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First pages

BACK

It’s hot in the club and the bassline of the music shudders through the floorboards as I sway almost imperceptibly in time with the beat, enjoying the feeling of hands on my hips, warm breath on my not-quite sunburned shoulders.

I lean back. His kiss slides along, from the straps of my sundress, up my neck, stopping just shy of my earlobe, where he whispers my name.

Just as he’s moving his hands around my waist, the alarm begins to sound and I turn in a panic, to see… not beautiful, golden Sam but short, middle-aged Jason Wilberforce, my boss from World of Stationery, where I have worked for six years. I gasp, and try to push him away and, as in all good stories, I wake up to realise it’s only a dream.

Sadly for me, I am no longer eighteen and my beautiful, golden Sam is long since lost to me. A summer romance, as everyone told me it was destined to be.

But, as I start to come round, blinking sore eyes and cursing my alarm clock, I also take in the light – that special, unmistakeable light, and the sounds from outside.

The seagulls calling from the roof above my dormer window.

The street sweeper, making its rounds, preparing the town for another influx of visitors strewing the streets with chip wrappers; dropped ice creams which no amount of accompanying child’s tears will wash away; carelessly discarded beer bottles. It all gets swept up, only to be replaced like-for-like, every single day.

Garden birds and their songs add a sweetness to the morning; unfailingly cheerful and seeming to sing for the sheer joy of another day dawning.

And just there, if I listen carefully - try to strain my hearing past this immediate cacophony - the constant, comforting - exciting - sound of the sea.

I am back, in my beloved Cornwall, exactly where I was ten years ago, in that summer of Sam. This is the county that calls to me when I am away from it; rugged and wild, exciting and exotic. The place which makes me feel alive.

Julie, my best friend, my companion that first summer so long ago, is also back; tucked away in the room next to mine, just a thin wall separating us. We’re both twenty-eight now and a lot has happened in ten years but we’ve given ourselves another summer and we are both determined to make the most of it.

1

Unfortunately, in order to secure our places in Cornwall this summer, both Julie and I have had to take on two jobs each. My first, which I am busily readying myself for, is as a breakfast waitress. The very same job I had ten years ago, when I’d just finished my A-Levels. In the intervening years, I’ve accidentally established a career in sales, and I have to say I’ve become pretty good at it. Over the years I learned the full range of stationery products my firm had to offer, and I established good relationships with many of the long-term clients. However, it hasn’t made me happy – despite the OK pay and the regular incentives. And I am pretty sure that Jason Wilberforce (he of the wandering hands and mouth from my dream) would not be able to make me happy, either.

Julie, meanwhile, has just come out of a long-term relationship. She was due to be getting married next year, to Gabe, who I really like. I personally think they are well suited, but she says she just isn’t ready for it: “We’ve lived together three years and already all the domestic chores have fallen to me. I’m cooking every night, picking up his dirty pants from the bathroom floor, reminding him when it’s his mum’s birthday. I just… I feel trapped. I don’t like it. It’s not me.”

So she left him. She left him a note, which I think was pretty cowardly of her, but I suppose at least it wasn’t a text message, and went to her mum’s. It was while she was there, just a few short weeks ago, that she called me up with this ridiculous idea that we could re-live our golden summer, as we’d taken to calling it. I’d laughed before I’d realised she was serious.

“Come on, Julie, you and Gabe will be back together by the end of the week. You’re meant to be together.”

“Hmm.”

“You love him!”

“I’m not sure how much that has got to do with anything anymore. I don’t think he loves me.”

“Of course he bloody loves you!”

“Then why does he expect me to do everything? It used to be that he told me he loved me every day. Now, more often than not, he’s asking me what’s for tea.”

She had me there. And in honesty, having got nowhere near the moving-in stage in a relationship, never mind getting engaged, and certainly never mind getting married, I could see her point. It didn’t sound like much fun.

