the pets. And no, I didn't tell him about the really important stuff, didn't fill in the biggest gaps. My tongue was a bit loose, but there are limits.

So Alex told me about magazine publishing (about which I pretended to know less than I do, because even you know model agent = models = magazines) and he told me about his kids and his house and . . . he didn't say much about his wife, which was, for a married man, a pretty glaring omission. But I tried not to notice the glare and we just chatted and eventually it was eleven thirty and people started making time-to-go noises and even though I didn't want to go I knew it was a school-night for everybody else, so, weirdly, I ended up being first out of the door, mostly so I wasn't the last. Alex gave me a peck on the cheek and said it had been lovely to meet me. And Lisa gave me a kiss and a bit of finger-wagging. Not that she needed to because that was that. Really nice guy. Married. End of. I don't do married. No woman who's had it done to her is ever going to do married men, are they, Mum? Especially not a second-generation dumpee.


Thursday June 4, 2009

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Good to see you and Lisa last night. Didn't realize I was crashing a dinner party—sorry. Still wanna meet up for a beer tho. Stuff to talk about. Value your input. A

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

No worries, mate. You looked like you were having a good time anyway?! Thought you must have met Pip before at our place, but obv not! Anyway, can do quick beer after school 2moz, if that's OK?

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Roger that! The usual, 6:30?

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]


Friday June 5, 2009

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Sorry bruv—have to blow you out tonight, big stuff going down at HQ with the Germans. Will prob be working late anyway and better get home. Don't know exactly why I'd better get home, but I feel I should. A

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

No probs. And you've got to get home because home is where the heart is, right? G

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

So they say! A

Thursday June 11, 2009

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Just tried your phone but no joy. Listen, really need to talk. Things not quiet on the Western Front. Or the Eastern Front. Or indeed any fucking Fronts . . . Call me when you pick this up? A

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Out of this twunting meeting by 5. Call you then . . . G

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Just got to say, further to our chat? Holy shit. Hang in there. We're just talking about a hunch, nothing hard-and-fast. Don't let it eat you up. No need to steam in and say anything until you've got something to say, right? Thinking of you. Let's just get this party out of the way then we can all breathe easy. OK, easier . . . G

From: [email protected]

To: [email protected]

Thanks. It'll be fine. Grateful for input, as ever. Home now . . . A

BOOK: Separate Lives
12.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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