Heartbreak and Happiness: A contemporary family saga

Heartbreak and Happiness: A contemporary family saga

by Rosie Harris

Hardcover(First World Publication)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780727885852
Publisher: Severn House Publishers
Publication date: 06/01/2016
Edition description: First World Publication
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Rosie Harris is the author of more than twenty romantic sagas which have captivated her readers. Born in Cardiff, Rosie lived in Merseyside after her marriage, before eventually moving south to Buckinghamshire.

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Heartbreak and Happiness


By Rosie Harris

Severn House Publishers Limited

Copyright © 2016 Marion Harris
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84751-631-2


CHAPTER 1

'That new supermarket that's opened up the road is definitely affecting our turnover, we'll have to try to do something about it.'

Bill Peterson was a tall, lean, handsome, dark-haired man in his forties. Usually he was very good-humoured, but at the moment his dark brows were drawn together in a heavy frown.

He held out the account book he had been poring over to his wife, Sandra, who was busy ironing.

'See for yourself. Look how much the takings were over the last three months, and then compare them with the same period last year.'

Three years younger than her husband, Sandra was an attractive blonde and although rather glamorous, she was far more practical than he was.

'All businesses have their ups and downs,' she murmured with an encouraging smile as she paused in her ironing and placed the iron on its stand before taking the ledger from him.

'We've got to do something. I don't intend letting that upstart at the new supermarket put me out of business,' Bill said with determination.

'You can't really blame him,' Sandra argued. 'He's only young. And anyway it's not his business, he's only the manager. I don't suppose for one minute that it was his decision to open in Shelston.'

'I know, I know. But he's the one in charge, he's the one running the place and ruining our business. Shelston is not really a town, only an overgrown village. We don't need a supermarket here.'

'Very true,' Sandra agreed as she passed the ledger back to him and resumed her ironing. 'And that's why you can't expect to do a roaring trade like you might be able to do in a large town. If that's what you want, then perhaps we should move. Find a shop in a town, or even in a city somewhere, so you can expand the business.'

'Leave Shelston? Not likely!' Bill said heatedly. 'I was born and bred here and so were you. We both went to the village school, it's our home and it was our parents' home before us, and it's where we'll stay until we die.'

Sandra carefully folded the shirt she'd ironed and placed it on the table, before reaching for another one from the crumpled pile in the laundry basket on the chair beside her.

'Can you imagine leaving here, one of the prettiest villages in the West Country, to go and live in some dirty, noisy town?' Bill persisted. 'Would you want to live all cramped up in one of those streets in a town, with houses on either side of you, when we can live here in a lovely old stone cottage surrounded by trees and a couple of acres of ground?'

'No, not really,' Sandra agreed. 'But if it was what you wanted, then of course I'd do it.'

'You wouldn't be able to have any hens running around to provide you with fresh eggs, and there would certainly be nowhere for a vegetable garden.'

'Then stop worrying about how much our shop takings are. We supply most of the people hereabouts with their meat and eggs. And from now on, since we've made that arrangement for the Masons to provide us with produce from their farm, we'll have butter and cheese as well.'

'Yes, I know that,' Bill agreed. 'In fact it's already proving to be very popular and we've only been doing it for a couple of months.'

'Precisely! So stop worrying.'

'What I'm saying is, what do we want with a supermarket? We've already got a baker's, a fruit-and-vegetable shop, a post office, and a newsagent's that does cards and fancy goods. So what do we want with another shop, and a supermarket at that?'

'It's progress, I suppose,' Sandra murmured.

'Progress! Load of codswallop that is. Who wants to buy their meat all cut to a standard size and wrapped in cling film so they can't tell whether it's going to be what they want until they get it home? Oven-ready they call it, or so they tell me down at the pub, but when it's all wrapped up like that you can't tell whether it's pork, beef or old mutton. The bacon's the same. And the mince is packed in little plastic trays, and when you open it up all the rubbish is at the bottom and the bright-red meat on top.'

'People think that having it packed like that is very hygienic, though,' Sandra pointed out. 'There's no problems with flies —'

'Even the pub trade is being affected because of that damned supermarket,' Bill interrupted. 'Only the other day, when I dropped in for a pint, Jack Smart at the Red Lion was complaining about them selling drinks and spirits at cut prices, as well as soft drinks. Give that supermarket another six months of trading and they'll have put all of us out of business.'

'Oh come on, Bill, things aren't that bad!' Sandra insisted. 'Your reputation as "Bill the Butcher" is far too well known in Shelston and for miles around for that to happen. Folk who shop with us have always liked to know where their meat and poultry comes from, and you just said yourself how delighted they all were when we started stocking butter, cream and cheese from the Masons' farm.'

'I'd like to think so,' he agreed. 'But I'm not so sure it's going to last. I've seen them coming out of that damned supermarket loaded down with plastic bags bulging with stuff they've bought in there.'

