is set in autumn in Pennfleet, a fictional Cornish seaside town.
It is a story about change, and having the courage to live your dreams, from the point of view of several different characters.
Sam has moved to Pennfleet with his two teenage children after the death of his wife. He’s given up his job as an A and E consultant to open a deli-cum-cafe, a long-term ambition. But life by the sea is very different from life in London. And what about love?
Will he ever find love again?
Daisy was already cooking, while Jim sat at the island glued to his iPad. ‘Hi, Dad!’ Daisy greeted him, standing by the hob prodding at a pan of pasta. ‘I’m making us pesto penne. Jim and I are starving.’ ‘That’s great, sweetheart. Thank you.’ Sam gave his daughter a hug, kissed the top of her blonde head and ruffled Jim’s hair. ‘Hey, Dad,’ Jim managed. ‘How did you guys get on today?’ They’d been at their new school a month, and so far the signs were good. No teething problems. He was yet to attend a parents’ evening, but they were both as conscientious as a father could hope for. Jim sniggered. ‘Daisy got on OK, didn’t you, Daze?’ Daisy rolled her eyes and gave her brother a look. He grinned back at her, wide-eyed. Sam raised an eyebrow. There was something going on. He wasn’t going to press, though. He would hear about it in good time. The way her cheeks were tinged with a pale-pink blush told him there was probably romance in the air. He’d been waiting for it, partly with dread, partly with curiosity. Daisy wasn’t going to give anything away, though. ‘I got started on my art project – I’m doing Vivienne Westwood and her influence on fashion. It’s going to be cool.’ Daisy was fashion-mad, which was ironic given they were so far away from London now. But she didn’t seem to mind. She still managed to maintain her own unique style and customised all her clothes. At least she wasn’t a sheep, thought Sam. ‘Fantastic. Jim? Physics test?’ ‘Fine.’ ‘Fine in your opinion, or mine?’ ‘Sixty-seven per cent. Which was one of the highest.’ Kids did this, Sam had noticed. Presented their results in comparison with the rest of the class. ‘That doesn’t mean anything, does it? It could have been the highest out of a lot of not-very-good results.’ Jim just looked at him, and Sam smiled as he flipped open the fridge to get a bottle of beer. ‘OK. You know what you need to do. I’m not going to nag. I trust you.’
He never knew quite how much to breathe down their necks, or how much input to have on their homework. He settled on taking an active interest, but not interfering. He was there if they needed help, but he wasn’t going to be a tiger father. Louise had always said it was up to them to motivate themselves. But he was aware they had both started at a new school, and he wanted to be supportive. Daisy served up the penne and they sat round the island, eating and chatting. Sam wondered if Daisy would let slip whatever Jim had been alluding to earlier. A boy, obviously. His stomach clenched a little at the thought. It would be a turning point, with its own set of worries. He hoped he was going to be able to handle it. Because, of course, no one would be good enough for his beautiful, elegant, funny, quirky daughter. He looked at her grating parmesan onto her pasta, her head wrapped up in a white and gold scarf like a turban, her eyebrows groomed and darkened into a shape that gave her face a definition it hadn’t had before, and he realised she was a young woman, not a girl. Jim, at the other end of the island, with his tufty hair and geeky hipster glasses, was very much still a boy, gawky and spindly and able to recite the spiel of every alternative stand-up comedian seemingly after just one viewing. He was funny, which went a long way in this world. Hold your nerve, Sam told himself. They are going to be fine.
Later, when they had both gone upstairs to their rooms to finish off their homework, Sam flopped down on the sofa and stared at the blank television screen mounted on the wall. This was the time he missed Louise the most. He just wanted someone to lean against while he finished his beer and watched the next box set. He’d done them all over the summer: Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, The Killing . . . he was four episodes into a gritty French cop show at the moment. He sighed, flicked the telly on with the remote and pressed the buttons until he found the next episode. It would take him to Paris for an hour or so. Then he could go to bed.
