I remember you, p.1

I Remember You, page 1

 

I Remember You
 



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I Remember You


  I Remember You

  Harriet Evans

  HarperCollinsPublishers

  I remember you

  Heartbroken Tess Tennant is leaving London and moving back to her picture-perfect home town to take up a teaching job. It’s time for a fresh start, one with warm stone cottages, friendly locals in oak-beamed pubs and of course Adam, her childhood best friend, who never left Langford.

  But something isn’t right in the town: Adam is preoccupied with a new girlfriend and the past—which Tess thought she’d put behind her—is looming large again.

  So by the time she has to take her class on a trip to Rome, Tess is feeling reckless. She is swept off her feet by a mysterious stranger, and falls in love. But her magical Roman Holiday is about to turn into a nightmare…

  Back in Langford, as autumn creeps towards Christmas, Adam is gone and everything has changed. Tess has to decide, once and for all, where she belongs and who she belongs with.

  Rich, witty and moving, I Remember You is for anyone who likes to dream about a new life—and for anyone who still remembers their first love.

  Harriet Evans is the author of three previous novels, Going Home, A Hopeless Romantic and The Love of Her Life, all of which were bestsellers. She lives in London and now writes full time, having given up her job this year to do so.

  She would love to hear from you: please contact her at www.harriet-evans.com

  For the Don, my wonderful dad Phil, with all my love

  When my life is through, And the angels ask me to recall

  The thrill of it all, Then I will tell them I remember you.

  ‘I Remember You’, lyrics by Johnny Mercer

  Table of Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Extracts

  Dedication

  Epigraph

  Prologue

  Part One

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Part Two

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Part Three

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Chapter Thirty-Four

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Chapter Thirty-Six

  Chapter Thirty-Seven

  Chapter Thirty-Eight

  Chapter Thirty-Nine

  Chapter Forty

  Chapter Forty-One

  Chapter Forty-Two

  Chapter Forty-Three

  Chapter Forty-Four

  Chapter Forty-Five

  Acknowledgements

  Others Book By

  Copyright

  About the Publisher

  PROLOGUE

  Spring had arrived in Langford early that year. A sprinkling of bluebells carpeted the lanes, and daffodils nodded proudly in the breeze which rolled in from the hills behind the small town. As Tess Tennant raced up the hill from the bus stop, she caught sight of her mother and her mother’s friend Philippa, outside the Tennants’ house. They were laughing in the bright sunshine.

  ‘Hello, Tess darling!’ Emily Tennant called out to her daughter, who ground to a halt, panting. ‘I was just telling Philippa your news.’

  ‘You haven’t told Adam yet, have you?’ Tess said, between breaths. She unhooked herself from her school bag, trying to look nonchalant and grown-up; she was almost eighteen now, after all. By the time Cleopatra was eighteen, she was ruling Egypt with her brother. By the time she was twenty-two, she’d got rid of her brother, seduced Caesar and had his baby. Of course, she was dead at thirty-nine, and had wrecked Egypt with civil war, so perhaps she wasn’t someone one should slavishly emulate—but she’d been to Rome, got to shag Mark Antony in the process and wear some awesome gold jewellery as well as being super-empowered and all that, so it wasn’t all bad.

  ‘No, of course not,’ said Philippa, brushing her wild dark hair away from her face as she smiled at Tess. ‘But well done, sweetheart. That’s wonderful. He’s going to be so pleased for you.’

  ‘He’s got a scholarship to Cambridge,’ Tess said, brushing her hands through her hair. ‘He won’t remember who we are in a few months’ time, he’ll be too important. He’ll be going to posh college dinners with E.V. Rieu and Oliver Taplin, people like that.’

  ‘E.V. Rieu died in 1972,’ said a voice behind her. ‘I’d be extremely surprised if he rocked up to dinner.’ Tess turned around to see Adam, her best and oldest friend, standing in front of her with an expectant look on his face.

  ‘I got in,’ she said, beaming. ‘I’m going. I’m going to UCL. If I get three Bs.’

