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Friday, 3 February 2012

Read My Novel, Free: Chapter 4.


Breaking Faith is available as a paperback and an ebook. I'm posting individual chapters here, each week, so that anyone who wishes can read the book in full and free of charge.

The Prologue, which begins the novel, was posted on 6 January. Here's the link, in case you missed it: http://stuartaken.blogspot.com/2012/01/read-free-my-novel-here.html .
Chapter 1 was posted on 13 January, subsequent chapters appear each Friday and can be accessed via the archive.

Read, enjoy, invite your friends.


Chapter 4

I walked quickly along the main road, eager to be home and out of the cold. On the crest of the first hill, out of sight of the house, a car was parked by the side of the road, its engine running, exhaust clouding the air behind it.
‘Word wi’ you, twat.’
I glanced at Mervyn then ignored him and continued on my way.
‘Do owt to meck me lose my job an’ I’ll break your scrawny neck. Gerrit?’
His hatred seemed genuine and I shivered with more than cold, wondering what I had done to deserve it. I walked on without looking back but he drove slowly after me and pulled alongside.
‘I’m good at what I do for Leigh. Skinny little twat like you’s not screwing it up for me. Right? Right? I said, Right?’
I refused to look at him and, as he continued beside me, I gathered my courage and dashed behind his car. A ladder style allowed me over the dry stone wall into a field. I did not intend to leave the road at that point but I had to be free of his foul tongue and threats; in the process, I learned a short cut home.
‘Remember it, twat. I mean it!’ His thick, vulgar voice bellowed at me over the barrier.
Then he was gone and silence surrounded me. I hugged myself briefly and strode on, determined not to let his vile threats spoil my victory. It was enough that I would have to face Father with all my news after arriving home late.
Mrs Greenhough’s shop was still open when I reached the dark village, its lights illuminating the fresh snow on the pavement. I had taken that first step; I was working for Leigh. It was time I started to make people alter their views and see the real me. I stopped before the shop door. Who was the real me? But it was not the time or place for such a question.
Mrs Greenhough looked up as I went in and her face quickly set into the one that said she would stand no nonsense. ‘There’s nowt for you here unless you’ve cash, girl. I’ve heard what happened at the Dairy and you’ll have no wages this week. No job; no credit.’
She expected me to leave the shop without a word and go home empty handed to face Father’s wrath. My confidence, however, had grown with my attack on Furnswurth and my success at Longhouse.
‘You may think you know what happened this morning, Mrs Greenhough but I don’t expect you know that I start another job tomorrow.’
She opened and closed her mouth like one of the tiny fish in the beck that ran through the fields below the cottage. No sound came out.
I had said more to her in that one sentence than I had in the past few weeks. ‘I’ll be paid more than I was at the Dairy, before Furnswurth put his hand up my skirt and touched my genitalia. I’m working for Leighton Longshaw at Longhouse now, so I’ll be able to settle the bill at the end of the week as usual.’
For a few more moments, Mrs Greenhough remained speechless. Then she glowered at me. ‘I’ve no idea what’s got into you, girl. But you’re clearly deranged, using language like that! And if you think I’m going to believe that you, of all people, are working for that villain, Longshaw, you’re sadly mistaken.’
I would have been frightened before but my success with Leigh had made me bold. ‘You won’t need the postcard in the window any more, Mrs Greenhough. I’ve got the job as Leigh’s Girl Friday. If you don’t believe me, why don’t you phone him? The number’s on the card. And he’s not a villain, but a gentleman.’
She looked at me as if I were mad and then strode to the window to remove the card. ‘I will! And when I hear the truth, I’ll be telling your good-for-nothing hypocrite of a father what a wicked little miss he’s brought up to lie to folk. He’ll give you the hiding you deserve.’
I decided on a treat to take home as a surprise for Father. No point in getting anything special for Hope, of course.
Mrs Greenhough returned and looked at me in a different way. It was obvious she found it hard to believe what Leigh had told her but she tore up the card. ‘Right. Well, it seems you will be paid, then. That’s different. You can take the things you want and pay on Saturday as usual. Mr Longshaw particularly said I was to thank you for remembering the card, by the way.’
I chose a couple of Eccles cakes, made with butter, to go with the fresh bread and the bottle of milk and a bag of potatoes. ‘Thank you, Mrs Greenhough. I’ll be in later in future, as I’ll be walking home from Longhouse after work. Good night.’
‘Good night, girl, er, Miss Heacham.’
‘My name is Faith.’ I was smiling as I left the shop and the smile remained as I walked through the village. Already my life had started to change, as I had hoped it would when I stood in the snow waiting for the interview.
The final half-mile from the village was no distance in my mood of newfound confidence. I passed the junction where the narrow lane ran round the side of the hill and led to the farm where Mervyn lived with his father and brothers. I shuddered and hoped my confidence was not misplaced. Father would not be pleased at my news but he needed my money and he would accept the change of work. I hoped the new experiences I faced would change me in time; even more than they already had.
There was a low moon shining over the tops of the fells and the trees cast deep black shadows over the drifted snow as I climbed the steep stone track to the cottage.
‘What time’s this, girl?’ Father was in his chair by the fire.
‘Sorry, Father. I’ll get tea on first and then explain. Has Hope been all right?’
‘Any reason she shouldn’t be?’
‘I’ll get tea, then.’
