Excerpt from Chapter 1
Ten Years Ago
There are some places where you might expect to bump into your boyfriend's ultra-posh mother. At a Buckingham Palace garden party perhaps, or Glyndebourne, or turning her nose up at Ferrero Rochers at some foreign ambassador's cocktail party. And then there are other places you wouldn't expect to bump into her at all.
Like, for example, the Cod Almighty at the dodgier end of Tooting High Street.
'Blimey, it's Dougie's mum.' Instinctively wiping her hands on her green nylon apron and curbing the urge to curtseybecause Dougie's mum was that poshLola said brightly, 'Hello, Mrs Tennant, how lovely to see you!'
And how typical that she should turn up two minutes before closing, when all they had left to offer her was a tired-looking sausage and a couple of overlooked fishcakes. Maybe Alf could be persuaded to quickly chuck a couple of fresh pieces of haddock into the fryer and
'Hello, Lola. I wondered if we could have a chat.' Even for a visit to a fish and chip shop, Dougie's mother's make-up was immaculate, her hair swept into a Princess Michael of Kent chignon.
'Oh, right. Absolutely. I'm just finishing here.' Lola glanced across at Alf, who made good-humored off-you-go gestures. 'We close at half past two. So you don't want anything to take away?'
Was that a shudder? Mrs Tennant shook her head and said with a flicker of amusement, 'I don't think so, do you?'
Having retrieved her shoulder bag from the back room and shrugged off her nylon apronyouch, staticLola ducked under the swing-top counter and took the king-sized portion of chips Alf had wrapped up for her, seeing as they had so many left.
'Bye, Alf. See you tomorrow.'
'I can drop you home if you like,' said Dougie's mother. 'The car's just outside.'
Lola beamed; free chips and a lift home in a brand new Jaguar. This was definitely her lucky day.
Outside on the pavement it was stiflingly hot and muggy. Inside the Jaguar the cool air smelled deliciously of expensive leather and Chanel No. 19.
'This is such a great car,' sighed Lola, stroking the upholstery as Dougie's mother started the engine.
'Thank you. I like it.'
'How could anyone not like it?' Lola balanced the steaming parcel of chips in her lap, careful to keep it away from her bare legs. Her stomach was rumbling but she heroically resisted the temptation to open them. 'So why did you want to see me? Is this about Dougie's birthday?'
'No. Actually it's about you and Dougie. I want you to stop seeing him.'
Bam, just like that.
Lola blinked. 'Excuse me?'
'I'd like you to end your relationship with my son.'
This couldn't be happening. Her shoulders stiffening in disbelief, Lola watched as Dougie's mother drove along, as calm and unconcerned as if they were discussing nothing more taxing than the weather.
'He's eighteen years old.'
'He's eighteen now,' Mrs Tennant repeated firmly, 'and on his way to university. He is going to university.'
'I know.' Bewildered, Lola said, 'I'm not stopping him. We're going to see each other whenever we can, take it in turns to do the journey. I'll catch the coach up to Edinburgh every other weekend, and Dougie's going to drive down here when it's his turn, then'
'No, no, no, I'm sorry but he won't. This isn't the kind of relationship Doug needs right now. He told me last night that he was having second thoughts about going to university. He wants to stay here. And that's all down to you, my girl. But I won't stand by and let you ruin his life.'
The hot chips were burning Lola's legs now. 'Honestly, I'm not ruining his life. I want the best for Dougie, just like you do. We love each other! I've already told him, if we miss each other too much I'll move up to Edinburgh and we'll live together!'
'Oh yes, he mentioned that too. And the next thing we know, you'd be feeling left out because he'd have all his university friends while you're stuck working behind the counter of some backstreet fish and chip shop.' Mrs Tennant's lip curled with disdain. 'So to regain his attention you'd accidentally get yourself pregnant. No, I'm sorry, I simply can't allow this to happen. Far better for you to make the break now.'
Who did this woman think she was?