  ‘Oh, my God,’ Adam said, a wide grin breaking out over his face. He threw his arms round her. ‘That’s completely, completely brilliant. You are totally bloody brilliant.’

  ‘Come in and have some tea,’ Tess’s mother called out to them, as Philippa smiled at them, hugging each other tightly.

  ‘No, thanks, maybe later though,’ said Tess. Adam released her, draping his arm round her shoulder and squeezing her tight. ‘Hurrah,’ she whispered happily. ‘The meadows?’

  ‘Yep,’ he said, nodding.

  ‘Oh,’ said Philippa, pleased. ‘Bye, you two! Have a nice time! Get me some garlic on the way back, Adam. Have a—oh, yes. Bye!’

  As they walked down the lane together, Adam rolled his eyes at Tess. They both knew their mothers were watching them.

  ‘For someone who despises the conventions of marriage, your mum is surprisingly bourgeois,’ Tess said (she was doing Politics A level).

  ‘It’s weird, isn’t it,’ said Adam, chewing on a piece of grass. ‘So mysterious and bohemian, and yet she wants her teenage son to go off with the girl next door.’

  No one knew where Philippa Smith had come from. She had arrived in town nineteen years ago like Mary Poppins, on a wild, windy day in early spring. She was moving into the cottage opposite the Tennants: Frank was a GP and he and Emily had one child, Stephanie, who was nearly two. Philippa was nearly eight months’ pregnant, Emily barely showing.

  She had been teaching in Dublin, she told them, and the father of the baby was Irish, a fellow lecturer at the college where she worked. She spoke of him without rancour, but she wasn’t going to see him again. Beyond that, Philippa said nothing more about herself. She had no apparent family or friends; she barely scraped a living marking A—and O-level exams and writing textbooks on early English history. Parts of Langford were scandalized; but Emily, who had a young child and had moved with Frank from London to live in this small, strange town, adored her immediately. Philippa accepted her neighbours’ friendship—their invitations to join them for pot luck, their casual enquiries checking that she was all right—up to a point, and then she would retreat back to her draughty cottage and her books. For someone with virtually nothing—no family, no other friends, no back-story—she was strangely imperious.

  Philippa had her baby son, Adam, six weeks after
she moved to Langford; Tessa (to use her full name) was born a couple of months after that, and it was always accepted that the two babies would grow up in each other’s pockets. The sight, however, of the blond, tall Adam, and his determined blue-eyed sidekick with black hair that bobbed round her head like a halo, trotting hand in hand towards the shop around the corner, was irresistible. It was impossible not to smile, put one’s head on one side, and say, ‘Aah…aren’t they adorable?’ And when they were thirteen, and Adam was still tall and a darker blond, now a weekly boarder at a good school thanks to a combination of scholarship and sponsorship, and Tess was still small and stocky and determined, but both of them were shyer, it was rather affecting to see them putting their childhood closeness behind them, behaving slightly awkwardly around each other. People had stopped wondering where Philippa came from, and instead smiled fondly when her sweet-natured, shy son appeared anywhere with Frank and Emily’s daughter.

  ‘I think someone’s got a little crush on someone…’ a well-meaning person would hiss, delightedly, as Tess ambled casually over to Adam, shyly, at a drinks party to say hi.

  ‘You can tell he’s awfully fond of her,’ someone else would say. ‘Look at them!’

  Tess and Adam had long accepted there was nothing they could do about it. It wasn’t their parents. It was the whole bloody town: Mrs Sayers the primary school secretary, Mrs Tey the solicitor’s wife, the lady at the newsagent’s—even Mick, who ran Langford’s best pub, the Feathers, had been heard to say, ‘They make a sweet little pair, don’t they?’

  It was one of the reasons Tess was desperate to get out.