Sure, I did everything around my flat, but then there was only me there. I could eat what I wanted, watch what I wanted on TV, put on whatever music I liked, leave the washing-up for the next day or clean the place from top to bottom (although admittedly this only happened very occasionally) in the knowledge that nobody was going to come and mess it up – or, if anybody did, it would be me. Sometimes one of my parents would let themselves in when I was at work, if they knew I was having a hard week, and leave a freshly-cooked meal, or give the flat a good clean, but that was a very occasional treat and I certainly never asked them to do it.

For the last few years, I have been settled, self-sufficient, and my life has run to a timetable: 9-5 office job (sometimes working later if a particular contract necessitates it), Pilates on a Monday, running club on a Wednesday, after-work drinks on a Friday, and a well-earned lie-in on Saturdays and Sundays, with perhaps a lazy meander around the shops, or a meal out, or an evening at a friend’s house. Sunday lunch at my parents’ and maybe a walk out on the Malverns or in the Wyre Forest, to ‘blow the cobwebs away’ as Dad always says. It has been all very comfortable. And very predictable. But now friends are getting settled, trying out being grown-up (or so it seems to me), getting engaged, even talking about having children! Julie, as she well knew, had caught me at the exact right moment to persuade me to try something new.

“OK, OK.”

“OK, we’re going to Cornwall?”

“No, OK, I get it. I take your point. But you can’t just ring me and say ‘Let’s go to Cornwall’ and expect me to drop everything.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve got a job…”

“… which you hate,” Julie supplied.

“I’ve got a flat…”

“… which you could easily rent out. Really, really easily. In fact, Lee’s looking for somewhere at the moment. That would make things easy.”

Lee was Julie’s older brother. OK, that was one solution and I’d known Lee since he was thirteen and we were eleven, so I knew I could trust him. Renting to him should be easy. But I wasn’t going to capitulate, just like that.

“I go to Pilates…” I tried, lamely.

“I’m pretty sure they’ve got Pilates in Cornwall.”

“I’ve got a notice period at work…”

“Yep, so if you hand in your notice tomorrow, we could be heading off in a month’s time. Just ready for the start of the season. I’ve spoken to Bea and she’s happy to have us both back at the Sail Loft. You as breakfast waitress and morning receptionist, me as breakfast chef. That means we’ve got our evenings – except for the odd one when Bea needs me to cover.”

“You’ve spoken to Bea?”

Bea Danson was the owner of the Sail Loft Hotel, where both Julie and I had worked that golden summer. We’d kept in touch very loosely over the years; Christmas cards, mainly. Bea had been lovely to work for and, judging by some of the stories which the other seasonal workers had to offer, this was quite unusual.

“What?”

“You’ve spoken to Bea? Without even asking me first?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, I could have spoken to you first but I knew if I did you’d come up with a load of reasons not to do it. So I’ve spoken to her, and she’s got jobs for us. And David can rent us our old rooms again.”

David, Bea’s younger brother, had previously let us rent his attic rooms – which were tiny and had a pokey kitchen with a two-ring hob, and a small, hot bathroom with a porthole window, but were right in the centre of town - for a very reasonable price. We’d really fallen on our feet, for two fresh-faced teenagers down from the Midlands. But was it possible that ten years later we could relive the experience as happily as we had back then?

“I’ll call you back,” I said.

 

Within twelve hours, I’d handed my notice in at work. Jason’s face had fallen. “But you’re our best salesperson. Nobody knows our range like you do. Nobody else has stayed here as long as you.”

The last sentence was the nail in the coffin.

“What if we call it a sabbatical?” he’d asked. “You have a break for a few months and come back to us after you’ve had your little summer holiday.”

Call it what you like, I’d thought. It isn’t that Jason is an unpleasant man; he is perfectly nice but sometimes I think he lives for work, and that he was sizing me up to follow in his footsteps. He sometimes called me his number two, which would have the rest of the office snorting with laughter, but he never seemed to notice. I felt a sudden, strong urgency within me; a need to escape, and a resistance to having my life mapped out for me in such a way. Maybe the predictability of everything had been niggling away at me for a while. Julie knew this and seized on this opportunity, which works for both of us – as long as she really does want to split up with Gabe. Oh well, there’s no going back now, for me at least.

