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Authors: Rosie Harris

The Cobbler's Kids

BOOK: The Cobbler's Kids
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Contents

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Rosie Harris

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Chapter Thirty-five

Copyright

About the Book

He was a tyrant. She was his daughter.

Kept a virtual stranger by her bullying father, fourteen-year-old Vera Quinn longs for a life of her own. Michael Quinn is admired and liked by his customers, but he rules his family with a rod of iron. After her mother’s untimely death, Vera is expected to keep house for both Michael and her brothers Eddy and young Benny.

And so begins a life of great hardship and little joy – Michael drinks away anything he earns and even the small wages Vera and Eddy bring in are barely enough to keep the family going. But then one day Michael brings Di Deverill home and life becomes an even greater hell for Vera.

Will she ever be saved from a life of drudgery?

About the Author

Rosie Harris was born in Cardiff and grew up there and in the West Country. After her marriage she resided for some years in Merseyside before moving to Buckinghamshire where she still lives. She has three grown-up children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and writes full time.
The Cobbler’s Kids
is her ninth novel for Arrow.

Also by Rosie Harris

Turn of the Tide

Troubled Waters

Patsy of Paradise Place

One Step Forward

Looking for Love

Pins & Needles

Winnie of the Waterfront

At Sixes & Sevens

Sunshine and Showers

Megan of Merseyside

The Power of Dreams

A Mother’s Love

Sing for Your Supper

Waiting for Love

Love Against All Odds

A Dream of Love

A Love Like Ours

Love Changes Everything

The Quality of Love

Whispers of Love

Ambitious Love

The Price of Love

The Cobbler’s Kids
Rosie Harris

For Ken and all the Harris family
Acknowledgements

With many thanks to Georgina Hawtrey-Woore and her many colleagues for all their help and to Caroline Sheldon for her tremendous support.

Chapter One

‘If you don’t shut that squealing little brat up I’ll come in there and wring his soddin’ neck!’

Michael Quinn’s voice rose to an angry roar that penetrated every corner of the room at the rear of his cobbler’s shop in Scotland Road which served as the main living room for him and his family.

In the prime of life, Michael Quinn was a man whose appearance commanded attention. Handsome, with a head of thick, curly jet-black hair and piercing blue eyes, he stood head and shoulders above most people. He carried himself well – shoulders back, chin up – almost as if he was still a corporal in the Liverpool Irish, the regiment he’d served in during the Great War which had not long ended.

Almost six foot tall, he filled the doorway; he was a scowling, threatening figure dressed in dark trousers and a grey flannel shirt, with a knee-length black leather apron over the top.

His anger made Annie Quinn tremble. In one hand he was holding the heavily studded boot he’d been mending, and for a moment she was afraid he was going to hurl it at her.

She dropped the poker she was using to try and stir the dying fire back to life and rushed to pick up the baby and hold him protectively in her arms.

‘What the hell is he bawling about this time?’ Michael Quinn snarled. ‘I’ve never known a kid that could howl like he does. Night and day he’s at it, the miserable little bugger.’

‘He can’t help it, Mike. It’s not his fault. He’s hungry.’

‘Then feed him!’

‘On what?’ she asked wearily. ‘The larder’s bare, I’m still waiting for you to give me some housekeeping money. Young Eddy and Vee will be hungry when they get home from school, too. The only difference is they know better than to complain,’ Annie told him bitterly.

‘Watch your tongue, woman. You’ll get some money when I’m good and ready to give it to you, and not before.’

‘Then you’ll have to put up with Benny crying because there’s nothing in the house that I can feed him on.’

‘If you’d kept him on the titty you’d be able to shut him up any time you wanted to,’ he snapped.

‘How on earth could I do that? Benny is over a year old!’

‘Why the hell does that matter?’

Annie rocked the child, trying to soothe him, then held him over her shoulder and rubbed his little back as he belched noisily from hunger.

Michael watched her impatiently, then he dug down into his trouser pocket and pulled out a handful of coins. He sorted out two florins and slammed them down on the scrubbed wooden table that dominated the room.

‘There you are. Plenty enough there for you to buy food for the lot of us. Make sure that mine is a pork chop, and see that it’s nice and lean, with a kidney thrown in as well. Mind you buy it from Wardles, the butcher on the corner of Dryden Street, not from one of the meat stalls in Paddy’s Market. Have you got that?’

Annie nodded, but made no comment. She grabbed up the two coins and slipped them into the pocket of the print apron she wore over her blue cotton dress. In her mind she was already working out whether she could persuade the butcher to give her the sort of chop she knew Michael liked as well as some scrag-end of mutton to make a nourishing stew for the rest of them for less than a florin.

