Read Lonely Teardrops (2008) Online
Authors: Freda Lightfoot
|Lonely Teardrops (2008)|
|Champion Street Market |
It's the day of her beloved father's funeral and Harriet can hardly take in her grandmother's words. Joyce, the woman she has always called Mam, isn't her real mother after all. At least that explains why Joyce has always favoured Harriet's brother, Grant—blood is thicker than water. Her emotions in turmoil, Harriet discovers a streak of rebellion that puts into jeopardy everything she holds dear. Can she come back from the brink or will her life be full of lonely teardrops?
Originally published 2008 by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd. 338 Euston Road, London NW1 3BH
Copyright © 2008 and 2012 by Freda Lightfoot.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing of the publisher. Nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Published by Freda Lightfoot 2012
‘You can’t put a price on Freda Lightfoot’s stories from Manchester’s 1950s Champion Street Market. They bubble with enough life and colour to brighten up the dreariest day and they have characters you can easily take to your heart.’
The Northern Echo
‘Romance doesn’t come sweeter than this tale of love and chocolate set in the grimy streets of 1950s Manchester.’
Lancashire Evening Post
on Candy Kisses
‘Lightfoot clearly knows her Manchester well’
Historical Novel Society
‘Kitty Little is a charming novel encompassing the provincial theatre of the early 20
century, the horrors of warfare and timeless affairs of the heart.’
The West Briton
‘a compelling and fascinating tale’
Middlesborough Evening Gazette
on The Favourite Child
(In the top 20 of the Sunday Times hardback bestsellers
‘She piles horror on horror - rape, torture, sexual humiliation, incest, suicide - but she keeps you reading!’ Jay Dixon on House of Angels.
‘This is a book I couldn’t put down . . .
a great read!’
South Wales Evening Post
on The Girl From Poorhouse Lane
‘paints a vivid picture of life on the fells during the war. Enhanced by fine historical detail and strong characterisation it is an endearing story...’
on Luckpenny Land
‘An inspiring novel about accepting change and bravely facing the future.’
The Daily Telegraph
on Ruby McBride
‘A bombshell of an unsuspected secret rounds off a romantic saga narrated with pace and purpose and fuelled by conflict.’
The Keswick Reminder
on The Bobbin Girls
I need to tell you summat, lass. Summat you should’ve been told years ago
It’s the day of her beloved father’s funeral and Harriet can hardly take in her grandmother’s words. Joyce, the woman she has always called Mam, isn’t her real mother after all.
At least that explains why Joyce has always favoured Harriet’s brother, Grant – blood is thicker than water.
Her emotions in turmoil, Harriet discovers a streak of rebellion that puts into jeopardy everything she holds dear. Can she come back from the brink or will her life be full of lonely teardrops?
‘I need to tell you summat, lass. Summat you should’ve been told years ago. I reckon now’s as good a time as any. I know you think Joyce is yer mam, but she isn’t.’
Rain was sheeting down, bubbling on the pavements, gurgling and washing the rubbish along the gutters and into the open grates on Champion Street, bringing a blessed relief from the early summer heat. The canvas awnings over the market stalls sagged and bellied under the weight of trapped water. It was still only late morning but many of the traders had already begun to pack up and call it a day, giving up on the struggle to keep their stalls erect against the deluge.
Harriet Ashton, standing at the sink as she washed up a few dishes from a late breakfast in the flat above her mother’s hairdresser’s shop, could see none of this, nothing but water running down the window. Or were they her own tears?
She blinked, rubbing them away with the back of one wet hand, but the image remained blurred as her slate-grey eyes once more filled with a rush of tears. Why did it always have to rain at a funeral? It just made the whole occasion even worse than it already was.
She certainly wasn’t concentrating on what her grandmother was saying.
This was a day Harriet had been dreading for years. She could scarcely believe he was gone. For as long as she could remember Dad had been there for her, a vital and essential part of her life. He’d acted as a buffer against the harsh reality of her world, despite his being confined to a wheelchair. He’d spent much of his life in one room downstairs behind her mother’s hairdressing salon, with friends often popping in for a chat. On fine days he’d sit at the front door which gave him a good view of the market, chatting to customers despite his wife’s complaint that he got under everyone’s feet. Harriet had cared for and loved him, poured out her troubles to his sympathetic ear and endlessly listened to his wise advice.
Now he was gone and she felt so alone.
The voice of her mother shouting up the stairs brought Harriet sharply out of her reverie, so that she almost dropped the plate she was holding.
‘Have you not finished that washing up yet? Stop day-dreaming, girl, we haven’t got all day. The hearse will be here any minute.’
Harriet’s heart sank at the sound of her mother’s voice. ‘How will I manage?’ She hadn’t realised she’d spoken the words out loud until her grandmother answered.
