And the day has finally arrived. The Granville Legacy has made its entrance into the world and completes the House of Grace trilogy. The trilogy runs from the 1950s to late 1980s and the story covers romance, family conflict, fashion and tragedy.
Taster – Opening Chapter of The Granville Legacy – The formatting has been a little messed up on here – but don’t worry, it isn’t in the book.
20th December 1980
I put my hands over my ears to drown out the girls screaming as they raced around me. Annalise might’ve only been five but she made an awful lot of noise. She and her sister, Lori, were fighting over the last Christmas bauble.
Vikki clapped her hands. ‘Stop it. Both of you.’ She turned to me shaking her head. ‘You have to be firmer with them, Uncle George.’
I laughed at the little madam. Vikki, at ten, could be precocious at times, but she was right, I wasn’t strict enough with the girls. They knew they could behave like little monkeys with me and get away with it.
Granville Hall’s tradition was to have people in to decorate the Christmas tree but I’d insisted it was my job and foolishly had allowed my young sisters and niece to assist. I was fast regretting that decision. ‘In that case’ – I held the golden bauble up in the air – ‘I think it’s time Vikki had a turn.’
‘No. It’s not fair. Please, George, let me.’ Annalise gave me her pleading smile.
‘Not this time, young lady. You and Lori have done enough.’
Lori folded her arms. ‘George is right. It’s only fair Vikki has a turn.’
Vikki took the glass ball from my hand and hung it from an empty branch on the tree. ‘There.’ She twirled around. ‘Doesn’t that look pretty? Can we carry on playing our game now, please? Hurry up, Annalise, it’s your go.’
I picked up Tinkerbell. Although a bit tatty, and showing her age, she meant more to me than any of the shiny baubles. The lone survivor from my childhood Christmases at our two-up two-down terraced house in Wintermore. I was overwhelmed last year when Grace presented the wrapped fairy to me a week before Christmas Eve. It was like having a piece of Da with me. I could still see him placing Tinkerbell on the top of the tree. Afterwards, Mam, Alice and I would clap. Although I was only nine when he died, that memory was precious. My Da the coal miner. Now here I was, Lord of the Hall, not that I wanted the title. George Gilmore suited me fine.
Annalise jumped up off the floor. ‘Tinkerbell. Hurray. Lift me up so I can put her on the top.’
‘No, Annalise,’ I said firmly. ‘Go back to your game.’
She wiped her hand across her eyes. ‘But I want to put Tinkerbell on the tree.’
Lori pushed her sister out of the way. ‘Well, you can’t. If anyone’s doing it, then it’s me. I’m the eldest and I’d like to put the fairy on the tree, please, George.’
‘You’re only two years older than me.’ Annalise smacked Lori across the arm.
Lori screamed and slapped her sister back.
‘Stop fighting.’ I looked to Vikki who smiled her approval. ‘Neither of you are doing it because I’m waiting for Grace.’
‘How come you call Mummy, Grace?’ Lori asked.
‘I just do.’
‘I’ll tell you one day when you’re older. Now go and play.’
Lori grabbed Vikki’s hand. ‘Let’s finish our game.’
Snow was lighting on the window, a deep curtain forming, and it was covering the ground. I willed Grace and Adriéne to arrive soon. They were due back an hour ago.
‘George, Lori’s being mean.’ Annalise was crying again. Grace would say it was excitement.
I sighed. ‘Play nicely.’ Hurry up, Grace. Whatever possessed me to offer to look after these three? And where was Alice? My sister was being a pain. She’d been gone ages. ‘Let her play with you,’ I said firmly to Lori and Vikki.
‘We are but she’s throwing a tantrum because she got knocked off. Look.’ Vikki pointed towards the fireplace. ‘She chucked her blue counter across the room.’
‘Annalise.’ I rolled my eyes.
Annalise screamed and threw herself on the floor, kicking her legs. As soon as Alice came back in, I’d get her to call Annie to watch them, I was worn out. Too bad Vikki’s nanny had the day off when Elizabeth and Simon, Vikki’s mother and father, had gone down to cousin Victoria’s. With Grace and Adriéne joining them, Alice had volunteered us to watch over the girls but where was Alice?
Sniffling, Annalise stood up and tugged on my shirt. ‘Please let me do Tinkerbell, George, then I’ll be good. I promise.’
‘No, I told you. I promised Grace we’d wait.’
Annalise’s mouth dropped and she started crying again.
