Four Seasons Hotel, East Fifty-Seventh Street
Good morning, New York!" Ed's Robin Williams impression
reverberated around Eve's poor head.
Last night, celebrating their new life with dirty Grey Goose
martinis in the hotel bar had seemed like the obvious -- the only
-- thing to do. They'd had a few drinks, and a late dinner, and
very sexy hotel sex, and about five hours' sleep. This morning, not
so much. The dirty Grey Goose martini may be a very New York drink,
but Eve was clearly still a very English girl. Dirty was
the word. Eve's mouth felt like the proverbial bottom of the
She pulled the down pillow over her head in an attempt to keep
out the bright sunshine pouring in through their twelfth-floor wall
of windows, but it was insistent, like Ed, who was now running
through his Sinatra repertoire, oblivious to the fact that she
might just have to kill him soon. Thou shalt not -- not ever --
drink three vodka-based cocktails. The eleventh commandment.
The doorbell rang. Ed was obviously in better shape, as usual.
It took more than three drinks to fell her husband. He answered the
door with a cheery "Good morning!" and admitted their breakfast,
brought in by a waiter so discreet that he laid a table, arranged
an orchid in a vase and silver domes on porcelain plates, then left
again without ever acknowledging the groaning woman-shaped lump
under the duvet.
"Come on, lightweight. Breakfast." Ed, who was, she now noticed,
already showered and dressed, flipped up the bottom corner of the
bedspread, exposing a foot. He squeezed her big toe.
"Wasn't sure what you wanted, and wasn't about to risk waking
you up, so I ordered pancakes, bacon, fruit salad, egg-white
omelette -- "
"Who would ever want to eat an egg-white anything? The yolk's
the only fun part of an egg."
"And the only part that will kill you."
Eve sat up grumpily and accepted the cup of tea he proffered.
"And so it begins..."
"So what begins?"
"You're turning American. Joining the cholesterol police."
Ed laughed. "So I guess you want the pancakes and bacon?"
"Kill or cure." Eve came to the table and peered under the
silver dome on her side of the table.
"I'm hoping for cure. Busy day in prospect..." Ed raised his
glass of orange juice in a toast, and clinked it against Eve's cup.
"Here's to the new house!"
Except that it wasn't a house. Eve and Ed used to live in a
house with a name, on a street with a name. In a house with a
garden and a driveway and a garage for a car. Their car. Ed had a
shed in the garden. Eve had a job. Eve used to live twenty-five
minutes from her sister and her nieces and nephews.
That was then. This was now. She took her tea to the window and
looked out at the tall gray buildings and the blue, blue sky. Steam
rose from manhole covers, just like in films. She couldn't kick
that feeling -- like she was herself in a film. But this was real.
This was it! They were here...
Two pancakes, three rashers of very crispy bacon, four mugs of
tea, and a fifteen-minute power shower later, Eve felt human. Ish.
When she emerged from the bathroom that was bigger than her bedroom
at home, Ed was on the phone and it was obviously work. She frowned
at him. Today was their day.
He raised a conciliatory hand and shrugged apologetically. But
he said, "Yep. Right. Yep. I'll be there in" -- checking his watch
-- "half an hour. Forty-five minutes tops. Great." When he'd hung
up he came and sat next to her on the bed and put his arm around
She glared at him reproachfully. "You promised."
"I know. I won't be there all day, I promise. Just a couple of
Neither of them believed him.
"You'd better be there when we pick up the keys." That was three
"Definitely." Ed was pulling on his jacket. "I'll meet you
Ed took her face in his hands and kissed her deeply. "I'm going
to make love to you in every room tonight."
She crinkled her nose up and sniggered. "Cheeseball. Good job
it's a classic four, not a classic six."
"Get you, with your New York Realtor talk."
"Oh, I know all the lingo."
He smacked her rear. "And, FYI, I reckon I could manage a
classic six or, indeed, a duplex."
Eve laughed. He probably could, actually. When they'd moved into
the cottage, he'd managed every room, the patio table, and the
shower, although, truthfully, things had gotten a little
halfhearted by the time they'd gotten to the old larder with the
freezing cold marble countertop. She'd made him promise they'd
christen every house they ever had that way, even the assisted
living facility she was confident they'd end up in. He
One more quick kiss, a groan of regret, and he was gone.
