Made in Heaven, page 1
Made in Heaven
First published in Great Britain in 2006 by Orion
This ebook edition published in 2013 by
Quercus Editions Ltd
55 Baker Street
7th Floor, South Block
Copyright © 2006 by Adèle Geras
The moral right of Adèle Geras to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 978 1 78206 613 2
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
You can find this and many other great books at:
Adèle Geras is the author of many acclaimed stories for children as well as four adult novels: Facing the Light, Hester’s Story, Made in Heaven and A Hidden Life. She lives in Cambridge.
Also by Adèle Geras and available from Quercus
Facing the Light
A Hidden Life
Critical acclaim for Adèle Geras
‘Her engaging style keeps the story fresh. The world of international ballet provides colourful characters and is the perfect setting for passion and tragedy in this slick and ultimately likeable novel’ Bella
‘Geras’s many stories for children are wonderful and now she brings her finely observed gifts to adult readers with an extra emotional punch’ Oxford Times
‘In an always entertaining and absorbing tale, Geras … captures the erotic character of dance and dancers’ Jewish Chronicle
‘A spellbinding saga’ Company
Facing the Light
‘A real lose-yourself-in-it book, Facing the Light has everything: a wonderful matriarch, a family gathering, a tragedy, a mystery – and a great love affair. Beautifully written, wonderfully evocative, it draws you into its haunting past and complex present, weaving the two together with charm and skill … A not-to-be-missed treat’ Penny Vincenzi
‘A hugely enjoyable read, the perfect accompaniment to lazing in a bubble bath after a hard day at the office. If you like Wesley and Howard, or Binchy and Pilcher even, you will love this book … this is about as good as popular fiction gets’ Amy Matheson, Scotsman
‘An enjoyable and entertaining read from an accomplished storyteller’ Time Out
‘You’ll be hooked from the start and when you’ve finished it, you’ll wish you hadn’t’ Company
This one is for Jenny Geras and Ben Jones
Many people have helped me in the writing of this novel, either by sending me their notions of an ideal wedding, or in various other ways. I’d like to thank every one of them. In alphabetical order, then: Marianne Adey, Annie Ashworth, Rachel Benson, Caroline Bentley-Davies, Bespoke Events, Victoria Blashford-Snell, Sue Bush, Laura Cecil, Rebecca Cooper, Jo Dawson, Dianne Drymoussis, Susan Hill, Alice Hudson, Nicolette Jones, Morag Joss, Roger Judd, Joan Keating (and her children), Sara McDonald, Sarah Margolis, Katharine Martin, Sophie Masson, Geraldine McCaughrean, Gus Mills, Claire Morris, Sue Neale, Linda Newbery (and Hamish), Claire O’Grady, Janet Parr, Bella Pearson, Margaret Powling, Sally Prue, Edward Russell-Walling, Jessica Ruston, Linda Sargent (and Mister), Phiiippa Shepherd, Alison Stanley, Hazel Townson, Jean Ure, Gill Vickery, Anne Weale and Tara Wood.
Very special thanks to Kate Merrigan for bringing the wedding dress and the bridesmaids’ dresses so beautifully to life in her sketches.
Anyone who’s been on an Arvon Course will recognize Fairford Hall, but it is a fictional recreation of one of the Arvon Foundation’s centres and not the real thing. Some people may also know the original of the Shipwreck Café, which is not in Dorset.
Jane Wood, Emma Dunford and Jane Gregory were a great support throughout. Finally, many thanks as always to Norm Geras, and to Sophie Hannah who read every page before anyone else and whose excellent advice I have, as usual, relied on.
‘Parents of the bride meet parents of the groom. It’s a ritual that goes on in every society and has done for centuries.’
‘We’re not first-year archaeology students, Pa,’ said Zannah from the back seat of the car. ‘You’re in professor mode and you shouldn’t be. Just be normal.’
Bob Gratrix smiled. ‘What if professor mode is normal? What then? No, I’m only joking, Zannah. I’ll behave, I promise.’
Joss considered her husband’s profile. After thirty-one years of marriage, it was easy not to look properly at a person who had become completely familiar. One flesh … that was what they said and it was almost true. Joss didn’t feel as though she was fifty-two, and wondered how different she was now from the woman she used to be, years ago. It was hard to tell, when it came to judging yourself. Bob, with his sharp nose, thick, white hair and skin that had, after years of exposure to the sun, turned rather dry and leathery, was still reasonably good-looking. Perhaps it was his cheerful manner, too, which made him seem younger than fifty-six. So why, Joss wondered, do I feel so … so unmoved by him? He could be pompous at times … all that stuff about rituals in every society, but she loved him. I must do, she reasoned, or I wouldn’t have stayed married to him for so long. She refused to admit the possibility that remaining with Bob was tantamount to a kind of inertia; a lack of courage.
