Back in the 1980s, teenagers Vince and Joy met, fell desperately in love, and never quite said good-bye. Now nearly twenty years later they've both begun to ask themselves if that long-ago romance was the enduring love that they've been searching for.
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Vince and JoyA Novel
By Lisa Jewell
Harper PaperbacksCopyright © 2006 Lisa Jewell
All right reserved.
Chapter OneVince threw his bag on to the bottom level of the stale-smelling bunks, pulled apart the papery curtains painted with ugly brushstroke daisies, and saw her for the first time.
She sat in a deck chair, her knees brought up to her chin, holding a magazine in her right hand while she picked absent-mindedly at black-painted toenails with the other. Her hair was dark brown and to her jaw, with a slight curl that kicked it across her cheeks like wood shavings. She wore all black-a sleeveless vest, oversized army surplus shorts, a frayed canvas ribbon in her hair.
'Vince-give me a hand with the gas, mate.' Chris popped his head around the cream melamine door and winked at him.
'Yeah. In a minute.' Vince turned back to the window and lifted the curtain again.
She was turning a page and rearranging her neat limbs. She fiddled with a small silver cross on a leather thong that hung around her neck and curled her toes around the frame of the deck chair.
Bang, bang, bang.
A hairy fist thumping at the window disturbed his reverie.
'Come on, mate.' Chris's face loomed into view.
'Yeah. OK.' Vince let the curtain drop, and straightened up.
There was a beautiful girl. In the caravan next door. Where for the previous four years there had been three boys, two Staffordshire bull terriers and a couple called Geoff and Dianefrom Lincolnshire. He stared at his reflection for a minute in the mirror above the gas fire in the living area. He was thrown. He hadn't factored the possibility of a beautiful girl into the prospect of two-weeks-on-a-caravan-site-in-Hunstanton. There'd never been a beautiful girl here before. Just an ugly girl. An ugly girl called Carol with an even uglier mate called Theresa who threw poorly phrased insults at him, then tried to get off with the sinewy guys who strode across the moving platforms of the Waltzers on Hunstanton pier, pretending to fancy ugly girls as they spun them masochistically in painted cups.
When Vince first came to Hunstanton with Chris and his mum, there'd been other kids of his age to hang out with. They'd gang together and mooch around the fairground, even went to a nightclub once. But as the years passed, they stopped coming. They stayed at home to hang out with their mates or their girlfriends, or they went on holiday with friends to places you needed a passport to get to. Even ugly Carol and Theresa seemed to have something better to do with their summer this year, evidenced by the drawn curtains of their caravan across the way.
Outside, Vince could hear Chris making friendly conversation with the mysterious girl. Fearing that he was missing out on something or, worse still, that Chris was embarrassing him in some way, he pulled his hands through his James Dean hair, ran a fingertip across the angry red scars beneath his jaw line and headed outside.
'Just outside London,' Chris was saying, 'Enfield. What about you?'
'Colchester,' she said, sliding the silver cross back and forth across the leather thong. 'You know, in Essex?'
'Aye,' said Chris, 'I know Colchester. Oh, look who it is.' He turned to look at Vince. 'Vince,' he said, 'come and meet our new neighbour. This is Joy.'
She was even more beautiful close up. Her skin was alabaster white, but there was something about her features that suggested something far-flung. Her nose was small and chiselled, and her cheekbones were set high in her face, but it was her eyes that held clues to the uncommon. Compact and wide-set, flat-lidded and framed with dense, dark lashes-the eyes of a painted china doll.
'Hi,' he said, smiling his new, stiff smile.
'Hiya,' she said, resting her magazine on her lap and sitting on her hands.
He noticed her eyes stray to the scars on his jaw, and turned his hands into fists to stop them wandering protectively towards his face.
'So,' she said, 'are you two mates?'
Vince looked at Chris in mock horror. 'God, no,' he said, 'Chris is my stepdad.'
'Really? How come?'
'Well, he married my mum.' He and Chris exchanged a look and laughed.
'Oh, right. Of course. Just you look kind of the same age.'
'Yeah-everyone says that. Chris is ten years older than me, though. He's twenty-nine. I'm nearly nineteen.'
'Right,' she said, looking from one to the other, almost as if doubting their story. 'And where's your wife? Your mum?'
'She's at the Spar,' said Chris, hauling the gas canister out of the little wooden cupboard and blowing some cobwebs off it. 'Getting us some tea. Should be back in a minute. Oh, talk of the devil, here she is.'
Kirsty's green Mini pulled up alongside the caravan and came to a halt with a crunch of gravel under rubber.
'Give us a hand, you two,' she said, heading for the boot.
Chris instantly dropped the canister and went to his wife's assistance. Vince nodded at Joy and rubbed at his scars.
'God, is that your mum?' said Joy.
Vince turned, expecting to see Beatrice Dalle or someone standing there, but, no, it was just his mother.
'How old is she? She doesn't look old enough to have a son your age.'
'Thirty-seven, I think. Thirty-eight. Something like that.'
'Bloody hell. She's younger than my mum was when she had me.'
They both stared at Vince's mum for a while, and Vince tried to think of something to say. This was officially the longest dialogue he'd ever exchanged with a girl who wasn't either in his class or going out with one of his mates, and the conversation felt like a flighty shuttlecock he was trying to keep in the air with the force of his will alone. He wanted to ask her something interesting. Something about music maybe, or ...
Excerpted from Vince and Joy by Lisa Jewell Copyright © 2006 by Lisa Jewell. Excerpted by permission.
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