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Authors: Susie Martyn

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BOOK: This Is Your Life
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‘Now Lizzie, have you met
? Tilly
?’ Antonia yelled across the bar making everyone wince. ‘Come over here a moment… We need another girl.  What do you say?’

Tilly looked at them slightly uncertainly.  ‘I’m supposed to be

‘Nonsense,’ said Antonia.  ‘Th
e old codgers’ll drink much more later once we’ve thrashed them.  They’ll be drowning their sorrows for hours, just you wait…’



In the end, Tilly
wangled the night off and both men’s teams were annihilated.  It was indecently easy.  Four girls versus all of them, but they were rubbish, every last one of them.  The trouble was they were all so preoccupied with the matter of the speeding ratrunners that they couldn’t focus on anything else.

‘What’s with them?’ asked an astonished Katie afterwards.
  ‘Or are they always like that?’

‘Mostly yes,’ said Antonia
dismissively.  ‘Unless you’re talking about tractors, sheep or series 2 land rovers, you can’t get any sense out of any of them.’  A couple of heads turned her way at the mention of land rovers. ‘There! What did I tell you! Ah. This is more like it - Timmy darling!  Cooeee!   Over here…’

large, brown haired man in jeans wandered over and kissed Antonia on the cheek, before grinning round at the rest of them.

‘Hello all.  Tilly,
just the girl!  Think you could fit me in over the weekend?  I’ll buy you a pint?’

‘Of course
Tim, you know me. I’ll be chained to that bar as usual.’ 

‘Darling,’ interrupted Antonia.  ‘You must meet Lizzie
, who’s marooned while Dave fixes her car.’

‘Dave? Up the road here?  Oh bad luck,’ he said sympathetically
, a twinkle in his blue eyes.  ‘You’ll probably still be here at Christmas.’

‘And darling, this is
her friend, Katie.’

Tim had been a stockbroker rather than a village vet in the back of beyond, Lizzie would have got it - that flicker of
, before Katie’s lashes blinked and broke the moment. 

‘Lovely t
o meet you,’ she said softly, holding out a manicured, lily-white hand towards his large, somewhat weathered one, her eyes holding his a little longer than necessary.


Much later, as the four girls and Tim trooped up the road to Antonia’s, Lizzie discovered that he had the dubious pleasure of ministering to Antonia’s equines. Antonia simply adored him - strictly on a platonic level, her strongest feelings being reserved for her horses, he assured her.

‘Lovely girl,’ he said
with a grin.  ‘Don’t get me wrong.  Nice horses too!’   

‘Have you lived here long?’ asked Lizzie
, relieved to talk to someone other than a leering barman or useless mechanic.

Funny you should ask!  Now don’t take this the wrong way, but I came here as a locum for a two week stint – and that was, let me see, about eight years ago…’

Lizzie felt a stab of alarm. 
There was a pattern here, with people passing through though not quite managing to leave.  First Antonia, then Tim and now her – so far, at least.  Were there others?  Was Littleton bewitched?  Maybe Lizzie was being bewitched too…

Back at
the cottage, Antonia ushered them into the sitting room where Cassie was spread along one of the battered leather sofas with three dogs on her lap, feeding crisps to the small sheep Lizzie had met before.

! I’ve told you before.  I don’t want that animal in here,’ said Antonia crossly as Tilly went skipping over.

‘Oh Antonia, you can’t mean that.  He’s such a sweet little baby, aren’t you?’  Sitting down next to it, she tickled
him between his ears and bent to kiss the little muzzle.

‘It’s not sweet, it’s evil.  And i
t craps. Everywhere.  Get rid of it, Cassie.  Now!’

Cassie rolled her eyes, looking
scarily like a red-haired version of her mother for a moment, before dragging herself off the sofa.  ‘You’re
mean, mother.  Phil and Kirsty do what they like and they’re disgusting little animals.’

Full and Bursting
, whispered Tim to Lizzie, who snorted with laughter.

‘But he’s not a dog!’ yelled Antonia.

doesn’t know that,’ said Cassie, stalking out.

Dave paused for a moment by
Tim, who bent and rubbed the little head.

‘Hello mate, you’re a fine chap.’
Dave waved his budding horns impressively.

He’d be a fine Sunday lunch,’ muttered Antonia under her breath, opening the wine.  ‘It’s high time that sheep was for the chop.  I’m ringing the knacker,’ she announced.  ‘On Monday…’

Now hold on, you can’t possibly do that.  You already told me he’s Cassie’s,’ Tim reminded her.