'Well, they do sell a wide variety of things, you know, not just meat and dairy products. Mavis Mason was telling me she goes in there for her soap powders and a good many other odds and ends she had to go into Gillingham or Yeovil or even Salisbury to buy before they opened.'

'You both managed well enough in the past, and you enjoyed the chance of going out for the day,' he said dismissively.

'True enough, but I had far more time then. I wasn't helping out in the shop so much, as we had Maggie Gray working for us.'

'Yes,' Bill snorted, 'that's another reason to hate that supermarket! Offered her better money and more hours than I could afford, but she puts on her coat and walks out after working for me ever since she left school.'

'Maggie's planning to get married next year,' Sandra reminded him. 'So she probably needs every penny she can get to save up for a deposit on a house.'

'That's as maybe, but I was the one who trained her and taught her all she knows about meat and such like.'

'It's the end of the school year, so I'm sure we can find another young girl to take her place.'

'No,' Bill said gloomily, 'we can't afford to take anyone else on, not even a school-leaver. At the moment we are barely covering our overheads, and if we are going to be able to afford to send our Becky to university then we're going to need more money, and no mistake.'

'Worrying about it isn't going to do any good, and Rebecca hasn't had the results of her exam yet,' Sandra said mildly.

'Maybe not, but she will be doing so any day now.'

'Yes, but she may not have good enough marks. Even if she does, she may not want to go to university. At one time she could talk of nothing else but coming to work here in the shop when she was old enough to do so. Remember how she used to dress up in one of your striped aprons and that cream straw hat and pretended to be taking over the business and changing the name to "Becky the Butcher"?'

'Don't talk rubbish! She was just a kid then and fooling around. Of course she will go on to university. And as for coming to work here, that's ridiculous. Whoever heard of a woman running a butcher's shop?'

Sandra bit down on her lower lip. She wanted to point out that she did almost as much work in the shop as he did, but she knew that wouldn't go down well with Bill.

'Of course Becky will pass her exams,' Bill repeated forcefully. 'She's as bright as a button, and she spends hours up in her bedroom night after night studying and working away on her computer.'

Sandra was about to argue with Bill, then she mentally shrugged her shoulders and let it pass. She was pretty sure that although Becky might be 'working away on her computer', as Bill put it, she wasn't always studying or doing anything connected with schoolwork. Telling Bill that would only start a full-scale row between him and Becky, and if that happened it would make Becky more argumentative than she already was.

Bill didn't know half of what went on, she thought resignedly as she folded yet another shirt, because his mind was so fully occupied with the shop and the figures it generated.

Ever since Rebecca had been a tiny tot, he'd put her on a pedestal and thought her incapable of doing anything wrong. It had been at his insistence that Rebecca had gone to a high school, even though it had meant they sometimes had to draw their horns in and spend less on themselves.

Sandra prayed that Rebecca would do well in her exams after all the sacrifices they'd made, but she was nowhere near as confident as Bill. She knew only too well that their daughter craved independence and even if she did pass her exams there was no guarantee she would agree to go to university.

Sandra suspected that Rebecca, like her closest friend, Cindy Mason, didn't always enjoy studying and longed to leave school. These days both girls seemed to regard Shelston as a dull backwater and longed for bright lights and excitement. Becky would probably have been pleased if the family moved to Salisbury or some other busy town where she could enjoy the nightlife.

She had tried to tell Bill this several times, but he always dismissed it as nonsense. 'It's just her age, she'll grow out of it. She's ambitious and once she gets to university she'll settle down and study. I want to see her become a doctor or lawyer or something like that.'

Sandra was pretty sure he was going to be bitterly disappointed. Rebecca was certainly ambitious, but not in the way Bill thought she was.

Sandra put the hot iron down on its stand and switched it off. 'This is supposed to be our half-day, Bill, so put those damned account books away and I'll go and make us both a cup of tea.'

'Becky will be needing a car soon. I thought we could give her one for her twenty-first birthday.'

'A car!' Sandra was conscious that her voice had risen. The idea of giving their daughter a car was outrageous.

'Becky can't even drive! And anyway what about me having a car before she does?' she exclaimed in a voice that was far more accusing than she intended it to be.

'You don't need a car. You use the van whenever you want to go anywhere, the same as I do. You know that.'

'The van, yes, that's what I have to use. A van with a grinning pig's head on the side! How do you think that makes me feel?'

Bill's eyes widened and he stared back at her in shocked surprise. He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again and jumped up abandoning the ledgers and other papers.

'Don't bother with making tea for me. Finish the ironing or whatever it is you are doing,' he told her as he reached for his jacket, which he had hung on the back of his chair.

Grabbing Sandra's face between both his hands, he gave her a smacking big kiss on her forehead. 'You've given me an idea. I'm going for a walk to clear my head of those damn figures and devote some thought to a great new way of increasing our profits.'

