A dancer born in the back streets of Paris. A love and friendship she never knew existed. A secret she must keep close to her heart.
Born to a troubled mother and a resentful father, and raised in an impoverished area of Paris, circumstances present little expectation for Vanessa. Only her natural ability to dance and the self-centred ambitions of her dance teacher offers respite from the turbulence of her early life.
Eventually, she escapes. She travels to Brittany to be with the captivating Monique, and by the time she returns home she has learned to use her beauty and sexuality to her advantage. She knows how to get what she wants and is determined to turn her life around.
Years later, Vanessa’s dying mother tells her a story; a story that helps her understand and changes the course of her life completely. A story that compels Vanessa to travel to London and search for the sister she never knew.
She meets Malissa and as their friendship grows, and the pieces of her sister’s life start to slot into place, Vanessa is forced to make a choice: reveal her secret and risk shattering the joy she has finally found. Or keep it. And live with the consequences.
Vanessa is the story of a girl hardened by her upbringing and a woman softened by love. A love she never knew existed; a love she thought was beyond her, but a love which promised a life she is loath to destroy.
May 1990, Returning From Cornwall
It had been a long day and, as she settled into her seat for the journey to London, Vanessa realised how tired she was. She had the confirmation she sought, and though she would love to ask Henry more, how could she without destabilising the lives of two people she had grown to love?
When she spoke to him in Majorca last summer, she felt sure he glimpsed the secret she harboured; the secret that she was Emma’s half-sister. They could so easily have discussed her. Surely in Henry’s eyes she saw the seeds of a question developing in his mind, a question perhaps he was too afraid to ask. He had hesitated, but then was clearly reluctant to pursue the conversation in the direction she tried to lead; a direction which may have led to discovering the real reason he first came to Söller, and something instinctively told her not to push it further. Now, almost a year later, she was perhaps beginning to understand why. Maybe one day Henry would tell her the truth; maybe one day she would tell him. But until then she would, as she had done for the last three years, continue to live with her secret.
Not telling Malissa had never sat easily with Vanessa; but Malissa didn’t even know about Emma’s existence so telling her had never seemed right. Telling her now certainly wouldn’t be. She rested her head on her hand against the window, hoping the soporific motion of the train would afford her the sleep she craved. She smiled to herself, wondering if Malissa had agreed to name their baby as Henry had suggested. She doubted it.
Then she closed her eyes and thought about the story her mother had told her. It was a story of a journey; a journey to England her mother had taken as a child with her mother Edith, which had ended so tragically with the abandonment of Vanessa’s older half-sister.
Meet The Characters
These are Gary's visions of some of the main characters.
Notably, he has not included one of Henry Ovmeister himself!
Malissa enjoyed the shelter of a middle-class suburban upbringing with doting and loving parents. She excelled at school and harboured ambitions of becoming an actress before joining the Fenner Agency, whose business was predominantly that of a publishing company, where she extended the agency’s reach into the theatrical world.
Somewhat shy and unassuming as youngster Malissa blossomed at Fenner’s and her gregariousness, enthusiasm, work ethic and natural willingness to assist people in their development quickly earned her a glowing reputation. Although a powerful and respected woman in her industry she remained kind and unassuming and was clearly revered by those who came to know her.
From “Vanessa” Chapter 3.
Vanessa visits her dying mother for the last time.
She opened the door. Her mother was sitting up and Vanessa was surprised how well she looked. She smiled as Vanessa entered.
“You’re very beautiful, Mum,” Vanessa said softly, taking her mother’s hand. She felt her squeeze it.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been the mother you needed,” she said. Her mother’s voice was clearer than it had been that morning. “But never doubt I have loved you.”
Vanessa smiled. This wasn’t the first time this week her mother had told her she loved her. Her hand shook a little as she raised the beaker to her lips to take a sip of water and Vanessa helped her, gently taking the beaker from her when she had finished, the red outline of her lips on the rim reminding her of her childhood.
“You are your own person, Vanessa,” she continued, “and a strong woman. Strong because you have survived. I have watched you grow from a distance and I am so proud of you.” Her voice was losing clarity and Vanessa leant closer. Her mother slowly raised her hand to touch her daughter’s face and Vanessa nestled into it, feeling her mother’s touch on her lips. Before it could fall Vanessa softly cradled it, keeping hold as she laid it back down on the bed. Her mother smiled and closed her eyes as she breathed in. Vanessa wondered how many more times she would hear that intake of air. She watched as she breathed those slow, shallow breaths. Many people had remarked on her mother’s allure over the years, but Vanessa had never seen her look so serenely beautiful. Surely, she wasn’t in pain.