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A New Leaf

A New Leaf

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A New Leaf

Length:
150 pages
2 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Sep 1, 2017
ISBN:
9781386434078
Format:
Book

Description

Aishling wants nothing more than to put the past behind her - and she has the perfect plan to do just that. But when attractive widower Jack Harper employs Aishling to look after his young son Bobby, things don't quite go according to plan. 

Publisher:
Released:
Sep 1, 2017
ISBN:
9781386434078
Format:
Book

About the author

Author of 'The Journey and Other Short Stories' and 'The Methuselah Paradox', Elaine Jackson (writing as EJ Jackson) studied creative writing with Faber Academy and  editing and screenwriting with The Writer's Workshop. She also has the singular distinction of being the founder of the only official appreciation society for 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy', ZZ9, which she started in 1980 and which is still going strong today.  Elaine lives in Surrey, in the United Kingdom, with her husband and son, and is a voracious reader. Her first brush with science fiction was 'Star Trek', which led her to creating a local discussion group in her home town of Aldershot in her late teens. She was soon editing newsletters and fanzines, and has also been known to illustrate - although these days she prefers to leave the artwork to the professionals!  Elaine is proud to be an author member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.


Book Preview

A New Leaf - Elaine Jackson

A NEW LEAF

EJ Jackson

A New Leaf

Copyright EJ Jackson 2017

Published by Neon Sky Books

formatting by Jesse Gordon

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed Attention: Permissions Coordinator, at the address below.

Neon Sky Books

Camberley-Surrey

admin@neonskybooks.com

Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.

A New Leaf/EJ Jackson.—1st ed.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Contents

{1} Interview

{2}The Other Side.............................................................

{3}First Day

{4}A Good Start.................................................................

{5}Settling In......................................................................

{6}Jack..................................................................................

{7}Schooldays....................................................................

{8}Family Values...............................................................

{9}Jack..................................................................................

{10}New Horizons.............................................................

{11}Expect the Unexpected...........................................

{12}Waiting.........................................................................

{13}Strained Relations....................................................

{14}Light on the Horizon................................................

{15}Endings........................................................................

Turn over a new leaf:  To cause to take on a specified character, nature, identity, or appearance; change or transform.

{1}

Interview

‘SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK?’ 

What I thought, as I stared at the thin, dark-haired man with the soft American accent fidgeting in front of me, was that I would be insane to turn down the job. The pay was good, the hours were, if not great in terms of personal time, at least better than those in my last employment. And I would have free run of the place when my employer was away on business – which, he said, was quite often.

I pretended to think about it. It doesn’t pay to seem too keen, I’d learned.

‘Okay, I mean yes, thank you – I would like to accept the position,’ I said, as diffidently as I could without seeming as if I couldn’t care one way or the other.

His relief was obvious – but, like me, he was also playing it cool. ‘Good – and you’re okay about starting tomorrow?’ 

I nodded. He hadn’t had time to check my references, for which I was grateful, because although I’d claimed redundancy due to closure, they wouldn’t hold up to detailed scrutiny. ‘Yes, I can do that – should I bring my stuff over this evening, or...?’  If I could avoid a night on the streets, I’d be happy.

His expression brightened even more. ‘Would you? I wouldn’t normally expect you to start work today, of course, but as it happens there’s a screening I’m meant to attend this evening. I thought I was going to have to cancel, but if you’re willing to cover me for a couple of hours, that would be great, Maeve.’

He had explained that he was in the entertainment business, and had almost seemed relieved when I said I’d never heard of him – which wasn’t strictly true, because after I’d rung about the vacancy I’d found in a discarded copy of ‘The Lady’ and got a name and address – Primrose Hill, North London-  I’d done some research at the library. I nodded. ‘Sure. But please call me Ash – everyone does.’

He grinned. ‘Then I shall do the same, Ash.’  He dug around in the hip pocket of his jeans and produced a set of keys, from which he removed two on their own little ring, and held them out to me. ‘There you go. Um, there’s an alarm, which I probably ought to show you how to work now, even though I’ll most likely be here when you get back...’

He went on to show me in detail how to set and disable the alarm, showing an alarming lack of common sense, I thought. ‘I need to go and collect my son from school now. Ashbe you have other plans for this evening, but if you haven’t, perhaps you’d like to join us for dinner – you can get to know Bobby?’

I nodded again. This was shaping up to be a good one, I could feel it. Of course it worried me slightly that he was so trusting, but since I had only good intentions, he would have no cause to regret doing so.

When I returned almost two hours later – I’d left a few things behind in the squat (which was due to be renovated starting tomorrow) that I couldn’t carry on the tube - the smart semi in North London was glowing with light and warmth. Classical music played softly in the kitchen, and a mouth-watering aroma made my stomach –empty since yesterday- gurgle as I pushed the front door shut behind me.

‘Ah, you’re just in time!’  Jack Harper appeared at the end of the long hall and waved a pair of oven gloves at me. ‘Dump your stuff and come join us.’

Jack directed me to a small washroom off the main kitchen – which I’d thought earlier looked like something I’d only ever seen in the pages of ‘Vogue’ – where I did the necessary and washed the grime of London Underground from my hands. When I returned to the kitchen, a small dark-haired boy of about nine was sitting at the table. He eyed me warily.

‘Bobby, this is Aishling, also known as Ash. She’s going to be looking after you when I’m working. Ash, meet Bobby, the most important person in my life.’

