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ALL THAT IS LOST BETWEEN US First published in Australia in 2016 by Simon & Schuster (Australia) Pty Limited Suite 19A, Level 1, 450 Miller Street, Cammeray, NSW 2062 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 A CBS Company Sydney New York London Toronto New Delhi Visit our website at www.simonandschuster.com.au © Sara Foster 2016 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the publisher. National Library of Australia Cataloguing-­in-­Publication entry Creator: Foster, Sara, 1976-­author. Title: All That is Lost Between Us/Sara Foster. ISBN: 9781925184785 (paperback) 9781925184792 (ebook) Subjects: Family secrets – Fiction. Domestic fiction. Dewey Number: A823.4 Cover design: Christabella Designs Cover image: Adam Burton/Getty Images Typeset by Midland Typesetters, Australia Printed and bound in Australia by Griffin Press The paper this book is printed on is certified against the Forest Stewardship Council® Standards. Griffin Press holds FSC chain of custody certification SGS-COC-005088. FSC promotes environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests.

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Prologue

GEORGIA

I

t was only a memory now. The three of them, walking along the dark, narrow lane. The awkward silence that lingered in their footsteps. The phone buzzing insistently in her pocket. They had been there just a few hours ago, but already it had become a distant recollection of a time when their lives travelled in a neat, straight line. Georgia could see them vividly without needing to close her eyes – hear the tread of their shoes on the deserted road, feel the chilly late-­September wind toying with her hair, a contrast to the warmth of her right hand, wrapped within Danny’s. They hadn’t known that they were sleepwalkers, unaware of what headed towards them, until it was too late. Until all Georgia could see was darkness, before the minutes snuck in and made an unbridgeable gap of time, and it was impossible to go back and change anything. ‘You can take my car,’ her mother had volunteered at dinnertime, when Georgia’s friend Bethany had called and

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invited her over. Georgia knew she should have welcomed the offer. She was usually keen to practise driving, so proud of her brand-­new licence, and Bethany’s house was in Ambleside, a few miles away down a steep and winding road. But no, she wanted to walk; she would cut through the woods. She didn’t add that she also wanted to drink – Bethany’s parents were away again, and Bethany thought there was enough alcohol in the house that a few knock-­offs wouldn’t be noticed. Georgia wouldn’t drink too much, though, she had decided as she ran upstairs to get ready, because tonight she planned to confess everything to her cousin Sophia. It wasn’t so much that she needed to get things off her chest, but rather that she was hoping to close the gap that had opened between the two of them since the summer. Sophia and Georgia had been best friends since they were babies, but for the first time things were coming between them. It had been fine until Sophia went away on holiday, but by the time she got back Georgia had a secret – one so immense she could hardly believe it was contained inside her, because it also seemed to be out there in the world, waiting for her everywhere she went, adding its own slant on all that she did. So harmless at first, it had become a burden she couldn’t carry alone. Her brain was increasingly tuned to this one frequency, a relentless, questioning chatter she couldn’t clear. She was hoping it was that which had caused the chasm between her and Sophia, because for the first time in her life she felt she was losing her best mate. It was only little things that bothered her, but she didn’t know if they added up to something bigger. When Bethany had called she had let slip that she had been with Sophia that morning. And yes, Sophia already knew about the party. x

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Georgia was trying not to be possessive, but what had they been doing together, and why hadn’t they included her? Sophia had had all afternoon to call and tell her, but she hadn’t. Why? The secret she had been so nervous about sharing suddenly felt like the ace up her sleeve. Instead of finding excuses to stay home, as she had been doing regularly since term started, she had agreed to go. Then she had messaged Sophia. I need to talk to you. Her phone buzzed seconds later. OK. Georgia had slipped the phone into her pocket once she’d seen the reply. If this didn’t get Sophia’s attention, then there was definitely something strange going on. It hadn’t taken long for Georgia to get ready – it was too cold for anything except skinny jeans and her beloved parka – and then it was just a matter of getting past her parents without any more probing questions about who was going and what time she would be home. But her father had already gone out, and since Georgia had turned seventeen her mother had slackened the maternal reins a little further. So, she was able to announce her departure and head confidently towards the door, only pausing out of courtesy while her mother added the predictable, ‘Don’t forget it’s a school night.’ Once outside, Georgia had stopped to breathe in the cool evening air, while she tried to steady her nerves. The family home was on the outskirts of the tiny Lake District village of Fellmere, situated at just the point where the hillside settlements petered out and the untamed countryside took over. Autumn had already visited their front garden, and the plants were mostly bare, bent branches. A mole had kicked up a few mounds of dirt in the grass as he tunnelled his way through, xi

