Here is chapter 2 of Slur. If you missed the blog post showing chapter one, you can find it here or read the pdf, which you can find on the books page of my website at: http://www.dianemannion.co.uk/books.html. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the box that reads, ‘Read a sample chapter’.
I have now fixed my official launch date as Friday 19th September and I’ll be throwing a big online launch party with competitions and great prizes. For those that can’t make the Friday, I’ll be re-running some of the competitions on Saturday 20th September, because most of the competition answers don’t have to be in straightaway.
If you’re tempted by the first two chapters of Slur and don’t want to wait till launch date, the book is already available to purchase online at: http://viewbook.at/Slur.
SLUR – Chapter 2
Friday 20th June 1986
It was Friday night, the big night out of the week. Julie was sitting at her dressing table putting the finishing touches to her hair and make-up. When she was satisfied that she had achieved the desired result, she pouted her lips and kissed her reflection in the mirror, saying, ‘you’re gonna knock ’em dead tonight – you sexy beast.’ She was disturbed by the sound of a, ‘tut tut’ coming from the doorway of her room. It was her mother, Betty.
‘Julie Quinley, I don’t know. You get dafter by the minute. When you’ve finished dolling yourself up, Rita’s downstairs waiting for you.’
Julie took no offence at Betty’s comments as she was accustomed to their friendly banter. She turned in her chair, gave her mother a beaming smile, then dashed across the room and planted a kiss on her cheek, saying, ‘Here I go, don’t wait up!’
She headed downstairs to find Rita in the hallway. As they greeted each other, Betty passed them on her way to the living room. Julie stepped away from Rita, allowing her mother to pass. As she did so, she noticed what Rita was wearing. “My God, she’s really gone to town this time!” she thought, observing Rita’s white lycra mini skirt, low cut red top and towering, white stiletto heels.
‘You look nice Rita,’ she commented politely.
‘Oh thanks,’ Rita replied, preening herself.
Julie then heard the sound of voices coming from the living room. She put her fingers to her lips, motioning Rita to keep quiet as she led her towards the living room door while they listened in on Bill and Betty’s conversation.
‘She’s at it again, is she?’ Bill asked.
‘Aye, she’s only kissing the bleedin’ mirror now. I swear she gets more puddled by the minute that girl,’ replied Betty, in an amused tone.
Julie looked at Rita and managed to stifle a giggle as she heard her father grumble, ‘I can’t understand it me, young women out till all hours of the night up to God knows what, and with all these dubious characters hanging about.’
‘Yes, I know your feelings Bill, you have mentioned it once or twice.’
‘Well, she’s twenty years of age for God’s sake! She should be married with a family now, not stuck in some nightclub getting drunk, with a load of riffraff!’
Julie held up her hand for Rita to see as she formed the shape of a mouth opening and shutting, in imitation of her father’s familiar complaining.
‘She’ll have plenty of time for settling down when she’s had a bit of fun and built up a career for herself,’ Betty replied. ‘A lot of women don’t even think about having children until they are in their thirties these days. Anyway, she’s got her head screwed on the right way. She won’t do anything daft.’
‘Huh,’ was Bill’s response, followed by silence.
Julie and Rita backed away. Julie then opened the front door and they stepped out into the street, shutting the door as quietly as possible so that Julie’s parents would be unaware of their eavesdropping. As soon as they were outside, they gave in to uncontrolled laughter.
‘I bet your mam was a right one in her day!’ giggled Rita.
‘She might have been, given half a chance.’
Julie thought about her mother and the tale she had told her many times about her married life. Times had been hard for Betty when she got wed and their finances were fully stretched after Julie’s birth. Therefore, they decided to postpone extending their family until they could afford it.
When Julie was in school, Betty found herself a job in a store in order to bring in some extra income. After a few years of being stuck at home, Betty was a bit apprehensive at first, but she soon settled in and made lots of new friends. This in turn improved her social life and she began to relish her newfound freedom. After that, there never seemed to be an appropriate time to have more children.
However, as Betty reached her thirties and sensed her biological clock ticking away, the desire grew to extend her family before her time ran out. This resulted in the birth of Clare, twelve years Julie’s junior, and now a likeable, sweet girl of eight.
