by Jenny Morton Potts
How far would you go to save a life?
On golden Mediterranean sands, maverick doctor Scott Langbrook falls recklessly in love with his team leader, Fiyori Maziq. If only that was the extent of his falling, but Scott descends into the hellish clutches of someone much more sinister.
‘Just’ is a story of love and loss, of terror and triumph. Set in idyllic Cambridge and on the shores of the Med and Cornwall, our characters fight for their very lives on land and at sea.
An unforgettable novel which goes to the heart of our catastrophic times, and seeks salvation.
At Westside Dental Practice in Cambridge, it was quitting time.
“Oh, nearly forgot.” Finlay Duff pulled an envelope from his jacket pocket and thrust it roughly towards Lucienne Langbrook. “This came for you. Hand delivered.”
Luci thought her Practice Partner looked a little out of sorts. “What’s wrong?”
“What is wrong is that your root canal patient left without paying. A full apicoectomy. That’s the best part of a grand, that is.”
“Ah. I see. Blimey, he was a gruff sort. Even before the pain and general torture.” Luci tore the letter out of the envelope with her fingers which annoyed her Partner further. Finlay always used a letter opener, the handle of which was monogrammed with his initials. She’d given him that as a birthday present, from the website What Do You Give The Smug Git Who Has Everything?
“Come to think of it, Finlay, my patient didn’t even thank me.”
“It’s not funny. May I remind you that we have spent a fortune doing this surgery up. And every penny of interest that we—”
“Oh my God.” Lucienne’s fingers flew to her mouth.
The letter shook in her hand as she read it quickly again, then held it out at the end of a stiff arm. Finlay took the letter and began to murmur his way through.
It is with enormous regret that I have to inform you of Eddie’s death. As you may know, he was in Botswana on a contract with Lucara Diamonds, and one evening on his way back to the hotel, his car ran into an elephant.
The letter shook a little in Finlay’s hand.
“Oh my sainted aunt, you cannot be laughing. Fin, tell me you’re not laughing at this.”
“I’m not! Of course, I’m not.” Finlay’s Glaswegian accent always amplified in moments of vehemence. “It’s just a nerve thing. I’m like this at funerals. I am.”
Luci grabbed the letter from him. “Well, there’s not going to be a funeral. And if there was, you certainly wouldn’t be invited. Look! She’s going out there. Her. To cremate Edward.”
“Susan. Mrs Langbrook Mark Two. She’s going to Botswana.” Lucienne flicked her hand away from her own body and towards a far-off continent, like Susan was an imaginary fly to be propelled. “It is the incumbent, you see, the present wife, who buries the husband.”
“Whit? They’re not bringing the body back? How’s Ed going to feel about that?” Finlay tried to arrange his amusement into a frown.
“Oh you’re concerned, are you, about Ed’s wishes? Come off it. You always loathed him. Anyway, it’s what he wanted. Not to be repatriated, in such a… circumstance. Apparently. You know Edward, every administrative eventuality will have been planned for.”
“Give me back the letter, I didn’t finish.”
Lucienne looked at her watch. “It’s just gone six thirty. I’m going to lock up. My God.” She pushed her hand through her blonde streaks and held it there for a moment, at the temple, where the grey crept to the fray once more. Then she left the letter on the luxurious orange leather of the Aston treatment chair – Finlay’s personal favourite – and he reclined on it now to finish Susan Langbrook’s letter.
…accidents are actually the most common cause of death in that country. Not all animal related, obviously, but elephants are a constant hazard. The temperature drops rapidly in the evening and the tarmac is the warmest place for the beasts. Eddie wasn’t driving particularly quickly, the Botswana Police Service said (from the tyre marks) but all the same, an object of that size…
Lucienne Langbrook checked that the drug cabinets were closed properly and set the new alarm with her son Scott’s birth date. The letter said that Scott had been told about his father’s accident, but Luci had not heard from her son since he first arrived in Libya. She’d had a text, saying “Landed” and that was it. Was he in touch with Susan though? Oh dear God, was he? A little hook of pain hitched onto Lucienne’s heart. Both her loves in Africa, one dead love – Edward – who was now actually dead, and the other, her son, who was both missing and being missed terribly. Had Susan Langbrook heard from Scott though?
Lucienne could hear Finlay’s regulation brogues on the newly fitted engineered oak. She wanted to fall down, simply, on the floor and wait for something better. Finlay gestured at her torso. “C’mon Luci. Rip that Velcro.”
She took off her crisp, pale blue dental tunic. It had arrived just that morning and her Partner had wanted to tell her how much better that choice than the bottle green she’d considered. Finlay wanted to tell her how much she suited this tunic, the short sleeves showing off her perfect arms, the unnecessary but charming penny collar for the lady dentist. He cramped his toes up inside his shoes to banish his inappropriate responses. Anyway, Lucienne Langbrook wouldn’t stand for a compliment. Finlay knew that he ought to be ashamed of his skin-deep assessments, when she’d just that moment got news of her ex-husband’s brutal passing. Ought to be ashamed, but wasn’t. “Hey, not a mark on it. Your shirt, Luci. Must have been a good day. At some point.”
He threw her tunic into the laundry and got their coats. “I’m sorry about Ed. I am really. Sincerely. I do struggle with certain aspects of being a grown up but I—”
“You hated him from the very first.”
“It’s alright, I did too, in the end. I hated Edward. Hated him and loved him. An elephant for fuck’s sake.” She looked up at her best friend and Practice Partner, eyes ashine with coping. “Now it really is, the end.”
Jenny is a novelist, screenplay writer, and playwright. After a series of ‘proper jobs’, she realized she was living someone else’s life and escaped to Gascony to make gîtes. Knee deep in cement and pregnant, Jenny was happy. Then autism and a distracted spine surgeon wiped out the order. Returned to wonderful England, to write her socks off.
Jenny would like to see the Northern Lights but worries that’s the best bit and should be saved till last. Very happily, and gratefully, settled with the family. She tries not to take herself too seriously.
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