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               Elle Fran Williams










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Paperback http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1790461030


Kindle :     http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07KX2N7JW


Paperback http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B089M426GM





A DUTY TO PROTECT ......... 


Blossom had moved back risking a lot, not least her own peace of mind, in order to ensure that her children at least had a roof over their heads, and more - an address that they could use to continue their schooling and their lives. She had moved back into her childhood home. Back to a mother with whom she had never really had a close relationship. Worse, a woman with whom she had a truly bad and poisonous relationship. Back to a household full of dark and terrible memories. To a house that was never a home. A house of secrets. Secrets best left buried. But such secrets never do stay buried forever. It seems beyond one’s power to not pick at the scabs and constantly expose the wound.

The move had been finally made necessary some eight months before and had certainly not been entirely welcomed by Blossom’s daughter, Melissa, and her siblings. Not entirely welcome was perhaps a complete understatement. It had been entirely unwelcomed. Almost by everybody, without exception. It was then, and continued to be, an arrangement that suited nobody and left everybody with varying degrees of irritation and resignation. As for Blossom herself, it most definitely left her with another role, that of permanent watchdog, vigilante and consequent tyrant. It was necessary for her to be constantly on her guard, and to ensure that she knew where her children were, who with, and why. She had always been an easy-going, only mildly controlling parent previously, and the family had enjoyed quite a bit of freedom, but this new scenario made that laissez-faire lifestyle too dangerous. It might act as a temptation for some people – as Blossom knew to her cost of old – and would certainly provide opportunities that had to be avoided. Suffice it to say, it had not been plain sailing for any of them.

At 32, Blossom had now had 16 years to judge whether she had leapt out of the frying pan into the fire. Some days it had seemed like a very close race! When things were bad, and she was broke, and the kids needed feeding, and Thommo was being marched off again – or was home, but as useful as a chocolate fireguard – she had to give it more consideration. But ultimately, she knew. Ultimately, she was sure. She was quite sure. The fire had been preferable. Often demoralising, permanently unpredictable, but preferable. She was never in physical danger from Thommo. Silly sod that he was. Useless article that he was. He was a dreamer, a charmer … never a harmer. He only ever harmed her heart, her patience, her purse, her sense of frustration. Never her person. She had never once felt ‘in danger’ from the daft bugger. Unlike life in the frying pan. Those years when danger had existed at every turn, almost as far back as she could remember, but certainly from the age of five or six.

Since she had left Lawrence Street – the frying pan - life with Thomas Aloysius Corrigan had not been a bed of roses – or if it had, those roses had more thorns than petals. There had been some ups – more downs if she was honest – but there had been ups. One might say it had been a roller-coaster. She had known that for every up, there had to be a down. Despite that fact, even now she could not find it within herself to condemn her feckless husband. It had been a hard life but a life which at least she had chosen and not one that had been foisted upon her. Not one that left her terrified and perplexed, experiencing horrible things, things well beyond her years, and certainly not things she had dared to speak of to anybody outside the house. Certainly not at school - when she was allowed to go to school. So perhaps she had in other people’s eyes jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, but those people had no idea just how damaging that frying pan was, or how warming the fire could be – on a good day. With the frying pan, there were precious few ‘good days’.



Chapter One: The Corrigan Family

The family now comprised Melissa, 16, Collette, 13, Tomàs 11 and ‘Mum’, Isabelle or Belle (better now known as Blossom) … and now and again their father Thomas, AKA Thommo. ‘Now and again’ because Thommo seemed more like a visitor or a lodger. Here today, gone tomorrow. More often he was ‘off on his travels’, or ‘on the run’, or ‘down at the station’, or ‘on remand’, or having been caught (or more likely given himself up for a bit of peace and quiet) he would have taken up residence in one of his ‘other abodes’ … whichever prison he was sent to following sentencing. Thommo was an habitual criminal. Now pretty much institutionalised and as happy – perhaps happier – inside as outside of incarceration.

