|Moonlight and Ashes|
|Headline Publishing Group Ltd (2010)|
|Tags:||WWII, Historical Fiction|
Despite being trapped in an abusive marriage, Maggie still feels blessed with her eight-year-old twins, Danny and Lizzie, and baby girl, Lucy. But when the Second World War begins it seems that herblessings may have run out. Although the war lets her escape her husband when he's sent to the front, she must also lose the twins, as they're evacuated to North Wales. Lizzie seems to be in the perfect family, while Danny is left with a man who seems to resent his presence. But appearances can be deceptive, and while Maggie struggles to survive the bombings at home, her children face danger of a different kind.
Moonlight and Ashes
Copyright © 2006 Rosemarie Yates
The right of Rosemarie Yates to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
First published as an Ebook by Headline Publishing Group in 2010
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
eISBN : 978 0 7553 8264 4
This Ebook produced by Jouve Digitalisation des Informations
HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP
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Table of Contents
Rosie Goodwin has worked in social services for many years. She has children, and lives in Nuneaton with her husband, Trevor, and their four dogs.
Praise for Rosie Goodwin’s previous novels:
‘Goodwin is a fabulous writer and surely has a bright future. She reels the reader in surprisingly quickly and her style involves lots of twists and turns that are in no way predictable’
Worcester Evening News
A good tear-jerker . . . compelling’
Reading Evening Post
‘Goodwin is a born author’
Lancashire Evening Telegraph
‘A lovely story of two women finding their own way in life - very enjoyable . . . It’s a real page-turner’
‘Brilliant, a real tissue box tale, heartrending’
‘A beautifully woven tale of tangled lives . . . An author able to balance emotions, especially love, with skill and wise involvement’
Coventry Evening Telegraph
‘One to make you laugh and cry’
‘Her stories are now eagerly awaited by readers the length and breadth of the country’
Heartland Evening News
‘A promising and well-drawn debut’
Lancashire Evening Post
‘A story of adversity and survival’
Huddersfield Daily Examiner
I dedicate this book to my friend, Ronnie Schwartz, the ‘real’ Soho Gus, and also to Betty, with gratitude for your never-ending faith in me with all my love xx
Special thanks to Flora, Poppy, Helena, Jane, Joan and the wonderful team at Headline. When Flora, my editor first commissioned me to write this book I was very apprehensive about it, but once I began I loved writing it and hope my readers will love it too.
Also thanks to Philip Patterson, my agent, and Kate and the Babes for all their love and support.
During the research for this novel I was privileged to speak to many people who had lived and fought through the Second World War. Their bravery and courage made me feel very humble, and I would like to pay tribute to them and also to the people who died fighting for our country.
Coventry, September 1939
‘Do you think there really
be a war?’ Maggie Bright asked as she cradled Lucy, her nine-month-old baby daughter, to her chest.
Her husband, Sam, glanced at her scornfully across the top of his newspaper.
‘Don’t see how it can be avoided now, accordin’ to Chamberlain. They’ve startin’ evacuatin’ the kids already. Happen we should think o’ getting them pair upstairs away.’ When he thumbed towards the stairs door, Maggie visibly paled.
‘No, we can’t. Not with them both covered in chickenpox.’ Her voice betrayed her deep fear.
He snorted derisively. ‘If they didn’t have chickenpox you’d come up wi’ some other excuse to keep ’em with yer. If we’d lived in London you wouldn’t have had a choice. They’ll turn into a right pair o’ cissies, the way you mammy pamper ’em. To hear you goin’ on, anyone would think they were still babies instead of eight year olds.’
Maggie swallowed the hasty denial that sprang to her lips and lowered the baby, who was now fast asleep, into the wooden crib at the side of the fireplace.
It was a relief when, minutes later, Sam rose from his seat and snatched his jacket and flat cap from the back of the door. ‘I’m off to the pub fer a few bevvies. Don’t wait up fer me,’ he told her shortly.
