Read Putting Alice Back Together Online

Authors: Carol Marinelli

Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary

Putting Alice Back Together

About the Author

The two great discoveries that changed
CAROL MARINELLI
’s life were the Sat Nav and writing. Born with no sense of direction, Carol spent way too long poring over maps, missing turns, getting utterly and completely lost and hoping that she’d get there in the end—which she invariably did, but usually flustered and late. The arrival of Irish Sean into her life changed many things. She soon learnt that if she just carried right on sooner or later he’d re-navigate and she’d reach her destination.

Carol also spent way too long poring over application forms—she’s been a typist, a nurse, a fruit-picker, a backpacker, and has also applied to be a policewoman and to study midwifery, psychology… the list goes on. They all appealed—just not
enough
. Since the age of eighteen she’s dabbled with writing, but it was a rather sporadic effort at first—then finally she decided to take it more seriously. The biggest thrill in Carol’s writing life (and it still is to this day) was typing, for the first time, the words “The End”. For so many years there had been chapters and outlines and endless stop-starts, but having a full story, from start to middle to end, gave her a rush she had never expected. Of course it was rejected, but she’d got the bug and kept going till she was accepted.

These days she takes an awful lot of fish oil, and keeps a pen and paper by her bed, in her bag, in the kitchen, in the car. She loves that she can talk to friends at length about the people who pop into her head and not get looked at too strangely for it. Being published, sitting down to write every day—finally she found direction and a whole lot of new friends. A whole new way of life, really. Now, no matter what life throws, when she pushes the button for home the answer is always the same: at the end of the day, sit down and write.

Find out more about Carol at www.carolmarinelli.com

Putting
Alice
Back
Together

Carol Marinelli

www.mirabooks.co.uk

For Sam, Alex and Lucinda
with love always xxxx

Acknowledgements

Mostly I have loved writing this story, but there are times I have just wanted to walk away—actually, a few times I did walk away, so there are loads of people to thank for helping me to keep going till I felt Alice’s story had been told.

First of all I want to thank my children (not that I
ever
want them to read my work)—I have to confess that it worries me a little that they think it’s perfectly normal to have a mum crying and laughing at the computer keyboard and that they have all, over the years, individually asked how Alice is doing!!

I have a brilliant friend, Helen Browne. There is no way I would have finished without her—not only does she help with the ups and downs and logistics of my life, but she also has an amazing ability to keep her eyes from glazing over as I bombard her with my plot and to nod in all the right places—better still, she tells me the bits that she doesn’t like (brave woman indeed)!

I want to thank the wonderful team at MIRA for taking Alice’s story on, especially Kimberley Young and Jenny Hutton, who have pushed me to make it the best that it can be and who have been so patient.

Thanks, too, to my mum and my sisters Anne and Helen, who put up with my long phone calls. I have the best mum and despite the distance we are so close and she comes over and is a huge support. A special thanks to Anne and my gorgeous niece Hannah, who came all the way over to Australia from the UK when I needed it the most.

I have a wonderful group of friends, they go by the name Maytoners—we push each other and support each other, well, they do me and I hope I give the same back—they all know who they are, but I cannot not mention Anne Gracie, who read a shaky draft of this book at a time when she really had every reason not to and then took the time to contact me and give me words of encouragement—it meant an awful
lot. Nor can I leave out Marion Lennox, who lent me a very patient ear as I worked out where Alice’s pregnancy was going.

I would like to thank Stuart MacDonald for his enthusiasm—he is a wonderful friend and an endless source of wisdom. Thanks, too, to Shane Burns, a gifted musician and all around nice guy and also thank you to Annemarie and John for breakfasts, lunches and love and also to Raelene and Leanne too.

Yasmin Boland has been wonderful—not only letting Alice read from her fantastic book
Cosmic Love
, but also providing me with insightful, wonderful horoscopes every day at www.moonology.com

Then there’s Sarah Morgan, a brilliant writer and an amazing friend. If there is one advantage to living on the other side of the world, then it has to be the time difference with e-mail. I can pour out my worries at night—when the book has stalled, when things catch up, when life feels hard—and then wake up the next day and it is as if the fairies have been and I have a reply filled with love and support and an awful lot of laughs.

Anyway, these are my thank yous—they really are heartfelt, but first, last and always my love and thanks goes to my children.

Prologue

Little Alice

‘That’s the Munchkins sorted.’ Mrs Evans smiled. ‘Now we can move on to casting the main parts.’ Everyone was nudging, all sitting cross-legged on the gym floor—a mix of eager and dejected faces, because anyone left after this would be in the chorus. ‘The Wicked Witch of the West…’ Mrs Evans announced, and I held my breath. If I wasn’t going to be Dorothy I didn’t actually mind being her, but I could feel the sweat beading on my forehead as Debbie Carter got the part.

‘The Lion…’ I knew this next lot of roles would go to the boys.

It was between Louise and me—she was so pretty and blonde she’d be lovely as the good fairy.

I knew I was good at drama. I knew I had a role and that there were only two girl ones left—and with my curly hair I wouldn’t make a nice neat calm fairy. And given that my hair was red too…

I was going to be Dorothy!

Jonathon Phillips actually walked like the Tin Man as he stood up.

‘Choose me, choose me…’ I had my fingers crossed under my little fat shaking knees. I was trying to pretend I didn’t care, that the lovely gingham dress and ruby shoes didn’t matter so, except they did. I made my wish at the wrong second, though. Everyone was cheering. Louise was patting me on the back and Mrs Evans was grinning widely as, red in the face, I stood up and crashed my way through all the crossed knees.

I was Alice Lydia Jameson—the Scarecrow.

One

‘How could she not know?’ Roz snorted.

