Authors: Elle Field
Lost Copyright © Elle Field 2015
E-edition first published: April 2015
All rights reserved.
No reproduction without permission.
The moral right of Elle Field to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead is entirely coincidental.
‘You do realise that you’ve spent the past fifteen minutes gushing about her.’
Jade rolls her eyes, and she sounds hurt. She sounds like she
Arielle, but how could she when Arielle is awesome and they’ve never even met? She’s barely even met
Slowly it dawns on me as Jade picks up her wine glass that this girl sat in front of me is also awesome, which would be a musical revelation to my ears, except this isn’t a date. I know we’re in the beautiful village of Beaulieu, in Hampshire’s finest restaurant, but this is a “thank you” for me looking after Jade’s ruddy beautiful horse, a horse whose emergency vet bill she couldn’t afford to pay.
I’m finding this more and more with the recession – people struggling to pay the upkeep, let along being able to afford the bills if something goes wrong – but I know Jade would rather sell her kidney than let her horse go. I’m kind of glad about this; I’m rather fond of the magnificent Sheba of the Nile.
As Sheba is not the only one with a magnificent body, I found myself agreeing to her suggestion of dinner – the chef owes her a favour – before I realised that the bank might not accept this as a reason why my mortgage payment is short this month.
Thank goodness for savings.
Jade pauses and I wait for her Châteauneuf-du-Pape to come flying my way for talking too much about Arielle, but she takes a small sip instead. Refined. I’m trying to pick up tips on this date, or whatever it is; I need to be better at this fancy stuff for Arielle and Piers’ wedding. I don’t want to disgrace Arielle. Or myself. Or Piers, I suppose. He’s a decent enough chap. Seems awfully keen on Arielle, too.
but I know Jade would rather sell her kidney th a n tes? - XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX 'ss
I clear my throat and take a quick gulp of my sparkling water. Immediately a waiter scurries across to replenish it. There’s attentive service, and then there’s making you feel like you’re constantly being inspected and, in my case, coming up seriously lacking.
‘She is my best friend,’ I gruffly explain. ‘And you did ask why I go to London lots.’
I tug at my messy red hair and wonder for the millionth time why I’m cursed with these genes. With light red unruly hair there’s no wonder I’m single; by light red hair, I mean
He’s back, the stupidly attentive waiter, but this magic word earns him a grin. There’s a lemon meringue pie served with poached oranges and basil sorbet that has my name on it.
‘No, thank you,’ Jade jumps in before I can nod my assent, standing up before anyone can help her with her chair. ‘Can you put the bill on our room?’
‘Of course, madam.’
? We’re here for
. That’s why I only had one glass of wine; the roads in the New Forest aren’t for drunk drivers. If you saw injured animals hit by careless drivers as often as I do, you’d realise why slow and steady is my motto.
She throws me a mischievous grin that goes straight to my groin. Her wavy dark brown hair is loose over her shoulders, and she’s wearing a shimmery emerald green dress that makes her look like a Greek goddess. I’m suddenly feeling rather warm. And lucky. Warm and lucky.
‘You’ve made me jealous enough, Randolph,’ she says coolly. ‘All this talk of your friend whilst I’m sat here, desperate to get your attention.’
She pouts, and I’m gone. Forget slow and steady.
‘Honestly,’ she continues, ‘I’ve never had this lack of reaction from a man I fancy. It makes me want you even more than I already did.’
She wants me?
Christ, I am clueless when it comes to women... Arielle has always said that though. This is probably a thought I shouldn’t be having right now.
‘Shall we go somewhere more comfortable?’ Jade asks. ‘Get to know each other properly?’
She holds out her hand. They look dainty in comparison to mine, and I really hope mine are clean. Truly clean. Working with animals can often lead to stray shit under the nails, if I’m honest, and I was in a rush to get ready for this date as I had an emergency call-out earlier on. I sneak a look, and they seem OK. Big, but clean. I feel like an utter hero.
‘Lead the way.’
I try not to grin like an uncouth sod and fail. I’ll deal with my conscience and what Arielle will say to this twist in the morning. But, I’m only human, and have you seen what Jade is wearing...
Four months earlier...
‘Come on then. Let’s have a look at that rock, Fatty.’
Obélix grabs my hand, twisting my fingers around before I even get a chance to proffer my left hand. I’ve spent a fortune on manicures since getting engaged so I can show off my Tiffany engagement ring. It’s the only bit of my “up-keep” I’ve let crawl back into my once military beauty regime.
Most people wait for me to show them my platinum ring with three square-cut diamonds – two dazzling white diamonds flank a slightly larger black diamond in the centre – but this is Ob.
