Today I have an exclusive excerpt from Caroline Englands debut novel, Beneath The Skin. If this sneaky peak has you eager to read more, be sure to pick it up. Also Make sure to check out the other stops on the Blog Tour. More details about them are in the banner after the sneak peak.
‘We’ve decided to go through with IVF again,’ Sophie says suddenly, pulling out the elastic band with some difficulty and then dragging her bitten nails through the thick mass of her hair.
Antonia raises her eyebrows but makes no comment. Nothing from Sophie’s lips surprises her any more and it’s best to allow her friend to spill it all out before making any remark. There are many occasions when Antonia is economical with the truth, or when she evades an answer by changing the subject, but Sophie can never hold anything in for long. As a child she was alarmingly honest about everything and everybody, her mum and her youngest brother targeted the most. ‘Your breath smells, Uncle Frank. That dress makes you look fat, Mum. You know Dad loves me more than you, don’t you, Harry? Does Grandpa have a foreskin?’ That was just family: girls and boys at school were easy meat. An older girl once cornered her in the corridor. ‘Do you know what a complete and utter cruel bitch you are?’ she asked. ‘No I’m not,’ Sophie replied fearlessly. ‘I’m just honest. If you don’t like it, get out of my way.’
Antonia never got out of Sophie’s way. Sometimes she dearly wishes she had. ‘You’re mixed race, Antonia. Or black if you like. So why don’t you just admit it? There’s nothing wrong with it.’ Honest or cruel, Antonia has yet to decide.
‘Don’t look at me like that, Toni,’ she now commands. ‘I know what you’re thinking, but Sami wants us to try one last time. You know what he’s like about family. Mother Martha had five kids and so she expects to have a hundred and twenty grandchildren or something. And if I’m up for all the prodding and poking, those bloody hormone injections . . .’
Antonia takes a breath. The real reason for Sophie’s infertility is the one secret she has managed to keep. It has to be said.
‘Sophie, why would you want to go through it again when you’re pretty sure it won’t work? Why put yourself through it? You hate hospitals! And it’s hardly fair to Sami, you’re giving him false hope.’
‘Oh shut up, Antonia.’
Sophie stands and paces, her hands on her hips and her eyes ferocious. ‘You really take your saintliness to extremes at times. Is there a Saint Antonia? Is that why you chose the bloody stupid name? Besides, you’re the one with the problem if you really think having a baby is a fate worse than death. Most normal women want a child, it’s what nature expects and I’m no different. You’re the bloody freak, not me.’
It’s ridiculous, Antonia knows, at thirty years old, but on these occasions she still wants to cry. Instead she stands, walks to the sink and turns on the tap. Sophie will never change; her best line of defence is to attack and the assault is invariably below the belt. But when it comes to babies, she doesn’t care whether Sophie thinks she’s unnatural or odd. She doesn’t have and never has had any desire to procreate. There are enough unhappy people in the world without adding to their number. David understands. She told him from the start she didn’t want children and he accepted it at face value, saying it was fine and that he’d have the snip. He’s never broached the subject again and never asked why.
David, oh, David. The thought of Friday night catches her breath again. He accepts her as she is, he doesn’t ask questions, analyse or dig too deep like her former boyfriends. He doesn’t want to control her, thank God. He’s steady and reliable. Isn’t he?
She feels Sophie’s breath on her neck, then a hand on her back and the inevitable flutter somewhere deep in her stomach.
BENEATH THE SKIN
by Caroline England
OUT NOW – ONLY 99p ON KINDLE!!
No-one remembers your past. But you do.
‘Antonia, Antonia. My name is Antonia.’
It’s been her name for many years. But sometimes, like tonight, she forgets. Antonia has a secret. A secret so dark and so deep that she can barely admit it to herself. Instead, she treats herself to Friday night sessions of self-harm while her husband David is at the pub, and her best friend Sophie is drinking too much wine a few doors down.
Nobody close to her knows the truth about what the teenage Antonia saw all those years ago. No-one, that is, except her mother. But Candy is in a care home now, her mind too addled to remember the truth.
Antonia is safe. Isn’t she? The lies start small. They always do. But when the tightly woven story you’ve told yourself begins to unravel, the truth threatens to come to the surface. And then what’s going to happen?
ABOUT CAROLINE ENGLAND
Caroline England is a former divorce lawyer based in Manchester, whose fiction has appeared in various literary magazines. Her background lends this book about couples a real authenticity.Bestseller chart.