The Way We Were – Sinéad Moriarty
Published by Penguin Ireland
ebook 30 July 2015, paperback 24 March 2016
For my turn today for the blog tour, I have an extract of the first chapter of The Way We Were.
When Alice’s husband Ben dies suddenly, her world falls apart. They shared twenty years and two daughters and life without him is unimaginable. Having lost her parents while young, Alice understands her girls’ pain. At fifteen, Jools is at that awkward age and only Ben could get through to her. And eleven-year-old Holly looks for the answer to everything in books but this time she’s drawing a blank. Alice realizes that for their sakes she must summon up superhuman reserves of strength. Somehow all three of them come through the dark days. In time, it’s even possible for Alice to consider marrying again, with the girls’ blessing. So when Ben turns up after three years, her world is again turned upside-down. The girls assume that their family can go back to the way they were. Alice is not so sure. Once more Alice has to find the strength to be the mother her daughters need her to be. But this time what that means is far from clear …
London, Holland Park, November 2014
Dan reached over and took two glasses of champagne from the waiter. Handing one to Alice, he smiled reassuringly at her, then tapped his to get everyone’s attention. He cleared his throat and made a toast: ‘I’m so happy that you, my closest friends, could be here tonight to meet Alice properly. You all know my story, and you also know from me that Alice has had a very difficult time. I feel very lucky to have met her. Second chances are hard to come by in life, and I’m grabbing this one with both hands. Here’s to new beginnings with the most wonderful woman in the world.’
He pulled her close and kissed her as his friends clapped and cheered.
Alice glanced over at Jools and Holly, who were standing in the corner with Dan’s daughter, Stella. Jools smiled crookedly at her mother, while Holly gave her a double thumbs‑up. Alice smiled back and allowed herself to breathe. Everything was going to be fine. She had made the right decision.
Alice leaned into Dan and said, ‘Thank you for . . . well, for everything. For saving me and for making me see that I could be happy again . . .’ She stopped as her voice quivered.
Dan kissed her hand. ‘You’re the one who’s made me happy. I want to tell them about the engagement.’ Alice tried to protest but before she could stop him, he bellowed, ‘One final thing. I’ve asked Alice to marry me.’
The room went silent. Clearly Dan’s friends had not been expecting this. But then someone began to clap and everyone joined in.
Alice frowned. ‘Dan, I told you I needed time for me and the girls to get used to the idea before announcing it.’
‘Relax, darling, I told the girls when they arrived that I was going to announce it tonight. They told me to go ahead.’ Dan beamed.
Before Alice could say anything else, there was a quiet cough at Dan’s elbow and the event organizer shot him an apologetic smile. ‘Excuse me, so sorry to interrupt, but I’d just like to check when you wish the food to be served, Mr Penfold.’
Dan kissed Alice once more, then headed towards the kitchen. Alice’s brother, Kevin, came over to her. Squeezing her hand, he said, ‘Calm down, it was going to come out soon anyway.’
‘I know, but I don’t like surprises. I’m worried about the girls.’
‘They’re fine. They really like Dan. Alice, smile, you’re going to scare the guests.’
Alice laughed, letting go of the tension in her stomach. ‘You’re right. I guess I’m still getting used to the idea of marrying someone else.’
‘You deserve to be happy. He’s a good man. You have to look forward now.’
Alice’s eyes filled with tears. ‘Thanks, Kevin, you’ve been brilliant. I really do love Dan and, like he said, I’m going to take this second chance and embrace it.’
‘Good for you,’ he said. ‘If only his brother was gay – I could get seriously used to this.’ He waved his hand around at the plush furnishings and enormous chandeliers.
‘Your prince will come,’ Alice teased him.
‘When? I’m not getting any younger. Older gay men are not in demand, especially the ones with no money!’
‘If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.’ Alice kissed her brother’s cheek.
‘By the way, you should probably say something, Alice. I overheard one of Dan’s friends mutter that he hoped Dan was doing the right thing. They all seem nice enough, but I’d say the idea of him taking on a widow and two kids has raised a few eyebrows.’
Alice sighed. She and Dan had kept to themselves during their whirlwind romance so she didn’t know his friends, but she did want them to like her. There were about twenty people gathered in the room, and she was doing her best to talk to each one. They seemed very nice, but it was all a bit intimidating. She decided her brother was right, that she needed to take the bull by the horns and say a few words.
Dan was walking towards her. As he came close she caught his hand and whispered, ‘I’d like to say something too, if that’s all right.’
He looked pleased. ‘Of course, darling.’
Alice tapped the side of her glass for silence. The chatter died down. ‘I’m sorry to string out the speeches, but I’d like to add something quickly. I never expected to be lucky enough to meet someone again, but then Dan came into my life and he’s made me see that there is such a thing as a second chance. I –’
Alice was interrupted by Mrs Jenkins, Dan’s housekeeper, who pressed her arm gently. She was holding a phone. ‘I’m sorry, Alice,’ she whispered, ‘but there’s a man on the phone who says he must talk to you urgently. An emergency. A Mr Jonathan Londis from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.’
Alice excused herself, took the phone and walked out into the vast reception area.
‘Hello?’ Alice said, her voice sounding odd in the emptiness of the large hallway.
‘Hello, Mrs Gregory, I’m calling you with some rather incredible news.’ He sounded breathless. ‘I have someone here who wants to say hello.’
Alice’s heart began to beat very fast. Her mouth went dry.
What was going on? Her hands were trembling uncontrollably.
‘Hello – who is it?’
The Way We Were is published in paperback on Thursday 24 March. You can find out more from Sinéad’s website – http://www.sineadmoriarty.com/