Authors: Rowan Coleman
Do not miss me, because I will always be with you... I am the air, the moon, the stars. For we are all made of stars, my beloved... Wherever you look, I will be there.
Stella Carey exists in a world of night. Married to a soldier who has returned from Afghanistan injured in body and mind, she leaves the house every evening as Vincent locks himself away, along with the secrets he brought home from the war.
During her nursing shifts, Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones â some full of humour, love and practical advice, others steeped in regret or pain â and promises to post these messages after their deaths.
Until one night Stella writes the letter that could give her patient one last chance at redemption, if she delivers it in time...
We Are All Made of Stars
is an uplifting and heartfelt novel about life, loss and what happens in between from the
bestselling author of
The Memory Book
ROWAN COLEMAN lives with her husband and five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family, which includes a very lively set of toddler twins whose main hobby is going in the opposite directions. When she gets the chance, Rowan enjoys sleeping, sitting and loves watching films; she is also attempting to learn how to bake.
Rowan would like to live every day as if she were starring in a musical, although her daughter no longer allows her to sing in public. Despite being dyslexic, Rowan loves writing, and
We Are All Made of Stars
is her twelfth novel. Others include her
The Memory Book
, which was part of the Richard and Judy Autumn Book Club, and the award-winning
For my dear friend, Tamsyn,
one of the brightest stars in the sky
Well, if you are reading this, it's happened. And I suppose that I ought to be glad, and so should you. We've both spent such a long time waiting, and I could see how much it was wearing you down, as much as you tried to hide it.
Now, the life insurance policy is in the shoebox in the bedroom, on top of the wardrobe, under that hat I wore to our Dominic's wedding â remember? The one with the veil you said made me look like a femme fatale? You might not; you drank too much beer, and four of Dominic's friends had to carry you upstairs, you great oaf. It's not much of a payout, I don't think, but it will be enough for the funeral at least. I don't have any wishes concerning that matter. You know me better than anyone else will. I trust you to get it right.
The washing machine. It's easy, really: you turn the round knob clockwise to the temperature you want to wash at, but don't worry about that. Just wash everything at forty degrees. It mostly works out all right. And you put the liquid in the plastic thing in the drum, not in the drawer. I don't even really know why they have those drawers any more.
You need to eat â and not stuff you can microwave. You need to at least shake hands with a vegetable once a week, promise me. You always made the Sunday night tea â cheese on toast and baked beans on the side â so I'm sure you'll be able to keep body and soul together if you put some effort in. I expect at first lots of people will feed you, but you'll need to get a cookbook. I think there's a Delia under the bed. I got it for Christmas last year from Susan, and I thought, what a cheek!
Len, do you remember the night we met? Do you remember how you led me on to the dance floor? You didn't talk, didn't ask me or anything, you rogue. Just took my hand and led me out there. And how we twirled and laughed â the room became a blur. And when the song stopped, you kissed me. Still hadn't said a word to me, mind you, and you kissed me right off my feet. The first thing you said to me was, âYou'd better tell me your name, as you're the girl I'm going to marry.' Cheeky beggar, I thought, but you were right.
It's been a good life, Len, full of love and happiness. Just as much â more than â the sadness and the bad times, if you think about it, and I have had a lot of time to think about it, lately. A person can't really ask for more. Don't stop because I've stopped; keep going, Len. Keep dancing, dancing with our grandchildren, for me. Make them laugh, and spoil them rotten.
And when you think of me, don't think of me in these last few days: think of me twirling and laughing and dancing in your arms.
Remember me this way.
Your loving wife,
He was a runner. That was the first thing I knew about Vincent.
One hot July, four years ago, I saw him early each morning, running past me as I walked to work, for almost three weeks in a row.
That summer I'd decided to get up before seven, to enjoy the relative quiet of an early north London morning on my way to start a shift at the hospital. I was a trauma nurse back then, and there was something about the near stillness of the streets, the quiet of the roads, that gave me just a little space to exhale before a full eight hours of holding my breath. So I walked to work, sauntered more like, kicking empty coffee cups out of my way, flirting with street sweepers, dropping a strong cup of tea off to the homeless guy who was always crammed up against the railings by the park, working on his never-ending novel. It was my rest time, my respite.
At almost exactly the same time every morning, Vincent ran past me at full pelt, like he was racing some unseen opponent. I'd catch a glimpse of a water bottle, closely cropped dark hair, a tan, nice legs â long and muscular. Every day, at almost exactly the same time, for nearly three weeks. He'd whip by, and I'd think, there's the runner guy, another moment ticked off on my journey. I liked the predictability. The flirty street sweeper, the cup of tea drop, the runner. Sort of like having your favourite song stuck in your head.
Then one morning he slowed down, just a hair's breadth, and turned his head. For the briefest moment I looked into his eyes â such a bright blue, like mirrors reflecting the sky. And then he was gone again, but it was already too late: my routine was disturbed, along with my peace of mind. All day that day, in the middle of some life-and-death drama or in the quiet of the locker room, I found the image of those eyes returning to me again and again. And each time it gave me butterflies.
The next morning, I waited for him to run past me again, and for normality to be restored. Except he stopped, so abruptly, a few feet in front of me and then bent over for a moment, his hands on his knees, catching his breath. I hesitated, sidestepped and decided to keep walking.
âWait â¦ please.' He took a breath between words, holding up a hand that halted me. âI thought I wasn't going to stop, and then I thought, sod it, so I did.'
âOK,' I said.
âI thought you might like to come for a coffee with me?' He smiled â it was full of charm; it was a smile that was used to winning.
âDid you?' I asked him. âWhy?'
âWell, hoped, more like,' he said, the smile faltering a little. âMy name is Vincent. Vincent Carey. I'm a squaddie, Coldstream Guards. I'm on leave, going back to the desert soon. And you never know, do you? So I thought â¦ well, you've got lovely hair â all curls, all down your back. And eyes like amber.'
He had noticed my eyes â perhaps in that same second that I noticed his.
âI'm a very lazy person,' I told him. âI never go anywhere fast.'
âIs that a weird way of saying no to coffee?' I liked his frown as much as his smile.
âIt's a warning,' I said. âA warning that I might not be your kind of person.'
âSometimes,' he said, âyou just know when someone is your sort of person.'
âFrom their hair?' I laughed.
âFrom their eyes.'
I couldn't argue with that.
âMind if I walk part of the way with you?' he'd asked.
âOK.' I smiled to myself as he fell in step next to me, and we walked in silence for a while.
âYou weren't kidding about being slow,' he said, eventually.
The second thing I knew about Vincent was that one day I was going to marry him. But the first thing I knew was that he was a runner.
Which makes it so hard to look at him now: his damaged face turned to the wall as he sleeps, and the space where his leg used to be.