'Today, when she looked in the mirror, she saw a kind of bad watercolour of herself, blurred about the edges, no longer defined as a confident, capable woman, more like someone who’d been left out in the rain.'
Leanne still missed her father and aunt terribly, almost as much as she missed her elder daughter Kate. Kate. What a mix of emotions flooded her just to picture Kate’s beautiful face, or to think of where she might be and what she was doing now.
And then there was Abby, her youngest . . . ‘You didn’t answer my question,’ Wilkie chided, going to put on the kettle, as at home in the barn as she was in the farmhouse.
‘Sorry, I missed what you said,’ Leanne replied, shrugging off her coat. ‘I asked if you’d treated yourself to something lovely,’ Wilkie repeated.
Leanne glanced at the bags she’d brought in from the car: Next, Top Shop, Zara. What was in them, for heaven’s sake? ‘Not really,’ she said vaguely, ‘it’s mostly for Abby.’
Wilkie sighed and planted her hands on her plump little hips. Nature couldn’t have made mother and daughter less alike if it had tried, for Wilkie with her lusciously curvy figure and bright orange hair stood no higher than five feet two in heels. Leanne, on the other hand, was tall, like her father, with long slender legs, boyish hips and an abundance of honey-coloured curls.
‘There’s nothing wrong with indulging yourself once in a while,’ Wilkie reminded her.
Leanne didn’t argue, because she agreed. However, these days she was quite happy in jeans and a sweater, or occasionally a dress from Glory Days, the vintage shop in town that she’d also inherited from her aunt.
There was a time when her wardrobe had overflowed with silks and satins, glittering tops and impossible shoes. She’d had real diamonds for her fingers and ears; her hair had been styled and highlighted to perfection, and her skin had always shone with as much happiness as health. Today, when she looked in the mirror, she saw a kind of bad watercolour of herself, blurred about the edges, no longer defined as a confident, capable woman, more like someone who’d been left out in the rain. More often than not she wore her glorious hair scraped back from her pale, heartshaped face, and she no longer accentuated the lengthy lashes around her blue, almond-shaped eyes, or added colour to her lips or cheeks. According to her mother this ghostly image made her look young and vulnerable, and rather like the heroine of a nineteenth-century novel. Since Leanne was forty-three, and felt about as romantic as a pair of baggy tights, she could only conclude that she wasn’t presenting an accurate picture of her true self to the world.
In fact, she knew she wasn’t, but why should anyone else have to deal with the cauldron of conflicting emotions fermenting away inside her? Talking about Jack, even thinking about him, would be like poking a hornets’ nest, and once all those dreadful feelings were unleashed how was she ever going to get them back under control? They’d die away of their own accord given time, she was in no doubt of that. She already felt infinitely better than she had a year ago, when the world as she’d known it had been thrown off its axis in a way she should have seen coming, but hadn’t.