Hugh was at the table, filling in tax forms.

Roz and I were watching the news when a story came on about some woman who hadn’t known she was pregnant and had flushed it down the loo…

‘For God’s sake.’ Roz, lovely Roz, who was usually non-judgmental, was so opinionated and scathing as she said it again. ‘How could she not know? How can she say that she didn’t even know?’

And I gave a half-laugh, topped up my wine and carried on watching the news. But my face was burning, just as it did during a love scene at the movies when I felt as if the whole cinema was watching me and gauging my reaction; just as it did when Dr Kelsey asked all those questions.

I couldn’t hear the scratch of Hugh’s pen any more and I was sure he was watching me.

I just felt as if he knew.

‘Of course she knew!’ Roz insisted, even though I wasn’t arguing, and I wanted to turn around and correct
her. I wanted to tell her to shut the fuck up, but instead I took a swig of wine and almost missed my mouth, my hand was shaking so much. She turned her attention to him. ‘What do you think, Hugh?’

Only I didn’t want to hear what Hugh thought.

I didn’t want his educated opinion.

Do you know, every time some poor cow flushes a baby down the loo, or it turns up in a rubbish dump, or she arrives in Emergency with abdo pain and produces a babe, or pops a foetus into her hand luggage and tries to head for home, the comments are the same—
she must have known
.

No.

No.

No.

She didn’t know.

She
couldn’t
know.

Because once she did,
then
it was real.

I didn’t need Hugh’s opinion and I didn’t need Roz’s either.

I could see how it happened.

I knew how it happened.

Because, Once Upon a Time, it had happened to me.

Two

Alice

I
t’s not something you can just blurt out, though.

I mean, when do you slip that little gem into the conversation?

You can’t.

Ever.

Not to anyone.

You just learn to live with it.

To run from it.

To live your life around it.

There’s so much that hinges on silence.

I don’t really know where to start.

If I go back even just a few weeks, it wasn’t something at the forefront of my mind. Really, I didn’t think about it at all, or I did everything I could not to—I was too busy being normal. I had a job, a fantastic wardrobe, brilliant friends, massive credit-card debt, all the usual stuff. Okay, I had a few problems, but don’t we all? I spent a lot of my lunch breaks in the self-help section
at the bookshop, looking for the book, the answer, the reason. I’d tried Reiki, hypnosis, Indian scalp massage…

Forgive me if it’s jumbled at first, I suppose I was too.

Nic was leaving for the UK; her cousin Hugh was coming to stay at the flat. There was a small leaving do for her, which I was a bit late getting to—see, I was just busy being normal.

‘You’ve met Christopher,’ Nicole said, as she made the introductions, and though I’d heard her moan about her boss often enough, we’d never actually met, which Christopher quickly pointed out.

‘Actually, no.’ His voice had that bitchy upper-class ring to it and I wasn’t sure if he was English, as Nicole and I are, or if he’d been privately schooled here in Australia. As he shook my hand he held on for just a fraction too long. ‘I’d certainly remember.’ He smiled that capped smile and I returned it, but only briefly. I mean, he was way past forty, for God’s sake—I was so not flirting with him.

‘Where’s Dan?’ Nicole asked.

‘He’s working.’ Christopher’s eyes were still on me as I made Dan’s apologies, but there was no real need—I could see the relief on Nic’s face when I told her that Dan couldn’t make it.

‘And Roz?’

‘She’ll be here soon,’ I said, and I knew Nicole wished that Roz wasn’t coming—Nicole hates her friends and colleagues being together. She jumps out of her skin if we meet someone we know out shopping or at a bar. It is as if she’s terrified they might find out she actually has a life outside law—that she isn’t always this poised and groomed.

That she can actually talk about something other than work.

Oh, God, you should have heard them. It was Nic’s leaving do. Well, she’s not leaving—Nicole’s been in Melbourne for five years and she’s taking six weeks’ annual leave to catch up with her family and new boyfriend, who she met while he was on holiday here. But, instead of enjoying the party, they’re talking about some sub-clause in some clause or something. And for all their money, they were mean. No one offered to buy a drink. They just sipped on their tasteful choices and I knew it was going to be a long, mind-numbingly boring night or worse, as I saw a couple of them glancing at their watches, it was going to be a short, complete fizzler of a night, which would kill Nicole.

Why did I feel that it was my problem?

That I had to make conversation, do something to entertain—that it was up to me to salvage the night from being a disaster?

Because Nicole’s my best friend, I guess.

I went to the bar and looked at the wine list. My pay should have gone in and though I
knew
I couldn’t afford it, I ordered two of the second cheapest bottles of sparkling wine and ten glasses.

‘I’ll take care of that.’ Christopher made his way over and I felt a mixture of annoyance and relief as he changed my order and took out his credit card. ‘You’re Nicole’s flatmate?’

‘That’s right.’ I felt a bit awkward, obliged to stay and talk to him now that he was paying for the drinks.

‘You’re English too?’ he checked as he waited to sign the bill and, instead of noticing his blond hair or blue
eyes, I saw the fan of lines around his eyes and the acne scars on his jaw.

‘I am.’

‘Nicole never said.’

I gave him a very brief smile, thanked him for the wine and made my way back to the group. Normally, there would have been a quick reminisce, or a moment taken to find out where the other was from, how long they’ve been over, that sort of thing, but he’d got that sharky look, like a real estate agent sensing a deal, so I headed back to the table and took a seat on the sofa furthest away from him.

Nicole seemed to have developed a tic—her head kept twitching in the direction of the toilets and once the champagne had arrived and we’d all wished her well for her trip back home, I excused myself and headed over there. Maybe fifteen seconds later Nic flew in.

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