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Authors: Beth Miller

The Good Neighbour

BOOK: The Good Neighbour
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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Beth Miller

Title Page

Dedication

Chapter 1: Davey

Chapter 2: Minette

Chapter 3: Cath

Chapter 4: Davey

Chapter 5: Minette

Chapter 6: Cath

Chapter 7: Minette

Chapter 8: Davey

Chapter 9: Cath

Chapter 10: Minette

Chapter 11: Davey

Chapter 12: Cath

Chapter 13: Davey

Chapter 14: Minette

Chapter 15: Cath

Chapter 16: Davey

Chapter 17: Minette

Chapter 18: Cath

Chapter 19: Davey

Chapter 20: Minette

Chapter 21: Cath

Chapter 22: Minette

Chapter 23: Davey

Chapter 24: Cath

Chapter 25: Minette

Chapter 26: Milo

Chapter 27: Sandy

Chapter 28: Minette

Chapter 29: Milo

Chapter 30: Minette

Acknowledgements

Reading Group Questions

Author questionnaire with Beth Miller

Extract from
When We Were Sisters

Copyright

About the Book

Everyone has secrets. How far will you go to protect yours?

After living next to the neighbours from hell, Minette is overjoyed when Cath and her two children move in next door. Cath soon becomes her confidante, a kindred spirit, even her daughter’s babysitter.

But Cath keeps herself unusually guarded and is reluctant to speak of her past. And when Minette witnesses something unspeakable, she begins to question whether she really knows her new friend at all...

An addictive and gripping novel, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and
Daughter

About the Author

Beth Miller’s first novel,
When We Were Sisters
, was recently published by Ebury Press. She is currently writing her third novel and is also working on a book about the world’s greatest radio show, called
For The Love of The Archers
. She has been a sex educator, alcohol counsellor and inept audio-typist. She has a PhD in psychology, and a diploma in drinking tea.

Also by Beth Miller:

When We Were Sisters

For John, Molly and Saul

Chapter 1
Davey

DAVEY WAS GLAD
to be leaving Gina’s. Her house smelled of not nice bubble bath. His room there had a scary wardrobe, the door kept swinging open for no reason. The only thing he liked at Gina’s were the two fat white sofas. They looked so soft. But Gina wouldn’t let him sit on them.

‘Soon be there,’ Davey’s mum said in her cheerful voice. Davey stared out of the window. If he scrunched his eyes the houses looked like the houses in their old town. But it kept getting spoiled by the blue bits at the end of the roads. The sea. His old town didn’t have blue bits.

Lola was next to him in the back, playing with Panda. Davey had left a lot of things behind in their old house. Cars, annuals, all his posters except his American flag, which wasn’t really a poster because it was made of material. And most of his teddies, except Waffles, who lay on Davey’s lap now. His granny had given Waffles to him when he was born. We can get more stuff, his mum said. Stuff doesn’t matter.

They had moved before, but this was bigger. They’d never left so many people and things behind. He had even left Adam Purcell. He’d started talking to Adam Purcell in his head. Today Davey told Adam his top five flags:

  1. American, obviously.
  2. Portugal because the last present his dad had given him was from there, a T-shirt with the Portuguese flag on. Half red, half green, with a yellow-and-red shield in the middle. Davey’s dad knew he liked flags.
  3. Malaysia because it was like the American one, except with a moon.
  4. Uruguay because the sun on it was a proper sun with lots of yellow rays.
  5. Vietnam because he could draw it easily. It was a big gold star on a red background.

Davey’s mum said the new house was going to be fantastic, but Adam Purcell pointed out that Davey’s mum said lots of things were fantastic. Gina letting them stay at hers was apparently ‘fantastic’. Their new house in Hove was going to be ‘fantastic’. Their new school was, you guessed it, ‘fantastic’. Adam Purcell was a good person to talk to.

There was more and more sea now, bigger bits of blue in between the streets. Davey leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes.

Chapter 2
Minette

THE MILTONS’ HORRIBLE
Big Ben doorbell chimed out when Minette pressed it, and her mouth went instantly dry. On the few occasions she’d rung that bell before it had been to offer a timid apology, and receive a stone-cold bollocking in return.

A blonde woman opened the door, and said, ‘I’ve got to get rid of that damn bell.’

Minette laughed, relieved, and introduced herself. ‘I live next door,’ she said. ‘I heard you moving in this morning. I’ve made some biscuits.’

‘How lovely of you! Come in for a cuppa?’

‘You sure? You must be very busy.’

‘I could use a break.’ The woman called out, ‘Look, kids, our first visitors!’

A little girl ran into the hall, and said a shy, ‘Hello.’ She was followed by a disabled boy in a wheelchair, who stared intently at Minette, but didn’t say anything.

The woman told the children they could play in the living room, and she led Minette into the kitchen, which was looking remarkably sorted, only a couple of unpacked boxes on the floor. She put on the kettle. ‘Have a seat, Minette. I’m Cath. So, who’s this little one?’

‘This is Tilly.’ Minette sat down, and took Tilly carefully out of the sling. ‘She’s nine months.’

‘That’s a nice name. Wish I’d thought of it for Lola.’ Cath rummaged in a drawer and put a pile of spoons and a plastic bowl on the table. ‘Would you like to play with these, lovie?’ Tilly immediately started clattering them together.

‘Lola’s a pretty name, too,’ Minette said.

‘My hubby wanted to call her Esmie, after his mother, but I won that one.’

Minette realised she could smell paint. ‘Surely you haven’t started decorating yet?’

‘Oh, I’m just getting shot of the magnolia. This place hasn’t been touched in years.’