 

Twenty-four hours later, I’d agreed a rental contract with Lee for three months, which more than covered my mortgage. I’d spoken to David about the rooms, and to Bea about the job(s), just to double check that these arrangements were as firm as Julie was suggesting. Not that I don’t trust my lifelong friend, but she and I are at other ends of the spectrum when it comes to needing reliability. Luckily, both David and Bea sounded happy to hear from me and I must admit, after I’d spoken to them, I felt a slow wave roll right through me, washing away a certain greyness and replacing it with nerves, and excitement. It seemed that Julie was to be trusted after all. And from that point on, until the day we left, I couldn’t stop looking at photos of Cornwall online, checking out the webcam footage from the harbour. I just could not wait.

 

Thirty-one days later, I was rammed into a car with Julie and about a hundred over-full bags and cases, Radio 1 on full blast as we merrily headed down the M5, ignoring the fact that the sky was full of grey, low-hanging clouds and starting to weep great fat tears onto our windscreen. It clearly wouldn’t be able to hold back much longer. We didn’t care. We were off to Cornwall.

 

We had to park a few streets away from David’s house as it is on one of those charming but inconveniently slim streets in the centre of the town. We decided to go and say hello before bringing in any of our luggage.

“You’re here!” David exclaimed and he insisted on giving us a proper Cornish cream tea first (we couldn’t bring ourselves to tell him we stopped at a McDonald’s just half an hour earlier) before helping us bring all our bags into the house and up the stairs.

 

It felt like nothing had changed in the flat since our last visit. Even the vague smell of washing powder and furniture polish seemed reminiscent of those days. The rooms were spotlessly clean, and looked spacious with bare shelves and just a bed, chair and chest of drawers, but as soon as we’d dragged all our bags up and started to try and sort out places for clothes, books, computers, they seemed to shrink. But they also started to feel like home. David says he’s had a few lodgers come and go over the years, but he doesn’t really need the money and he says that, depending on the people, it can be easier to keep the rooms empty.

“It must be a bit annoying, having people running up and down your stairs,” I said to him on my third, increasingly breathless and red-faced trip. We share David’s front door, traipsing through the shady, dark hallway and straight up two flights of stairs, to get to our rooms.

“Oh, it’s OK with you two – I did have a guy one year who kept bringing different girls back, though, and that got a bit annoying. And noisy, on occasion. Also, it’s giving strangers access to my house. I don’t know who they are, they might want to nick something. Or they might take a fancy to me while I’m asleep. Who could blame them?”

“Well, indeed,” I laughed. “You’re safe with me and Julie, though. No offence.”

“None taken! Anyway, I’m often at Martin’s these days so you and Julie have got the place to yourselves a lot of the time. You can use my garden if you want to, and my kitchen if you need something a bit more substantial than the one upstairs.”

***

Now we have a few days to just acclimatise, as Julie calls it, during which we meander around town, drinking too much most nights, and revisiting all our old haunts. Although the town hasn’t changed very much in some ways; the harbour remains the same and the twisty, turny streets – which are not open to negotiation – are exactly as they were, it seems as though new houses and blocks of ‘luxury apartments’ have been squeezed in wherever there was an iota of space. And many of the old shops and restaurants appear to have had a facelift; replacing old, weathered wood and aging, worn carpets with shiny chrome and expensive black tiles. Hoffs, the nightclub where Jason and I (I can’t help an involuntary shudder at those words) had been in that dream, and which featured sticky carpets and sweat-dripping ceilings, is now a posh-looking fish restaurant. Despite all of this, as I walk the streets and beaches each day, I feel increasingly like I am back home.

 

After a few days, I am also acclimatising to a new kind of work – or at least one which I thought I’d left behind long ago. I get dressed in the flat; white blouse and black skirt, sensible flat shoes, and hurry with Julie along the early morning streets to the Sail Loft.

