Single mum Jess has had her world turned upside down. Now it’s about to be turned inside out.
Jess has got a tough life back on track after love-of-her-life husband Simon walked out on her and their beautiful young daughters Katy and Abi. But she has long-time friend and confidante Polly to turn to…until Polly and Simon start having an affair together.
When Polly decides to apply for a job at Jess’s school, in the English department, Jess feels threatened. So why has Polly set her sights on the department head’s role? And why is the school now offering Jess a sideways ‘promotion’?
Jess can no longer trust anyone – including herself. Then out of the blue she is mysteriously sent a clipping for a temporary post in the Ministry of Education in Ghana, where she did a gap year as a teenager, and where she was happy. She is on the brink of losing everything at home but could this be a lifeline?
Julia Ibbotson’s Finding Jess is a passionate study of love and betrayal – and of one woman’s bid to reclaim her self-belief and trust after suffering great misfortune. It is a feel-good story of a woman’s strength and spirit rising above adversity.
On that night, in 1986, so long ago, on their wedding anniversary, lying next to her beloved Simon, listening to his breathing, loving him yet somehow afraid, she had held her hands up over her face trying to blank out the rhythmic rising and falling of sounds in the heavy darkness, that sense of imminent danger. She had no idea what was about to happen to them, to her much-loved family, but somehow it reminded her so vividly of that time in Ghana, and those portentous drumbeats … they were haunting her again, whatever they meant …
… the whispering souls and spirits calling to her across the bush; the surging and dying of the wind on the night air, the insistent beat of the kpanlogo djembe. Once more, her dreams were garish and crowded as they had been there. And she remembered that haunting. What was it that felt so ominous now?
Eventually, exhausted, she had slept, but it was restless and in the morning she had struggled out of bed feeling as though she had the worst hangover ever. Simon was already up and she could hear him downstairs as she went for her shower.
“Katy! Abi! Are you both up?” she had called.
“Yes, I’m getting dressed and Katy’s gone down.”
After her shower she had sunk onto the stool at the dressing table and peered at her drawn features. Her eyes looked puffy and sore. Right. Makeup out, let’s get respectable. Paint a decent face on …
As she swept brown eyeliner across her eyes, she became aware that he was standing in the bedroom doorway, a sense of agitation emanating from him. She could almost smell the sweat. She looked up and saw that he was leaning against the lintel staring at her. It was not a loving stare but a troubled, frowning one and she knew that he needed to tell her something that she wasn’t going to like. She knew him so well. Some money problem? Work? He wanted to resign from his job and let her to be the breadwinner? Oh dear – she hoped not. She didn’t have the years of promotions behind her to stand keeping the family on her income. But he had threatened that so many times.
She raised her eyebrows enquiringly. He shifted from foot to foot in the doorway and Jess began to feel very uneasy. Her hand trembled and she dripped the liquid eyeliner onto the dressing table.
“I have to tell you,” he said with a slow intake of breath, those fatal, unimaginable, alien words that would haunt her forever. “I’m leaving you.”
“What?” She hadn’t expected that. Her heart fell, tumbling to inexorable death.
“You heard me,” Simon snapped, his face suddenly contorted. “I’ve decided that I don’t want to be a husband and father any more.”
“Decided …? What on earth do you mean?”
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Thank you to Julia Ibbotson for being featured on my blog today!