Although Betty was immensely proud of both her daughters, at times she regretted not doing more with her life, and every time Julie thought about her mother’s lack of achievements, she was determined not to make the same mistakes.
As Julie and Rita made their way up the street, on the way to their friend Debby’s house, the familiar clickety clack of high heels reverberated on the pavements.
Julie’s home was in a street full of three bedroom semis in a Manchester suburb. Many of the houses looked dreary and run down, a result of the poverty in the area. The home of Bill and Betty Quinley, however, was one of the more presentable houses in the street. The front garden was well tended and baskets of bright blooms hung at either side of the front door.
Julie’s sister, Clare, and her friends, who were playing further up the street, paused in their play as Julie and Rita approached. For a group of eight year olds, the image of Julie and Rita dressed to go out was a sight to behold, and they gazed in awe as the two older girls walked by.
‘Bye our Julie,’ shouted Clare.
‘Bye sweetheart. I’ll see you in the morning and don’t forget to be a good girl for mam and be in at eight o’clock.’
‘I won’t,’ said Clare, full of respect for Julie who she saw as a role model.
Julie couldn’t help but swell with pride as she sensed the idolatry glances of the young girls, and caught snippets of their conversation on passing.
‘Wow Clare, I wish I could go out all dressed up like your Julie, wearing make-up and everything!’
‘Our Julie lets me wear her make-up sometimes.’
Julie turned to Rita and they smiled at each other on hearing these childish comments. They looked an oddly matched pair: Julie, tall and elegant, and Rita, who was just a year older than Julie, smaller, brasher and louder in every sense of the word. Julie, although slim, was also curvaceous and well proportioned. Her features were sharp but nonetheless attractive.
She usually opted for the sexy but sophisticated look, and tonight she was wearing a shortish pale blue skirt with a matching fitted jacket, which bore the popular shoulder pads of the eighties. She wore the customary white stiletto heels and had a white leather handbag to match. Her make-up was subtle and served to define her striking features, and her blond hair was naturally wavy.
As they rounded the corner at the top of the street, Rita opened up the conversation, by talking about her day at work, which was at a food factory.
‘Me and Debby were talking to Charlie at work today. He’s a card! He told us this joke…What’s white and slides across the dance-floor?’ Then, pausing for effect, she added, ‘Come dancing,’ the double entendre being a reference to a popular TV dancing show around that time. ‘Well, that was it! We couldn’t stop laughing after that. The slightest thing set us off.’
They both laughed at this and Julie replied, unwittingly. ‘Oh I wish I worked somewhere like that Rita. It sounds as though you have a great time.’
‘Why not?’ Rita replied enthusiastically. ‘I can let you know when there’s any vacancies. You should get a good reference from your place and you’ll soon learn the ropes. There’s not much to it really and I can put in a good word for you so it won’t matter if you haven’t got any experience.’
Julie was a bit taken aback by this as deep down she saw herself as being a bit above factory work, but she didn’t quite know how to put her thoughts into words without offending her longstanding friend. So she replied with caution.
‘I’d love to, but I don’t want to waste my qualifications.’
‘Come off it Julie, what’s a couple of ‘O’ levels? Besides, if you decide you don’t like it at the factory, you can always go back to office work. Anyway, you’re a bloody receptionist for Christ’s sake. You’re hardly gonna qualify for the High Achievers Award, are you? I mean to say, I earn more than you do.’
Julie resented Rita’s views concerning her choice of career, but tried not to show it. Despite her resentment, she appreciated Rita’s open and frank manner, which she had been grateful for in the past, so she maintained a cautious approach.
‘It’s what it can lead to that matters. I could do a course in computers or something.’
‘Like as if. You’re too busy enjoying yourself to stick a college course. Besides, I could do a course in computers, come to that.’
Julie didn’t wish this to escalate into a full-blown argument but felt that she must assert herself, so she replied, ‘You haven’t got the ‘O’ levels or the office experience.’ Then, realising that she was now becoming a bit confrontational, she tried to lighten the conversation by joking, ‘Anyway, the talents always a bonus.’
Rita, however, was not so easy to pacify. ‘Come off it. All men who work in offices are bloody wimps! You can’t beat a bloke with a good trade. That’s what my dad says and it’s true.’
‘What’s the use of a good trade if there’s no work around for them?’
