It feels like it has taken me forever to get to the place where I can happily release a first chapter for this book. It didn't seem to matter how hard I worked at it, I just couldn't seem to get this chapter right. In the end I gave up because it turns out I was starting the story with the wrong person. So even though it's been massively delayed, I'm so happy to finally give you the opening chapter of the second book in the History series. Make sure you have read both the Rules series and Repeating History so that you will be ready to read the whole book when it is released.
“It’s a long story,” I’m not telling her. I don’t know her. I can’t trust her. She’ll probably run back to Andrew and tell him everything I say or at the very least she’ll tell Landon and he’ll undoubtedly tell Andrew.
“I’ve got time,” Aurora’s smile is easy, almost carefree. But then right now her greatest concern is the colour scheme for her wedding reception. It’s hardly taxing.
“How’s the shoulder?” I ask, trying to distract her.
“Fine,” she laughs, “Now stop trying to change the subject.”
“I just don’t want to talk about Andrew.”
“I get it. You know he’s a mess,” her eyes are kind but the rest of her face is set to business. She has an agenda.
The problem is this is not something she can change with a little girl to girl chat. No amount of over sharing on my part can change the fact that Andrew slept with Sarah or that they were pregnant. Time catches up with all of us eventually and if Andrew stays with me his past will hit the headlines. I can’t let that happen. “He’d be more of a mess if he was with me,” I tell her honestly, because it really is what I believe.
“How? How is that possible?” Aurora’s frowning now. I find myself wondering if my mother looks more like her or me. We don’t look anything alike. “Is this to do with everything with our families?”
“Yes. No... it’s complicated.”
“I’m good with complicated, trust me.”
“Problem is I don’t. I barely know you. I’m not about to open up to you.” My words are harsh and perhaps unnecessary but I’m riled up.
“Okay,” she winces slightly at my words before moving on, “what would you like to talk about then?”
That’s the question isn’t it? I really don’t know why I agreed to this lunch. I don’t want Aurora to be my sister. I want her to be the girl friend of my boss who I occasionally go out for a drink with or out on shopping dates. That’s where our acquaintance had been heading before all this and now instead we’re half sisters. “I don’t know.”
“Want to talk about mum?”
“No. Definitely not.”
“You don’t want to know about her at all?”
There’s an awkward silence that is only broken by the noise of the other guests in the restaurant.
“This is weird isn’t it?” Aurora smiles sadly at me breaking our silence, “if we were friends I think you’d happily talk to me but instead we’re sisters and everything that’s happening in your life right now seems to be off limits to your new little sister. So how about a truce?”
“We’re not at war.”
“Feels a bit like it,” Aurora laughs, “truth is we’ve all be caught off guard by this... scandal. But it doesn’t have to change anything. You don’t want to know mum, though I know she wants to know you. Mum and I aren’t really talking so you don’t need to worry that anything you say to me will get back to her.” She takes a breath before continuing, “and as for everything else, we were well on our way to being friends before all this. I think we should just be friends. Put this sister shit on the back burner and just get to know each other.”
“Problem is though Clara, friends talk. They share their opinions... sometimes frankly and I think... I think you’re making a mistake.”
“What mistake?” my head feels like it’s going to explode. I’ve had a headache for days and talking to Aurora isn’t helping at all.
“With Andrew. I don’t know what he did but I know how he feels about you.”
“Aurora drop it please.”
“Just explain one thing... is there any way to fix it?”
“It’s not broken.” It sounds ridiculous even to my own ears but I also know that it’s the truth. She’s looking at me in confusion and I know she expects me to say more. If I want Aurora to be my friend I probably don’t have much choice. “It’s not about me and Andrew. He hasn’t hurt me. He hasn’t done anything wrong. Not recently anyway.”
“History is always there. Even when all the history books are gone, burnt or destroyed. It doesn’t change what actually happened. You can’t just erase history and sometimes repeating it or voicing it causes more damage than good. With me, there’s no privacy, there’s no keeping your past in the past. It all comes out. The press find the story, they always find the story and then they put it into print and then it’s eternal, it’s not just history, it’s in today, tomorrow, it becomes ingrained into every facet of time.”
