Elizabeth Noble When You Were Mine: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9781439154854

When You Were Mine: A Novel

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9781439154854: When You Were Mine: A Novel

IS A SECOND CHANCE AT HAPPINESS WORTH RISKING EVERYTHING? EVEN A BEST FRIEND?

Susannah has been living with Doug for eight years, acting as stepmother to his three unappreciative children and wondering why she doesn’t mind much when he sometimes sleeps in his study. She’s known her best friend Amelia since they were teenagers. Amelia never minces words, and Susannah doesn’t like hearing what Amelia has to say about her noncommittal relationship.

At her brother’s wedding, Susannah runs into Rob—her first love, the love of her life. There’s no band on his ring finger, and Susannah begins to fantasize. Her fantasies turn to reality when Rob gives her a call. Susannah’s world is rocked by her rekindled feelings for Rob, then totally turned upside down by a revelation from Amelia. Just when Susannah and Amelia need each other the most, they are facing a crisis that threatens to tear their friendship apart. Without her familiar guiding star, Susannah must finally make some hard choices in order to grow up for good, no matter who or what she has to leave behind.

Heartwarming, wise, and sophisticated, When You Were Mine is a story about first loves, best friends, and choices that will resonate with readers everywhere.

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About the Author:

Elizabeth Noble is the internationally bestselling author of The Reading Group, The Friendship Test, Alphabet Weekends, and Things I Want My Daughters to Know. She lives in New York City with her husband and their two daughters.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

June

The kiss, like everything else about the day, was picture-perfect. Not too chaste, not too intimate. The groom, an ideal several inches taller than the slender woman beside him, took his bride’s face in his hands, tender and possessive. He laid his forehead against hers for a second or two, before their lips met. Her eyes shone with tears of joy. There was an appropriate collective sigh amongst the congregation. It was like watching a Hallmark card come to life.

First married kiss over, the beaming newlyweds turned to face the congregation, their cheeks touching, her retroussé nose wrinkling in shy self-deprecation, and the veil that had been lifted from her face a few minutes earlier framed them both in a cloud of fairy-tale tulle.

The vicar raised her hands in an expansive gesture. “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. and Mrs. Hammond,” and the whole church erupted into spontaneous applause.

In the second pew on the groom’s side, questions raced through Susannah’s brain so fast she could barely put them in order.


  1. Since when did we applaud in church?

  2. How is it that my little brother is old enough to get married?

  3. Was I really ever as naïve as they appear?

  4. Just when did I get so cynical, and so bitter?

The answers didn’t come quite so quickly. Except about the clapping. It was modern. Not for the first time, Susannah found herself strangely at odds with the practices of her own generation. This wasn’t a performance. This was a solemn, dignified ceremony.

Her “baby” brother Alexander was thirty. Not young to marry, by most people’s standards. It was the fact that his being thirty meant that she was thirty-nine that choked her a little bit. She remembered so vividly his being born—a living Tiny Tears, a nine-year-old girl’s dream come true.

Yes, yes—of course she’d been that naïve—all that, and more. Naïve and delirious with the same joy she’d seen on their faces, and certain, so very certain, that she’d be married forever. She’d stood at that very altar, exactly where Alex and Chloe stood now, and she imagined she’d felt exactly as they did (though she also remembered a disconcerting sensation that the strangely uncomfortable garter she was wearing was slipping down her thigh towards her knee). The certainty was the part that had deserted her. She couldn’t have lived without him. Back then, she’d have viewed it almost as a physical impossibility—that her heart, the one she’d just finished giving him, would literally stop beating in her chest if he wasn’t beside her. She wasn’t certain about anything anymore. And the getting cynical and bitter part? That . . . that question she couldn’t answer. If she’d known it was happening—if she’d stood apart from herself and watched—she wouldn’t have let it. Would she?

Chloe was radiant. Really. Everyone said it about every bride—it was one of the required words for days like today—but it wasn’t true about every bride, at least not as true as it was about Chloe today. (Had everyone said it about her? Was it true, about her?) Chloe was Canadian, and, actually, she always “glowed” with wholesome health. All straight white teeth and smooth blond waves. She looked, Susannah acknowledged, particularly lovely today. Her dress was a long sheath of heavy ivory duchesse satin. Elegant and timeless, it suited Chloe perfectly. As she passed, she shook her bouquet slightly at Susannah in triumphant greeting, and Susannah felt herself shaking her clenched fists in response, her shoulders hunched.

