For Lottie Swift, Arcadia has always been magical. The breathtaking art deco house perched above the shoreline of the well-ordered village of Merham seems to stand still throughout the years. It has never changed, not really, but Lottie's fate and fortune have been inextricably linked with that of the beautiful house, and it will forever be fixed in her mind as a symbol of adventure, youth, and of loves lost and gained. Even as her life—and the house—fall into disrepair.
Years later another young woman comes to Merham. A designer hired to make over the now-empty Arcadia, Daisy Parsons seeks a new beginning, as Lottie once did. Fleeing a broken relationship and now facing being a single mother, Daisy finds refuge in the house, and something more—a love she thought she would never know again and a friendship unlike any she’s experienced before.
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By Jojo Moyes
William MorrowISBN: 0060012900
Chapter OneFreddie had been ill again. Grass this time, apparently. It sat in a foaming, emerald pool in the corner by the tallboy, some of the blades still intact.
"How many times do I have to tell you, you dolt," shrieked Celia, who had just trodden in it while wearing her summer sandals. "You are not a horse."
"Or a cow," added Sylvia helpfully from the kitchen table, where she was sticking pictures of domestic appliances laboriously into a scrapbook.
"Or any bloody animal. You should be eating bread, not grass. Cake. Normal things." Celia picked her shoe from her foot and held it by two fingers over the kitchen sink. "Ugh. You're disgusting. Why do you keep doing this? Mummy, tell him. He should at least clean it up."
"Do wipe it up, Frederick dear." Mrs. Holden, seated in the high-backed chair by the fire, was checking the newspaper for the timing of the next broadcast of Dixon of Dock Green. It had provided one of her few compensations since the resignation of Mr. Churchill. And that latest business with her husband. Although of course she mentioned only Mr. Churchill.
Both she and Mrs. Antrobus, she told Lottie, had watched all the episodes so far, and thought the program simply marvelous. Then again, she and Mrs. Antrobus were the only people on Woodbridge Avenue with televisions, and they took some delight in telling their neighbors quite how marvelous nearly all the programs were.
"Clean it up, Freddie. Ugh. Why do I have to have a brother who eats animal food?"
Freddie sat on the floor by the unlit fire, pushing a small blue truck backward and forward along the rug, lifting the corners as he did so. "It's not animal food," he muttered contentedly. "God said to eat it."
"Mummy, now he's taking the name of the Lord in vain."
"You shouldn't say 'God,'" said Sylvia, firmly, as she stuck a food mixer onto mauve sugar paper. "He'll strike you down."
"I'm sure God didn't actually say grass, Freddie dear," said Mrs. Holden distractedly. "Celie darling, could you pass me my glasses before you leave? I'm sure they're making the print smaller in these newspapers."
Lottie stood patiently by the door. It had been rather a wearing afternoon, and she was desperate to get out. Mrs. Holden had insisted that she and Celia help her prepare some meringues for the church sale, despite the fact that both girls loathed baking, and Celia had somehow managed to extricate herself after just ten minutes by pleading a headache. So Lottie had had to listen to Mrs. Holden's fretting about egg whites and sugar and pretend not to notice when she did that anxious fluttery thing with her hands and her eyes filled with tears, and now, finally, the horrid things were baked and safely in their tins, shrouded in greaseproof paper, and - surprise, surprise - Celia's headache had miraculously disappeared.
Celia placed her shoe back on her foot and motioned to Lottie that they should leave. She pulled her cardigan around her shoulders and straightened her hair briskly in the mirror.
"Now, girls, where are you going?"
"To the coffeehouse."
"To the park."
Celia and Lottie spoke at the same time and stared at each other in mute accusatory alarm.
"We're going to both," said Celia firmly. "Park first, then for a coffee."
"They're going off to kiss boys," said Sylvia, still bent over her sticking. She had pulled the end of one plait into her mouth, and the end, which emerged periodically, was silkily wet. "MMMMMMwaahhh. Mwah. Mwah. Eeyuk. Kissing."
"Well, don't drink too much of it. You know it makes you go all unnecessary. Lottie dear, make sure Celia doesn't drink too much of it. Two cups maximum. And be back by six-thirty."
"In Bible class God says the earth will provide," said Freddie, looking up.
"And look how sick you got when you ate that," said Celia. "I can't believe you're not making him clean it up, Mummy. He gets away with everything."
Mrs. Holden accepted her glasses and placed them slowly on her nose. She wore the look of someone who was just about managing to stay afloat in rough seas by insisting against all evidence that she was actually on dry land.
"Freddie, go and ask Virginia to bring a cloth, will you? There's a good boy. And Celia dear, don't be horrid. Lottie, straighten up your blouse, dear. You've gone peculiar. Now, girls, you're not going off to gawp at our new arrival, are you? We don't want her thinking the residents of Merham are some kind of peasants, standing there with their mouths hanging open."
There was a brief silence, during which Lottie saw Celia's ears flush ever so slightly pink. Her own were not even warm; she had perfected her denials over many years and against tougher interrogators.
"We'll come straight home from the coffeehouse, Mrs. Holden," said Lottie. Which could, of course, have meant anything at all.
Excerpted from Windfallen by Jojo Moyes
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.