chick-lit · romance

*BLOG TOUR* After The One – Cass Lester (Extract).

Blurb; What happens… after The One?
April 16th is always one of Charley’s worst days of the year.

It’s her husband’s birthday, a painful reminder of his death four years ago.

So naturally, her car breaks down.

She nearly gets run over trying to catch the bus.

And then she’s made redundant.

Her friends see the redundancy as a chance for her to start again and live the life she always wanted, but since being widowed Charley has clung to familiarity and avoided change like the plague. Then, out of the blue, her mother-in-law Pam pitches up in need of a place to stay after walking out on her 40-year marriage.

Together, Charley and Pam find themselves at a crossroad. It’s not easy to move on after The One, but they can’t stand still forever.

A gorgeously heartwarming and feel-good story for fans of Libby Page and Nicola Gill.

Extract; At the weekend, the delivery of the new bed forced Charley to brace herself and deal with Josh’s things in the spare room. She’d leant the flat-packed frame and the double mattress against the wall, but if she wanted space to actually build the damn thing, she’d have to clear the bags and boxes cluttering the middle of the room – it was as simple as that. She made herself a mug of tea, knelt on the floor, pulled the nearest bag to her and began to empty it onto the carpet. Out tumbled the tokens of their lives together… the blue knot cufflinks she’d bought him for their anniversary… a tangle of festival wristbands… his phone and GameBoy (for crying out loud), and then his wallet. The wallet had been her first birthday gift to him. She opened it and her face stared back at her, a few years younger but still very much the same – her slightly self-conscious smile, framed by a mass of unruly curls tumbling down over her shoulders.
She took a deep, shaky breath. She was only halfway through the first bag and she was already struggling. So when the doorbell rang about ten minutes later, although she wasn’t proud to admit it, she was thankful for the interruption.
A woman in cropped slacks and a long T-shirt, with greying hair and a cabin-size wheelie-bag, stood on her doorstep, looking vaguely distressed.
‘Pam?’ Charley’s mind raced frantically. Her mother-in-law never arrived unannounced or without an invitation. What on earth was she doing here, completely out of the blue without so much as a phone call or a text and, crucially, with a suitcase?
‘I’ve left Geoff!’
‘What!’ gasped Charley.
‘He’s having an affair.’
‘Bloody hell, Pam!’ The expletives escaped before Charley could stop them, but beyond that, she was utterly speechless so, picking up the suitcase, she ushered her mother-in-law indoors.
‘Tea?’ she suggested, leading into the kitchen.
‘I was hoping for something a bit stronger. Quite a lot of something a bit stronger, actually,’ replied Pam, flabbergasting Charley for a second time in a minute.
Charley didn’t have ‘anything stronger’. She never kept wine in the flat, worried that she’d be tempted to drink alone, and that was a slippery slope she wasn’t going to risk even putting a toe on.
‘Make yourself at home, and I’ll nip out and get something,’ she said.
‘Oh, don’t go out just for me,’ Pam protested politely.
I’m not, thought Charley. After a bombshell like that, I need a drink.

Nipping to the mini supermarket around the corner, Charley grabbed a bottle of Prosecco then, thinking about it, changed it to a bottle of Pinot, in case it looked like she thought that Pam leaving her husband was something to celebrate. Then, thinking about it even more and remembering Pam’s request for ‘quite a lot of something a bit stronger’ she picked up a second bottle. Then she added a couple of frozen pizzas to the basket, partly to mop up the booze, but also because, judging by the suitcase, Pam had apparently come to stay the night and, as usual, there was bugger all in the fridge.
Ten minutes later, sitting on the sofa with glass of wine in hand, Pam seemed surprisingly unruffled. Only the speed with which she knocked back her drink and held the glass out for a top-up gave anything away – that, and the fact that the total transformation of the living room had utterly escaped her notice.
‘I feel so stupid… such a fool! He’s been seeing this… woman, sleeping with this woman,’ she corrected herself, ‘for years! Years!’
Charley was lost for words, which wasn’t, as it turned out, a problem, since her mother-in-law ploughed on, emitting a steady flow of words fuelled, no doubt, by a much-needed release of tension.
‘Of course, all the time he was working I never knew – he’d get held up in the office or have to go to a work do or something and he’d get home late, and I’d be full of sympathy for him having worked such long hours, when all the while he’d been… having it off in some… some hotel room or whatever.’
Charley took a gulp of wine. Hearing the ins and outs of her father-in-law’s sex life, as it were, and from her mother-in-law, was all a bit… hideously embarrassing, really.
‘How did you find out?’ she ventured, when Pam briefly stopped in her rant to take another glug of wine.
‘Hah! After he retired, he got careless… no, greedy. He couldn’t resist a bit of… afternoon delight’ – she spat the words out viciously – ‘and I caught him at it.’
Charley choked on her wine. ‘You caught them having sex?’ she spluttered.
‘No! I caught him with the other woman.’

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