Upstairs, Daisy and Jim were watching Stewart Lee reruns in Jim’s room instead of doing their homework. Jim was in his gaming chair and Daisy was sitting on the floor applying a silver crackle glaze to her nail varnish. Jim looked at her. She’d already plucked her eyebrows – again. He didn’t get it, really, the obsessive attention to things that didn’t matter, like the shape of your eyebrows and the colour of your nails. But he was used to it with Daisy. Their mum had been a lipstick-if-it’s-a-really-special-occasion sort of person, whereas Daisy had a different look for every minute of the day. And, of course, now that there was a bloke in the offing it was only going to get worse. ‘You’re going to tell Dad about Oscar?’ ‘Yes,’ said Daisy. ‘When the time is right. So you can shut up.’ ‘I’m not going to say anything!’ Jim protested. ‘It’s not as if there’s anything going on. He asked me out, that’s all. And I haven’t even said yes yet.’ ‘He thinks he’s God,’ said Jim. ‘No,’ said Daisy. ‘Everyone else thinks he’s God. He’s actually really nice. And quite shy.’ ‘What does he see in you?’ asked Jim. Daisy spread her arms out. She was in a panda onesie, her hair still wrapped up in a turban, her face plastered in a moisturising mask. ‘Why do you even ask?’. The two of them rolled about on the floor, laughing. They were both used to the teasing. It was just what they did. Underneath it all they were unbelievably close.
Daisy screwed the lid back on her nail varnish. She had been really surprised when Oscar sat next to her on the bus that afternoon and asked what she was doing at the weekend. ‘There’s a band on at the Neptune, if you want to go. I don’t know what they’re like. But it could be a laugh.’ Oscar had been the first person Daisy really noticed when she arrived at her new school. He was very tall, and wore a great coat with silver buttons and the collar turned up, skinny jeans tucked into big boots with the laces undone, and a paisley scarf with long tassels. With his dark, messy hair and long eyelashes, he stood out a mile. She supposed he’d asked her out because she was a novelty, a newcomer from London, which was where he was from, too. She hadn’t said yes, because she wasn’t sure if her dad would let her go to the Neptune. She was plucking up the nerve to ask him, because she wanted his approval. Daisy knew her own mind, but she wasn’t a rebel, not really. And she respected her dad. She could also sense the other girls at school would be a little jealous of her being asked out by Oscar. There was no doubt he was the coolest boy in the school. Daisy felt a bit funny inside when she thought about being alone with him. She didn’t want to talk about it with Jim, though, so she changed the subject to something she’d been thinking about for a while.
‘You know what?’ she asked. ‘I think it’s time Dad got a girlfriend.’ Jim gave her a pained expression. ‘Are you serious?’ ‘Course I am.’ ‘What about…you know, Mum?’ ‘In case you haven’t noticed, she’s not here anymore.’ ‘No, but…’ Jim looked upset as he absorbed the notion. ‘Seriously, you know what? Mum wouldn’t mind. Dad needs company. He needs someone to hang out with. All he does is work. And watch TV. And look after us.’ ‘I can’t imagine him with someone else.’ ‘He can’t stay single for the rest of his life. And it has been four years.’ ‘Yeah, I know, but…’ Jim frowned and shrugged. ‘It makes me feel weird, thinking about it.’ Daisy touched her nails to her cheek to make sure they were dry. ‘Don’t you think he must be lonely?’ ‘He’s got us.’ Daisy gave her brother a level look. ‘Oh God,’ said Jim. ‘You’ve got sex on the brain.’ ‘I’m not just talking about sex. I’m talking about…companionship.’ Jim looked baffled. ‘I guess you wouldn’t understand.’ Daisy blew on her nails to accelerate the drying process. ‘What can we do about it, anyway? Isn’t it up to him?’ ‘I don’t know,’ said Daisy. Jim looked down at the floor. ‘No one would be like Mum.’ Daisy looked at her brother. Sometimes he drove her nuts, but he was still her little brother. And suddenly he seemed really young and not that annoying at all. ‘Hey.’ She sat down next to him and gave him a hug. ‘Of course no one will ever be like Mum. But that doesn’t mean Dad has to be on his own for the rest of his life.’ Jim didn’t answer for a while. He just stared at the carpet. Daisy felt bad she’d even brought the subject up. Jim was much more protective of their mother’s memory than she was. It wasn’t that she didn’t care. Or that she didn’t miss her. She had to be robust about it in order to survive. She was about to squeeze him even tighter when he looked up. He was grinning, and there was a gleam in his eye behind his glasses that Daisy recognised. ‘I’ve got an idea,’ he said.
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