Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 10th 2017
Summary from Goodreads:
Sean Johnson’s life as a small-town farmhand has been nothing but predictable, but when he meets Sophia Hillingdon at the local animal sanctuary, she gets him out of an eighteen-year rut, away from the mundane existence on the farm, and a grieving, drunken father. Sophia is the first person who understands him and makes him believe that he might get out of their small town, who tells him, he has the potential to be whoever he wants to be and do whatever he wants to do. But as their relationship unfolds, it is the most devastating of news that will change both of them forever.
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I turned around and rushed over to a girl who couldn’t have been any older than myself. Stop, I shouted, shell hurt you. But then it dawned on me who it was. She was Mr. Hillingdons daughter. I hadn’t seen her in years, and I wasn’t sure if she lived in Boxford anymore. What was that for? she asked calmly. I was only trying to stroke her. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to come out like that. It's...͟Its what? she said. A problem that you’ve never spoken to a girl before? Hey! What was that for? For being so rude! I was only trying to... I don’t know, help you from getting a huge beating from her. She’s dangerous. It took me a while to calm her down. She’s called Violet. No, she isn’t. She is now, she said. You’ve never even stroked the-You mean I’ve never done what I’m doing now? She patted the horse's head between its bright colored eyes. I think someone owes me an apology. My chest tightened. I don’t understand... that doesn’t... I didn’t even see you; it doesnt-doesnt what... make sense? You have a tendency to finish my sentences, don’t you? Well, someone has to. It was the first time Id spoken to her, and though she ripped me to pieces, I couldn’t help but want her to continue. It sounded harsh, but she wasn’t being mean; if anything, the way she spoke only endeared me to her more. She was standing up for herself, and God was she capable. So, I smiled before moving closer to her, realizing for the first time that the girl that stood in front of me was a girl I couldn’t take my eyes off. Even if you are making fun of me, I want to apologize; I didn’t realize how loud I was shouting, I was only doing it to protect-Its fine, just promise me you won’t kick yourself at night for making such a bad impression?
I’ll try my hardest not to, I said, with a pained laugh. I’m Sean by the way. Sean Johnson. She replied with an unashamed laughter. I know who you are, Sean. Farmers of a shy disposition towards the opposite sex are quite identifiable. I know who you are too. I mean I remember you volunteering here as a kid and all. I just haven’t seen you in a while. I was only trying to be polite. Well, in that case, its lovely to meet you. I stood there for some time after, long enough to make the scene awkward. I couldn’t help it for I was unable to talk, only admire and appreciate her. You don’t say much, do you? Only when I have to, I replied. I suppose that’s what makes me love animals so much. I suppose that makes two of us. I smiled, then, trying my hardest to usher the appropriate words, I said, how about I walk you home? You know, for making up for being so rude earlier? How about it? She crossed her arms, leant back slightly then winked. Maybe you can speak to the opposite sex after all. So, is that a yes? Is what a yes? Do you want me to walk you home? If you mean do you want me to say yes to you wanting to walk me home, then yes, I can’t see why it would hurt. Great! Sophia Hillingdon was a catch, and I was somehow lucky enough to have been in the right place at the right time. Even Mr. Rogers could tell by the ever-growing dimples on my face how I felt, and as he hurried us out of the sanctuary, he returned my wave with a cheeky wink. She was beautiful, even in a mucky, smelly old place such as the sanctuary, and though my previous experience with girls wasn’t great, I knew at that moment that a girl I hadn’t seen in years was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen. But then I suppose many men would say the same, what with her sparkling eyes and strawberry blond hair. She was practically lit up, almost like a Christmas tree. And then there was her defiant chin and the steep incline of her cheekbones which made for such an intoxicating formula that I soon found looking at her face strangely difficult. Even her navy colored jumper and rubber green boots tucked into her mud strewed jeans made her stand out. An ordinary and practical outfit one would presume. But when worn by Sophia, ordinary colors became extraordinary colors. What was a girl like that still doing in this sleepy town? Paris seemed more suitable- a melee of artists, writers, and uncontainable beauty. Boxford seemed entirely unsuitable.
