There’s now only a month to go until the launch of Born Bad.
So, as the exciting countdown begins, I thought I’d tempt you with an excerpt. Here goes:
As soon as Adele walked into the back garden of her home in the Manchester suburbs, she was horrified by the sight that met her. Among the overgrown bushes and weed-filled borders was an assortment of cracked and mossy flagstones that acted as a path. There, her ten-year-old brother, Peter, stood facing her. He was wielding a large twig which he had stripped bare. For him it now represented a whip; flexible enough to slash rapidly through the air, yet strong enough to inflict damage.
He chuckled as he repeatedly thrashed his whip onto the paving slabs in front of him. His target was several squirming caterpillars of differing sizes and various shades of green and brown, which he had lined up. Adele could see their tiny bodies writhing as savage blows from the hand-made weapon assailed them, causing their oozing entrails to spill out onto the path.
‘Stop it!’ she yelled.
Peter paused briefly to reply, ‘They’re only insects.’ He laughed and lashed the whip once more.
‘I don’t care. It’s cruel and disgusting,’ Adele shouted, becoming annoyed.
‘You’re stupid, you are. I’m not doing any harm. Go and mither someone else, Miss Goody-goody.’ His impish laughter had now disappeared, transforming his face into an unwelcoming sneer.
‘At least I’m not like you!’ said Adele.
‘What do you mean?’ he asked, staring at Adele while the caterpillars wriggled around on the paving slabs.
Adele could sense his change in tone but, despite her unease, she refused to give way. ‘You’re always up to no good, you are. You’re gonna get in trouble again if you don’t watch it.’
‘Oh shut up, you crybaby! Go and play with your dolls.’ And ignoring her pleas, he went back to meting out his vicious punishment.
Adele felt her stomach lurch at the sickening sight and cried out to him, ‘Peter, stop it; it’s horrible!’
Unfortunately, her cries soon reached the ears of their father who sped through the back door, pushing her aside. She noticed that he was still in his shabby vest, and knew that he hadn’t been out of bed long, even though it was midday. He was a menacing sight. The scruffy vest emphasised his bulky muscles, and his rugged features were set in a hard expression. She knew that he wouldn’t take kindly to having his Sunday disturbed.
‘What the bleedin’ hell’s going on here?’ he demanded.
Peter dropped the whip and looked up guiltily at his father. His jaw hung loose but he failed to utter any words of defence.
Their father didn’t need a reply, however, as his eyes took in the revolting sight. In one stride, he was on Peter, grabbing at his shirt collar and thrusting upwards until his feet left the ground.
‘You dirty little get!’ he yelled. ‘Look at the bleedin’ state of that path.’ He released his hold, allowing Peter to drop shakily to the ground. Then, prodding his forefinger into Peter’s face, he ordered, ‘Get it cleaned up… NOW!’
Peter hung his head in shame and approached the house in search of something with which to clean up the mess.
‘Where the bleedin’ hell do you think you’re going?’ roared his father. ‘I told you to clean them up.’
‘I’m going for some newspaper to wipe them up with,’ Peter replied.
‘No you’re bleedin’ not! You weren’t bothered about newspaper when you put the bleedin’ things there, so why bother now? You can get them shifted with yer hands. And I want every bit cleared up, including that slimy shit that’s come out of ’em. That’ll teach you, you dirty little bastard!’
He turned and pushed Adele aside again as he trundled back indoors. Just before stepping into the house, he turned his head back and added, ‘And you can get your bleedin’ hands washed when you’ve finished as well.’
For a few moments, Adele stood still, her eyes fixed on Peter, awaiting his reaction.
‘What you looking at, you bitch?’ he muttered. ‘It’s all your fault! If you hadn’t started carrying on, he wouldn’t have known.’ As he murmured these few words, he made a show of wiping up the slimy mess with his fingers, as though deliberately trying to antagonise her.
