“What’s the matter, love?” her mother asked as
Jo returned to the house just before dusk. She’d taken a long walk by the
creek after Hugh and Ivy had left and she’d shed a tear or three.
The silliest thing was that she’d been crying
for Ivy as much as for Hugh. The thought of the two of them...
Enough. She had made her decision and it was
time to forget about them. They were starting a new life together and she had
to get on with her life.
“I’m just a little tired,” she said vaguely.
“Tired my foot,” scoffed Margie. Steam rose as
she lifted the lid on a pot of vegetables boiling on the stove. “You’ve done
something silly, haven’t you?”
“No, Mum.” Jo’s voice developed an annoying
squeak. “I’ve been excessively sensible.”
“You’ve turned Hugh Strickland down.”
Jo gasped. “How did you –” She bit her lip hard.
Turning away, she pulled out a chair and flopped into it and rested her elbows
on the kitchen table. “Yes,” she said. “Hugh offered me money to help Ivy
settle in London and I turned him down.”
Her mother replaced the lid on the saucepan and
lowered the heat before taking a seat opposite Jo. “You should have gone with
“Of course I shouldn’t. You need me here.”
“We’d manage without you.”
“Well that’s gratitude for you.”
“I’m grateful, love. You know that, but I’m
sorry you didn’t grab the chance to go with him. It would really make a
difference for that little girl to have a friendly face among all those
strangers in a foreign city.”
“I’m almost a stranger to her.”
“But already she’s very fond of you.”
Jo sighed. “Ivy will be fine, Mum. London’s
crawling with nice Aussie girls looking for work as nannies. Hugh will find
one at the drop of a hat.”
Her mother’s chest rose and fell as she released a long slow sigh. “I thought
you had more courage.”
“Courage? I’m not scared. What would I be scared
A kind of strangled gasp broke from Jo. “Don’t
be silly. He’s a gentleman.”
“Of course he is. A very handsome and charming gentleman. That’s why you’re
“Mum!” Jo jumped to her feet. “I don’t want to
talk about this. What would you know?”
“More than you could imagine,” Margie said
About to flounce out of the kitchen, Jo stopped.
Her mother was looking... different... kind of wistful and sad... and Jo felt
her heart begin a strange little wobble.
“There was a man, Jo – before your father.”
Jo was quite sure she didn’t want to hear this.
“I’ve never forgotten him.”
Appalled, Jo wanted to leave but was transfixed
by the haunted regret in her mother’s eyes.
“I was madly in love with him,” Margie said.
“And he wanted me to sail across the Pacific with him on a yacht.”
“Did you go?”
Her mother shook her head slowly. “I wouldn’t be
telling you this story if I’d gone. I reckon I’d still be with him.”
A stab of pain pierced deep inside Jo. “You
don’t know that. It mightn’t have worked out.”
Her mother smiled sadly. “Then again, it might
have been wonderful. I’ll never know.”
It was too awful to think of Margie Berry with
another man. Jo thought of her mother’s hard life – with an invalid husband
and so many children.
“I don’t regret my life,” her mother said. “But
I wish now that I’d gone. I might have been disappointed, but then... you
Margie had never given a hint that she wasn’t
happy, but the expression on her face now was like a window on another world.
So many possibilities promised and lost...
Jo’s throat was so tight she could hardly speak.
“But – but Hugh isn’t asking me to go with him. He just wants a hand with
Ivy.” She swallowed again. “I’m not in love with him.”
“Pull the wool over someone else’s eyes.” Margie
stood and crossed the room and slipped her arm around her daughter’s
shoulders. “I think you should go to London, Jo. You’ll definitely be good for
Ivy and, as for what else might happen, be brave, honey, and take the risk. At
the very least it’ll be a jolly sight more interesting than hanging around
here for the rest of your holidays. And believe me, you don’t want to spend
the rest of your life wondering what might have happened.”
From "Christmas Gift: A Family"
By: Barbara Hannay
Mills and Boon Romance
Copyright: © Barbara Hannay
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. The edition published by arrangement
with Harlequin Books S.A. For more romance information surf to: http://www.eHarlequin.com