Authors: Andy Jones
Andy Jones lives in London with his wife and two little girls. During the day he works in an advertising agency; at weekends and horribly early in the mornings, he writes
fiction. This is his second novel.
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The Two of Us
‘Sincere, honest, moving and funny’
‘Beautifully drawn, eminently believable protagonists . . . This is a wonderfully engaging novel. I loved it’
‘Honest, gripping, bittersweet and very funny’
‘Jones gets right to the heart of his characters . . . emotional, acutely observed and, written from a male point of view, particularly refreshing’
‘At my age I am still amazed when a writer with the gift of the written word can make me care about a character so much that I can be reduced to tears one minute and
laughing the next – but this author manages to do just that’
‘Frank, funny and bittersweet,
The Two of Us
is a love story about what happens when a relationship
all wrong but
all right. This is a
book with its heart firmly in the right place’
‘Touching, funny and real, Andy Jones’s novel about what happens
the love story had me laughing one minute and crying the next. I loved it’
First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2016
A CBS COMPANY
Copyright © Andy Jones, 2016
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
® and © 1997 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
The right of Andy Jones to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
222 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8HB
Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney
Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4711-4246-8
Australian Trade Paperback: 978-1-4711-5513-0
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4711-4245-1
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
actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Typeset in Bembo by M Rules
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd are committed to sourcing paper that is made from wood grown in sustainable forests and support the Forest Stewardship Council, the leading
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For showing me where the good stuff is
The question keeping him awake is this . . .
Which is worse: marrying the wrong woman, or taking her heart and smashing it to pieces in front of one hundred and twenty-eight guests?
Or maybe it’s the answer that is troubling him.
Too late for all that now, though. He checks the time on his phone – 2.48 a.m. – and sees it is a little less than ten hours until he is scheduled to say ‘I do’.
He’ll have bags under his eyes, he thinks, and his mother – the local hairdresser and unqualified beautician – will be furious. Every Sunday for the past six, she has forced Henry
to endure a viciously thorough facial routine, but all her work is now undone.
Within months of proposing, Henry quit his job in the UK’s fifth largest city and returned to the open fields and narrow lanes of his childhood. He took a job at a local dental practice
and moved into his old bedroom above his parents’ pub. Last Sunday, his mother subjected him to a final ‘calming’ facemask.
‘It’s a wonder he’s not bent,’ his old man said, standing in the living room doorway like a matinee idol gone to seed – muscular forearms crossed above the
landlord’s paunch; handsome eyes, still bright in his tired face; his thinning but stubbornly black hair cut in an immaculate rockabilly quiff.
‘What you doing up here?’ his mother says, applying a layer of cold green gunk to Henry’s face.
His mother sighs. ‘Jesus. Thank you for sharing.’
‘What’s wrong with the gents?’
‘We’ve had this before, it’s brass monkeys in there.’
‘Because you haven’t fixed the window’s why.’
‘I said I’ll do it.’
‘Yeah. Said but didn’t do, story of your life.’
Henry’s father unfolds one arm and nags his hand back at his wife. From where he’s standing, the former boxer and one-time local celebrity can’t see Clark Gable raising his
cocktail on the mute TV screen. Henry watches his mother’s eyes flick from his father to the TV and back, observes her expression slip from resentment to disappointment.
Propped up on the sagging and threadbare sofa, his face tight under the contracting clay mask, Henry says to his father, ‘I’ll sort those barrels as soon as I’m done
‘Wouldn’t want you to chip a nail,’ the old man says.
‘Leave him alone,’ snaps his mother.
‘I will if you will.’
His father shakes his head and walks off down the corridor. Henry’s mother smooths the clay at the bridge of his nose and sighs. ‘Your poor nose,’ she says. ‘Your poor
Henry (named after the British Heavyweight who briefly floored Muhammad Ali) knows that, after his birth, his mother had twice miscarried before resigning herself to never having a daughter. In
place of an unrealized girl – to have been named Priscilla Agatha – Henry sat beside his mother on this same sofa and watched
From Here to Eternity
and dozens more.
‘You’ll turn him soft,’ his father would say.
‘I’m teaching him how to be a real man,’ Sheila would counter.
And so his father dragged Henry to the boxing gym, and his mother sat him in front of the TV, neither forgiving the other for the damage done to their son – a broken nose, a scarred
eyebrow, a sissy’s taste in movies. Sometimes these resentments would pass as nothing more than routine bickering, other times (his mother deep in drink, his father tending an empty bar) it
would escalate into ugliness.
He’s seen the photographs: Clive ‘Big Boots’ Smith, cocksure and potent, with his arm around his girl’s waist.
Made for each other
is what people would have said.
And it’s true, as if each were designed by the same toymaker – but made rigid and fragile with no moving parts.
The way everyone says Henry and April look perfect together. Like the sugarcraft bride and groom atop their three-tier cake. He and April don’t fight. They have had their disagreements and
spats, of course, but they seldom acquire any heat. Certainly nothing approaching the rancour so easily accessed by his parents.
Still, is not fighting a good enough reason to get married?
The imminent groom shifts in his bed – an uncomfortable single in the rent-a-castle that will very soon host the reception. They live less than five miles down the road, but April wanted a
castle and April’s father isn’t one to deny his princess. The fourteenth-century building (weddings, conferences, corporate events) has two wings: the bridal party in one, the
groom’s in the other, everything carefully orchestrated to ensure the two don’t meet before the big event.