Can anything break the ties that bind? Two families are torn apart by love, secrets and betrayal in the aftermath of the Second World War in Judith Lennox's spellbinding novel Written on Glass. Perfect for fans of Santa Montefiore and Lucinda Riley. It is 1946 and the old families of the Temperleys and the Chancellors have been neighbours on the South Coast of England for many years. Now the younger generation has been touched by the Second World War. Reserved, principled and cool-headed Marius Temperley has left the army and is struggling to fit into civilian life. His twenty-one year old sister, Julia, is quick-tempered, proud and passionate and, since her father's recent death, has been running the family business, fiercely independent in her ambitions. Handsome, but emotionally distant Jack Chancellor has been demobbed and has another problem to face. Both he and his younger, more naive and impetuous brother Will, are in love with Julia. Jack doesn't want to lose her, but his sweet, slightly gawky cousin, Topaz, lets slip that their imperious Aunt Carrie has a plan for him: if he leaves Julia, he will inherit Sixfields, the beautiful family farm. As the years go by, the family secrets come out, and it seems that the ties that bind can change relationships for ever... What readers are saying about Written on Glass : ' Beautifully written, poignant and haunting... a book that I have never forgotten ' ' I couldn't put this book down, and I look forward to reading more from this wonderful author' ' One of the best books I have ever read '
Release date: May 7, 2015
Print pages: 624
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Written on Glass
Topaz drew back into the railway carriage. She did not sit down, though, but remained standing, her forearms resting on top of the open window as she looked out at the passing countryside. The whistles and hoots of the engine provided a chorus to the unfolding of the Dorset landscape, with its rolling hills and narrow streams, and fleeting, tantalizing glimpses of a bright, shifting sea.
Some of what she saw was familiar, but a great deal was not. She wondered whether it had changed or whether she had forgotten; after all, it was seven years since she had visited her Chancellor cousins. She had been ten when she had last said goodbye to Jack and Will in 1939. A baby.
The war, of course, had left its mark. Ancient meadows had been ploughed up to grow wheat or potatoes and the houses, with their peeling paint and missing rooftiles, had a faded, neglected air. Anti-aircraft posts stood grey against the golden stubble of corn fields and concrete tank traps loomed like hulking giants beside winding country roads.
Her mother spoke again. ‘And do close that window. The dust.’ Veronica Brooke flicked a speck from her pale lilac linen jacket and checked her beautiful face in her compact mirror. ‘And tidy your hair.’
Topaz drew up the window and glanced in the mirror. It seemed to her that her hair was as it always was, a longish dark-red clump, but to oblige her mother she pulled off her beret and yanked at the tangles with her comb. There was a sort of fizzing feeling in her stomach, a mixture of excitement and happiness that made it hard to sit quietly as her mother would have preferred. Before the war she had visited her Chancellor cousins every year, staying with them for a fortnight each summer. Those visits stood out in her memory, like pearls on a wooden-bead necklace.
The train slowed as it approached the station. In the distance Topaz glimpsed in the hollow of the valley the grey roof of Missencourt, surrounded by trees. Then she saw the motor car making its way along the narrow road that ran parallel to the railway line. She shrieked and dashed into the corridor, and hurled open a window.
‘Will!’ she screamed. ‘Will!’
From the driver’s seat of the car, Will Chancellor waved back. As the engine slowed, Topaz ran along the corridor of the train, jumping over suitcases and holdalls, weaving between standing passengers, darting around pushchairs and dogs as she kept pace with the car.
Her mother’s voice followed her as she hurtled through the carriages. ‘Oh, Topaz.’
The train drew up at the station. As soon as it stopped, Topaz flung open the door and threw herself into Will’s arms.
‘You’ve grown,’ he said, beaming at her, but the words contained none of the disappointment and criticism that the phrase so often conveyed these days.
At twenty-two, Will was the younger of her two cousins. He, too, had changed: Topaz’s memory of Will as a voluble schoolboy, all teeth and glasses and gangling limbs, was replaced by this tall, fair young man, whose features seemed to have hardened and cohered in a way that her own round face had not. Topaz thought that she would remember this moment for ever: after such a long absence, the bliss of being in the place she liked best, with the people she liked best.
The porter had taken Mrs Brooke’s luggage. ‘Hello, Aunt Veronica,’ said Will. ‘How lovely to see you.’ He kissed her cheek. ‘I hope the journey wasn’t too frightful.’
‘Only one first-class carriage.’ Veronica wrinkled her nose in distaste.
