The Dead Wife's Handbook

The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

Book: The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Hannah Beckerman
that anyway.’
    ‘You underestimate me, little bro. I can do both at the same time. It’s called multitasking. You might like to try it some time.’
    ‘Yeah, well, I think I’ll leave that particular brand of multitasking to you, thanks very much.’
    I sometimes have to remind myself that Max and Connor did actually emerge from the same gene pool, albeit threeyears apart. I imagine that’s one of the revelations that come with having more than one child; that a shared genetic inheritance can nonetheless produce two such distinctive characters. It’s remarkable that, in spite of those differences, Max and Connor still get on so well. I’ve often thought how lucky they are, not just in the fact of one another’s existence, but in genuinely liking one another as much as they do too.
    If you didn’t know Connor as well as I do, I’m sure it would be easy to caricature him as a walking cliché: a hedge fund manager with an incomprehensible salary, an annual bonus that I’ve no doubt would extinguish half the mortgages on our street, a Farringdon bachelor pad equipped with every gadget imaginable and a string of unfeasibly beautiful – if not particularly long-lasting – girlfriends. On paper, at least, he reads like someone most of us would try to avoid in a City bar on a Friday night. But they’re just the headlines and that’s far from the whole story. He conceals it well, behind the bravura and the status and the steering wheel of his Aston Martin, but there’s an endearingly soft centre to Connor’s self-aggrandizing exterior. I’d known him for years before I saw it for myself. It was seeing him with Ellie, in fact, that helped Connor’s hidden depths first surface for me.
    I remember a friend telling me, after she’d already given birth to her first child but before I’d even conceived of – let alone conceived – Ellie, that when you have children the prism through which you view your friends shifts focus from how you feel about them to how they feel about your child. I’d thought at the time it sounded self-absorbed and slightly crazy and I remember vowing thatI wouldn’t become the kind of parent who expected my child to be at the centre of everyone else’s lives. But when Ellie arrived I realized it’s a feeling that surpasses rational thought, that it mines the most primitive of instincts, beyond your control – that feeling of being drawn to people who are interested in, engaged with, invested in your child. It’s primordial, I’m sure, that urge to surround your progeny with people who’ll help them navigate their journey successfully through life.
    That’s when Connor became more than a peripheral, two-dimensional character for me; when Ellie was born he embraced his new-found avuncular role with such joy, such enthusiasm, such unexpected commitment that it gave birth to a new relationship between us too. I can’t think of a single time he’s ever let Ellie down. And that’s why, I’m sure, Max has invited him to her school Sports Day today.
    I spy my little girl bounding across the field towards her daddy and her uncle, where she throws herself on to Connor’s lap and into his arms.
    ‘Hello, princess. You’re looking particularly fetching today, if I might say so. Like a perfectly edible piece of pink candy floss. Much prettier than all those others in their drab uniforms.’
    Ellie frowns, first at Connor, then at Max and then back at Connor.
    ‘I’m supposed to be wearing my PE kit but Daddy forgot to wash it and I couldn’t wear it ’cos it had blackcurrant all down the front.’
    ‘Guilty as charged, m’lord. I’m so sorry, angel. I did explain to Miss Collins, didn’t I, and she was fine about it?’

    ‘But I really wanted to wear it today. Miss Collins says that wearing your PE kit shows that you’re part of the team.’
    ‘Of course you’re still part of the team, princess. Just the prettiest member, that’s all. I bet everyone would rather wear what

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