Today on the book tour for Amanda Brooke’s new book, ‘The Affair’, sit back and enjoy an extract from the book.
After placing their orders, it was Sarah who kept the conversation flowing. And while she was busy telling Bryn how her company supplied the hummus he had ordered for starters, Nina let her mind wander. She looked at her children in turn and wondered how the next critical years in their lives would play out. She was hoping that her marriage would add some stability to their lives; although they weren’t quite there yet, Scarlett appeared more comfort- able in Bryn’s company of late, possibly because she had worked out that she had a chauffeur at her beck and call. Except she didn’t look comfortable now, Nina realized when she saw a deep blush rising in her daughter’s cheeks.
‘What’s wrong, Scarlett?’ Nina asked quietly. ‘Nothing.’
Scarlett pressed her chin to her chest. Her sleek blonde hair fell over her shoulders and partially obscured her face while she played with her hands.
Liam was first to locate the source of her embarrassment. ‘It’s Mr Swift,’ he said, tipping his head to the far side of the restaurant.
Scarlett’s form tutor was even more handsome than Nina remembered and, in contradiction to his students’ teasing, his thick dark hair showed no signs of thinning. On the few occasions she had spoken to him at parents’ evening, she had been almost tongue-tied, but it was Mr Swift who looked lost for words at present. He was with a small group consisting of two women and a young child, and was as yet unaware of the attention he had drawn from their table, being fully preoccupied with the two helium balloons that had been tied to the back of his chair. A large silver number three and a matching zero.
‘I remember him, he was one of Charlotte’s teachers,’ Sarah said. ‘Why didn’t we have teachers like that in our day, Nina?’
‘Maybe we should go and say hello,’ she suggested.Scarlett snapped her head towards her mum. ‘Don’t you dare!’
‘She’s only teasing,’ Bryn said. ‘Even your mum wouldn’t embarrass you that much.’
‘I think the embarrassment is all his,’ Miles said. ‘I spent my thirtieth in New York having a whale of a time.’
‘Would that be the business trip you were forced to take while I was at home caring for our baby girl?’
‘Ah, yes,’ Miles said and cleared his throat. ‘When I said a whale of a time, what I meant was because I was working so hard, dearest.’
Nina bit her tongue. Unlike her oldest friend, who would jump at the opportunity to scrutinize the cracks in someone else’s relationship, Nina preferred to focus on the positives. Sarah’s marriage might have its faults, but it had been strong enough to endure an affair, and if Miles had strayed since, he was a brave man indeed. By contrast, Nina’s first marriage had disintegrated at the first hint of a problem, and Nina would be eternally grateful to Sarah, who had stopped her falling apart by convincing her she could go it alone.
‘Thirty is so old,’ Scarlett was saying.
Sarah choked on the sip of wine she had been taking. ‘God knows what she makes of you then, Miles.’
‘Fifty is the new forty.’
‘And twenty years more than thirty,’ remarked Scarlett. When the starters arrived, the English teacher and his family were all but forgotten as the grown-ups focused their attention back on their own table.
‘So what are you up to, Liam?’ Sarah asked. ‘Not much.’
‘Have you picked a university yet? I’m sure it was around this time that Charlotte dragged us all around the country for countless open days. Typical of Charlotte, she opted for the first one we’d seen.’
‘She’s at Liverpool, isn’t she?’ Bryn asked.
‘Yes. I can’t believe it’s her final year so soon, and now the little madam has her mind set on a career in advertising. If I’d known she wouldn’t be coming home to work for me, I might have thought twice about paying for all that extra tuition that got her into uni in the first place.’
‘It’s a different generation,’ Nina offered.
‘Maybe, maybe not,’ Sarah told them. ‘By hook or by crook, I’ll rope Charlotte in eventually. I know I take advan- tage of Miles, but we can’t go on as we are. It’s only going to get busier in the next year.’
‘I can’t imagine convincing any of mine to become florists,’ Nina said, confirmed by the expressions on her children’s faces. ‘And I wouldn’t want them to. I’d like them to go off and explore the world. Liam came up with a long-list of possible unis over the summer, but I suppose we do need to whittle it down. Isn’t January the deadline for getting applications into UCAS?’
‘It doesn’t matter any more,’ Liam said. ‘I’ve changed my mind.’
‘Pardon? What do you mean, you’ve changed your mind?’ ‘Not everyone has to go to uni.’
‘I know,’ Nina said slowly to keep her temper in check, ‘but up until now, it was what you wanted. And if you don’t go, can you please tell me what you do have planned?’ ‘My company has a very good apprenticeship programme,’ Miles offered. ‘Or failing that, there could be opportunities with Sarah’s new housing development. It’s still going through planning, but once we get the green light, I’m sure we could persuade one of the contractors to take you on. What kind of career were you thinking about?’
Nina was struggling to keep up with the pace of the conversation. ‘Hold on, can we rewind for a minute. We haven’t ruled out university yet.’
Rather than answer, Liam returned his attention to his phone. The argument was closed, for now at least, and perhaps that was for the best. She didn’t want Miles mapping out her son’s life for him, she had managed well enough on her own so far.
‘I’ll be out this evening and, by the sounds of it, so will Scarlett,’ Bryn said. ‘Maybe you two could have a chat about it later?’
‘Good idea,’ Nina said, admonishing herself for forgetting she was in a partnership now. The conversation she needed to have with Liam might be better alone, but it felt good knowing she had backup.
While everyone had been concentrating on Liam, Scarlett became disengaged from the conversation. She had finished her starter and was looking absent-mindedly around the restaurant. Taking her lip gloss from her purse, her mouth open in a pout, she stroked the wand across her lips in soft, sensual strokes.
‘A word of advice, my lovely,’ Sarah said, her note of caution laced with a hint of envy. ‘Don’t do that in public unless you want to attract the attention of every hot-blooded male in the room.’
Bryn and Miles remembered themselves and looked away from the fifteen-year-old schoolgirl.
You can pre-order The Affair from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 12th January 2017.