So following another moonlight flit from their latest home, the fourth in Blossom’s 16 years with Thommo, the family had been forced to move in with Blossom’s mother, Dorothy, or Dodo, a still sprightly, stick-thin, whirling Dervish of a woman, who still had all her own teeth, and definitely all her brain cells, at 62 and was likely to outlive them all. It was certainly not believable – probably to anybody - that Blossom had moved back in with her mother in order to ‘look after me now that I’m an old lady’ which was the story that Dodo had put out. She had done this as much to prevent outsiders prying into their business as to protect her daughter and grandchildren from the truth. She had no such desire, apart from self-interest, to play down the true reason because from her perspective the more mud she could sling at ‘that waste of space’, i.e. Thomas (Thommo) Corrigan the better. She had never met him. He had been ‘away’ when the family moved in and there had been virtually no contact between mother and daughter in the decade and a half.

Some 16 years previously Blossom (then very much ‘Belle’) had run away from home. Nobody should think this sad, or wayward, or even just typical of hot-headed adolescent behaviour on the part of the girl, because that same nobody could hardly begin to imagine, let alone appreciate, just how sick or unhealthy ‘Belle’s’ life had been up to then.  She had run from a house of horrors that should have been her childhood haven.  She had run from a mother who had never had any capacity to protect her, nor any real desire to do so.  Dodo’s only real desire was to look after herself and ensure her future happiness.  Certainly she had no intention of sacrificing her own best interests for those of her only child.  Dodo had not wanted to be a mother.  Had never warmed to the role.  Had never understood its requirements.  Far worse, in time, she had taken full advantages of the benefits offered from having a girl child in the house - innocent, fresh, captive.  As her own star waned, she needed a new magnet to help her retain her house’s ability to attract and keep people visiting.  She bored easily, she lived for excitement, for parties, for callers, for diversions.  She hated her own company and did not cope well with the mundane and the commonplace.  She had to have friends – lots of friends - particularly lots of men friends.  She needed men around her as keenly as she needed air to breathe.

