Read The House We Grew Up In Online
Authors: Lisa Jewell
Tags: #General, #Fiction
Meet the Bird Family.
All four children have an idyllic childhood: a picture book cottage in a country village, a warm, cosy kitchen filled with love and laughter, sun-drenched afternoons in a rambling garden.
But one Easter weekend a tragedy strikes the Bird family that is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear them apart.
The years pass and the children become adults and begin to develop their own quite separate lives. Soon it’s almost as though they’ve never been a family at all.
Almost. But not quite.
Because something has happened that will call them home, back to the house they grew up in – and to what really happened that Easter weekend all those years ago.
Lisa Jewell had always planned to write her first book when she was fifty. In fact, she wrote it when she was twenty-seven and had just been made redundant from her job as a secretary. Inspired by Nick Hornby’s
, a book about young people just like her who lived in London, she wrote the first three chapters of what was to become her first novel,
. It went on to become the bestselling debut novel of 1998.
Ten bestselling novels later, she lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Lisa writes every day in a local cafe where she can drink coffee, people-watch, and, without access to the internet, actually get some work done.
Get to know Lisa by joining the official facebook page at
or by following her on Twitter
. And visit her website at
Vince & Joy
A Friend of the Family
31 Dream Street
The Truth About Melody Browne
After The Party
The Making of Us
Before I Met You
This book is dedicated to Guy & Celia Gordon, with all my love
Tuesday 2nd November 2010
Well, I must say, I didn’t think for a minute you’d be called something earthy like Jim! The Barbour and natty waistcoat in your profile photo make you look more like a Rupert or a Henry, something serious with two syllables, you know! And talking of syllables, and since you asked, no, I’m not really called Rainbowbelle. OF COURSE NOT! I’m called Lorelei and my name has three or four syllables, depending on how you say it. (My parents named us after mythical maidens. My sister is called Pandora. There was an Athena, but she was stillborn, so you know.) Anyway. Lor-a-lay-ee. Or Lor-a-lay. I’m not fussy really.
I’m sixty-five years old and I live in one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds in a big, crazy old house full of what I call TREASURES and what my children call CRAP. We are probably ALL right.
I have four children. Megan is forty, Bethan is thirty-eight and the twins, Rory and Rhys, are thirty-five. Oh, and thanks mainly to
the frantic reproduction of my eldest daughter I am a multiple grandmother too! Do you have any children? You didn’t mention them so I assume not? People usually tell you about their children before anything else, right? I don’t see them very much, unfortunately, they’re all so busy, and I’m, well, I suppose you could say insular, these days. I lost my partner about four years ago and things kind of unravelled from there, you might say.
Anyway, what can I tell you about me? I love nature, I love the countryside, I love children, I love to swim. I’m fit, for my age. I’ve kept my figure over the years, and am grateful for that. I see some women I’ve known for many years just turn to woolly mammoths once they passed menopause! And, as you can see from my picture, I’ve kept my hair long. Nothing ages a woman faster than a haircut!!
Anyway, that’s enough about me. Tell me more about you! You say you’re a widower. I’m very sorry to hear that. And whereabouts in the North do you live? I can see from your photo that you have a dog. That is a very beautiful retriever. What is it called? We had a dog when the children were growing up, but once they’d all gone, I could never quite see the point of animals.
I will see what I can do about photographs. I’m not really very techy beyond my laptop. But there must be something else I can send you. I’ll check it out.
Well, thank you, Jim, for getting in touch. The Internet really is a marvellous thing, especially for old codgers like us, wouldn’t you say? I’d be lost without it really. I’d love to hear back from you again, but please don’t feel you have to, if you think I sound dreadful!!
Yours with best wishes,
The damp heat came as a shock after the chill of the air conditioning that had cooled the car for the last two hours. Meg slammed the door behind her, pushed up the sleeves of her cotton top, pulled down her sunglasses and stared at the house.
Molly joined her on the pavement, and gawped from behind lime-green Ray-Bans. ‘Oh, my God.’
They stood together for a moment, side by side, the same height as each other now. Molly had caught up last summer, much to her delight. They now both stood at five foot eight. Molly long and lean as a fashion drawing, tanned legs in denim hot pants, honey-dusted hair bundled on top of her head in an artful pile, white Havaianas, a chambray shirt over a pink vest, tiny ankles and wrists layered in friendship circlets and rubber bands. Meg, on the other hand, solid as a quarterback, sensible in three-quarter-length navy chinos and a Breton-striped long-sleeved top, a pair of silver-sequinned FitFlops and a last-minute pedicure her only concession to the unseasonal heatwave. Mother and only daughter, in the late stages of a nightmarish, clichéd teenage disaster that had lasted more than three years. Almost friends now. Almost. Someone had once told Meg that you get your daughter back when she’s nineteen. Only four more years to wait.