Will loaded the luggage into the Austin Seven. Mrs Brooke sat in the front passenger seat, and Topaz climbed into the back behind Will. ‘How’s Auntie Prudence?’ she asked as Will drove away from the station. ‘And Uncle John? And the boys – are the boys still awful?’
‘Mum’s fine. And so’s Dad. And the boys are still awful of course; that’s what they’re for, being awful.’ Will’s father was a housemaster at a boys’ school.
‘And Jack? Is he home yet?’ Will’s elder brother, Jack, was in the army.
‘Next week. We had a telegram.’
‘I bet Aunt Prudence is thrilled. He’s been abroad for ages, hasn’t he?’
‘Four years. Mum’s planning a party to celebrate. She’s inviting all the relatives.’ Will rolled his eyes.
Topaz remembered Will and Jack as boys, sun and moon, fair, fragile Will, and the older, darker, quieter Jack. Though Will had scrawled a few letters to her during her exile in the Lake District (boy’s letters, blotted and brief), she had not heard from Jack, who had sailed with the Royal Engineers to North Africa in the spring of 1942 and had not been back to England since. But then, she told herself, Jack had always been Julia’s particular friend.
They had reached the School House. The front door was ajar; catching sight of Prudence Chancellor, Topaz waved and blew kisses.
After lunch Topaz and Will walked from the School House to Missencourt, the Temperleys’ home. Marius and Julia Temperley were Jack and Will’s closest friends. All Topaz’s best memories of Dorset included the Temperleys.
They talked, filling in a seven-year parting.
‘Did you mind, Will?’ asked Topaz. ‘Did you mind not being in the Forces?’
Will shrugged and pushed his glasses back on to the bridge of his nose. ‘It reminded me of games lessons at school – hanging around on the boundary, watching the others, never being in the thick of things. And, of course, with both Jack and Marius in the army, I suppose I felt rather left out.’
Topaz and her mother had spent the war years in an hotel in the Lake District. The hotel had been cold and uncomfortable, and had seemed to exist in a separate world from the one described in the news bulletins on the wireless.
‘And teaching …’ Will went on. ‘Hardly heroic.’ Will had spent the last three years teaching Latin and science at his father’s school, filling in for masters who had been called up.
‘Did you hate it?’
He grinned. ‘I used to count the days till the end of term. Just like when I went to school there.’
‘Will you stay?’
‘Not likely. I’m not much good at it, to be honest. They only put up with me because of Dad and because they couldn’t get anyone better. Jack was always the brainy one, wasn’t he? And, anyway, most of the other masters are back now. And even if I didn’t loathe teaching, I wouldn’t want to stay there. At my father’s school, living with my parents. I want to do something more … more …’
‘I need to show them I can do something on my own, don’t I?’
There were still violet smudges, Topaz noticed, in the hollows beneath Will’s eyes. She asked curiously, ‘Does your heart really murmur?’
An attack of rheumatic fever at the age of five had damaged Will’s heart. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘I’ve never listened to it.’
Will paused, and Topaz pressed the side of her head against his chest, listening. Then she drew away. ‘I don’t know what hearts are supposed to sound like.’
They stood on the verge as a car rattled past. ‘Nineteen-thirty-four Riley MPH,’ said Will admiringly, watching it disappear round the bend. ‘A beauty. Only twenty of them ever made. Terrific acceleration.’ Topaz had a sudden memory of a much younger Will, ink blots on his fingers, proudly showing her his list of car numberplates.
She threaded her arm through his as they walked on. ‘In the war I used to think about you,’ she said. ‘You and Jack and Julia and Marius. When I was fed up, I used to imagine this walk from the School House to Missencourt. And here I am, aren’t I?’ She craned her neck, trying to see the Temperleys’ house through the trees. ‘And when Jack comes home next week’, she went on, ‘everything will be just the same as it was before, won’t it?’
‘Do you think so?’
‘Well, we were kids then, weren’t we? Lots of things have changed.’
‘But people still feel the same, don’t they?’ Will didn’t reply. ‘You must have missed Jack awfully,’ Topaz added. Yet she had a sudden, clear memory of an incident from years ago: Jack and Will tossing a coin to see who should ride pillion on horseback behind Julia; the flare of triumph in Will’s cornflower blue eyes when he won and the anger in Jack’s.
‘There’s Julia,’ said Will, smiling.
