Thousands of readers have already expressed your love for the Kindle bestseller from debut author Kathryn Hughes and next week it’s finally out in paperback and we cannot wait. So much so that we thought we’d give you a sample of this heartbreaking novel…
‘How are you today then?’
It was a loaded question. Graham knew full well the circumstances of her domestic situation. He had commented on her bruises or split lip on more than one occasion. He was always so kind and Tina could feel herself beginning to wobble. Graham took her elbow and guided her to a chair.
‘What’s he done this time?’ he asked, tilting her chin and scrutinising her face.
‘I hate him sometimes, Graham, I really do.’
He pulled her into his arms and smoothed her hair. ‘You deserve so much more, Tina. You’re twenty-eight years old. You should be settled in a loving marriage by now, perhaps a couple of kids…’
She pulled away, her mascara-streaked face searching his. ‘You didn’t come to help, then.’
‘I’m sorry,’ Graham cradled her head again. ‘Tell me what’s happened.’
‘You haven’t got time for this, today of all days.’
But Tina knew Graham would always have time for her. He had been hopelessly in love with her since the day they met. Tina loved him too but only as a dear friend. At twenty years her senior, she saw him as a father—figure and besides, he already had a wife, and it just wasn’t in her nature to steal another woman’s husband.
‘He wants me to put a bet on.’ She sniffed and Graham pulled out his crisp, starched handkerchief and handed it to her.
‘Nothing new there,’ Graham said. ‘He’s one of my best customers. And it is Grand National Day.’
‘That’s what he said. But this is different, Graham. He’s talking about fifty pounds!’
Even Graham baulked at the amount.
‘Where on Earth did he get that kind of money?’
‘He stole it from me,’ Tina sobbed.
Graham looked confused as well he might. ‘From you?’ he asked. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘I’ve been saving up, Graham. Saving to plan my esc….’ She stopped abruptly. She didn’t want to go down that road with Graham right now. He had offered her money in the past, but she had refused. She still had some pride and self-esteem left.
‘It doesn’t matter what I’ve been saving for, the fact is it’s all my money and he wants me to put it on a horse in the Grand National.’ Her voice rose with the incredulity of it all.
Graham wasn’t sure how to respond but the bookie in him spoke first.
Tina glared at him in disbelief.
‘Does it matter? I’m not doing it.’
‘Sorry, Tina. I was just curious that’s all,’ he hesitated. ‘But what if it wins?’
‘What’s its name?’ Graham insisted.
Tina sighed and rooted in her handbag for the cigarette packet which she handed to Graham. He read the name and exhaled gently.
‘Red Rum!’ Graham nodded his head slowly. ‘He’s got a chance, Tina, I have to be honest. It is his first National, but he may yet start as favourite. There’s a big Australian horse
though, Crisp. I think he’s likely to be up there too.’ Graham put his arm around Tina’s shoulders. ‘He’s got a chance, Tina, but there are no guarantees in the National.’
She leant against him welcoming the comfort of his arms.
‘I’m not doing it, Graham,’ she said quietly.
There was a steeliness in her voice that told Graham arguing would be futile.
‘It’s your choice, Tina. I’ll be here for you whatever happens.’
She smiled and kissed him on the cheek.
‘ You’re a good mate, Graham. Thanks.’
Graham looked away, slightly embarrassed.
‘Anyway,’ he said brightly, ‘You never know, you might find a fifty quid note in the pocket of that old suit.’
Tina scoffed. ‘Do fifty pound notes actually exist? I’ve never seen one.’
Graham managed a laugh. ‘I’d better get back,’ he said, standing up. ‘Nigel will be wondering where I’ve got to.’
‘Of course. I won’t keep you any longer. What time’s the race?’
Tina glanced at her watch. Only six hours to go.
‘Let me know if you change your mind and want to put the bet on.’
‘I won’t, but thanks.’
Tina turned her attention to the bag of clothes that had been left outside the shop. She held up the jacket of the suit once again and remembering Graham’s words, she slipped her hand into the inside pocket. She suddenly felt a bit foolish, but then her hand touched what appeared to be paper and her heart skipped a beat. She pulled out the paper and turned it over. It was not a fifty pound note, but an old, yellowing envelope.
THE LETTER is available to pre-order in paperback now
Liked this? Why not read…