This is a painting of the lane in my memoir where we went on our first walk when I was four years old and we had first moved to Werrington. It is painted by my talented neighbour Shirley Huntbatch and her family have very kindly let me use it to illustrate my story. The sweetshop described in the book is the second house from the right with the brown door. Shirley made me a skirt for the Queen of Hearts in the village fancy dress after my mum died when I was in my teens. She adapted a pink, silky bedspread and it was gorgeous, I loved it! Very kind and very creative. I've never forgotten it.
 Chapter 1


Everywhere is dark. Dark in my head, dark outside, yet the pale February sun is squeezing its feeble rays out between the creeping grey clouds. Will it ever be light again?
This moment is all I know, all I can see, feel, touch. Beyond it is empty nothingness. This time is real yet it has an unreal quality as I sit on my bed, knees tucked up beneath my chin.
It is my birthday in two days time, Sunday 25th; my thirteenth birthday. Unlucky for some; it is certainly unlucky for me. I’ve just had the birthday present to end all birthday presents, the worst possible birthday present any thirteen year old girl could have. I’ll never forget it if I live to be ninety. It is already branded onto my brain like a number on animal hide, this horrific event that has happened two days before my thirteenth birthday.
I hear hushed adult voices coming from the kitchen of our bungalow. If I want to I can join the adults, but I don’t. I’ve escaped. I need the comfort and familiarity of my own room, like a baby needs a blanket, which holds its own smell. I want to think, but then I don’t. How can I think when to do so brings the worst pain I have ever known, but my mind won’t be still. Words are clanging round my head like skeletal bones rattling together. Horrible words, words with no substance, words I don’t want to hear. I want to cover my ears with my hands and blot them out, close my eyes and blot out the world, make it all go away, but I can’t. It’s here. It forces its brutal reality into my head.
Images flash across the insides of my eyelids. Silly images; white socks for school instead of the uniform grey, a biology lesson interrupted by ice cold fear, my cousin. I squeeze my eyes tighter but it doesn’t stop the images, it only squeezes out the tears. I can cry now I’m home. I couldn’t before, when I was at school. I felt eyes watching me as I walked past the classroom window – they all knew what had happened to me and I wouldn’t let them see me cry. Alone I can cry as much as I want to. Part of me wants loving arms to hold me while I sob out my distress, but the other part would push them away because they could never be the arms that I want.
I want to go to sleep – sleep for a hundred years like a fairy tale princess, refreshing sleep, healing sleep, then wake up and find that this whole dreadful episode is no more than a terrible nightmare, but I can’t. It won’t all go away in the morning, evaporate with the dawn mist. It is the here and now, the future, the forever. Nothing will ever change it, and the black, choking atmosphere within the bungalow is suffocating us all like a shroud.
My mind can’t take any more. It is like a sponge submerged in a bucketful of unpleasant happenings. It has absorbed all it’s capable of absorbing and it floats listlessly to the surface, spent and exhausted. It grasps a thread of an earlier, pleasant memory and regresses back, and back, and back….
NOTE: As of 12th Septermber 2021 I have revised a section of this book, from Chapter 41 and subsequent chapters, to change some names for privacy and also factually.
(The paperback cover via Amazon will probably be the old cover and unrevised edition or even a used vastly overpriced copy. For this cover and revised edition in paperback go to the price is about the same when p&p is taken into account. See link below amazon link.)
Link to feedaread for the revised paperback