Authors: June Francis
Table of Contents
IT HAD TO BE YOU
SUNSHINE AND SHOWERS
PIRATE'S DAUGHTER, REBEL WIFE
THE UNCONVENTIONAL MAIDEN
MAN BEHIND THE FAÃADE
MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS *
IT'S NOW OR NEVER *
* available from Severn House
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First published in Great Britain and the USA 2014 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
eBook edition first published in 2014 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 2014 by June Francis.
The right of June Francis to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Francis, June, 1941- author.
It's now or never.
1. ActressesâFiction. 2. Single mothersâFiction.
3. Liverpool (England)âSocial life and customsâ20th
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8368-1 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-502-5 (trade paper)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-502-4 (ePub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
Lynne sat feeding her baby, thinking of the child's father and wishing life could have been different. It was no use relying on her mother to help her, but Nan could just come up trumps if the letter reached her in time. Her grandmother must be well into her seventies, but was indomitable and still working. Lynne was almost out of her mind, worrying that the staff would talk her into giving up her baby. One nurse had spoken of babies being found on doorsteps or even in bins on the streets of Liverpool because their single mothers had been unable to cope. The voices could be so insidious, going on and on in her head, insisting that Lynne and her baby would be better off if the child was adopted.
She forced back tears and buried her face in the crook of her daughter's neck, thinking about the last time she had seen Robert. They had kissed in the shadow of the Liver Birds, not caring whether anyone was watching them. She remembered how a breeze from the Mersey had scooped up the skirt of her best dress, so that the brightly coloured floral fabric had wrapped around his navy-blue trousers as if nature was determined to keep them together. She had not said
because in her head it had sounded so final. Instead, as he had turned away, she had whispered
and blown him a kiss. It still hurt to think that she would never see him again.
âWill yer stop crying!' snapped the other girl in the room, whom Lynne only knew as Dot.
She was standing over by the window that looked on to the drive of the large Tudor-styled house that had once been a rich woman's home. âWe could all weep if we wanted to, but what's the bloody point? I can't wait to get out of this place and start my life all over again.'
âYou've made that clear since I first clapped eyes on you,' said Lynne, staring at her. âAnd I'm not crying!' she added through gritted teeth.
âWell, that makes a change,' said Dot in a mocking voice. âSince the day we gave birth, yer've been whingeing.'
âI have not!' retorted Lynne, her blue eyes glinting with annoyance. âAnd even if I had, I don't see what business it is of yours.'
âIt gets on me nerves.'
âWell, you won't have to put up with it much longer, will you?' Lynne said. âYou'll be out of here today.'
âYeah, thank God! I'll be free to do what I want!'
Lynne was having difficulty believing that Dot could really be as hard as she made out. How could any mother, having held her child in her arms, bear to be parted from it? And yetÂ â¦
She cleared her throat. âI don't know why you didn't just try and get rid of yours early on if that's how you felt?' she said, flicking her auburn hair back over her shoulder.
âToo damn scared, kid,' snapped Dot. âI remember overhearing me mam gossiping with a couple of the neighbours in hushed voices about a girl in the next street to ours. She damn well died.'
A shiver went through Lynne. âPoor girl!'
âYeah, poor bitch.' Dot heaved a sigh.
There was a silence.
Lynne murmured, âI don't think it was just fear that prevented you. Perhaps you felt the same about your bloke's baby as I did about Robert's. She's all I have left of him since his ship was torpedoed. Even if I'm forced into giving her up for someone else to rear, I'll know that somewhere in the world there's part of him still alive.'
Dot's throat felt suddenly tight and she wished Lynne would shut up. She tried to close her mind to the image of her son's face, his perfect little body, his tiny fingers that the nurse had told her could be double-jointed.
Just like his father!
Still, she'd given him away now. He had a mother who wanted him, as well as a father. It would have been a big mistake to tell Sam that the comfort they had sought from each other had resulted in a baby. The day of her best friend Carol's funeral had been horrible for both of them. Sam had been in love with Carol and when she had been killed in an explosion, he had been broken-hearted. She had been too young to die, just as Dot reckoned she and Sam were too young to marry and become parents. She took a deep breath. She had done the right thing having her son adopted. It was much better for the three of them. Especially if she was going to achieve her dream of being a famous actress one day.