‘Oh that’s just temporary. They’ll be all right now we’re getting over the recession. It’s all down to that bleedin’ Maggie Thatcher anyway.’
‘Well while all your blokes with a trade are still busy looking for work, there’s blokes being promoted at our place.’
‘Yes blokes, exactly! Anyway, Vinny’s a builder isn’t he and there’s nowt wrong with him?’
Knowing the mood that Rita was in, Julie guessed at what was to follow, and she was reluctant to discuss the subject of her boyfriend Vinny.
‘Yes, he’s all right, I suppose.’
‘But?’ prompted Rita.
‘Well, I just wish he had a bit more ambition, that’s all.’
‘You know your trouble Julie? You don’t know when you’re lucky. Vinny’s gorgeous. Loads of girls fancy him. I wouldn’t kick him out of bed myself! He’s got his own place, and he’s good between the sheets, from what you’ve told me.’
Julie smiled, amused at her friend’s audacity. ‘Well he does know which buttons to press and when to press them, but there’s more to life than sex you know Rita.’
‘Oh yeah? Well when you find it let me know, and I’ll have a double helping,’ Rita quipped.
As Julie laughed, she turned to Rita and said. ‘Let’s stop being so bleedin’ serious! It’s Friday night for Christ’s sake! We’re supposed to be enjoying ourselves, not putting the world to rights.’
Rita decided that she had made her point anyway, so there was nothing to be gained in pursuing the matter. ‘Yeah, you’re right Jules. Come on, let’s go for it.’
They carried on walking for a few moments before Julie asked Rita, ‘What time are we supposed to be at Debby’s house?’
‘Dizzy Debby? Oh I said it would be about seven by the time we got there.’
‘Don’t be rotten. She can’t help being a bit slow at times.’
‘It’s all right, she’s used to being called Dizzy Debby. It’s her nickname at work. Anyway, there’s an offy on the way so we can grab some booze and have a few before we go and meet your friends. Eh, I tell you what Julie, we’d better make sure we give your friend Amanda a good time, seeing as how it’s her birthday night out.’
‘Don’t worry, we will,’ replied Julie with a smile.
When they reached Debby’s house, it was Debby who answered the door and led them straight up to her bedroom. Her home was in complete contrast to the one that Julie had just left, and the décor was shabby and dated. Julie recoiled as they passed the bathroom and smelt the pungent aroma that emanated from it. She looked at Rita for her reaction, but Rita didn’t respond. Julie wondered why; could it be that Rita was used to it so it didn’t bother her. “No,” she chided herself. “Rita’s home might be a bit untidy, but it was certainly a lot cleaner than this one.”
Julie could see that Debby was excited about the forthcoming night out and was anxious to get started. When they entered her bedroom she noticed Debby already had three half pint glasses ready and the sound of Luther Vandross was blasting out of the stereo.
‘Don’t your parents mind you having your music that loud?’ asked Julie.
‘No, they have the bloody tele so loud, they can’t hear it anyway.’
‘Mine are as bad,’ said Rita. ‘Ever since my dad came home from the pub with that dodgy VCR he’s been like a bleedin’ kid with a new toy.’
The girls seated themselves and began to pour the cans of lager. Julie pretended not to notice the greasy marks that covered the glasses. She inwardly cringed on observing Debby’s choice of clothing, accessories and make-up, but was too considerate to comment. Everything about Debby was overstated, from her fluffy bright blond hair to her fashion sense. All of her clothes were in vivid colours, uncoordinated and clung perilously to her large breasts and rotund hips.
The girls settled down with their drinks and began to discuss music, fashions and other topics of mutual interest. At eight o’clock, in a more animated state than when Julie and Rita had arrived, they set out, giggling, towards the nearby bus stop in order to make the trip to the city centre which was just a few stops away. When they got off the bus they had a short walk to the pub where they had agreed to meet two of Julie’s workmates, Amanda and Jacqueline, at eight thirty. While they were walking along, they spotted two policemen just ahead of them.
‘I think it’s time we had a bit of fun!’ said Rita.
I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be publishing the agenda for the online launch party a couple of weeks beforehand. We’ve got lots of fun lined up so if you can’t make the full day you might want to choose which events you want to take part in.