‘Steady on, Randolph,’ Piers says, entering my parents’ sitting room where Ob and I are sprawled out on their squishy sofa.
Their roaring fire is doing nothing to dispel the icy blast that has just followed Piers in from outdoors, making a few pine needles fall from my parents’ strapping Norwegian spruce. They’ve decorated it amazingly with shimmering lilac baubles and dazzling golden beads. You won’t find tinsel on my parents’ tree, but you will find, deep within the branches, decorations I made out of papier-
and glitter as a child.
It’s the coldest December on record, but here’s hoping it will be a white Christmas tomorrow, like Bing Crosby is crooning about on the radio, even if it does feel Baltic in here.
‘Obélix,’ I insist. ‘Call him
. It’s just too weird if you call him Randolph.’ I mock shudder, as Piers comes over and plants a kiss on my forehead.
I can’t believe these two have never met until now. It feels a little awkward, to be honest, and I grab my hand back from Ob and shuffle over so that Piers can sit between us. If only Obélix could find himself a ruddy girlfriend – I know he hates feeling like a spare wheel – and then I wouldn’t feel like I’m in some weird love triangle. Not that Ob loves me, of course he doesn’t, but I know Piers is wrongly a little wary of our history. Who knew a man that good looking could have insecurities?
‘But, yes, no man-handling me in front of Piers, please. Or ever,’ I add seeing Piers’ raised eyebrows as he crouches down on the floor to take off his muddy Barbour wellies.
, I knew he had some weird hang-up. ‘He’s not used to your coarse ways.’
And I’m not used to Ob behaving how he is. I don’t mean the “Fatty” taunting or the complete lack of manners, but since Piers and I got engaged two months ago, he’s been acting kind of... odd. Even odder than usual. I suspect he’s lonely.
‘Don’t get precious, Fatty.’ Ob rolls his eyes. ‘Went back to being a Lon-don girl,’ he drawls, ‘very quickly, didn’t you?’
Wellies off and placed in the rack by the front door, Piers flops down on my parents’ ridiculous Compton leather armchair that no one sits in because it feels like you’ve got a poker rammed up your nether regions if you stupidly do. How come he has the uncanny knack of picking the most expensive bit of furniture in the room, and how come he looks so at home in it? He looks ruddy handsome, too.
With his dark brown, almost black hair, and his cheeky grin on that chiselled face of his – those cheekbones! – I for one am glad that I literally bumped into Piers that day in London. He looks delicious in his purple fisherman’s jumper. I’m wearing my matching one, and I’m surprised Ob hasn’t remarked on our tweeness. Give him time.
I’m about to answer Ob’s ridiculous slight but get distracted as Piers starts to sneeze. Again. His deep sneezes sound like he’s about to share his insides with us.
‘You really need to see a doctor, my love,’ I tell him affectionately, tucking my long blonde hair behind my ear. I desperately need a haircut, but the length keeps my neck warm. ‘You’ve been sneezing for days.’
‘It’s just a cold,’ he dismisses.
‘Well, take some Lemsip.’
‘I’ll be fine.’
‘Arielle, it’s Christmas Eve. Please. Just
. You’ve been flat out thinking about the wedding and the shop since October. When you’ve not been doing that, you’ve been fussing over me. I’m
Piers says this rather firmly, which sends a tingle up my spine at his tone, but a worried alarm goes off in my head. I shoot a look at Ob. The last thing I need is anyone asking me about the wedding or the shop because, truth be told, I’ve not got very far with either. The wedding is easier to delay thinking about as it’s set for spring 2010 and we’re only in December 2007 – how long can it
take to organise? The shop though...
I’m meeting Felicity, my business partner, next month to update her on premises. That’s not going so well.
‘Tell him, Ob,’ I say. ‘He needs to take better care of himself.’
Ob, predictably, rolls his eyes again. ‘It’s just a cold, Arielle. I’m not surprised considering all those London germs you two hang around in. You’d better not make me sick. I have animals to look after.’
Ob is as healthy as a horse;
makes him sick. I think he’s only being like this because we didn’t see him last month when Piers and I came to see my parents. I suspect he misses me after we spent so much time together over the past eight months and that’s why he is being so rude – he
needs to find himself a girlfriend – but you never know with Ob.
My best friend, Obélix Thomas, is the complete opposite to Piers, in both the looks and personality department. Both are big guys, but Piers is more crafted via the gym. Ob is big in a bulky, slightly chubby, way. They are about the same height, but whilst Piers is tall, dark and handsome, Ob is tall, with light reddish-brown hair and a big bushy ginger beard. I hope he shaves that off when the wedding rolls round; if you didn’t know Ob and know him to be a kind-hearted vet who gives his animal charges cute nicknames and cries if he has to put any of them to sleep, you’d cross the road to avoid him. It
the beard, I swear. Without it he looks quite sweet. And like a really big twelve-year-old.