  The water meadows were flooded in winter, but as spring arrived and the water receded they began to dry out so that, even in the full heat of summer, the grass was always lush and green, the butterflies colourful and plentiful, the honey bees always busy. On this sunny April day they could sit on the tree by the river, swinging their legs over the bubbling water, drink the beer Adam kept in the knothole and smoke illicit cigarettes, the butts of which they were always careful to collect and remove when they left. Not just to save their own hides, but because they were country children and, along with other things like never leaving a gate open, they would sooner eat a cigarette butt than leave it lying in a field. Especially the water meadows. They’d been used in a Merchant Ivory film and the Prince of Wales had visited them last year. Everyone in Langford was proud of them.

  Adam took a drag of his cigarette. ‘So, you’re really moving to London, then,’ he said.

  ‘Yep,’ Tess said, swinging her legs happily. ‘Can’t believe it. You’ll have to come and visit me.’

  ‘I’ll visit you, but I’m not so crazy on London,’ he said.

  She nudged him. ‘Don’t be silly. You don’t even know it!’

  ‘I know it well enough to know I don’t like it.’

  Tess stared at him, trying not to look impatient. Adam was not especially open to new things, and it annoyed her, though she hoped university would change that. She wanted to take on the world, to run full tilt at life. He was content to sit and watch the world go by outside his window while he worked.

  ‘I’m serious,’ he said. ‘Cambridge I can cope with—although it’s pretty flat, at least there’s countryside nearby. London—’ He shrugged his shoulders. ‘Too noisy. Too crazy. Too many people! No green spaces, nothing. I think you’ll miss it.’

  Tess turned and stared at him. ‘Have you lost your freaking mind?’ she said, half-seriously. ‘I’m eighteen, bruv! So are you! Just because we’re studying Latin and Greek doesn’t mean we have to turn into old men with bushy moustaches and elbow patches who talk about the good old days.’

  ‘Well, you especially,’ said Adam. ‘I’d love to see you with a big bushy moustache, T.’ He nudged her, but she glowered at him and he relented. ‘OK, I’ll come and visit you.’

  ‘You’d better,’ she said firmly. ‘We are going to parrrrtay. When Cleopatra first met Caesar, she said—’

  ‘Oh, shut up about Cleopatra,’ said Adam, who was highly bored of Tess’s Cleopatra obsession. ‘Her parents were brother and sister, no wonder she was crazy.’

  ‘Adam!’ Tess said, in outrage.

  Adam rolled his eyes. ‘OK, OK.’ He patted her on the back. ‘You really can’t wait to get out of here, can you?’

  She looked at him, and shuffled along the wide branch, suddenly a little uncomfortable. ‘It’s not that. I just want to do something different, get away, you know? I feel like all these things are just round the corner waiting for me, and I’m sick of the same old faces, same stupid tourists gawping over the same boring things.’

  ‘Yeah,’ Adam said slowly. ‘I know. Still…I’m going to miss it.’ He looked around, at the meadows that stretched before them, the shocking green of the trees in bud, the blue sky, the fields folding out away to the horizon. ‘It’s a nice life here, that’s all.’

  ‘Of course it’s a nice life for you,’ Tess told him. ‘You’re Adam Smith. The richest woman in town paid for your education. You’re tall. You’re super-intelligent. You’ve got a cool bike. And all the girls at my school have a massive thing for you and you could basically snog anyone you wanted. You’re a superstar.’

  ‘Tess!’ Adam laughed, embarrassment written over his face. He blushed. ‘That’s rubbish.’

  ‘It’s not,’ she said. ‘Why would you want to leave? You’ve got the perfect life.’ She stood up; a piece of bark was digging into her. ‘Me, I want to leave. I want to live in London. I don’t want to turn into an old lady before my time.’

  ‘You’ll come back, though,’ Adam said, still sitting on the branch. ‘Won’t you?’

  Tess felt sad suddenly, and she didn’t know why. She turned to face him, and stood between his legs. She pinched his cheek lightly. ‘Don’t bet on it. I can’t see myself living here.’

  ‘I know what you mean, but omnia mutantur. All things change,’ said Adam.

