Excerpt from 'Come Away with Me'

I haven’t had a holiday for ages. I mean you can’t count that trip to Paris last year, when it rained every day and Ryan and I spent the whole time arguing about where to go. Recently I’d been passing most of my time at the office, so this could be the perfect chance for a break, sunshine and perhaps a few cocktails.

This idea was then replaced by a mental image of a boat filled with elderly people shuffling around a wave-lashed deck on their Zimmer frames.

And finally I registered the utter horror that would be going on holiday with my sister.

India looked at Jerry and then at me. From her expression I think she was thinking much the same.

‘You’ll love it. And who knows, Alexa might find herself a nice chap to bring to the wedding. You can treat it as your hen weekend, although it’s longer than a weekend obviously. A hen holiday,’ Mum announced proudly, seeming to think it was all settled.

‘How long?’

‘Twelve days.’

‘What! We can’t both take twelve days off!’ I said.

India’s gaze flicked hopefully between Dad and me. ‘Can we?’

Considering it was only August and India had already taken two days out of next year’s holiday allowance, I thought it was unlikely too.

Dad had it all worked out. ‘I’ll get Charlie Smith-Rivers from the Exeter office to pop in.’

‘But twelve days?’ I said, thinking how much I hated Charlie Smith-Rivers who always swanned around pretending he knew more than everyone else in the room. And nothing was ever in the right place when he left.

Twelve consecutive days with India. I hadn’t spent much time with her outside of work for ages and I was barely managing to get through this lunch as it was.

‘Well that’s how long the cruise is.’

‘Where are we going?’ India said.

‘You fly in to New York. Then board the Reine de France, sail up the East Coast to Halifax and then back to Southampton across the Atlantic.’ Mum read out the itinerary from her phone.

‘Wow,’ India breathed, her blue eyes wide.

The mental image of the elderly Zimmer walkers faded and was replaced by one of glamorous fur-swathed Hollywood stars, politicians and Princess Margaret complete with cigarette holder. It was quite possible Noël Coward was playing the piano too in one of the cocktail lounges. I don’t know why but I seemed to have slipped back several decades.

‘That’s really generous,’ I said trying to concentrate on something other than absolute panic at being on board a ship, in the middle of the ocean with my sister. Think of the shoes, I told myself, the evening dresses (I’d have to buy some new ones), gala dinners and sparkly things. Really, given the chance, I can be pathetically shallow.

India leapt up and wrapped her arms around Mum’s shoulders.

‘Mum, can I borrow your turquoise evening bag, the one with the beads?’ she wheedled.

You see? She’s no better. I was about to ask the same thing. Perhaps we still have something in common after all?

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Come Away with Me