Once a week, Rosie Tipcott counts her blessings. She goes to sit on her favorite bench on the north Devon cliffs, and thanks her lucky stars for her wonderful husband, hermischievous young daughters, and her neat little house by the sea. She vows to dedicate every waking hour to making her family happy. But then her husband unexpectedly leaves her for another woman and takes the children. Now she must ask the question: what is left in her life? Can Rosie find the strength to rebuild herself? More importantly, does she even want to?
About the Author
Amanda Prowse is the author of several novels, including What Have I Done? and A Little Love.
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My Husband's Wife
By Amanda Prowse
Head of Zeus LtdCopyright © 2016 Amanda Prowse
All rights reserved.
Having lived in the small seaside town of Woolacombe her whole life, it was hard for Rosie Tipcott to see it the way visitors saw it. Where tourists might rave about the surfing, linger for hours in the famous sand dunes or spend every afternoon on the crazy-golf course, Rosie was often preoccupied with what to make for tea, how many shifts she'd get that week or whether she'd remembered to switch off the iron.
There was of course the odd day when she would take a moment from her chores to sit on her favourite bench up on the Esplanade and look out at the big, big sea foaming against the deserted beach at Barricane. Or when her eyes were drawn to the dazzling red sunset, as beautiful as any on earth. Either could stop her in her tracks and quite take her breath away. But what she really loved about the North Devon town was that it was home, the place where she lived in a quiet backstreet with her beloved husband and daughters.
Today was not a day for taking time out to appreciate Woolacombe's charms. In the cramped cloakroom under the stairs of their stone-built terrace in Arlington Road, Rosie peered at the peach-coloured hand towel that she had just lobbed over the little wooden shelf so as to hide it from view. She took her time, washing her hands and then drying them by flicking the droplets into the sink and finishing them off on her jeans so she didn't have to move the towel. Her stomach leapt in anticipation and she closed her eyes to quell the excitement. She then applied a squirt of hand cream that she massaged into the gaps between her fingers, sniffing the intoxicating scent of jasmine as she did so. This was one of her small joys, a little luxury, courtesy of Auntie Mags last Christmas.
'What, love?' Rosie let her head hang on her chest. All she wanted was five minutes! She'd even laid the foundations so she could disappear for that small window of time, asking if either of the girls needed a drink or the loo. They had both shaken their heads and she had mistakenly thought she was safe.
'Leona's got my rubber!' Her daughter's Devonian accent turned the last syllable into the longest.
Rosie sighed; having to referee between her daughters was a constant. When her day was going well, it was amusing, the things they found to squabble about. But when she was tired, it was draining.
'I'll be out in a minute, but tell her to give it you back.'
'For goodness' sake, Naomi, I'll be out in a sec! Can you just give me one minute please!'
'It's my favourite one. You know, the one that came in that set from Nan that looks like a little poo with a face on it.'
Sweet Jesus! 'Just ask your sister nicely to give it back to you, please, love. Just give me one second! I'll be out in a mo.'
Her daughter started knocking on the door in a slow rhythmic beat, as if her blathering through it wasn't irritating enough.
'I can't! She put it up her nose and now she can't get it out.'
Rosie closed her eyes as her eldest kicked the door, making the bottom flex.
'Don't kick the door!' As so often with the kids, she found herself shouting.
'But she's got my little poo rubber stuck up her nose and I need it!' Naomi shouted back.
Rosie grabbed the fringed hand towel that had been hiding her pregnancy test and stared at the little clear windowpane. Only one blue line. Negative. Bugger it. There was no time to properly consider her disappointment, the quake of regret in her gut. That would have to wait until the great rubber-up-the-nose debacle had been resolved.
Wrapping the white plastic spatula in a wad of loo roll, she shoved it into her bra and pulled her sweatshirt down sharply to hide it. She'd throw it in the bin later when the girls weren't around. But even wrapped in loo roll, hidden inside an old cereal box and with gravy scraped on it, there was still no guarantee that they wouldn't go foraging.
She pictured the early morning the previous year when she'd woken to the sound of her girls' laughter. Happy that they were playing nicely, she'd taken her time, coming to leisurely, finding her slippers and checking for chin hairs in the magnifying mirror she kept in her make-up bag by the side of the bed. She also checked before she went to sleep but knew that, unlike regular hairs, they could sprout overnight and take hold. It was only when she crept out onto the landing that she saw the kids peeling condoms from their fine foil wrappers, stretching them to their full length and flinging them down the stairs with a pencil.