Back to bed then, just for a while.
She couldn't believe she was here. Everything had happened so
fast. Four months ago there had been no hint of any of this. Four
months ago she'd been looking out the window at her garden, at the
deep beds she'd dug the year before, thinking about springtime.
She'd loved that garden. And the house. Their first house. A
three-bedroom cottage in a village four miles from the center of
town. Top of their budget when they'd bought it, it still needed
lots of work -- the old couple they'd bought it from hadn't done a
thing to it in twenty years -- so she'd become a rabid weekend
DIYer. She'd learned to strip wallpaper, and tile and grout, and
over the course of a year or two she'd eradicated all the eighties
décor and created a place she truly loved -- all white walls
and deep sofas. The garden had been the best part and the biggest
revelation. She'd never taken the slightest notice of the seasons
before. She'd lived in her parents' house, where the garden was
somewhere to play and lounge around, in university halls and in
flats, where, on hot, sunny days, Clapham Common was the only
garden you needed and you ignored it for the other 360 days of the
year. But after they bought the house, she drank the first cup of
tea of the morning on the little patio off the kitchen, almost
every day, drinking in the sights and sounds and smells of the
garden all year round.
She'd been on the patio when Ed had come home that day. She was
wearing his Barbour and a rainbow-striped woolly hat that she'd had
forever and that Ed called "the tea cozy," drinking a mug of Earl
Grey, and inspecting her beds, daydreaming of bulbs. She was always
home an hour or so before Ed. He worked in London and was at the
mercy of the capricious trains. Much as she loved him, that hour
was often her favorite of the day. All her own. A good day's work
done (mostly). Time to indulge her newfound domesticity. Marinade
something. Prune something.
He'd been later than usual, that day. She'd smelled beer on his
breath as he kissed her. "Evie." She loved that he called her Evie.
He had, since the first day she'd met him, and he was the only
person in the world who did, since her mum.
"You've been drinking!"
"Sorry, Mum. Just one."
"Who with?" She put her hands on her hips in a Lucille Ball sort
of way, but she was smiling.
"The boys from work."
"The boys" were an amorphous lump of masculinity so far as Eve
was concerned. She'd met them, possibly, at the Christmas party, at
the Summer Family Fun Day (and the award for most misnamed day goes
to...), but they were an indistinct lot -- Ben and Dan and Tom and
Dave and Tim and...the rest.
"Good day, then?"
Now her curiosity was aroused. "How so?"
"Come inside, babe. It's freezing out here. I want to talk to
you." Ed pulled her by both hands, walking backward toward the
door. She let him. Inside their kitchen, he went to the fridge, and
pulled out a bottle of wine.
"We're celebrating." He grabbed two glasses from the dish rack
"I've got a new job. I've been promoted."
"Ed! That's fantastic! I didn't even know you were up for
"Nor did I. Well, not exactly."
Eve picked up the two glasses, handing him one. "You star.
"Cheers, Evie." They both drank.
Eve pulled out a chair and sat down, still watching him. He
looked so happy. "Tell me all."
"I haven't told you the best bit."
"A raise?" A raise would be great. They could really do with
reducing the mortgage. All the spare cash they'd had in the last
couple of years had gone to renovations...
"Yes, yes, a raise. A pretty massive one. But that's not it." He
widened his eyes, smirking at her.
She smacked his chest playfully. "Stop teasing me, you bugger.
"The job is in New York!" Ed did jazz hands. He looked
strangely comical doing jazz hands. The moment was surreal.
"New York. The job's in the New York office. Manhattan. Two
years, maybe more if we want. New frigging York, Evie! Can you
Eve felt like all the air in her lungs had been sucked out. Her
cold, garden cheeks were suddenly hot.
Ed stood in front of her, jazz hands frozen. "So talk to me. You
look like a fish." He blew out his cheeks, and made ohs with his
mouth. "Say something."
He shook her gently by the shoulders. "Say something else."
"A whole sentence would be good."
"You took this job?"
Ed's face fell just a little. "Well...I told them I'd need to
talk to you first, obviously, but..."
"But I said I was sure you'd jump at it. You will, won't you?
