Enjoy the second chapter from our exclusive sample of the explosive new novel from Kimberley Chambers. Out now!
Christmas morning started out like any other. The kids opened their presents, then watched Clapperboard’s Christmas Cracker and Play School while munching on home-made sausage rolls. Considering the events of the previous evening, the atmosphere was relatively normal. The only telling sign of the drama was their mother’s swollen eye.
Alexander poked his head around the lounge door. Hazel was engrossed in her Jackie annual, Tommy in his Roy of the Rovers and Linda’s head was in a St Trinian’s book. ‘Look what I found in the dining room,’ Alexander
Realizing they had more presents, all three children jumped up excitedly.
‘Wow! A real Celtic kit, like the actual players wear. Look, Mum,’ Tommy gabbled, taking his tank top and shirt off and putting the top on. ‘Can I wear it today? Please can I, Dad?’
Alexander chuckled. ‘I don’t see why not – do you, Mum?’
Valerie forced a smile. She loved Christmas as a rule, always decorated the house with a huge tree, paper chains, tinsel, and put all the cards up on the wall either side of the fireplace. She even blew up an enormous inflatable snowman; he stood in the corner next to the glass cabinet she kept her collection of china dolls in. This year, however, apart from enjoying the children’s excitement when opening their gifts, Valerie was only going through the motions. She was counting down the days until her husband went back to work and she could spend time with the man she truly loved.
‘Oh my God! It’s those yellow dungarees we saw in Rathbone market,’ Hazel exclaimed. ‘I love them. Can I put them on now?’
‘Go on then,’ Alexander laughed.
‘Barbie and Ken! And they’re wearing cords like you made me, Tommy and Hazel, Mum.’ Linda was over the moon.
Valerie smiled. She was a dab hand with a sewing machine. Not only did she make lots of pretty frocks for herself, whenever the kids spotted one of their idols on Top of the Pops or in a magazine wearing something they desired, Valerie would find a pattern and make them an identical version. ‘Your father and I wrote to Father Christmas ourselves because we knew how much you wanted Barbie and Ken, didn’t we, Alex?’
‘We sure did. And this is for you,’ Alexander replied, handing Valerie a gift. He hadn’t forgiven her. Would never forgive her for the past. But he only had Irish Tony’s word on seeing her out with Terry Fletcher and, to be fair, Irish Tony was always pissed and rarely knew what day it was. Valerie had sworn to him last night that the only times she had been out of an evening while he was working away was to the bingo with her mate Lisa, so for the children’s sake Alexander had chosen to believe that. For now, at least.
‘Thank you, Alex. They’re beautiful,’ Valerie said, darting off to the bathroom mirror to secure the knotted gold hoops to her ears. She didn’t like them much, preferred dangly earrings, but she was determined to play
the dutiful wife for the sake of her kids. She had quite liked the perfume Alex had given her earlier, which was a bonus. Aliage by Estée Lauder. She’d been amazed he’d got that right. Every year he bought her scent and he usually got it so very wrong. She liked musky perfumes and no matter how many times she told Alexander that, she always ended up with something with a sickly sweet aroma.
Having already received numerous presents from his wife and children, Alexander was surprised when Tommy ran out of the room then returned with another. ‘I chose this and bought it out of my pocket money, Dad.’
Alexander ripped off the wrapping paper. It was a small framed photo of the victorious Celtic side who had won the league last season.
‘I thought you could take it to the oil rig with you,’ Tommy suggested.
Alexander stood up and ruffled the boy’s head. Tommy was a lovable kid, but Alexander could never love him, not properly anyway. He glared at Valerie. ‘I’m off to the pub now. I’ll pick my mum up on the way home.’
‘What pub you going to?’ Valerie asked, her heart in her mouth.
Alexander liked to drink back in his old stamping ground Seven Kings, rather than Barking. ‘The Joker,’ he replied. ‘Why?’
Valerie breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. Terry Fletcher wouldn’t be in there. ‘No reason. Have fun. Dinner will be ready at half three.’
‘Why isn’t David on here? He’s so much better than Chuck Berry. “My Ding-A-Ling” is a stupid song,’ Hazel complained.
Tommy rolled his eyes. What was it with girls? His eldest sister was in love with David Cassidy. ‘Because David’s a poofta.’
