This is a short extract from my forthcoming novel due to publish through Smashwords by the end of January. I should have ARC copies ready, in PDF format, next week. Let me know if you would like to receive a free copy.

“JJ, if you’re not down here in exactly two minutes, I’m feeding your breakfast to the dog!”

Jennifer Morris shouted up the stairs for the third time this morning. Her 16-year-old daughter didn’t have school today, they were not due back following half-term until Monday, but Friday always was Jennifer’s cleaning day and, come hell or high water, she wanted all the kids out of her hair for the rest of the day.

Eldest boy Tom, 18, was not only already up but out the door, his girlfriend’s family had picked him up outside the house early. He seemed to get on quite well with them, which amazed Jennifer, as he was so prickly and truculent at home and didn’t seem to get on with anybody at all. He even bickered with his girlfriend all the time. How he managed to get Suzannah pregnant had been a shock in more ways than one. Tigger, at 14 the youngest, as per usual, kept to himself at home most of the time and had gone out half an hour ago after eating two bowls of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and used up a complete pint of milk.

“Now, JJ!” Jennifer tried, finally. After a couple of seconds she could hear one of the bedroom doors open and the bathroom door slam shut, bringing the first smile of the day to her lips.

Today was not only cleaning day, so she preferred an empty house, but she had an unpleasant task to do. Jennifer had been chased up yesterday by Bob’s boss, wanting to know how he was faring after his accident at work. At least that had answered one question in her mind. So, it looked like he hadn’t known about her affair with Richard in advance, it was just bad luck and an accident that had sent him home early to catch the pair of them out. Bob must have as much surprised as Richard and she has been.

What a mess! And they had been so, so very careful up to that point. Damn! It meant nothing, the affair, even now that he knew about it. There was never meant to be anything to it other than a little bit of fun.

Now it was serious, though, and was becoming more so. Bob had punched Richard to the ground and had then run away. And Jennifer had watched the horrifying sequence happen in front of her like it was a movie clip. When it was over, instead of chasing after her husband, the man she loved, she bent down to tend to Richard.

What did that tell her about herself? She didn’t love Richard any more than he loved her. For both of them it was just a little bit of extra on the side. That’s all it was, just recreational sex. As a lover, Richard wasn’t even anything to write home about particularly. He wasn’t noticeably bigger, certainly not the legend that black men are supposed to be. He wasn’t gentle or loving or caring either. Bob was all of those things and more but clearly something must have been lacking in her marriage for her to do this to him. Jennifer had even been putting Bob off from having sex for a couple of months now, since shortly after the affair began, and Jen thought perhaps he had suspected something and therefore contrived to catch them in the act. Mind you, Bob seemed to have gone off her too recently and certainly didn’t complain about being rationed. He was too wrapped up in his jogging, improving his times, talking about going in for his first marathon, at his age.

“OK Mum, I’m down,” JJ’s arrival and truculent announcement interrupted Jennifer’s unpleasant thoughts, “Even though we’ve never even had a dog.”

Her daughter was dressed in jeans with ripped holes in the knees, and a voluminous chunky sweater against the chill wind outside. She wore no make-up, her curly hair was all over the place and she had brought down with her that disreputable old denim jacket that she seemed to have been wearing on a daily basis for at least the last three years now.

Not for the first time Jennifer thought it was such a shame. If her daughter made an effort JJ could be very pretty. She was slim, petite and shapely, yet wore clothes that covered her up completely. Jennifer couldn’t remember the last time she saw JJ wear a dress, yet she looked stunning in swimwear at the weekly ladies’ only sessions down at the local pool, which showed she was supremely fit.

“I don’t know what the eggs are like, JJ, after all this time,” Jennifer said over her shoulder as she shovelled the contents of the frying pan out onto a warmed plate, “They’re probably as hard as rocks.”

“No matter, Mother,” JJ said as she shook tomato ketchup all over the breakfast.

“Where are you off to today?”

“I’ll meet up with Shazza at the shops, hang about at the arcade. I dunno, things.”

Jennifer could imagine the smart-looking Sharron would love window shopping. It didn’t seem to be JJ’s cup of tea at all.

“Well, make sure you’re back by half past five, I’ll have dinner ready at six and I need you to lay the table.”

“Will Dad be home by then?” JJ asked, with what Jennifer thought was a barbed tone to her voice. Everything about JJ was barbed recently. Teenage girls, Jennifer thought; OK, my teenage girl, while the boys were really no trouble at all.

“I don’t know, sweetheart, I hope so.”

“What have you done to him now, Mum?” JJ accused with slitted eyes, over a forkful of congealing baked beans.

“What do you mean?”

“Come off it, Ma, when did Dad last go on a residential course, for crying out loud?” she sniffed, “You must have done something. Don’t you think it’s about time you said sorry to Dad?”

“What do you mean, sorry?”

“You know, I know, everybody knows.” JJ’s mouth was full as she ate a mixture of eggs, toast and beans, “Probably, even Dad knows.”

“Knows what?”

“Knows what you get up to. Did he finally catch you up to something you shouldn’t have been while we were all away for the weekend?” she accused.

“I don’t know how you can even think a thing like that, your Dad and I-”

“Yeah, like you and Dad are all over each other all the time, Mother!” JJ spat. “It looks to me like he’s finally moved out and onto pastures new.”

“What, have you heard any word from your father?” Jennifer’s face was ashen.

“Nada, nothing. He’s been disappearing deeper into his shell for the last couple of years, and so have the boys. While you on the other hand – well, you are completely out of your gourd!”

“How dare you, Madam! You’re not too big to put across my knee, young lady!”

“Yeah, like you can take the high moral ground, Mother!”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Meaning that you are a dirty skank and everyone knows it. Us kids are like totally ashamed of you and it was about time that Dad-”

Jennifer reached across and smacked JJ hard across the cheek, splattering tomato sauce and egg across the kitchen. Both stood in shocked silence, JJ that her mother could do such a thing and Jennifer that she actually did so.

“JJ, I’m so sorry!” Jennifer gasped.

“Don’t worry about it, Mother,” blinking back the tears she knew would start to roll any moment and didn’t want to give her mother the satisfaction of seeing them.

JJ stood up, grabbed her denim jacket from the back of the chair and stormed out of the kitchen, with the parting words over her shoulders, “When Dad gets back I hope it’s only to collect me, so I can go live with him, because I don’t want to live with you one moment longer than I have to!”

Jen looked at the slammed kitchen door for a couple of minutes before sitting down, putting her head in her hands and sobbing uncontrollably.

Advertisements