Bea is waiting for us and greets us with the most enormous hugs. She doesn’t seem to have aged a day in ten years. I am touched by her warmth for she must have had different staff each year since we were last here but she seems genuinely happy to see us, and I am instantly at ease with her. Once my first shift is done, I have my own breakfast (cooked by Julie), change into a dark blue skirt and light blue shirt, and I’m transformed into the hotel receptionist. It’s not exactly challenging and I can feel my inner voice screaming at me about taking a major backwards step in my career (maybe that’s my dad’s voice I can hear, come to think of it – he’s a great one for security and stability, so I guess I’ve inherited my steady side from him) but I am really enjoying it.

Mostly, the customers are lovely people – but of course there are the ones who just love to complain, about anything and everything. Toast is too hot/too cold; there’s a small (invisible) mark on a spoon; the eggs aren’t runny/are runny; the bacon is greasy/too crispy/not crispy enough; somebody’s finished the orange juice and it hasn’t been refilled. I learned ten years ago to try and spot these types as they entered the breakfast room. It would seem that I haven’t lost that skill.

Now that I’m on reception, I have a whole new list of complaints to compile: the sand hasn’t been washed from the shower by the chambermaid; the teabags haven’t been replenished; there’s a layer of dust on the TV; the seagulls are too noisy.

For the most part, though, people are lovely. You generally get people at their best when they’re on holiday. I keep a few notes about the more eccentric characters, though; they’re good fodder for the book I intend to write one day.

 

What I have noticed is that I’m more tired than I used to be when I was eighteen. And I wouldn’t say that at twenty-eight I’m exactly ancient. But I am sure Julie and I used to be out at pubs/clubs/beach parties till about 3am most mornings and still be bright and breezy into work. We’d rest in the afternoons, ready to begin it all again. Now I feel like if I fall asleep in the afternoon, I won’t wake up again until the next morning. Instead, I try and go for a run along the cliff paths, which is bloody hard work, especially now the days are getting hotter. I’ll cool off and ease my muscles with a swim in the sea, which is my ultimate luxury and one of the main draws for me to this place. I have dreamed for so long of living here and I’m sure that if I could, I’d swim in the sea nearly every day, and I’d still be doing so when I was ninety. There is magic in the air in Cornwall, I swear.

2

Since we’ve been here, Julie really does appear determined to re-live that first golden summer, in every way. Even now we’re working, she wants to be out almost every night. Although Hoffs is long-gone, there are now three clubs in town to choose from: Shapes, Nico’s and Ecuabar. Shapes is a bit more music-driven and a ‘proper’ club, with visiting DJs and live acts, and all-nighters at the weekends. Nico’s is typically cheesy – your average ‘cattle market’ - and Ecuabar fancies itself a cut above, with a VIP area and expensive cocktails. We have been to all three but there is no way we can afford to go to Ecuabar very often, and Shapes is also a bit pricey although I much prefer the music there. Nico’s is definitely playing to the tourist crowd, with happy hours every night, 2-4-1 cocktails, Ladies Night (can you believe anywhere still does that?) on a Thursday and karaoke on a Wednesday.

Somehow we always seem to end up in there, swaying back to the flat in the early morning, and getting back up again just after five. It’s not surprising I’m tired.

The other thing Julie is determined to re-live is going on the pull. I’m not kidding; she must have got off with four different men already, and it’s only week two.

She laughs when I mention this. “Making up for lost time, aren’t I?”

I can’t help but think of Gabe and how he would feel about this. Julie doesn’t know about this but he came to see me, the night before we left. I’d just got back to Mum and Dad’s, after making sure I’d cleared the flat for Lee, and there was Gabe, sitting in his car.

I spotted him before he saw me; he was gazing into the distance and he looked so sad. I knocked on his window and he jumped then opened his door, smiling at me.

“Hi Alice, I’m sorry to just turn up like this.”

“That’s alright!” I said, giving him a hug. “You could have knocked on Mum and Dad’s door, you know.”