“There are things in his past that you are scared will come out?” she’s not really asking a question. She knows the answer.
“It’s already out,” I tell her, “but while ever we’re not together, it’s not press worthy. They don’t care what Andrew does or did so long as he’s not dating a potential mayor of London’s sister. My family are very public, especially at the minute, what with everything... maybe when this all blows over...” As I say it, I know it’s a lie. It’s really not something I’d risk.
“I’m sorry Clara,” Aurora shakes her head, “I was really rooting for you two.”
I nod my head considering how to respond, if at all.
“This secret... who would be hurt? If it came out I mean.”
Trust Aurora not to drop it. “Everyone. Andrew. My friends. They’re family.”
“I don’t understand. It can’t be that bad. We’ve all got secrets...”
“Years ago, Andrew slept with my friend Sarah. They were only sixteen. They fell pregnant. But that’s not the worst of it. The thing is she lost the baby and so if it comes out, Sarah will be hurt. Her loss will be public... but as well as that her husband, my friend Mike, he’s under the impression that he took her V card and it’s all a lie. They’ve been together since they were seventeen. He’ll be devastated. I can’t let that come out.”
“Why are you so convinced he doesn’t already know?”
“It’s not a risk I’m willing to take.”
“Even if your own happiness hangs in the balance?” she’s bewildered. “What if he knows and their still happy and then you waste your own happiness on keeping a secret that’s already exposed?”
I shrug my shoulder because I have no response. “Even if he knows they don’t need it in the paper.”
“I’ll give you that but everyone gets over scandal. People think bad of you for a few minutes but then they move on. Look at us. The press is already moving on. They’ve run every story they could. They’ve exposed your relationship with Stephen in Liverpool. They’ve told the whole country about Aileen’s pregnancy. They’ve pointed out our parents’ indiscretions and they’ve posted list after list of your brothers’ conquests. They’ve hounded Landon and I. All of it hurts, sure, but it’ll be over soon.”
“I like your optimism.”
“Yeah... I’m not naive you know. I know what it is to be scared. It might be better to have loved and lost than to never love at all but by god that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice it so willingly. It’s better to keep it. Fight for it. Own it. If you lose it, you lose it because you have no choice not because you gave it up at the first obstacle.”
“Rant over?” I’m smirking. We’re alike a little bit after all.
“It’s okay.” I’m silent for a moment, “do you really want to talk about your mum?”
“Not particularly. Unless you want to?”
“Aurora just tell me one thing.”
“Anything,” she’s sincere and open and ready to divulge all her family’s secrets but I won’t take advantage of that.
“Just tell me: is she happy?”
Aurora’s smile falters, “I’m not sure she ever has been. I know she loves us all. She loves my dad so much, but it’s like our family just wasn’t enough. I thought it was just that we weren’t good enough; she always seemed to be striving for perfection but it turns out part of her heart was elsewhere.”
“I’m glad we met before all this shit,” I tell her because it’s truth. We’d never have been friends if we’d first been introduced as sisters.
“Do you want to talk about your wedding? You are just being polite right?”
She laughs at that, “I wish it was all over already. You will come though right?”
I sigh because as much as I’d love to attend her wedding, I really don’t want to meet Michelle Stone and perhaps more importantly I don’t want to see her watch her other daughter get married. That will just be the icing on this particularly stale cake. It’ll be all the evidence I’m trying not to find for why she’s not my mum. “I’ll try.”
“I know it’ll be hard but I really want you there.”
“I’ll think about it.”
I send a quick text to my assistant asking how everything is going at work. I know I can’t avoid it much longer but I can’t face him yet. I give Lisa a list of things I want done before she leaves for the day. I send a quick email to my team so that they won’t fall behind without me. I’ve been working from home as much as possible so that my accounts don’t suffer from my absence. There’s another email from Michelle Stone waiting for me in my inbox.
