The Moment She Left - Susan Lewis

Memoir

Just One More Day

One Day at a Time

One of the most thrilling parts of having a secret – especially the sort Jessica Leonard had been savouring these last two months – was the way it made her feel so powerful and excited. Added to that was the way everyone seemed to sense something different about her, but couldn’t quite decide what it was.

Her friend Sadie had asked outright. ‘What is it with you?’ she’d cried, her laughter edged with notes of puzzlement and envy. ‘Are you in love, or something? You look like you are.’

Jessica regarded herself in the mirror, feline navy eyes sparkling with a tease, soft, creamy cheeks flushed with knowing. ‘Is this how someone in love looks?’ she countered, mussing up her wavy dark hair and twisting her beautiful singer’s mouth into an awkward grimace.

‘No, it can’t be love, or you’d have told me,’ Sadie decided.

Since she’d only known Jessica for a year Sadie wasn’t yet aware of how secretive her flatmate in halls could be, or how loyal (loyal was not to be forgotten, for it was one of Jess’s major qualities). And Jessica wasn’t surprised that Sadie was putting the new Jess down to love, it was the conclusion anyone would jump to. She knew she would.

Electrified by the air of mystery she was creating, she blew Sadie a kiss and went back to rehearsing for a gig that night. She’d played at this particular ambassador’s home before, but apparently tonight she was going to receive an even more fantastic sum for her services than usual. She guessed the event must be for more people, or perhaps they wanted her to do more sets. She’d find out when she got there. She had the kind of voice, throaty, sultry, mesmerising, that had made her one of the most sought-after young singers on this exclusive circuit, and the many contacts she was making were opening up the kind of doors she’d hardly even known existed.

One of these days she might share her secret with Sadie, but she was in no hurry. It would feel odd, she realised, to confide in someone other than her twin brother, Matt, who’d been her best friend and sharer of everything throughout their nineteen years. Not much had changed, in spite of them having been at different universities this past year. They were in touch every day, regularly went to concerts and exhibitions together, or parties, or sporting events (they shared a love of rugby with their father); they spent all holidays at home with their parents (Dad was definitely easier than Mum, especially these days), and whenever they could they performed together. Matt sang too, but usually he left the vocals to Jess and provided accompaniment on keyboard or guitar. Their parents – Dad mainly, but Mum could do it too – were constantly creating backing tracks for when she performed alone, making them easy to set up so she wouldn’t have to rely on anyone to attend gigs with her. Her repertoire was growing all the time, and the number of hits she was getting on YouTube was phenomenal.

Right now, on this glorious sunny day in late June, Jess was making her way from the halls of residence in Marylebone across West London to Paddington station. Her tall, slender frame was weighed down by a monster backpack, a bag full of laundry, and a tatty old computer case containing vital laptop, both old and new tablets (latter still needed programming, Matt would do it), her precious music player and various chargers. Once on the train it shouldn’t take much more than three hours to get to the quaintly old-fashioned seaside town that she and her family now called home. They’d moved there a year ago when her dad had lost his job (been robbed of his job, more like) and her mum – well, who knew what to say about her mum? One day she was her normal upbeat self working with Dad (she never sat for him now the way she used to), and the next she could be floundering about in the depths of despair. It wasn’t that her mum didn’t like their new home and the people they were getting to know, it was simply that it had never been a part of her plan to leave the north, and she couldn’t seem to get her head around the fact that it had happened. As far as she was concerned they should never have had to pack