After nearly 25 years of marriage, Rosie’s life seems to be falling apart. Her husband, Leon, tells her he’s leaving her, her three children are very unhappy and unsettled, and even her beloved home, Honeysuckle House, is at risk. Without Leon and the painful disruption to everyone’s lives, the family is also finding it hard to cope with the running of the family restaurant, Cookery Nook. However, although Rosie could never have imagined it, Leon’s leaving isn’t the end, but a new beginning for everyone…
Rosie knew what was in the envelope even before she picked it up from the mat.
It lay there, protruding from the usual morning thump of post, in a shaft of early sunlight on the tiled hall floor. A medium-sized, cream envelope with the increasingly familiar logo of Brennan and Foulkes, addressed to Leon, her husband.
‘Anything for me, Mum?’
She scooped up the letters just as Kizzy appeared at the top of the stairs, and pushed the cream envelope to the bottom of the pile.
‘One with an Edinburgh postmark.’ She smiled at her daughter, the smile betraying none of the fear the cream envelope had created. ‘Just for a change …’
‘Thanks, Mum!’ Kizzy’s beam challenged the sunshine. ‘Only another week and he’ll be home!’
‘And you’ll have nothing left to talk about,’ Rosie teased. ‘Having written twice a day and lived on the phone every night … ‘
‘Andrew and I always have things to talk about,’ Kizzy retorted with eighteen-year-old superiority, as she disappeared back upstairs in a flurry of stripy nightshirt and tumbled red hair to read Andrew’s latest missive in the privacy of her room.
Oh yes, Rosie thought, leafing quickly through the rest of the letters, keeping Brennan and Foulkes at the bottom, how well I remember being eighteen and in love.
Nearly twenty-five years ago, she and Leon had been just like Kizzy and Andrew, dreaming of their future, the whole world out there to conquer, and nothing mattering as long as they were together. And now …
Now, the regular letters from Brennan and Foulkes were a tangible reminder of just how wide the chasm had become.
‘Anything interesting in the post?’ Leon said artlessly, not looking up from his combination of the morning paper and a cup of tea as Rosie walked into the sunny dining room.
‘A letter from Andrew for Kizzy.’ She walked to the window and looked out over her beloved garden. ‘The usual circulars, a bank statement for William – and this …’ She turned slowly, holding out the cream envelope as though it physically burned her.
‘Oh – right …’ Leon took the envelope, not meeting her eyes, and placed it unopened beneath his newspaper.
‘You’re not even going to open it?’
No, Rosie thought, watching him bend his head over the latest political scandal, not while I’m here. Whatever Brennan and Foulkes had to say, it didn’t concern her.
‘Leon, we have to discuss this.’
He looked up at her. ‘Why? Discussion never seems to come into it, Rosie. You’re usually determined not even to consider it. This is it as far as you’re concerned, isn’t it?’ He made a wide gesture round the high-ceilinged room. ‘This house, the garden, the children, this tiny unfashionable town … Life begins and ends here for you, doesn’t it?’
‘Yes!’ His words didn’t even hurt her any more. ‘Yes, it does! Leon, this is what we dreamed of, what we planned for. Half the couples in the country would give their eye teeth for what we’ve got here and –’
‘And what finances it?’ He leaned forward across the breakfast table. ‘What has financed every home we’ve had, right from that first poky flat down on Mitchford Road, then the semi in The Crescent when William was a baby and Kizzy was on the way and we needed more space, then this …?’
He stopped and looked around the tall room, with its bay window, its old-fashioned dado rails, its much-polished heavy furniture. It was almost as though he hated it, Rosie thought sadly. Almost as though he thought of Honeysuckle House as a prison. The house which had once been their joint dream …