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and everything was covered in leaves. Her father’s rake stood rusting against the wall. Eventually, Georgia took a long, deep breath and set off. She regularly turned towards the hills at this time of day, on a late-­afternoon run, but this evening, for once, she set her back to them and headed for the woodland path. The rough track was well worn by tourists and Fellmere locals, although at this time of year the increasing rain and first fall of leaves could make the journey slippery. Along the way, a few benches were situated at the finest viewpoints over the valley, where you could look south across Lake Windermere and west towards the Langdales. ‘These are the places that have made poets fall to their knees in wonder,’ Georgia’s English teacher had said last year, when they made a trek up Haystacks, a popular mountain in the Buttermere Valley, in search of inspiration for an essay project. It had been a sweeping reference to the many fells and mountains and valleys that belonged to the Lake District, and Georgia could already feel that reverence growing within her. Even the best oil paintings and watercolours seemed stifled by their two dimensions when she could stand on a summit and turn a complete circle of glorious panoramas, bear witness to nature’s careful brushstrokes in infinite degrees. Not only that, but the scenery was preternatural, apt for more change in moments than millennia, thanks to the continuous interventions of the weather. White clouds could drop deep shadows into the greenest valley, while their darker storm cousins could turn the entire scene grey and violent in seconds. Yet with one quick kiss from a benevolent sun, every colour and surface in the landscape would be repainted with rich golden hues, sending idle photographers scrambling for tripods and timers. xii

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Georgia’s love of her surroundings had deepened in the past few years, thanks to fell-­running. It was a sport unlike any other – competitive racing through this ever-­changing mountainous terrain that might see her scrabbling up grassy banks, balancing along jagged rocky summits, negotiating waterfalls and sliding down scree slopes. It was racing that might take hours – even days, at the most competitive levels – and required her to pack water, sustenance, wet-­weather gear, a map, a compass and a whistle. It was an activity that challenged her body and cleared her mind while nature pushed her to her limits and called her as witness to its treasures – from the tiny songbirds and shy red squirrels that hid in the forests, to the vast rocky peaks that shone like steel above verdant valleys shimmering in sunshine. Georgia trained as often as she could – the school fell-­ running championships would take place in two days’ time, and she was on the verge of breaking records. As a result, she knew the woods intimately, and yet they seemed to change along with her mood. When she was running, it was the lush colours and patterns she noticed most – the emerald moss that crawled and settled over everything from the rocks to the trees; the crowds of ferns with their intricate tips curled into themselves as tightly as the fists of newborn babes. Clusters of bright flowers peeked shyly from arbitrary points along the way, sometimes springing up recklessly on the path so she had to jump over them as she ran. And at the right time of year the bluebells took over their own section of the forest, laying a pretty carpet between the trees that mirrored the spring skies. But on nights like tonight, the woods were an annoyance – one long stepping stone between Georgia and the social life of town. On these occasions there always seemed a root xiii

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ready to trip her, or a stick poking out from an errant branch, eager to snag her clothes and slow her down. There were a number of diverging pathways that meand­ ered and re-­met at various points, but the main one was hundreds of years old, beginning as stepping stones in the long grass, before it widened as it wound down to the town, eventually joining an ancient horse-­ and-­ cart track before meeting the main road. Her parents were fine with her walking this way in daylight but reluctant to let her venture here on her own after dark. When she was younger, her dad had sometimes taken Georgia and her brother Zac on the tracks late in the evening, armed with torches, hoping to spot owls. They had studied the birds’ pellets on the woodland floor, and sat for hours listening for the squeaky warbling and hooting calls, but it was a rare treat to spy a tawny owl on the branch of a tree, and one that lasted only seconds, for they took off as soon as the torchlight came near them. Back then, Georgia had thought that grown-­ups weren’t scared of anything, but now here she was, on the cusp of adulthood, and there was more fear in her than she could ever recall having as a child. As she reached the corpse stone, her step quickened. Some locals called this part of the track the corpse road, others the spirit road, but whatever you knew it as, there was no way around this ancient section of the path, along which people had once carried their dead for miles to ensure their loved ones would be buried in consecrated ground. The corpse stone was a long flat standing stone that had been there for centuries, where coffins could be rested while aching limbs and numb hearts took a moment to rally for the remainder of their journey. She couldn’t walk this stretch without awareness of xiv