Hazel punched her brother in the arm. ‘No, he is not.’
Watching Top of the Pops was a ritual in the Boyle household. Tommy liked David Bowie, but he would never admit that to the lads at school because David wore make-up and he would get ribbed for it.
‘Yes! Jimmy’s on,’ Linda squealed, jumping up and down with excitement.
‘They didn’t even have the Shangri-Las on there,’ Hazel moaned. ‘Leader of the Pack’ was her current favourite record. It reminded her of Jimmy Young, who lived across the road. He was a bad boy who rode a motorbike. He was also very handsome.
Valerie was singing along, merrily basting the potatoes when she heard Alexander arrive home. Her heart beat rapidly and she said a silent prayer he wasn’t half-cut. She would hate him to spoil the kids’ Christmas by kicking off again. ‘Did you have a nice time?’ she shouted out. She could hear the nervousness in her own voice.
‘So-so. Come and say hello to Mum then,’ Alexander bellowed. Irish Tony had wound him up again. ‘I’m more than ninety-nine per cent sure it was your Valerie with Terry Fletcher, Alex. I’m a hundred per cent. I saw ’em holding hands.’
‘Hello, Noreen. Merry Christmas,’ Valerie said, wiping her hands on her apron before kissing the old cow on the cheek. She could tell Alexander had heard more gossip due to the sneer on his face.
‘Oh dear! Looks nasty, that eye. Walk into another door, did you?’ Noreen knew full well her son clumped Valerie at times and she didn’t have an ounce of sympathy for the woman. Valerie was a born flirt and, unfortunately for Alexander, she couldn’t keep her knickers on. Noreen
would never forgive her for how she’d treated her son and she rued the day Alexander ever met the whore. His first wife Mary had been a lovely lady.
‘Dad’s still got the hump with Mum. You don’t think they’ll fight again, do you?’ Hazel whispered in her brother’s ear.
Tommy shrugged. He’d been doing a lot of shrugging
Valerie Boyle was a good cook and had gone to town as per usual with the Christmas dinner. The turkey was succulent, the stuffing crispy, the parsnips just on the right side of burnt and the vegetables not too soft.
‘Bit soggy, these roast potatoes,’ Noreen complained, pushing the spuds to one side of her plate.
Tommy glared at his grandmother. She wasn’t a loving woman and he could tell Hazel was her favourite. ‘I like the potatoes. It’s a nice dinner, Mum.’
‘You would say that, wouldn’t you? You’re your mother’s
son all right,’ Noreen spat.
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ Tommy asked.
‘Don’t answer your grandma back, eat your dinner, boy,’
‘You never answered my question, Valerie. What happened to your face?’ Noreen pried. Her son hadn’t mentioned anything was amiss on the journey.
Aware of her children’s eyes on her, Valerie cleared her throat. ‘I tripped and fell down the stairs.’
Noreen pursed her lips. She knew Valerie was lying, guessed she’d been hawking her mutton again. ‘Best you be more careful in future then, eh?’
‘Hello, Rex. Look what I got for you, boy. You’ll like this. It’s turkey,’ Tommy said, stroking his best mate. Rex looked so forlorn living in his kennel, it broke Tommy’s heart. But his dad wouldn’t budge, not even when he’d begged to let Rex inside for Christmas Day. ‘It’s a dog, Tommy. Dogs live in kennels and humans live in houses. Fact.’
Rex nuzzled his head inside Tommy’s navy blue Parka. He hated being out in the cold, alone.
Alexander dropped his mother home early evening, then drove back towards Barking with a face like thunder. Irish Tony’s words had been on his mind all day and it had been an effort playing happy families. He was far too embarrassed to admit the truth to his mother. She’d warned him not to leave Mary for Valerie in the first place, and he felt like a bloody fool.
‘How could you do this to me, you bitch?’ Alex mumbled under his breath. He loved Valerie with a burning passion. She was an absolute stunner and the thought of another man even touching her filled him with rage. He’d always been insanely jealous, couldn’t help himself. Perhaps he should hand in his notice? Quit the oil rigs and stay at home where he could keep a watchful eye on her. Trouble with that idea was, local jobs paid nowhere near what he earned on the rigs and they had a very expensive mortgage. Only other option was to pay this Terry Fletcher a visit and warn him off. Alexander didn’t know the bloke personally but had heard through the grapevine he was married and lived in Barking with his wife and two kids.