Saying that though, Piers is hardly being his usual self. He’s been working too hard of late, we both have, though I’m working hard and yielding no results.
I had hoped we could have a nice long Christmas together but Piers is back to the office before the New Year with how Christmas has fallen. We’re at my parents until early on Boxing Day, then it’s a quick visit to Piers’ family, before heading back to London and life in the Big Smoke. Another Christmas over with, and we only got here yesterday.
‘Ah yes, how is veterinary life?’ Piers asks in his posh, clipped accent. It’s not like we have a country bumpkin accent here in Hampshire – until I met Piers I thought we all sounded pretty well-spoken – but I’ve noticed today that Ob has been doing his best Worzel Gummidge impression whenever Piers is in the room.
Ob scowls, which makes his freckles join up. To say that he was integral to Piers and I getting back together, by keeping Piers looped in over the phone to what I was up to back here in the New Forest – not that I was up to anything other than moping, followed by a few months working at the shop when Felicity gave me a chance – he really is being a jerk.
‘I doubt you’d–’
‘It’s snowing,’ Dad interrupts, as he comes in from outside. I’m pleased for the interruption because I doubt Ob was about to say something polite, though I’m not thankful about another blast of icy cold air swirling around the room. Maybe I’m getting ill because my thick sweater feels paper-thin. I boot Ob in the shin, whilst Piers gets up and helps Dad with the firewood.
‘Stop being a dick,’ I mouth at him.
‘Stop being a wedding bore,’ he fires back. Out loud. This causes Dad and Piers to turn around to look at Ob sharply.
‘I’ve not mentioned the wedding once,’ I defend.
‘Speaking of which,’ Dad says, plonking himself down on the other sofa opposite Ob and I, ‘we need to discuss your wedding budget.’
Oh no. Not this. I’d rather Ob continued with his snide and rude remarks than talk about
. The wedding is
away. Beyond picking a rough date and deciding on who we would like in the wedding party, we’ve not looked into anything else.
‘There’s really no need to give us any money,’ I say.
At the same time Piers jumps in with, ‘We’d be super grateful for any contribution you’d like to make, Quentin.’
I shoot him a look. We’ve spoken about this. I do not want my mum and dad wasting their retirement money on our wedding. When they see the scale of what I know Piers will expect our wedding to be, they’ll insist on upping whatever they have already put aside for it. I don’t want them to be out of pocket. It’s just one day. We can – well, Piers can – afford it.
I’m not my dad’s possession; I’m not even sure about having him walk me down the aisle to “give me away”, although I suspect it would break his heart if I vetoed that tradition. Surely it’s out-dated for parents to contribute to weddings?
‘Arielle, you’re our only child. We’re paying for your wedding.’ Dad may sound the same as he’s always done – his stern tone takes me back fifteen years – but he’s looking old.
I’m sure he’s got a bit more grey in the past month, and those reading glasses next to his Tom Clancy book on the coffee table are new.
He won’t be saying this though when he sees how much the wedding dresses I have eyed up cost. OK, so I may have had a
look at dresses, but it was in the name of research for the shop.
Ob jumps up from the sofa, nearly knocking over his mug that’s he’s dumped on my parents’ coffee silkwood bamboo flooring. Mum will kill him if she sees that; she’s busy cooking in the kitchen. ‘If you’re talking about this, I’m out of here,’ he snaps.
‘I thought you were staying for dinner, lad? Gilly’s making her beef wellington.’
I don’t know how Dad remains so calm with him, but Obélix picks up his mug and sits back down. He never can resist Mum’s cooking, and beef wellington is his absolute favourite.
‘OK, but no wedding talk,’ he concedes.
Dad laughs good-naturedly, flinging a coaster at Ob. ‘Still got your knickers in a twist that you’re not a bridesmaid?’
‘Is that what the problem is, Ob? That you don’t have a special role?’ I pull a face at him. ‘You’re an usher, for crying out loud. That’s pretty important.’
‘It is,’ we all chime.
‘You’ll have first dibs on the bridesmaids, after the best man,’ I tell him.
He turns to face me, eager now to hear all about the wedding. ‘What will the bridesmaids be wearing? Something low-cut, I hope.’
Such. A. Perve. But, it’s the most enthusiastic he’s sounded since I told him that Piers proposed. Piers looks repulsed, but I shoot him a look. If this gets Ob interested in the wedding and out of this weird mood, then I’ll make up whatever he wants to hear. I had just better keep him hopeful about hooking up with one of the wedding party and not tell him until the day itself that the only bridesmaid we’re having is Piers’ six-year-old niece, Annabelle...