'Aaaaagh!' she screeched, her hands outstretched, carefully trying to find the right words that would neither alarm nor interest the kids too much.
'Where ... where did you find those?' she asked ten-tatively.
'They were just in the bathroom.'
'Just in the bathroom?' She couldn't believe her husband, Phil, could be that careless.
'Yes,' Naomi confirmed. 'In the bathroom. In the cabinet. In Dad's washbag. In the side pocket. Wrapped in a flannel ...'
Rosie smiled at the memory of how she'd gingerly scooped up the slippery, rubbery nest from the bottom of the stairs and begun offering breakfast options, as if her hands weren't full of discarded prophylactics. 'Who wants what? We've got waffles, cereal, toast ...'
Opening the cloakroom door, she came face to face with Naomi, who was still in her school uniform of grey skirt, red sweatshirt, white polo shirt and black tights but had for some reason, which Rosie knew there was no point in trying to fathom, put a pair of her dad's Y-fronts on and stuffed her skirt into them, making it look like she was wearing padded sumo pants. One of her bunches had worked loose, her face was covered with purple glitter paint and she resembled ... Actually, Rosie was stumped as to what her seven-year-old resembled, but the words 'nut house' and 'hedge backwards' sprang to mind.
'Right, you have my full attention. What's going on that couldn't wait for five minutes?'
'Leona asked if she could borrow my rubber and I said no and she said she was going to have it anyway and she took my pencil case and I hit her with my yoghurt spoon and then she tipped all my stuff out and I called her a shitstar and then she took my little poo rubber and shoved it up her nose.'
'Can you take a breath, please?' Rosie kept her tone low-key, having learnt that if she raised the volume or level of hysteria, the girls would follow suit. The earlier exchange of shouts concerning door-kicking being a prime example.
'I don't really know where to start with that, Naomi.' She replayed her daughter's words. 'Actually, I do. Don't hit your sister, even if it's only with a yoghurt spoon. In fact, don't hit anyone, ever, with anything. And don't say shitstar, ever, to anyone.'
Naomi twisted her mouth and considered this. 'What if it's someone's name and I have to ask them a question?' Her daughter stared at her, unsmiling.
Rosie shook her head. 'How do you mean?'
'Supposing I was a teacher and I had a girl in my class and her name was, say, Naomi Shitstar, and I had to do the register and I had to call her name out, could I say it then, like, "Naomi Shitstar? Has anyone seen Naomi Shitstar?"' She added a grown-up voice for full effect.
Rosie felt her laughter wanting to erupt. She turned her lips inwards and bit down hard.
'Are you crying, Mum?'
Rosie shook her head and let out a little squeak. She took deep breaths and leant against the bannister, trying to compose herself. 'So ...' She coughed and decided to change the subject. 'Leona has a little rubber that looks like a poo up her nostril?'
'What's her notstril?'
'Her nostril, her nose hole?' Rosie pointed to her own face, remembering to keep her patience.
'Up one of her nose holes, yes.' Naomi gave an elaborate nod.
'I know I'm going to regret this, but what does she have up her other nose hole?'
'Erm, it's a piece of my compass.' Naomi picked at a loose thread on the men's underpants she was wearing.
'Please God, not the pointy piece?' Rosie's tone was becoming more urgent.
'No, Mum, it's like a little silver bolt thingy that holds the end on.'
Rosie ran her fingers through her thick, dark, wavy hair, gathering it into a knot at the base of her neck, as was her habit. 'And why does she have this piece of compass up her nose hole?'
'Because it wouldn't fit up the other hole because she already had my poo rubber up it!' Naomi widened her eyes at having to state the obvious.
'Of course she did. Where is your sister now?'
'Under the kitchen table.' She pointed along the hallway.
'Of course she is.'
'It wasn't my fault, it wasn't anything to do with me, not really.' Naomi avoided her mum's gaze, telling Rosie all she needed to know.
The two hurried to the little kitchen. Rosie dropped to her knees and smiled at her five-year-old, who sat huddled forward between the chair legs with her arms and legs folded and a pirate patch over one eye.
'Naomi says you might have some things up your nose that you can't get down, is that right?'
She nodded. 'Yes.' It sounded more like 'Djes'.
'Can you come out from under the table so I can have a look?' Rosie coaxed gently.
Leona shook her head vigorously and closed her one uncovered eye. She still believed that if she couldn't see anyone, then no one could see her. She had been doing this since she was a baby, when Phil used to call her Little Ostrich.
'All right! All right!' Rosie lifted her palm. She was worried about what vigorous head-shaking might do to the small compass part and tiny eraser that were currently lodged inside her youngest daughter's head. 'I do need to have a closer look, love. I'll try and come to you.'