“I didn’t want to disturb them,” he said, “and I’m not sure where I’m welcome anymore. I’m not sure…”

His voice drifted away and I waited a moment for him to finish his sentence but it seemed he couldn’t.

“You’re not sure of anything much?” I suggested.

He nodded and his eyes filled with tears. I put my hand on his and pulled him towards Mum and Dad’s. “Gabe’s here!” I called, pushing him up the stairs as I knew he wouldn’t want them to see him crying.

“Alright, love!” Dad’s distracted, TV-watching voice drifted back.

Gabe and I sat quietly for a while and he pulled himself together, which I could see was an effort.

“Look after her, will you, Alice?” he asked, his brown eyes fixing mine.

“Of course I will,” I said. “And I’m sorry, Gabe.”

“Don’t be!” He laughed without any humour. “I messed up. I just… got lazy, I suppose. I should have known not to do that with Julie. You know what she’s like; strong, wild… it’s what I love about her.”

I couldn’t help but agree, internally at least. I’d been amazed when Julie had moved in with Gabe, and more so when they’d got engaged, because although she was rarely out of a relationship, I hadn’t ever imagined her really settling down. But I could see he was good for her. However, I think he dropped the ball if what she’s told me is true, and what he said seemed to back it up.

Gabe didn’t stay long but I promised I’d keep in touch with him while we were away. “I don’t want to know what she’s up to,” he’d smiled sadly, “I just need to know she’s OK.”

I gave him a hug.

“Don’t tell her I’ve been to see you, please, Alice. She’ll think I’m trying to get to her through you. I’m not, I promise.”

I think Julie probably just needs to blow off steam. She is careful to make sure it’s tourists that she targets, so that she doesn’t get a reputation around town.

“Why aren’t you getting stuck in, anyway?” she’s asked me.

The answer is, I just don’t feel like it. Unlike Julie, I don’t think I have anything to prove to anyone. I’ve had a few boyfriends over the years since we were last here but I’ve learned to be cautious since Geoff.

 

I got together with Geoff a few months after the golden summer, after I accepted that Sam and I were not meant to be, after all. It was probably a rebound thing and Geoff was so different to Sam but he was so intense. After three dates, he wanted to be with me every night, and when he realised I loved Cornwall so much, he said he’d quit his job and we could move down here. Well, I knew I wanted to move down here, but I found it a bit unnerving that he was ready to pack everything in for somebody he really hardly knew. He had a good job, and a place to live, and seemed really well set-up. He changed his mind about Cornwall after a few months, anyway, but I carried on dreaming.

In the early days, Geoff would bring me flowers, chocolates, bottles of wine. He had a nice car and took me out to the countryside for walks, evening meals at nice pubs, that kind of thing. On paper, I guess it all looked good. He seemed the romantic type and was very attentive. Only for me, he was too attentive. I was, after all, only nineteen. He was twenty-three, which seemed very grown-up back then. I could tell Mum and Dad had their doubts but somehow I stayed with Geoff for well over a year. It doesn’t sound long now but it felt like ages. When I did finally gather the nerve to tell him it was over, it was awful. He sobbed, and sobbed, then sobbed some more. He asked what he could do differently. He said he was going to ask me to marry him.

I was in my second year at university. Getting married was the last thing on my mind. I also knew that I still harboured thoughts of Sam, which confirmed that Geoff was not the right person for me. Geoff’s sorrow quickly turned to anger but I had made up my mind and I knew I had to stay strong.

 

Now I’m back here, I can’t help but think of Sam and he is on my mind every day. It seems like every corner I turn, a memory floats up. The wall where he was sitting when he’d pulled me to him, and kissed me on our first proper date, when he’d tried unsuccessfully to teach me to surf then bought me chips and tea, in polystyrene containers. Somehow, nothing had ever tasted so good.

In the evening, we’d walked for some time then we had stopped at this wall. Sam smelled of the sea, and smoke from the bonfire down on the beach. I can even remember what he was wearing; a dark-blue hoodie, which was soft to the touch, and a pair of knee-length shorts, which hung gently from his frame and revealed his blonde-haired, tanned legs. His arms reached inside my zip-up jacket, and encircled my waist. Gently, he reeled me in.