From: Michelle Stone (M.Stone@StonePub.co.uk)
To: Clara Delos (Clara.Delos@TRWAdvertising.co.uk)
RE: Getting To Know You
Clara, can I call you that? I used to call you that.
I can’t change what happened between your father and I and I wouldn’t even if I could. As much as I loved your father, I really wasn’t cut out to be a politician’s wife. What I do regret, more than anything I’ve ever done, is not acknowledging you and your brothers. Not claiming you as my own was the most cowardly thing I’ve ever done. I loved you all so much and I let you all slip through my fingers because I cared too much about what people thought. At the time, there was nothing I imagined worse than disappointing my parents. I’ve since realised just how wrong I was. Losing you, living with that loss daily, was beyond painful.
I probably will never be able to fix it but I hope you’ll give me a chance. Your father and I talk about you. He’s very proud of you and everything he’s said makes me proud too, not that I deserve any credit for the woman you’ve become.
If you are free tomorrow, I’d like to get lunch. If not that’s okay too. I just want to know you and I’d quite like you to know me.
I’ve missed every day that I’ve been apart from you.
Love your mum x
Editor In Chef
I consider not replying but I know that I’m going to have to face up to all this at some point so I might as well start now.
From: Clara Delos (Clara.Delos@TRWAdvertising.co.uk)
To: Michelle Stone (M.Stone@StonePub.co.uk)
RE: re: Getting To Know You
You can call me Clara. Everyone calls me Clara. Always have. Always will. I only get Clarisse when I’m in trouble and it’s usually only Gideon who calls me it.
I feel like there are thousands of things I could say to you and I’m convinced that there are hundreds of questions I might have asked you if this had happened before now. Perhaps back when I was dreaming you’d come back. Back when I thought more of you. I’m not saying this to hurt you, I’m just trying to be honest. I don’t know where we can go from here. It feels too little too late. Too forced by situation to ever be sincere.
I know that’s unfair. You’ve tried to reach in the past. I just don’t know how we can be anything. We’re not mother and daughter. We’re not friends. The only thing connecting us is our blood and I don’t know if that’s enough. I’ve never even met you, well not that I remember anyway.
A part of me hates you because you left and you made me doubt myself. You make me question who I am. You made me doubt my worth more than once. Almost daily for years. Because I wasn’t enough to make you stay. I don’t know how we can overcome that. You can bury history if you like, but it always surfaces in the end. Someone always goes digging.
I don’t know if I want to have lunch with you but I’m willing to try.
I consider what I should do with my evening. The apartment is too empty and I really don’t want to be alone. I’ve been alone too much already. My living room that I used to think was cosy and comfortable now just feels devoid of him. Everything I see is just a reminder of what I had with him. I don’t want to spend time with my friends tonight. They are just another reminder of what I’m missing. Instead I call my brother Luca and ask him to go out for a drink with me. He’s already out with Gideon for an after work drink at the Kent Mockery so he tells me to join them.
My brothers are sat in one of the booths laughing at some joke that they probably won’t share when I arrive. “Clara,” Luca jumps to his feet and pulls me into a quick hug. “How are you?”
I open my mouth to respond but he beats me to it, “actually let me get you a drink first.”
He’s walking off before I even tell him what I want. Fortunately I’m pretty sure he won’t mess it up. “How are you?” Gideon asks cautiously.
“Fine,” I don’t really know what he expects me to say. I’m great? Brilliant? Ace? Never been better?
He nods as if I’ve confirmed what he already thought. “I’m sorry. I wish this hadn’t happened.”
“Gideon it’s not your fault.”
“It only came out because of my political aspirations.”
“Perhaps... that doesn’t make it your fault.”
He nods but I think he’s still reluctant to agree with me. “Have you spoken to Contius?”
“It’s for the best.”
“If you’re sure,” he frowns, “I’d hate you to sacrifice your happiness for me.”