Alex’s chest was puffed with pride. Chloe’s arm was through his, and he had clasped her fingers with his other hand. He kept looking from her to their guests, and quickly back to her, as though he still couldn’t believe she was his wife, at last.

It was hard not to believe in these two, watching them now. Even for Susannah. Maybe Alex and Chloe would be okay. Some people were, weren’t they?

Susannah’s mother, Rosemary, turned now to her only daughter. Her face was wet with what Susannah had called “happy tears” when she was little, and she dabbed carefully at her eyes with Kleenex.

“Wasn’t that wonderful?”

Susannah smiled indulgently, which was easier said than done, given that she found her teeth were clenched. Another required word. “It was. Wonderful!”

“And didn’t she look beautiful?”

“Absolutely!”

This Q & A could take a while, although most of her mother’s Qs seemed to be rhetorical, and she probably needn’t bother with the As. This and the photos. Susannah wondered how far she was from her first glass of champagne. Too long, almost certainly. Perhaps she should have slipped a hip flask into her clutch.

“I’m so thrilled they did it here.” Rosemary beamed.

This was not news. St. Gabriel’s Parish Church was at the geographical center of the village and at the spiritual center of Rosemary Hammond’s life, inextricably linked to her and her family. She felt a glow of pleasure and satisfaction, remembering her own marriage here on the July day when England had won the World Cup in 1966. All three of her children had been christened and confirmed here, and her parents were buried beside each other, though twelve years apart, in the churchyard outside. Before she and her husband had joined the French invasion and bought a house there, she never missed a Sunday service, except when she was away on holiday and twice after the hysterectomy she’d had in 2005, and on almost every Friday afternoon for the last fifteen years, she’d dusted and polished the pews with three or four of her friends. Clive, her husband, always called it “Dusting for Jesus,” and was always rewarded with a harmless flick of the yellow duster as she left.

Alastair, the eldest and the first of her children to marry, had married at Kathryn’s home near Cambridge. Of course. It was the right thing to do, although Rosemary knew, and was slightly resentful of the fact, that no one in Kathryn’s family seemed particularly religious, and Kathryn herself had never even met the vicar who performed the service before they started planning the wedding. Rosemary hadn’t liked the flowers much (gerberas—so casual), and she was pretty sure that the pulpit hadn’t seen Pledge for a few weeks.

Alastair and Kathryn’s daughters were Chloe’s bridesmaids today. Millie and Sadie were tripping excitedly down the aisle behind Chloe, delighted by the swoosh of their tulle petticoats and the elaborately styled hair they’d had done at the hairdresser’s.

Susannah had married Sean here, seventeen years ago. She had joked about eloping in the early days of her engagement, but Rosemary knew she would never do that to her. Susannah was her only daughter, after all—her only chance to really organize a wedding. Rosemary had been daydreaming about her little girl’s wedding since the day she’d been born. Saving for it, too—squirreling away money from her housekeeping. There hadn’t been any money when she and Clive had married—not for extras—“bells and whistles,” Clive called them. She’d been determined that Susannah should have them all. Floral arrangements at the end of each pew, not just at the altar, real champagne, and not just one glass for the toast . . .

But Alex’s wedding had been a bonus. Alex had been a bonus all his life, in fact, conceived nine years after Susannah, and about six years after Rosemary had stopped hoping it might happen and determined to be content with the two children God had already given her and Clive. Chloe, bless her, had wanted a traditional English wedding, and she’d loved St. Gabriel’s since she’d spent her first holiday with the Hammonds, three years earlier, and they’d all traipsed up there for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Alex had proposed three months ago, on a walking holiday in Scotland, taken to celebrate their both landing jobs at two top city firms. They’d telephoned from a pub, and Chloe had said, then, straightaway, drunk on happiness and sentiment and a couple of whisky macs, that she wanted to marry at St. Gabriel’s, that she couldn’t imagine doing it anywhere else. It had all been a bit of a rush, if Rosemary was honest. They’d been lucky this Saturday was free. It was the first one since Easter the Reverend Trevor had had free, and would be the last one until after the middle of October. She suspected—though she hadn’t asked, since it seemed like bad luck, that there might have been a cancellation . . . St. Gabriel’s was a very picturesque, Four Weddings and a Funeral type of church, and always in demand, and no amount of polishing, or praying, could get you a Saturday at short notice in the summer.

