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Authors: Minna Howard

Mothers and Daughters

BOOK: Mothers and Daughters
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Minna Howard

Mothers and Daughters

Alice finds herself suddenly widowed in her early forties, leaving her with an empty house and a lonely heart. Laura and Evie, her twenty-something daughters announce their separate and unexpected news, which ploughs Alice straight out of grieving and into the prospect planning a wedding and becoming a reluctant – yet glamorous – granny.

Frank, an old family friend returns to give his godchild Laura away at the wedding. A whole host of secrets unfold that rock the family’s foundations and set Alice free to begin a new, exciting chapter of her life.

For my daughter Lydia with much love. (It’s not about you!)



Welcome Page

About Mothers and Daughters


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

About Minna Howard

Become an Aria Addict



‘No … Evie, you’re pregnant?’ Alice sank down on the sofa, staring in dismay at her younger daughter. This was a bad joke, it couldn’t be happening, not just now. ‘You… you never said you were seeing anyone,’ she said weakly, imagining some careless young man barely out of uni the same age as Evie with little hope of giving the child a decent start in life.

‘But you’re going to be a granny, Mum,’ Evie said as if awarding her a prize.

‘I don’t want to be a granny, nana… whatever… like this Evie, and just when you’ve got that wonderful commission for your drawings.’ Alice was near tears now, tears of panic at having to deal with this without the support of her beloved husband.

‘You’ll be such a glamorous granny, a glammy granny.’ Evie, who’d tossed out her bombshell almost as an afterthought as she was leaving the room, appeared to mistake her mother’s reaction as the fear of being thought old jumping too soon into the world of cardies and slippers. She frowned, her mouth set in that sulky way she had when thwarted. ‘It’s no big deal today, people do have sex before marriage you know, Mum, and sex makes babies.’

‘Not if you’re careful,’ Alice snapped annoyed by Evie’s apparent lack of responsibility in this serious situation that had poleaxed her. ‘So… how old is the father, has he a job, is he going to stand by you, by the child you are both expecting together?’

Evie now appeared troubled, her eyes, a moment ago so defiant, now stared at the floor. She chewed her thumbnail, a habit she had when stressed, her body sagged, all her cocky energy gone. ‘It’s Nick’s,’ she whispered.

‘Oh Evie… you don’t… you can’t mean Nick Ebury?’ That was surely the worst. Nick Ebury, the village roué and married man. ‘That
wrong.’ Alice struggled to curb the fury that threatened to splash out like acid over both of them, causing even more damage to their fragile state. How could Evie have been so stupid, so careless? Now she wished that it had been a young man, someone who loved her, would do his best to support her and their child. Not Nick…

Alice believed in fidelity in marriage – though she accepted she’d been lucky in hers, and besides, she liked Freya, Nick’s long-suffering wife, and counted her as a friend.

‘You’re so old-fashioned.’ Evie fired up again. ‘It’s how life is today,’ she went on with a flounce. She was good at flouncing, perfected the art of it. She was pretty too, but none of that was an excuse for becoming so intimate with Nick, the bon viveur and serial seducer, suspected father of goodness knows how many other children scattered round the district.

‘But that doesn’t make it right, Evie, think how much its going to hurt Freya and their children. You should have thought of them before you jumped into bed with Nick. It’s not as if you’re a gauche teenager, you’re twenty-two, old enough to know better.’ It was a struggle to curb her anger, it was just as well Nick wasn’t here or she’d be put away for murder, or assault for castration at least.

If only Julian, her beloved husband and Evie’s father, were here. The now familiar clamp of grief squeezed hard. He’d have dealt with this crisis, he wouldn’t have approved of it either, but he’d be there beside her, solid and wise. He’d been eighteen years older than her and he couldn’t help dying, he’d done everything he could to stay well, but he’d inherited his heart condition from his father and grandfather before him and even modern medicine couldn’t save him in the end. It was almost two years now since they’d lost him and she’d never stopped missing him with a pain that was sometimes physical in its intensity, though to her surprise and relief, her grief had become easier recently… until now, with the arrival of this catastrophe.

Her grief at losing Julian clung to her, clawing at her like a monstrous insect. It seemed that in about seven months time she’d be granny to a child with multiple half-brothers and sisters. Oh Julian, she cried inwardly, however will I cope without you? She wanted a wedding with Evie beautiful in a white dress and a loving man waiting for her at the altar, was that too much to ask?

It seemed that it was. Evie, now in a sulk, had returned to their ‘weekend’ cottage in Suffolk. Julian bought it when the girls were little and they’d spent many happy times there, and now Evie was living there on her own. She’d come to London to see her editor and drop in to the house in Fulham to see her mother to break her devastating news.

