Read What's Yours Is Mine Online

Authors: Tess Stimson

What's Yours Is Mine

Praise for the novels of
TESS STIMSON

“Stimson's prose is razor sharp, and she pulls no punches when taking on the tricky subject of sibling rivalry—depicting family love at its cruelest and kindest.”

—
Glamour
(U.K.)

“Brilliant.”

—The People (U.K.)

WHO LOVES YOU BEST

“We've always been big fans of Tess Stimson … and this is her best yet.… A racy roller coaster of a read.”

—
Cosmopolitan
(U.K.)

“The characters find themselves forced to make heart-wrenching decisions about love, loyalty and motherhood.… Curl up with
Who Loves You Best
.”

—
Fiction Feast
(U.K.)

“I couldn't put it down.”

—
Essentials
(U.K.)

THE ADULTERY CLUB

“Perfect beach reading … Engaging, amusing, sexy, and surprisingly thought-provoking.”

—The Boston Globe

“Stimson … has an impressive ability to get inside the heads of [her characters].… Complex and believable.”

—
Publishers Weekly

“One of my favorite books of the year.”

—Jane Green,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Promises to Keep

“Bring this to your book club.”

—Eve Magazine
(U.K.)

BY TESS STIMSON

The Adultery Club
One Good Affair
Who Loves You Best
What's Yours Is Mine

What's Yours Is Mine
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are 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.

A Bantam Books Trade Paperback Original

Copyright © 2010 by Tess Stimson

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Bantam Books,
an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group,
a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Bantam Books and the rooster colophon are
registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Originally published in the United Kingdom
by Pan Books, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, in 2010.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA

Stimson, Tess.
What's yours is mine : a novel about sisters who share
just a little too much / Tess Stimson.
p. cm.
eISBN: 978-0-440-42340-9
1. Sisters—Fiction. I. Title.
PR6069.T49W47 2011
823′.914—dc22        2010053285

www.bantamdell.com

Cover design: Jennifer O'Connor

Cover images: © Sandy Jones/Getty Images (yellow boots, umbrella, doorstep), © RTimages (pink and blue boots), © Maksim Shmeljov/Shutterstock (leaves)

v3.1_r1

For my daughter,
Lily Jane Isabeau:
the sweetest gift

Contents
{  
CHAPTER ONE
  }
Grace

For most of my adult life, thanks to my sister, I've been terrified of getting pregnant. I've taken a belt-and-braces approach to contraception: condoms and the Pill, patch and an IUD, safe period plus a diaphragm (after I hit my thirties and began to worry about blood clots and heart attacks).

The joke is on me, it seems.

“No chance?” I ask, to be quite clear. “Absolutely none at all?”

“I'm so sorry, Grace. Perhaps if you'd come to me ten years ago, we might have been able to do something, although I doubt it even then. If you or Tom have any questions—”

I stand, terminating the conversation before Dr. Janus' professional pity embarrasses us both.

“I think you've explained it all very clearly, Doctor. Thank you,” I add.

His secretary presents me with a sealed cream envelope on the way out. I drop it into my Birkin without opening it.

Fourteen months of tests and thousands of pounds to
find out that
relaxing
and
giving it time
were never going to work. No amount of zinc-rich foods and leafy vegetables, chasteberry tincture, red clover, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, B6, B12, noting my temperature, propping my pelvis up on a pillow for twenty minutes, no amount of
enjoying the practice
or
letting nature take its course
—none of it,
nothing
, will ever give me a baby.

I stop a moment on the surgery steps to pull myself together, holding my Birkin against my chest like a scarlet shield. I'm rather more shaken than I thought I'd be. I shouldn't be: unlike Tom, I had a feeling all along something was wrong. Susannah's life is a car-crash in motion, but Tom and I are perfectly placed to have a child: strong marriage, secure jobs, a beautiful home in the Oxfordshire countryside with plenty of trees to climb. Naturally I'm the sister who can't get pregnant.

Already I'm mentally searching for a loophole: a way out, a solution. My mother says I think like a man, and she doesn't mean it as a compliment.

I can't believe this is the end of the line. For more than a year, I've formulated Plan Bs for every eventuality: If I don't get pregnant in six months, I'll see a specialist. If they can't fix what's wrong, we'll try IVF. If Tom's firing blanks, we'll use a donor.

