I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Home today, in celebration of its paperback publication. I am sharing an extract, which I post with thanks to Anne Cater, who invited me on the blog tour, and Transworld for my copy of the extract.
Jesika is four and a half.
She lives in a flat with her mother and baby brother and she knows a lot. She knows their flat is high up and the stairs are smelly. She knows she shouldn’t draw on the peeling wallpaper or touch the broken window. And she knows she loves her mummy and baby brother Toby.
She does not know that their landlord is threatening to evict them and that Toby’s cough is going to get much worse. Or that Paige, her new best friend, has a secret that will explode their world.
THERE’S A GAP where the living room curtains don’t touch and night- orange has sneaked in and painted everything in the room so it’s hardly dark at all. My fayvrit green pen is on the windysill, where I hided it from Toby, and I take it and squeeze ahind the telly to get to the peeling- paper. It’s soft and soggy on my
fingers and under it there’s even more black dots than afore and my pictures of the house with lots of windows and the horse and the apple tree and the swing have slided down the wall a bit. There isn’t a pond yet so I join some dots up in a pond shape and add tails to the dots inside the pond so they look like tadpoles. ‘Jesika!’
My arm is pulled hard and hard and Mummy is screaming, ‘Moles! Moles! Dirty, Jesika, dirty!’ and she pulls me fast away from my picture and the telly hits my head and I’m shouting, ‘Ow! Ow! Ow!’ But Mummy keeps pulling and pulling me and we’re at the bathroom sink and the light’s on bright and hurty and my eyes are stingy and my head is spiky and hot and she’s scrubbing and scrubbing my hands and my fingers with the scrapy- brush that’s apposed to be just for cleaning nails and she’s being cross about dirty moles and I’m crying and shouting, ‘They’re not moles, they’re tadpoles,’ but Mummy’s not got her listening switched on cos now she’s being cross cos I got out of bed afore the clock says seven and I’m trying to tell her about being too wriggly to stay in bed but I can’t make the words proply and Mummy says, ‘I’m too tired for this, Jesika. I’m just too tired,’ and her words are spiky.
Mummy stops scrubbing and she tugs at the towel and there’s a snapping noise and the towel hanger- up bounces on the floor and Mummy bashes her hand on the sink and shouts, ‘I HATE this bloody flat!’
It’s quiet in the space after Mummy’s shout.
I say, ‘What’s a flat?’ Mummy scrunches up her face and her eyes and says, ‘Flat, house, just another word for this dump we live in,’ and her voice is all fast and cross, and then she’s coughing and coughing and leaning over the sink and her face is going red and I reach up on tiptoes and rub her back cos that’s what Mummy does when Toby’s coughing.
After ages, Mummy stops coughing and she makes her breathing go slow and then she wraps my hands up in the towel and puts them atween her hands and she’s squeezing gently and wiggling each finger through the towel.
She says, ‘Sorry for shouting, poppet. I didn’t mean to. I just don’t want you getting poorly too.’
She rubs my head where the telly banged it and gives it a kiss and then holds my hand and we walk back out of the bathroom and she’s pointing to my secret corner and she says, ‘No more playing with dirty moles, OK?’
I say, ‘But Mummy, they’re not moles . . .’ but then Toby’s crying and coughing in the bedroom and Mummy has to run and give him cuddles and rub his back and it’s not fair.
Mummy puts my shoes on tight with tuggy fingers cos she’s still cross about the moles and she’s cross cos Toby coughed and coughed til he sicked up his breakfast milk all over his clean clothes and the bag for the washing machine shop is more heavier. We’re going to the doctors after the washing machine shop so Mummy can tell the doctor that Toby needs medicine to make his chesty fecshun better.
On the landing, Mummy fights the front door shut and I’m doing my job holding Toby’s buggy cos the brake doesn’t always work and all the door fighting is making Mummy cough like Toby and it remembers me about her coughing in the bathroom and I go and rub Mummy’s back again and I say, ‘Have you got a chesty fecshun too, Mummy?’
Mummy says, ‘Both hands on the buggy, Jesika!’ and her voice is snappy like a crocodile so I grab the buggy again but it hasn’t rolled away cos the landing is fl at and not hilly. I don’t really know why Mummy says I’ve got to hold it.
