- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: MIRA (October 31, 2017)
Tragedy sends troubled film star Vivien Lockhart into the arms of Giovanni Moretti—and it seems her fortunes have finally changed. Until she meets his sister and learns that her new husband’s past holds dark secrets…
Tuscany, Present day
Lucy Whittaker needs to disappear. But her new home, the crumbling Castillo Barbarossa, is far from the secluded paradise it seemed. Strange sounds come from the attic. The owner of the house will never meet her in person.
The fountain in the courtyard is silent—but has never run dry.
Across the decades, Vivien and Lucy find themselves trapped in the idyllic Italian villa.
And if they are ever to truly escape its walls, they must first unearth its secrets…
I turn on to our street. Unlocking the front door, I see Bill still hasn’t got the hang of sorting through the post, so I scoop the scattered envelopes off the floor and divide them between the flats, before taking our own upstairs. Bill still hasn’t got the hang of a lot of shared living, I’ve noticed, like replacing loo roll or putting out the recycling every once in a while. I don’t mind, though. She’s been my best friend since we could walk; she’s been with me through it all and she’s still with me now, the only one who knows the brutal truth and even then she didn’t walk away, when she really could have. When she should have. That’s why I don’t care about the recycling.
“How was it?” She’s waiting when I go in, drink poured, TV on, some rehash of a talent show, and she drains the volume when I lift my shoulders.
“As expected.” I set the box down and consider, as I had back at the office, how five years can be compressed into five minutes’ packing. Some old notecards, my desk calendar, a sangria-bottle fridge magnet from Portugal sent to me by a client.
“No fanfare, then?” Bill gives me a hug and a squeeze. The squeeze brings up tears, but I blink them away. “It’s your own fault,” Natasha, his deputy, had hissed as I’d slunk towards the exit of Calloway & Cooper, trying to ignore the stares that followed, fascinated and horrified, like traffic crawling past a pile-up.
Natasha has had it in for me from day one. My theory? She’s in love with him. As his commercial director she was widely regarded as his second in command—but then I came along, usurping her as the closest person to him, his PA, and I know she tried to get someone else into the role, because Holly in Accounts told me. Only, Natasha didn’t win. I did. And I think she couldn’t handle the fact that, for a second there, towards the end, before it all went wrong, it looked as if he might have loved me back. When it blew up, all her Christmases came at once. Natasha was delighted to see me go and couldn’t believe her luck at the circumstances that drove me to it.
I try a laugh, but it dies in my throat. “No fanfare,” I agree and grab the wine and sink it in one. Bill refills me. I want to smoke a cigarette, but I’m trying to give up. Great timing, Lucy, I think. Who cares now, if you live or die? But that is melodrama, and I annoy myself for thinking it. Instead, I keep focused on the alcohol. If I keep drinking, I’ll get numb, and if I get numb, I won’t feel anything. I won’t feel his touch on my cheek, his kiss on my mouth, my neck…
“Come on,” says Bill, with an uncertain smile. “It’s finished.”
“You never have to see those people again. You never have to see him again.”
One thing Bill doesn’t understand, and I can’t find the words to explain: I have to see him again. Even after everything, how I should want to run as far away from him as I can, I’m as addicted to him as I was the first day. Inappropriate isn’t the half of it. I read that the funeral happened this morning, in a cemetery south of the river, and I can’t stop thinking of him, rigid with grief, those grey, beautiful eyes set hard on the ground, the cool drizzle settling on the shoulders of his coat, a coat I’d once warmed my hands in on a cold night on Tower Bridge, and he’d kissed the tip of my nose. How I long to put my arms around him now, tell him I am sorry and that I miss him. When what I should be feeling is guilt, burning guilt, shame and disgrace and all those things, and I do feel them, every day I do, but at the same time I can’t forget the power of us. We don’t belong with any of that confusion or chaos or sadness.
“…you could consider it, you know, if that’s what you want.”
Bill is looking at me gently, waiting for a response.
“What? I was miles away.”
“Freddy’s sister’s boyfriend,” she says, presumably for the second time. “He’s just come back from Italy—that language course he went on in Florence?” Bill prompts me, and to placate her I nod, even though I have no memory of this (so much over the past twelve months has dissolved to insignificance; I can’t even remember who Freddy is—someone Bill works with?). “While he was out there,” she goes on, “he made friends with this girl who was looking after a house on weekends. Well, I say house, but it’s more like a mansion. In fact, Freddy said it was this giant pile, and someone famous lives there, but the friend never met her, and anyway, this woman’s a recluse and never goes out.” Bill slumps down on the sofa. “Sounds intriguing, right? Like the start of a novel.” There’s something behind the cushion and she reaches to retrieve it. “Hey.” Her face lights up. “I found 50p!”
I frown. “What’s this got to do with me?”
Bill crosses her legs. “The girl got fired and they’re looking for someone to replace her. All very hush-hush…apparently, they never advertise. The woman sounds a bit weird, sure, but how hard could it be? Dusting a few shelves, sweeping the floor…” She makes a face and I wonder if her knowledge of looking after a house extends beyond Cinderella. “Then getting to sunbathe all day with some sexy Italian you’ve met in the city? I’d do it myself if I didn’t have to go to work on Monday.”
I’m wary. “What are you suggesting?”
“Think about it, Lucy.” Her voice softens. “Since this thing happened, you’ve been desperate to get away. You haven’t stopped talking about it, how you can’t stay here.”
“What’s the alternative?” Bill asks.
I think about the alternative. Fronting the world, my family, my face splashed across the nation’s papers, quotes taken out of context, painted to be someone I’m not.
Would he break his silence then? Would he reach to help me? Would he stand at my side? Bill’s words sting: He doesn’t care. He doesn’t give a crap about you.
Her question hangs unanswered. It’s all I can do to turn to my friend, the fight gone out of me. “I’m sorry,” I say, meaning it, and she shakes her head like it doesn’t matter. “I just…” A well swims up my chest, threatening to spill over, and my voice goes funny. “I’m just not coping.”
“I know.” Bill hugs me. “Please promise me you’ll consider it?”
In bed that night, I do. Lying awake, pretending to myself that I’m not waiting for my phone to light up, I listen to the passing hum of traffic that gradually dwindles to quiet, before, at around two, I finally fall asleep. The last thing I think of, for the first time in months, isn’t him. It’s a house, surrounded by cypress trees, deep in the middle of the Italian hills. As I walk towards dreams, I’m in a tangled rose garden. Something unseen beckons me, a shadow slipping in and out of sunlight.
I come to a fountain, quiet and glittering silver.
I look in the pool at my reflection.
It takes a moment to recognise myself. For a heartbeat it’s not me I see.
About Victoria FoxVictoria Fox is a bestselling author in the UK. She used to work in publishing and is now the author of six novels. The Silent Fountain is her breakout novel in North America. She divides her time between Bristol and London.
Connect with Victoria
To see the rest of the tour, click here.