On the blog today I have a chapter excerpt from Before You Were Mine by Em Muslin. Published in May this year, from HQ Stories. Enjoy!
Before You Were Mine By Em Muslin ~ Chapter One
Apparently, I was a breech birth and – according to who you speak to – they think that all my problems come from that. I had decided to be a pain right from the beginning. ‘An awkward little belle,’ they used to say. All my brothers popped out like bubbles in an ice-cream sundae. Pop pop pop. But me? Me? I dug my elbows in and jumped out feet first.
My saving grace was that I was tip to toe a girl. Ma Bell had dreamed of having a little girl to dress up in lacy frocks and cotton socks that she would spend her days darning, whilst the boys and my Pa lay under oily cars drinking beer. So no matter about my pointed elbows, my Ma’s face was a picture. Bell’s Belle. Belle of the ball.
It’s rumoured that when the matron tried to cut my cord, my Ma was so determined we wouldn’t be separated, that she grabbed hold of the surgical scissors and chased her from the room. Can you imagine that? Again, it depends on who you ask. My eldest brother, Bert, says that’s just nonsense and she couldn’t wait to get me out. Pop pop pop. Eight pound and four ounces of little girl Bell. Ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes.
My Pa, at the time of my birth, was changing a cam belt on an old Chevrolet and on hearing I was a girl, decided that whilst he was under the car, he may as well show my middle brother, Samuel, how to check the brake pads too. Shucks, that fatherly bond was strong.
Bert was approaching seventeen when my Pa and Ma discovered she’d fallen. Samuel was fourteen and Payton eleven years old. I hadn’t been planned and apparently not very welcome, but my Ma hung on and prayed every day that I would be a girl, and by golly just look at me. The prettiest girl in the US of A. Except I was broad-shouldered, big-boned, and covered in puppy fat. But her prayers had been answered. Hallelujah. There is a God. Praise be to the Lord. Amen.
Our house is the fourth one on the right, just off the main drag. The one with the painted picket fence and star-spangled banner dangling from the front porch, just like in the movies. JFK would have been proud. Except I think the paint is probably peeling off the fence still. My Pa had promised my Ma a thousand times he’d paint that damn fence, but every year the thick grey-white mass would peel away, bubbling under the heat of the day.
My Ma would sit me on her knee on the porch and rock me to and fro, checking my forehead for a temperature. How she’d be able to feel a fever in that heat, heaven only knows.
Inside was just like a home should be. The smell of cooking simmering in the corner of the kitchen and a table in the middle, where we’d all sit and eat as a family. A first-class American family. I’ve seen them in the movies too. Across the table of food, I could always smell the gasoline from my Pa’s overalls, and it was a smell I’d associate with fine home cooking. Finger lickin’ good. That food just ain’t no good if you can’t smell the gas.
Until I was three, I slept in my parents’ room. My two younger brothers shared and Bert had a room to himself, but after Bert was drafted, it made more room for me.
Springfield had a population of approximately four thousand. Four thousand hot sweaty people in a stifling, dusty town. But as of my first day at Springfield High, there was only one person who mattered to me and that was Daisy Jones. Daisy was approximately one inch taller than me and about ten times as pretty – maybe more – and ten times more self-assured. Having three older brothers ain’t the biggest confidence booster, let me tell you, and perhaps it was that one inch that made me look up to her and decide to stay right by her side.
Looking back, my stocky build and plain Jane face were probably the reason why Daisy Jones elected me as her best friend. It doesn’t hurt to look prettier than the girl next to you and she sure was pretty. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t what you call ugly. Now Penny Hansen, she was ugly and in hindsight, perhaps if I’d have picked her as my friend then I’d have looked a damn sight prettier than I was. But like all the children at Springfield High, I was struck by Daisy’s golden hair, delicate freckles, and the confident air with which she strode across that playground.
On the way home from school, we would run through the fields of cotton past the apple orchard, behind Mrs Melrose’s shack, and if we were lucky she’d come out and bring us a fruit ice to quench our dry tongues. We’d return home with sticky raspberry juice dripping from our mouths, thirsty for more. My Ma would be outside in the backyard, hanging out the washing that blew like ships’ sails and Daisy and I would run around the billowing sheets playing tag until it was time to help my Ma prepare the supper for the boys.
I would sit at the table peeling potatoes and my Ma would pop Daisy onto the pedestal by the kitchen window, so she could look out for her Pa returning from work. Daisy’s Ma had run off a number of years ago, leaving her Pa Harold to look after her on his own. By all accounts he had done a damn fine job. That’s if you didn’t count the all-day drinking, the numerous jobs he had been fired from, and the fact he hadn’t spoken more than two words to Daisy since her Ma had left.
So, Daisy would sit staring out onto the dusty road, fluttering her eyelashes, whilst my Ma looked adoringly at Daisy’s golden hair and wistfully wished I could be that little bit prettier, that little bit slimmer, that little bit, little bit …
I didn’t mind my Ma paying Daisy so much attention. Hell, in fact more often than not I would encourage it. The more she looked at Daisy, the less she looked at me. The less she looked at me, the less I did.
You see, I wanted to be the perfect daughter for her but my angular nose, wide shoulders, and the gap between my two front teeth made me less than perfect. But finding Daisy? Finding Daisy, was like discovering the missing piece in the jigsaw. I wasn’t her friend just because she made me laugh, or because she told me how to dress, or even because it made me that little bit more popular. I was Daisy’s friend simply because she filled the hole I was unable to.
We were inseparable. Two peas in a pod, ripe and ready for picking. We’d spend Sundays after church playing hopscotch drawn out on the dusty road, watched by gawky boys who didn’t dare approach us for fear of encountering Daisy’s sharp tongue. She would tease them by hitching up her skirt and jumping as high as she could and the boys would lie on the sandy road in their Sunday best, trying to get the finest view.
I, on the other hand, would skip awkwardly across the numbers, holding my skirt down in fear of being hollered at. After she had got their attention, she’d glance over her shoulder, flutter her eyelashes, and run as far and as fast as she could. I’d trail behind, with my skirt flapping between my legs, giggling, watching the boys clamber up from the road to chase after her. Running across the backyards, through the orchard, past Melrose’s shack and into the dense growth that surrounded the east side of
town, we ran until we knew we were safe.
Catching our breath, we’d lie on our backs and look up at the burning blue sky, daring the other to stare directly at the sun for as long as possible. Both blinded by the saffron light, we’d roll around giggling, unable to see each other for the inky squiggles that would appear before our eyes. I’d lie there, blinded, knowing that Daisy was right by my side and it was then, in that moment, that I knew I didn’t want anything to ever change.
What is it they say? If you want make God laugh, tell him about your plans.
Back Of The Book
Sometimes hope has a way of changing everything…
Just hours after giving birth, Eli Bell is forced to give up her newborn baby daughter for adoption. Devastated, she tries desperately to rebuild her shattered life.
Then, over thirty years later, Eli catches sight of her daughter. And she knows that she must do everything to find a way back into her life. Even if it means lying…
While her husband Tommy must grow to accept his own part in the events of her early life, he can only try to save her before her obsession with the young woman ruins them both.
Don’t miss the breathtaking debut Before You Were Mine by Em Muslin! Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Alice Peterson and Lucy Dillon.
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