Alice charged into the room. ‘George, quick.’
I rushed over to the doorway. Alice’s face had paled. ‘What is it?’
‘It’s Mum.’ She sobbed.
Lori was up off the floor and standing next to me. ‘What about Mum? And what’s wrong with Alice?’
‘Nothing for you to worry about,’ I said. ‘Vikki, be a big girl and watch Annalise and Lori for me, while I speak to Alice.’
She nodded and became a little mother. ‘Come on, let’s go and play house.’ She took both Lori and Annalise’s hands and they skipped across the room.
‘Her and Adriéne…’
‘Whatever it is, Alice, take your time. Tell me what’s happened.’
She breathed quickly. ‘… a car crash.’
‘Are they both okay?’
‘I don’t know. They’ve taken them to Golden Oak Hospital. Oh, George, what happens if she dies?’
‘Let’s not think like that.’ I put my arms around my sister. ‘Listen, can you find Annie or Joan and ask one of them to come and watch the girls so we can get to the hospital?’
‘I’ll try.’ She sobbed, shaking.
In next to no time both Annie and Joan were in the room. ‘You get off George,’ Joan said, ‘Annie and I can manage the children between us.’
‘Thank you, Joan. I’ll ring from the hospital as soon as we know what’s going on.’
‘Girls,’ I called, ‘we’ve got to pop out to buy some more presents to go under the tree. Joan and Annie are going to look after you.’
‘Hurray.’ Lori jumped up and down.
‘Be good. All of you.’ I kissed the girls on the cheek, one by one. Taking a deep breath to calm my banging chest, I left the room.
The chauffeur pulled up outside Accident and Emergency. Alice and I stepped out of the Rolls.
‘Would you like me to wait, Sir?’ he asked.
‘Yes please, Eric. Why not park up and pop inside for a hot drink? It’s too cold to sit out here.’ The snow had stopped but it was still bitter.
‘Thank you, Sir.’
Alice and I rushed through the entrance. A receptionist looked up as I approached the desk. ‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘our mother, Grace Gilmore and her husband have been brought in following a car crash. Where will we find them?’
‘Let me check.’ She ran her finger down a ledger. ‘Grace Gilmore you say?’
‘She may be down as Grace Ardant,’ I added.
‘Ah, yes. We have an Adriéne and Grace Ardant. I’ll get someone to show you where to go.’ She called to a porter, ‘Matt, can you show Mr and Mrs Ardant’s family to the relatives’ room please?’
‘Certainly.’ He whipped across to where we were standing. ‘Come this way.’ We followed him along the corridor and through a set of swing doors. He pushed another door open. ‘If you’d like to wait in here the doctor will come and tell you what’s going on.’
‘Thank you,’ I said. Alice said nothing.
The hospital had tried to make the place homely. A red poinsettia brightened up the windowsill and a stack of magazines lay on the small coffee table.
‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ I asked Alice, signalling to the buzzing vending machine lighting up a small corner of the room.
She shook her head and paced up and down. ‘I just want to know what’s happened to Mum.’
I flicked through the magazines. ‘Here, Alice, there’s a Look-in. Something about Paul McCartney. Sit down and have a browse. I’m sure Grace and Adriéne will be fine.’
Alice snatched the magazine out of my hand sending it flying. ‘I’m not interested in the bloody magazine. What’s the matter with you? Aren’t you worried?’
‘Of course I’m worried.’ I picked the pages off the floor. ‘But one of us has to hold it together. Look at you, you’re no good to anyone like that. Grace isn’t going to want to see you in that state.’
The door creaked open.
‘Why don’t you both sit down?’ The doctor led us to the couch and chairs, not meeting our eyes. With a serious expression he fiddled with the chart.
‘Are they okay?’ Alice asked.
‘Sit down please, Miss…’
‘Gilmore,’ I said.
‘I’ll get a nurse to get you some tea. But first…’
‘Please just tell us,’ I said.
Alice gripped my hand. ‘Please let them be okay.’
‘I’m sorry to have to tell you that Mr Ardant died at the scene.’
‘Oh my God.’ I turned to Alice.
She screamed. ‘No. Not Adriéne. George…’
Shaking, I looked up at the doctor. ‘And Grace?’
‘Your mother suffered a head injury but she’s conscious. We’ve sent her to X-ray as a precaution and we’ll know more once the results are back. From the police reports I’m surprised that she got out alive. Someone will come and let you know when she’s back on the ward.’ He patted Alice’s arm. ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ The doctor left us alone.
