Fast friends, p.1
Fast Friends, page 1
Also by Jill Mansell
An Offer You Can’t Refuse
Rumor Has It
Take a Chance on Me
Staying at Daisy’s
To the Moon and Back
Nadia Knows Best
A Walk in the Park
Thinking of You
Don’t Want to Miss a Thing
The Unexpected Consequences of Love
Making Your Mind Up
Falling for You
Good at Games
The One You Really Want
You and Me, Always
Three Amazing Things About You
Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay
Head Over Heels
This Could Change Everything
Miranda’s Big Mistake
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Books. Change. Lives.
Copyright © 1991 by Jill Mansell
Cover and internal design © 2019 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover design by Elsie Lyons
Cover image © plainpicture/Lubitz + Dorner
Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious and are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
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Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410
Fax: (630) 961-2168
Originally published in 1991 in the United Kingdom by Bantam Books, a division of Transworld Publishers Ltd. This edition based on the paperback edition published in 2014 by Headline Review, an imprint of Headline Publishing Group, a Hachette UK Company.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Mansell, Jill, author.
Title: Fast friends / Jill Mansell.
Description: Naperville, Illinois : Sourcebooks Landmark, 2019.
Identifiers: LCCN 2018026441 | (trade pbk. : alk. paper)
Classification: LCC PR6063.A395 F37 2019 | DDC 823/.914--dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018026441
Also by Jill Mansell
Excerpt from Maybe This Time
About the Author
For my mum,
who typed my manuscript and correctid my speling
Camilla stared at the girl sitting cross-legged on the bed opposite her. “But what is subversive behavior?” she asked, curiosity mingling with excitement. With those dark eyes, heavy, slanting eyebrows, and incredible cheekbones, Roz Vallender exuded an aura of exotic mystery that transcended her sixteen years. Camilla’s mother, no doubt, would have taken one look and pronounced her “dangerous to know.” Camilla, however, was instantly enthralled. “And why did they expel you?” she continued breathlessly. “What exactly did you do?”
Roz, having in turn studied the plump, eager blond with whom she would be sharing this large but slightly shabby room, decided that Camilla Avery-Jones would be a pushover. All she had to do to maintain the position of superiority she had held at her last school was to start as she meant to go on.
“Gambling, smoking, drinking,” she began, ticking them off on her fingers with studied casualness. “Organizing a sit-down protest, seducing the history teacher, class nonattendance—that was because I was seducing the history teacher of course…”
The other girl gasped, audibly impressed. “What was he like?”
Roz smiled. “He was a she, actually. No, I’m joking. Strictly men only. But it all added up to subversive behavior so my mother sent me here instead. Cigarette?” She tossed the packet of Sobranies toward her new roommate, who first shook her head then cautiously removed one.
“So who else shares this room?” she said, proffering a cigarette lighter and watching the girl’s inexpert attempt at inhalation. She had achieved the upper hand already, she realized with some pride. Easy. So easy when you knew how.
Glancing across at the third bed, Camilla replied with enthusiasm, “Oh, you’ll like Loulou, Loulou Marks. Everybody does—she’s terribly funny and nice. Last Friday she ate thirteen Mars bars for a bet, and when she complained of stomachache, Matro
Roz, who was in the process of blowing a string of perfect smoke rings, shuddered momentarily at the mention of the word hospital. Then she pulled herself together, dismissing the memory and visualizing instead the absent Loulou, whom everybody liked so much. It wasn’t too hard to envisage the kind of person who would eat thirteen Mars bars—she undoubtedly weighed 180 pounds, made fun of her size to court popularity, and earned great favor with the hockey team by using her body to defend their goal and intimidate anyone who dared approach her.
“She sounds great fun,” she remarked dutifully, while inwardly reflecting that a female Dudley Dursley would be just as easily manipulated as Camilla. Those kind always were. And there was an added bonus too: at least these two wouldn’t be able to borrow her clothes.