It had all been worth it, though, all the hard work to get it organized. The pews shone, the flowers were truly gorgeous. Back at the house, the tent looked heavenly, and somehow made the house look more heavenly, too; the champagne was on ice; and the jazz quartet was warming up. Chloe’s parents had insisted on writing a generous check, and the bells and whistles had truly rung and been blown. Chloe’s mother had said, that morning, when she’d arrived at the house to see the tent before the service, that she half expected Hugh Grant to pop up from behind an urn in morning dress, and Rosemary took this to be high praise. Rosemary watched the tall, straight back of her younger son, and her beloved granddaughters, and felt suffused with joy. She squeezed her husband’s hand, and he stroked back, a bit choked himself. The two of them had been married for more than forty years. These were the wonderful days they had dreamed of in the years when mortgage payments and squabbling siblings had sometimes seemed overwhelming. The moments of joy that he always joked had to be paid for.

“What is wrong with this picture?” Susannah asked herself, looking around at her siblings and her parents and her nieces and nephew. Only one thing. One blot on this picture-perfect landscape. Next to her euphoric mum and dad, her sister-in-law Kathryn was making her baby, Oscar, giggle by blowing raspberries against his neck, while he reached for the feathers on her hat, the ones that tickled his nose when she bent her face to him. It was her. She was the only one who didn’t fit.

Susannah’s eyes filled with sudden tears. Christ. Looking down immediately, she opened her handbag and fumbled amongst the detritus within for a tissue. She felt a tear run down the side of her nose, where she feared it might imminently mingle with snot. These were not the pretty, appropriate tears one should cry at a wedding. These were just a minute or so away from being full-blown shoulder-shaking sobs, and she was determined that wasn’t going to happen. She dug the fingernails of her left hand into her palm and clenched her teeth again. Susannah was an ugly crier, and she knew it. A minute of proper crying would leave an hour of red, swollen eyes and an even redder nose. And would mean looks, and questions, and questions she could do without today.

Her brother Alastair took her arm at the elbow, squeezing quite hard, and pushed a plaid cotton handkerchief into her hand.

“Oh no you don’t.”

The others had filtered into the aisle and joined the melee of guests heading towards the steps of the church. Susannah’s brother pulled her by the arm in the opposite direction from all of them, back towards the altar, and she let herself be led.

“Wait just a minute.” His voice was firm, but not unkind. He could have been talking to Sadie.

The choir was changing out of their surplices in the small vestibule at the back of the church. “Don’t mind us . . . taking the shortcut,” he announced, as he led Susannah through them to a door which opened onto the quiet graveyard. He didn’t let go of her elbow until he’d guided her onto a bench, and then he sat down beside her. Susannah pulled her pillbox hat off, and ran her fingers through her hair.

“Thanks.”

He sat back, not answering her, but running his finger between his collar and his neck, and pushing his hair back from his forehead. For a few moments they sat in a silence punctuated only by Susannah’s occasional sniffing, and by the hum of noise from the front of the church.

Alastair crossed one long leg. “I had my first cigarette on this bench. Thirteen years old. Threw up ten minutes later . . . just over there.” He gestured to a tree ten yards away. Susannah smiled. He’d never been much of a smoker. She had been—ten a day, for almost exactly the three years she was away at university, as though it were a course requirement, until graduation, when she’d stopped as suddenly as she’d started. He’d always tortured her about it, given half the chance. Mum and Dad had never known, despite his threats: he’d never betray her.

“And I might have lost my virginity on this bench, too, if Sally Harris hadn’t had extremely tight jeans and a ten p.m. curfew.”

She laughed out loud. “Sally Harris. God!”

“Apparently her dad had had to pull the zipper up with a coat hanger before she came out, and I think she was honestly afraid if she took them off she might never get them back on and she’d have had to go home in her knickers . . .”

“At least that’s what she told you . . .”

“They were bloody tight, too. I could hardly get my hand in . . .”

“Eew. That’s so disgusting.”

He smirked at her. “Stopped you blubbing, though, hasn’t it?”

“Stopped me eating at the reception, too, I should think . . .”

“Well that won’t hurt you either, Chunky.”

He’d called her Chunky, and only Chunky, for some two years, from when she was about ten until twelve and had been, it would be fair to say . . . chunky. She’d slimmed down that summer, and been unvaryingly slim ever since, but he still called her Chunky sometimes when they were on their own.

She slapped his chest. “Oy.”

That was Alastair. The archetypal big brother. When they were younger, when they’d lived together as children, he’d often been dismissive, or unkind, and sometimes given the outward impression that all he did all day was think of ways to torture her, but let anyone else—anyone—mess with her, and he morphed instantly into her rescuer. Her champion. He still was, she supposed.