Upstairs in my room, I pulled the old, red satin slip on over my skin for my domestic chores, so my work clothes could remain clean and smart, as Father demanded. The kitchen was cold and cheerless but the hot water thawed out my hands as I washed out my knickers ready for the morning. Cooking brought a little more warmth to smooth away the goose pimples.
With our meal finished, I fed Hope. Then, over a cup of tea and the special cakes, I told him of my day. He remained silent, waiting until I had finished before demanding to know the salary and new hours of work. He grunted over the increase in my wages but was unhappy I would have to set off earlier each morning and arrive home later each evening.
‘Once the snow’s gone, I’ll find a cheap second hand bicycle; that’ll cut the travelling time.’
‘Women on bicycles. Devil’s work.’
‘I just thought it might save a bit of time, and I always wear a long skirt, Father, so…’
‘More expense. All right. I suppose you better had. But let no strangers see your flesh. Give me no further cause to correct you, girl.’
He said nothing about Furnswurth but I expected he would have words with him in private and then decide whether to beat me for my part in the incident.
‘Longshaw’s reputation will suffer less than your own, girl. You’re a fool if you think otherwise. You’re a fool anyway. Mind you give no cause for folk to gossip more than they will. You know the penalty for sin in this house. I’ll have no more whores under my roof. Your mother whored; wicked Jezebel. I scourged her but she was too steeped in wickedness to change the ways of her sex. Let me hear a word of you going the way Eve led and I’ll have the skin off your back. Understand me, girl?’
‘Yes, Father.’
Whilst I washed the dishes in the unheated kitchen, I weighed-up father’s uncharacteristically generous response to my news. No shouting, no lecture and no beating. He must have had a very good day and I offered a silent prayer of thanks for my escape. Even when I brushed the carpet as I cleaned around him, he made no complaint.
The evening’s housework complete, I lifted Hope from her bed beside the wall. Pulling her into a sitting position, I knelt in front of her and let her fall across my shoulder. The worst part, as always, was standing up with her dead weight on me, but I got her out to the back garden and sat her on the toilet. She had grown used to the routine, at last, and I was glad she was quickly finished as the air was freezing with the cloud cover gone. Once I had cleaned her, I got her back to bed.
For an hour, I worked her floppy limbs, bending her joints, curling and straightening her spine. I told her about my day, the weather, the animals I had seen on my walks, what the night sky looked like as I had made my way home. Hope’s expression, as always, remained unchanged, her hazel eyes blank and expressionless.
The exercises done, I filled the bowl with hot water and washed her. There was that strange smell from her again; it was there nearly every day. It seemed to come from a slight milky discharge. I asked Father.
‘Stop worrying. I’ll tell you if there’s anything to concern yourself about. You know nothing, so stop bothering me with what you don’t understand.’
He went back to his book.
She looked sore again and I blamed myself for failing to rub enough cream on that morning. I was generous with it, once I had towelled her dry. I rubbed her skin all over with baby oil to keep it soft and free from bedsores before fitting her overnight nappy.
‘It’s a cold night, Father. Shall I put her nightie on?’
‘You’ll take it off in the morning. I can’t lift her on my own.’
I struggled to pull the brushed cotton over her head, settled her breasts into the bodice and made my usual whispered complaint.
‘Not fair, Hope. Yours are bigger than mine!’ I giggled softly, hoping there might be some reaction to this habitual little joke that included her but left out Father. She made no response, of course. I straightened the skirt beneath her so she was not lying on folds or creases. I brushed her long, dark hair, cleaned her teeth and made sure her nose was clean. With a kiss, I lowered her onto the pillow and covered her with the light quilt.
The coalscuttle was empty so I filled it from the coalhouse next to the toilet and made my own visit whilst out there. The bulb blew as I switched on the light, so I got a new one from the kitchen. Father would be furious if he had to use it in the dark.
I rested the coalscuttle by the fire and stoked the flames with fresh coal and cinders to last overnight. ‘I’m for bed, Father. Goodnight.’
He grunted but did not lift his eyes from the book in his hands.
The bathroom was cold, as always, when I peeled off my slip and washed in a little warm water at the sink. Father came in as I was drying myself.
‘Run my bath, girl.’
He stood and watched as I put in the plug and brought the water to the right temperature for him. My towel slipped off and he hung it on the hook until I was finished.
‘That feels about right, Father. Deep enough?’
He grunted. I took my towel to my bedroom and left him to bathe undisturbed. Once he had finished and left, I returned to drain the bath and clean it. He came back in, wearing his dressing gown, as I was cleaning my teeth. I stood to one side whilst he cleaned his and then finished my own as he went to his bedroom.
It was half past eleven when I knelt beside my bed to say my prayers, the hard boards cold under my knees. At twenty to twelve I slipped, shivering, under the covers. I thought of Hope, wrapped and warm in her nightdress, and wished Father would find me something similar, just for the cold nights.
I set the alarm clock for five thirty so I could get everything done in the morning and start work on time for my first day at Longhouse and the beginning of what I hoped might be a new life.

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Whilst it's great that you want to read the book, it'd be even better, for me, if you bought it. So, if you can't wait for next week's instalment, check the links below. They'll take you to places you can buy either as paperback or ebook, depending on your preference.
For those who live locally (East Riding of Yorkshire) you can also borrow the book from your local library.

Amazon paperback or Kindle To buy from USA Amazon
Amazon paperback or Kindle To buy from UK Amazon
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