Glancing at her watch, Roz ground out her cigarette in the upturned cookie-tin lid beside her, rose from the bed, and unsnapped the locks on her trunk. “Better unpack, I suppose. Who else is here I should know? I’m only the new girl so you’ll have to tell me who’s who at Elm House.” With an air of complicity, she added, “I don’t want to waste time meeting no-hopers, after all.”
Just the right balance, she decided as she stuffed piles of expensive, fastidiously ironed underwear into drawers that were pathetically small. Arrogant, but willing to acknowledge the need for help when necessary. Camilla could provide her with what she needed to know until she formed her own elite circle of friends. Maybe, if this girl was very lucky, she’d be allowed to join it.
By the time they reached the echoing dining hall two hours later, Camilla was firmly entrenched in her role as party hostess and took great personal pride in introducing Roz to only the right people. Roz, in turn, watched and listened and said not very much at all as each of the girls was introduced. When she did speak, she was careful to either shock or flatter only as far as it was possible to get away with it.
* * *
At midnight, Camilla lay awake gazing restlessly into the darkness. The room smelled different since Roz’s arrival: a mingling of expensive scent, foreign—and distinctly forbidden—cigarettes, Pernod, and potpourri. And she felt different too, although she couldn’t quite understand in which way. Roz was mysterious, beguiling, and had bags of charm, but Camilla couldn’t help feeling vaguely uneasy at the same time because the girl was so incredibly self-possessed it was unnerving. She had, decided Camilla, a take-it-or-leave-it attitude that surrounded her like an aura, and so far, it had captivated everyone. But although she had told Roz practically her entire life story this evening, she had learned scarcely anything in return. Except that her full name was Rosemary, which she hated, and that she had been expelled from her last school and had seduced her history teacher, if it were true.
And she was so good-looking. Camilla, whose own fair coloring and tendency to plumpness were the bane of her life, wished fervently that she could have looked like Roz, that she could have had even a tenth of her self-assurance. But she knew herself well enough to recognize that that would never happen in a million years. Turning over onto her side and settling down to sleep, she contented herself instead with the thought that she and the tantalizingly enigmatic Roz would become friends. Maybe even best friends.
* * *
Over the course of the next couple of days Camilla could only watch and admire as Roz established herself with mesmerizing thoroughness in her role as leader, managing to make almost every girl feel that she alone was the one with whom Roz most wanted to be.
Camilla, despite having succumbed herself, still harbored suspicions that Roz’s endless stories weren’t always true. They were so bizarre that at least some of them had to have been made up, surely.
“But I thought you said you’d spent last summer in Milan?” she queried one evening when they were alone together in their room. “That was when you met Claudio.”
“Three weeks in Milan,” corrected Roz in her calm voice as she refilled their mugs with wine so dry that Camilla had to struggle not to pull a face with every mouthful. “Geneva was afterward—much more exciting. My mother was having an affair with a Swiss financier, which meant that I could do whatever I liked. I met Sebastian in a restaurant beside Lake Geneva, and by the end of the afternoon, he’d taught me to water-ski. By the end of the night,” she added with a faint, conspiratorial smile, “he’d taught me a lot more.”
I don’t believe you, thought Camilla. At fifteen?
“What happened?” she asked aloud, a note of challenge in her voice. Roz, hugging her knees, nodded casually toward the cluttered desk between their beds.
“I came home, of course, and Sebastian went back to university. He writes to me every week. His letters are in there somewhere—if you promise not to breathe a word to anyone I’ll let you read them.”
And naturally, as if to prove that Roz didn’t need to lie, there were letters, sixteen in all, and photographs of Roz and Sebastian laughing together at the lakeside. Sebastian, naturally, was blond, tanned, and handsome. How could he possibly have been anything less?
* * *
The following afternoon, Roz returned to their room between classes to find an intruder rummaging energetically through her chest of drawers.
“And just what the bloody hell,” she demanded icily, “do you think you’re doing?”
The girl looked up, apparently unconcerned. “Me?” she said with mock surprise. “Oh, I’m just a knicker fetishist. These are nice…from Harrods, no less!” Holding up the jade-green silk panties, she let out an appreciative whistle. “My favorite kind.”