It was true that Gray had never, while they’d been writing to one another, suggested that she might leave her husband to come and live with him. He’d never said: I can’t bear to spend a single day without you. Leave your whole life and start again with me. Not once. Would she have left Bob, with a bit of encouragement? Probably not. Her life was too settled, too comfortable, too much bound up with her daughters and her grandchild. Joss was not, and ne
Charlotte, Joss’s aunt, was hosting the engagement party at her house in Clapham because Adrian’s parents could get to it easily from Guildford, and she and Bob were always happy to come down and visit Zannah and Emily and Zannah’s eight-year-old daughter, Isis. Everybody, she knew, regarded a trip up north as a ‘trek’. That was how they put it: a trek up north, as though the Gratrixes lived in an igloo in the middle of a snowfield and not a spacious Edwardian semi outside Altrincham, on a suburban street that was proud of its fine trees. Also (and this was more important even than the location of her house), Charlotte was on Zannah’s side where wedding arrangements were concerned and eager to be involved in every phase of the planning. This was not quite true of Joss herself. Her feelings about the forthcoming bridal palaver … perhaps campaign might be a better word … were mixed, to say the least, but the one thing you did need for a proper family wedding was family – a grandma for instance. Joss felt a little guilty that she hadn’t managed to provide one for her daughters, but, she reasoned, it isn’t my fault my parents died so young. Bob was no better. His parents had been buried within months of one another just before Zannah was born. Charlotte, although technically a great-aunt, was, according to Zannah and Emily, better than any grandmother. She always knew how to provide precisely the right mixture of adoration and supervision, just as she had done when Joss was a girl.
Isis was filling the car with her chatter, telling her grandfather more than he could possibly take in.
‘I’m going to be a bridesmaid, Grandpa,’ she said. ‘I’m going to have a pink dress with bows on and the skirt’ll stick out really far and I’ll twirl in it.’
‘You don’t know what colour your dress’ll be, Icicle!’ Zannah said. ‘I haven’t even picked a colour scheme yet.’
‘You sound like one of those glossy bridal mags.’ Joss turned round to smile at her daughter.
‘Don’t start on me, Ma,’ Zannah sighed. ‘I get the anti-big-wedding propaganda constantly from Em. I try not to listen. I’m the one getting married and this time, it’ll be just the way I decide to have it. I’ve been dreaming about it since I was Icepop’s age.’
‘Icepop. Icicle. You shouldn’t let them call you such things, Isis,’ Bob snorted in disgust.
‘I know,’ said Isis. ‘I’m named for an Egyptian goddess.’
‘Quite right,’ said Bob. ‘Icepop indeed.’
Joss looked out of the car window and marvelled at how little her daughters had changed since childhood. She could still remember a colleague of Bob’s from the university asking the girls what they wanted to be when they grew up. Emily was about seven and Zannah eleven.
‘An archaeologist like Pa,’ Em answered immediately.
Zannah took a few moments to think. Then she smiled and said, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to be a bride.’
‘But that’s not … ’ Bob had started to say, and Joss remembered shushing him. Leave her alone, Bob. Not now.
‘We’re nearly there,’ said Zannah. ‘Come out of your daydream, Ma. You’re about to meet my in-laws-to-be, but they’re mine, not yours, so there’s nothing for you to be nervous about.’
‘I’m not nervous.’
‘You look a bit pale, though.’
‘Do I? Well, I can’t help that. It’s not nerves, honestly.’
Because of the way Zannah’s marriage to Cal Ford had ended, and because of the agonies her daughter had gone through when it had, Joss didn’t feel she could confess her misgivings; the pangs of regret she was feeling now. When Cal and Zannah had married, in a register office, with almost no one there and no pomp or ceremony whatsoever, she and Bob hadn’t minded a bit. Cal was … still is … a darling, Joss thought, and no one else, not even the handsome and thoroughly eligible Adrian, could change her opinion of him. Zannah still saw him often because he shared custody of Isis, but that wasn’t the same. Joss had always secretly felt she had a son while Zannah had been married to Cal. Perhaps she’d grow to feel more maternal towards Adrian Whittaker when she knew him better. He and Zannah had been together for a mere six months and Joss had only met him twice before today and never really spoken to him properly. She also wondered what the chances were of her getting on as well with the Ashtons as she did with Cal’s mother, even now after the divorce. They still exchanged Christmas cards and Joss never thought of her without wishing that they were still connected. There was also the matter of Adrian’s relationship with Isis. Joss made a mental note to question Zannah carefully about that, and to watch out today to see how they got on with one another.
