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Authors: Sarah Jasmon

The Summer of Secrets

BOOK: The Summer of Secrets
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Contents

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Alice

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Chapter Thirty-five

Chapter Thirty-six

Chapter Thirty-seven

Chapter Thirty-eight

Chapter Thirty-nine

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Copyright

THE SUMMER OF SECRETS
Sarah Jasmon

To Fuchsia, Hatty and Gabe

Alice
1973, Greece

So much blue. From where she sat at the very back of the ferry, this was all Alice could see. The island had changed from a place to a shape to the faintest blur and now it was gone, without leaving a trace. She wanted to take off, to dive into the sea and make her way back. Jakob was out there. She should have stayed. But her body pressed itself into the heated metal of the deck. How would he find her now she was gone? The gulls circled, screaming for her.

She closed her eyes. This was the same sun, she thought, giving the same heat, the heat that all summer had kept her pinned to the sand. And alongside the unnumbered days, the heat that spilled into the nights. She squeezed her eyes more tightly shut. If she concentrated hard enough, surely she could piece it back together.

There was music, and they were dancing. Jakob was telling her something she didn’t want to hear. She could picture his mouth but the sounds it made were a jabber. She couldn’t slow them down to make sense of the words. She remembered the light, though, flooding out from the villa as she staggered away. And his brother, holding her by the shoulders. Piet was always there when she needed him, of course, but when had this happened? The memories were slides, changing too fast. She couldn’t be sure of the order any more. Think, think. Jakob, lying on the ground: her mind flashed into hiding like a gecko touched by lamplight. She forced it back, waiting for him to get back up, conjuring up the sound of the cicadas, the scent of the jasmine.

No. Her memory was playing tricks. Piet had explained it all, about Jakob leaving, and why she must take the children back to England. They would sail to Athens, and the aeroplane would take them away. Everything would be fine. She inhaled as the nausea returned, and again her hand circled on her stomach. It was the motion of the ferry, that was all.

Voices approached. She wanted them to stay away. They were her children and she loved them, of course she did. But they needed too much of her, and she had nothing to give. Even before she started taking the pills, it was as if someone had sliced her in half and scooped her out. Seth studied her with his eight-year-old eyes and seemed to understand, but Victoria’s demands were insistent and shrill. She’d always been her daddy’s girl. Alice allowed them to lean into her, with their golden summer skin. What would they remember?

And then Piet was crouching in front of her, his hands warm and heavy on her shoulders. Alice let him fill her mind with certainty. The water surrounded them, its ripples flattening as they stretched into the distance. Along the horizon, a pale, unbroken haze merged into the turquoise of the sky. The island was there, would always be there. One day, she would come back.

Chapter One
Helen
2013, Manchester: 9.30 a.m.

It can’t be her. I stand on the opposite pavement, waiting for the lines and curves of the lettering to shift, to resolve into another name entirely. It’s happened before. I am bumped by passing bags, pushchairs, elbows, but the words remain the same: Victoria Dover.

The poster is on the wall of a new art gallery, the sort that has a café and a meeting space and a workshop programme. It’s the kind of place that comes and goes a lot in this area. I must have passed it earlier as I walked off my sleeplessness, and I close my eyes, go back to the barely lit emptiness of dawn, the blankness of the shuttered windows as I headed out towards the suburbs. It wasn’t there then, must have risen like the castle in the Arabian Nights once my back was turned. I half expect the whole place to shiver and vanish as I cross the road. It doesn’t.

I look at my hands as they rest on the glass, one thumb on the V, the other to the right of the R.

In the end, I step away so I can see the whole thing. The background image is of water, water in the early morning, captured in black and white, and still supporting a dawn mist. Below the name there are smaller words, something about
photographs, awards, memory, unique
. And a date: today’s date. I notice the flyer pasted to one side. Her exhibition launches tonight; all are welcome for wine. The artist will be present. Victoria is here, somewhere in the city. I could see her, tonight, in the flesh. The print wavers in front of my eyes. My chest doesn’t want to let the air in and I feel my ribs and shoulders rise with the effort. I can’t remember how it feels to breathe normally.

Somehow, my feet take themselves away in the direction of the bookshop. I have tried to find Victoria over the years. At first, after that summer, I was always following people. Sometimes I thought it was Seth, occasionally the twins, but mostly I saw Victoria. I would see her in the back of a head, the swing of an arm, and add it up to a whole, a composite trick of the light. The sightings diminished over time. As the Internet arrived, I also made digital sorties, but with no better luck. She remained hidden in spite of technology, and my attempts dwindled to the odd search term, her name entered more out of habit than anything.

When I reach the bookshop, I lock the door behind me and leave the shutters down. After the light and noise of the street, I feel hidden, furtive, as I slide behind the counter. The computer screen flickers, and goes into the slow dance of starting up. My fingers wait above the keys.

The Dovers’ names are a litany of all I have lost, and so I have kept them hidden, safe. Now I close my eyes and let myself remember. I curate the memories, shuffling through them with the ease of an expert as the sun makes patterns on the surface of the canal and the heat fills the air with the dry dust of summer grass. The stills become the silent, jerky frames of a home movie. We are in Victoria’s room, the heat making it too much effort to stand, the drummer looking down at us with his melancholy eyes. Or we are in the garden. Victoria sits in the lotus position before rising up on to her knees and walking on them across the scrubby lawn, her feet sticking out from her hips like an origami fold. Pippa tugs at my arm and whispers in my ear and I hear the sound of Seth’s guitar. I try to see my dad, but he won’t come out of the shadows. Victoria runs along the bank, daring me to follow her, always increasing the stakes.

