I’m so pleased to be part of the celebrations for Before You Go by Clare Swatman. Before You Go is published by Pan MacMillan on 9th February 2017 and is available for purchase through all good book sellers and the publisher links here.
To celebrate the publication of Before You Go I have a smashing extract to share.
Before You Go
When Zoe’s husband Ed dies, her world caves in. But what if Zoe can get Ed back?
You find your soulmate . . .
Some people stare love in the face for years before they find it. Zoe and Ed fumbled their way into adulthood, both on different paths – but always in the same direction. Years later, having navigated dead-end jobs and chaotic house shares, romance finally blossoms. Their future together looks set . . .
Then the unthinkable happens.
One morning, on his way to work, Ed is knocked off his bike and dies. Now Zoe must find a way to survive. But she’s not ready to let go of the memories. How can she forget all of the happy times, their first kiss, everything they’d built together? Zoe decides she has to tell Ed all the things she never said.
Now it’s too late. Or is it?
An Extract from Before You Go
I grab the windowsill to steady myself as a memory floats into my mind. It must have been about eighteen months before this day: our last day of university, and the last time I’d seen him. We’d got through to the end of the four years at university sharing a house, and I’d learned just to bury any feelings I had for him. He never had a girlfriend for more than a month and, although it broke my heart seeing him with other girls, I learned to close my heart to it, smother my feelings and stay friends with him. Friends, I decided, was better than nothing.
When we left university we all agreed – and meant it – that we’d see each other all the time. The trouble was, life got in the way. I’d had to move back home to Doncaster for a few months to earn some money. Living with Mum and Dad and Becky again had been fine, but I longed to make the move I’d always planned down to London.
Finally, a year ago, in March 1998, Jane and I had scraped together enough cash to make the move, and although we were skint, we loved every minute of it.
There was just one thing that had bothered me. I hadn’t heard from any of the boys since we’d left the house. In my heart I’d expected it from Rob and Simon – I knew what boys were like about keeping in touch, at the best of times – but the radio silence from Ed had been harder to deal with. Not having him in my life should have been easier, should have given my heart the chance to get over him and move on. And to some extent it had. But the truth was, I missed him. I missed his laugh, I missed his face and most of all I missed the way he teased me mercilessly.
‘Just ring his mum, find out where he is,’ Jane said when I told her how I was feeling. But there was no way I was doing that. I’d just have to hope that fate would bring us together again.
‘Fate?’ Jane rolled her eyes. ‘You make your own fate. Just ring him and stop being so lame.’
But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, and so it’s now eighteen months since I last spoke to him, and I still have no idea where he is.
Except, I realize with a jolt, I do know exactly where he is. And I know exactly when I’m going to speak to him next. I glance at the clock. In just a few hours, if all goes the same as it did last time.
My heart leaps with excitement. But at the same time I feel a crushing sense of disappointment deep in my chest. Because if I’m right it means that, despite my best efforts to make a difference this time, nothing has changed at all; things are still exactly as they always were. Ed and I are still not together; at least, not yet.
I turn to open the fridge and pull some milk out. I sniff it. It seems OK and I splash some into my tea, squeeze the teabag out and go back to my desk. A girl I used to sit next to has arrived. As I walk across the office I try desperately to think of her name.
‘Morning,’ I mumble, sitting down at my computer, hoping she won’t drag me into conversation.
‘Hi, Zoe,’ she says. ‘You OK?’
‘Yeah, good, thanks.’ Then I remember to be polite. ‘You?’
‘Yeah, great. Bit of a late one, though, I need coffee.’ She grins. ‘Want one?’
‘No, I’m fine, thanks.’ I hold up my cup sheepishly. ‘Sorry.’ She grins, leaps up then mercifully disappears into the kitchen, giving me the chance to work out what I’m meant to be doing today.
The morning passes surprisingly quickly. I find what I’ve been working on, Madeline announces my new position, and everyone congratulates me. I make polite small talk without engaging in anything too deep and meaningful. And then it’s lunchtime. I need a sandwich but I’m also waiting hopefully for the phone to ring. I sit drumming my fingers impatiently on the desk.
And then it peals out and I almost fall off my chair.
I pick it up, my hand shaking.
‘Hello, could you tell me who I need to speak to about water coolers, please?’ The voice is deep and familiar and it sends a warm buzz down my spine. I try to stay polite, make the conversation seem normal.
‘I’m afraid you need to speak to Lizzie, the secretary, but she’s not here at the moment.’ My voice is wobbly but he doesn’t seem to notice.
‘Do you know when she’ll be back?’
‘Ed, is that you?’
He pauses, clearly suspicious.
‘Ed, it’s Zoe. Morgan,’ I add, just in case.
‘Oh my God, it’s you!’ he says. He sounds happy, at least. ‘I can’t believe it!’
‘Me neither. How are you?’
‘I’m good, really good,’ he says, and I can picture him, nodding his head as he speaks. ‘How about you? How have you been?’
‘Great. I just got a new job today.’
‘Thanks, I’m really chuffed.’ I stop, not sure what to say next. The silence stretches, waiting to be filled, and I’m sure he can hear my heart hammering from the other end of the phone line.
‘Where are you?’
‘London. Brixton,’ he adds. ‘What about you?’
‘Camden right now. I live in Tufnell Park, though. With Jane.’
‘Do you now? Gosh, last time I saw her she was snogging the face off anything that moved.’
‘Jane never did that!’
‘She did do that. Oh, except not with me.’ He pauses, embarrassed. ‘Surprised she didn’t snog you, to be honest.’
‘Cheeky sod. No, Jane’s great, we love our flat. It’s fun living together and we love living in London too, even though it took us a while to get down here; but now it’s great and . . .’ I stop, aware I’m rambling, but trying to fill the silence.
‘Sounds terrific.’ Ed pauses and when he speaks again his voice sounds unsteady, unsure of himself for the first time. ‘I was thinking, maybe we could meet up? Go for a drink?’
Static crackles down the line and I can hear him breathing. The silence stretches out and I feel a throbbing at my temple.
‘Um, maybe, I’m sure you’re not free, but, well, how about tonight?’
I smile. He sounds terrified, so I answer quickly. ‘That would be nice.’
‘Yes, nice. What’s wrong with nice?’
‘Well, it’s just a bit – ’ he pauses – ‘tame.’
‘Well, OK then, that would be lovely. Smashing. Brilliant. Better?’
‘Good. So, er, where do you want to go?’
‘Soho any good?’
‘Perfect. How about seven?’
‘Seven it is. Meet you at the Shakespeare’s Head, at the top of Carnaby Street.’
‘OK, great. See you later.’ And before he can change his mind I put the phone down, my pulse racing. It was so good to talk to him that I feel like a teenager again, giddy with excitement and possibility. I still have no idea what’s going on but it seems clear I’m reliving days that involve Ed, or more specifically me and Ed: the day we met, seeing him with someone else after our first kiss – I never have any idea whether this will be the last day I get to see him, and so I have to make the most of it. There’s got to be something I can change.
About Clare Swatman
Clare Swatman is a journalist for a number of weekly women’s magazines. Clare was Features Editor for Bella and has written for Best, Woman’s Own and Real People. She writes for her local magazine as well as the travel pages for Take a Break. Clare lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two boys.
Before You Go is her first novel, and she’s busy working on her second.
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