They were nearly there. The flowerbeds all round the circular drive in front of Charlotte’s front door were particularly neat and the lawn looked as though it had been recently brushed and combed. Mauve swags of wisteria blossom drooped languidly around the front door. Camellias seemed to flower earlier and earlier and here they were in May with most of their blossoms already gone. The pink and white petals and dead heads had been swept away. The peonies looked as though they had every intention of being spectacular this year and Joss wondered whether Zannah was going to set a date that would allow her to include them in her bouquet. July? Was that the best peony month? Did peonies ever figure in bouquets? She realized that she was quite ignorant about such things. They hadn’t seemed to be of the least importance when she and Bob had married. A pleasant ceremony in the local register office and a pretty bouquet to hold. As far as she remembered, she and Charlotte had simply gone into the florist’s shop in the next street and ordered one to be sent to the house on the morning of the wedding. This was going to be quite different: another sort of wedding altogether.
Charlotte’s house (detached, Edwardian, double-fronted, with an elegant porch) was imposing without being overwhelming; and when she had lived there as a teenager, Joss used to think the windows gazed out at the world in a friendly and welcoming manner. She still liked them. There was something about the way they’d been set into the surrounding brickwork that pleased her. The proportions were right. She gathered up the filmy dark green skirts of her dress to get out of the car. This whole wedding thing was going to be, in the hideous modern phrase, a steep learning curve. Joss tried to imagine the slope of a hillside, or the sweep of a wave running to the shore, but that didn’t work and the image of a graph on squared paper … exactly the sort of thing that used to terrify her when she was at school … wouldn’t go away.
Zannah was doing rather well with the introductions. Emily, her younger sister (not exactly hiding away but observing from the window seat) was quite impressed. That sort of thing was always like a dance where no one was sure of the steps. She looked good too, in a dark red linen trouser suit with her reddish-gold hair piled up on top of her head and long, jade earrings a delicious undersea green against the pale skin of her neck. Emily, with her short, spiky dark hair, and her habit of wearing only black or white clothes, knew she wasn’t a patch on Zannah in the looks department. I’ve never minded her being prettier, she reflected. Didn’t really mind her being much thinner than me, or taller, or having the kind of small breasts that made clothes hang so well. I must have spent hours, Emily thought, helping her to work out good ways of stuffing her bras even before I was wearing them myself. There’s only one thing I envied her for and that was Cal. And they’re divorced now, so I’m not even jealous about that any longer. She was determined not to think about her ex-brother-in-law today if she could help it. There was too much going on and she needed her wits about her. Zannah would interrogate her about everything once they were alone at home and Isis had gone to bed. This was something they’d always done, even though she was
The big round table from the dining room had been set up here in the drawing room, which had been cleared of both armchairs and sofa, leaving only a few hard-backed chairs pushed up against the wall. It was a good idea, Emily thought. This room was the biggest in the house, with a bay window facing the drive and more than twenty feet away, French windows open on to the terrace and the garden on this sparkling day. The damasked cloth, the glasses and cutlery and vases of cream and pale pink roses were good enough to be in a photoshoot. Since she’d started working for a PR firm, she’d become much more aware of the appearance of everything.
Ma, for instance, was looking pretty but flustered. She very often did. Today, Emily could tell, she’d made a special effort to be smart in clothes that wouldn’t let down the future mother of the bride. If they were a little on the hippyish side, if she wasn’t in the same league as the groom’s mother when it came to gloss and polish, her bones were finer and she was more instinctively elegant.
‘Ma, this is Adrian’s mother, Mrs … ’
‘Maureen, please. We can’t be formal if Suzannah’s to be my daughter-in-law, can we?’ She pronounced her own name in the melodious Irish fashion, with the emphasis on the ‘een’, Emily noticed. She insisted on it, according to Zannah. Emphasising the first syllable of the name, she’d decreed, made it sound common.