“So?” He was looking right at her now, one eyebrow raised.

“So what?” She didn’t quite meet his gaze.

“So . . . why the tears?”

“Everyone cries at weddings, don’t they? Mum was getting through the Kleenex like it was going out of style. Kathryn, too . . .”

“Right. So you’re not saying?”

“Saying what?” Just because he’d rescued her, that didn’t mean she had to tell him.

“Okay—just because I rescued you, that doesn’t mean you have to tell me.” It was spooky how he did that. “But if you want to . . . I’m all ears. And this is your window of opportunity, because I’ve got Kath’s permission to drink all afternoon, and I fully intend to be insensible by the time they cut the cake . . . Oscar has been on a bloody bender the last four or five nights, and I’m exhausted, so I’m going to go quick. So . . . if you want to talk, the doctor is in . . .”

“I suppose I must have been thinking about Sean.”

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. IS A SECOND CHANCE AT HAPPINESS WORTH RISKING EVERYTHING? EVEN A BEST FRIEND? Susannah has been living with Doug for eight years, acting as stepmother to his three unappreciative children and wondering why she doesn t mind much when he sometimes sleeps in his study. She s known her best friend Amelia since they were teenagers. Amelia never minces words, and Susannah doesn t like hearing what Amelia has to say about her noncommittal relationship. At her brother s wedding, Susannah runs into Rob--her first love, the love of her life. There s no band on his ring finger, and Susannah begins to fantasize. Her fantasies turn to reality when Rob gives her a call. Susannah s world is rocked by her rekindled feelings for Rob, then totally turned upside down by a revelation from Amelia. Just when Susannah and Amelia need each other the most, they are facing a crisis that threatens to tear their friendship apart. Without her familiar guiding star, Susannah must finally make some hard choices in order to grow up for good, no matter who or what she has to leave behind. Heartwarming, wise, and sophisticated, When You Were Mine is a story about first loves, best friends, and choices that will resonate with readers everywhere. Bookseller Inventory # APC9781439154854

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.IS A SECOND CHANCE AT HAPPINESS WORTH RISKING EVERYTHING? EVEN A BEST FRIEND? Susannah has been living with Doug for eight years, acting as stepmother to his three unappreciative children and wondering why she doesn t mind much when he sometimes sleeps in his study. She s known her best friend Amelia since they were teenagers. Amelia never minces words, and Susannah doesn t like hearing what Amelia has to say about her noncommittal relationship. At her brother s wedding, Susannah runs into Rob--her first love, the love of her life. There s no band on his ring finger, and Susannah begins to fantasize. Her fantasies turn to reality when Rob gives her a call. Susannah s world is rocked by her rekindled feelings for Rob, then totally turned upside down by a revelation from Amelia. Just when Susannah and Amelia need each other the most, they are facing a crisis that threatens to tear their friendship apart. Without her familiar guiding star, Susannah must finally make some hard choices in order to grow up for good, no matter who or what she has to leave behind. Heartwarming, wise, and sophisticated, When You Were Mine is a story about first loves, best friends, and choices that will resonate with readers everywhere. Bookseller Inventory # APC9781439154854

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Book Description Touchstone. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. 352 pages. Dimensions: 7.9in. x 5.2in. x 0.8in.IS A SECOND CHANCE AT HAPPINESS WORTH RISKING EVERYTHING EVEN A BEST FRIEND Susannah has been living with Doug for eight years, acting as stepmother to his three unappreciative children and wondering why she doesnt mind much when he sometimes sleeps in his study. Shes known her best friend Amelia since they were teenagers. Amelia never minces words, and Susannah doesnt like hearing what Amelia has to say about her noncommittal relationship. At her brothers wedding, Susannah runs into Robher first love, the love of her life. Theres no band on his ring finger, and Susannah begins to fantasize. Her fantasies turn to reality when Rob gives her a call. Susannahs world is rocked by her rekindled feelings for Rob, then totally turned upside down by a revelation from Amelia. Just when Susannah and Amelia need each other the most, they are facing a crisis that threatens to tear their friendship apart. Without her familiar guiding star, Susannah must finally make some hard choices in order to grow up for good, no matter who or what she has to leave behind. Heartwarming, wise, and sophisticated, When You Were Mine is a story about first loves, best friends, and choices that will resonate with readers everywhere. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9781439154854

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