‘You’ll manage, chuck, because you’ve no choice. Just don’t rely on that madam to be there for you.’ Rose took the plate from her granddaughter’s shaking fingers, swiftly dried it then pulled the plug, watching as the soapy water swirled away down the sink. ‘Did you hear what I just said, lass? About that secret which has been deliberately kept from you.’
Harriet was mopping tears from her eyes, splashing her face with cold water in an effort to look more presentable. ‘Sorry, what did you say?’
She stopped patting her face dry on the roller towel that hung behind the kitchen door to look at the small, round woman beside her, uncharacteristically smart in her black coat and veiled felt hat. A slight frown creased Harriet’s brow just above a small straight nose flushed red with weeping.
‘What was that you said about Mam?’
The old woman sighed, whistling slightly through her dentures. ‘To tell the truth, which you should’ve been told years ago, and would have been if I’d had my way . . . well . . . it were all a cover-up.’
The light was dim in the shabby kitchen as the rain beat relentlessly against the window, seeming to reverberate through the ancient building and shake it to its foundations, but the girl made not a sound as she stared at her grandmother.
‘You’ll have to start again, I’m not following this. I think I must be going mad, Nan, because I thought you just said Mam wasn’t really me mother.’
‘Eeh, love, it breaks me heart to have to tell you, but it’s true right enough. Neither of ‘em wanted to come clean, through shame, I dare say, but it were a bad mistake to my mind. Weren’t right, weren’t right at all.’
The older woman gathered Harriet to her plump bosom, holding her fiercely, pressing her face into the fortified wall of her corseted chest so that the young girl felt suffocated by the combined smells of lavender and moth balls emanating from the coat, kept only for best and for days such as today.
Harriet pulled herself free of the cloying embrace. ‘Tell me again, slowly.’
‘Well, there’s nowt much else to say. That’s about the sum of it. She’s not yer
mam. By rights, I suppose, you’d have to call her yer stepmother.’
Harriet stared at Rose, dumb-founded, unable to think of a sensible response as a confused rush of emotions whirled through her head. Not her mother? Joyce, the shrewd-eyed, sharp-tongued woman who’d brought her up with such casual efficiency, was actually her
? She shook her head in bewilderment.
‘I don’t understand.’
As if on cue her mother’s voice again called from below. ‘Will you get a move on you two, the hearse is here at last.’
Quick as a flash, Rose snatched up her granddaughter’s coat and gloves, pinching the girl’s cheeks to bring some colour into them and started to push her downstairs.
‘Let’s not upset her today any more than she already is. We can talk later.’
Harriet’s alleged mother and brother were impatiently standing by the front door of the hairdressing salon, and, despite the relentless rain, a growing crowd gathered round the hearse waiting outside. Joyce considered the girl with a disapproving glare. ‘Is that the best you can do? You look like something the cat’s dragged in.’
Harriet glanced vaguely at her old green raincoat and tie shoes. ‘I don’t have anything darker to wear, nor anything smarter.’
‘You do look a bit of a tuckle,’ Grant said, a self-satisfied smirk twisting his tightly pursed mouth. His broad shoulders seemed to strain the dark navy suit he wore, newly purchased from Burton’s Tailors.
Joyce herself was clothed from head to toe in unrelieved black; black suit, a tiny feathered black hat, black handbag and gloves, and glossy black patent court shoes. She looked very much the part of the grieving widow, and as smart and stylish as ever with her dark brown, softly waved hair which she painstakingly teased into fashionable kiss curls, the pencilled brows lending a slightly surprised expression to her pale, oval face. But there was evidence of discontent to the slash of crimson mouth and a few fine lines drawn from each down-turned corner to the small pointed chin.
‘What’s wrong with your navy school skirt?’
‘You must be joking. I haven’t worn that since I left over two years ago. It’s far too small.’
‘Why didn’t you mention it sooner that you’d nothing decent to wear?’
‘I didn’t think about it. Anyway, what does it matter what I wear?’
‘You always do like to show me up,’ Joyce snapped. ‘And you can stop that crying, girl. Tears won’t bring your precious father back, so try to show a bit of dignity. Now get in that car before you make an exhibition of us all.’
Standing by the graveside less than an hour later, her hands bunched in the pockets of the old raincoat, strawberry blond hair tucked into a drab head scarf and protected by a large black umbrella held by her brother, dignity was the last thing on Harriet’s mind. She longed simply to slip into the open wound of the sodden ground, hammer on the coffin lid and force her dad to wake up and come back to her.
How dare he leave her alone like this? How was she ever going to cope without him? And now there was all this other stuff thrust at her, which she really needed to ask him about. Her grandmother’s words were still spinning round in her head, like sharp black needles of pain attempting to stab through the mists of her grief. Could it really be true what Nan had said, that this woman, Joyce Ashton, whom she’d always believed to be her mother wasn’t her mam at all? It didn’t seem possible. But if it
true, then it would explain why she’d always treated Harriet with barely disguised contempt.