The Mother's Secret
Today I have an extract as part of the Blog Tour for The Mother's Secret by Clare Swatman. This sounds a great read and have been hearing some rave reviews, so sit back and enjoy!
20 October 2016
Georgie kicks a stone and watches it roll away across the wet sand, bouncing off rocks and pebbles until it comes to a halt just out of reach of a wave. She stops and looks out to sea, the flat grey expanse interrupted only by the occasional rise of white foam, stretching on forever, or to nowhere, the horizon a smudgy, indistinct line far in the distance. She closes her eyes and lifts her face so all she can hear is the wind pushing its way across the sand. It’s whipping the sea into a frenzy, sending waves crashing as they hit the shore and shooting spray into the already-damp air. It pulls flags taut on their poles and drags empty crisp packets and dropped tissues with it indiscriminately as it races across the almost-empty beach.
She opens her eyes again and looks down at her feet, studying the footprints she’s left in the sand, creeping up behind her like a stalker she can’t outrun. A hand slips through the crook of her arm and she turns to find her big sister Kate next to her, smiling.
They turn and walk a few steps in silence. The sun is weak behind the gathering clouds and the wind’s getting stronger, blowing their hair round their faces and making their eyes water. Georgie leans into the wind until she’s almost at a forty-five-degree angle, at tipping point, daring the wind to stop. Next to her Kate shivers in her too-thin coat.
‘God, it’s cold isn’t it?’ Georgie straightens up and hugs her arm in tighter to Kate’s.
‘It is – but if you insist on wearing those clothes what do you expect?’
‘Hey nothing – that’s nothing more than a cardigan masquerading as a coat, and your tights are practically useless.’
Georgie glances down at her outfit and grins. She loves her patterned tights; oversized cardigans and finding bargains in second-hand shops is her mishmash style. Kate prefers sensible shoes, patterned tops and boot-cut jeans and just doesn’t get Georgie’s love of the quirky.
‘Good point – but you can’t really talk, you’re shivering like a jellyfish too.’
‘This is true.’
Without realizing it they’ve stopped again and are both staring out to sea, watching the froth on the tops of the waves gather and wane, over and over, never-ending. Kate plants her feet firmly in the sand to stop herself blowing away, and Georgie holds on tight.
‘I wish Dad was here.’
The words come out of nowhere and, unsure whether she’s heard them right, Georgie leans in closer to Kate. ‘What did you say?’
Kate brings her mouth closer to Georgie’s ear. ‘I wish Dad was here. Don’t you?’
The words skitter and dance in the air between them, trying to find their place. Finally they
settle, and Georgie frowns. ‘Where has that come from?’
Kate keeps her eyes trained on the sea and shrugs. ‘I don’t know. Not really. I’ve just been thinking about him more and more recently.’
Georgie follows her sister’s gaze out to sea without speaking. She thinks about her father from time to time, of course she does. Naturally she’s wondered what life would have been like if they’d grown up knowing him, if he hadn’t been taken away from them before she’d even been born. She wonders what she’d be like too, whether she’d be different. Braver, stronger, tougher. Whether she’d have been as close to her mother, and her sister, if she’d had him there to dilute the love. But this question from Kate has still come out of the blue.
Before she gets the chance for an answer to form in her throat, Kate speaks again. ‘I know I can’t miss him exactly. I don’t even remember him, but – well, I suppose I do really. Miss him, that is. Especially now with – well, with Mum the way she is.’
Georgie nods beside her. ‘Me too.’ Her voice is barely more than a whisper and Kate struggles to hear her. They stand in silence a moment longer, letting their thoughts fill the space where their words should be, both thinking about the man in the photo on their mother’s mantelpiece, the father they’d never known.
‘Do you think he’d be proud? You know, of us?’ Georgie pushes a stray hair out of her face and tucks it pointlessly behind her ear, as it blows straight back out again.
‘Yes. I think he would.’ Kate sighs. ‘But I don’t think we’d be us, not us as we are now, if he’d been here.’ She turns to face Georgie. ‘Do you?’
‘Probably not, no.’
‘I mean, I bet you wouldn’t have fallen in love with the first boy you kissed if you’d had Dad around—’
‘Hey, hang on—’
‘No, I don’t mean it nastily, George, I really don’t. I just mean – well, if Dad had been here he probably wouldn’t have let Matt anywhere near you, at the age of thirteen anyway.’
‘Mum wasn’t exactly keen.’
‘True. But it’s still different. You probably wouldn’t have needed Matt as much if Dad had been here.’ She stops, thinks for a minute. ‘And let’s face it, George, I probably wouldn’t have been such a saddo either.’
‘Oh Kate, don’t say that.’
‘Why not? It’s true. I didn’t have any friends at school. I never had a boyfriend. You were my only friend, really, George.’
‘You were mine too, Kate.’
‘I know.’ She shrugs, looks away. ‘Maybe it could have been different, with Dad here. But then again, maybe not. Who knows? But either way I’d like to think he’d be proud of us. Let’s face it, he’d have two pretty different daughters to be proud of.’
Georgie smiles. ‘He definitely would.’
They stand for a moment, their words flying away with the wind. Then Kate turns to Georgie.
‘Do you think things would have been any different for Mum if Dad hadn’t died?’
Georgie feels a hard lump form in her chest and she holds her hand to it. She can feel the soft tha-thump of her heart against her palm. Beside her, Kate’s eyes are on her, willing her to look round. And, finally, she does.
‘I honestly don’t know.’
The words are barely a whisper, but Kate shakes her head and turns away. ‘No, me neither.
I’d like to think so, though.’ There’s a beat of silence. Then: ‘George, I’m really worried about her.’
Georgie nods. She’d known this was coming from the moment Kate had suggested a walk on the beach this morning. Now the words have arrived and there’s no taking them back.
‘You know she’s been getting much worse, don’t you?’
Georgie nods again. ‘Yes. Yes, I do. She didn’t seem to know what was going on when I saw her a few days ago. She thought she was going to meet Dad for a date that night. I kept telling her she’d got it wrong but she didn’t even seem to be too sure who I was, and couldn’t grasp what I was saying.’
Kate nods and takes Georgie’s arm.
‘Come on, let’s go for a coffee.’ She points to the cafe at the top of the beach which, despite the weather, looks open, the windows steamed up. They walk in silence together, arms linked as their feet tread over sand and pebbles, until the sand gets softer and softer. There are drops of rain in the wind now and Georgie pulls her hood up and holds it tightly against her face.
The cafe feels hot and stuffy in contrast to the cold of outside, and they strip off their layers, hanging them on the back of the chairs as they go.
A good ten minutes pass before they’re settled at a table with coffee and hot chocolate and a slice of cake each.
‘It’s scaring me, Georgie, what’s happening to Mum. She’s getting so much worse, so quickly. Remember in the summer, the barbecue we had at mine?’
Georgie nods, thinking back.
To preorder a copy of the book from Amazon click here
To preorder a copy of the book from Amazon click here