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Authors: Monica McInerney

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Odd One Out

BOOK: Odd One Out
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Also by Monica McInerney

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The House of Memories

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Greetings from Somewhere Else

Upside Down Inside Out

The Faraday Girls

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The Alphabet Sisters

Odd One Out

Monica McInerney

InterMix Books, New York

INTERMIX
BOOKS

P
UBLISHED BY THE
P
ENGUIN
G
ROUP

P
ENGUIN
G
ROUP
(
USA
)
LLC

375
H
UDSON
S
TREET,
N
EW
Y
ORK,
N
EW
Y
ORK
10014,
USA

USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

ODD ONE OUT

An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author

PU
BLISHING HISTORY

Penguin Group (U.K. and Australia) paperback edition / 2006

InterMix eBook edition / October 2014

Copyright © 2006 by Monica McInerney.

Excerpt from
Hello from the Gillespies
copyright © 2014 by Monica McInerney.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-19703-9

INTERMIX

InterMix Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group

and New American Library, divisions of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

INTERMIX® and the “IM” design are registered trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Version_1

Contents

Also by Monica McInerney

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Epilogue

Preview of
Hello from the Gillespies

About the Author

Chapter One

Though Sylvie Devereaux didn’t realize it at the time, her life began to change at exactly five minutes past seven on the evening of her sister Vanessa’s second wedding.

The instigator was her Great-Aunt Mill. “Mill-as-in-short-for-Millicent,” as she always introduced herself. Great-Aunt Foot-in-Mouth, the rest of the family privately called her.

It had been a hectic day for the Devereaux family. As the Sydney society pages would report the following morning:
Two artistic dynasties came together yesterday with the union of fashion designer Vanessa Devereaux and actor Jared Rowe. A who’s who of the Sydney art scene was in attendance, including the bride’s mother, the celebrated artist Fidelma Devereaux, the bride’s sister and bridesmaid, jewelry designer Cleo Devereaux, and her brother Sebastian Devereaux, winner of this year’s Green Room Award for outstanding achievement in lighting design.
Vanessa, a rising star in the Sydney fashion scene, designed her own dress, a daring and colorful interpretation of the classic Grecian shift style
 . . . There would be no mention of Sylvie.

The reception was taking place in the city’s most talked about harborside restaurant. Dinner was served by waiters who looked like models. Rock oysters to begin. Pan-fried sole with truffle shavings and porcini mushrooms on a bed of baby spinach for main course. A concoction of summer berries in an amusement of toffee for dessert.

Sitting one row away from the main bridal table, Sylvie was catching her breath. She’d been on the run all day. Checking details with the celebrant, the photographer, the caterer, the musicians. Fetching the flowers. Returning the flowers when Vanessa wasn’t happy with them. Moving furniture in the hotel suite at Vanessa’s insistence. Moving it back at the photographer’s insistence. Driving to the family home to fetch a handbag her mother had left behind. Stopping on the way at her mother and sisters’ studio to collect a necklace Cleo had forgotten. Going back to the studio and the house again for more handbags and necklaces when they changed their minds. Keeping everyone fed and hydrated, dialing room service so many times she was on first-name terms with the receptionist.

She’d had fifteen minutes to race home again, do her own makeup and try to style her short curly hair. One minute to lament her ordinary brown eyes and freckled skin, so different from her sisters’ blue-eyed classic features. Five minutes to change into her wedding outfit. A normal outfit, not a bridesmaid’s dress. Vanessa had asked Cleo to be bridesmaid, again. “It’s good for both our profiles, Sylvie. You understand,” Vanessa said. Sylvie said that of course she did, and hoped her smile hid her hurt. She’d secretly hoped this time it was her turn. Or that Vanessa would have two bridesmaids. When she tentatively suggested this, Vanessa explained it was more fashionable these days to have one.

In her room, Sylvie thought her outfit looked lovely, a green silk dress and matching jacket, green high-heeled shoes and glass earrings. At only five foot two, she’d learned to avoid complicated patterns or fussy designs. “You’ve come as an elf, how sweet,” was all Cleo said. Her mother was too busy directing the hairdresser to pin up her long hair in a particular way to notice Sylvie’s outfit. She just gave her a vague wave and said she looked charming. She’d said the same thing about Sylvie’s working clothes of jeans and T-shirt that morning. Vanessa didn’t say anything. She was too busy posing for photographs. Sylvie’s only hope for a compliment was from her big brother, Sebastian, her closest ally in the family. As a child, Sylvie had secretly thought of him as her separated twin, cheerfully ignoring the seven-year age difference. They were very alike in appearance even now. Unfortunately, his flight from Melbourne had been delayed so many times it looked like the most he’d see of the wedding was the cutting of the cake.

He finally arrived at the reception at seven p.m. Sylvie’s spirits lifted as he came through the garlanded door. Although they’d spoken on the phone now and again, it was the first time they’d seen each other in ten months. He was out of his normal jeans and casual shirts, dressed in a dark-blue suit, a red tie, his unruly hair tamed into a more sober style than usual. Short for a man, only five foot six, he was often mistaken for a mid-twenties student, not the thirty-six-year-old success story he was. “It’s my boyish charm, not my height,” he always said.