Next- Door Lady huff- puffs up the stairs and I say, ‘Hello,’ cos I’m allowed to say hello to people when Mummy’s with me and it’s a friendly thing to do. But Next- Door Lady walks straight past us, not even looking or smiling, which is actually rude and not friendly, and I’m still thinking this when she opens her door and I forget to not breathe and the eggy- yucky smell comes out and right into my mouth and up my nose afore I can stop it.
Mummy finishes fighting the door and we bump and bang down the stairs and round and down more stairs and we’re almost at the bottom and Mummy remembers me to be quiet past the door at the top of the last stairs cos the other day a nasty man opened it and said scary words. But he’s not there today and then we’re down at the bottom and Mummy’s bags have got all tangled on the buggy cos of all the bumping so we have to stop next to the Smelly- Stairs so Mummy can make them not tangled.
The Smelly- Stairs go down to the door that’s never open. Mummy says it’s dirty and dangerous but I always look cos sometimes there’s people down there and maybe they’re trying to open the door and if they get it open, I want to see what’s ahind it.
There’s nobody down there today but while Mummy gets cross with the bags I spot something interesting on one of the steps. It looks like a jection, not like the one in my doctor bag for Baby Annabelle, but a proper jection like the one the real doctor scratched my arm with so I don’t get nasty germs.
Oh! That’s something useful!
‘Look,’ I say. ‘There’s a jection for Toby to make his chesty fecshun go away,’ but Mummy’s still fighting the bags. I know I’m not apposed to go down the Smelly- Stairs but Toby’s coughing and crying and the jection will make him all better and Mummy will be really pleased, won’t she?
I hold my breath to make the smells go small and I press a hand against the wall to keep my feet safe and I hold my belly with my other hand cos it’s doing scary jumps inside cos it’s dark at the bottom and I don’t want a monster to jump out and scare me. But I do want Toby to be not- poorly. I step down and down, one- two- three- four- fi ve . . .
‘Jesika! Get back up here right now!’
Mummy is squeezing my hand tight and tight and pulling me up the Smelly- Stairs so my feet almost fly and her voice is all shouty. ‘What do you think you’re doing? You hold the buggy and you don’t let go! That’s the rule!’
I point down the stairs. ‘I was getting the jection to make Toby not poorly,’ and Mummy looks and I think there really must be monsters down there cos when she looks down the stairs her eyes go scary- wide and she’s pressing her hand to her mouth and she’s so scared that we have to hurry out the big outside door and bump down the steps into all the rush and busy- ness and then run away fast and fast and Mummy’s so scared that she forgets about the washing machine shop and then she forgets about the doctors and she even forgets to say scuse me to all the busy people on the pavement and some of them make cross faces as we push past them and I want to stop and explain that Mummy’s not actually rude, she’s just running away from the monsters, but I have to hold tight to the buggy and make my legs go fast and fast so Mummy doesn’t leave me ahind.
Mummy presses the doorbell on a white door that’s got a number 1 and a 3 and a 2 on it in gold metal letters. I say, ‘I know this house! We’ve come to this house afore, haven’t we, Mummy?’
Mummy presses the bell again and pushes her ear against the door and then she says, ‘Doorbell’s not working,’ and she knocks on the door loud and loud.
I say, ‘This is where we pay the man for our house,’ but Mummy’s too busy listening to see if her knocking has worked to hear me. The door opens and it’s not the man, it’s a lady I don’t know and she’s got huge golden rings in her ears like a pirate. She must have just got out of bed cos she’s got her dressing gown on and not proper clothes.
The lady says, ‘Yes?’
Mummy says, ‘I’m sorry for bothering you, but can I speak to Darren?’
The lady says, ‘At this time of the morning?’ She shakes her head and it makes the giant rings wiggle about. She says, ‘Try again later,’ and she steps back in and pushes the door shut but Mummy puts her hand out to stop it closing and she says, ‘Please! Could I leave a message for him, then? It’s very important.’
The lady opens the door again and huffs out a breath, like she’s cross.
Mummy says, ‘Please can you tell him that Tina Petrowski called round? I rent one of his flats on Ashbury Road, the ones just up from the laundrette?’