‘Poor Adriéne,’ I said, ‘he was such a good man.’ I thought back to that Christmas Eve when he’d asked my permission to marry Grace before proposing. A kind man who made her happy and a great stepfather to me and Alice. How would Grace cope without him?
Alice blew her nose. ‘Do you think Mum will be okay?’
I hugged my sister. ‘I hope so.’
After what seemed an age a nurse came through the door. ‘Mrs Ardant’s relatives?’
‘Yes, I’m her son.’
‘Your mother’s back on the ward. You can come and see her now.’
‘Thank you.’ Alice gripped my sleeve jacket.
We followed the nurse down the corridor and into a side room.
‘Mum.’ Alice rushed over to Grace.
‘Grace.’ I kissed her grazed, bruised cheek making her wince. ‘Do you remember what happened?’
‘The car skidded. Adriéne clung on to the wheel trying to keep control. A lorry. I remember a lorry. There was so much blood, on me, but worse for Adriéne. Blood was running down from his head.’ Grace sobbed into her handkerchief.
I squeezed her hand. ‘I’m so sorry, Grace.’
The doctor came into the room. ‘Mrs Ardant, I’m pleased to say the x-ray shows no sign of a bleed on the brain but we’d like to keep you in overnight to check for concussion.’ He turned to me. ‘I think you and your sister should allow your mother to rest. If all is well she can be discharged tomorrow.’
‘Thank you.’ I let go of Grace’s hand. ‘We need to go now but we’ll see you tomorrow.’ I brushed my lips gently against her forehead.
‘Bye, Mum,’ Alice said. ‘Don’t worry about the girls. George and I can cope and Elizabeth will be back shortly.’ She kissed Grace lightly on her cheek.
Grace was sitting up in bed staring into space when I arrived at the hospital the next day.
‘Have they discharged you yet?’ I asked.
‘I’m still waiting for the doctor. Who’s with the girls?’
‘Annie and Alice. Alice wanted to come but I said it didn’t take two of us.’
Grace pressed her temples.
‘Are you in pain?’
‘Have they given you any painkillers?’
‘They offered but I didn’t want anything.’
‘But if it helps… Oh look, here’s the doctor now.’
It was a different doctor today. This one was older. He looked over his spectacles at Grace’s chart. ‘How are you feeling today, Mrs Ardant?’
‘As well as can be expected.’
‘I’m sorry to hear about your husband.’
‘How do you feel about going home?’
‘I’d rather be there than here.’
‘Good because I’m about to discharge you.’
‘Is there any follow up required?’ I asked.
‘Just watch out for any signs of vomiting, dizziness or memory loss.’
‘She said she’s in pain. Should she be taking anything?’
‘Don’t fuss, George.’
‘I can see you’re looking out for your mother. Paracetamol if she needs something.’
‘Thank you,’ I answered.
The doctor signed the paperwork. ‘Once the nurse arrives, Mrs Ardant, you’re free to go.’ He shook Grace’s hand.
A nurse pushed a wheelchair into the room.
‘Ah, here she is now. Nurse will escort you to your car. Good day.’ The doctor left.
‘Did you bring some clothes for your mother?’ the nurse asked.
I lifted a canvas backpack from the floor. ‘Everything’s in here.’
‘If you’d like to wait outside while she gets dressed.’
‘Certainly. I’ll pop out and make sure the driver’s ready.’ I walked out of the room, along the corridor, downstairs, and towards the main entrance. Eric was standing outside by the Rolls, smoking. I gave him a thumbs up. He raised his hand to confirm he’d seen me and stubbed out his cigarette. Checking my watch, I rushed back to Grace just as the nurse was pushing her out of the ward in a wheelchair.
Grace protested. ‘I said I can walk.’
‘Hospital policy I’m afraid.’
‘Don’t give the nurse grief, Grace. Let her do her job and we’ll be home in time for lunch.’
I walked alongside the nurse as she wheeled Grace along the corridor, into a lift and through the exit to where Eric was waiting by the car with the rear door open. He helped Grace into the back seat.
‘Take care, Mrs Ardant.’ The nurse looked at me pointedly.
‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘I’ll take good care of her.’ I climbed in next to Grace.
‘Why do these awful things keep happening to me, George? As soon as I find happiness it’s stolen away. What have I done to deserve it?’ She cried on my shoulder as the driver pulled away and drove us home.
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Paperback release 25th March 2021