Still Waters


A minute ago, everything had been fine in Ivy Heartley’s life. Now her worst nightmare was coming true. She’d been smiling happily as she’d opened the email from her sister-in-law, who was also a lifelong friend. She loved Peggy’s newsy letters, filled with gossip about the village where they’d both grown up, and where Peggy still lived. Her emails had the ability to bring everything to life, and Ivy could almost see the events she described unfolding before her very eyes.

Ivy had been chuckling as she read what had happened the previous week in the Lincolnshire village of Willow Haven. Peggy told her about the fund-raising drive for a new roof for the church, the disastrous garden party at the vicarage, and the thief who’d raided the church’s allotment. She’d been concerned to hear that Mrs Evans had just had a hip-replacement operation, and glad that her old school friend Clara Bellingham had got engaged to Bill Huggins from Allcott, a nearby town.

Ivy regularly visited Willow Haven. She and her husband – Peggy’s brother – had left as soon as they’d finished school, and moved to London where Ivy studied at RADA. Now, almost twenty years later, they were both very successful in their respective careers, and Joseph, their son, was at university. She was a highly paid soap star, and Danny was founder and managing director of the Betterbuys supermarket chain. Their tiny rented flat in London was now a distant memory, and today they lived in a luxurious mansion in Sussex.

Ivy stretched, and decided to make herself a cup of tea before she continued reading Peggy’s long email. While she boiled the kettle and placed a tea bag in a cup, she’d revel in the anticipation. She smiled as she thought of the garden party at the vicarage – those occasions were usually cringe-worthy, and she’d attended more of them than she cared to remember. As a celebrity, she was often called upon to open fêtes or lend a touch of glamour to community social events.

Returning to the computer, Ivy sat down again and scrolled through Peggy’s email as she sipped her tea, reading about Peggy’s husband Ned and family, and about her father-in-law Fred Heartley’s high blood pressure. Peggy kept a close eye on him, for which Ivy was grateful, since she and Danny were hundreds of miles away.

Suddenly, Ivy’s heart gave a lurch as she read Peggy’s final words. Since the village has been expanding so much lately, there are plans afoot for draining Harper’s Lake. The space will be used for landfill, which means that eventually the land could be built on. Ned thinks it’s a crazy idea, but the local council has voted in favour of it.

Ivy’s hands were now shaking, and she could no longer hold the cup. Putting it down, she covered her face with her hands. “Oh God,” she whispered, “what am I going to do?” The past was finally catching up with her. The secret she’d kept hidden for most of her adult life was now about to destroy her. And not just her alone, but her entire family. Her career would be over, Danny would hate her for what she’d done. And Joseph – how would he react when he discovered his mother’s heinous secret? Peggy, too, would want nothing to do with her. And all because she hadn’t told the truth all those years ago.

Ivy found herself shaking from head to toe. If the Council’s plan went ahead, the ripples from the lake would spread out and devastate many lives in the process. Just as they had on that fateful day when her own life had changed forever.


Rosa Dalton was sitting at her desk in the classroom, busy writing in the front page of one of her schoolbooks, her fluffy blonde hair almost touching the desk as she leaned over it. Class hadn’t yet begun, and she was deeply absorbed in what she was doing, which was writing her name as Rosa Heartley over and over again.

Everyone in the school knew that sixteen-year-old Rosa was crazy about Danny Heartley, and dreamed of marrying him and living happily ever after. He attended the local boys’ school and was in the same class as Rosa and her friends. Every day she’d wait outside the girls’ school in the hopes of engaging him in conversation when he passed by on his way home. But despite Danny’s disinterest, Rosa refused to accept defeat. If Danny would only ask her out, she’d show him what a wonderful girlfriend – and later, wife – she could be. She just needed the opportunity!

As the teacher arrived, Clara Bellingham, who was sitting behind Rosa, gave her a warning dig in the back, and Rosa quickly hid the book she’d been writing in. Flashing Clara a grateful smile, she got out the correct book and turned to the page the teacher called out. It was Geometry today, and Rosa was bored before the class even began. All she could think of was Danny Heartley and his flashing eyes, and the shock of unruly blond hair that fell across his left eye.

“This morning, we’re going to look at isosceles and equilateral triangles – please turn to page 47 of your texts,” Mrs Jones announced, but Rosa heard nothing. She didn’t see the value of all this theory – after all, when she and Danny were married, they weren’t going to be discussing geometry over the breakfast table, were they?