A bicycle was hurtling towards them. At the foot of the hill, Julia jumped off. ‘You’re late! I thought you were never coming.’ She flung her arms around Topaz. ‘I got fed up waiting so I came to meet you.’ She stood back, staring at Topaz.
‘Go on, say it,’ said Topaz resignedly. ‘I’ve grown.’
‘Well, you have, haven’t you? You’ve got bosoms.’
‘Julia—’ said Will, embarrassed.
‘She has. Much more bosom than me.’ Julia was wearing a white cotton shirt and tan-coloured slacks, and her long brown hair was caught back in an untidy ponytail. She was tall and slender, all attenuated limbs and hollowed, patrician features, and large, deep-set grey eyes. It always seemed to Topaz that the way Julia looked didn’t go with the way Julia was. That Julia’s uncommon beauty gave no warning of Julia’s short temper or fatal tendency to act on the spur of the moment.
‘Bosoms are an awful nuisance, actually,’ said Topaz. ‘They get in the way of everything. And when I run, they wobble.’
They turned the corner and there was Missencourt. The elegant, rectangular building fitted perfectly into the backdrop of woodland and valley, its pale Purbeck stone curtained by Virginia creeper. At the back of the house French windows opened on to a paved terrace, which gave on to a wide, sweeping lawn. The tall cypresses that marked the boundaries of the garden cast dark shadows on the grass. In the centre of the lawn was a circular pond. Water lilies floated on its surface. Topaz recalled the carp that swam in the pond, threads of gold in the dark green depths.
And yet even Missencourt had changed. Though the house seemed unaltered by the passing of time, the lawn had been dug up and planted with vegetables, so that grey-green brassicas and the feathery tops of carrots grew in place of the velvety grass of Topaz’s memory.
‘Mum’s out,’ explained Julia, ‘but Marius is in the study. Go and say hello to him, Topaz. He’s longing to see you.’
Through the half-open door, Topaz saw Marius Temperley sitting at his desk. He looked up.
‘Good Lord. Topaz,’ he said, rising. ‘You look marvellous.’
A welcome change, she thought, from, you’ve grown. And she still had to stand on tiptoes to kiss him. Tall and broad-shouldered, he was brown-haired and light-eyed like all the Temperleys, though in Marius’s case, his eyes were not grey, but a faded blue, and the Temperley Roman nose was no longer quite straight, a souvenir of a fight at school many years before.
‘I didn’t mean to interrupt you.’ She indicated the heaps of paper on the desk.
‘No, no.’ He smiled at her. ‘I’d be glad of an excuse to stop, to tell the truth.’
‘Are you frightfully busy?’ There were stacks of files on top of the cabinets and on the floor.
‘There’s some sorting out to do. Not’, Marius added hastily, ‘that Julia didn’t do a brilliant job.’
The Temperleys owned a radio-manufacturing business. The offices and workshop were in the nearby village of Great Missen, housed in a disused chapel that had once been the home of an obscure and gloomily self-denying religious sect. When Francis Temperley, Julia and Marius’s father, had died during the war, Julia, in Marius’s absence, had taken over the running of the business. Will had once tried to explain to Topaz how wirelesses worked, but when he had begun to talk about radio waves her mind had seemed to freeze, clutched by a confused image of the grey, stormy surf at Hernscombe beach somehow sloshing through the skies.
‘How are you, Topaz?’ Marius asked. ‘How was your sojourn in the Lakes? A mixture, I suppose, of boredom and beauty.’
‘Yes,’ she said, thinking of her seven years’ exile. ‘Boredom and beauty. That was just about it. It was all right, really. Nice walks. The hotel was awful, though. Silver service for an omelette of dried eggs and a few tinned peas. And I was afraid Mummy might marry one of the colonels.’
‘There were hordes of them staying at the hotel. They had red faces and handlebar moustaches. They called Mummy the memsahib.’
Marius grinned. ‘And now? You’re back in London, I assume.’
‘Will you go back to school?’
‘No, thank goodness.’ She shuddered. ‘It would be awful, starting at a new one.’
‘So what next?’
‘Mummy hopes I’ll get married.’
‘Anyone in mind?’
She shook her head. ‘Sweet seventeen and never been kissed,’ she said flippantly. ‘Although …’
‘“Although”?’ he repeated, brows raised.
‘One of the colonels at the hotel once offered me a bar of chocolate in exchange for a kiss.’
She said, only slightly ashamed, ‘You have no idea how desperate I was for chocolate. And it wasn’t so bad, really. His moustache was a bit prickly, though.’ She looked at him. ‘What about you? Are you glad to be home?’