The water shifts relentlessly over my head, distorting the pictures. I cannot allow myself to remain there for too long. My hands drop. The screen remains blank.

Chapter Two
1983

The fly kept landing on her book. Helen blew at it yet again, and tried to refocus on the print, but the sun was too bright, it made the letters blur at the edges. She let her head drop on to her arm, the book closing with her thumb trapped inside. This time the fly landed on her leg. A twitch made it bounce along, but the moment was broken. She was now lying there and waiting for it to land again. With a sigh, she rolled on to her side and pushed herself up.

It had seemed so perfect first thing, a whole day with nothing to do except lie in the heat. Her O levels were done, school was over, and there was no nagging mother around to make her do things. Who cared if there was also no one to call up, no offers of plans to be made? When she let herself remember the last weeks of term, she could feel the burning embarrassment of being stuck without an ally for lunchtimes, sports, for all those end-of-school activities that were never as optional as they made out. She let herself fall backwards on to the old beach towel, holding the book over her face to block the heat of the sun. At least there was no one watching her be alone here. July was only the beginning. If she focused on the good things, she could pretend that September would never come.

Something scuffled outside the gate. A dog, probably, on its way down to the canal for a walk. She lay where she was, motionless, waiting for the noise to go away, but it was joined by the sound of whispering voices. Helen scrambled on to her knees, unknotting her T-shirt to cover up her midriff. There wasn’t anyone who was likely to drop by for a visit. She hoped not, anyway, not with her hair needing a wash and her face all red from the sun. Was there time to slip round to the back of the house and go inside? But then whoever it was would see her. With a sigh, she stood up, hoping to catch sight of whoever it was without them noticing.

It wasn’t what she’d expected at all. A small girl, Helen guessed about nine or ten, was stuck in the middle of the hedge. There was no sign of whoever she’d been talking to.

‘Uh, hello?’ Helen took a step towards the gate. It wasn’t someone she knew. Possibly she was visiting a grandparent in one of the houses back along the main road. ‘Have you lost something?’

The girl started up from her half-crouch. ‘You saw me!’ She made an attempt to back out, but one of her plaits was caught on a twig. ‘I was trying to get to the other end of the hedge without you seeing me. It was a dare.’ She paused in her efforts and lifted a hand to rub at her nose ‘Could you get my hair off?’

It was a long plait. As she disentangled it, Helen noticed that the girl was brown in a dusty, beach way, which meant she wasn’t from round there. Even Michelle Smith, showing off her bikini lines in PE after she’d spent three weeks in Majorca, hadn’t had a tan like that. Helen waited as the girl wriggled herself out, not sure what to say.

‘Are you sunbathing?’ Standing upright, the child came up to Helen’s shoulder. ‘You can go back and carry on, if you like.’

Helen opened her mouth and then shut it again. The girl’s accent wasn’t local either. She sounded Southern, a bit posh, and Helen almost felt as if she should be thanking her. ‘I was reading.’

‘Oh. In that case.’ The girl followed her back across the grass. ‘Have you lived here for a long time?’ She took her shoe off and shook it. ‘What’s your name?’

‘Helen.’

‘Like Helen of Troy.’ The girl giggled. ‘She was so beautiful that there was a war. But we saw a painting of her and she wasn’t pretty at all.’ She giggled again. ‘My brother said she wouldn’t have launched a thousand dinghies.’ She stopped to peer at her shoe and kicked off her other one adding, in a confidential tone, ‘I’ll be more comfortable without.’

‘I’m Helen after my grandmother, actually. What’s your name?’

‘Well, our surname is Dover. I was going to be Persephone because I was born in the spring, but Seth kept making it PercyPhone, so Mummy changed her mind and called me Pippa because of a poem she liked, and my brother’s name is really Wilfred because of a poem as well, and usually he’s called Will but I’ve decided I’m going to call him Fred.’ Coming to an abrupt stop, she twisted round. ‘I don’t know where he’s gone.’ She lifted a hand up to her mouth and called out. ‘It’s OK, she says we can come in.’

Helen was about to say she hadn’t said that at all when a boy appeared at the side of the house. She’d never seen two children more alike. Twins, surely, although they couldn’t actually be identical. A fragment from a biology lesson floated into her mind.
Identical twins are monozygotic, formed from a single egg. They are genetically identical, therefore always come in same-sex sets.
These two resembled an illustration from a children’s book: tilted noses, freckles, dungarees. The boy, Will, was even carrying a fishing net. He didn’t come all the way across to them, but hovered by the path before dropping to his stomach, his eyes fixed on the section of the garden Helen’s mother had always referred to as ‘the meadow’.

Pippa rolled her eyes. ‘He’s practising to be a soldier,’ she said. ‘Though we think it’s just a phase.’ She giggled. ‘Seth says it wouldn’t be any good him being a soldier anyway, because he doesn’t believe in taking anyone’s side but his own.’

BOOK: The Summer of Secrets
9.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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