Jump at it? I mean, it's not like we haven't talked about something
like this -- "
"We talked about it once, years ago."
"But you were up for it then, weren't you?"
"And nothing's changed, has it?"
"There's the house..."
Was that a flicker of irritation crossing his face? "And we can
keep the house, Evie. Of course we can."
"I love the house." She sounded wistful, even to herself.
"I know you do. I love the house, too. We'll keep the house,
Evie. They'll rent us a place, sort all of that out. It's a really
sweet deal. We'll be much better off. We'll rent it out, of course.
Tenants will pay the mortgage. And we'll come back."
Ed knelt down by her chair and put both arms around her
hips."You don't sound happy like I thought you would, Evie."
She laid her head on top of his, in her lap. "I'm just...it's a
bit sudden...it's a bit of a shock, that's all."
"Not a shock. A surprise. A wonderful, fortuitous, bloody
marvelous surprise." He rubbed her hair. "Hey, Evie. We can talk
about this as much as you like. We can say no."
She looked at his face, trying to figure out whether or not he
meant that. His lovely face. She knew she wouldn't make him say no.
Eve wasn't quite sure when it was decided that Ed had the career
and she had the job. Or who had decided. But she knew that that's
how it was. And so she knew that they would go to New York.
And now she just needed to figure out how to be happy about
And so four months later, here she was, (almost) completely
happy about it. She was even (almost) a little ashamed of her
initial reaction. It wasn't very intrepid of her. This was a huge
adventure, wasn't it? A fantastic opportunity. The most exciting
city in the world. She wanted to be the sort of woman who grabbed
life. Who'd ride a bike downhill without the brakes on, and who'd
sit in the front seat on the roller coaster, and who'd stand at the
karaoke mike. She'd always wanted to be that sort of woman. And now
she could be. This was the perfect place to be that woman. And
today was a good day to start...
Perhaps she'd start by calling her sister. Cath had always been
that woman. In some ways it made no sense that she was here and
Cath was there, married to Geoff. Slightly wet Geoff. Who ever knew
what alchemy was at work when two people fell in love? It made no
Cath answered on the third ring. She sounded out of breath.
"It's me. Eve."
"Eve! How are you? How's it all going?"
"Oh, you know, it's hell at the Four Seasons. What to eat? What
treatment to get at the spa? Just ordering from the pillow menu is
"Shut up. I just cleaned poo out from under my fingernails."
"That's disgusting. How are the poo machines?"
"Smelly. Noisy. Adorable."
"I can hear one now."
"That's George. He wants Cheerios in the car. I've only got a
minute, actually, Sis. School run, you know."
"No worries. Sometimes I forget, and that's much more serious.
I've got a sec. How is it, really?"
"Really? A bit weird. Ed's gone to the office, even though he's
supposed to be off all day helping me, and I realize I don't know a
soul. I'm totally friendless until he meets me later."
"Go shopping. No one can feel lonely in Bloomingdale's. Visa can
be your best friend."
Eve laughed. "You're probably right."
"So when do you move in?"
"We get the keys this afternoon. The new furniture should be
coming tomorrow. The stuff from England is meant to have cleared
customs last week, but I've got to check. So today, I suppose,
officially, although we'll sleep at the hotel for another couple of
"No room service in the flat, I suppose."
"In the apartment? No!"
"Listen, hon. I'd really better go. Call me later, tell me again
how fabulous it is?"
"Sure. I will. Love to everyone."
"And back. We all miss you like crazy, Eve."
Eve missed her sister, too. She could picture everything about
Cath at that moment. George, with his plastic beaker of Cheerios
and his untamable blond cowlick; the chaotic kitchen, full of
unread newspapers and sticky jars; Cath, tall and willowy and
totally yummy mummy.
Suddenly a little tearful, she sniffed and reached for the
remote control. Nurse Hathaway and Dr. Doug Ross were arguing
again. She lost herself in the County General ER and eventually
slipped back into sleep, not waking until the credits were
Excerpted from THE GIRL NEXT DOOR © Copyright 2011 by
Elizabeth Noble. Reprinted with permission by Touchstone. All
The Girl Next Door
- Genres: Fiction
- paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Touchstone
- ISBN-10: 143915483X
- ISBN-13: 9781439154830