Rosanna Ley The Villa

ISBN 13: 9781780875040

The Villa

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9781780875040: The Villa
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Villa

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About the Author:

Rosanna Ley has worked as a creative tutor for over twelve years, leading workshops in the UK and abroad, and has completed an MA in creative writing. Her writing holidays and retreats take place in stunning locations in Italy and Spain. Rosanna has written numerous articles and stories for national magazines. When she is not travelling, Rosanna lives in West Dorset by the sea.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Tess didn’t open the letter until later, when she was sitting on the beach.

In a hurry to get to work that morning, she’d barely glanced at the envelope, just grabbing it from the mat before kissing her daughter Ginny goodbye.

Now, Tess plucked the letter from her bag. Read her name... Ms Teresa Angel, and her address in bold confident typescript. Franked and postmarked London.

Ginny had left for college – an unruly streak of long legs, jeans, red shirt, dark hair and eyes – while Tess had set off for the water company, where she worked in customer information. A euphemism for Complaints, since who really needed information about water? (Turn on the tap, out it comes; better still drink the bottled variety.)

This was her lunch break and she’d come – as she often did – to Pride Bay, five minutes away by car, to eat her sandwiches by the sea. It was an early spring day, and breezy, so she too was sandwiched – between a row of pastel-painted beach huts and the high mound of tiny ginger pebbles of west Dorset’s Chesil Beach. This gave Tess some shelter and she could still just see the waves. She didn’t have to be back in the office till half two. She stretched out her legs. Flexitime. What a wonderful invention.

Tess eased her thumb under the seal of the envelope and tore it open, sliding out a single sheet of white paper. It was so thick and creamy she almost felt she could eat it.

Dear Ms Angel
, she read. We are writing to inform you... her eyes scanned over the text ... following the sad passing of Edward Westerman. Edward Westerman? Tess frowned as she tried to make sense of it. Did she know an Edward Westerman? She was pretty sure she didn’t. Did she even know anyone who had just died? Again, no. Could they have got the wrong Teresa Angel ...? Unlikely. She read on. Concerning the bequest ... Bequest? On the condition that ... Tess’s mind raced ... Hang on a minute. Sicily ...?

Tess finished reading the letter, then immediately read it again. She felt a kind of nervous fluttering like moths’ wings, followed by a rush – of pure adrenalin ... It couldn’t be true. Could it ...? She stared out at the sea. The breeze had picked up and was ruffling the waves into olive-grey rollers.

She must be dreaming, she thought. She picked up the letter and read it through once more as she finished her sandwich.

Well. What on earth would her mother say ...? Tess shook her head. There was no point thinking about it. It was a mistake. Surely it had to be a mistake.

It was clouding over now and Tess felt chilly despite the woollen wrap she had slung over her work jacket when she left the car by the harbour. She checked her watch, she should go. But if it were true ... If this wasn’t some sort of joke, then ... Sicily ...

Tess tucked the letter back into her bag and began to put the jigsaw pieces together in her mind. Her fierce and diminutive mother Flavia was Sicilian – though she had left her home and her family when she was in her early twenties. Tess just wished she knew why. She had tried often enough to find out the full story. But Muma had never wanted to talk of her life in Sicily. Tess smiled as she got to her feet and picked up her bag. She loved her dearly, but Muma was stubborn and Sicily was out of bounds.

Tess thought back to the few details she’d managed to glean over the years. Her mother’s family had lived in a small cottage, she’d once said, in the grounds of a place called the Grand Villa. That had been owned by an Englishman, hadn’t it? Could that be the Edward Westerman mentioned in her letter? She did the sums. Edward Westerman – if he was that man – had lived to a ripe old age.

But why would he ...? She paused to empty her shoes of tiny pebbles; it wasn’t easy to negotiate Chesil Beach in heels, even though Tess was used to it. She headed back to the harbour, past the bright, tacky kiosks selling fish ‘n’ chips, candy floss and ice cream, and past the fishing boats with their nets hanging out to dry, the scent of the gutted fish ripe and heady in the air. Pride Bay, despite its name, had little to show off about. But it was part of her childhood, and it was home. Best of all for Tess, it was by the sea. And the sea was in her blood – she was addicted to it.

She mentally replayed the contents of the letter on the way back to the car, and as soon as she was sitting in the driver’s seat of her Fiat 500, she retrieved it, smoothed it open and reached for her mobile. One way to find out.

"This is Teresa Angel," she said to the woman who answered. "You wrote to me."

Tess drove back to work on autopilot, the still-fresh phone conversation running through her mind. This was the kind of thing that could change your life, wasn’t it? But ... She paused. She was thirty-nine years old; she wasn’t sure she even wanted change. Change could be scary. Her daughter’s life was changing fast and she found that hard enough to handle – after all, what if Ginny went to university hundreds of miles away and then emigrated to Kathmandu?

But on the other hand ... What would happen if her life stayed the same? What if her lover Robin never left his cold and fragile wife Helen, as he kept promising to? What if she had to work for the rest of her life dealing with complaints at the water company. It was inconceivable.

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Rosanna Ley
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