Eliza and Martha are sisters. But that's where the similarity ends.Martha appears to have the perfect life: two lovely children and plenty of money. Eliza lives in a one-bedroom flat with her musician boyfriend Greg. When Eliza ditches Greg and turns up on her sister's doorstep, she expects to be swallowed into the sanctuary of Martha's warm loving home. But Martha's husband has just announced he's leaving. For good. Proving to both women that a wedding ring isn't a life raft.Then Martha meets Jack, who is everything she's never wanted, whilst Eliza is dating dozens of men in hope of finding the perfect husband. Suddenly the sisters are faced with the same challenge- is there such as thing as the perfect love? or the perfect life?
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Adele Parks is the author of three bestselling novels: PLAYING AWAY, GAME OVER and LARGER THAN LIFE. She lives in London with her husband and baby son.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Martha wasn't usually to be found on Earl's Court station in the middle of the afternoon. She rarely travelled by Tube at all; it was so impractical with the children. Not enough of the stations had lifts, and dragging ten-month-old Maisie and two-and-a-half-year-old Mathew (not to mention the related paraphernalia of double buggy, endless bags, several dolls, books, rain covers, etc, etc) up and down escalators or stairs was not Martha's idea of fun. Martha rarely went anywhere without the children so mostly she drove around London in the family car. But today the car was in the garage being serviced.
Lucky bloody car.
Martha looked around, guiltily, as though she'd said her thought aloud. No one was paying her the least bit of notice, which suggested she hadn't.
It's not that she was complaining about Michael's lack of attention, it was just that...OK, she was complaining.
The children were being looked after by her mother. Martha felt a little bit guilty about this too, although as guilt was the emotion Martha experienced most, she no longer even recognized that she was feeling guilty. Nor did she realize when she felt tense, stressed or even exhausted. She was terrifyingly used to the horrible dull ache in the pit of her stomach, the ache that told her she'd forgotten, or failed, or ruined something somehow, despite all her best efforts.
Martha thought it was unfair to ask her mother to babysit just so she could go to the hairdresser's, however much her mother insisted that it was a pleasure looking after the children. It seemed selfish. She'd visited Toni and Guy's in Knightsbridge to have her hair cut by the amazing Stephen for over five years. Martha normally took the children with her to the salon, which was quite a challenge. One or the other, or both, usually screamed throughout, turning the experience into an ordeal rather than a treat. Martha had considered bringing them along today and taking a cab to avoid the Tube. But then she would have had to fit both car seats into the cab, and the driver always became impatient when she did that. Where would she have put the seats when she arrived at the hairdresser's? They'd have been in the way.
Martha hated being in the way, or causing any sort of scene at all, however minor. She liked to blend, to fit in. Ideally she'd like to be altogether invisible. Besides which, Martha always felt cabs were just a tiny bit self-indulgent, and such extravagance was not her style. Indeed there could hardly be anything less Martha's style than self-indulgence, except perhaps fluorescent-pink hair accessories.
So it had been a toss-up. Luckily, her mother had taken the decision out of Martha's hands, by turning up with balloons and E-additives in the form of sweets and squash.
Martha fingered the already impeccably neat collar of her shirt and straightened it again. She checked her reflection in the shiny chocolate machine that stood, temptingly, on the platform. She brushed a few errant hairs from her shoulders. The cut was perfectly symmetrical. Martha went to the hairdresser's on the first Friday of every month, at 2:15 p.m. Only the very observant would notice that her hair had been cut at all. It was an iota sharper, a fraction tidier. Martha was pleased with it, all the more so because you could hardly tell it had been done.
Martha's hair, like Martha, was neat, sleek, orderly. It was brown with subtle dark-blonde highlights. She loathed bed-hair, scrunched hair, artfully sculpted hair and even curls. Martha liked straight, reliable, controllable hair. Her heart went out to those women who had "bad hair days." Imagine getting out of bed and having random bits of hair sticking out at jaunty, irresponsible angles. Or treacherous hair that went flat when it was supposed to be full, and full when it was supposed to be sleek. Martha breathed in deeply, fearful at the very thought.
