The daughter of a world famous writer who has mysteriously vanished, begins an emotional journey to not only search for her lost mother, but to also find out what made her into the woman she became. Sasha learns a lot about herself along the way, not only about her mother, but also those who mean the most to her.
Sasha Fletcher stepped out of the London Studios, and for a moment the bright sunlight hit her eyes and made her wince. She'd spent the morning ensconced in a tiny studio filled with artificial light and the stifling heat of cameras and electrical cables; and to be greeted with real life was a bit of a shock to the system. The reason she was here was that she'd been invited to do an interview with Natasha Murray - the queen of daytime television. Her show went out live every morning, and was usually dedicated to the shenanigans of the great unwashed who were demanding free DNA tests to prove paternity, or lie detectors to ensure someone had not been cheating. Ratings had been dropping of late and it had been a scoop to get an interview with the daughter of Patty Belleville.
Sasha had hated every minute of it. Unlike her mother, she had no desire to be famous. Even being married to a Premiership footballer hadn't changed that. Sasha shunned the WAG lifestyle, and there was more likelihood of her going to a BNP meeting than having hair extensions or her nails done; and to spend a morning under such close scrutiny had been uncomfortable and unpleasant.
Thinking she would have to catch a cab to take her to Victoria, she received a shock when an Audi TT roared up beside her. She immediately recognised it as one of her younger sister Rorie's fleet of cars. Rorie Chase was one of the world's highest paid models, and most of her money went on fast cars - and maintaining the stream of unsuitable, sponging boyfriends who seemed to gravitate towards her.
The window slid down, and Rorie stuck her head out, pushing her sunglasses back over her hair.
'Fancy a lift?' she asked.
'Where did you spring from?'
'I was just doing a shoot down the road and I saw you on TV. I thought you might like a lift back to the station.'
Sasha was rather taken aback by her sister's altruism. Rorie could never be described as generous or particularly caring. Out of the three sisters, she was the one most like Patty.
The only thing Sasha had in common with Rorie was her height and build. Both were tall and slim, and as Sasha folded her body into the small car, she wondered what pleasure her sister got from driving it. Indeed, Rorie had the front seat pushed back rather far, just so her feet could reach the pedals. It seemed like rather a lot of effort just to show off.
'How come you agreed to do the interview?' she asked, moving off.
'I don't know,' Sasha pondered, looking out at the concrete jungle that surrounded them. 'I suppose as the eldest I felt I should do something.'
Rorie glanced round at her and nodded approvingly.
'You look nice.'
Her tone said it all and Sasha had never felt more frumpy. She was wearing her only designer outfit - a dark brown Prada trouser suit she'd bought to attend a football awards ceremony with Luca in 2004. When she'd turned up at the studio with her frizzy hair tied back in a ponytail, the hairdresser had ranted for half an hour that she could not believe Sasha was Patty Belleville's daughter, as Patty always took so much time on her appearance. Trying to ignore the insults, Sasha had sat there while her hair was straightened into a sort of bob. The make up artist had been more complimentary and had cooed about her fabulous cheekbones and big brown eyes, and by the time she was finished, Sasha looked quite stunning.
Even so, she could never compete with Rorie. To look at her younger sister, no-one would ever guess their mother was mixed race - except perhaps for the natural tan to her skin. Rorie had inherited her father's blue eyes and fair hair; and while it was naturally curly (although Brazilian blow-dries always kept it straight), she had none of the afro frizziness that had plagued Sasha all her life.
But then Rorie knew who her father was, and knew she'd inherited his looks. Jonathan Chase was a famous actor - a heart-throb when he'd married the newly famous Patty Belleville; and with her exotic beauty and his Nordic looks, everyone knew their baby was going to be a stunner. No one paid any attention to the five year old daughter Patty already had. The little girl who didn't know who her father was. All her mother would tell her was that he was a bad man who beat her and made her run away to a women's refuge - where Sasha was born. Sasha guessed he must have been white, as she was far paler than Patty, and her features were European. But she just wished her mother would just tell her something about him - good or bad; just so she could draw a picture of him in her head. Rorie had a dad around, and even Dana - the result of a fling Patty had with a nineteen year old American surfer called Chad Perry - knew her father was on the other side of the Atlantic and could be contacted any time she wanted. Sasha had no one; and now it looked like Patty had gone forever, it seemed she was never going to find out.
'That Natasha Murray's a nosy bitch,' Rorie said. 'Why did she ask all that about Mum's childhood?'
'I guess she just wanted to see if there was any chance she would go back to her old haunts.'
'Well she made you look like a complete idiot. You couldn't tell her anything.'
'No I don't mean you are an idiot. None of us really know much about Mum do we? It's just that it made us look like a really crap family who never talk to each other.'