So as her own drawing power became less certain, despite her lack of enthusiasm to have been landed with the responsibility for a child, which was in itself a bore and a handicap, she realised that perhaps all was not lost, and her number one hindrance might in fact be her number one USP – a unique selling point!  A young daughter gave her a renewed opportunity to attract and keep friends (dubious – indeed vile - friends they may be – but beggars could not be choosers!).  Dodo needed people – male people – within her personal orbit, and gravity seemed to be pulling them in quite another direction –  and as Dodo’s conscience readjusted, those around her began to see opportunities and possibilities and the die was cast.  Belle’s fate was sealed.  Dodo’s life took an upward tilt – and her daughter’s a downward spiral. 

```But now 16 years later, the two – mother and daughter – were back living under the same roof.   

Dodo’s dislike for Thommo was partially generic. She just did not care for ‘losers’. Her motivation for being economical with the truth as far as nosy neighbours were concerned was more to do with self-preservation. She was anxious not to give Blossom any kind of reason to feel that payback was on the cards. She had no doubt in her mind that her daughter could be a very dangerous enemy if she were put in the position of mother tiger protecting her cubs. Such maternal diligence was not a trait she had got from Dodo, but time, experience and the perspective of 16 years away from Lawrence Street living with memories, and understanding the reality of what had happened, had made her so. Dodo knew that Blossom was no longer afraid of her.  Strangely, unlike many other children abused and exploited by their elders, she was not now cowed or made introvert or fearful by past events.  Indeed, thanks to the strength, the underlying ‘goodness’ of the people that had nurtured her self-esteem over the intervening years, had made her strong rather than delicate.  She no longer saw herself as a victim, and had long since, courtesy of the less than useful Thommo in other ways, begun to really accept that she was not in any way responsible or guilty for what had happened to her.  She was now – or so she thought – clad in steel, ready to face her erstwhile abusers, and more than ready to see that no similar harm ever came to any of her children.  Events that had made her vulnerable and terrified before, were now the very memories that made her so dangerous and impervious to any attempt at offering an olive branch.  She was not complacent, but she was, it had to be said, almost bullish to be given the chance to prove that they had not destroyed her. She felt energised to face them in their own territory, on their own ground – and get her revenge, though she was not cavalier enough to not realise that she had to be very careful, very watchful.  When she had weighed up the pros and cons of moving back into ‘hell house’ as opposed to seeing the children in care or all of them squatting, she had not thought in terms of ‘revenge’ in a physical sense, more a phoenix from the ashes living, breathing ‘Blossom’ that had emerged from the wreck they had all made of ‘Belle’.  She had wanted to demonstrate that she had won – they had not. 

An olive branch was not in Blossom’s suitcase but neither had she planned or schemed to engineer this ‘revenge’.  Certainly she had not walked her children back into ‘that place’ because of a selfish, obsessive desire to ‘get even’.  No, it really was just circumstances that had dictated the move, and Blossom would never have predicted it even twelve months before.  But life has a way of deciding things and so here they were.

The return to Lawrence Street was an unwelcome necessity, not a peace initiative nor a declaration of war. It made no difference to her views, or her powers of memory. She was not ever likely to ‘forgive’ let alone ‘forget’ so if Dodo thought it signalled a thawing of her daughter’s feelings towards her, she was very sadly mistaken.  The thought of being surrounded once again by her mother’s ‘entourage’ … her mother’s rather dubious circle of friends … had been dreadful to consider, but at least her mother’s ‘husband’ George was now dead – allegedly!   Jimmy – or ‘Uncle Jimmy’ as he insisted on being called – was probably like Dracula likely to live for ever!  But Dodo had sworn that she had not seen him for ‘months – even years.  Jimmy – or James Joyce, Detective Chief Inspector Jimmy Joyce as he was latterly – was her mother’s very long term boyfriend – well probably they were both somewhat old for that trite description – but erstwhile lover, pimp, minder, jailer  …. who knew!  The house had been a veritable hive of nefarious activity – a honeypot – a centre for all that was dubious and unsavoury.  It was the favourite ‘drop in’ place for Joyce’s ‘associates’ – many of whom dwelt in high places or had friends in high places - who liked to let their hair down in a ‘protected’ environment.  Jimmy Joyce was from the very beginning a greasy pole climbing police officer with more on his mind than earning a meagre salary protecting citizens or catching rogues and villains.  From his early days he had known what he wanted – money, power, but most importantly a name as ‘a big player’.  Over the years he had worked both sides of the fence.  His knowledge and his power had grown exponentially and with it his reputation and the fear that he generated – within and without the police force.  He had been a shrewd and ruthless blackmailer who cultivated and ‘serviced’ anybody with money, or standing, or vulnerabilities.  In fact anybody that he suspected could be encouraged to tell, or create with his help, a secret that was worth protecting.  All secrets were grist to the mill and not only kept him in a manner to which he had become accustomed, but also kept his own secrets safe.  People in glasshouses did not throw stones.

All these willing, and not so willing, clowns in Jimmy’s circus were an ever-present backdrop in the young Isabelle’s life, but the two almost permanent fixtures – on a daily/nightly basis in Belle’s young life – had been George Palmer and Jimmy Joyce.    Blossom most certainly could not now, or even then, refer to either George or ‘Uncle Jimmy’ as her ‘step-father’.   They were as far from a ‘father’ – step or otherwise – than they could ever be.

