Jaffa and I are delighted to be part of the blog tour
You, Me and Other People by Fionnuala Kearney
THEY SAY EVERY FAMILY HAS SKELETONS IN THEIR CLOSET . . .
But what happens when you open the door and they won’t stop tumbling out?
For Adam and Beth the first secret wasn’t the last, it was just the beginning.
You think you can imagine the worst thing that could happen to your family, but there are some secrets that change everything.
And then the question is, how can you piece together a future when your past is being rewritten?
You, Me and Other People was published by Harper on the
18 June 2015
I stare at the small screen. Call ended. She hung up on me. Again . . . And she swore at me. Beth knows how much I hate her potty mouth. Two weeks since I left and she still won’t talk without swearing.
Through the open door to the kitchen, I see Emma bend down to reach the lower shelf of the dishwasher. Clad in a figure-hugging black dress, the sight makes my head reel; images of Emma naked, Beth naked, cloud my fuzzy brain. I breathe deeply, filling my anxious lungs as quietly as I can.
‘I know you’re staring.’ Emma looks over her left shoulder and catches my eye. In one swift movement, she crosses her hands, grabs the hem of her dress and pulls it over her head. She’s wearing stockings. No knickers, just hold-ups, a tiny bra, and I feel immediate stirrings as she walks towards me. Some instinct tells me to back away from her, raise my palms in the air, say, ‘No, Emma, no,’ but it’s way too late for that. If I’d been a better man, I’d have said that months ago. So, I let my more primal instincts rule, the ones that make me want to take her here on her white Amtico kitchen floor. Before I know it, she’s on her knees, unzipping me. I squeeze my eyes shut. With one hand, I steady myself on the doorway, with the other I hold her head, just at the nape of her neck, my fingers lacing her long blonde hair.
I knew I was in trouble the moment I met her. It had started out a simple evening with a group from work in the restaurant where she works. She flirted with me. Private winks, smiles. At first I thought I was imagining it, until Matt, my business partner, cornered me outside the loo.
‘Don’t do it, mate,’ he said.
‘Don’t go there. You’re so flattered some blonde totty fancies you, you’ve been twirling your wedding ring under the table all night.’
‘I have not.’
‘Don’t be such a tosser, Adam. You and Beth have a good thing.’
But by the time I shared a taxi home with Emma, my ring was in my pocket, my choice made. I thought of Beth, my gorgeous, loyal, talented wife; the woman who made me laugh at least once a day; the woman I loved, the woman I would have died for, still would. I did think of her, but only briefly.
Emma was the most forward woman I’d ever met, launching herself on me in the back of the taxi, cupping my balls with long manicured fingers. I was weak, powerless. And months later, I’m still a weak forty-three-year-old man who has hurt his wife so much he doesn’t know how to fix it, so chooses to ignore it and indulge in copious amounts of fantastic, life-affirming sex with a new and younger woman.
I leave the office early, exit the underground car park to a beautiful September evening, the sun still quite high in the sky. Just across the river to my right, I see the shape of the London Eye, its capsules laden with carefree tourists. It’s Friday and normally I’d be heading across the river and down the A3 towards home, after staying the week in town. Eight months ago, Beth and I decided to ‘borrow’ my brother Ben’s flat while he’s abroad for a year. Both parties have a good deal. We pay a lot less than market rent, covering his mortgage, and he knows his tenants. The plan was we’d stay there during the week, cut out the commute for me, and Beth could enjoy London and write her songs. A new environment, new inspirations – that was the plan.
I turn the car east towards the highway, heading to Docklands, to the one-bedroom flat near the river, intent on staying in this evening. Tonight’s plan is for an Emma-free zone; give myself some head-space with a takeaway and Sky Plus footie on the telly. Why then do I keep driving east along the A13, towards the M25, taking a long route towards the house I used to call home?
I call ahead on the hands-free. She’ll kill me if I just turn up. I can imagine dying on the spot in the power of her penetrating stare. But I feel the need to see her, to try and explain. I have no words, just the will to try, because I can’t bear her hating me. The phone rings out and I hear her voice.
‘You have reached Adam and Beth Hall. Sorry we can’t get to the phone – leave a message. We’ll get back to you.’
Only she hasn’t got back to me yet. I dial another number, hoping the other person I’ve hurt is still talking to me.
‘Hey, Dad,’ she says, picking up on the third ring.
‘Hey, Meg.’ I resist using my pet name of Pumpkin for her. ‘You all right?’ I can hear my heartbeat.
‘As all right as I possibly can be with an arsehole for a father . . . ’
I sigh – an audible, slow sigh. ‘I deserve that. I’m sorry.’
‘You do and somehow sorry doesn’t quite cut it. Are you still with her?’
Straight for the jugular – she may have my eyes, my long legs and the hair colour that Beth calls conker, directly from my gene pool, but when it comes down to it, Meg is Beth’s daughter. She doesn’t believe in wasting words.
So I respond in the same vein. ‘Yes.’
‘Right . . . Why did you call?’
‘You’re my daughter, Meg. I’d like to see you. Please?’
‘And what? Introduce me to your bitch totty so we can play dysfunctional families?’
I flinch at her words. And blame Beth. My daughter has a potty mouth too.
‘Look, Dad. It’s too soon. Too raw. You’re not the man I thought you were. The man I respected.’ I can imagine her shaking her head as she continues. ‘You’re just not that man.’
I bite my lower lip, feel it tremble. She’s right. I’m not that man, but then, I never have been. ‘I’m sorry,’ I offer lamely.
‘Blah, blah, blah.’ She hangs up.
I pull over to the hard shoulder. The contents of my stomach heave onto the edge of the A13. I have managed to pebble-dash the door of my beloved Lexus. Words of my long-dead mother echo in my ears: ‘I hope you’re proud of yourself, Adam.’ I wipe my mouth with my shirtsleeve, stare across three lanes of fast-flowing traffic and look up to the sky. Meg hates me. I have screwed up. I have really screwed up large.
More about Fionnula can be found on her website
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My thanks to Harper for their generous invitation to be part of this exciting blog tour.
Please take a look at the other blogs taking part in this tour for more exciting content, fabulous giveaways and snappy interviews and reviews.
My thoughts about You, Me and Other People.
There are so many skeletons tumbling out of Adam Hall's closet that it’s difficult to keep up with the amount of self-destruct buttons he seems to have at his disposal. His marriage to Beth is imploding on a grand scale and whilst the majority of sympathy must lie with Beth, the wronged wife, I couldn't help but feel an inordinate amount of sympathy for Adam. And that's really where the strength of the novel lies, in the nitty -gritty of ordinary lives which have gone spectacularly wrong, and in generating compassion for a man who has hurt, lied, cheated and done irreparable wrong to so many people.
I was engrossed in the story of You, Me and Other People from the very beginning. It very quickly became one of those books I wanted to carry with me so could sneak in a few more pages whenever I had the chance. I both hated and loved Adam, I wanted to shake him until his teeth rattled and then ultimately, I sobbed, because when all is said and done, his story just feels so realistic. I really loved Beth - she is smart and sassy, brave as a lion and as a vulnerable as a kitten and I so wanted to be her, especially when she had the fling of her life, I mean, well...who wouldn't!
But it's not just in Adam and Beth where the strength of the story lies, it is also about a whole cast of other people who add both light and shade, and some genuinely funny moments that had me laughing out loud, and some heartrendingly sad, throat gulping moments that had me reaching for a hanky and a restorative cup of tea.
Ultimately, I think that this story resonates because it could be about you, me or other people and that's what makes it so irresistible.