Sylvie had heard Vanessa on the phone, unsubtly telling him he needed to dress up for the occasion. “A lot of my clients will be here, Sebastian. I want to make the right impression. Not like last time.” He’d come straight from a country film set to her first wedding, dirt still on his shoes. She hadn’t spoken to him for weeks. “I can see her point,” he’d said to Sylvie. “It’s my fault the marriage failed. If I’d worn a suit they’d be celebrating their fifth anniversary about now.” When he’d heard the decorative theme of this wedding was water, he’d told Sylvie he was thinking about coming in a wetsuit.

Sylvie was waving to get his attention when she heard her name being called. Shouted, in fact. It was Great-Aunt Mill, across the room at the elderly-members-of-the-family table. In her early seventies, short and plump, she was dressed in a red dress with a wide cream collar. She had pinned her white hair into a lopsided bun, adding a jaunty red bow to the back. The whole effect was unfortunately like a giant jelly cake.

Sylvie excused herself to her neighbor (an old school friend of Vanessa’s who’d spent the past hour talking about his stock portfolio) and made her way through the round, beautifully decorated tables. Each blue and white flower arrangement had cost more than Sylvie’s dress. She’d barely sat down before Great-Aunt Mill took her hand.

“You’re not to worry, little Sylvie.”

“About what, Aunt Mill?”

“About being left on the shelf.”

“But I’m not worried.”

“Of course you are. Any girl would be on a day like today. You’re probably thinking, ‘It’s not fair. One of my sisters is long married, the other has been married twice. That’s our family’s share of weddings all used up.’ Unless Sebastian surprises us, of course, but they don’t tend to marry, his sort of people, do they? They’re not allowed to, are they? We all guessed even when he was a young boy, you know. Always putting on those little plays and asking for dance lessons. Is he here yet? I haven’t seen him. But it’s not him I’m concerned about, it’s you. ‘I’ve missed out,’ you’re thinking. ‘I’m going to be single for life.’”

“I wasn’t, really.”

Mill patted Sylvie’s hand. “It can be hard being the youngest one, I know. My youngest sister, Letitia, that’s your other great-aunt, was never happy. Couldn’t seem to find her place in the world. You look like her, you know. Small. That same springy hair. Same big smile too. You might be taking after her in life, as well. Not that she lived long. Died aged twenty-four, God rest her soul. Measles. Or was it chicken pox? Something spotty anyway.”

“I’m nearly out of my twenties, Mill. I should be okay. And I’m fit as a fiddle.”

“Of course you are. Anyone can see that. You’ve got your grandfather’s farming genes in you. Fine agricultural bloodstock. Strong and sturdy, like a little ox.” Aunt Mill leaned in close enough for Sylvie to get a quick blast of sherry-scented breath. “Which is why I have a proposition for you.”

“To sell me as breeding stock?”

Aunt Mill gave a burst of laughter. “How funny. Now, you’ve been working around Sydney as a pimp for the past few years, your mother tells me.”

“A temp, Mill.”

“A tip? What about?”

“Temp. I’m a temp. It’s short for temporary secretary.”

“Nothing to be ashamed about. It can’t be easy to find permanent work these days. And not everyone gets given a special talent like your mother did. And your sisters. And your brother. Your father too, though I probably shouldn’t mention him on a happy day like today. He’s not here, I suppose? No, of course he isn’t. As I was saying, the rest of us are the worker bees. I was a housekeeper all my life, as you know, and it never did me any harm. Where is it you said you’re working?”

Sylvie was tempted to say a side street in Kings Cross. “I’m working back at the studio again, with Mum and Vanessa and Cleo. Doing their admin.” They’d called her in a panic six months previously, when their regular PA walked out in a huff on the eve of an exhibition opening. Sylvie had been there since. Apart from answering the phone, typing letters, sending orders, updating databases and doing filing, she also ran errands, booked restaurants, sent flowers and kept an eye on their supplies of herbal tea, spring water, rice cakes, pecans, blueberries, vitamin tablets and eye gel.

“A family affair. Oh, good, so you’ve had some experience.”

“Of what?”

“Working for family.”

The squeal of the microphone interrupted. The speeches were due to start. Sylvie was about to whisper to Mill that she might like to turn her chair around when the old woman put her hand on her arm and gave it a surprisingly tight squeeze. “I’ve been watching you all day. Busy as a bee. Grace under pressure. I do believe you’re the perfect candidate.”

“I am? For what?”

The best man clinked his glass. The room fell silent. All eyes were turned toward the top table. Which meant that all ninety-five people in the room, including Sylvie’s mother, her mother’s boyfriend, her three siblings, two brothers-in-law, five well-known Sydney artists, two critics, three gallery owners and sixty members of the Devereaux family’s social circle not only clearly heard but also saw Great-Aunt Mill lean over and shout her idea.

“I’m offering you a job as my companion, Sylvie. We can be two old maids together.”

BOOK: Odd One Out
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