CHAPTER 2

Giggling nervously, Cindy Mason and Rebecca Peterson stood on the pavement outside the village post office waiting for Paddy Atkins, the postman, to return from his rounds.

They were both tall and slim, but quite different in looks. Cindy had shoulder-length straight dark hair and dark-brown eyes. Rebecca had honey-coloured hair and grey eyes.

Both girls were casually dressed in jeans and T-shirts. Rebecca's was a pale leaf green, Cindy's a jazzy mix of red, green, purple, blue and black. It was mid-August and they were anxiously waiting for the results of their A-level exams.

Their apprehension increased as the mail van drew up alongside them.

'I hope he's remembered what we asked him to do,' Rebecca murmured.

'Of course he has,' Cindy said confidently as the postman leaned out of the van and with a broad smile handed each of them an official-looking envelope.

'There you are, girls, I hope the results are what you want them to be,' he grinned as they took the letters from him and thanked him profusely.

They smiled nervously. They both knew their futures depended on what was in the two envelopes. It was why they had arranged for him to keep the letters back when he delivered the post to their homes, so not only would they be the first to read them but they could do so away from their families.

Now they had the letters in their hands, they stared at each other uncertainly, afraid to slit open the envelopes for fear of what they would read.

'It's no good. I can't do it!' Cindy admitted ruefully.

'Neither can I,' Rebecca nodded in agreement.

They were lifelong friends, inseparable since the first day they went to school, when they were five years old. Now, as they stood there holding the brown envelopes and staring at each other, the affinity between them was patently obvious.

Almost simultaneously they both held their letter out towards the other and said, 'You open mine and I'll open yours.'

Solemnly they exchanged letters, their eyes wide, their lips clamped together, as they perused the information.

'You first,' Cindy ordered, looking at Rebecca.

Rebecca shook her head. 'No, you first.'

'OK.' Cindy paused dramatically, then grinned broadly. 'You've got an A or A* in everything,' she exclaimed excitedly. 'You'll definitely be accepted for the course we decided to go for.' Her eyes shone with delight. 'Oh, Rebecca, how wonderful! I'm so pleased, it's going to be the start of a whole new way of life.'

'Whew!' Rebecca let out a long sigh of relief.

'What about mine?' Cindy urged.

Rebecca's face clouded. 'You ... You've not done too well, Cindy. B's and C's. I'm so sorry.'

'You're joking!' Cindy stretched out a hand. 'Let me see.'

She snatched the report from Rebecca's hand and her face fell as she perused it.

'Great! I never wanted to go to university. Now there's no chance, so perhaps they'll all stop going on about it!' Cindy declared, her chin jutting stubbornly.

'You can't give up that easily,' Rebecca protested. 'It may still be possible for you to take your exams again.'

'When I've only got B's and C's?'

'Yes, if you resit a couple of subjects and get really good marks.'

'Not a chance!'

'Well, then, maybe you should query your results in case they've made a mistake in the marking. It has been known to happen,' she said forcefully when Cindy didn't answer.

'Stop talking such rubbish!' Cindy said dismissively.

Rebecca bit her lip. She was overjoyed by her own results but didn't quite know what to say to Cindy. They had shared everything and done everything together all their lives, they had played the same games and even dressed alike at times.

Like their daughters, their mothers were good friends and complete opposites in appearance. Sandra Peterson was of medium height and build and blonde with grey eyes; Mavis Mason was short and plump with dark hair and eyes. Because the Masons ran a farm and the Petersons owned the butcher's shop they had a great many interests in common, and they enjoyed each other's company.

Rebecca and Cindy had pushed their dolls in identical prams side by side up and down the village. They'd joined the Brownies and then the Girl Guides together. They'd taken part in concerts and plays together at school. They'd both had red scooters and then identical bikes.

At eleven they'd both passed to go to high school, which meant a daily journey on the bus to the nearest town.

Rebecca could still remember their first day at the new school. Wearing identical dark-brown gymslips, white blouses and yellow blazers, they'd walked up the driveway holding hands, the same as they'd done on their first day at infant school.

As they grew older, they'd gone off together on their bicycles for journeys of exploration that had taken them to King Alfred's Tower at Stourton, to Castle Hill in Mere, to Wincanton, and even further afield if Cindy's brother Jake was with them to make sure they were safe and didn't get lost.

They were only allowed to go to the dances occasionally held in the village hall if Jake and his friends were going as well. They even had to promise their parents they would stay together and that, when they came home, Jake and Cindy would see Rebecca to her door.

They'd both been so confident that they would go to university together that Rebecca found it difficult to accept she would now be going on her own.

She suspected that Cindy's mum and dad would also be bitterly disappointed, and would probably give Cindy a hard time when they heard her results.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Heartbreak and Happiness by Rosie Harris. Copyright © 2016 Marion Harris. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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