'We are a crap family. You, me and Dana hardly ever see each other. Our mother's disappeared and not thought to tell us where she's gone. Dana's convinced she's been murdered. You're positive it's a publicity stunt, and I think she's lost her mind. Just shows how much we all knew her, seeing as we can't agree.'
'It is a publicity stunt Sash. Do you remember when Mum had that lesbian affair with Abigail Burns? In reality she was shagging that wanker Ahmed; and Abigail Burns had a film coming out about a killer dyke. But it got publicity for her and caused a stir about Mum. And lo and behold, the next book that comes out, Jezebel toys with lesbianism. I tell you Sash, Mum could teach Jordan a thing or two about all publicity being good publicity.'
'I'm not convinced. What was Two Hearts all about? Why did Mum write such a soppy novel?'
'F**k knows. Perhaps it was just a quota filler for the publisher. Who can say? But I bet that by the end of the year, she'll miraculously reappear and we'll find out she's been sunning herself in Mustique or something.'
Sasha wasn't convinced, and as she sat on the train back to Surrey, she pressed her aching forehead against the cool window and closed her eyes, thinking over her life with Patty. It was true what Rorie had said, she had appeared vague in the interview with Natasha Murray. After all, everyone felt they knew Patty Belleville - the larger than life author famed for her raunchy books and over the top persona. Everyone thought she was Jezebel Cole, and that by reading of her exploits they were somehow getting a glimpse of the real Patty. But were they?
All Sasha knew of her mother's history was that she was the daughter of an English singer and a black American jazz musician. Her mother, Molly Keegan, had disowned her when she was sixteen (she never said why), and in 1976, when she was twenty, she became pregnant for Sasha by a man she never named. She claimed he beat her and forced her to flee to a woman's refuge in Hammersmith, and shortly after Sasha's birth, the Patty Belleville fairy tale began. The owner of the home was the daughter of a famous publisher and when she read the first draft of The Tale of Jezebel Cole, she passed it to her father and he immediately offered Patty a publishing contract. Everything from then on was in the public domain - the affairs; the three daughters by different fathers; the flirtation with lesbianism. But something had caused Patty to disappear. Something had made her write that boring love story that she knew would be commercial suicide. Perhaps if Sasha could discover why her mother had done this, she'd come closer to finding out where she'd gone.
By the time she got home, Luca was back from training. He'd left his muddy kit on the middle of the kitchen floor - telling her to wash it without uttering a single word. Sometimes Sasha wished she could be like the other wives and girlfriends, and hire a team of servants to do the work while she dedicated herself to her appearance and socialising; but it wasn't in her nature to be idle. If things had been different, by now, at thirty-three she would have had at least a couple of kids to look after; but nature hadn't blessed them with children. Luca blamed her - after all, he'd proven himself at just seventeen by fathering Kylie, his daughter who lived with them. And because he already had a child, he told Sasha he had no desire to try IVF. In his eyes, she'd raised Kylie since she was eight, and he couldn't understand why she wanted a child of her own.
Like a robot, Sasha loaded the washing machine and made herself a pot of coffee, getting a cup out for Luca. She wasn't sure where he was, but guessed he was probably downstairs in the swimming pool. He usually liked to unwind after training by pushing his body even further. At thirty-five, his career as a premiership footballer was coming to an end. He'd spent ten years at Chelsea before succumbing to a vicious hamstring injury in 2003, and shortly afterwards Jose Mourinho took over and considered him a liability, and he was sold to Sutton Town FC for thirty million pounds. Even with his abilities as a star striker, it wasn't enough to stop them hurtling towards relegation. Sasha knew if they went down, the first sacrifice would be her husband. But she didn't even want to think about that, because Luca would make her life a misery.
Pouring Luca a cup of coffee, Sasha took the rest of the pot and retreated into her studio. Since leaving art college, she'd worked as a illustrator of children's books and had her name in more published works than even her mother. It was the perfect career for Sasha - solitary and imaginative. She preferred to live in her head, and she guessed she got that from Patty. After all, she must have imagined Jezebel Cole to start off with, before she morphed into her herself.
There was a knock on the studio door, and before Sasha could say anything, it opened. Luca walked in, and when Sasha saw him, it was as though she was viewing him for the first time. It was always like that with Luca. He was a total bastard and they barely had a conversation these days that didn't escalate into an argument; but it didn't stop her finding him gorgeous. He'd inherited his Italian mother's dark hair, green eyes and olive skin; and standing there, with his top off, exposing his athletic body Sasha could only look at him with a mixture of lust, regret and bewilderment, wondering exactly what he saw in her. Men like him married girls like Rorie, not bookish artists who could hardly be bothered to wear make up or dress nice.
'Thanks for the coffee,' he said, raising the cup to her.
'How did the interview go?'
'Rorie reckoned I looked like some sort of moron because I couldn't answer questions about my mother's life.'
'Maybe she should have done the interview then, not left it all up to you as usual.'