‘Do you know, I think you are the first person to ask me that.’
She thought that there was a weariness in his eyes. ‘I suppose’, she said thoughtfully, ‘in some ways being in the army might be … simpler.’
‘In some ways,’ agreed Marius. ‘But yes, of course I’m glad to be home. It’s just … different. With Dad gone, especially.’
‘Yes, of course. I’m so sorry, Marius.’
‘How’s your mother?’
‘Mummy’s very well. Though she was fed up about the flat. You know our old flat was bombed in the war. It’s taken ages to find a new one.’
As she talked, she remembered that one of the things she had always liked most about Marius Temperley was that, even when she was a little girl and he was quite grown up, he had always listened properly to her. He hadn’t half-listened, as so many people did, while doing something else, or pausing with barely disguised impatience before moving on to someone more important.
‘Anyway,’ she finished, ‘we’d just moved in, and then something went wrong with the boiler. So we came here.’
‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’m delighted that you did.’ And she felt her heart lift and soar.
The train stopped at every station from Paddington. All the seats were taken, so Jack Chancellor stood in the corridor, his kitbag propped up beside him. He had been demobilized from the army a week earlier than he had originally expected; now his confidence about surprising his family and not forewarning them of his early release seeped away as he neared his destination. He wished he had phoned, he wished he had sent a telegram. He wished the whole business of coming home was over and that he could go from being away to being back without the messy middle bit of tears and greetings.
Wedged in the corridor between a sailor sleeping off the ill effects of the previous night and a chap smoking a foul-smelling pipe, Jack acknowledged to himself that at the heart of his doubts lay Julia. If Julia still cared for him then he would be happy; if she did not, then he might as well have remained in Italy.
At Yeovil he left the London train and took the little branch line that plunged south through the hills to Longridge Halt. Settling into a corner seat, his thoughts returned to Julia. They had known each other from infancy. Their mothers’ friendship had meant that they, too, were destined to be friends. Then, at nineteen, Jack had joined up. He had been posted to a training camp in the north of England. In 1941, returning home for a fortnight’s leave, he had seen Julia through different eyes. She seemed to have grown up in his absence – or was it he who had changed, altered and toughened by army life, in the course of which he had acquired a tentative sexual confidence? He had seen her for what she was, a startlingly beautiful and desirable young woman.
The miracle (even now he still thought it miraculous) was that she had felt the same way about him. Jack never expected things to be easy, always anticipated difficulty. Walking Julia home from the School House to Missencourt, he had kissed her for the first time. Touching her finely grained skin, her full mouth, had been another homecoming. Though he had been cautious at first, afraid of rejection, she had responded to him. A few days later, in the privacy of the woods behind Great Missen, he had stroked her breasts and had run his fingertips down the flat, soft musculature of her stomach.
They had been late back to Missencourt that day. Julia’s father – clever, charming Francis Temperley – had been standing at the end of the drive, waiting for them. ‘Thought you’d got lost,’ was all he had said, but something in his eyes had made the skin on the back of Jack’s neck crawl, sensing danger. And afterwards there never seemed to be the opportunity to spend time alone with Julia.
Afterwards he had ached for her. Before being posted abroad, he had been given a brief twenty-four hours’ leave and had headed for Missencourt. In the room that had once been Julia and Marius’s playroom, with its curling maps of the world and yellowing reproductions of old masters, they had clung to each other. Her hair had drifted against his face as he had drawn her to him, his hands tracing the contours of her body, his mouth hungry, searching. She had said, her voice shaking, I don’t want you to go, Jack, I don’t want you to go, and he had opened his eyes and focused on the pinkish shape of Africa pinned to the wall behind her, aware of a mixture of happiness and desperation. He had told her that he loved her and, through the approaching footsteps in the corridor, he had believed that he had heard her whisper in return that she loved him.
They had sprung apart just before her parents came into the room. The remainder of the evening had been a torment. Jack had stumbled in his replies to Adele Temperley’s kind enquiries about his future and he had gabbled nonsensical responses to Francis Temperley’s words of advice. When he had taken his leave after half an hour, there had been a hundred things he had wanted to say to her. But, ‘You’ll write, won’t you?’ was all he had managed as Julia stood on the doorstep, flanked by her parents. Then he had walked away down the drive and Missencourt’s front door had slammed shut before he could turn around for a last glimpse of her. The following day he had left for Plymouth, to embark on the long voyage to North Africa.
