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If My Father Loved Me

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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      If My Father Loved Me
Rosie Thomas

From the bestselling author of The Kashmir Shawl. Available on ebook for the first time.Sadie's life is calm and complete. She is a mother, a good friend, and the robust survivor of a marriage she deliberately left behind. She has come to believe that she has everything she wants, or deserves.But now her father is dying: the vital, elusive man who spent his life creating perfumes for other women is slipping away from her. When she realises that she can never make her peace with him, Sadie begins to look back over her childhood. In pursuing his separate life, Sadie's father ignored her, subjecting her to succession of 'aunties', leaving her loveless and alone.As Sadie confronts the truth about her father, her relationship with her son Jack appears to be breaking down and she is intent on saving it. Then the arrival of one of those fleeting women from her father's past starts a train of events that even Sadie cannot control…

If My Father Loved Me

BY ROSIE THOMAS

Contents

Title Page (#u5a2e270a-1039-553f-8d1b-842dc61170a2)

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Keep Reading

About the Author

Also by Rosie Thomas

Copyright (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Publisher

One (#uf61b01c4-938c-5016-a882-1870098b2887)

‘My father was a perfumer and a con artist,’ I said. ‘You would like him. All women do.’

I was telling Mel this, my dear friend Mel, on what was then still an ordinary night.

We had arranged to meet in a new restaurant and I had got off the tube one stop early and walked for ten minutes to reach it. It was that tender time between winter and very early summer that is too fragile and understated, in the city, to count as a proper spring. The plane trees in the great squares were shyly licked with pale green and there would be cherry blossom in suburban gardens. I noticed that the sky was pale grey, almost opalescent, and shafts of light like cathedral pillars struck down between the concrete buildings.

When I arrived Mel was already at the table, waiting for me. She was wearing her leather jacket and her hair frizzed out in black spirals all round her face. Her trademark red lipstick was still fresh, not yet blotted with eating and drinking. She stood up when she saw me and we hugged, laughing with the pleasure of seeing one another and to acknowledge the small festivity of a new restaurant, the familiar sprawl of London outside the windows, the stealthy approach of summer and also the fact that life was kind to us both.

As we sat down Mel said, ‘Let’s get a bottle of wine and order some food, then we can talk.’

Mel and I have been saying this, or a near version of it, all through the five years that have gone by since we met. The talk is always the most important ingredient, although food and wine are right up there too. It was our interest in cooking that brought us together, on a week’s master class hosted by a celebrity chef at some chichi and terrible hotel in the Midlands. The first time I saw Mel she was wearing her black curls bundled up under a white cook’s cap in a way that was all about business and nothing about looking fetching, and I liked her immediately. She was quietly laying out her knives while our fellow students were crowded up at the front trying to catch the chef’s attention. (And that was just the men, Mel said.)

She looked confident and successful. It turned out that she knew how to cook and wasn’t afraid of the bad-tempered prima donna who was supposedly there to inspire us. I wasn’t the only one who warmed to her, but it was to my room that she brought a bottle of wine on the second evening and it was to me she chose to open her heart. I learned that Mel Archer was trying to come to terms with the knowledge that she was never going to have a child of her own, let alone replicate her fecund mother’s perfect family. It was causing her pain, like a bereavement.

In my turn I told her that I was newly divorced. I was hard up and quite depressed and I had a daughter who was trying single-handedly to recreate the cliché of the teen rebel queen, as well as a six-year-old son who was going through an awkward phase. The one that had lasted since he was four days old.

We were both going through a difficult time in our lives.

‘We should swap problems,’ Mel said.

She made me laugh, and we opened another bottle and the talk went on and on. At the week’s end we came back to London with some overblown new recipes, a shared sense of relief that we would never have to work in a commercial kitchen under our master chef’s direction and a friendship that we both knew would endure.

Over the years I have told her everything, and nothing.

‘What are you going to eat?’ Mel asked, when we had studied the menu.

‘The pasta, I think.’

I always choose what I want to eat very quickly. While I waited for Mel I looked down the line of tables. They were placed close together and I could eavesdrop on two or three overlapping conversations. There were the first-daters craning eagerly forward over their plates and the married couple who had run out of things to say. On our other side were a noisy quartet of old friends and three young women of whom one was leaning forward through a veil of cigarette smoke to say to the others, ‘Just wait and see, he’ll be regretting it within, like, six weeks.’ The red nail polish she was wearing looked the same shade as Mel’s lipstick.

I felt a little quiver of affection for her and the other diners, for the arrangements that we had all made in order to be here and the problems with parking, and the balancing acts about how much to drink and whether or not a pudding would be permissible. I loved the city and felt happy to be here in the middle of it with Mel for company. At that moment, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about my life.

‘What do you think of this menu? Scallops and mushrooms is always a good combination,’ she finally decided. ‘I’m going to have that.’

A young waiter took our order and Mel chose a bottle of Fleurie from the list. A different waiter came and poured the wine, taking care with a wrapped napkin not to spill a drop on the bleached wood of the table top. A new recruit, not yet confident.

We clinked our glasses before we drank.

‘How’s Jack?’ Mel asked. She shook a Marlboro out of the pack and lit it, then leaned back in her chair to look at me. Jack is my son.

‘Not bad,’ I said cautiously. ‘And Adrian?’

‘So-so.’

Adrian was Mel’s current boyfriend, if that’s a word you can still use when you aren’t young any more. At least, not young in the sense that my daughter Lola is young, although on the other hand at twenty she is so precisely of the modern world, so experienced and knowing, that I sometimes think she could be my mother instead of the other way round.

Mel and I have both turned fifty and we are therefore invisible except in the technical sense to, say, the young waiter who took our order. He was nice-looking, brown-skinned, with black hair slicked straight back from his face. I could see him stepping around the female trio and exchanging eye contact as he slipped them their starters. He said something that was evidently cheeky and they all laughed.

I don’t remember anyone mentioning the fact to me when I was as young as Lola, but you don’t feel yourself growing older. You reach an age – which probably varies according to your history and personal circumstances, but in my case was twenty-seven – and there you are, fully formed. As time passes you note your failures and allow yourself to appreciate what you have done well, but there remains the inner individual who isn’t aware of alteration either mental or physical. Inside my skin, a millimetre or so beneath the eroding surface, I remain twenty-seven years old. It’s a shock, when riding the escalator in Selfridges or somewhere, to confront an unexpected mirror and be obliged to check the discrepancy.

We’ve talked about this, of course, Mel and I. Being invisible to waiters and white-van drivers and brickies doesn’t bother us. What is alarming is the possibility that when we do start to feel our age, it might all happen at once. What if we go from being twenty-seven to being sixty-seven in a day, suddenly getting infirm knees and crochet shawls and a fondness for Book atBedtime, crumbling away into old ladies as the light falls on us like Rider Haggard’s She?

‘That will be scarier than Alien,’ Mel said.

Joking about our worries is something we have always been able to do together. What else should we do?
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