When Holly breaks up with her boyfriend Dean, she’s at a loss as to what to do next. But things go from bad to worse when her beloved grandmother Ivy dies – and Holly is left in charge of sorting out Ivy’s house and garden.
As she sorts through her grandmother’s belongings and makes her way through the wilderness outside, Holly soon finds that there is more to Ivy than meets the eye, and uncovers a surprising family secret that changes everything…
I always trusted Ivy’s good sense above anyone else’s – except perhaps during those turbulent teen years when we fought as much as any parent and kid. She was a great mix of gentleness, modesty and steely inner strength, and I knew her better than anyone alive.
But now she’s gone . . .
I dig my nails into my palms until it hurts.
My grandma was special. I was so lucky to have had her in my life.
Actually, I never thought of her as ‘Grandma’. I always called her Ivy because, in reality, she was far more than just a grandmother; she was Mum, Dad and grandparent all rolled into one.
She scooped me up when I was four years old, after my parents died, and took us off to live in Manchester. Goodness knows why she chose Manchester. I once asked her why on earth she abandoned her beloved Moonbeam Cottage in the tiny village of Appleton to bring me to a big city where we knew no-one at all. She just laughed, tweaked my nose and said, ‘Isn’t that what fresh starts are all about, my lover?’
Ivy missed Mum so much – I’d hear her crying at night when she thought I was asleep – but she never ever dwelled on the day of the accident, at least not in my presence. She always said she preferred to look forward, taking me with her on our exciting ride into the future.
As a child, I piggy-backed on her zest for life; she never let fear get in the way of having an adventure – even though, on a supermarket check-out/school cleaner’s wage, the height of her walk on the wild side was our annual trip to the lights and magic of Blackpool.
Patty takes hold of my hands. ‘You don’t have to feel guilty about selling Ivy’s cottage, you know.’
I nod, unable to speak.
‘Would you want to live in Appleton? In the heart of the countryside?’ she asks gently.
‘No!’ My insides shift queasily at the thought. Visiting Ivy there occasionally I could cope with. But live in Appleton? With all the painful associations I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to push from my mind?
‘Look, love, Ivy just wanted you to be happy. She would be right behind you, whether you sold the cottage, rented it out or turned it into a refuge centre for cow-pat-hating city girls like you.’
I attempt a smile. It’s not the cow pats that are the problem, but I know that, in essence, Patty’s right. Ivy would have loved me to go with her when she moved back to the Cotswolds after she retired. But she understood that my fear of the countryside ran too deep for that. Ivy knew, as no-one else does, that the reason I cling tightly to my life here in the city is because I need to block out the past. It was why Ivy came to visit me in Manchester all the time. She wanted to make things easier for me. (Only rarely did I summon up the courage to go back to Appleton to visit her, and when I did, I could never totally relax.)
Selling Moonbeam Cottage really is my only option. I can’t drag my feet any longer. It’s now April, four whole months since Ivy died, and I’ve been putting off my trip down to the Cotswolds for far too long.