Her coat was beige, pure wool, very long. It was tied with a belt, which showed off her neat waist. It wasn't a fashionable coat but it was a classic, and it was flattering. She wore 10-denier skin-tone tights (stockings were ludicrous, stay-ups simply didn't). She wore patent court shoes that she'd bought in Russell and Bromley but somehow, on Martha, they appeared entirely Dr. Scholl. The heel was a sensible inch and a half.
Under her coat she wore a neat tailored navy suit (not black, goodness, she wasn't a barrister and she certainly didn't work in advertising). Her shirt was pale blue and other than her wedding ring and engagement ring (a large cluster of diamonds), she didn't bother with jewellery, although she did wear a beautiful, expensive watch. Whilst women commented that Martha's skin, hair and nails were perfect and would agree to call her attractive, men were more likely to compliment her on her good brain (new man), or quiche lorraine (traditional-variety). She was popular with men who were turned on by school marms and the young Princess Diana. That type of man thought of her as extremely sexy.
It seemed to Martha that just about everybody on the platform at Earl's Court thought just about everybody else on the platform was extremely sexy. She tried, very hard, to keep her eyes on the chocolate-bar machine.
It was about four o'clock, school kicking-out time. The outrage was that all the people finding all the other people sexy were children. Martha wanted to keep her face impassive and not allow her mouth to tighten into a tell-tale grimace. But girls, aged anywhere between twelve and sixteen (Martha couldn't tell, who could nowadays?) were blatantly flirting with boys of the same age! Mathew would be this age in the blink of an eye. The thought caused the dull ache in the pit of Martha's stomach to flare into a spasm of searing anguish. It was September, they ought to have been wearing their jackets and there would certainly soon be a need for handkerchiefs, as these girls all insisted on sporting skirts the size of one.
Martha (along with every testosterone-driven youth on the station) found it impossible to avoid staring at one particular girl who stood a few metres along the platform, chewing gum. The girl was leaning against a poster advertising the latest blockbuster movie. It struck Martha that the girl herself had a cinematic quality, as pretty young girls often did. This was probably because they spent a lot of time imagining they were in movies, so every movement was calculated for its effect on an audience. Martha remembered at least that much from her own teenage years. The way the girl wore her jumper tied around her hips and her shirt buttoned up incorrectly was designed to look deliberately casual and to suggest a hasty dressing, the circumstances of which were left to the imagination of the inquisitive voyeur. Martha knew that the look would no doubt have been achieved only after several painstaking rearrangements.
Martha and a gaggle of jostling noisy boys watched as the girl put her finger in her mouth, found the gum, pulled it and stretched it like an umbilical cord from mouth to finger. She twisted it around her finger then popped it back into her mouth again. The action, whilst blatantly flirtatious, was harmless, really, but still it unsettled Martha. It reminded her of something -- she couldn't, wouldn't, think what. The tallest boy in the group of jostling noisy boys stepped forward and bravely started talking to the girl. He stared at the girl with obvious longing. It was clear that his only thought was how to get to leave his hand prints all over her body. Martha felt a lump of envy sit heavily on her chest, her hand fluttered to her neck as though she were trying to brush the envy away. Envy was an illegal emotion.
The tall boy wasn't sure how to explain his appetite and possibly wouldn't be eloquent enough for several more years, so the pair stuttered and blushed through a conversation about what Martha presumed was a "pop band" of some sort. How strange that such rampant sexiness was so innocent, so hopeful. Martha's envy dissolved into longing. The girl caught Martha staring and stared back with all the hostility and honesty of youth. Martha blushed and dragged her eyes away. Thank God, the train pulled into the platform. Martha scolded herself; longing was even more dangerous than envy.
Copyright © 2003 by Adele Parks
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Penguin UK, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0140299602