Goodbye Ruby Tuesday

‘An emotional journey that packs real punch’ – York Evening Press

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday was the result of several ideas coming together. I wanted to write something about mothers and daughters, but turned on its head so that the daughter was the mature one and the mum was the teenager who never grew up. I then had an idea for the opening scene, a teenage mum running away from an unmarried mothers’ home with her newborn baby, and the rest of the novel grew from there.

Ruby Tuesday Moon grew up hating everything about her life – her daft name, her hand-me-down clothes, and being the daughter of Norman ford’s only single parent, failed nightclub singer Sadie Moon. As soon as she could she bought a one-way ticket to London, changed her name and escaped. But nearly twenty years on, fate has conspired to send Roo Hennessy back to Normanford. Back to the friends and family she once knew too well, and the boy who broke her heart. And back to Sadie, now in her 50s and still acting like a teenager. But as Roo discovers, there are two sides to every story. Perhaps the past is not exactly as she remembers it…

Extract

1970
Sadie Moon stubbed out her cigarette in the rose bushes and climbed back in through the window of the Willow Lodge Diocesan Home for Unmarried Mothers, pulling her dressing gown around her.

Her room-mate Janey looked up, her baby clamped to her breast.

‘You’re taking a risk. Mrs Walcross would kill you.’
‘I’d like to see her try.’

Evelyn Walcross didn’t scare Sadie. She called herself the home’s Moral Welfare Officer, but she was a sadistic bitch who made sure the girls in her care suffered for their ‘sins’. They slept in chilly rooms and worked like slaves, cleaning the home and scrubbing shirt collars in the laundry until their hands were raw. The whole place reeked of damp and carbolic soap.

All the other girls were terrified of Mrs Walcross, but Sadie was a rebel. She wore her skirts short, bleached her hair and sneaked outside to smoke Woodbines while all the other girls were in the chapel praying for their souls.

Mrs Walcross had had it in for Sadie ever since she’d caught her smuggling in a bottle of Cherry B under her maternity smock. She’d done her best to make Sadie mend her ways. She’d had her on her hands and knees cleaning floors. She’d given her extra kitchen duties. She’d taken away every last privilege she had, done everything but beaten the sin out of her. But Sadie just laughed at her, undaunted and defiant.

Janey stroked her baby’s face, murmuring to him. She’d given birth three weeks before Sadie, the day before her eighteenth birthday. Today was her last day at Willow Lodge. Mrs Walcross had come to her last night and told her to be ready to leave by teatime.

‘I am doing the right thing, aren’t I?’ she said.
Sadie shrugged. ‘What choice do you have?’

Mrs Walcross had spelled it out when she gave her the adoption papers to sign. If she didn’t, her baby would be taken away from her and put in a children’s home. There was no way she would be allowed to keep it. If she tried, she would end up on the streets and the authorities would never allow her to have more children.

‘It’s going to be so hard to say goodbye,’ Janey said.
‘I know.’ Sadie stared at the pokerwork plaque on the wall. ‘THEN LUST WHEN IT HAS CONCEIVED GIVES BIRTH TO SIN – James 1.15.’

It was the first thing she saw every morning.
She looked into her baby’s cot. She slept soundly, her long dark lashes curling on her soft round cheeks. Seeing her made Sadie’s stomach flip.

No one told her it would be like this. No one warned her she could be ambushed by love.

It shouldn’t have happened, not after the nightmare of everything that had gone before. Finding out she was five months pregnant – how could she not have realised sooner? – then having to break the news to her mum. And of course she told Sadie’s brother Tom, who, being the man of the house, decided Sadie should come to Willow Lodge. He would have sent her to hell if it stopped the neighbours gossiping.

At the time she hadn’t cared. She didn’t want a baby, especially not this one.

Anyway, she had other plans. She was going to be a singer, move to London and became as rich and famous as Shirley Bassey.

But then, a week ago, this thing she’d been carrying around inside her had become real. A little person who grunted in her sleep and screamed with rage and curled her tiny fingers tightly around Sadie’s and stared up at her with dark, unfocused eyes as if she was the only person in the world who mattered. Sadie had even given her a name, although she never said it out loud. Only in her head.

She knew she’d have to give her up eventually but she couldn’t think about it. It was the only thing that stopped her packing her bags and leaving the misery of Willow Lodge, the fact that she would have to leave her baby behind too.

Mrs Walcross came into their room just before lunch. Janey’s suitcase was on the bed. She’d carefully dressed her little boy, Stephen, in the blue leggings and matinee coat she’d spent ages knitting. Now she was feeding him again, sitting in the hard armchair between their beds.
Sadie was on her third attempt at changing her baby’s nappy. She still hadn’t got the hang of folding all that bulky towelling, or where to stick the pins. But the baby didn’t seem to mind. She kicked her little naked legs, surprising herself when they moved. She looked so funny Sadie couldn’t help giggling.

But she stopped when Mrs Walcross walked in with a grim-looking social worker. She went straight across to Janey and said, ‘Time to say goodbye.’

Janey looked up, startled. ‘But you said teatime! Can’t I just finish feeding him?’

‘His mother and father are waiting for him.’ Mrs Walcross nodded to the social worker, who lunged at Janey and snatched Stephen from her. Janey screamed and Sadie yelled, ‘Leave her alone, you bitch!’ but the social worker was already gone, her soft shoes squeaking down the corridor.

Sadie’s scream startled her baby. Her tiny face crumpled and she wailed. ‘Shh, it’s all right Ruby.’ She swept her into her arms and held her close.

Mrs Walcross turned. ‘What did you call her?’
‘Ruby. It’s her name.’

Mrs Walcross gave her a look of pure spite. ‘We’ll see what her new parents say about that.’

Sadie sat on the edge of the bed as the door closed, holding her baby close, trembling with shock and rage.
Over my dead body, she said to herself.