Sam’s eyes were brilliant blue (I concede I have maybe embellished my memories but this is how I see them in my mind) and his hair was wavy; neither long, nor short, dark-blond. A typical Cornish surfer, I suppose. But one of the funniest, kindest people I had ever, and have ever, met.

I do keep wondering what would happen if I bumped into him but I know he was itching to leave Cornwall – strange though that may seem to me. He had laughed when I said I wanted to move here.

“Oh yeah? Going to open a beach café?”

I’d blushed a little as, in my teenage mind, that was exactly what I was going to do. It was going to be amazing. Julie and I had already discussed the idea.

“Go surfing every day?” He’d pushed his point a little further.

“Erm…”

“Ah, I know, it would be amazing, but I’ve seen so many of those businesses come and go. Seriously, Cornwall might be beautiful but there’s fuck-all for folk to do and fuck-all money ’less you’re a second-home-owner from the Home Counties.”

That was me put straight.

I wonder what he has ended up doing. His dream was to work in wildlife conservation but he hadn’t been too hopeful that he would be able to follow it. And anyway, people change. When I was eighteen, I didn’t know what I wanted to do – maybe work for a charity, or work with animals - but I did know I didn’t want to work in an office. I ended up selling stationery. Could Sam be working in the City, in London? I just couldn’t put him in a suit and tie, somehow.

Maybe a super-cool digital designer based somewhere like Bristol, or Brighton.

I knew where his Auntie Lou lived – or at least where she had lived ten years ago – but it is a little way out of town and I had never met her so I couldn’t just happen to be passing and pop in to say hello. And the flat above the fancy dress shop, where Sam sometimes stayed with his mate Christian, looks like it’s no longer lived in. But anyway, Sam is not why I’m here. He’s just a happy memory from this place. I am not about to become a stalker. I am not Geoff.

 

So far, whenever Julie cops off with somebody, I’ve taken it as a chance to actually go to bed a bit earlier. I make sure she is OK, and happy, but I can’t just stand around like a lemon while she’s got her tongue down some bloke’s throat. I ask her to text me when she’s heading home, and I wait up to make sure she’s safe, even though she tells me I don’t need to.

I’m not exactly averse to some romance if it should come my way, but I am not interested in pointless, drunken snogs. Besides which, I haven’t seen anybody with whom I’d like to share a pointless, drunken snog.

 

Tonight, as it’s Saturday, it’s extra-busy everywhere. There are rumours of a party on the beach and I’m quite keen to go. I used to love those parties: music pumping out of somebody’s speakers; fires crackling, the heat sending the air wavy; the sound of the sea rushing across the sand towards us, trying but failing to find us; retreating in the darkness.

This is the kind of evening when I could be tempted into a kiss, I suppose. There’s something far more romantic and exciting about a beach party than a heaving, too-hot club.

Julie and I have both had an afternoon snooze, in preparation. Tomorrow, Sunday, is our day off, so we don’t have to think about getting up early. I am really looking forward to lying in my bed, reading all morning, maybe having a little doze, listening to the gulls, and the people passing by on the street below.

We drink a gin and tonic in my room, Julie mucking about with some new glittery make-up she’s bought. I have gone light on the make-up, with a little bit of mascara and eye-liner. I feel like my skin’s already caught the Cornish sun and I leave it bare. I’m wearing a FatFace tunic, with some shorts underneath and a hoodie I bought here ten years ago zipped over the top. The other thing I love about beach parties is that there is no pressure to dress up. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’m very happy to dress down.

Julie is in cut-offs, with a hooded vest top. Her dark, curly hair is loose down her back and she’s bought a silver anklet which sets off her dark-skinned legs beautifully. She is stunning, Julie, and I always tell her that she really doesn’t need make-up but she never believes me when I tell her that.

“Fancy another?” she asks me, sucking an ice cube from her empty glass.