After our first consultation with Dr. Janus—the one where he referred to my thirty-seven-year-old eggs as “geriatric”—I quietly researched clinics without telling my husband, evaluating those with the highest IVF success rates, and efficiently setting money aside so we wouldn't
have to wait on the caprices of the free, but lengthy, National Health Service lines. Whatever the problem was, we'd find a way around it. We'd keep trying, however long it took.

It never occurred to me the problem might not be fixable.

Dr. Janus briefly mentioned surrogacy at our first meeting, but I'm not prepared to take the risk that the surrogate mother would refuse to hand over the baby at the end. You read such tragic tug-of-love stories in the papers. Adoption is a nonstarter, too; I checked into that months ago. Tom has a heart defect. He was born with it, and the doctors say he'll probably live to a ripe old age; but as far as Social Services is concerned, he could die at any moment. They won't let us adopt in this country, and we're not rich or famous enough to go off to Africa and start a rainbow family.

There must be a way. This can't be over. Think laterally, Grace. Work the angles. I'm a forensic accountant, I'm trained to find loopholes.
There must be a way
.

I back up against the Harley Street railings as people bustle past me, their heads bent against the biting February wind. I'm always calm in a crisis, I'm known for keeping my cool, but suddenly I can't think straight. I don't know which way to turn. Literally: I'm standing in the street and I can't even decide whether to go left or right. I don't know what to do next. My mind is blank.

No, not blank. So densely overwritten it just seems that way.

A tangle of thoughts ticker-tapes through my head.
Congenital uterine malformation … exposure to diethylstilbestrol … no one could have known … incompetent cervix … impossible to carry a fetus to full term … additional factors … thirty-seven years old, polycystic ovarian syndrome, severe endometriosis … harvesting eggs not an option … very sorry, extremely unfortunate …

Tom. My poor Tom.

That huge house; four bedrooms. I've kept my LEGO set all these years. And my wedding dress. What will I do with my wedding dress now?

Mum
. She'll be devastated. She's already lost two grandchildren, thanks to Susannah. She's pinned everything on me making it right again. Now, for the first time in my life, I have to let her down.

No chance.

The words echo on the wind. A bus vibrates with them. Stiletto heels tattoo them on the pavement.
No chance no chance no chance
.

A freezing sleet starts to fall. I'm blocking the street; shoppers bang their bags against my legs to make the point. A bundle of foreign students sweep noisily along the pavement, and as they pass, I blindly allow myself to be carried along in their wake, my afternoon meeting forgotten.

I'm aware I'm in shock, but I'm powerless to do anything about it. My future has just been eviscerated. It plays in my mind's eye, a montage of failure. There'll be no Christmas stockings to put up, or paintings in primary colors on the fridge. No bucket-and-spade holidays. No
Mother's Day cards, no first day at kindergarten. No homework to help with, or rows about messy bedrooms and exorbitant phone bills. No first kisses, first dates, breakups, weddings, grandchildren. No one to come after me, no one to listen to all I've learned.

Just Tom. And me.

I'm an amputee, staring at the place where a limb used to be. Knowing that soon it will hurt beyond imagining, and that its loss will ache forever, but unable to feel anything yet.

The tide of pedestrians surges to an abrupt halt at the edge of the pavement. I look up and realize I'm at Oxford Circus, the opposite end of town from where I need to be for my meeting. I should turn around, retrace my steps, hail a cab. I do none of these things.

Impatient shoppers jostle me from behind as we wait for the light to change, and I stumble into a woman laden with plastic shopping bags, nearly knocking her into the road. I apologize and stand back, allowing the crowd to shove past me. A stroller wheel grazes my ankle, laddering my tights. A small child bats a stuffed toy against my knees; a girl, I assume, from the bubblegum-pink anorak and purple jeans. I have no idea how old she is. Is that something that comes naturally, once you're a mother, the ability to judge another child's age?

I can't tear my eyes from her. She isn't pretty. The wind has whipped her plump cheeks red; two train tracks of mucus dribble from her nose, and her hair has been flattened against her head by the rain. Her eyes are too
close together and she has scabbed patches of eczema around her mouth.

I never thought I'd want a child. Growing up, Susannah was the one who brought home stray kittens and pleaded to adopt a puppy. I was the clever one, the one who'd go to university and have a career. Susannah was the earth-mother type. My mother often said so. She'd be the one with four children and an Aga and dogs asleep in the kitchen. Not
Grace
. Grace couldn't boil an egg!

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