Adele couldn’t take any more. She ran into the house retching, and headed straight for her bedroom where she threw herself onto the bed. But the tears didn’t come. At eleven years of age, she’d suppressed her tears so often that it had become an automatic defence mechanism that helped her get through life.
Adele felt bad. She shouldn’t have carried on so much at Peter, then her father wouldn’t have known. It was bound to annoy him, especially on a Sunday. He was always in a mood on a Sunday. In fact, he was always in a mood any day, but Sundays were particularly bad. It was only recently, as she was growing up, that Adele realised why; it was because of the skinful he had had on a Saturday night. All he wanted to do on Sundays was sleep it off. Then he would sit and pore through the papers whilst their mother, Shirley, made a pretence of cleaning the house, and cooked the traditional Sunday dinner in an effort to please him.
This was usually the first attempt at cleaning that Shirley had made all week. She spent most of her days gossiping with the neighbours, sleeping or watching TV. Her evenings were spent in a similar fashion, except for the few nights a week in which she tore herself away from the street to go and play bingo.
Adele got up off the bed and drifted towards the window. She avoided the sight of Peter but looked out instead at the other houses, watching people go about their business. Allowing her mind to drift, she contemplated, for the umpteenth time, her miserable existence.
Lately she was realising that although this way of life was commonplace within these four walls, there was a different world out there. Talking to her friends had made her understand that her circumstances weren’t the norm, and other parents were different from her own. Other children went out with their families to the cinema or country parks. They had holidays at the seaside and expensive presents for their birthdays.
The only advantage she had over other children was her freedom. Her father was hardly ever home, so that gave her and Peter a chance to roam the streets and do whatever they pleased as long as news of their mischief didn’t get back to him. Their mother scarcely showed any interest in where they were going or what time they would be back.
Adele often consoled herself by imagining that one day things would be different. When she was old enough she would get a good job and a rich husband, and she would escape her domineering father and slovenly mother. She would have a beautiful home and children who would never want for anything. It was this dream that kept her going.
Just then Adele was jolted back to reality by the sound of raised voices downstairs.
‘Don’t go, Tommy, I was gonna do you a nice dinner later,’ pleaded her mother.
‘Bugger off, I’m going for a pint. There’s nowt to stay in this bloody pigsty for. I’m sick of you, you lazy cow, and those two scruffy little gets!’
This was followed by a loud slamming of the front door and Shirley muttering something to herself. Adele couldn’t quite hear her mother’s words, but she gathered that she wasn’t happy about him going out.
Adele had had enough of home for one day, so she decided that she would go outside for a while too. She was heading downstairs when she heard the sound of the door knocker. Worried it was her father coming back, she scuttled back to the top of the stairs. It was only after her mother had answered the door that Adele realised it was her grandma, Joyce.
She entered loudly and, appearing as bumptious as ever, declared, ‘I’ve just passed His Lordship in the street. He’s got a right face on him, as usual. It took him all his time to say hello. What the bleedin’ hell’s up with him this time?’ The soft features of her plump face had tightened to form an expression of scorn.
Shirley said nothing, but shook her head from side to side as she led her mother into the living room, leaving the door ajar. Adele would normally have raced down the stairs to greet her grandma, who she thought the world of. Although loud and opinionated, Joyce had a kind heart and was full of good intentions. But the look of resignation on her mother’s face, and the tired way she dragged her feet, stopped Adele from following them. She had guessed that they were about to have one of their chats, and overcome by curiosity, she crept down the stairs so she could listen in. She could just about see them both through the gap of the open door.
‘Jesus, Shirley love, what the bloody hell’s happened to this place? It looks like a bomb’s hit it and smells bloody awful! It’s worse than last time. I thought you were going to try and get on top of things!’
‘Oh don’t start, Mam. Don’t you think I’m sick of it? It’s not me that makes it a tip you know, and what’s the use of tidying it anyway when they only mess it up again?’
