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Authors: Joanna Trollope

A Spanish Lover

BOOK: A Spanish Lover
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About the Book

Lizzie and Frances are twins, together forming part of a unit. At least that's the way Lizzie sees things. Lizzie is the twin who has everything – husband, children, a flourishing career, and a beautiful house. She worries about Frances, who seems to lead a solitary life in London ricocheting from one disastrous man to the next. Lizzie just wants Frances to share in her own complete and satisfying life.

Then Frances, suddenly and surprisingly, announces she isn't coming to Lizzie's for Christmas. She's going to Spain. Lizzie's world begins to tilt. Frances's Christmas defection seems overwhelmingly threatening to their unity.

As Frances's future begins to change into something exciting and unexpected, and Lizzie's deteriorates as financial pressures eat into her ideal lifestyle, could it be that Frances is the twin with everything?

Contents

Cover

About the Book

Title Page

Dedication

PART ONE: December

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

PART TWO: May

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

PART THREE: September

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

PART FOUR: April

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

PART FIVE: December

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

About the Author

Also by Joanna Trollope

Copyright

A Spanish Lover

Joanna Trollope

For Liz C.

PART ONE

December

1

SOMEONE – PROBABLY ONE
of the children; Robert would never have dared – had stuck a poster on the kitchen noticeboard. It was a small poster, printed in black and bright-pink and yellow, and it showed a scatty drawing of a wild-haired woman hand-in-wing with a goggle-eyed turkey. Underneath the drawing it said, in wayward lettering, ‘Women and turkeys against Christmas'.

‘I think it had better be at least twenty-two pounds,' Lizzie said into the telephone receiver. ‘No, not before it's drawn, after it's drawn. Will it be a free-range turkey?'

She looked across the kitchen at the poster and involuntarily touched her hair. It felt all right.

‘Heavens,' she said to the butcher. ‘That much more!' She screwed up her face. Was she going to be responsible about turkey liberation, or was she going to have another ten pounds to pour into the greedy maw of Christmas? ‘OK,' she said. ‘Free-range.' She thought of a whole lot of happy turkeys gobbling about together in an orchard somewhere like an illustration in a nursery book. ‘Free-range, twenty-two pounds, and either I or Mr Middleton will collect it on Monday. Yes,' she said, ‘yes, I know it's a late order, Mr Moaby, but if you had this house and four children and Christmas and a business and three extra people coming to cope with, you'd be late too.'

She put the telephone down. She should not have spoken like that. Mr Moaby had run his butcher's
shop
in Langworth for a quarter of a century, like his father before him, and had a mentally handicapped child and was finding supermarket competition increasingly threatening. In his heart of hearts, Mr Moaby probably felt about Christmas as women and turkeys did.

Lizzie went across the kitchen and peered at the poster. It wasn't hand-drawn; it was printed. No doubt Harriet had bought it, thin, clever, sarcastic thirteen-year-old Harriet who would have spotted that Christmas had come to be a menace for her mother and not a marvel any more. Lizzie and Harriet had quarrelled at breakfast. They quarrelled most breakfasts and the quarrels usually ended with Harriet skipping off to school wearing her private and maddening smile, the one she wore to convey to her three younger brothers how much she pitied them for being mere boys, poor mutts.

Harriet had asked Lizzie if she was going into the Gallery that day, the Gallery that she and Robert had opened when they first came to Langworth sixteen years before. Lizzie said no, she wasn't.

‘Why not?'

‘Because of Christmas.'

‘Why on
earth
—' Harriet had lain back in her chair and rolled her eyes at the amazing, the impossible thought that anybody could put a minor domestic hiccup, like Christmas, before their real work in life.

Lizzie had lost her temper in an instant. She had heard herself, in horror, screeching about her exhausting multiple responsibilities and Harriet's unspeakable ingratitude. Harriet watched her, calmly. Davy, who was only five, began to cry, and large round tears slid down his unhappy face and diluted the milk in his bowl of Cocopops.

‘Look,' Harriet said with satisfaction. ‘Now you've made Davy cry.'

Lizzie stopped screaming and stooped to put her arms round-Davy.

