Mysteriously, whilst in Spain, Maggie stopped hearing from Tony, the guy she’d been seeing before jetting off (who also happens to be Jenny’s brother/Mr. H’s son) She’s about to find out the reason why.
The taxi pulled up onto the gravel in front of the farmhouse.
My H must have seen us as the front door opened and he stood there all smiles. He came out and opened the back door of the taxi wearing his long shorts and gardening shirt, his face ruddy from the oppressive heat and his eyes twinkling. Somehow, he made coming home slightly more bearable. As we clambered out he hugged us one by one, genuinely pleased to see us all.
‘Welcome. Welcome!’ he boomed. ‘Come on in. The lawns are mown, the flowers are tucked up in their beds for the night and we’re all about to have a cup of tea in your honour.’ He ushered us towards the open door and into the hallway, taking each of our cases and putting them to one side at the bottom of the stairs.
All? I wondered. Who’s all?
Once in, the others followed Mr. H into the kitchen where he immediately made a fuss of Timmy who he hadn’t see for ages. For some reason, I found myself heading for the lounge. Another one of those invisible pulls? And there he was. Sitting slightly hunched on one of the old sofas, elbows on his knees, head in his hands, staring at the floor. He looked startled as I came in and our eyes met. He appeared…worried?
‘Hello, Tony,’ I said quietly.
I started to give him a shy, neutral, smile, one that I hoped wouldn’t suggest one thing or another but, as I did so, it froze on my face. From the door leading to the kitchen, entered a slim, pretty, fair-haired woman carrying a tray full of tea and cake.
She glanced up as she came in and her face also seemed to stop mid expression. Placing the tray down on the coffee table, she straightened herself up, brushed her hands off and smoothed down her skirt with her delicate little hands.
‘Hello,’ she smiled rather too sweetly, holding out her hand to shake mine.
‘I’m Laura. You must be…let me see, Maggie? Am I right?’ I may have imagined it but I could have sworn I detected a note of disdain in her voice.
My mind was working overtime. Laura? But wasn’t Laura…Tony’s Ex!?
Bewildered, I shook her hand, which was like shaking a limp lettuce leaf. Yick.
Glancing across to Tony, this time he wouldn’t meet my eye.
From behind me, Pauline and Timmy came in and Mr. H entered from the kitchen. Full of bonhomie, he introduced Laura to Pauline and Timmy who took turns in shaking the lettuce leaf.
Laura smiled a fake smile at them.
‘I’ve made the tea, just what we all need. Shall I be mum?’ she simpered.
I think I hated her on the spot.
Delicately – no make that annoyingly delicately – Laura began to pour tea into the china cups before sitting on the edge of the sofa like a little Kylie Minogue doll. I felt like a baby elephant by comparison.
We were still standing like lemons when Jenny skipped in. She stopped in her tracks staring at Laura then frowned.
‘What are you doing here?’ Her stare became a glare.
Her father interjected. ‘Jenny! That’s no way to talk to our guest now is it?’
Jenny shrugged, collapsing into the other armchair. Sliding round so she was sitting sideways she swung her legs over one arm like a little kid.
‘Sorry,’ she shrugged again. ‘Just thought these two were history.’
It didn’t appear anyone was going to offer any explanation about the reappearance of Laura. Tony seemed jittery and an awkward silence settled over the room. Mr. H broke it.
‘For goodness sake, you lot, sit down will you,’ Jenny exclaimed. ‘I’ll break my neck having to talk up to you all!’
Pauline and Timmy sat on the two-seater, Mr. H on his favourite armchair and before I realised what was happening the only space left was the one on the sofa, next to Tony and Laura.
I glanced nervously at the empty seat, then at Tony who was beside it and then back at the seat.
‘Come along, Maggie, sit yourself down now. You’re making the place look untidy!’ Mr. H chortled. He’d always said that when we were kids.
I sat down tentatively, aware of Tony’s knees next to mine and trying desperately to stop them actually touching. Trouble was, the sofa was a really old squashy one that dipped in the middle. It was, therefore, almost impossible not to fall into the centre of it and onto Tony. I held on tightly to the arm so as to keep myself as upright as possible but it kept creaking whenever I moved and drawing attention to me. I sat perched as still as I could, hoping no one would ask me why I was doing an impression of someone riding the waltzers.
Review: This book had me laughing virtually from the first chapter to the last. Maggie Parsons is a quirky, likable character, as are her friends and coworkers. Poor Maggie finds herself facing one disaster after another, which gives the reader more laughs, but also makes us feel compassion for her.
When Maggie and her friends take a holiday to Spain to get away from the madness, the misadventures continue, with huge hangovers and trying to remember what happened the night before.
I was a bit intimidated by the fact the book was 727 pages long, but reading the journey of the four friends toward maturity and responsibility, with plenty of humor and romance along the way, made it easier to get through than I had expected. I would highly recommend this as a vacation read.
Rating: Four stars
About the author
Sara Mendes da Costa is the voice of the BT Speaking Clock; the fourth person to hold this prestigious title since 1936.
A successful, world-renowned voiceover artist, her dulcet tones are easily recognisable on television, radio, film and across countless media.
Never far from the press, she’s known for her appearances on BBC Breakfast, ITV This Morning, Children in Need, Wake up to Wogan and The Today Programme, and balances her prolific voiceover career with her passion and commitment as a novelist.
Peanuts & Eggcups, her debut novel - hotly anticipated by the industry - is “The perfect & highly addictive reading companion for women’s fiction fans”. `
A lover of laughter, creativity, great storytelling and a wee dram, Sara adores writing novels and seeks to entertain, uplift and inspire.
Her upcoming novels: Time & Time Again & Maggie Ever After, are expected in 2017.