‘This is worse than I thought. I mean, so much worse.’ Meg shook her head and took a tentative step towards the house. There it stood, brick for brick, exactly as it had been the day
she was born, forty years earlier. Three low windows facing out on to the street, four windows above, two front doors, one at either end, on the right by the side entrance a plaque, made by a long-dead local craftsman, an oval with the words
The Bird House
painted on it and a pair of lovebirds with their beaks entwined. The green-painted gate to the left of the house that opened up on to a gravelled path to the back door, the stickers in the windows declaring membership of Neighbourhood Watch (whatever happened to Neighbourhood Watch? Meg wondered idly), allegiance to the RSPB and an intolerance towards people selling door to door.
All there, just as it had been for ever and ever.
‘This is the worst house I’ve ever seen,’ said Molly. ‘It’s worse than the ones on the TV shows.’
‘We haven’t even been inside yet, Moll, hold that thought.’
‘And my nose too, right?’
‘Yes, probably.’ She sighed.
The windows, which to her recollection had never been cleaned, were now so thick with grime that they were fully opaque. In fact, they were black. The pastel-yellow Gloucester brick was discoloured and damaged. The green gate was hanging off its post by one solitary nail and the gravelled pathway was piled high with random objects: two old pushchairs, a rusty bike, a dead Christmas tree in a broken pot, a box of magazines swollen and waterlogged to twice their original size.
The flat-fronted style of the house meant that it held most of its personality within and behind, but even on such scant
display, it was clear that this house had a disease. The village had grown more and more gentrified over the decades, all the old houses scrubbed to a gleaming yellow, doors and window frames Farrow-&-Balled to the nth degree, and there, lodged between them, like a rotten tooth, sat the Bird House.
‘God, it’s so embarrassing,’ said Molly, pushing her Ray-Bans into her hair and wrinkling her tiny nose. ‘What must everyone think?’
Meg raised her eyebrows. ‘Hmm,’ she said, ‘I’d say that judging by our local reputation this is probably no more than anyone in the village would expect. Come on then,’ she smiled at her daughter, nervously, ‘let’s go in, shall we? Get it over with?’
Molly smiled back grimly and nodded.
Megan pulled back the ivy and pushed her fingertips inside a small crevice in the wall.
‘Got another one!’ she shouted out to Bethan and the twins.
‘Oh, well done, Meggy!’ her mother called from the back step where she stood in her strawberry-print apron watching proceedings with a contented smile. ‘Bravo!’
Megan pulled out the small foil-wrapped egg and dropped it into her basket. ‘It’s pink!’ she said pointedly to her younger sister.
‘Don’t care,’ said Bethan. ‘I’ve got three pink ones already.’
Megan looked up at the sky; it was cloudless, densely blue,
hot as July. Mum had said they needed to find their eggs quickly otherwise they might melt. Her eyes scanned the gardens. She’d found all the eggs in the woodpile, gingerly plucking them from next to rubbery woodlice. There’d been more in the beds of daffodils and hyacinths that lined the pathways around the greenhouse and she’d come across a big gold one sitting in the branches of the cherry tree outside the kitchen door. She counted up her eggs and found she had twelve. Bethan and the twins were still searching close to the house, but Megan suspected that the top garden had been all but stripped of its eggy assets, so she skipped down the slate-covered steps to the lower garden. Suddenly the sounds of her siblings and her mother faded to a murmur. It was warmer down here, soft and hazy. The grass had stripes in it, from where Dad had mown it yesterday, this way and that, and little piles of shaggy grass trimmings already turning pale in the burning sun. A camellia bush, confused by the early summer, had already bloomed and spilled its fat blossoms on to the lawn where they lay browning and sated, halfway to ugly. Megan headed to the lichen-spotted sundial in the middle of the lawn. Three more foil-wrapped eggs sat on top of it and she brushed them into her basket with the side of her hand.
She heard Bethan tripping down the steps behind her in her flamenco shoes. Megan turned and smiled. Sometimes when she looked at her little sister she felt overcome with love. Her worst enemy and her best friend.