Saturday 16 June 2018

BLOG TOUR ~ The Single Mum's Mansion by Janet Hoggarth

Hi Everyone,

Today is my stop on the Blog Tour for The Single Mum's Mansion by Janet Hoggarth where I have an extract from Shari's latest novel. I was thrilled to be asked by Melanie Price from Head of Zeus Books to take part along with some other fab book bloggers. You can find out who else is taking part in this fabulous Blog Tour at the end of this extract so without further ado, here it is:

The Heartbreak Diet

My face was reflected forlornly in the drip-splattered kettle, huddled in the corner by the compost bin overflowing with the detritus of this morning’s breakfast. A half-sucked toast crust hung like a mini prosthetic leg over the edge where I hadn’t quite managed to ram the bugger in. I pressed the button to start the ritual of tea making within my five-minute window of opportunity. The Chugganug was squatting like a rotund Buddha in his inflatable ring, lovingly chewing a board book on diggers, and the girls were upstairs playing shoe shops in my half-empty wardrobe. I had yet to browse their offerings – slim pickings, if I remember rightly – all lined up at the foot of my bed in pairs. The kettle was about to click off when the hammering on the front door began. Chugga watched me run from the kitchen to the door, swiftly dodging the wooden brick truck with the reflexes of a ninja. Oh, how I had laughed when Sam had broken his toe on it two years previously. Maybe that’s why he left? The hammering stopped and I could make out the shape of a person hovering behind the frosted-glass panels.

The wide entrance hall was home to the red double Phil and Teds buggy, two pink scooters and a faded yellow trike, lined up against the left-hand wall. The pockmarked bare boards were in need of some kind of cheap carpet runner to mask the splattering of silver star stickers from Barbie magazine, but as soon as I pondered this the shiny idea customarily burst into a trillion shards of what’s the fucking point. Baffled by his urgency, I opened the door, expecting it to be the postman.
Alison barged past me, her formidable bump brushing me as she hurricaned it into the house. The chandeliers above squeaked menacingly on their pendulous light fittings and I glanced upwards, wishing (not for the first time) that Sam had never bought them. I was convinced that, any day, one of those bastard chandeliers was going to plummet to the ground and impale someone. They were a testing reminder of jobs abandoned in this half-finished ‘For Ever’ house. Sam had given me the chandeliers as a birthday present a year before he left, with a promise to finally decorate the hallway and return it to its former glory as the centrepiece of the Victorian villa. Instead, it was still smothered in the original seventies mustard-yellow and poo-brown flowery wallpaper all the way from the ground floor up through the heart of the house.

Chugga had crawled over to investigate, and I scooped him up into my arms and sniffed the top of his head before I kissed him. I wondered if I had kissed him over a million times in the last sixteen months. I loved his sweet baby scent, and his hair was like a silky scarf upon my lips, apart from when it became matted with pureéd spinach, potato and cheese bake.

‘Jim’s singing from the same song book as Sam now!’ Alison’s eyes were hidden behind aviators, unnecessary on this dull grey autumn day. I ushered her into the chaos of the kitchen where she skilfully swerved the brick truck, the washing maiden draped with babygrows and small clothes in varying shades of pink, and levered herself down into one of the awkward, yet trendy, bamboo armchairs I had insisted we buy from Habitat. Maybe that’s why he left? He never liked them.

‘What?’ Ali removed her shades and her usual aquiline features and annoyingly perfect skin was puffy and blotchy. I grabbed a tissue from the box by the cooker and thrust it at her, curbing the urge to wipe her dripping nose like I did for everyone else in this house.

‘Jim said he’s going to leave.’
‘But he can’t! You’re just about to give birth!’
‘When has that ever stopped anyone?’ she snapped, smearing tears across her cheeks. ‘Sam left you on Sonny’s first birthday!’

‘He didn’t,’ I barked defensively, squeezing Sonny (Chugga) tightly, making him wriggle down onto the floor where he resumed his love affair with the digger book. I have no idea why I was alleviating Sam’s guilt. A wife’s misplaced sense of duty, perhaps.

‘All right, a couple of weeks later.’
‘How long have you known? When did he say all this? Tea?’
‘Have you got any wine?’

I warily eyed the clock near the back door. It was eleven thirty a.m. but there was a cheap bottle of red already open on the Moomins melamine tray next to the cooker.

‘I suppose it’s wine o’ clock somewhere in the world,’ I sighed, and grabbed a glass.

‘You’re not having one, too?’ Alison’s voice wobbled dangerously. I had found it hard to enjoy wine since Sam had left. In fact, most things were joyless. In the catatonic weeks that followed his swift exit from our home, I had dropped body weight like sandbags from a rising hot-air balloon. My stomach was perpetually clamped shut and anything I did manage to force down came swiftly out of one end or the other. While out shopping a few weeks after Sam left I bumped into my hairdresser when I was mindlessly skimming through one of those achingly trendy gift shops for a friend’s birthday present.

‘Amanda! Is that you?’ Sally had gasped, pushing her shades up onto her head to scrutinise me in detail as I leaned on the double buggy to prevent the spins taking hold. I couldn’t remember when or what I had last eaten.

‘Yes.’ That was all I could manage to say. I knew if I uttered anything else the water works would start gushing. Most days I was perilously close to the edge of Niagara Falls.

‘Are you OK? You don’t look very well. Are you… ill?’ she probed uncertainly, most likely wanting to ask if I had cancer, but not quite daring to. I certainly looked like it, with my twig-like arms and legs and scrawny turkey neck, heartbreak’s version of concentration-camp chic.

‘No. My husband… he left a few weeks ago.’ Predictably the tears started. I flapped my hands by my eyes as if that would somehow quell the tide of grief.

‘Put your Pradas back on,’ Sally ordered, indicating to my sunglasses on top of my head, a Valentine’s gift from Sam a few months earlier. I should have trod on them, ground them under my heel, but I loved them. I still wore my wedding and engagement rings, too. I had tentatively taken them off after a few weeks, but the gap on my finger pulsed like phantom limb syndrome and I had to ram them back on, but they were so loose now that they were in danger of falling off.

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