As the teacher droned on about the importance of understanding the concepts of angles, equal and unequal sides, Rosa had a dreamy look on her face. Geometry had no place in her world view, and she regarded it as just another torment thought up by adults to keep young people from enjoying themselves.

She was having a lovely daydream about being married to Danny when the teacher noticed her gazing out the window with a faraway look in her eyes.

“Rosa Dalton, explain what I’ve just been talking about.” Mrs Jones had a triumphant gleam in her eye. She’d caught Rosa out, and she intended to make the most of it.

At first Rosa didn’t answer because she was too absorbed in her daydream, but the sudden silence and tittering at the back of the classroom gradually began to filter through to her consciousness and she glanced around, only to see Mrs Jones bearing down on her.

“Oh . . .”

“Stand up and repeat what I’ve just been explaining to the class for the last fifteen minutes.”

“Oh er, I’m sorry, Mrs Jones,” Rosa faltered, “I – I’m –”

“She didn’t recognise her name, Mrs Jones!” shouted one of the girls at the back of the room. “If you’d called her Rosa Heartley, she’d have answered straight away!”

The classroom dissolved into laughter since everyone knew about Rosa’s feelings for Danny Heartley. Angrily, Mrs Jones called for order as she returned to the podium.

“Sit down, you silly girl,” she said haughtily to an embarrassed Rosa. “You’d better buck up and pay attention if you want to get decent exam results. There’s more to life than boys, you know.”

The other pupils began to snigger at the mention of boys, and Rosa turned puce.

Ivy Morton, who was sitting at the back of the class, felt sorry for her.  Rosa was a daydreamer, but she had a bubbly personality and was fun to be with. Although they’d never been close friends, she and Rosa hung out with the same group of boys, and Rosa was usually the centre of attention because of her outrageous jokes and coquettish behaviour. It was impossible to dislike her, even though she always tried to outshine all the other girls and focus the boys’ attention solely on her. She had a presence and a sense of her own importance and Ivy, who desperately wanted to be an actress when she left school, often wondered if Rosa wasn’t more suited to the profession than she was.

Rosa heaved a sigh of relief as the teacher began the lesson again. She tried to look nonchalant and unaffected by the teacher’s comments – she didn’t want anyone thinking she cared about what Mrs Jones had to say. On the other hand, she was well aware that she needed to knuckle down and start studying. But it was difficult when Danny Heartley occupied so much of her thoughts . . .

Since childhood, Rosa had wanted to be a flight attendant, and she’d never tired of telling anyone who’d listen that she hoped to work for one of the big airlines. Everyone assured her that with her personality and looks she’d be a shoo-in, and in her dreams Danny was always waiting at the airport to welcome her home from the exotic locations she’d been visiting. He’d be so proud of his highflying wife . . .

Rosa sighed. But first, she had to catch Danny, and convince him that she was the girl for him. She couldn’t understand what he saw in shy, mousey Ivy Morton, who’d never amount to anything. Much to Rosa’s annoyance, Danny was always trying to talk to Ivy, and she always ended up laughing at his antics as he tried to get her attention.

Rosa was relieved that Ivy didn’t seem to return his feelings – or was the minx playing hard to get? Rosa’s heart plummeted at the thought that Ivy might simply be pretending indifference in order to snare Danny. If Ivy started going out with him, Rosa knew she’d never live down the shame. Since everyone knew how much she fancied Danny, the other students would either feel sorry for her, or be delighted she’d got her comeuppance. Either way, she wouldn’t be able to face them day after day in school. If only she’d kept her feelings for Danny to herself! But she’d confided in a supposedly trustworthy friend, who’d told her own circle of friends, and suddenly the whole school knew about it. Before long, everyone in the boys’ school knew too. But ultimately, all the embarrassment would be worth it if she and Danny finally got together . . .

Suddenly the school bell rang, and Rosa was catapulted back to reality. She sighed with relief – another day of torment was over.

Clara nudged her. “Are we going to the lake?”

Rosa nodded. This was the most important part of the day, and a rite of passage for pupils in both the boys’ and girls’ senior school years.

“See you in five,” she whispered, hurrying out of the classroom and down the corridor to the school toilets. She needed to check her hair, apply some discreet make-up and lip-gloss, and dab on some of the perfume she’d sneaked from her mother’s dressing table. Hopefully, Danny Heartley would be at the lake too . .