‘I’m worried about you, love. Every time I come you’ve let yourself go more. You’re just not happy, are you? Has he been at you again?’
‘Not really. It’s Peter he’s pissed off with, because he made a mess on the garden path, squashing some caterpillars or summat. I wish he’d leave him alone; he’s not a bad lad really.’
‘I don’t know, I worry about our Peter, always up to mischief and getting into fights. I’ve told you, he takes after his side of the family.’
Their conversation then became much quieter, and Adele had to strain to hear them. Without getting too close, and risking being caught out, she managed to catch snippets of her grandma’s words.
‘Bad lot… told you before… bad blood… mad… great-uncle… always fighting… ended up in an asylum.’
A few moments of silence followed until Shirley said, ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do, Mam. I’ve no idea what our Peter will turn out like. I’m just glad our Adele’s all right.’
‘Aye, she’s a good girl,’ replied Joyce whose voice had returned to its normal level. ‘Keep encouraging her to do well at school so she can bugger off to university or summat. She’ll be bloody better off out of it.’ Joyce’s voice then adopted a sympathetic tone. ‘I do worry about you, Shirley love. You’ve changed so much over the years, ever since you met Tommy. You don’t seem to care anymore and you were never like this when you were younger. Did you go to the doctors like I told you to?’
‘Yeah, he’s given me these for the daytime on top of the ones I take at night,’ she said, passing something to her mother.
‘Let’s have a look,’ said Joyce who then tried to read the words on the bottle of pills. ‘Dia… ze… pam. What are they supposed to do?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Shirley. ‘But I feel more knackered than ever. I’ve not got the energy I was born with, honestly Mam.’
‘Well, I don’t know what the bloody hell to make of it all. I wish to God you’d never married him in the first place. I tried to warn you, but you wouldn’t be told. I’d take you and the kids round to my house, but I’ve just not got the room.’
‘I know that, Mam. I’ve just got to put up with it, haven’t I? Besides, I love Tommy. I just wish he wasn’t so angry all the time.’
Joyce looked exasperated, but didn’t continue. It was a topic which she had already covered many times before, so she moved onto something else. When Adele had grown tired of hearing about what Joyce’s neighbours were up to, she returned to her bedroom. There she mulled over the conversation in her young mind.
She knew her grandmother had been referring to her father and his family. She was used to her grandma Joyce talking about them, but she had never heard her mention the word ‘mad’ before. Maybe it just meant they had bad tempers. She wondered about the word asylum. It wasn’t one she was familiar with, but she decided to check it in her dictionary.
Adele took her dictionary off the row of books on the shelf. She opened it up, and scanned the words under the letter ‘a’ until she reached asylum. She found two meanings; the first of them referred to a place of refuge, but the second related to a mental institution. She wondered which of these her grandma could have been talking about but she daren’t ask.
Adele stared at the dictionary for a few moments but when the words ‘mental institution’ seemed to leap out from the page, she quickly shut it. Those words frightened her. She knew her dad had a temper, but surely that couldn’t mean he was mental. She’d heard kids at school use the words ‘mad’ and ‘mental’ when they were trying to put down someone who was a bit stupid. They weren’t nice words and she didn’t like to think of them being linked to her family.
She was curious about the tablets her mother was taking as well; something called diazepam, her grandma had said. Adele opened her dictionary again and flicked over the pages, checking whether diazepam was listed, but she couldn’t find anything.
Her thoughts flitted back to the words ‘mad’ and ‘mental’. Adele was confused. She couldn’t understand why her grandma would use such words about her family. Grandma Joyce didn’t usually say nasty things. Grandma Joyce was nice. So if she was saying bad things about her dad, then maybe they were true. Maybe he really was mad. And, if Peter took after their dad’s side of the family, did that mean he was mad too?
I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. If it has made you want to read more, you can check out the book at Amazon by following the link: Born Bad.
I’ll be keeping you up to date soon with news of my blog tour. Until then, bye for now.