Good Morning. Today I have an extract to share with you from Saving Missy by Beth Morrey.
Prickly. Stubborn. Terribly lonely.
But everyone deserves a second chance… Missy Carmichael’s life has become small.
Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home; the sound of the radio in the dark; the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.
Spiky and defensive, Missy knows that her loneliness is all her own fault. She deserves no more than this; not after what she’s done. But a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something different.
A new life beckons for Missy, if only she can be brave enough to grasp the opportunity. But seventy-nine is too late for a second chance
Something rough was rubbing against my cheek, moving up my face like a scourer. Moaning, I turned my head away.
‘She’s coming round, move back!’
The scourer was back, rough and warm, with sour breath behind it. I could feel my nose wrinkle as the stench flooded my nostrils.
‘Give her some air! Nancy, get away with you!’
Reaching out feebly, I encountered a handful of fur. Then felt the scourer on my hand. A tongue. I pushed it away and moaned again.
I must have been a bit under the weather, because when I finally came to I was lying on the bench with someone’s coat under my head and the woman with the berry eyes and pastries was holding a wet napkin to my forehead, onlookers peering around her shoulders. Struggling to the surface, clammy and astray, I could still feel the link with whatever underworld I’d been to, and closed my eyes again, hoping they would all go away.
‘Gosh, you took a bit of a turn, my love,’ the woman said, holding my wrist. ‘I don’t have a clue what I’m doing with this pulse nonsense,’ she continued, jiggling my hand gently. ‘What’s right, after all? Seventy, eighty? I don’t know. No, don’t get up just yet.’
‘Oh no, I’m fine, really.’ I heaved my legs off the bench. ‘Sorry to be such a bother, I don’t know what came over me.’ The darkness was receding, replaced by the equally cold sweat of embarrassment. My cheek and hand were coated in some sort of sticky substance and there was that urge to go and wash it off.
‘Probably the weather, sweetie. It’s a bit parky, isn’t it? Let’s just sit for a moment and look at the trees. Aren’t they beautiful? Would you like another croissant? Go on, build up your strength. I’m Sylvie, by the way. And these two are Nancy and Decca.’
Still dazed, I realized she was indicating two small dove-blue dogs prancing round her feet. As she sat down on the bench next to me they jumped up either side of her, and I had to shift along to make room, wiping the back of my hand on my skirt. We sat eating croissants, looking up at the trees, and they were rather beautiful in a bleak way, stark and spiky against the pearly sky, with weak sunlight clawing through the clouds and dappling on the lake. The crowd had dispersed, although the men continued to circle, scooping the last of the fish.
‘Something toxic in the water, apparently,’ remarked Sylvie, nodding towards the lake. ‘I do hope they survive the experience. Who’s Leo, by the way? Your son? Would you like someone to fetch him?’
I would have liked nothing more. Someone to go and fetch him, bring him back to me. He’d march up, take my hand, say, ‘Missy! What have you been up to, silly old girl?’ And we’d walk home together and light a fire to ward off the cold. The tears came again and I dabbed them away, the drops warm on my white fingers.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Sylvie, patting and squeezing my icy hand. ‘I shouldn’t have asked. You said his name, and I thought, maybe… Anyway, let’s just sit here awhile, shall we? No hurry.’
So we sat, mostly in silence, but sometimes Sylvie would point out a plant or bird or dog of note, and I was able to reply adequately without worrying I was boring her or saying the wrong thing. Then I finished my croissant and dusted off the flakes, ready to get up and say goodbye to this easy, undemanding woman who had been the first stranger to speak to me in weeks. Best to end the conversation before I wanted to instead of after she did.
‘Thank you so much,’ I said, awkwardly holding out my still-sticky hand. ‘So kind, but I must be going…’
About Beth Morrey: Beth Morrey is currently the Creative Director at RDF Television where she has been involved in numerous productions – she helped create The Secret Life of Four Year Olds series on Channel 4 and devised 100 Year Old Drivers for ITV.
She was shortlisted for the Grazia-Orange First Chapter competition back in 2011, had her work published in the Cambridge and Oxford May Anthologies, and was Vice-President of the Cambridge Footlights. Beth lives in London with her husband, two sons and dog.
You can purchase Saving Missy on Amazon UK here.
Thanks for reading