Unable to cope with her abusive family any longer, sixteen year old Georgie runs away. Two decades later, her grandfather is dying. Now a successful artist living in Hawaii, Gina Glass returns to the North of England for the first time. Back in the family home she must face her demons and reassess her relationships with her grieving relatives. Whilst dealing with her past she meets Dariel Varik, a young Parisian art dealer who offers her a foothold into the future.
Will Dariel open the door to the coveted European art market for her or does he have a different agenda? As Gina tries to heal the rifts in her family, secrets are exposed, and only the truth will save her.
Targeted Age Group: Adult
Genre: Women’s Contemporary Fiction
The Book Excerpt:
Multiple shades of green
The most powerful of agates; helps balance emotional energy;
enhances persistence and endurance; strengthens in times of stress; assists in successful birthing;
helps when making important decisions.
New Year’s Eve, 1989
“All right you lot, get your arses down here right now before this gets cold.”
Over the sound of the radio, Georgie heard her mum’s bellow summoning her family to the dining table for lunch. She rammed her instamatic camera into her school backpack, already bulging at the seams, and then slipped her new pendant over her head. Unable to resist the temptation of the speckled green stone that matched her eyes, she’d spent some of her precious Christmas money on the necklace. The shop assistant had told her it was moss agate—the stone of warriors—and it would protect her. So far she’d seen no evidence of its power, but she loved it anyway.
“Come on, Fatty, grub up.” Her older brother, Terry, poked his head around the door.
The nickname stung, but she knew complaining would only make Terry’s taunting worse. He loved nothing more than to reduce her to tears, but she wouldn’t oblige. Satisfying herself with pulling her tongue out at him, she smoothed her padded sweatshirt over ample hips and then followed him downstairs.
Georgie slid into her place between her father—cracking open a can of Carlsberg Special Brew—and her younger brother Chris who was already tucking into a plateful of greasy bacon, sausage and eggs with gusto.
“There’s nothing like a fry up to line your stomach before you go out on the booze.” Her mother shared her words of wisdom as she dipped thickly buttered bread into runny egg yolk. “Have you decided what you’re doing tonight, Melanie?”
Georgie’s big sister flicked her luxuriant corkscrew permed hair over her shoulders. “We’re going on a pub crawl, then Matt and Clare are having a party. Should be a wild night. Don’t expect me home. I’ll crash there.”
“I don’t think me and your dad will notice if you’re here or not. Somebody’s bound to invite everyone back for an impromptu party after the club closes.”
Georgie reached between the bottle of ketchup and her glass of juice stretching for the last slice of bread and butter. Terry went for it too. She snatched at the bread, but Terry beat her to it.
“Georgie, your granddad says you and Chris can stay at theirs tonight.”
She knocked the ketchup bottle, grabbed at it, and watched in horror as her juice glass tumbled drowning the tablecloth with its orange tide.
The fist came out of nowhere. Her father’s lightning reflex landed a blow to her temple and Georgie’s world spun as she banged into Chris, who grunted and elbowed her back to upright.
“You stupid girl. Look at this fucking mess,” her father raged as the rest of the family froze. “Clean it up. Now.”
Georgie fled the table. Hot tears burnt her eyes and scorched her cheeks as she raced to the kitchen for a cloth.
She sped back to the room and began ferociously mopping up the juice. Cutlery clinked against china, cutting through the silence as her siblings studied their plates and pretended nothing was happening.
“S…sorry, it was an accident.” The second the words slipped from her tongue she regretted opening her mouth, realised she should have kept quiet. She never learnt, always trying—unsuccessfully—to justify herself.
Her father shot to his feet and Georgie cowered over the table, one hand rubbing at the stain, the other protecting her head from the anticipated blow. As he smacked her hand away his gold sovereign signet ring yanked a few strands of her chestnut hair from their roots. She squealed, dropped the cloth and rubbed her inflamed scalp. Steely fingers burrowed into her quivering flesh as he grabbed her shoulder and dragged her towards him. She collided with her chair; it overturned landing on the carpet with a soft thud. She closed her eyelids tightly not wanting to meet his bulging eyes and see his all too familiar red-faced anger. She could smell beer and smoke and HP sauce.
He shook her. “It’s always a bloody accident with you, you can’t do anything right.” He loosened his grip then slapped her face so hard she staggered across the room, banging her shoulder and upper arm as she collided with the wall. She stared at him with a hatred that had been brewing for the entire sixteen years of her short life. She burned with injustice, but knew protestation only made matters worse.
Her father picked up his can of beer. “I’m going to watch telly.” Ornaments on shelves rattled when the door slammed as he left the room.
Her mother picked up the cloth and dabbed at the juice. “Don’t worry. It’ll come out in the wash. There’s no harm done.”
Georgie wasn’t so sure about that. She righted her chair and sat back at the table. Slumped over, she snivelled as tears dripped onto her plate, mingling with the juice from the tinned tomatoes. Her sister passed her a crumpled tissue.
Terry offered her the bread. “Here Fatty, you can have it.”
She shook her head. “I…I’m not hungry.”
“Please yourself.” Terry bit into the bread, and started to talk to Chris about football.
“You go to your granddad’s tonight, Georgie. That’ll be best,” her mother soothed, patting her wrist.
Georgie sat up straight and brushed her tears away with the back of her hand. “No. I’m going to Linda’s party. You said I could last week.”
“Your granddad and grandma were looking forward to you staying the night.”
“But you promised. You said I could go.”
“Let her go to Linda’s, Mum,” Melanie interrupted. “She’ll be fine. She’s sixteen after all.”
“All right, I give in. Chris can go on his own. But…” Her mother wagged her finger at her. “…you’ll have to go to your granddad’s next week.”
“I will,” said Georgie, throwing a look of gratitude in her sister’s direction.
“I’ll help you get ready for the party,” offered Melanie. “You can wear my new eye shadow. Now all your zits are clearing up you could look quite good if you made a bit of effort with your makeup and lost some weight.”
“Melanie’s right. Even your hair’s looking better; less greasy,” joined in her mother. “Mind you, those horrible padded sweatshirts make you look fatter than ever. You should throw them out. Your New Year’s resolution should be to lose your puppy fat.”
Georgie shrank into herself, taking comfort in the thick wadding of her new black sweatshirt. It hid a multitude of sins, and for that she was thankful.
“I don’t need help getting ready, Mel. I’ll do that at Linda’s.” She doubted any amount of makeup could cover the bruise she felt developing on her cheek.
An hour later Georgie stamped her feet to ward off the cold as she stood by the slip road to the south bound motorway. Her heart raced and her stomach churned with trepidation as adrenalin coursed through her veins. She’d made up her mind, and nothing would stop her now. She adjusted the weight of her backpack and wondered if she’d forgotten anything. Through the wool of her knitted gloves she felt her passport tucked safely in her pocket, along with the four hundred and twenty three pounds she’d saved from her Saturday job wages at the fruit shop. With a bit of luck her family would all be too hung over to notice she’d gone until the day after tomorrow.
As a lorry thundered round the bend she stuck out her thumb and hoped.
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