A Year and a Day by Patsy Collins

Their differing reactions to a fortune
telling bring happiness, love, flowers, danger, tears, fabulous food and
cocktails, to best mates Stella and Daphne.
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Despite Stella’s misgivings her best friend Daphne persuades
her to visit a fortune teller. Rosie-Lee promises both girls will live long and
happy lives. For orphaned Stella, the fortune teller’s claims include a tall,
dark handsome man and the family she longs for. Stella doesn’t believe a word,
so Rosie-Lee produces a letter, to be read in a year’s time, which will prove
her predictions are true.

Stella remains sceptical but Daphne is totally convinced. She
attempts to manipulate Stella’s life, starting by introducing Stella to her new
boss Luigi, who fits the romantic hero image perfectly. In complete contrast is
Daphne’s infuriating policeman brother John. Despite his childhood romance with
Stella ending badly he still acts as though he has a right to be involved in
her life.

Soon John is the least of her worries. Daphne’s keeping a
secret, Luigi can’t be trusted, romantically or professionally and both girls’
jobs are at risk. Worse still, John’s concerns for their safety are proved to
be justified.

John, and Rosie-Lee’s letter, are all Stella has to help put
things right.
I’m a fiction writer so I make stuff up. Therefore I didn’t really need to spend a lot of time in
Italian restaurants, gazing at glossy haired waiters, inhaling the scent of
fresh basil and brandishing a pepper grinder inappropriately as I researched
for A Year and a Day. I did.
All the cocktails gorgeous Luigi makes in A Year and a Day are
a different matter. I did have to mix and drink every one of those, for research
you understand. It wasn’t so much to help me describe the flavour and colour but
rather to put me in the right frame of mind for John’s terrible puns. There’s a
good reason that man is a copper and not a comic. Honestly, would you trust a police
officer who arrested someone for the theft of a vanload of food for a kid’s
party with the words, ‘Jello, jello, jello. This is no trifling matter, I’m
going to have to take you into custardy’? No, me neither which is why I didn’t
let him do it. He got away with worse though when I was distracted by thoughts
of his sister’s cooking.
Talking of Daphne, I did need to eat the chocolates and
desserts she created. Poor girl used to be a school dinner lady. I felt a bit
mean about giving her that job, so once she started working in Luigi’s
restaurant I let her get a lot more adventurous. Her best friend Stella was
chief taster of her bruschetta, fresh tomato soups, quirky pizzas and all those
indulgently sweet goodies.
Fortunately, as Stella is another character from my
imagination it had to be me who had to do the actual tasting. That was mostly
for my mental health. Spending hours at the computer editing descriptions of
handmade white chocolates decorated with pistachios and cherries and creamy
panna cotta without having at least a taste would probably have resulted in
some kind of emotional trauma.
Patsy Collins

Although none of the characters in the story are based on
real people, the relationship between Stella and Daphne is very like that
between my friend Nicola and I. We used to spend the summer holidays together,
getting into and out of minor scrapes. Obviously I’d love to tell you every
detail of the embarrassing things we did, but there’s one thing about Nicola
which prevents me doing that. She kept a diary. That means she has more on me
than I have on her.
Some of the events are based on reality, though of course
they’ve been altered or exaggerated, or even toned down to suit the plot and
characters. If you’re wondering if I’ve pushed anyone down the stairs, been a
stalker, got stuck in a window, owned a stuffed cat, found a towel-wrapped
blonde in my boyfriend’s flat, experienced a dognapping or been serenaded in a
boat then yes, I’ve done some of those. Quite a few in fact, but not all.

As I said, I’m a fiction writer so I have to make some stuff
up. And no, I won’t give you Nicola’s email address so you can ask her.’ – 
Patsy Collins

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