‘Oh darling—'

‘You'll frighten Christmas away!' Davy wailed. ‘If you aren't careful!'

Harriet slid off her chair.

‘I'm going to see Heather,' she said. ‘I'll call in at the Gallery and tell Daddy you won't be in.'

Lizzie set her teeth. ‘Please stay in the house, Harriet. I need you. There's so much to be done—'

Harriet gave a vast, deep, gusting sigh and dragged herself elaborately from the room, slamming the door shudderingly behind her.

Lizzie had fed Davy his cereal then, as if he were a baby, to comfort him, and afterwards she had set him and Sam to wind red festive ribbons round the banisters. Sam, who was eight, thought it would be more amusing to wind the ribbons round himself and Davy, and to attempt to wind them round the protesting cat. Lizzie had left them to it, to go upstairs and make beds and pull lavatory plugs and find, for herself, a hairbrush and some earrings and the list she had made last night, for today, and lost somewhere. Then she came downstairs again, to telephone the butcher, and found the poster. Harriet must have pinned it up in the fifteen minutes Lizzie was upstairs. Was it a sorry? Was it a gesture of solidarity? Lizzie longed for solidarity between herself and Harriet, for the conspiratorial closeness of being together in the same sex. That was what being half a twin did to you, Lizzie thought, turning back to the table and the wreck of breakfast; it made you want to bind yourself tightly to someone else when your other half wasn't there. And Frances wouldn't be there until Christmas Eve.

Robert and Lizzie had started the Middleton Gallery in a tiny shop in one of Langworth's rambling side
streets.
They had met at art college – Lizzie a sculptor, Robert a graphic designer – and become inseparable. There was a photograph of them in those far-off days pinned up in the Gallery office, Robert wearing a frown of seriousness and bell-bottomed trousers and Lizzie – an extraordinary, almost skinny, Lizzie – in a skimpy jersey and platform-soled shoes, her hair pushed up into a huge, floppy peaked velvet cap. They weren't much older than that when they opened the Gallery, renting the shop and the damp, rickety flat above it, furnished with ill-assorted items their parents had given them. Frances had had her first job in London then. She telephoned Lizzie three times a week and came down to Langworth with exotic urban treasures like silver-mesh tights, or an avocado pear in a paper bag.

Robert went to evening classes in Bath, and learned to make picture frames. Lizzie reluctantly abandoned her clay for patchwork making, flower drying and the patient beeswaxing of indifferent but fashionable pieces of pine furniture. They both discovered that they had a commercial eye. By the time that Harriet was born, in 1978, the original shop, which by now resembled the perfect seventies' fantasy of an Anglo-Saxon rural idyll, all sprigged cottons, naive water-colours, spongeware mugs and wooden spoons, was both highly successful, and bursting at the seams. With a loan from Lizzie's father, William, and another from the bank, the Middleton Gallery moved into a former florist's shop, in Langworth High Street, where the front windows were shaded by a pretty pillared portico of white-painted Victorian wrought iron.

Frances had wanted to see it immediately. Lizzie had chugged off to Bath station to meet her in the emerald-green Citroën Deux Chevaux that was now such a familiar sight in the streets of Langworth, and had taken her back to the Gallery with a mixture of
rapturous
pride and anguish. Watching Frances's face as she looked at the Gallery, at the pale, newly sanded and waxed floors, at the pools of romantic light cast by uplighters and downlighters, at the freshly stained and painted shelves waiting for casseroles and cushions and candlesticks and pottery jugs, Lizzie could feel a surge of unstoppable exultation at what she and Robert were achieving. But at the same time, chained as she was to Frances's innermost self, she felt a simultaneous surge of pain; pain for Frances, toiling away in a mediocre travel company and returning at night to a gaunt flat in Battersea which she shared with a girl she quite liked, but not very much. And then there was Nicholas, quiet, self-contained, undemonstrative Nicholas, so unlike Robert, so wrong, Lizzie thought, for Frances.

‘We're going to import kelims,' Lizzie said. ‘And hang them here, on wooden rods. Rob's got a friend who can supply us with marvellous dried things from Africa, seed-heads and pods and stuff.'

