Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Saving Missy. I’m sharing an extract with thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and to the publisher for my copy of the extract.
Missy Carmichael’s life has become small.
Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home; the sound of the radio in the dark; the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.
Spiky and defensive, Missy knows that her loneliness is all her own fault. She deserves no more than this; not after what she’s done. But a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new.
Another life beckons for Missy, if only she can be brave enough to grasp the opportunity. But seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?
It was bitterly cold, the day of the fish-stunning. So bitter that I nearly didn’t go to watch. Lying in bed that morning, gazing at the wall since the early hours, I’d never felt more ancient, nor more apathetic. So why, in the end, did I roll over and ease those gnarled feet of mine into my new sheepskin slippers? A vague curiosity, maybe – one had to clutch on to that last vestige of an enquiring mind, stop it slipping away.
Still in my dressing gown, I shuffled about the kitchen making tea and looking at my emails to see if there were any from Alistair. Well, my son was busy, no doubt, with his fieldwork. Those slippers he bought me for Christmas were cosy in the morning chill. There was a message from my daughter Melanie but it was only to tell me about a documentary she thought I might like. She often mistook her father’s tastes for mine. I ate dry toast and brooded over my last conversation with her and for a second bristles of shame itched at the back of my neck. It felt easier to ignore it, so instead I read the newspapers online and saw that David Bowie had died.
At my age, reading obituaries is a generational hazard, contemporaries dropping off, one by one; each announcement an empty chamber in my own little revolver. For a while I tried to turn a blind eye, as if ignoring death could somehow fob it off. But people kept dying and other people kept writing about it, and some perverse imp obliged me to keep up to date. Bowie’s death upset me more than most, although I never really listened to his music. I did remember him introducing the little animation of The Snowman, but when we watched it with my grandson at Christmas they’d replaced the introduction with something else. So my one recollection of Bowie was him holding a scarf and looking sombre, and for some reason the image was a disturbing one. The unmade bed beckoned, but then Leo’s voice in my head as it so often was, ‘Buck up, Mrs Carmichael! Onwards and upwards!’
So I went up to my room to put on my thickest pair of tights and a woollen skirt, grimacing at the putrid blue veins, and creaking along with the stairs on the way back down to fetch my coat. Struggling with the buttons, I sat down for a moment to catch my breath, thinking about the sign in the park the previous week.
My post-Christmas slump was particularly bad this year, the warm glow of festivities punctured by Alistair’s departure, and with him Arthur, my golden grandson, his voice already taking on the Australian upward lilt. And it was still hard, being in the park, without remembering Leo. He was a great believer in a constitutional; enjoyed belittling self-important joggers and jovially berating cyclists. Every landmark had a dismal echo, but I was drawn back again all the same – the resident grey lady, idly roaming. There was a certain oak tree we used to visit – Leo liked its gnarled old trunk and said it was a Quercus version of him, increasingly craggy in old age. I would no doubt have spent hours standing there wool-gathering that day, but was distracted by a child who sounded like my Arthur. A boy of his age was tugging his mother fretfully as she read a notice pinned to the railings that circle each lake. Moving closer, I pretended to read it.
‘Mummmmmeeeeeeee!’ He had strawberry blonde locks and biscuit crumbs at the corner of his mouth that begged to be wiped away. Children are so beautiful, flawless and shiny, like a conker newly out of its shell. Such a shame they all grow up to be abominable adults. If only we could preserve that giddy-with-possibility wiring, everything greeted with an open embrace.
‘Jeez, Otis, give me a break,’ said the mother, in a broad Irish accent, batting him off. She had dyed red hair and I loathed her instantly. She glanced sideways at me, the old crone leering at her son, and I resumed my faux-study of the notice.
‘What do you think, Oat?’
Oat? Good Lord, people today.
‘They’re gonna electrocute the fish! Wanna watch?’
The park caretakers needed to move the fish from one lake to the other, which required them to be stunned. Electrofishing. I’d never seen or heard of such a thing, nor did it seem particularly interesting, but maybe if I could see ‘Oat’ again then the tightness I’d felt in my gullet since Ali and Arthur got on the plane might ease a little. It would be something to do, after all …
Saving Missy is available from Amazon.
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