She squared her shoulders and tilted her chin and there was a hint of amusement in her voice when she eventually spoke. âBloody hell, yer a real romantic, Lynne. I would have thought after what you've been through, all that stuff would have been knocked out of yer. Mine's gone now and at least I've made two people happy. I just came to say tarrah, what with us having given birth within minutes of each other.'
âWhere will you go?'
âI'd rather not sayÂ â¦Â and to be honest, I hope you and I never meet again!'
Dorothy Wilson ran up the steps of the Lynton Hotel on Mount Pleasant, a short distance from Lime Street. As she furled her umbrella, she hoped the snow would not stick or bang would go her plans for tomorrow. She was looking forward to seeing Sam and his stepmother. Once inside the vestibule, she rang the bell. Within moments she heard hurrying footsteps approaching from the other side of the glass panelled door and recognized the proprietor, Kathy McDonald, a pleasant looking middle-aged woman wearing a tartan skirt and Fair Isle twin set.
âWhat a terrible evening it is, Miss Wilson,' she said, opening the door and beckoning her inside before closing it quickly. âYou must be freezing.'
âYou can say that again,' said Dorothy, shivering. âWhat's for supper?'
âIrish stew, so there's still enough in the pan for you and our American guest who's newly arrived.'
âA Yank!' Dorothy could not conceal her surprise. âNow I might expect to see one of those if it were Grand National week, but in February?'
âHe's here to find someone,' said Kathy, smiling. âWhich reminds me. There was a telephone call for you from your agent. Poppy Jamieson? She said she'd ring back later.'
Now what could Poppy want?
Dorothy had told her after she had finished her last job that she needed a commercial or a film rather than theatrical work, as they paid more. If she was to achieve what she had set out to do here in Liverpool, directing and producing a social history of very special women of the city, then she needed more money.
âDid she say what time she'd ring?' asked Dorothy.
âShe said that she'd give it an hour, which would be anytime now,' said Kathy.
As if on cue, the telephone in reception rang. âPerhaps that's her now,' said Dorothy.
Kathy lifted the receiver. âLynton Hotel.'
Dorothy watched and listened and then took the receiver from her. âHello, Poppy. What can I do for you?'
She listened to her agent's words with a mixture of excitement and apprehension, only to say when she finally managed to get a word in, âI'll think about it.'
âThink about it! Is that all you can say, Dorothy dear? This is the chance of a lifetime! You can't possibly turn it down. There's money to be made and I must have your answer tomorrow.'
âI need a bit more time than that!' exclaimed Dorothy.
âThe day after, then,' Poppy conceded, âbut you're taking a risk leaving it that long. This is what you've talked about since you first came to London.'
âI wouldn't argue,' said Dorothy, feeling all of a dither, âbut things change.'
âIf you have any sense at all, Dorothy, my dear, you will terminate your relationship with your policeman and return to London where you belong.'
âLiverpool is my hometown!'
âWas. You should never have gone back there.'
There was a click as the phone went down. Dorothy frowned as she returned the receiver to its cradle and stared into space.
âBad news?' Kathy's tone was sympathetic.
âNo, it's good news, but it's made my life more complicated than I could ever have imagined.' Dorothy hoped she didn't sound dramatic as she turned and headed for the stairs. âI'll just get changed and be down shortly,' she called over her shoulder. âI'm really looking forward to that Irish stew. I could eat a horse!'
Once in her bedroom, she wasted no time removing her outdoor clothes and hanging them up. She wished there was a radiator on which to place her gloves and hat but the hotel did not run to such luxuries. Instead she put a couple of pennies in the meter and switched on the electric fire.
She sighed, thinking Poppy was right, of course: she should have stayed away from Liverpool. Only two years ago she had been offered a leading part in a play to be shown at the Royal Court. For years she had slogged her guts out, first working in an ammunition factory during the war. The factory work paid well and there were perks, such as cheap nylons and make-up. Her wages had helped pay for elocution lessons, which allowed her to follow her heart, first into unpaid work in a Manchester theatre to gain experience, which led to walk-on parts and speaking roles in repertory theatre. She sighed, remembering the sheer hard work of those days, as well as the fun times.