On the Bright Side by Nell Carter – extract

On the Bright Side by Nell Carter was published by Welbeck on 5 August 2021.

Today I have an extract from the book.

The first email arrives on Thursday. Sent to my work address in chambers, I’m still staring at it the next day, Friday 10th August. The invite is understated in style; just the simple naming of a time and place to celebrate Alice’s birthday. As the letters spelling her name blur on the screen, a fleeting memory of our last dance catapults forward thirty years – I’d held her, kissed her hair, fragrant, soft beneath my lips.

Mabel, after a typically timid knock, enters the wood-panelled office, and I’m grounded back in the present, Alice’s form already banished. The woman who’s worked alongside me for more than a decade offers a smile and a cappuccino on a small silver tray and I nod a thank you. After she’s left, I stand up, pace the space. The three monkeys on the shelf just to the left of my mahogany desk aren’t quite right and I move the middle one just a fraction to the left. Hear No Evil now sits exactly ten centimetres from both of his blind and silent brothers, right in the centre of a long line of leather-bound legal tomes.

Today is the day Alice would have been fifty . . .

Back at my desk, my hands curl around the coffee mug and I sip through the frothy milk, glance again at the computer, as if to check the date one more time. Within seconds, it reverts to the default screensaver, an image at a charity event a few years ago; me in black tie, my parents flanking me. I force myself to concentrate on that evening, a fundraising event at a local rehabilitation charity where I’m patron. As if on cue, my eyes pinch tight, and pain detonates from the nerve endings where my lower left leg used to be.

From inside my desk drawer, I remove two tablets from a blister pack and swallow them with coffee. Then, before the sounds and images of my last night with Alice overwhelm, I print off the invite, pick up the phone and remind Mabel I’ll be out until much later this afternoon.

I take my time. Sensing I’m going to be late, I still drive within the speed limit, unwilling to tempt Fate. She and I have been strange bedfellows throughout my life. I’ve never been able to embrace Her; preferring to control every tiny element to keep Her at bay. I’m a man who likes certainty, checks facts before I take them as truth. If numbers prevail, I like to count things two or three times to be sure. If words matter, like they do when I’m in court, I read them quietly, read them aloud, and study them until I know them by rote. If something feels off, I search until I find what it might be and fix it. I check and re-check and, as such, leave little room for error, or Chance, to upset things.

About the Book

There’s always time for a second chance…

At least that is what people say. But what if it’s true? What if you could walk out the door and build a whole new you, a whole new life?

Clare and Jack are about to find out.

He’s a middle-aged barrister, living life as he ‘should’. She’s a recently divorced dance teacher and mum to a teenage daughter. Change isn’t easy for either of them.

But it’s not impossible.

If they do something BIG, could the next half of their lives be the best half?

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