Rosie moved one of the four chairs from the kitchen table and poked her head into the cramped gap. Her knees hurt from contact with the cold, tiled floor and a tiny round pebble, probably delivered from the sole of a shoe, bit into her skin. It was on Phil's list of jobs to lay some lino and remove the tiles that she found quite hard to keep clean. 'Shitstar!' she muttered at the sharp pain. This was all she needed. 'Nearly there!' She kept the tone light and jovial rather than give in to the panic at the images that had started to creep into her mind. She wondered how close to your brain 'up your nose' actually was.
Wedged between two chairs, she smoothed the long fringe from her youngest daughter's face. Leona's beautiful, curly, caramel-coloured hair sat on her shoulders in waves. It was Rosie's pride and joy and caring for it one of her great pleasures. It was one of the things she had dreamt about when she was a little girl – having a mum who would wash and style her hair, brush it and fix it in a bun for parties.
It was cramped under the table and Rosie wished she was a more comfortable size twelve so that she didn't have to heft her size-sixteen bottom into the small space.
'Right, let's have a look at you.' She gently held her daughter's chin and tilted her face to the right, swallowing her horror at the unmistakeable bump that sat almost at the top of Leona's nose. A quick investigation revealed a similar shape on the other side.
'Okay, well that's all good,' she lied. 'I need you to come out, Leona, so I can have a better look in the light.' Rosie began reversing out, only to find Naomi blocking her exit from under the table.
'Did you get them out, Mum? Can I have my rubber back?' she asked.
'Not yet, darling, but we will. It's all going to be fine.' She looked back at Naomi and smiled. It was this particular combination of words and actions that had proved to be the best weapons she had as a mother, a combination that could make monsters disappear from under beds, quash nervous tums before special events and even soothe pain when they were poorly.
'Shall I call Dad and tell him he needs to take us to the hospital again?' Naomi was now bouncing on the spot, delighted by the drama and the possibility of more to follow.
'No! Of course not! Don't be daft!' She squeezed Leona's hand. 'I'll have a little wiggle in the light and they will pop out, I'm sure. If you could just move out of the way, Naomi, so I can get out.'
'I know what you need, Mum, one of those beeping warnings that lorries and forklift trucks and diggers have, so you don't run anyone over!' 'Yes, thank you, love. I probably do.'
'Beeeeep! Beeeeep! Beeeeep!' Her daughter's sound effects accompanied the rather ungainly manoeuvre.
* * *
It was an hour ater, as the trio sat in the A&E department of North Devon District Hospital, that Phil arrived, harried and covered in plastering dust but grinning at his girls.
'How you feeling, Leo?'
'Okay.' The little girl shrugged and then yawned. It was getting late.
'The nurse said it shouldn't be too much longer and it'll be a quick solution.' Rosie turned towards her husband, twisted her index finger into a hook and mimed putting it up her nose and pulling down.
'Are they going to stick something up her nose?' Naomi leant forward in her chair, quick to comment, as her sister's eyes widened at the prospect.
'No! Well, maybe, and if they do, she won't feel a thing,' Rosie said soothingly.
'What do you look like?' Phil stared at his eldest, taking in her school skirt, which was crumpled into a creased mess, and her matted hair. 'You look like you've been living in a barn!'
'Leona May Tipcott?' The doctor stood in the brightly lit, rectangular room and called her name, louder than was strictly necessary, Rosie thought, considering that the only other patients waiting were an elderly man who had cut his head and a young male footballer with a dodgy looking ankle, neither of whom were likely to go by that name.
Naomi answered her dad just as loudly. 'I haven't been living in a barn, Dad. I'm all screwed up because I was wearing your pants, but Mum said I couldn't go out in public like that.'
Rosie smiled at the young medic and wondered what their little family must look like to a stranger: she in her jeans, blue Converse and sweatshirt, stressed and with the fish pie she had made for supper splattered over her front; Phil covered in plastering dust; Naomi with her sparkly purple face, wild hair and screwed-up skirt; and Leona with a pirate patch on her forehead and a bump up each nose.
'Yep, that's us!' She stood up.
Taking Leona by the hand, she smiled at her husband. 'This is nearly as embarrassing as the time we went to look at that show house and she took a dump in the bidet!'
'I remember.' He laughed.
As Rosie bent to pick up her little girl, a wad of loo roll fell out of her bra and landed on the floor, in the middle of which sat her pregnancy test.
