With 19 days to go until this book’s release… here’s a little snippet of BEYOND ANGEL AVENUE, an emotive, devastating tale. A sequel to Angel Avenue, this book delves into the archives, revealing why a hug meant so much to Jules when she first met Warrick Jones all those years ago…
Julianne, aged five, danced for her mother, some TV show blaring in the background. It was the Christmas holidays and they’d cleared a big space in the living room. Julianne’s father slept upstairs. Recently sacked from his job, he was constantly moody and irritable. Lorraine, the little girl’s mother, didn’t want her husband to know she was teaching Julianne to dance. She didn’t think he would understand. She also knew he might get jealous. Julianne’s one Christmas present was her first set of ballet slippers. While all the other boys and girls had piles of presents under the tree, this mother and daughter shared a gift beyond most people’s wildest dreams.
“Julie, no telling Daddy,” Lorraine would often say, and Jules would tap her index finger against her nose.
In her second year of school, Julianne would turn six in February but they didn’t have money for dance lessons so Lorraine taught her daughter at home.
“Extend, my pretty, oh that’s beautiful, that’s wonderful,” Lorraine exclaimed as Julianne – still so young – already demonstrated natural-born ability. “Have fun, move as you wish.”
Julianne pranced and giggled, swishing and swooping, her mother such a good teacher that she encouraged freedom of expression as well as discipline.
“First position Julianne, good.” The little girl raised her arm and held the back of the sofa to steady herself. “Plie, my darling, oh yes, keep your back… oh perfect, you don’t even need me to say.”
It was clear how much strength the little girl already had in her core. She had muscle definition, even for one so young. Lorraine had been teaching Julianne since she was three and a half.
They heard creaking upstairs, signifying Julianne’s father was getting up.
“Quick baby, let’s put the room back.”
They returned the sofa against the wall and put the coffee table back in the middle of the main floor space. They sat on the sofa and Lorraine grabbed some Value crisps for them to sit and eat, making it look like they’d been doing nothing but veging out in front of the TV.
“Where’s my tea?” Julian Simonovich asked gruffly, falling heavily into his armchair.
Without a word, Lorraine stood up and went to the kitchen.
Julianne stared at the TV, not looking at her father.
When Lorraine returned to the room with tea and toast for Julian, she told him, “We’re going out for the groceries, alright?” Her voice carried little affection.
“Get me some more of them pop tarts,” he grumbled, “fucking hate scabby toast.”
For your munchies, more like, thought Lorraine.
“We can hardly afford bread let alone overpriced junk,” Lorraine countered.
“So get another job. It’s not my fault I got sacked.”
Lorraine bit her tongue. It was his fault, but he was looking for anyone else to blame it on.
“I can’t. What about Julie? Who will get her to school and pick her up?”
He grunted. He was barely out of bed before ten everyday and he would no doubt forget to pick his daughter up. Besides, Lorraine didn’t trust him to look after Julianne. Lorraine would do anything to keep her daughter safe. Anything. Working as a receptionist for six hours a day was all she could manage and she didn’t want to put upon Julie’s grandmother, who was a bitter woman with a bias for her son. A pub job in the evening would mean leaving her child with Julian and Lorraine didn’t trust him not to go out and leave her all alone. She wouldn’t have put it past him. In the last year everything had changed for the worse and Lorraine was worried about the future.
“Let’s go, Julie,” Lorraine ordered, helping the girl on with her coat and boots.
They left the house, trundling down the hill towards the centre of town and the shops. In Frozen Foods, they picked up all the bargains on the £1 shelves and Lorraine submitted to Julian’s demand for pop tarts.
“Why are you sad, Mummy?”
“I’m not sad.”
“You are. Why don’t you dance with me? Why don’t you want Daddy to know I dance?”
Avoiding Julianne’s eyes, Lorraine explained, “A demon lives in Daddy. It makes him say and do and want bad things. Dancing is a good thing, yes?”
“Yes,” Julianne nodded, happily.
“He might try to take away anything good from us. We must keep all our good locked away, so he can’t steal it. That’s why I put your dance fund under the floor, honey.”
Lorraine was saving up a few pounds each week so that Jules could go to dance school when she was older. For now, most of her hopes and dreams seemed so far off – but she had great ambition for Julianne, her second chance.
“Can we go to the park?” asked Julianne.
“Okay, but it’ll be very snowy!!”
“That’s okay, I want to build a snowman.”
Lorraine sat on a bench with the shopping at her feet, chilling it on the ground. Julianne pranced and rolled in the snow, giggling her head off.
“Show me how to dance the snow angel dance, Mummy! Show me, show me!”
“No, darling, no.”
Lorraine stood and wobbled on her feet. “No, Julianne. No. Let’s go home.”
The child held her mother’s hand on the way home but she was shaking and trembling, in fear of her mother suddenly.
“I’m sorry, Julie, but I had my love of dance stolen from me. I never fulfilled my promise darling.” Bitter tears gathered but didn’t fall from Lorraine’s eyes.
They arrived home to an empty house and Lorraine grumbled to herself. Julian had no doubt gone out for his fix. While he was gone, Julianne suggested, “I’ll dance again to cheer you up?”
“No, no, darling, it’s okay. I don’t want you straining your little legs. We’ve tired you enough today. Why don’t we just do each other’s hair, hmm?”
“I like doing your hair, Mummy.”
Julianne brushed out her mother’s hair, which fell to her waist. The little girl tried to plait it but wasn’t quite skilled enough yet and by the end, she was making more knots than anything. Then Lorraine skilfully plaited Julianne’s hair into a French braid.
“You’re my beautiful mummy,” Julianne exclaimed out of the blue, and Lorraine squeezed her daughter tight, feeling richer for having a daughter’s love.
Lorraine would never leave her daughter to that foul man.
But for some reason, she did…