Maggie nodded, and once the door had closed behind him, she sank down at the kitchen table and buried her face in her hands. What would she do if there was a war and she
to send her twins away? She knew that she would get to keep Lucy with her, for it seemed that they were only evacuating children of school age as yet. But how would Lizzie and Danny cope with being away from her - or worse still, away from each other? The fact that they were twins and as close as could be was no guarantee that they would be placed together. Only that very morning she’d heard Mrs Marshall from Bird Street telling someone in the butcher’s shop how her three children had all been placed in separate houses somewhere in the Lake District. Oh, admittedly, it sounded like the children were having a whale of a time, but she doubted Lizzie and Danny would if they were apart.
She thought of them lying upstairs, probably tucked into the same bed. In looks, they were like two peas in a pod, with their fair hair and deep blue eyes, and yet in every other way they were as different as chalk from cheese. Lizzie tended to be timid and shy, whereas Danny, the older by eight minutes, was extrovert and full of mischief. Even so, there was some unseen bond between them that sometimes shocked their mother to her very roots. They were so close that sometimes Danny would finish Lizzie’s sentence for her - and woe betide anyone who so much as looked at her the wrong way. Maggie had lost count of the number of times she’d been called to the school to sort out his skirmishes, and yet she could never be angry with him for long. In fact, she found the way he stood up for his sister strangely touching. Her frown deepened. The thought of being separated from them hardly bore thinking about, for her children were her whole world.
Clasping her hands together, she prayed for peace.
‘Why is Mam crying?’ Lizzie whispered as she leaned against Danny.
‘Sshh,’ Danny whispered back.
They were crouched at the top of the narrow staircase, and downstairs in the kitchen they could faintly hear the wireless and their mother’s sobs.
‘Seems like that bloke on the nine o’clock news has just declared we’re at war,’ Danny told her solemnly.
‘But what does that mean? An’ why is Mam cryin’ about it?’
Danny shrugged his slight shoulders. ‘Don’t really know. I do know though that war is a bad thing, so perhaps that’s why she’s cryin’.’
‘What do you mean, a bad thing?’
‘Well . . .’ Her brother struggled to explain his concept of war. ‘I reckon the Germans drop bombs an’ shoot people an’ that.’
Lizzie paled as her eyes almost started from her head, but the debate was stopped from going any further when they heard the sound of a chair being scraped away from the table. Grasping his sister’s hand, Danny hauled her past their parents’ bedroom to the privacy of the room they shared. It was a small room, with just enough space for two single beds, a single wardrobe and a chest of drawers, but Maggie had brightened it with cheap pictures and posters on the walls. Now, as their father’s heavy tread sounded on the stairs, the twins leaped into their narrow beds and pulled the blankets up to their chins. They should have been asleep a couple of hours ago; their dad would go mad if he found them still awake and, worse still, out of bed!
They waited until they had heard their parents’ bedroom door open and shut, then Danny crept across the linoleum-covered floor and slipped in at the side of Lizzie. Shivering, she snuggled into the safety of his arms. She was frightened without really knowing why, but Danny would make everything all right; he always did.
Downstairs, their mother was pottering about as she made up the fire and locked the doors, then seconds later, their bedroom door creaked open and she peeped in. She grinned when she saw them tucked in together.
‘I don’t know why I bothered buying you a bed each,’ she scolded, but her eyes were twinkling.
Instantly, Lizzie felt brighter. Their mam was lovely - kind and gentle, and pretty too, with her fair hair and blue eyes. Grandma Sharp, who lived just across the road from them in Clay Lane, had always told Lizzie that their mam had looked just like Lizzie did now when she was a little girl, but Lizzie had always found that hard to imagine, until Grandma had shown her some photographs of her mother as a child. Then Lizzie could see that they did look remarkably alike. It was strange to imagine that her mam had ever been a little girl, though. After all, she was their mam - and the best mam in the whole wide world, as far as Lizzie Bright was concerned.
When Maggie went over to tuck the blankets more tightly around them, Lizzie whispered, ‘Why’ve you been crying, Mam?’
Maggie struggled to find the right words to answer. Eventually she told her, ‘I heard something sad on the wireless.’ There was no point in lying to them; they would find out about it at school.
‘What did you hear?’ It was Danny’s turn to ask questions now.
Taking a deep breath, Maggie replied, ‘I heard that England is now at war.’
Smoothing an imaginary crease from the candlewick bedspread, Maggie straightened and hurried towards the chink of light that was peeping through a small gap in the curtains. Closing them, she sighed, ‘Because people can’t always live together without fighting.’