‘What are kelims?' Frances said. She was standing gazing at the whitewashed brick wall against which the rugs would hang.

‘Rugs,' Lizzie said. She watched Frances. Could she, on top of all else, all this richness and promise of her and Robert's life, tell her the other thing?

Frances turned from the wall to face her.

‘Rugs,' she said. ‘Hanging up. How lovely. You're pregnant again, aren't you?'

‘Yes,' Lizzie said, thinking she might cry. ‘Yes, I am.'

Frances put her arms round her.

‘I love that,' she said. ‘I love it that you're pregnant again.'

That pregnancy was Alistair. He should have been twins – Lizzie longed for twins – but his brother died at birth. Frances came at once, she came almost before she knew there was any reason to come, and stayed for
three
weeks, using up all her remaining annual holiday. She was hopeless with Alistair, Lizzie remembered, awkward and gauche, as if a baby was absolutely alien to her, but she was wonderful with everything else, with the house, with relentless, small Harriet (‘
Why
does there have to be a baby?'), with Rob, with the Gallery. Lizzie had broken down when Frances went back to London, had felt incompetent and incomplete.

‘Perhaps I should have married both of you,' Robert had said, gazing down at her as she lay in bed, feeding an insatiable Alistair. ‘Except that I couldn't be in love with Frances in a million years. Isn't it odd? So like you in so many ways, but no factor X.'

Soon after that, quiet Nicholas had also decided that there was no factor X to Frances, and drifted off.

‘Of course I'm sad,' Frances said, ‘but mostly disappointed. In myself, I mean.'

Lizzie prayed urgently, to no-one in particular, for the right man for Frances. He would have to be tall (like Rob) and attractive (like Rob) but not as gentle or as artistic as Rob or else she, Lizzie, might begin to make comparisons between Frances's man and Rob, and she had an instinct that this would do none of them any good. Frances solved the problem, in the short term, by falling in love with an architect and then with an actor and then, disastrously, with the boyfriend of the girl with whom she shared a flat. In the meantime the Middleton Gallery prospered, held three exhibitions a year, opened a healthfood café on the top floor, repaid all its loans and went into profit. Lizzie, in between giving birth to Sam and then to Davy, did the buying for the Gallery and moved house. They moved four times in sixteen years, from their original flat to an eighteenth-century cottage that had once been a tearoom and had never lost the smell of toasted teacakes, to a Victorian villa, and finally to the Grange.

The Grange had been one of Langworth's best
houses
in the late-eighteenth century, with a calm and handsome stone façade and a pedimented porch. It had sat then in appropriate gardens, with a gravel sweep between the front door and the street, and lawns behind it, rolling smoothly away to a walled vegetable garden. Now, fussed about with by the Victorians who had added a warren of leaking rooms to the back, and pressed in upon on all sides by the modern urgency for new building, the Grange was like a battered old liner crammed into a very small port. New executive dwellings with pictorial nameplates and fancy stonework filled the vegetable garden, and half the lawns had vanished long ago under a street called Tannery Lane, in memory of the nineteenth-century tannery that had, for fifty years, filled the streets of Langworth with a gagging stench. What was left of the Grange garden was plenty big enough, Lizzie and Rob considered, for cricket, bicycles, camps and fighting. The inside of the house was big enough for anything. Surveying the light and beautifully proportioned original rooms, the sweeping staircase, the Victorian muddle at the back that could be knocked through to make a magnificent kitchen-living room, and visualizing the whole painted terracotta and deep-blue and Chinese-yellow, with polished floors and sharp white paintwork, Robert and Lizzie reckoned that the Grange would set the seal upon their success. An expanding business, an appropriate house (large but not boastful), four clever and strong-minded children, a rising local profile – what a considerable thing to reflect upon! Because he did reflect upon it a good deal, with a kind of astonished pride, Robert pinned up, in his newly decorated office in the Gallery, the photograph of himself and Lizzie as students, just to remind himself of exactly how far they had come.

BOOK: A Spanish Lover
2.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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