Julia had written long, cheerful letters to him that made fun both of wartime austerities and of her own attempts to fill her absent elder brother Marius’s place in her father’s business. In Egypt, in Sicily, and in Italy, Julia’s mocking voice had echoed as Jack had turned the pages of her letters, and her grey, teasing eyes had gazed down at him. ‘Oh, for Heaven’s sake, smile, Jack,’ he had imagined her saying. ‘Always so serious.’ And he had managed, most of the time, a grin.
The only time her cheerfulness had failed her had been when Francis Temperley had died. The most terrible thing, Jack. Daddy has died of a heart attack. I don’t know how I shall bear it. And then a long gap, six months during which she had not written. At that time Jack had been working his way up the battered spine of Italy, shoring up bridges, detonating those which could not be saved, laying pontoons. He had written to Julia, but he had never been much good at saying what he felt, and his words had stared back at him, failing to convey the depths of his sympathy. When I come home, he had promised himself, when I come home I will make it up to her.
Throughout the war years he had looked forward to the moment of their reunion. And yet, returning to England, his optimism had begun to falter. The country had changed for the worse in his absence. London, with its heaps of rubble and ruined streets and squares, had taken him by surprise in its unwelcoming dreariness. He had been shocked by the uniform drabness of his fellow countrymen’s appearance, and by their complaints and pushiness. After he had left the demob centre, a greasy little fellow had sneaked out of the shadows and offered him a tenner for his army-issue suit. Jack had sent him away with a flea in his ear. Later, climbing on to the train at Paddington, a middle-aged man had elbowed in front of him and plonked his fat behind on the last vacant seat. A fellow soldier had caught Jack’s eye and shrugged, a small, eloquent raising of the shoulders that said, civvies.
The long, slow, train journey had given ample time for all his doubts to multiply. Julia, after all, had been only seventeen when he had left England in 1942. Still a schoolgirl. Far too young to know her own mind. And even if she had once felt something for him, she might no longer do so now. She might have forgotten or regretted the fleeting intimacies they had shared.
The train was slowing for Longridge Halt. Jack gathered up his kitbag and overcoat. With a final screech and hiss of steam, the engine drew to a halt.
He was the only passenger to alight at the station. As the train drew away, he began to walk, not to the School House, but towards Missencourt. He’d see Julia first, he decided, and then he’d go home. It wasn’t as though his parents were expecting him today.
After the stuffy train journey it was a pleasure to breathe fresh air. The walk calmed him and the cloudless sky raised his spirits, lessening his exhaustion and unease. The fields in the lower part of the valley bristled with golden corn stubble and on the higher slopes sheep grazed, little puff-ball blobs. Soon, Jack promised himself, soon he would go and see Carrie and Sixfields. The narrow road curved through the woodland that surrounded Missencourt. The trees soared overhead, blotting out the sky. Jack thought of all the things he was going to say to Julia. This time he wouldn’t let anything stop him.
He left the road, taking the path through the trees that led to the perimeter of the Temperleys’ garden. The sound of a distant ripple of laughter made his heart leap. Jack gazed over the lawn to the terrace and saw her. She was sitting in a deckchair. She was wearing a shirt and trousers: the boyish clothes and the different, older Julia, jolted him.
There was someone with her. A man, sitting beside her. Jack did not immediately recognize him. Fair-haired, slight … Will, he realized. And as he watched, Julia reached out and ruffled Will’s hair in a gesture that spoke to Jack of both intimacy and affection.
Once, in Italy, Jack had been shinning along the struts beneath a bridge, checking its roadworthiness for an oncoming convoy, when he had caught sight of the black, lumpy shape of a grenade, hidden in the V between the metal girders. A careless movement, or his weight placed on the wrong part of the crumbling structure, and the grenade might have gone off. In an instant, a day that had previously been bright and unthreatening had altered, menacing his entire future. He remembered that moment now.
He must have made some sort of sound because Julia rose to her feet, staring at him, her eyes wide, her lips parted. She didn’t, he thought grimly, look exactly pleased to see him. He crossed the garden to the terrace.
She couldn’t believe it was him at first. She looked up and saw the man standing in the shadow of the trees, and thought for one mad, mind-twisting moment that it was her father. Her heart lurched and she began to shake. By the time she was able to stand, by the time elation had begun to take over from shock, Jack had reached the terrace, and was saying in a cold, drawling voice, ‘Thought I’d drop by for a few minutes on my way home. But you seem to be busy.’