I knew that this was Jack’s way of putting me in my place, in Bobby’s eyes as well as mine. I didn’t mind – I’d have been surprised if he hadn’t.

‘Hi Bobby,’ I smiled, and held out my hand. ‘Can I call you Bobby, or do you prefer Bob or Robert?’  That was my way of telling Jack that his son and I would find our own relationship – if the boy decided he didn’t like me, I wouldn’t hang around.

But Bobby took my hand and shook it solemnly. ‘Bobby is okay,’ he said shyly. ‘Is it okay if I call you Ash, or do you like Maeve better?’

I grinned. He was sharp, this little lad. ‘Well, Bobby, my mum only ever called me Maeve when I was naughty, so I think I’d like it best if you would call me Ash.’

Bobby nodded. ‘Is your Mummy still alive? Mine isn’t. At first I cried a lot, but I’m kind of used to her not being here now.’ He blinked at me, and I swallowed the lump in my throat. I dare not look at Jack.

‘No, my Mum isn’t alive either, but it happened a very long time ago, so I’m used to it, too. I’m sorry about yours.’ A lie, of course, but she was dead to me, so what was the difference?

Jack had told me that his wife – Bobby’s mother- had died in a skiing accident two years ago. Since then, he had been through a succession of nannies and au pairs, none of them ultimately suitable or, as it had turned out, reliable. As a successful actor who sometimes worked abroad, Jack had told me he needed someone he could rely on to be there for Bobby when the demands of his job meant that he couldn’t be. ‘He needs stability,’ he had told me. ‘I’ve tried taking him along with me, but he really needs to be settled, needs his school friends and the continuity they bring. Of course he also needs a mother,’ he had sighed, ‘but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. So...’

‘It’s okay,’ Bobby said now, and his eyes slid to the plate which Jack had just placed in front of him. ‘Wow, meatballs, my favourite! Thanks, Dad...’ the last two words were muffled as Bobby speared a piece of meat and shoveled it into his mouth.

‘I hope you like Swiss meatballs,’ Jack said, as he put another steaming plate down in front of me, and another opposite Bobby’s. ‘I didn’t think to ask if you might be vegetarian.’

I smiled. ‘I’m not, and this looks wonderful, thank you.’ It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him that I hadn’t eaten since yesterday, but I managed to stop myself. That was the old me, and had no place in this world.

‘That’s a relief.’

Dinner conversation was, naturally enough, mostly about Bobby and his day. I learned that he had earned a gold star for his painting for the Easter display, and that there was a new boy in class that no-one –including Bobby, he admitted with admirable candour- liked because he couldn’t speak English and cried a lot.

‘Poor thing,’ I said without thinking. ‘That must be horrible for him.’

Jack shot me a thoughtful glance and then nodded. ‘Ash’s right, Bobby. Imagine how you’d feel if you went to a new country and a new school and no-one in class spoke English?’

Bobby looked from one of us to the other, and nodded. ‘Yes, that would be horrid. Should I tell him some proper words, Dad, do you think?’

Jack smiled. ‘I think that would be a very kind thing to do.’

I refrained from adding my support for the idea – Bobby only needed his dad’s approval, not mine.

The main meal was followed by jelly and ice cream for those who wanted it. I couldn’t have eaten another thing if my life depended on it, and begged off, asking Jack if he would mind if I unpacked my things before he left for the screening at half-seven. I’d had a very long and stressful day and now, with my stomach full for the first time in a long while, I wanted nothing more than a hot shower and a nap. I felt uncomfortable in my down-at-heel clothes in this glamourous home, and felt sure they must smell of damp and mould. 

‘Of course not, Ash – you look tired, if you don’t mind my saying. I’ve given you the room at the end of the landing – the door’s open. I’ll put Bobby to bed before I go out. He’ll wake you if he needs anything but he settles pretty well, so... You’re welcome to join me later on if you feel up to it, otherwise breakfast is usually around seven-thirty.’ He began to gather up the plates and paused. ‘Would you like a hand up with your things?’

I shook my head and stood up. ‘That’s kind of you, but I’ll be fine. If you don’t mind, I’ll probably just have a shower and turn in – I am rather tired. But I’m quite a light sleeper,’ I added quickly, remembering my offer to mind Bobby this evening, and turned to the boy. ‘Just knock on my door if you need anything, won’t you Bobby?’ The boy nodded, and his father grinned. Was it my imagination, or was there a spark of interest in the dark brown eyes? I was pretty sure I hadn’t imagined the way his eyes quickly swept up and down my body as I’d stood up – it was almost too fast to register, except that I was tuned into the way men reacted; I’d had to be.

‘Of course,’ he said quickly. ‘I’ll see you in the morning, Say goodnight. Bobby.’

‘G’night,’ Bobby mumbled, his mouth full of jelly.

Upstairs, I was pleasantly surprised by my room – it was decorated in a clean, neutral style with a large double bed, a huge wardrobe, a computer/writing desk with a small flat-screen television on the wall opposite the bed, a two-seater couch, and best of all, an en-suite bathroom. Towels and face-cloths had been laid out on the linen hamper and the little cabinet was fully stocked with a variety of up-market toiletries. There was even an unopened packet of toothbrushes. It all showed a woman’s touch – the previous incumbent’s, I wondered, or perhaps a domestic...?  I had a blissfully hot shower, and after making sure the door was locked for the second time, turned the light out and slipped under the covers, feeling cleaner than I had in a long time. I

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