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From Notting Hill to New York . . . Actually



‘Scarlett, can you get me another glass of juice, please?’

I close the lid of my laptop and sigh, getting up from the chair in the study to go across the hall and through to the living room where a sorrowful pair of blue eyes looks up at me from the sofa.

‘Sure, what do you want this time, orange or apple?’

‘Apple, please.’ Sean holds out his empty glass. He manages a weak smile.

‘All right, you don’t have to lay it on so thick,’ I admonish. ‘I thought you were feeling better this morning.’

‘I am, but I still feel a bit wobbly when I try to get up.’

‘OK, I’ll get your juice. You just stay right where you are watching . . . ’ I glance at the TV screen, and it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest to see cars racing around a track, as per usual. ‘Let me guess – it wouldn’t happen to be Top Gear, would it?’


Sean nods absent-mindedly, his attention already lost to the petrol-head world of Clarkson, The Stig and their ridiculously priced cars.

I wander through to the kitchen and fill Sean’s glass with juice. He’d been off sick for a few days now, and I’d been doing my best nursing act, when I’d been at home, looking after him. I didn’t mind, even though I was just beginning to think he was pushing his luck a bit with the ‘I’m so ill’ looks when he wanted something. But when I’d had an extremely nasty dose of the flu last December and could barely get out of bed, let alone walk to our kitchen, for over a week, Sean had taken time off work – unheard of for him – and had waited on me hand and foot. He’d even carried me to the bathroom on one occasion when I was too weak to get there myself. So I really couldn’t complain about a few glasses of juice and a sandwich here and there.

I stand for a moment, admiring our new kitchen. I’d spent many a happy hour poring over designer-kitchen

catalogues with my friend, Oscar, choosing just the right oven and fridge to go with the newly installed granitecovered worktops and pale wood units. Sean couldn’t understand why, when I first moved in here with him, I’d wanted to refit what he considered to be a perfectly adequate kitchen. But I told him that if I was going to move into his house in Notting Hill, I would at least want to put my own stamp on the place, and as always Sean had just let me get on with it. He was very easy-going like that.

Smiling to myself, I stare out of the kitchen window into our small, recently renovated back garden. Neither

Sean nor I were really into gardening, so we’d gone for the minimal amount of planting and maximum amount of ‘garden architecture’ as our landscaper, Murray, had called it when we’d hired him to help us out last autumn when deciding what to do with the patch of land at the back of the house. Now we have the perfect area to sit outside in on a summer’s evening, with a glass of chilled wine, chatting over the day’s events with each other.

Except, I realise as I stand here now, we’ve only ever done that once, and the person I sit out there with most often is Oscar, when we’re discussing the lives of the contestants in the newest reality TV show, or the latest salacious plot twist in our favourite soap opera.

I lift the glass from the counter and head back to Sean.

‘Here you go,’ I say, handing him the glass. ‘One juice.’

‘Thanks, Scarlett. You’ve been great at looking after me while it’s been my turn for the flu.’ I look sceptically at him. I hardly think this is anything like what I had in December: his is more of a

bad cold. What I’m seeing in front of me, I think, is the common phenomenon known as ‘man flu’.

‘So when do you think you’ll be well enough to go back to work?’ I ask, slipping onto the sofa next to him.

I lift up yet more car and sport magazines and drop them on the ever-growing pile on the floor.

‘Maybe tomorrow,’ Sean says, turning his attention from the TV for a moment. ‘But definitely by Thursday.

I have to fly to Brussels for a meeting.’

‘Again?’ I ask in astonishment. Sean takes so many business trips abroad he might as well be a bird. His ratio of air-to-ground time is certainly enough to qualify him as one of our feathered friends.

‘Yes. Come on, not this again, Red?’ he raises a sandycoloured eyebrow at me. ‘I thought we’d been over all that. You knew when you met me that my business means I have to be away a lot.’

I shrug and stare at the TV screen. Sean’s right; I did know he had to travel for meetings and stay away often – that was one of the drawbacks of running your own very successful company. But it didn’t mean I had to like it. It wasn’t fair. I ran my own company. Well, I did, with my father, but I never got to travel away from home. There weren’t many opportunities to go to popcorn-machine conferences, and the only people I ever seemed to meet with were the managers of cinemas. It was always me here, waiting for Sean to come back from his trips.


My thoughts are distracted by the TV for a moment. What are they doing this time, are they actually trying to sail those cars across water? Makes a change from blowing up caravans, I suppose.

‘Don’t you ever get fed up watching this?’ I ask, hoping to change the subject. I really didn’t want an argument today. We’d had quite a few of those lately, petty things such as Sean leaving towels on the bathroom floor, clothes on the bedroom floor. In fact, floors were quite a sticky point with us right now.

‘Top Gear? No, it’s hilarious.’

‘Hmm . . .’

‘It is! The other day I watched an episode where they were actually playing a game of darts with real cars and a huge gas-powered cannon!’

I look at him doubtfully. Is this the same man I met a year ago, who had swept me off my feet on the top of the London Eye by silently declaring his love for me in movie quotes with flash cards, Love Actually-style?

‘And,’ Sean continues, ‘I seem to remember you being very interested in the episode when Tom Cruise

and Cameron Diaz were driving around the race track.’

‘Yes, well, that was different. They don’t usually have movie stars on there, do they?’ I hadn’t lost my love of movies altogether since moving in with Sean. It had just been diluted to a more ‘manageable’ level. I gesture at the TV screen. ‘A programme where three middle-aged men drone on about cars for half an hour just isn’t my idea of fun. It’s like Last of the Summer Wine, but with engines and a bit more hair.’

Sean’s lips twitch in amusement as he tries to remain serious. ‘What is your idea of a good programme, then? Hmm . . . let me think. I know, there needs to be the minimum of at least one crime, preferably a murder to be solved by a dour yet lovable detective. Or the actors need to be trussed up in a corset, a pair of tight breeches and live in a big mansion in the country somewhere.’

‘I do watch more than police shows and costume dramas,’ I reply haughtily. ‘I have quite a varied taste in

televisual viewing.’

Sean grins now. ‘That’s right, I almost forgot – we need to make sure the leading man is a bit of a handsome fella too, and then it’s your perfect programme! I should call the BBC and suggest it to them: remake Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth, except this time call it Mr Darcy Investigates. He could ride around on his horse, unravelling local mysteries. There must have been loads of unsolved murders in Jane Austen’s time.’

I fold my arms and survey him disapprovingly across the sofa. Although the idea of Colin Firth striding around Pemberley as an eighteenth-century detective is not altogether a bad idea . . .

‘Well, tell me I’m wrong,’ Sean challenges, still grinning.

‘Why would I need to lust after TV stars when I’ve got my own handsome hunk sitting right here on my

sofa?’ I answer, my frown beginning to soften into a smile. ‘When you’re actually at home, of course,’ I add.

‘Hmm . . . I might just let you get away with that,’

Sean says, reaching across the settee and pulling me towards him.

‘Oi,’ I pretend to complain, as I find myself on Sean’s lap. ‘I thought you weren’t well!’

‘I’m suddenly feeling much, much better,’ Sean whispers as he deftly flicks off the TV with the remote control in one hand, while the other wraps itself around my waist. And I find, for once, that it’s my chassis commanding his attention for the next few minutes, instead of the highly polished, overpriced ones on the TV screen.