She flung her arms around him and kissed him. He did not respond, did not hug or kiss her in return. Feeling bewildered and foolish and suddenly frightened, she stood back. Jack shook hands with Will. Her voice trembling slightly, she offered Jack a drink, but he refused, saying, ‘Better not. Things to do.’ Will asked him questions about his journey and about Italy, questions that Jack answered curtly and uninformatively, and which she herself hardly heard for the panic welling up inside her. Jack didn’t smile, and there was a hardness and distance about him that went with his altered appearance: the thickened outline of his shoulders, the layers of sunburn that stained his skin brown. He had become, Julia thought, her shock returning, a stranger.
After Jack and Will and Topaz had gone, knowing that she must be alone because she was going to explode, Julia went to the kitchen with the excuse of preparing the dinner. There she took one of the plainest plates from the dresser and hurled it against the wall, where it smashed into a great many little pieces. Then she sat down at the table, put her head in her hands and wept. After a while, she blew her nose on a tea towel and scrubbed her eyes, and tried to calm down. One of Julia’s paddies, her father would have said affectionately.
But thinking of her father didn’t help, so she lit a cigarette and began to clear up the broken bits of plate. She felt both exhausted and restless at the same time. Since she had heard of Jack’s imminent demobilization, she had been able to think of little else. The years had fallen away and, for the first time since her father’s death, she had recalled the possibility of happiness. It was as though, with Jack’s return, things could begin to come right again.
She had always loved Jack. She couldn’t remember a time without Jack. When they were children, she and Jack had been inseparable. Will had often been unwell and because Marius had always moved on to the next stage (prep school, big school, work) before the rest of them, the four had often been reduced to two. Julia and Jack had climbed trees together, ridden together, sailed together. He had matched her recklessness with a carelessness and confidence that she had secretly envied.
The army had changed Jack. He had looked at her differently, treated her differently. Encountering this older, altered Jack, she had felt an answering excitement. When he had kissed her, one kind of love had metamorphosed into another. The intensity of her pleasure in his touch had taken her by surprise, though it had not surprised her that it was Jack who had made her feel this way because Jack had always been hers.
Then he had gone away, posted abroad with his regiment. After Julia had left school, she had helped her father at the radio workshop. From early 1941, Temperley’s had been in operation twelve hours a day, six days a week, making radios for military use. Julia, who was bored by both the domestic and the academic, had discovered that the demands of the job helped to fill the gaps left by the absence of Marius and Jack. She had been secretly relieved that her work had spared her the obligation of joining one of the women’s Services: the WAAFs or the Wrens would have meant leaving home and sleeping in a dormitory with lots of other women, which she would have loathed.
She hadn’t thought much about what she and Jack would do when the war ended. Sometimes, when all the news seemed to be bad, it had felt to her as if it would never end. And when at last the tide turned she remained superstitiously afraid that if she dared to make plans, then she would lose him.
But it wasn’t Jack who was taken from her, but her father. Tragedy had come unexpectedly, while she was off guard. She remembered every detail of that terrible day. It had been a wet Sunday in October and her father had taken the dogs out for a walk. He’d asked her to go with him, but she hadn’t because she’d been riding and was drenched. She remembered her father saying, A bit more rain won’t make any difference then, will it, darling? but she had shaken her head and dashed upstairs to find a towel. A small decision, but one she had since regretted a thousand times. An hour later, while she was playing the piano, there had been a knock at the door. Her mother had answered it. She could not make out the words, but the tenor of the voices had given her a first inkling of disaster, and she had lifted her hands from the piano keys and waited, fear uncoiling in her stomach. Jack, she’d thought, Jack.
But it wasn’t Jack. One of her father’s employees had found him curled up beside a stile, almost as though he’d settled down for a nap. Sally, the old labrador, had been crouched beside him. They hadn’t let her go to him; she had hated them for that. She had spent the afternoon searching for Rob the puppy, who had bolted. She had walked for miles, eventually discovering the dog soaked and shivering, its lead tangled in a blackthorn bush.
That day had changed her life in many ways. It wasn’t simply the grief that had seemed always to fill her head, wearing her out with its constant proximity. Almost equally shocking was the abrupt realization that bad things could happen to her, to Julia Temperley. Whatever catastrophes the past few years had brought to others, they had not touched her. She was intelligent enough to know that the war had given her opportunities she would not otherwise have had. If it had not been for the outbreak of hostilities, then Marius would have been working for the family business, not she. She had no idea what she would h
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