On the book tour for Ellen Berry’s new book, ’The Bookshop On Rosemary Lane’, sit back and enjoy an extract from the first chapter of the book. Fans of Fiona Gibson, should definitely check out this book, as this book is written under Fiona’s pen name, Ellen Berry.
It wasn’t a train she was trying to catch but her mother’s last breath. So Della couldn’t be late. ‘Start, dammit,’ she muttered, repeatedly turning the ignition key: nothing. Her car appeared to be dead. Her mother could be too, very soon, if her brother was right. He’d called just a few moments ago.
‘Della,’ Jeff had barked, ‘things aren’t looking good. You’d better get yourself over here right away.’ It was the phrase that had stung her: get yourself over here, implying that she’d spent the past three days lying prone on the sofa, posting chocolates into her mouth, rather than keeping an almost permanent vigil at their mother’s bedside. In fact, even before Kitty had moved to the hospice, Della had done most of the caring, driving over to Rosemary Cottage every day after work, not to mention weekends. Jeff, who was based ninety minutes away in Manchester, was generally ‘too tied up’ to assist. As for Della’s younger sister, Roxanne: despite their mother’s decline, this was the first time she’d deigned to venture to Yorkshire from London in three weeks. And just when Della had dared to pop home to catch up on a little sleep, it had started to happen.
Cursing under her breath, she turned the key over and over. It was as effective as repeatedly jabbing at the button to call a lift.
She scrambled out of her car – a scuffed red Fiat Punto – and glanced around the quiet residential street in panic. Running to the hospice wasn’t an option. Della wasn’t built for speed, and Perivale House – which sounded like a luxury spa rather than a place where people went to die – was a couple of miles away on the outskirts of the bustling market town. You couldn’t just hail a taxi in Heathfield – they had to be booked in advance – and Della couldn’t think of anyone she knew who’d be around, ready and willing to drive her, at 3.17 p.m. on a grubby-skied September afternoon.
Whilst pacing at the bus stop she tried Mark on his mobile, knowing he wouldn’t pick up; his working days were filled with back-to-back patient consultations. Often he didn’t even break for lunch. ‘Going to the hospice,’ she informed his voicemail. ‘It doesn’t sound good, love. Jeff and Rox are with her right now and, can you believe this, my bloody car won’t start. I’ll call you later, okay? Or call me. Yes, please call me, soon as you can. ’Bye.’ She tried to calm her breathing before calling Sophie, their daughter, who didn’t answer either. Not because she was working – she was probably in Starbucks hanging out with her best friend Evie, or perhaps Liam, the boyfriend who seemed to be fading from her affections – but because MUM had flashed up on her phone. These days, Della was always pleasantly surprised and faintly honoured when her daughter did answer a call.
Finally – finally – the bus crawled into view. Della perched on the edge of the front seat, as if that would get her there faster as it trundled through the bustling market town. Her mother was dying, for goodness’ sake, couldn’t the driver put his foot down? Of course, it wasn’t his fault that Heathfield was especially busy today, it being the first Wednesday in the month and therefore farmers’ market day. Never mind a seventy-seven-year-old lady with terminal cancer: people needed their onion marmalades and artisan cheeses. And the driver had to let passengers on and off; it was his job, Della reminded herself, conscious of her thumping heart. And her job right now was to be with Kitty, to hold her bony hand as she slipped away to … where exactly? Although Della didn’t believe in the afterlife, she hoped her mother might drift away to a place where pain, confusion and toxic chemicals would be replaced by a steady trickle of gin.
Come on, bus. Come ON! It had stopped, not at a bus stop but due to a van parked outside Greggs, hazard lights flashing, blocking the lane. Seven minutes, it took, for a man in unforgiving tight jeans to reappear and drive it away. Della felt herself ageing rapidly as the bus finally nudged its way along the tree-lined residential roads and out into the soft, rolling North Yorkshire countryside towards Perivale House. The turreted Victorian manor came into view. The bus doors opened and Della sprang off.
Roxanne and Jeff looked up from Kitty’s bedside in the small private room. Jeff muttered something – it might have been ‘Here you are’ – but Della couldn’t hear properly. All she could do was look at the tiny old lady whose facial skin had settled into little folds around her jawline. A little downy fuzz was all that was left of her hair now.
‘Oh, Mum,’ Della whispered, kneeling down on the rubbery floor and taking her mother’s hand.
Kitty’s slim fingers were cold, her ring with its chunky emerald a little loose. ‘I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye. I’m so sorry.’
Roxanne reached down and squeezed her sister’s arm. Apart from pinkish, sore-looking eyes, she was her usual immaculate self in a plain but clearly expensive black shift, plus an embroidered cream cardi and low, glossy black heels. Della was wearing the leggings and faded turquoise T-shirt she’d napped in. Jeff, the eldest of the three and something important in banking, fixed her with a resigned look across the bed. As her siblings were occupying the only two chairs, Della remained kneeling on the floor. ‘When did it happen?’ she murmured.
‘About ten minutes ago,’ Roxanne replied.
‘Ten minutes! I can’t believe it. That’s when I was stuck outside Greggs …’
‘You went to Greggs on your way here?’ Jeff gasped.
‘No, of course I didn’t. I was on the bus’.
You can buy ‘The Bookshop On Rosemary Lane’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.