Sleeping Arrangements

Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham

Book: Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham Read Free Book Online
Authors: Madeleine Wickham
    'Tonight?' said Hugh stupidly.
    'Yes, why not? Jenna's cooking, so it won't be any trouble.' Amanda looked up at him. 'We might as well be civilized about this, don't you think?'
    'Yes,' said Hugh after a pause. 'Absolutely.' His eyes slid across the blue waters of the swimming pool to where Chloe was sitting. Her gaze flickered towards his, then down to the book she was reading. Slowly, she lifted her eyes again. Hugh stared back at her, feeling a sudden, almost painful desire.
    'Hugh,' said Amanda. 'You're in my sun.'
    'Oh,' said Hugh. 'Sorry.' He moved away, sat down on the sunbed next to hers and reached for a book. As he opened it and turned the first page, his eyes were still fixed on Chloe's.

    After one shuttlecock had disappeared into a tree and another into a bush, Sam and Nat gave up playing badminton. They flopped on the scrubby grass of the field, slurping cans of Coke and gazing up at the endless blue sky.
    'What do you think of the others, then?' said Sam after a while.
    'I dunno.' Nat shrugged. 'They seem all right.'
    'You could play with the two girls,' said Sam. 'Fix up a game, or something.'
    'They're only babies.' Nat's voice was calmly dismissive. 'They probably still play with rattles and stuff.'
    'Well, whatever,' Sam took a swig of Coke.
    'What do you think of them?' said Nat. He lowered his voice unnecessarily. 'The mother seems really bossy!'
    'I don't know,' said Sam after a pause, and swallowed. 'She's OK.'
    'I mean, all we did was splash her a bit. I mean, we didn't do it on—' Nat broke off, and nudged Sam. 'Hey, look. It's them. It's that girl.'
    Sam shuffled round on his stomach and peered across the field. Jenna was striding over the dry grass, carrying two garden chairs and a blanket. The two little girls were following; one held a cushion and the other a teddy bear.
    'Hi, guys,' she said as she approached. 'We're making a camp. Want to join in?'
    'No thanks.' Sam's voice was relaxed and nonchalant.
    'No thanks,' said Nat, mimicking his brother's tone as well as he could. Jenna shrugged.
    'Fair dos.'
    Sam and Nat resumed their casual poses and for a while there was silence. Then Nat glanced over to the corner where Jenna was at work.
    'Actually,' he said, his tone spiked with unwilling awe. 'Actually—that's a really good camp.'
    Sam followed his gaze and drew in breath sharply.
    'Fucking hell.'
    Jenna had tied the overhanging branches of two trees together. She had formed walls with the folding chairs, draped blankets over the top and camouflaged the whole with palms and fallen branches. As the boys watched, she was bending over, briskly spreading something out on the base of the camp.
    'It's good, isn't it?' said Nat.
    'Bloody . . . fantastic,' said Sam, his eyes fixed on Jenna's taut thighs. 'C'mon.' He got to his feet. 'Let's go and lend a hand.'
    'OK!' Nat got to his feet with alacrity and trotted towards the corner of the field. On the way, they passed an iron gate to the road, and Sam stopped to survey what was on the other side. The outlook was not promising. A narrow lane wound its way into the distance; there were no cars visible, nor any people. They really were in the middle of bloody nowhere, he thought.
    'Hi, guys,' said Jenna, looking up.
    'Hi,' said Sam, moving away from the gate. 'How're you doing?'
    'Pretty well.' Jenna stood up, panting slightly. 'There you are, girls. What d'you think?'
    'It's mine,' said Octavia at once. 'It's my camp.'
    'No it's not,' said Jenna. 'It's mine. But you can play in it if you share nicely.'
    The two girls glanced at each other, then disappeared into the camp. After a pause, a little shamefacedly, Nat followed.
    'So,' said Sam, leaning casually against a tree and glancing at Jenna. 'We two should get together.'
    'Should we?' Jenna raised her eyebrows. 'And why's that?'
    'I think it's fairly obvious, don't you?'
    'Not really,' said Jenna, her eyes glinting. 'But you can explain, if you like.'
    Slowly, Sam ran his eyes over Jenna's

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