Blossom’s mother, Dorothy – or Dodo as she was universally known - had been in two minds about the return of her daughter. She was not stupid or even insensitive – just self-centred and grasping – and knew in her heart that she had failed Blossom – or Belle as she still thought of her.  ‘Failed’ was such an inadequate word. Even Dodo realised that. She also knew, however, that her own make up was such that she just couldn’t help herself. She had known what she was doing, knew she should not be doing it, but quite unable to stop herself – or worse, completely unable – no, unwilling - to stop other people from taking advantage of her lack of humanity because it would have lessened her own drawing appeal..

Prior to this most unpleasant – possibly even dangerous move - Blossom had contemplated all other avenues – including some very drastic ones. But with a shortness of thinking time, even with all her ingenuity, she had been unable to find even a short-term solution. Putting the children into care was not going to happen. But she realised only too well that unless she kept her wits about her care might easily have been the safer option. But she could not bring herself to part with them. They were her responsibility and she must be vigilant and present to protect them. And so, reluctantly, she bit the bullet and ate humble pie sufficiently to accept the necessity that they must move back with Dodo. And so the die had been cast.

All the while she was taking active steps to facilitate the move – persuading ‘a man with a van’ to move her limited belongings, sorting out schools for the children, keeping a watch on the local papers, shop windows, neighbourhood grapevines for a job for herself – she forced the past out of her mind and tried to ignore the real implications. Sometimes, given the scars that still remained, doubts inevitably caused her to lose sleep or start yet another futile search for an alternative. When such doubts did raise their ugly head, she kept telling herself that it was a very long time ago – a whole lifetime in fact. It would be different now. She was an adult. She had had plenty opportunity to learn how to look after herself. People that she expressed any doubts to almost always metaphorically patted her on the head and tried to ‘put her mind at rest’. After all she was not going into the workhouse, or into some seedy bedsit somewhere courtesy of the Council, she was going home! She should just ... what was that phrase that everybody kept using … yes, she should just ‘move on’. People meant well, but those that were advocating such a trite solution would be shocked – had they known – just what they were asking her to ‘move on’ from or move back to. Most people imagined a difficult mother/daughter relationship: a neglectful childhood, a wilful teenager and a disciplinarian mother. Ordinary teenage angst stuff. The kind of conflict that occurs at some time in almost every household that contains parents and teenagers. Blossom never disabused them of their complete misjudgement.

Well now there was no more deliberating. Too late now to have second thoughts. The die was cast and there was no going back.

And so the day had come. She was back …. She had ‘returned’ … Returned … she supposed other people would use the term ‘home’ – but she could not conceive of 72 Lawrence Street in that way herself. ‘Home’ surely had comforting connotations, a warm, fussy feeling when one thought about it. A place of safety, a place of happy memories. At least that was what she had always read. Lawrence Street held memories all right, but nobody could ever describe them as ‘warm’ or ‘happy’ or ‘comforting’. It was ‘home’ in so far as it was where she had been born. It had witnessed her growth from infant to adolescent … until she had escaped. Escaped? To the outsider, they would only see that she had just landed herself in misery and that her bid for freedom had done her no favours. That having been said, there were now precious few people who knew the truth of it all and they were not going to advertise any of it.

After the move, there was an uneasy atmosphere between mother and daughter, but Dodo tried her best to seem welcoming to the children. If she had been an awful mother, she could try again to be a half-way decent grandmother.

Lying in bed those first few nights, Blossom tried to analyse how she felt. Would she ‘go back’ and make a different choice? Yesterday she would: today she wouldn’t: who knew what her frame of mind might be tomorrow – if there was a tomorrow. This was still to her a decidedly terrifying house and being surrounded by the same walls, doors and windows that had witnessed her horrors in the past made for a difficult adjustment. Dodo had promised her – even poo-pooed the suggestion – that Jimmy was still around – either permanently, or as a regular visitor – but Dodo had always been a liar and Blossom took no comfort from her assurances. All right George was – allegedly – dead and Jimmy ‘don’t come around anymore’ according to Dodo.  Blossom could only say for certain that they were not here at the moment.  With her mother’s track record, it might be a downright lie.  Even more likely, if they turned up, irrespective of her promise, Dodo would bring them in.  So tomorrow could not be guaranteed.  Their happiness – even their safety – could not be guaranteed. She knew though that if she had to take drastic action – however drastic that might be – to save her children, then she would not hesitate. She was not the same terrified, neglected, used and abused child she had been. ‘They’ had better bear that in mind. If not, then if proof was required, she would give them proof. But she had to be vigilant lest life goes full circle.

She knew that this forced return to her nemesis could – indeed from an outsider’s perspective was very likely to - end in tears. She knew it. She felt it. She could only hope that those tears were not shed in a graveyard, or in a prison cell. She had more than herself to think of now – but that made her stronger, rather than more vulnerable. She was certain that, should the need arise, she would do what had to be done to protect her children. Herself too. But mainly the children. She knew she was returning to the frying pan, and potentially leading her precious children into it too, but forewarned was forearmed and Blossom at 32 was not the same person that had suffered in silence all those years. Let them try it now. They would meet a new ‘Belle’ – one they would not find so malleable and innocent.








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