‘Huge mistake darling.  Never thought for a moment she’d
actually keep him.  Let’s face it - the only point of sheep is to eat them.  And a Welsh Black too.  They’re awfully delicious you know, such a waste…’ she said regretfully.

‘I don’t think anyone should eat sheep,’ said Tilly carefully be
tween hiccups.  ‘They’re so sweet… Anyway, I’m a vegetarian.’

had seen her tucking into a bacon sandwich earlier on and Antonia wasn’t having any of it. 

‘Rubbish, darling,’
she said.  ‘You love a nice bloody steak as much as the rest of us.  And where would all the farmers be without us dedicated carnivores?’   

She poured the wine into glasses and took a
quick slurp from one before passing them round to her guests.

Anyway, there’s absolutely no other point in keeping them, is there?’  Antonia was as about intransigent on the subject as she was about men.  ‘Which reminds me, Timmy darling, poor Lizzie has just escaped the clutches of the devil himself…’

‘A man?’ mouthed
Tim silently, grinning at Lizzie who nodded.


It was far too late by the time they returned to the Star, which was in darkness.  They’d left a snoring Tilly at Antonia’s and taken her key.  Tim had offered to drive them – much to Lizzie’s amusement.

Lizzie teased a quieter-than-usual Katie later on, as they lay in the dark in their single beds, both a little the worse for wear.  ‘What about Tim?  Awfully nice boy…’ She mimicked Antonia’s voice.  ‘I saw you, Katie McDonald!  You can’t fool me…’

Katie was quiet.
  ‘Actually, I really like him,’ she admitted, which is Katie-speak for saying she fancied the pants off him.  ‘But what’s the point?  Because once your car’s fixed and you leave, why would I ever come back?’

Chapter 6



Saturday dawned, and little did Lizzie know when she awoke on what was to have been her wedding morning, that the cogs and wheels of the universe were revving up again, ready for the next instalment. But blissfully unaware, she lay there savouring the peace and the fact that her friend was here, until Katie yawned sleepily and stretched.

I thought we’d go out for lunch,’ she announced stifling a yawn.  ‘My treat.  There’s a place near here I’ve read about.  The Old Goat, or something like that.  It has to be better than this place.  Actually it’s quite famous - I heard it’s won an award.’

One condition though,’ Katie added, yawning again as she sat up.  ‘You’ll have to find some better jeans.’


After a late breakfast with Tilly, who’d returned with a covering of dog hair and a headache from Antonia’s, they wandered off to retrieve more bits and pieces from Lizzie’s car, and also to check on its progress.  As they rounded the corner and the garage came into sight, Lizzie nearly fell over backwards.  The bonnet was up and a young mechanic-type in greasy overalls was poring over the engine.

‘Morning.  Are you Mick
by any chance?  Only that’s my car… And I was hoping it might be ready…’ Lizzie stood looking hopefully at Mick, who scratched his head.

‘’Lo Miss. 
Well, ‘fraid to say it’s buggered.’ 

As he spoke, t
he bottom dropped out of Lizzie’s world.  Not having her car, this changed everything.  How would she get to Cornwall now?

Can’t you do something? 
?’ There was desperation in her voice.

‘Well, on a car this age, it’d cost more than it’s worth to put it right
.  Wouldn’t make too much sense really.  But it’s up to you.’

‘How much are we talking about?’

‘Well, ‘ave to get the parts on Monday, but rough figure…’  Mick mentioned a sum that made both girls wince.

‘Trouble is
, it means I’m stuck,’ Lizzie’s voice had gone squeaky.  ‘I don’t know what to do.’

cocked his head like a sparrow.  ‘Me sister’s selling her car.  If you’re interested, mind… Nice little jeep.  Quite clean and tidy.  I’ve been looking after it for her.  Tell you what.  I’ll bring it over next week if you want to take a look at it.  Tuesday say.  Ok?’

What could
Lizzie say.  Only chances were, seeing as this was Mick, it would probably be Friday at the earliest and by then she’d have been here well over a week.  It had already been quite long enough and Lizzie was restless for magical Cornish coasts and that bracing dip in the sea.

she said with great reluctance.  ‘I better give you my mobile number.  But if there’s any chance you can get it here sooner, I’d be really grateful...’