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those other vanished footsteps, their heavy burden in those final acts of love. The local kids had all heard the rumours connected with this short stretch of track: the strange lights that floated close to the ground, a ghostly hand stroking a cheek or an arm. Some said that the way was lined with the souls of the departed, a drifting, lingering guard of honour on those lonely tracks. It was a rite of passage to leave your friends hiding behind an ancestral oak tree, from whose stout lichen-­ clothed trunk emerged a mass of taut and twisted fingers that reached for the sky. Alone, you would stand on the track past the corpse stone, switch off your torch and let the darkness claim you, while someone set a stopwatch to see how long it would take you to run screaming towards the safety of the living. Georgia had stayed longer than most, because her stubbornness had nearly outlasted her terror – but she still remembered how her legs had trembled and how loud her heart had drummed in her ears. After half an hour she was relieved to see the beginning of the bitumen path, which took over from the dirt and began to descend rapidly, leaving the ghosts behind. On a school day she would take the right-­hand fork halfway along, and follow it for another few hundred metres, where she would join the short stretch of track that the school had commandeered as part of its team’s regular running route. However, tonight she was heading for town, so she continued down the steep path until she met the road. The journey so far was a little over a mile, and Georgia spent the time thinking of him. After all that had happened over the past weeks she didn’t even want to name him in her mind, as though if she denied him this he would have less substance in her life. But she wasn’t fooling xv

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herself, and so she was deep in troubled thoughts for most of the way. It was a surprise when she zigzagged between the metal poles that marked the entrance from the main road, and found herself on the outskirts of Ambleside. Her phone buzzed. Sophia. Where are you? Nearly there, she typed back, quickening her pace. It was only a short walk to cross to the southern side of town. The evening was still light as she passed a few huddles of late shoppers and early drinkers, before heading along the old Vicarage Road that bridged town and country to the west, finally taking a shortcut through a playground and a field to reach the quiet lane where Bethany lived. ‘Georgie!’ Bethany said, flinging her arms around her as soon as she saw Georgia at the door, as though they had been parted for months and not mere hours since the end of school. ‘Come in, everyone’s here.’ The living room was busy already, and as usual the girls were outnumbered. A group of boys Georgia didn’t know were having a hyperactive discussion in one corner, while a few more lounged on sofas, drinks in hand. She glanced at the armchair in the corner and recognised Poppy Matthews by her long, red hair but couldn’t see the rest of her, since her face was already attached to Jared Elton’s, and they were going at it like a pair of sucker fish. On the coffee table Oliver Sutton and Jamie Clegg were busy cutting up something that she was pretty sure was contraband in Bethany’s home. ‘Georgia!’ Sophia was waving from across the room, but to Georgia’s dismay she was sitting on Eddie Miles’s lap and made no move to get up. Bethany tugged on Georgia’s arm – ‘Come on, let’s get you a drink’ – and all her plans of a heart-­to-­heart with her xvi

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cousin had to be put aside. Instead she followed Bethany to the kitchen and watched her fill a shot glass with vodka. ‘Here,’ Bethany handed it over and Georgia took a large gulp. Her stomach contracted at the taste, steeling itself. Georgia grimaced, but Bethany was grinning at her. ‘Drink up,’ she said, ‘there’s plenty more.’ Georgia downed the drink, and only once she was holding a tumbler of vodka and l­emonade was she led back into the living room. ‘Move up, move up,’ Bethany said to Oliver Sutton, who was now lolling on the sofa, legs spread and eyes closed. When he didn’t budge, Bethany sat down heavily on his lap. He came to life with a gasp, folding in on himself, and Bethany managed to jump to her feet again quickly, narrowly avoiding spilling her drink. ‘Bloody hell, Bethany.’ His eyes were streaked with tiny red veins as he scowled at her, but he shuffled up enough so they could squeeze in next to him. Georgia smiled as she took a seat. Bethany wasn’t like the other girls at school – she was able to do things that would have mortified Georgia, like plonking her lunch tray down uninvited at a table full of boys and joining in the conversation. Bethany was a regular at table football in the rec room, pushing her way in to take a turn, yelling and joking as though she were one of the lads, and they all seemed to accept her without question. Perhaps they relaxed with her because she never showed the slightest bit of interest in dating any of them. And perhaps for this reason the girls didn’t find her a threat either – although there could be a few snide comments. Bethany was incapable of taking things to heart, brilliant at laughing at herself in a way Georgia only wished she could be. xvii