Sophia lived on the other side of Boxford, and as we walked through Hill Farm and its orchard, we soon found ourselves walking by the River Box. The river complemented the sunset as it hung from the lambent sky. For some time, there was only the sound of the water making its way downstream, occasionally making moderate splashing noises against the odd rock. And though we were silent, it began feeling less awkward, and it wasn’t long before I found myself asking Sophia a million and one questions. What makes you care for animals so much? I suppose I like that they see you for what you are, and not who you are if that makes any sense? And seeing those injured creatures, who bleed as we do and who breathe the same air as us... well, they should be taken care of, I don’t want to be that person who doesn’t care. Sophia spoke gently, and with compassion and understanding- something I’d never come across before. So, you believe animals have an ability to see us as humans and that, um-Yes, you got it right the first time. Her sweet laughter sent tingles through my body. That would explain a lot. What do you mean? The fact that animals don’t judge you, and where you’re from and who you are, I suppose I relate to that, just in a different way. You’re saying I’m filthy rich, aren’t you? I never said filthy. Again, she laughed. Any other interests? Music... jazz actually, I get it from my old man, been playing Sinatra ever since I was a kid. You reckon you can sing me a song of his? Maybe one day. One day? Who says there’s going to be another day? I looked at her puzzled, unsure if she was playing a cruel joke on me. Sean? Yea? I’m kidding. I sighed in relief. You’re a terrible actress anyway. She was pretty good actually. And you? Besides horses and teasing farm boys. Books. A good book and an adventure. I want to be someone who does everything, reads every book and travels to far out places in corners of the world where they haven’t even electricity or running water. Were so small in comparison to. She paused then pointed ahead. To what’s out there, outside of this town, this country. She looked my way, pausing for a moment before she placed her hand on my shoulder. You seem lost already from my waffling. No. I’m the same. I’ve always wanted to see more than this little town of ours. I’ve just never heard someone talk like that before. It feels like I’m on an adventure myself, you know? She giggled softly. That’s awfully kind of you to refer to me as an adventure. I suppose this town isn’t half as boring as I thought. It isn’t tonight. She glanced my way and flushed. Anyway, she started, I want to know your story, who you are, where you come from, enlighten me. Now it was my turn to laugh at her choice of words. I wouldn’t say I’m an
enlightening person. Well, that was bloody fascinating if I do say so myself. What was? My confusion made her smile; I’d never seen a smile stretch as far as Sophia’s had. Never mind, she continued, releasing a loud snicker. Any brothers or sisters? None, just been the old man and me since I was five. She looked at me, somewhat startled. She died when I was five, I began to explain, before my father came back from the war. But she always loved the sanctuary; its where I get my love for animals from. Sorry, I suppose it’s quite a thing for me to tell you. No, not at all, I asked about your life, and now you’re telling me. She sounded like a lovely person; I can’t imagine how painful it must have been. And I’m sorry if I’m bringing back an unsavory memory. I should have remembered what happened, what with the whole town talking about it the way they did. It’s alright, I said. It happened a long time ago. And yes, it was hard, of course, it was. Especially at the age when your mothers the most important person in the world when you need her most- it hits you hard. I remember feeling lost after she died, as though I was lost in town, but this time, I knew she was never coming back...͟ I stopped briefly. But as weird as it sounds, part of me feels sorrier for my father, he’s just... I don’t know it’s hard to explain, I don’t remember him too well before mother died, but he seemed happy and full of energy, but ever since he returned from the war, it’s as if he became a different person. I almost feel that he finds every day and the responsibility of looking after me overwhelming. Not that I’m a kid anymore, but he certainly hasn’t gotten any better. I do love him, though, I do. He’s my father after all. He’s a complicated man, but he has a good heart. Thats entirely understandable, but it can’t make it any easier on you, she replied. Mind you; I suppose the loss of your wife while fighting in a foreign land would get the better of a lot of people. I nodded in partial agreement though it wasn’t long before I began feeling lethargic talking about my father. I would be back with him soon, and part of me wanted to forget about him and simply talk about Sophia. But more about you, I said, what’s your family like? Ah, she spouted as if the word family was all she needed to delve into a verbose rant. Like you I’m an only child, but sometimes I feel my father compensates for that by glaring at me every waking hour of the day. My mother, on the other hand, is like you, more reserved, gentle, but around me, she’s different which only reinforces how intimidating he is to be around, let alone live with. Don’t get me wrong- I love my daddy. Honestly, I do! He just has all these expectations of me, building me up to be a lawyer, going to Oxford. It’s just... you know? It feels overwhelming at times. I don’t was what I wanted to say. I wasn’t going to Oxford; neither was I training to be a lawyer. The only thing I knew was that I had to be up six