‘Okey dokey,’ said Mick.  ‘You taking them bags now? 
Only s’pose you’ll want me to get rid of it…’

‘Oh!’ Lizzie started.  How could she
, when it was her last link to her mother. 

Katie elbowed
her.  ‘It’s a car Lizzie.  Just a car.  It isn’t important – not really.  It’s ok…’ she added looking anxiously at her, as they gathered the last of her suitcases.  ‘Come on.  Let’s get everything back to the pub.’

A perplexed Mick watched them unload what was left
and stagger back down the lane.  Safely back in her room, Lizzie dissolved into tears.

‘Come on.  Change,’
said Katie bossily, never one to be sentimental.  It was a car, for God’s sake.  ‘We’re going to be late for lunch.’


It was the next piece of the cosmic jigsaw as without a car, Lizzie was stuck here.  For an indeterminate period - or until Mick turned up with another one. 

The Old Goat was
n’t far away and they sped along the lanes in Katie’s MG with the roof folded down, slowing down for groups of horses the odd cyclist.  After a recent review in a national paper, the pub was crowded, word having spread far afield about its weekend roasts and locally sourced menu, hence lines of brand new Audi’s and BMW’s crammed down the sides of the lane. 

Unlike the Star,
it looked just as you imagined a country pub should with a quaintly sloping thatched roof and window boxes brimming with flowers.  Inside, the stripped wood and fresh white paint was a welcome sight, as was the starched linen and menus on the tables.  Looking around, Lizzie was suddenly ravenous. Fortunately Katie had booked – every spare table was taken.

She perused the menu for ages, trying to make up her mind

‘For goodness sake, just order
,’ said Katie, before suddenly jumping up. Then ‘No!’ she shrieked as two men came towards their table.

‘Darling?  Is that
you?’ The resonant voice came from the more slender of the two, who was immaculately dressed in a white shirt and impeccably tailored trousers.

stared disbelievingly before she flung her arms round his neck.

you! I don’t believe it!  What are you doing
of all places?’

‘I might ask the same of you
, flower,’ he mock-flirted back.

‘And An
gel too!  Oh wow!’  She kissed him noisily on both cheeks. 

shrieks had got the attention of most of the restaurant, but Angel was not the least perturbed.  Camp didn’t describe the half of it.  One looked as though he was wearing lipstick, and flamboyantly dressed in a bright cerise shirt, he wore the most gorgeous jeans Lizzie had ever seen, so soft-looking she had to stop herself reaching out to touch them.

‘Boys, meet my friend Lizzie!  She’s marooned
here!  Her car broke down…’

After breathless gasps of ‘no’, and ‘not really’, the boys embraced
Lizzie just as warmly.

‘How’s Sylvia, pet?’ Darius asked Katie.  ‘I got her a darling little piece for her boudoir, did she show you?’
  Sylvia was Katie’s mother.

She loves it!  I think the entire street’s seen it!  Darius’s Mum is her neighbour,’ she told Lizzie.  ‘Why don’t you join us for a drink?  We haven’t even ordered our food.  Lizzie can’t make up her mind…’ 

s, we’d love to… if you’re absolutely sure…’  The boys looked delighted.

‘Goat’s Cheese
salad, Lizzie darling – it’s to die for,’ said Angel, brushing against her arm as he sat down, giving her a feel of that denim.  She’d been right.  Soft as velvet.  ‘It’s the house special - on the quiet.  The Old Goat…don’t you see?  Anyway, it’s divine, I assure you…’

Pulling up an extra couple of chairs,
Darius proceeded to explain how they’d just bought a cottage nearby.

We’ve relocated, flower,’ he explained to Lizzie.  ‘Our little antique shop. From the King’s Road to Rumbleford… sounds quite poetic doesn’t it?  Angelus, it’s called – after both of us –
…’ he annunciated.  ‘Anyway, we needed a little bolt-hole.  A love-nest,’ he whispered, just to make sure she understood.

‘How exciting
!’ said Katie.

‘Well it is
…’ said Angel. ‘And what we really want more than anything is to sit outside in the evenings, petal.  Have little cocktail parties…’

You know how we
parties…’ interrupted Darius theatrically.

and invite our new neighbours.  It’s the quietest place on earth there darlings… like you just wouldn’t believe…You can hear the flowers talking and almost touch those stars, I
different to London…’

‘It is,’ said Darius, but you could hear the ‘but’ in his voice.  ‘I mean, it seems
scandalous to whinge darlings, but the garden’s…’ He looked over his shoulder furtively, ‘… bombed.  A war zone.  There.  I’ve told you.’  He sat back looking disgusted.

