Mondeo. But it’ll be good for you to see how us non-celebs live. There’s no complimentary champagne or fancy canapés either, but you could share my Dr Pepper and packet of Twiglets, if you play your cards right.’
Charlie knew she shouldn’t have mentioned the Rolls-Royce that had transported her and Zoe to and from the airport; her dad was never going to let her live it down. He was always on the alert for anything she said that seemed to flaunt her newfound TV success, and when he detected something, he would invariably tease her, so that she didn’t, as he said, ‘forget her roots’.
Her parents lived in Chorlton, a few miles out of the city centre, in a Victorian terrace. They had worked hard to give Charlie and her brother the things they themselves never had as kids, both coming from relatively poor backgrounds, especially her mum. Ray worked as a plumber – the world’s nicest plumber, Charlie was always teasing him. He would regularly undercharge pensioners or single mums, which was probably why they still lived in the terrace and not in a large house like some of his contemporaries. Her mum worked at the Clinique counter at John Lewis’s in the Trafford Centre in Manchester. Lori could sell anything to anyone. Really she was wasted in cosmetics, she should have been working for Sir Alan Sugar. She had the gift of the gab.
They chatted all the way back to the house, catching up on each other’s news. But when Charlie asked how her brother was, conversation ground to a halt. Her dad frowned. He had been devastated when Kris was sent to prison, and would only go and visit him if Lori pushed him into it. He found it impossible to comprehend how his son, the boy on whom he had lavished so much love and attention, and who’d had all the advantages that Ray himself hadn’t, had ended up in such a mess. He blamed Kris and he blamed himself.
‘Out in another two months, and then God knows.’
‘Oh, Dad, I’m sure he’ll be okay. It sounds like such a cliché but he’s learnt his lesson.’
‘Has he? Here’s another cliché for you: only time will tell.’
‘I’m going to see him tomorrow with Mum. Will you come too?’
Her dad shook his head. ‘I’m working.’ He sounded hard, totally unlike his usual easygoing self.
Ray pulled up outside the house, then turned to Charlie. ‘Come on, don’t let’s upset your mum by talking about your brother.’
‘Sure,’ she replied. She wanted to tell her dad to let it go, to forgive Kris, but she knew it had to come from him.
Her mum had seen them pull up and had already opened the front door. At forty-six, Lori could easily have passed for someone ten years younger. She had a knock-out figure, an exceptionally pretty face with the same striking green eyes as Charlie, and long blonde highlighted hair, which she refused to have cut just because she was over forty. ‘Do Madonna, Courtney Cox or Elle Macpherson have short hair?’ she was fond of saying, adding, ‘I’m not getting old without a fight! The hair stays, and if it falls out, I’ll get a wig. I’d rather be mutton than mumsy.’
‘So good to see you!’ Lori exclaimed, hugging Charlie tightly. She breathed in the familiar scent of her mum’s perfume, Clinique’s Happy mixed in with fabric conditioner. Now she knew she was home.
Home. The place where she had always felt so secure and loved, where she could drop her guard. Charlie loved her TV job, but boy, it was tough sometimes. She could never have an off day, always had to be on top form, aware of how many other women wanted to step into her shoes … At home she could let go, relax.
Lori had made one of her legendary roasted Mediterranean vegetable
and they sat round the kitchen table eating, chatting and drinking wine. They were halfway through the meal when she exclaimed, ‘By the way, who was that gorgeous man in your holiday photos? He looked like a male model.’
Charlie hadn’t realised she had posted