I laugh, and gulp my own drink down. “Why not?” I feel that familiar excitement of a night out, followed by a day off. I feel suddenly, headily free. I hug Julie.

“What’s that for?”

“Just… this. I’m so happy. What a great idea. Thank you, for making me do this.”

“That’s OK! Thanks for coming with me. I don’t know what I’d have done if you’d said no. Probably have gone back to Gabe.”

“You wouldn’t… would you?” I don’t like to think that I’m behind them being apart. I want to tell her about him coming to see me, but he asked me not to. And really, what good would it do to tell her? It would just make her feel worse about things.

“Nah! But I don’t suppose I’d be here. I do kind of miss him, but I’m too angry at him to miss him too much.”

“Well… I hope he’s OK. I do like him, you know that. But you’ve got to do what’s right for you.” I consider telling her about his visit the night before we came down here but I don’t see what good it will do any of us.

Julie nods, and pours an extra dash of gin into her drink. “You’re right. I have. To freedom!”

She clinks her glass against mine; a tad too vigorously, I think, as some of my drink sloshes over the side, onto my bare legs.

“Freedom,” I agree.

Beach party, here we come!

 

The streets and the pubs are busy as we walk through town; people are crowded onto and around the tables outside the Mainbrace.

“Stop for one for some Dutch courage?” Julie asks.

I would normally say we’ve already had enough Dutch courage, especially given that our bags each hold plenty of ready-mixed gin & tonic (this would have been cider ten years ago; maybe I have changed more than I thought) but I’m filled with excitement and nerves and another drink doesn’t seem like a bad idea. “Go on, then!”

We push our way inside, and I take in the warmth of the pub; its atmosphere – there is a mixture of locals and holiday-makers, chatting and laughing. This is one pub where anyone and everyone can feel welcome. Julie edges her way steadily to the bar, and I keep close behind. The crowd seems to part for Julie and admiring glances are cast her way but she doesn’t notice. In her wake, I’m looking around surreptitiously. No matter how hard I pretend otherwise, I’m keeping an eye out for Sam.

Julie turns suddenly. “You’re definitely going to bump into him this summer, I can feel it.”

“What? Who?” I ask, unconvincingly.

“Don’t give me that!” She grins. “You two were in lurve, properly. I know you’re looking for Sam.”

She turns abruptly at the sound of the barman’s voice, and I can tell from his reaction that she is giving him her most winning smile. “What’s it to be, my love?”

“We’ll have two G&Ts please, barman.”

“I’m guessing you two ladies don’t need slimline tonic?”

Smooth.

“Too right. Full fat tonic for us, please.”

“Here you go,” the barman smiles at us both, wiping the bar with a small towel before he places the bottles and glasses in front of us. “What are you two up to tonight, then?”

“Beach party,” Julie says as I hear a guy behind us muttering that he’s dying of thirst.

“That right, eh? Well, don’t forget us, if you get a bit cold down the beach.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Katharine E. Smith is a writer, editor and publisher. An avid reader of contemporary writers such as Kate Atkinson, David Nicholls and Anne Tyler, Katharine’s aim is to write books she would like to read herself. She has three novels to her name, and one non-fiction guide, written with fellow indie authors in mind. Katharine runs Heddon Publishing from her home in Shropshire, which she shares with her husband and their two children.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
A Second Chance Summer was inspired by a combination of a sense of place - I was in Cornwall when the idea came to me - and happy memories of holidays with friends, in my early 20s. As I'm older and married with children, I enjoyed writing about a time with more freedom and different issues.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
I have a website, and a Facebook page, and a Twitter account - although I really am not very good at Twitter. Some would say my books say a lot about me, too. For example, I am a committed vegetarian and all my main characters are, too. Just a small point but something important to me.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
I really do love writing. I enjoy creating characters, and a sense of place, and I hope that people enjoy the experience of reading my books. Even if nobody read them, I would carry on writing, as it is a slice of life which is just 'mine', amidst the pressures (and fun) of having young children.

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