Alexander didn’t want to turn up at Terry’s door in case the wife chucked him out. That would only push him and Valerie closer together.
Alexander punched his steering wheel in frustration. ‘Slag.’
Valerie Boyle put the Party Susan on the dining table. ‘Supper’s ready, kids. Would you like me to bring a plate of sandwiches in the lounge to you, Alex?’ she shouted out. Her husband was sitting in his favourite armchair, knocking back the Scotch like it was going out of style.
‘I’m not hungry,’ Alexander replied.
‘Whassa matter with Dad, Mum?’ Linda asked. It was clear to all three children that after dropping their nan off their father had arrived home in a foul mood.
‘He’s probably just tired and winding down from work. Why don’t you three take your sandwiches and pickles upstairs, eat them in your bedrooms. You don’t have to go to sleep yet. You can play with your toys upstairs too.’ Valerie was a protective mother, would hate her children
to witness any more violence. She had always tried to hide that from them.
‘No. I’m staying downstairs with you,’ Tommy replied. He was determined not to leave his mother alone with his father. That thought scared him.
The girls went to their bedroom and Tommy sat next to his mother on the sofa. His dad had a film on, but Tommy could tell he wasn’t really watching it. His mood was tense and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.
‘What’s this film about, Dad?’ Tommy asked.
‘It’s about a slag, son. A slag who has affairs while her old man is working away.’
Valerie felt her heart lurch. ‘Please don’t say such things to Tommy, Alex. I have done nothing wrong. I told you that last night.’
‘That isn’t what Irish Tony says. He’s seen you out with your fancy man, holding hands. How often does your mother go out of a night, Tommy?’
‘Not much. Once a week usually, to the bingo,’ Tommy lied.
‘Hazel, Linda, get down here a minute,’ Alexander bellowed.
‘For goodness’ sake, Alex. Please don’t do this, not on Christmas Day. If you want to argue with me, then fine. But leave the children out of it,’ Valerie urged.
Hazel precariously poked her head around the lounge door. ‘What’s up?’
‘Come in the room properly,’ Alexander ordered. ‘Stand in front of me and look me in the eyes, love.’
‘Why?’‘Because I want to ask you something.’
‘Me too?’ Linda enquired, looking at Tommy, who stared at her, willing her not to put her foot in anything.
Alexander held his eldest daughter’s hand. ‘Don’t you dare lie to me, Hazel, this is important. I want to know how often your mother goes out of a night?’
Hazel didn’t know how to respond. She didn’t want to get her mum into trouble but neither did she want to lie to her dad. ‘Sometimes she goes out,’ Hazel mumbled.
‘Yes, but how many times? Think back to, say, last week. You can remember that clearly, can’t you?’
‘How many times did your mother go out of an evening last week? Mind, I will check with the neighbours and if I find out you’ve fibbed to me, you’ll get no pocket money for a whole year. Do you understand?’
Valerie squeezed Tommy’s trembling hand. ‘Please stop this nonsense, Alex. The children don’t deserve it.’
Hazel chewed nervously on her lower lip. She got far more pocket money than any of her friends and she would hate not to be able to buy her records, favourite magazines and sweets. ‘Five times, Dad. Mum went out five times last week in the evening.’
‘Thank you, Hazel. You and Linda can go back upstairs
Alexander waited until the front-room door was shut, then leapt up and whacked Tommy hard around the head. ‘That’s for fucking lying to me. Now get your arse up them stairs and I won’t be taking you to football tomorrow either.’
Tommy burst into tears and ran from the room. He had been so excited about attending his first ever proper football match, had been bragging about it at school before he broke up. What was he meant to say to his pals
Valerie winced as Alexander moved closer to her. She knew what was coming next and had little choice but to take it.
Alexander punched his wife in the side of the head, then pinned her to the carpet. His breath smelled of Scotch, his face etched in a sneer. ‘You’re my woman. Nobody else’s. You belong to me,’ he spat as he ripped her knickers off. Seconds later he raped her, brutally.