They think nothing can tear their bond apart, until a long-buried secret threatens to destroy everything.
Every year they have met up for a vacation, but their time away is much more than just a bit of fun. Over time, it has become a lifesaver, as each of them struggles with life’s triumphs and tragedies.
Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa have been best friends since they were girls. They have seen each other through everything—from Sophie’s private fear that she doesn’t actually want to be a mother despite having two kids, to Amy’s perfect-on-the-outside marriage that starts to reveal troubling warning signs, to Melissa’s spiraling alcoholism, to questions that are suddenly bubbling up around the paternity of Emily’s son. But could a lie that spans just as long as their friendship be the thing that tears them apart?
“So how are things going with Steve then?” Melissa’s huge brown eyes danced mischievously as she spoke. They were lying on separate squashy chintz sofas, facing each other, divided by a pine coffee table in the middle.
“Fine.” Sophie lifted up her foot and pretended to examine her sore toe. She didn’t want to have this conversation. She knew Melissa thought she and Steve were too young to have been in a ‘boring’ relationship for so long.
Melissa rolled onto her side and Sophie could feel herself starting to redden under Melissa’s suspicious gaze. “Fine? Talk about damning with faint praise… .”
Sophie sighed and turned to face Melissa. “Well, I’m not sure what else to say. It’s fine. No, it’s more than fine…it’s good. End of story.”
Sophie smiled, despite herself, at Melissa’s directness. “OK. Well, it’s just…oh, I don’t know.” She tailed off and sat up, lifting her mug of tea from the coffee table and taking a long, soothing sip.
Melissa mirrored her actions and looked over at her in concern. “Soph? This isn’t like you. What’s the matter? I thought you and Steve were love’s young dream?”
Sophie shrugged. “We were. We are,” she corrected herself quickly.
“There’s a “but” coming… .”
Sophie gazed at Melissa appraisingly. How to explain what she was feeling when she couldn’t really explain it to herself? “But I’m wondering if this is it,” she said eventually. Hearing the words aloud caused her stomach to lurch. It scared her.
Melissa’s dark eyes narrowed slightly. “How’s work going?”
God, she was infuriating! How did Melissa know so much about what she was thinking and feeling? “It’s great,” she replied, her tone of voice at odds with her words.
“And therein lies the problem!” Melissa finished her tea with a satisfied slurp and put the mug back on the table, before crossing her legs underneath her and steepling her fingers in the manner of a miniature tribal chief. “I’m right, aren’t I?”
Sophie started to nod miserably, then stopped herself. Was she right? Had Sophie really become so shallow that her exciting new job as TV news producer was causing her to look at Steve in a different light? Did the other guys she worked with at the TV company make Steve’s role in HR management look a little, well, dull by comparison? As the thoughts skittered through her head, she almost cringed with shame.
She thought back to when she and Steve had met, during their first week at university. They were in the same small tutor group and would often study together in the university library or in Sophie’s room whenever Melissa, who was her room-mate, was out. He was funny and clever, and out of all them, seemed the most likely to succeed. Although Steve was tall, blond and good-looking, it never really occurred to Sophie that he could be anything other than a friend.
But gradually, they also started socializing together and before long, they were seeing each other most days. It was during a drunken end-of-term house party, when she saw him kissing Natalie Evans—the most beautiful girl in their year, who funded her way through university by modelling for John Galliano and often wore a T-shirt emblazoned with ‘Galliano’s Girls’ just in case anyone needed reminding of just how beautiful she was—that Sophie realized with a start that her feelings for him had deepened.
That summer, she invited him to come and stay at her parents’ house on the north coast of Northern Ireland. They spent their days going for long walks along the wide white sandy beaches at Portrush and Portstewart, surfing the huge Atlantic waves at White Rocks, then going out drinking and dancing in the evenings. By the time Steve returned home, they were smitten with each other. They had moved in together the following term, despite everyone’s dire warnings that it was too soon. They had been together ever since.
“There’s someone else, isn’t there?” Melissa frowned as she spoke, her expression suddenly serious.
Sophie shook her head but couldn’t actually bring herself to deny the accusation aloud. She never lied to Melissa, partly because she didn’t want to and partly because she knew Melissa would be able to tell if she did.
About the Author
Helen Warner is head of daytime for Channel 4, where she is responsible for shows such as Come Dine With Me and Deal Or No Deal. Previously she worked for ITV where she launched the daytime talk show Loose Women and was editor of This Morning. She lives in East Anglia with her husband and their two children..