Alice had been so proud of Evie. She’d recently got a commission from a top publisher to illustrate a series of children’s books and she’d announced a few months ago that she wanted to make her home in Suffolk, in their weekend cottage as she found the open space and peace of the countryside more inspiring to work in.

Alice thought she’d understood her decision at the time, suspecting that Evie couldn’t handle her mother’s grief as well as her own, and in fact at first Alice found she preferred to be left alone to come to terms with Julian’s death and not have to try and ‘be happy’ for both her daughters’ sakes. Now she was beginning to enjoy having the house to herself, though she was rarely alone for long as friends and the girls often visited. But she wished now that Evie had stayed in London instead of escaping to the country and being seduced by an amorous and irresponsible Nick on the prowl.

Evie had left her in a furious mood, some of it no doubt fears of the mess she’d got herself into. She’d flounced out before either of them could calm down and discuss the pregnancy rationally. Alice closed her mind to images of her daughter lying mangled in the wreck of a car crash on the motorway on her way back to Suffolk. Evie did what she wanted, always had. She remembered the angelic child grabbing toys from Laura, her older sister, chanting, ‘mine, mine’. Had she told Laura she was soon to be an aunt to this unexpected child? Alice hadn’t time to ring her now and anyway Laura wouldn’t want to be disturbed at work. She’d ring her this evening; better to talk than to text.

It was a relief she was seeing Julian’s Aunt Cecily today, you could talk about anything with her, she was unshockable, and although old and infirm, her mind was as sharp as ever and the closest older person Alice had in her life now that her own parents were gone.

Alice left her house in the early afternoon. She’d lived here, in a small street of white-painted Victorian Houses, off the New King’s Road, all her married life. The house had belonged to Julian’s mother who had given it to them – or rather swapped it with Julian’s flat – as a wedding present, as she wanted to downsize and, by selling his flat, found something that suited her better.

Alice passed the coffee bar on the corner, waved to Gail, who was clearing the tables, and walked up past the Green. A group of small children from the local nursery were running round laughing, being chased by their carers. Baring accidents, next year there would be Evie’s child. The thought sat heavily in her, and yet, as she saw the children’s simple joy in life and their eager faces, her heart stirred. But who would have the time to give this coming child the love and care it deserved?

She passed the Tube station and went on up to the Fulham Road to take the 414 bus to Marble Arch and Cecily’s flat. When the bus came she sat upstairs. She’d bought a suspense novel with her that she’d been longing to finish, but now, with her mind so agitated, she couldn’t concentrate, and instead of reading she stared out of the window at the passing streets. It was the tail end of March and her glimpse into the enclosed gardens from her high perch, showed them stirring after the long winter with splashes of golden daffodils and the intense blue, soft pink or gleaming white of hyacinths.

Cecily still lived in the flat that once belonged to her parents. She’d never married; her two fiancés, both fighter pilots, had been killed in the war and she’d never found anyone she loved more.

‘Safety in numbers,’ she told Alice soon after she’d first met her as a young bride deliriously in love with Julian. ‘I have a collection of lovers in various parts of the world to choose from, so I’m never disappointed or bored.’

Alice, much to Cecily’s delight, had struggled to hide her shock. Surely, she’d thought then, with the arrogance of youth, no one over about forty – she didn’t count Julian in this – had a sex life? But Alice had soon come to love Julian’s irrepressible aunt.

As the bus trundled up the Fulham Road, past the cinema and the Brompton Hospital where they’d tried so hard to save Julian, she thought of him. She’d got used to the pain of missing him, it sat there like a tight garment sometimes barely felt, at others almost suffocating her. She often chatted to him in her mind, saving up things to make him laugh as she had when he was alive. If only one knew if the dead were still somewhere, hovering about between worlds, able to catch the thoughts of those they’d left behind. She wanted there to be a ‘Heaven’ to meet up again with all those she’d loved, her parents, grandparents, friends and Julian. Julian used to tease her when she said this, ‘What about the people you don’t like. How will you avoid them?’

‘What shall I do about Evie?’ she asked him silently now as the bus swung down Sumner Place towards South Kensington Tube station. ‘Should I confront Nick, and whatever can I say to Freya? As you know he’s years older than Evie and married, to such a special wife. What could be worse, except perhaps a serial killer? Please, darling, wherever you are, tell me what to do?’

She scrabbled for her handkerchief and blew her nose, yearning for the solid, comforting bulk of him, the way he held her close, both arms tight round her, making her feel secure, able to face anything with him by her side. For a few months after his death she’d still felt him there, could recall every feature of him, even the scent of him, but gradually he’d slipped further and further away until even the sound of his voice no longer echoed in her mind.

BOOK: Mothers and Daughters
5.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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