If so, she’d be able to buy vegetables and a tin of Cow & Gate for the baby with the rest of the money. With any luck she might even be able to stretch to a loaf of bread, a couple of pennys worth of tea and some margarine.

A hearty helping of scouse would be a nice treat for Edmund when he got in from his delivery rounds. He was a growing lad so he’d be hungry all right, ravenous in fact. There hadn’t been any bread left for him and young Vera to take even a jam butty to school for their midday meal because Michael had eaten the last of the loaf when he’d come home from the pub the night before.

She’d send Vera to Paddy’s Market to get the veggies the minute she came home from school. They’d be able to afford spuds, carrots, onions and perhaps even a swede. She’d tell Vee to buy herself an apple to keep her going until the stew was cooked.

Her own belly rumbled at the thought of the feast that lay ahead. She’d pop along to the butcher’s herself right away, then she could pick up the tin of Cow & Gate for young Benjamin. If she fed him first it would pacify him while she got on with the cooking.

As she scraped back her hair into a bun, pulled a shawl round her shoulders and tucked Benny into his battered pram, Annie wished she could go back to the days when Michael had been in the army and she’d only had the children to look after. Her army allowance had come through as regular as clockwork and she’d been free to plan how she would spend every penny of it. She’d been able to keep the children well fed and decently clothed and buy coal to keep their home lovely and warm.

She could remember so clearly the wonderful sense of freedom she’d enjoyed. There had been no one telling her what she should and shouldn’t do, and no violence. Michael’s favourite form of punishment for poor Eddy these days was thumping him across the top of his head with a bunched up fist.

They’d still been living in Wallasey then, in a lovely little house in Exeter Road. It was a quiet, respectable area and she’d been on friendly terms with her neighbours. All the children played together so well that they’d been like one huge happy family.

Even when the war came and Mike had responded to Kitchener’s call ‘Your Country Needs You’, she’d managed her life with no real problems at all.

At first she’d felt lonely, but with three young children – ten-year-old Charlie, seven-year-old Edmund and four-year-old Vera – she’d been kept so busy that she soon adjusted. It had helped, of course, that her parents lived only a few streets away, and were always ready to lend a hand if necessary.

In fact, looking back, she realised that those were the happiest days of her life. She’d had no worries then. Her life had been plain sailing until the war ended, and then it seemed as if every misfortune possible had hit her at once.

The traumatic memories brought tears to her eyes and a deep ache to her heart. She’d led such a happy, sheltered existence up until then, so why did it all have to change so suddenly? It was a question she asked herself over and over again.

To the outside world, Michael Quinn was still the perfect gentleman and the ideal family man. Whenever he went out he was always immaculately dressed in a perfectly ironed white shirt with a stiff collar, a well-pressed suit and polished black shoes.

‘Your husband looks more like a bank manager than a cobbler,’ Iris Locke, who ran a sweet and tobacco shop with her husband a few doors away in Scotland Road, told her admiringly.

Michael was always charming, polite and helpful, doffing his trilby and even offering to carry heavy shopping bags for their neighbours. He was so ready to give helpful advice to all and sundry that many people thought he deserved a more rewarding career than mending boots and shoes.

Annie Quinn sometimes thought he should have been an actor. He was so polished when he was out but, these days, such a bully within his own home. Domineering, selfish and harsh were the words she would use to describe him since he came home from the army.

Sometimes she wondered what her own parents, if they were still alive, would have said about the change in him.

Annie’s mind went back to the days when Michael had first come courting her. They’d met at the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton. It had been the New Year’s Eve ball, Thursday 31st December 1903.

She’d been with a crowd of girls she had known at school. It was the first time that most of them had been allowed to go there and she’d felt really grown up and excited to be one of them. She’d been wearing her very first dance frock in a gorgeous pale blue taffeta with a heart-shaped neckline and puff sleeves. Her long fair hair had been caught back in the nape of her neck with a silver hair slide.

Michael had been next to her when they all joined hands on the stroke of midnight to sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’, and he’d asked her later if he could walk her home.

She’d refused because she’d promised to stay with the crowd of girls she’d come with. He’d followed them home and, the next day, he’d called at her house with some flowers.

When she’d asked him in, her mother had been quite taken by him. She’d even felt sorry for him when she’d learned that he’d been born in Ireland but had grown up in an orphanage in Liverpool and knew nothing at all about his family. Ever since he started work, he told them, he’d been living in a hostel.

In the months that followed, Michael Quinn became a regular visitor to the Simmonds’ home and Annie noticed that her mother would even go out of her way to cook the dishes she knew he liked best.

BOOK: The Cobbler's Kids
4.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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