The lady looks like she’s smelling something really bad. I look around to see what it is. There’s a great big red bin on the edge of the road. The lid’s not shut proply cos it’s stuffed full up of bags. I bet it smells like farts and Toby’s dirty nappies.
Mummy’s saying my name. I turn back round but she’s not talking to me, she’s still talking to the lady. She says ‘. . . dirty needle! I told him about the problem with those stairs the last time he came round for the rent.’
The lady says, ‘Don’t let your little girl go down there, then. You can’t blame Darren if you can’t control your kids.’
Mummy’s eyes and mouth go wide and wide and she takes a step back and she’s looking at the ground and then her eyes go so scary and her head snaps up and I know she’s going to use her cross voice now.
She says, ‘You tell him that it needs to be cleaned up and the lock on the main door needs fixing or I’ll have no choice but to phone the police and let them know what those stairs are used for!’
Mummy bumps Toby’s buggy away from the door fast and Toby starts coughing and crying and she grabs my hand and my arm pulls at my shoulder and my whole body tugs forward and then we’re running again, fast and fast, away from the lady’s door and back up the big, long hill to where the shops and our house is and my legs are getting worn out and hurty and I say, ‘Mummy, my legs are hurting.’ But Mummy keeps going fast and fast and I say, ‘Muuummmyyyy, you’re going too fast.’ And then, right outside the park gate, Mummy stops and I bump against all the dirty washing bags but Mummy doesn’t see cos she’s pressing her hand to her chest and her face is all wrinkled up like something’s really sore and I say, ‘Mummy, what’s wrong?’
Mummy doesn’t say anything, just breathes and breathes and wrinkles her face up even more so her eyes go wrinkly- shut and now she’s leaning her head right down on the buggy and she’s still pressing her chest and I don’t know what’s wrong and I tug at her arm and say, ‘Mummy?’ And I think her speaking has stopped working cos she won’t answer and I say:
‘MUMMY?’ Mummy looks up and her face is fl at again and she blows out a breath and she says, ‘I shouldn’t have walked so fast up that hill.’
I say, ‘We weren’t walking, Mummy, we were running, and now my legs are worn out!’
Mummy strokes my hair and says, ‘Oh, poppet, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was making you run. Come on, let’s have a rest.’ She pulls the buggy over to the bench next to the park gate and we sit down and Mummy says, ‘We’ve got time to sit for a few minutes before the next battle.’
I say, ‘What’s a battle?’
Mummy says, ‘Like a fight.’ I say,
‘But you’re not allowed to do fighting. Hitting and kicking is naughty.’
Mummy smiles and says, ‘Not that kind of fight. I mean a fight with words, when you have to use strong words to get something done that’s not being done properly.’
Toby starts coughing again and Mummy unclips him from the buggy and lifts him out and sits him on her knee so she can rub his back.
I wonder what words are strong? Maybe ‘giant’ cos giants are strong. And ‘elephant’ cos elephants can pull over whole trees just with their trunks. And tipper trucks like the one in our veekles book cos they can carry huge big rocks. And rocks are strong too cos you can’t break them even if you jump up and down on them.
Mummy puts Toby back into his buggy and she’s trying to do his straps up but he’s pushing his belly against them and shouting, ‘Out! Out! Out!’ cos I think he wants to stay on Mummy’s knee and I say, ‘I know lots of strong words, Mummy.’
Mummy says, ‘Do you?’ And then she says, ‘Ha! Got it!’ cos she’s managed to do the straps up and Toby’s still shouting and she leans over and kisses his head and says, ‘It’s just until we get to the doctors, Toby, and then you can get out again.’ But I don’t think Toby wants to sit in his buggy even for a minute cos he doesn’t stop shouting.
Mummy says, ‘Come on, Jesika, let’s get going.’
I say, ‘Is it time for the battle?’ Mummy smiles and says, ‘Hopefully it won’t have to be a battle. But we’ll see. Hand on the buggy. Off we go.’
I hold onto the buggy and we walk along the pavement and I’m thinking up more strong words like ‘metal’ and ‘tractor’ and ‘bear’ and ‘lamppost’ and ‘space rocket’ cos they’re all strong things, and if it is a battle and Mummy can’t remember all her strong words, I can tell her some of mine.
Home is available from Amazon.
You can follow the rest of the tour here: