Today I have an extract from The Borrowed Boy as part of the blog tour, courtesy of Deborah Klee and Rachel’s Random Resources.
About the Book
A borrowed boy, a borrowed name and living on borrowed time.
What do you put on a bucket list when you haven’t done anything with your life? No interesting job, no lovers, no family, no friends. Believing she has only weeks left to live, Angie Winkle vows to make the most of every minute.
Going back to Jaywick Sands, is top of her bucket list. Experiencing life as a grandmother is not, but the universe has other plans and when four-year-old Danny is separated from his mum on the tube, Angie goes to his rescue. She tries to return him to his mum but things do not go exactly as planned and the two of them embark on a life-changing journey.
Set in Jaywick Sands, once an idyllic Essex holiday village in the 70s, but now a shantytown of displaced Londoners, this is a story about hidden communities and our need to belong.
Angie Winkle is on her way to a hospital appointment, to confirm her fear that she has cancer. She barely slept the night before, as she thought about all the years that she had wasted, letting life pass her by and now it was too late.
The Tube carriage was packed, barely room to breathe. Squashed near the door, Angie spied the pretty child holding his mum’s hand. Angie wondered idly whether his mum’s hair was that golden colour when she was a girl, instead of the nut brown that swung in a ponytail as she fussed with her bag. Some women dyed their hair. Brenda, at the factory, had been peroxide and then auburn. Mahogany she called it. Why would anyone choose to be that colour? Angie hated her own red hair but could see no point in trying to look like someone else. She was born Angie Winkle and Angie Winkle had frizzy red hair.
The train was coming to a halt, like a roulette wheel picking which passengers would be favoured with the coveted doors. Slowly, slowly. They were going to be lucky. The doors would open right in front of the boy and his mum. Angie tried to imagine being that woman; a swingy ponytail, pert breasts. She bounced up on her toes, pretending that a ponytail danced behind her, and landed on someone’s foot. Oops. But, it was having a child that Angie envied most. What was it like being a mum? Holding a tiny warm hand in yours? If only she had done things differently. But it was too late; the crumpled letter in her pocket, a reminder of the years she had wasted. Overhandled, overthought, overread, the letter scorched her thigh. It wasn’t fair.
What was the girl doing messing around with her child’s backpack when she should have been ready waiting to get on? The zombies were ready – lined up, their eyes fixed on the exact spot where the doors would open, ready for the off. But oblivious to her fortune in standing in exactly the right place to bag a space on the crowded train, his mum was releasing the red and green rucksack from the boy’s back.
At first the crowd flowed around the boy and his mum. But then they caught the child up in their wake and swept him like a piece of flotsam into the carriage. Angie kept close to the little blond head, keeping an eye until his mum got on. The boy could only be three or four years old.
Angie craned her neck to keep his mum in sight. People were forcing their way into the carriage, but she was waiting for some kind of invitation. For someone to say, room for you here. What was the matter with her? Just get on. Get on! Angie felt the mum’s panic, but there was nothing she could do to help. The doors started to close. An ashen face, mouth in an O, eyes wide; the realisation that she had lost her child.
Something or someone must have stopped the doors from closing because they opened again. Just for a few seconds. With a look of relief, the mum smiled thinking they had opened for her. Angie desperately wanted to shout out, Help that woman. She’s been separated from her child. But she couldn’t. Everyone would look at her. Get on! Get on! You stupid woman, get on the train!
The doors closed against the bent backs of commuters as they took up the shape of the carriage. His mum had missed her chance. How could she be so careless? The boy was very still. A soft toy masked his face. Angie wondered whether he even knew that his mum was still on the platform watching the train disappear into the tunnel.
About the Author
Deborah has worked as an occupational therapist, a health service manager, a freelance journalist, and management consultant in health and social care.
Her protagonists are often people who exist on the edges of society. Despite the very real, but dark, subject matter her stories are uplifting, combining pathos with humour. They are about self-discovery and the power of friendships and community.
The Borrowed Boy, her debut, was shortlisted for the Deviant Minds Award 2019. Just Bea, her second novel will be published in 2021.
Deborah lives on the Essex coast. When she is not writing she combines her love of baking with trying to burn off the extra calories.