days a week running a farm. She was from an entirely different background to me, and though I felt slightly in awe of her accomplishments, it also made me a little envious. I understand, having a tricky father that is, but no one’s family is perfect, right? She nodded, but in the process caught my eyes beaming her way. It was slightly awkward, but for the first time, something happened. There was a look in her eyes, a look that made me realize we were feeling something new. It felt good. I’ve seen your father in the local paper a fair bit, I admitted. He seems to have done okay for himself. You could say that, she said. But it’s come at a cost to others. I mean, before he finally decided to settle back in Boxford, my childhood was just a portrait of new faces. I don’t even have any friends in Boxford as I always moved around the country with his law jobs being the way they were. But what he didn’t realize is that I hated him because of it. And even now I don’t think carting around wheelbarrows is what he had in mind for my summer, not that he...it just isn’t what he’s used to. Even my mother- she broke off, a sudden shout of laughter escaping her lips. Sorry, I just, the thought of my mother- Another peal of laughter overtook her, pushing a wheelbarrow in the muck- Again, she stopped, gasping for breath, tears of mirth forming in the corner of her eyes. It was infectious, her unashamed laughter. It wasn’t long before I found my face contorted into an idiot’s grin, my stomach pitching at the sight of her. They’re not exactly like you, are they? Not at all! she exclaimed. What about you, what are your plans? I don’t have one. Not here anyway. Yes, it’s not exactly a hotbed of opportunity here, replied Sophia. Where would you like to go? London perhaps? I’ve thought about it, but I don’t see how I could leave my father to run the farm all by himself. But then again, I feel trapped in this town, and sometimes, I don’t know... I just want to run away and never look back. You seem like an intelligent young man, Sean. I’m sure, in fact, I’m certain you can be anything you want to be in life, just don’t be afraid to jump. That’s easy for you to say. I never said it was easy, she replied. I’m just trying to tell you that this town doesn’t have to be your life forever. I know my background is different to yours. I’m not hiding that. All I know is that it could be an easy option for you to stay here, a safe choice. But sometimes the hardest decisions are the ones that end up bringing us the greatest joy. Sophia continued for some time after about her past, her time spent in boarding schools across the country, staying with her parents in their London home. Though there was one question, I desperately wanted to ask. How long do you have till you leave for Oxford? Not until September, they’re quite short semesters though- just eight weeks, so it’s more like a grown-up version of boarding school. But for once
I’m happy to have a bit of time here. Just the thought of Oxford is quite overwhelming. I had no way of truly understanding her, but I tried my best. I can imagine it will be tough, but you seem like the type that excels at most things. You have a great future ahead of-Sorry, Sean, this is me, she interjected. I looked up from the driveway at which we stood, and as I did, my eyes were attacked by a mountain of white. I recognized the house instantly- it was the house everyone in the village admired. It was a manor more than a house, with around fifty clear glass windows showing from the front side alone as green ivy branches spread loosely across the white exterior. Even the pillars between the two front doors gave the exterior a Grecian-like image that was quite obviously out of sync with most of the old timber houses in town. But then again, Sophia Hillingdon wasn’t like most people in Boxford. Well, this is it. Yeah, I suppose...I suppose it is. Thank you for walking me home, Sean. I had a lovely evening, even if you did scare the living daylights out of me with that voice of yours. Well, aside from my terrible awkwardness and shouting, I hope I, at least, made it up to you with that walk. In fact, I was just thinking, well you know, I was kind of thinking we should--You were thin-We soon stopped short, somewhat gratified that both our cheeks had reddened. Thinking, sorry, I mean knowing that I’ll be at the animal sanctuary tomorrow after work, do you fancy meeting there again? I’d like that; I’d like that a lot. I finish work at three; normally I go straight there after, maybe with a detour next time? That sounds perfect. We waved goodbye, and as Sophia stepped further up the driveway towards her house, I couldn’t help but stand and look on. Her hair was a magnificent burning strawberry blonde color with golden blonde streaks and thick and elongated strands that ran down the midsection of her back. Turning the keys, she turned around one last time. Goodnight, Sean. Goodnight, I whispered.
Hugo Driscoll is a 25-year-old British author and content writer for an online publication in London. Seven Days with You is his first novel.