‘I can’t believe you’ve done so much already!’

‘Davey and Lola are good little helpers.’ Cath brought over two mugs, and Minette’s homemade biscuits. ‘They organised most of the kitchen cupboards by themselves. They still think chores are fun. I’m dreading when they start to realise.’

‘So where have you moved from, Cath?’

‘We was up north. How about you, how long you been here?’

‘Oh, almost a year. Whereabouts …’

‘So you moved in just before this little lassie came along?’

‘That’s right. We were renting nearby before then.’

‘You must like it round here, then?’ Cath said.

‘Love it. We went to university in Brighton and liked it so much, we stayed on.’ To her surprise, Minette felt tearful. ‘Though actually, it’s not been that great lately.’ For god’s sake, she told herself, you can’t start blubbing because someone’s being vaguely nice. She sipped her tea, though it was too hot.

‘I know what it’s like,’ Cath said, sympathetically. ‘Babies are lovely, but exhausting.’

‘Oh, it’s not Tilly’s fault, it’s been, well – it’s complicated.’ Minette looked around her. ‘It’s so odd being in the House of Horror. I mean,’ she said hastily, ‘that’s what we called it when the Miltons lived here. I had it in my mind as a haunted house, all cobwebs and skeletons.’

‘Well, it was clean enough. But everything’s so out of date. I could run the National Grid off the static electricity in the carpets. There are decent floorboards underneath.’

‘Yes, ours has the boards. Well, you got a bargain, I reckon. When we heard how much you got it for we were all a bit worried, and Kirsten over the road got a valuation. We were very relieved when they said hers was worth 30K more.’

‘Oh, really?’ Cath said, and Minette at once felt like a mortgage-whinging, middle-class stereotype. ‘So talking of neighbours, maybe you can tell me who’s who?’ Cath bit into a biscuit. ‘These are fantastic.’

‘I don’t know very many people yet. We’re next to you, obviously, that’s me and Abe, and Tilly. Priya’s next to us, she’s really nice, Indian family with kids, her mother lives with them. Then opposite, number 36, is Kirsten, who I know because she’s a cranial osteopath and she’s doing a few sessions with Tilly.’

‘Wow, she has her own osteopath already, impressive.’

God’s sake, Minette, first mortgages and now baby therapies. Cath would think she was a total airhead. She said quickly, ‘Oh, Tilly’s just been having a bit of trouble sleeping so, you know, it’s supposed to help. Worth a try. Anyway, next to Kirsten is a student house. Then on your other side from us is, well, er, Liam.’

Cath grinned. ‘Er Liam, blush blush?’

Minette hid her face behind Tilly’s head. ‘I don’t know why I’m blushing! He’s just quite cute, I suppose.’

‘I spoke to someone very tasty this morning, tall guy, looks slightly like a young fair-haired Frank Sinatra. Could that be him?’

‘I only know what Frank Sinatra looked like when he was old and fat. But yes, that’s probably him. Longest legs in Hove, official award.’

Cath’s little girl came in. ‘Baby!’ she said, seeing Tilly. And then, even more enthusiastically, ‘Biscuits!’

‘Hi Lola. Of course you can have a biscuit,’ Minette said.

‘Wait a minute, Lola, remember?’ Cath said, as the girl’s hand snaked towards the plate. To Minette she said briskly, ‘Are there any milk or nuts in them?’

‘No. Well, there’s milk in chocolate, isn’t there?’

‘She’s all right with chocolate, thank the lord. OK Lolly, go ahead. Take one for Davey.’

Lola took the biscuits, beamed at Minette, and skipped out of the room.

‘Adorable,’ Minette said. ‘How old is she?’

‘Four. I’m trying to train her to ask about ingredients, she’s got some serious allergies, but she always forgets when she sees something yummy. Talking of yummy, you were telling me about the young Sinatra?’

Minette wished she had more to tell about Liam. She’d only ever said one word to him, a couple of months ago. Tilly had woken, sobbing, at five in the morning, and Minette, terrified of another Milton complaint, had bundled her into the buggy and pushed her up and down the dark street. On her fourth circuit Liam, wearing a dark suit, came out of his house at a jog, heading to the station. Minette looked a complete state, was wearing her pyjamas under her puffy Michelin Man coat, hair in a messy pineapple on top of her head, so she hoped he wouldn’t notice her. But he said, ‘You’re up early,’ and gave her a gorgeous smile as he passed. She giggled and said, ‘Yes,’ kicking herself for her pathetic lack of repartee.

She said now, ‘I’ve just seen him around a few times. Actually, a lot more in the last couple of weeks. I was wondering if he’d lost his job. He’s married,’ Minette added, hastily, in case she seemed too interested. ‘I don’t know her name, though I say hello to her in the street. And I’ve no idea who lives on their other side. It’s bad, isn’t it? We’ve been here nearly a year and I hardly know anyone.’

‘Well, hopefully you’ll get to meet some of them at my house-warming party. I was thinking of having one in a couple of weeks’ time.’

‘My god, you’re a breath of fresh air,’ said Minette.

‘Sounds like you didn’t get on too great with the last people here?’

‘Slight understatement. They were horrible to us. They couldn’t stand the noise. Tilly, you know. They banged on the walls at night.’

‘How horrible. They were pretty stiff when I spoke to them on the phone. Babies are supposed to cry. I bet you’re not even that noisy, are you, beautiful?’ Cath clucked at Tilly.

‘Not according to the Miltons. They were unfriendly from day one. They never got over the fact that I was pregnant but not married.’

BOOK: The Good Neighbour
5.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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