  ‘Yeah, they do,’ said Tess. ‘But we change with them, that’s the rest of the quote.’ They were silent for a moment; both of them took another swig of beer. ‘Still,’ she said. ‘We’ve got ages till we have to go. We’ve got the whole of the summer. And then—’ She lifted her beer and clinked it against his. ‘The rest of our lives.’

  They were right, of course. Things do change, but neither of them could have foreseen in what way. Because already, part of Tess and Adam’s future had been written, set in stone long before they were born.

  PART ONE

  I’ll tell you of a tiny Republic that makes a show well worth your admiration—Great-hearted leaders, a whole nation whose work is planned, Their morals, groups, defences—I’ll tell you in due order. Virgil, Georgics, Book IV (trans C. Day Lewis)

  Langford College

  Classical Civilization Tutor Required For A levels, Term-long courses and Seminars Immediate start preferred

  Langford College is one of the most important and well-regarded adult educational facilities in the country. This private training college for further education is set in a Grade I listed Victorian manor, former seat of the Mortmain family, in twenty acres of beautiful grounds near to the historic market town of Langford.

  Due to unforeseen circumstances, the position of Tutor in Classical Civilization now becomes vacant. We are urgently seeking a replacement, to arrive in February to prepare for the Summer term. The applicant must be educated to MA level or beyond in Latin and Greek. Three years’ teaching or lecturing experience essential. The applicant must be prepared to guide his or her students on a field trip, one per annum.

  Applications are now invited by post, including CVs with two references, to Miss Andrea Marsh, c/o Langford College, Lang-ford,—shire. No email queries, please.

  ‘Per Artem Lumen’

  CHAPTER ONE

  The old woman sat at her window, her usual position, and watched, waiting. It was noon in Langford, and if there was to be any activity on the high street (described as ‘one of the most
beautiful streets in England’ by DK Eyewitness, ‘picturepostcard perfect’ in the Rough Guide, and ‘chintzy’ in the Lonely Planet), it would be at this time.

  There might be a couple of ladies walking to lunch at the tea shop. Or some weekenders emerging from Knick-Knacks, one of the many gift shops that sold Medici Society notelets, Cath Kidston cushions and ‘vintage’ mirrors. Or perhaps a group of American tourists, rarer at this time of year, distressingly loud, having visited the house where Jane Austen spent several months staying with an old friend. (The house, formerly known as 12 St Catherine’s Street, was now the Jane Austen Centre, a museum which contained a glove of the great author’s, a letter from her describing Langford as ‘neither incommodious nor invidious, yet I cannot like it‘, and a first edition of Emma, inscribed, ‘To Lord Mortmain, in respect of his great knowledge, this little offering.’ But since the author was anonymous until she died, it was generally agreed it wasn’t her, anyway.)

  Perhaps she might spot a bus trip taking people to Langford Regis, the famous Roman villa nearby (home to some of the best mosaics of Roman Britain, and a new heritage trail promising a fun day out for all the family.) Perhaps even a film crew—they were increasingly common in Langford these days. But whatever it was, Leonora Mortmain would have seen it before, in some form or another. For, as she was fond of telling her housekeeper Jean, she had seen most things in the town. And nothing surprised her any more.

  She watched them walk past with a weary disdain; the tourists, lured from London or Bath for the day, even on this cold January morning, clutching their guide books, reading aloud to each other. And there was her old adversary, Mick Hopkins, the publican at the Feathers. He was putting a sign out on the road—what did it say? Leonora couldn’t make out the bright chalk lettering, and her glasses were on the other side of the room, in the bureau. Something annoying, no doubt; some quiz night that would mean everyone became disgracefully inebriated and staggered out onto the street, calling names and making noise, waking her all too easily from a restless sleep. Leonora Mortmain sighed, and her long fingers briefly clutched her skirt. Sometimes she wondered, quite literally, what the world was coming to. The town she had known all her life was changing. And she didn’t like it.

 
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