Today I will be sharing an extract for my spot on the blog tour for Pink Ice Creams by Jo Woolaston.
Intent on fixing her broken marriage and the alcohol-fuelled catastrophe that is her life, Kay Harris arrives at her grim and grey holiday let, ready to lay to rest the tragedy that has governed her entire adulthood – the disappearance of her little brother, Adam.
But the road to recovery is pitted with the pot-holes of her own poor choices, and it isn’t long before Kay is forced to accept that maybe she doesn’t deserve the retribution she seeks. Will the intervention of strangers help her find the answers she needs to move on from her past, or will she always be stuck on the hard shoulder with no clear view ahead and a glove box full of empties?
Pink Ice Creams is a tale of loss, self-destruction, and clinging on to the scraps of the long-lost when everyone else has given up hope.
As the mistakes mount during her solo venture, Kay soon realises that leaving her husband Martin, in particular the vein in which she left – embittered and vengeful – was her biggest mistake of all. Their marriage was less than perfect but she should be more grateful to him. He married her – despite her lower social standing, her lack of life experience, her baggage. And so she defends his actions, his cruelty, as she doesn’t deserve any better than this… does she?
‘What is it?’
Martin has returned from work earlier than anticipated. I have hastily shoved half a bottle of Chardonnay into the tumble dryer and am failing to shield the concave glass with my knees. Please don’t look, please don’t look. He stands in front of me, his eyes over-bright and excited, a ten year old in a grown man’s body, the calm before the storm.
‘I don’t like surprises Martin.’
‘You’ll like this one.’
I hold my breath for fear of exhaling a cloud of wine-stink, whilst my hand fervently stumbles around in my jeans pocket searching for a mint, a chewy. I am nervous, of what could be in the box, whether I have pushed the bottle far enough into the dryer, and why he has come home early, unexpectedly.
‘Come on Kay, you’re spoiling it.’
‘Sorry, pass it over then.’
‘No, you’ll drop it. I’ll hold it, you lift the lid.’
Mint located, nerves controlled. Deep breath in, slow release out. Come on, step forward. One… Two… nearly there… and lift.
‘Well? Do you like it?’
‘It’s a kitten.’
‘I know that, I bought it. Well?’
‘Say something then. Why aren’t you saying anything?’
He knows why. My eyes are already starting to feel hot, the corners watery and ticklish, willing to be closed tight to fight the oncoming itch, the uncontrollable sneeze.
‘I’m allergic to cat hair.’
‘Does it always have to be a negative with you?’
I need to make light, avoid the inevitable.
‘So has it got a name?’
‘You name it.’
‘Okay, erm… Paddy?’
‘What sort of a stupid name is that?’
‘Well, it has big paws.’
‘It was just an idea, Martin. I don’t mind. What do you think?’
I pick the kitten up out of the box and hold it up. It is tiny and shivering and completely terrified, snatched from its mother too early. It has defecated in the box and the fur on its back legs is matted with piss and shit.
‘Wait, look what I bought for him!’
Martin rifles around in a carrier bag that I hadn’t seen him bring in. He places objects onto the table one by one, his excitement building with each item like a child emptying a Santa sack.
‘His very first toy. Watch.’
He whips a coloured stick out of the bag like a flamboyant magician, the bag floats to the floor and the wand circles above his head before dancing a figure of eight. Yellow ribbons and red feathers follow the trail in a blur.
‘Cats like the chase, see? Put him on the floor.’
Regretfully I do as I am bid and gently place the trembling mite on the tiles, still trying to bend my body in front of the tumble dryer door. Smack! The feathered cane lands a foot away to the left of the kitten and is still. Then, only gently at first, Martin shakes it back and forth, building up steadily to a great crescendo, a dramatic swish across the kitchen floor. The cat does not move, only shrinks.
‘Come on! It’s a little birdie, look!’
Smack! It lands again, this time on the other side and once more lies momentarily still as it awaits attention. Then, it starts to bounce tap tap tap tap flicking up perilously close to the kitten’s nose. The kitten cowers.
‘Just leave it Martin, it doesn’t understand. It’s too young.’
‘Of course it does. Animal instinct.’
‘Oh shut up Kay, what the fuck do you know?’
Here it comes.
‘Look at it, it’s nearly as pathetic and stupid as you are.’
‘Leave it alone.’
‘Or what? You don’t even like the bloody thing. Oh Martin… I’m allergic to cats, poor me, poor me, pour me another drink!’
I turn my attention to the kitten, picking it up carefully and running its back legs under a warm trickle of tap water. I can barely see through my raw, quarter-mast eyes, but my hands feel slowly around the work surface and manage to locate a fluffy tea-towel which I wrap the kitten in and hold it firmly against my chest.
‘Don’t start please Martin.’
‘Do you think I’m stupid? Do you think I don’t see the half empty bottles, every day? You’re not exactly Queen of hide and seek, are you?’
‘It just helps.’
‘Who? Not me, it doesn’t help me. You’re an embarrassment, a fucking catastrophe.’
‘Please Martin, there’s no need to make an issue out of it.’
‘Listen to yourself, for pities’ sake. Normal behaviour is it, hiding wine in a tumble dryer?’
He grabs me by the collar and forces my head towards the floor, my body has no choice other than to follow it. Then, jerking the scruff of my neck to knee level he hauls me across the tiles. Snatching open the tumble dryer door, he grabs my arm and shoves it as far as it will go into the metal drum. I can feel his breath, hot on the nape of my neck.
‘Come on then, reach. That’s what you want isn’t it? That’s all you’re good for.’
About the Author:
Jo Woolaston lives in Leicestershire, England with her extreme noise-making husband and two lovely sons. She tries to avoid housework and getting a ‘proper job’ by just writing stuff instead – silly verse, screenplays, shopping lists…
This sometimes works in her favour (she did well in her MA in TV Scriptwriting, gaining a Best Student award in Media and Journalism – and has had a few plays produced – that kind of thing) but mostly it just results in chronic insomnia and desperate tears of frustration. Pink Ice Creams is her first novel, she hopes you liked it.