‘You know what we’re like,’ said An
gel to Katie.  ‘We’re just
DIY-ers.  We shouldn’t moan because really, we’re just
lucky to have found it, but I mean petal, just look…’  He apologetically showed them his hands, as lily-white and manicured as Katie’s.

‘Mmmm…’  Katie was thinking.  ‘
But you know, I’ve actually just had the most stupendously brilliant idea.  You’re just not going to believe this, but Lizzie’s a garden designer.  Why doesn’t she do it for you?’

The boys and
Lizzie stared at each other – the former in ecstasy, Lizzie in total horror.

‘Oh, Lizzie.  Please say you’ll do it.  We’re desperate…’ they pleaded
in unison, each of them grabbing her hands.

Lizzie looked from one to the other in shock
.  It was way, way too soon.  The idea was one thing, but she hadn’t actually
, had she, nor got as far as the many practicalities. There was the small matter of a car, for instance.  She’d have to say thank you, very firmly, but no.  Maybe in a month’s time, if they still wanted her, but at the moment, sorry, but it’s just out of the question.  A picture of a tiny cottage miles from anywhere crept into her head, with one or two flowerbeds that needed weeding and a patch of long grass to mow…

‘Darius could col
lect you on Monday,’ offered Angel, as if reading her mind.  ‘And don’t worry about tools darling, we’ve no end of those around the place…’

‘Oh!  Perfect!’  Katie clapped her hands in glee.


The Goat’s cheese special did indeed look divine
but as the boys left, Lizzie was having doubts.

What were you thinking?  You’ll have to call it off.  Tell them it’s all a mistake…’

Oh Lizzie, it’s a great idea,’ said Katie smugly.  ‘Wasn’t I clever to think of it?’

Lizzie had shaken her head.

as they ate, Katie was determined to talk her round.

‘I don’t see what the problem is,’ she persisted.  ‘
I mean, one garden, Lizzie – what will that take you.  A couple of days?  You’ll have that long at least before Mick turns up with the jeep.  Just do it!  It’s not as though it will stop you going to Cornwall…’

Lizzie had to admit she was tempted.  And with any luck, she’d be on the road again by next week.  As Katie said, she’d finish the boys’ garden in a couple of days and be leaving Littleton for good.

What a day this was turning out to be
, thought Lizzie, with new-found fragile optimism. Full of the strangest coincidences… bumping into Katie’s friends like that, here of all places.

more cosmic jigsaw-pieces slotted into place, Lizzie was just adjusting to the idea when out of nowhere, came a thunderbolt. 

‘Excuse me a moment
… I’m sorry to interrupt your lunch, but it’s just that
I think we know each other...

nother of Katie’s amours?
Through a mouthful of the locally grown arugula and baby spinach leaves, Lizzie looked and looked again, realising with a shock that he was talking to
.  Her heart did a hop and a skip - he was gorgeous. That tousled fair hair, faded jeans, the worn shirt... Her kind of man, most definitely.  She gazed back shyly, trying not to choke as the last of the salad caught in her throat and made her eyes water.

Taking a sip of water she
swallowed.  ‘Um, have we?’ There was something familiar about him.  She’d seen him before – somewhere - but for the life of her she couldn’t remember.

she wracked her brain, the hubbub of voices in the background seemed to fade and the strangest feeing creep over her. It was like she knew him – yet she didn’t.  But on another level altogether, they recognised each other.  Like soul-mates, she pondered. 
Twin flames

Matching halves

‘I know it sounds like a really dodgy chat up line,’ he continued earnestly, which in all reality it did.
‘But I’m sure we’ve met.’  He looked at her intently.  ‘I just can’t remember where.’

For a moment it was tangible as the goat’s cheese on Lizzie’s plate, this
between them. But as they gazed at each other, just as quickly it vanished, leaving them wondering if they’d imagined it.

Hey, look, I’m sorry I disturbed you! Actually I better catch my friends up.  Um, have a good lunch.’  He smiled uncertainly, his eyes crinkled at the edges as he turned away. Lizzie’s stomach did a backflip.  Katie looked equally as gobsmacked.

Wow Lizzie!  Wow!  How could you
?  As chat up lines go, that was

BOOK: This Is Your Life
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