'What's that?' Naomi yelled and jumped on it, pulling the plastic from the paper and removing the lid, before placing the soggy tip in her palm. 'Urgh!' she shouted, then held up her hand for her dad's inspection.
Rosie held her husband's eye, gave a gentle shake of her head and swallowed the desire to cry. I wanted this baby, Phil. I wanted it so very much ...
* * *
'They're both asleep.' She sighed, grateful that it was bedtime. It had been a very long day. She popped her soft bed socks on. The cold wind seemed to rattle down the redundant chimneybreast in their bedroom and straight up under the duvet; socks were her salvation.
'Only us, Rosie, eh?' Phil pulled back the duvet and patted the space in the bed next to where he lay.
'I swear I only turned my back for a single minute to go to the loo and she had them up her nose! Why she would think that was a good idea, God only knows.' She pulled off her dressing gown and adjusted her bra; her large chest made her too self-conscious to sleep without one. She sank down onto the mattress, embarrassed, as ever, by the way it sagged under her weight.
'There's no point in trying to fathom that girl, she is a law unto herself, always has been. In fact they both are.' Phil smiled, as if this fact delighted him. 'The doctor said Leo had her own filing cabinet, she'd been there that often. I think he was only half joking.'
She laughed. 'It'll be something to put in your wedding speech.'
'Love, if I was to go through everything those two have been up to, I'd be there all night, we'd have to cancel the disco! And I hate to think what's to come – they're not even in double digits yet!' 'Oh, don't say that! We're not cancelling the disco! I think about that day, you know.'
Excerpted from My Husband's Wife by Amanda Prowse. Copyright © 2016 Amanda Prowse. Excerpted by permission of Head of Zeus Ltd.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Rosie Tipcott is married with two young daughters. She works part time as a housekeeper at an RV park, but her main role in life is taking care of her family. She has been trying to have another baby, but has not been blessed yet. She is also noticing that her husband is working a lot of extra hours at this latest job, but she's not concerned, that is until Phil comes home and drops a bombshell. He announces he’s leaving and has met someone else. The “other woman” is wealthy, beautiful and is the owner of the house that Phil has been renovating. In that moment, Rosie’s life is turned upside down. Who is she, if she is not her husband's wife? When he tries to take her children away, it gets even worse, she can't let that woman take her children away as well. This was such a realistic story, and we hear about these situations all the time. I loved Rosie. She was not a professional woman and was very much victimized. She didn't have a lot of money to fight against Phil and his new woman, all she has was her love for her children. As she dealt with the loss of her marriage, she had to grieve. She has some supports along the way, but it is always hard when friends and family are shared. I was happy to see her grow and develop a spine, although it took a long time. The children were a delight. They loved both their parents and it is hard for young children not to be taken in with stuff and promises of special times and activities, but even they came around. I really enjoyed this story, watching this sweet, trusting woman work her way through this terrible event and come through it as a stronger and better person than she was before it all started. It is a story about identity, and how important it is that we don't just identify as someone in relation to others. We need to be sure that we have something for ourselves as you never know when it will end. My one complaint is the ending. It was a bit abrupt and too happily ever after, but overall, this was a great story.
Rosie Tipcott has lived her entire life the North Devon seaside town of Wollacombe. She is married to Phil and has two young daughters, Naomi, age 7, and Leona, age 5. Rosie would love to have a third child, hopefully a son, but no but luck there. Her husband, Phil, says he would like to have another child but that money is too tight. Rosie never knew her mother because the woman disappeared right after Rosie was born leaving her to be raised by her Dad. Rosie is very satisfied with her life. She has good friends and the love and support of her in-laws. When her Dad informs her that her mother has passed away, she is angry that the woman chose to never be with her. But worse than that is what is waiting for her at home. Phil, with his bags packed, informs Rosie that he is leaving her for another woman. The woman is Geraldine Farmer, a super rich woman who is building a big home nearby that Phil and his family’s firm have been working on. Rosie is totally devastated at his betrayal of her and their daughters and has a hard time believing it. The story follows Rosie as she tries to accept Phil’s desertion, do all she can to keep the girls happy, and work as many hours as she can to make enough money to support them. Phil’s brother has always been Rosie’s best friend since they were kids. He travels a lot so the family rarely sees him. But his support is there for Rosie. Geraldine Farmer is the woman who has stolen Phil and as she worms herself into his family, she now wants the girls too. But a devastating accident changes things in Rosie’s life. I loved this book plus the emotions that Rosie went through and the changes in the attitude of her friends and family toward her as she becomes the "extra person." This is what can happen in life and that makes it so real. Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.