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Once on the sofa, Bethany was immediately caught up in another round of banter with Oliver. It went on and on, with no effort to include Georgia, and she began to feel uncomfortable. She was an imposter here – she wasn’t one of them any more. The secret she harboured made sure of that. She finished her drink, feeling morose, and somehow ended up holding another. The night began to ebb. She watched Sophia from across the room, but her cousin hardly noticed her, distracted by the presence of Eddie, all-­round sporting talent and definite school stud. She watched Eddie’s hand rove underneath Sophia’s T-­shirt, sneaking higher and higher, and was surprised and annoyed that Sophia didn’t push him away. She began to feel nervous for her cousin – everyone knew about Eddie. Quite a few of the girls in the year had already been humped and dumped – which was why Emma Osborne was sitting in the farthest corner, biting her lip, pretending to laugh along with the crowd. And then the evening changed again. Georgia began to pay less attention to the hair-­twirling, toe-­curling flirtations of her cousin, because Danny Atherton sat down beside her and began to make her laugh, leaning in close enough that she could see flecks of brown in his large blue eyes. Georgia wasn’t sure what to do about Danny. He was one of the boys at school who made the girls’ eyes linger longest as he strode by. Known for his love of outdoor sports, and excellent at all of them. As far as she knew he had never had a girlfriend and gave no sign of wanting one, larking about with his mates most of the time, until a few weeks ago, at the start of the school year, when he had made a point of seeking Georgia out and asking her lots of questions about the upcoming fell-­ running championships. They were both on the school team, xviii

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so Georgia hadn’t found this strange, until Sophia suggested with a smirk that this was obviously an excuse for him to get closer to her. When he subsequently took a daily interest in her training schedule, and asked if they could run together, Georgia began to wonder if Sophia was right. She had firmly resisted so far, finding a variety of excuses, worried she would run out of them if he kept this up. She didn’t want to tell him the truth: that she had learned her lesson; that she was better off running alone. The situation was particularly ironic since she had been interested in Danny for most of last term – along with half the girls in her year. But the events of the summer had changed everything. Now, each time she saw Danny, his intentions became a little clearer, his approach bolder. He seemed to be waiting for a sign from her, and part of her longed to give it. But although she found Danny kind and attentive, the group he hung around with could be less so. She wasn’t sure she fancied having to spend time with the likes of Oliver and Jamie, who seemed to enjoy baiting people, and who it was rumoured could supply you with any drug you had heard of. Besides, her life had become more complicated than Danny realised. She tried to picture his reaction if she told him her secret. She didn’t like what she saw. Over the summer holidays, the nights spent at Bethany’s house had been riotous – beer and cocktails flowing, a succession of daft games from limbo dancing to hide-­and-­seek, not to mention endless rounds of cards in which money changed hands, and a particularly memorable evening of strip poker that ended with Eddie and Oliver running down the lane naked for a dare. But tonight only half the group had made it, and even though there was plenty of laughter, the evening xix

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felt forced. They all lounged around on the sofas in various poses of exhaustion, and by nine o clock the conversation had grown patchy, the atmosphere subdued. They were the stragglers, each trying to hang on to the carefree feel of the summer holidays, but already, a few weeks into term, the solemn challenges of the year ahead couldn’t be denied. ‘Another drink?’ Danny was asking, but Georgia knew that one more and her head would start to swirl. Saturday’s race was too important for that. She was thinking about heading home when Sophia came over and suggested they walk back together. As they grabbed coats and said their goodbyes, she tried to ignore Danny’s obvious disappointment. And finally, Sophia was beside her, the door closing behind them, and the confession rose to the tip of Georgia’s lips. For a few glorious weeks, having such a secret had felt wild and delicious, making every day a little sweeter. But it was a shape-­shifter, a bubble of trouble lightly fizzing in her hands to begin with, only later revealing itself as a bomb. She couldn’t hold on to it any longer. She couldn’t carry on alone, afraid of what might be about to explode in her face. She had to tell Sophia now. Her heart hammered in anticipation as they set off down the lane. She waited until they were a decent distance from the house, and was just about to start talking, when Sophia turned towards her, her face serious, and took a deep breath. ‘Georgia, I—’ A door slammed and they heard footsteps behind them. A voice shouted, ‘Georgia!’ and she turned to see Danny jogging to catch up. Sophia sighed, rolled her eyes and stomped ahead. Georgia faltered, dismayed as her small window of opportunity was xx