Stalking across the room, Roz snatched the knickers from the girl’s grasp and would have slapped her face if she hadn’t rapidly danced out of the way. Her black eyes glittered as she surveyed her adversary with contempt. The girl was small, slender, and undeniably pretty, with rippling silver-blond hair, huge gray eyes, and very white teeth.
“Now, now,” she scolded cheerfully. “No need to get your Janet Regers in a twist—you’ll only snap the elastic.”
“Get out,” said Roz, advancing toward her once more, her jaw rigid with anger. “How dare you come in here and go through my things. And let me tell you right now that nobody speaks to me like—”
“Forgot my geometry set!” panted Camilla, bursting pink-faced through the door and cannoning into Roz’s back. Then she let out a squeal of delight and rushed across the room, flinging her arms around the grinning blond.
“Lou, I had no idea you were coming back today! This is fantastic!”
Loulou, submitting to Camilla’s enthusiastic embrace, cast a derisive half smile in Roz’s direction. “Well, I’m glad you think so, at least,” she drawled.
Roz, stunned by the revelation that this beautiful, fragile-looking, sharp-as-glass girl was the missing Loulou Marks, could think of absolutely nothing to say.
Loulou, however, simply laughed. “So you’re Rosemary,” she said, making no effort to move toward her. Turning to Camilla, she went on: “Is she always this bloody bad-tempered, or is it just that time of the month?”
“Oh no,” retaliated Roz coolly, recognizing at once that in Loulou she had found a true adversary. “I’m always this bloody bad-tempered, particularly when I find a complete stranger going through my underwear drawer.”
Loulou shrugged, then winked at Camilla, who was watching the exchange with unconcealed dismay. Camilla always wanted everyone to be friends; Loulou found it far more entertaining to discover for herself whether the friends were worth having before she made any kind of commitment.
“I was looking for that copy of Cosmopolitan I bought last month,” she explained. “I thought I’d left it in that drawer.”
“You could always apologize,” said Roz tightly.
Tilting her blond head to one sid
“Oh, go on, Lou.” Camilla, clenching and unclenching her fingers in agitation, was appalled at the prospect of needless animosity. She hated scenes. “Just say ‘sorry’ and then everything will be all right.”
“OK,” Loulou said finally. Holding out her hand, she took a single step in Roz’s direction. “I’m sorry I rifled through your knicker drawer. But I’m even more sorry,” she added with a wicked smile, “that I couldn’t find my copy of Playgirl.”
This girl was a real threat. Roz knew that if she didn’t pull out all the stops this time she ran the risk of finding herself flat on her back, unceremoniously kicked off her throne.
“In that case,” she replied, her tone softening as she clasped Loulou’s slender hand, “I’m sorry too. Everyone calls me Roz, by the way. And I really do hope we can be friends.”
Loulou, straight-faced, said, “Oh, I’m quite sure we will be. Rosemary.”
“I just want to know. How many lovers do you have?”
Roz turned her head away and gazed across at the amethyst hills beyond the window. Outside, the air was white and cold; inside, the bed was warm and Nico’s brown body warmer still. His question, whispered with a touch of despair, bothered her slightly, for she couldn’t decide whether to lie, and lying was something she didn’t particularly relish.
“Wistfulness really doesn’t suit you,” she told him affectionately.
He flung out a tanned arm in exasperation. “But I feel wistful, damn it! And I can’t stand it when you won’t answer my questions.”
“Oh, seventeen, then,” murmured Roz, running light fingers along his spine and sensing their effect. If he persisted, she would have to tell him the truth, and hopefully, three would sound perfectly sedate by comparison.
“Tell me,” he urged, his slanting green eyes reflecting love, only half wanting to know.
Roz’s mouth curved into a slow smile. “It’s not like you to be jealous,” she said. “And do they really matter, anyway? I’m here with you now, after all. What could be nicer?”
Nico sighed, realizing that the answer to the question he had dreaded asking was slipping away. Roz, as unreachable as ever, was his only as long as he held her in his arms. He just wasn’t used to being treated like this.
by Jill Mansell have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes