My new novella, Someone Else’s Child, recently hit the virtual shelves. Here’s the first chapter just in case you fancy a read. I like this little book – it was one of the first longer stories I ever wrote and there is a lot of me in it. It’s about friendship and about upbringings and about loving children that aren’t yours. And I cried when I wrote parts of it so I think it’s pretty emotional. Please do let me know what you think.
Jo has been my best friend for as long as I can remember.
We have totally different backgrounds, Jo was brought up in a children’s home and my mother had a chain of hotels, but somehow we clicked right from the beginning. Perhaps, because for different reasons, we both felt isolated as children. Jo didn’t have any parents, and mine were absent most of the time. My mother, because the only thing she was truly passionate about was her business, and my father because he couldn’t cope with this fact and had left when I was small to marry a more ‘ordinary’ woman.
Jo and I aren’t alike in looks either. Jo is olive skinned, dark haired and curvy and I’ve always been what she calls a skinny blonde. I’m not skinny – well not these days anyway – and my hair is the kind of white blond that no one could envy because it comes with pale eyelashes and skin that burns at the first hint of sunlight. Looks-wise, I’d swap with Jo any day.
One of my most vivid childhood memories is of playing with Jo on the grass verge outside the Barrington Hall Hotel, which was where I lived at the time. The hotel was at the end of an unmade road, but only cars visiting us ever used it, and I was allowed to play out there unsupervised. My mother wouldn’t have been too happy if she’d known who I was playing with – she didn’t approve of Jo – but she wasn’t likely to find out, she was busy doing one of the endless things she did in the hotel.
Anyway, the sun was shining and Jo and I were stretched out on our backs. Jo was chewing a blade of grass, her face thoughtful, but as I glanced at her, she spat it out and sat up.
“So, are we going to do this blood sister thing then, Lainey? Did you get the stuff?”
I was really Elaine, and she was really Joanne – but those names were for other people. To each other we’d always been Lainey and Jo.
We’d been planning to become blood sisters for a while, but now the day was finally here I was a little bit scared. Not that I was going to admit to this, of course.
I nodded and sat up too and fished in my pocket. “I didn’t know whether scissors would work, so I got some of Mum’s needles from the sewing box as well.” I unwrapped the nail scissors and then more carefully a little pack of needles from the tissue paper. “Otherwise I could get a knife from the kitchen drawer.”
“No, the needles should work.” Jo’s eyes were alight with expectation. “Get one out. Don’t drop it.”
“I’m not going to drop it.” I slid one out and held it between my finger and thumb. I could hardly feel it, but it glinted silver in the morning sun. “Do you think it’ll hurt?” I stabbed it cautiously into the back of my hand.
“Nah. Not like that. You have to prick your thumb. That’s what they did in my book. Give it here.”
I handed it over obediently, watching with apprehension as Jo stabbed her thumb. She had to do it a couple of times because at first the skin just broke without bleeding, but then finally she got a drop of blood on the fleshy bit.
“Did it hurt much?” I asked, doing my best to sound casual.
“Nah. Come on. Hurry up and do yours. I’ll squeeze a bit more blood out.” I took the needle carefully. There was a trembly feeling in the pit of my stomach. This had been Jo’s idea, a way of proving that we were best friends who would never be separated, blood sisters for ever and ever. Not that I had to prove it, I knew it anyway, but it had been important to Jo so I’d gone along with it.
“Are you sure it doesn’t hurt?”
“Just get on with it. And hurry up. I’m bleeding to death waiting for you.”
We both giggled and it broke the tension. I pricked my thumb. It stung, but aware of her gaze, I pushed the needle a bit harder. A red bead appeared and for a moment I couldn’t take my eyes off it. My stomach was crunching and churning and the sun was hot on the back of my neck and I thought I might be sick.
“Right then.” Jo wriggled a bit closer and we pressed thumbs together. “Blood sisters for ever.”
“Friends for ever.” We gazed into each other’s eyes. “Even when we grow up and have kids of our own, we’ll still be best friends, won’t we?”
Jo nodded solemnly. “No one will ever come between us.”
I nodded too. “Never, ever, ever.”
If you’d like to read on for less than the price of a cup of coffee please click here. Thank you.