“It’s not just you though is it?” I laugh bitterly, “I’m protecting Andrew, Mike, Sarah... heck I’m protecting Amelia. That little girl doesn’t need to know about...” My voice dies as I notice him walk into the bar. He’s wearing a navy suite and his hair is even more of a mess than usual. He’s not wearing a tie and his top button is undone. He’s with Landon. He hasn’t noticed me and I find myself sighing in relief as he turns away from me towards the bar. He sits on a bar stool right next to where Luca is stood waiting for our drinks. I’m mentally crossing my fingers that they don’t recognise each other. Aurora had said that he was a mess without me but he looks just fine to me, in fact he looks better than fine.
“Clara!” Gideon is cross.
“I’m sorry,” I apologise. I almost try to explain but I don’t want to share.
“It’s okay,” Gideon glances at his watch.
Luca returns with a Gin and Tonic for each of us, “did you see who just walked in?” he asks.
I groan and sink lower into my seat.
“No. Who?” Gideon sounds bored. Nothing new there. He always sounds bored.
“Andrew Contius and Landon Peters,” Luca tells us, “you remember Andrew, right Clara?”
I forgot that I hadn’t told Luca about my relationship with Andrew. I look to Gideon, communicating my need for help with pleading eyes but my big brother is looking at his phone. “Yeah. We work together at TRW...”
“Not to mention they were dating before this here scandal,” Gideon decides to tack on.
“Thanks Gid,” I say sarcastically.
“Why did you end it? Did that bastard hurt you Clara?”
“No. Nothing like that.”
“Then what?” Luca is definitely the more protective big brother.
“He has a scandal of his own and to protect it our self sacrificial sister dumped his sorry arse.” Gideon as always has a way with words.
“It was your idea Gideon,” I retort irritably.
Luca isn’t impressed, “wait. That’s ridiculous. I’m going to go speak to him. What a lot of poppy cock. You’ve been listening to your politician of a brother too much Clara. He’s always got an agenda – don’t forget it!”
Now I’m sat awkwardly between my seething brothers. Just what I was hoping for this evening. I manage to talk Luca out of going to talk to him, by convincing him to walk me home instead. Gideon seems to be happy to see the back of us after his and Luca’s disagreement. Gideon already feels responsible. I don’t want him to blame himself.
I don’t blame you. You shouldn’t either. X
Thank you Clara.
As always you know the best thing to say.
At the best time. X
I didn’t get a chance to tell you tonight. I emailed mum. X
I’m proud of you x
We’re getting lunch tomorrow. I know it’s short notice.
But would you?... x
You want me to come with you? X
Clara, if that’s what you need. I’ll be there. X
Thanks Gideon x
Luca walks me home and I manage to talk him into coming in to watch a movie. I really don’t want to spend the rest of the night home alone. Luca chooses the movie. It’s some action flick that I’m bound to sleep through. I try to pay attention but I keep drifting off and when I finally wake up the movie has finished and Luca is pulling his shoes on to leave. “Hey sis, someone had Chinese food delivered. I put it in the kitchen in case you’re hungry.”
“Chinese?” I’m about as confused as it’s possible to be when you’ve just woken up.
“They left a note,” he’s got a smirk on his face. It’s the smirk he used to use as a child when he knew something I didn’t. I wander into the kitchen and realise that whoever my mystery Chinese orderer is, they’ve ordered my favourites. A quick glance at the note takes my breath away.
I don’t know what I’ve done.
Whatever it is. You need to know I’m sorry.
“I think the boy might like you,” Luca says from the doorway.
“Yeah he does,” I whisper.
“I’d really reconsider your decision if I were you.”
“I’m not going to though,” I rub my eyes with my fingers, pretending to get rid of sleep, when really I just didn’t want my brother to see me cry.
“That’s your call,” Luca says as he pulls on his jacket, “but I think it will be a mistake. You might not regret it now but I think you will one day.”
His words are too similar to something Andrew once said to me. They pull my defences down and before I know it I’m in my brother’s arms crying my eyes out.