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slammed shut. She hurried after her cousin, with Danny close behind. ‘I need to get home too,’ he said as he caught up with them. ‘I don’t want to get drunk and stuff up the race.’ He smiled, then seemed to misread her expression. ‘You are going to win, Georgia. I’d put money on it.’ While he spoke, he took her hand. The movement was smooth and casual, as though this were the most natural thing in the world. She waited for him to release his grip, but he didn’t. Moments before, she had wanted to scream with frustration, but now she found she didn’t want him to let go. The feel of his warm skin against hers had her pulse thudding in her ears as loudly as when she caught sight of the finish line after a long race. She pulled him with her, trying to keep up with her cousin. ‘You all right, Sophia?’ Danny called, but Sophia merely mumbled something over her shoulder and quickened her pace. Georgia gave him an apologetic look, but after that they made an awkward threesome with little to say. A few months ago at this time of night they could have completed the entire journey bathed in the buttery glow of summer twilight, and perhaps that would have made all the difference. But now it was so dark that Georgia couldn’t see where each of her steps landed, and in another few months there would be times when it would take twice as long to trudge this way in snow, weighed down with wellingtons and thick jackets. The seasons were shifting seamlessly, a subtle reminder of other unrelenting changes that went on all around them. Already she could sense things falling away. Next year their exams would be done and the same first drift of autumn leaves would see her friends scattered across the country pursuing their different dreams. xxi

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They had walked this way many times before, and yet tonight Georgia felt that each step was unfamiliar. She was conscious of every puff of breath escaping into the crisp country air. The shortcut towards town had always been deceptive, even in daylight. To the right was a tennis court and playground, while to the left were fields patched with trees, and beyond both, surrounding them and sheltering the valley, were a huddled row of craggy Lakeland peaks. They were invisible in the darkness, but she knew they were there, as stoic and sure as the stars that peeked around the clouds. They were the reason that Ambleside’s major source of income was the tourist trade. For a little while you wouldn’t know you were so close to town, to the tightly packed slate terraces, the bustling pubs and restaurants, people hurrying in groups to get out of the drizzle. So much moving life so close by, and yet here, silence. An indefinable loneliness seemed to clog the air, despite their proximity to one another. Just ahead, invisible in the night, was the town graveyard – rows upon rows of headstones mostly covered with moss and lichen, but with a small section of fresh grey marble markers that included Georgia’s grandparents. She always thought of them here, and she was relieved as the three of them drew closer to the church. It meant they were almost back in town. Once on the other side, beneath the streetlights, she hoped these strange feelings of loss would fade away. She was grateful for that extra spot of warmth tonight, where her small, cold hand was wrapped inside Danny’s. And yet she was marking time until the streetlights, when she would have to find some excuse to break the hold. She wasn’t ready for this. Why couldn’t he have made his feelings xxii

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clearer before the summer break? If he had, everything might have been different. Even so, she didn’t want Danny to stop looking at her, or taking her hand in the dark, his grip a fresh promise. She didn’t want that at all. Sophia hadn’t said another word as they walked. Georgia knew she would soon be shivering in her thin jacket. Even though summer was barely over, at this time of night the air turned glacial. A gap had opened up between them. Had Sophia noticed Danny’s hand? Were they being discreetly cordoned off and left alone, or did Sophia hate feeling like an interloper? Georgia inched into the middle of the road, closer to her friend, pulling Danny gently with her. ‘Are you cold?’ she asked, as they finally turned onto Vicarage Road. Sophia nodded briskly but kept her head down. Georgia had the impression that her cousin was angry, but she didn’t have time to ask any more. Above them, the floodlit spire of St Mary’s defied the darkness, spearing the night, blocking out the moon. She tried to let go of Danny’s hand, but he held on to her tightly. She felt her phone begin to vibrate in her pocket, and just had time to wonder who was calling when there was a noise behind them. She turned to see a pair of headlights impossibly close, the heat of them throwing sudden warmth towards her legs. The driver couldn’t fail to spot them and yet the car was still moving. She tried to look at the windscreen but was dazzled, her vision becoming wavy lines of fluorescence. Without warning, Danny dropped her hand, only seconds before she was lifted completely off her feet.

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Profile for Simon & Schuster Australia

ALL THAT IS LOST BETWEEN US  

The lies we tell for love are the most dangerous of all. A timeless thriller with a modern twist.

ALL THAT IS LOST BETWEEN US  

The lies we tell for love are the most dangerous of all. A timeless thriller with a modern twist.