She’s fighting to save everyone else but will she have anything left to save herself?
Witty, sharp and sarcastic tattoo artist Lydia’s life is imploding. Her long-term relationship has broken down after several miscarriages and she’s hiding from her hurt and loss in rage. After a big night out she wakes beside a much younger man who brings complications she could really do without.
As her grief about her lost babies and failed relationships spirals out of control, she obsesses about rescuing a wayward teenage girl she watches from her window and gets more involved than she should with her charming but unstable young
Chapter four – Only pretty girls get to be fairies.
My ballet teacher told me only pretty girls get to be fairies. I don’t remember ever wanting to do ballet, I remember mum wanting me to do ballet, or just assuming I would, and me doing it because it seemed to be what I was meant to do.
I wasn’t a fairy, because I wasn’t a pretty girl. Pretty girls were issued with rolls of brightly coloured tulle and packets of sequins for their mothers to make into fairy costumes. In the nineteen-seventies mothers were expected to do things like that. Not mine though. Not because she couldn’t, because my mum made pretty much everything we wore, but because I wasn’t going to be a fairy. I was going to be a mushroom.
True, I was going to be the mushroom, and I do remember the dance teacher trying to impress upon me that I was pivotal to the dance of the fairies.
‘Without you, dear, they’ll have nothing to dance around, now will they?’
That’s what it’s like, when you’re a mushroom girl, you have to be grateful for the role life has handed you, because it’s a pivotal role. You will be the one who organises things, so people don’t have to go to the bother of forgetting to invite you to them. You will be the one the pretty girls will use both as a prophylactic against unwanted attention, or to peer from behind and look coquettish. And, if you’re lucky as a mushroom girl, when the unwanted suitors have their little hearts broken, and turn away from their pursuit of the fairies, there you’ll be, ready to clear up after them, absorb their tears and, who knows, become a consolation prize. That’s what mushrooms do after all, they absorb the shit other people leave behind.
Instead of the bag of tulle and sequins, my mother got two large squares of red felt and a smaller square of white felt, and the instructions that she was to make a mushroom hat. I was also to be bought a white, close fitting polo neck top and a pair of white tights, in which I was to perform my pivotal mushroom role. Stretching on tip-toes and solemnly turning round three times, before adopting my crouched mushroom stance. See, pivotal.
I didn’t want to be a mushroom. I thought I wanted to be a fairy, until the pretty girls caught me in the stone-cold church hall toilets, and poked and jeered at me until they made me cry about being the mushroom. Then, I decided I didn’t want to be a fairy either. I wanted to be something else, something better. But I wasn’t sure what that was.
So, when the night of the performance came, and Mum squeezed me into my white tights and polo neck, and pulled the red felt hat onto my head, and had me look at myself in the mirror, saying, ‘There, you look lovely, even if I do say so myself, and who wants to be a boring old fairy anyway?’ I had to agree. But even through the dull ache caused by the tourniquet grip of the mushroom hat, I knew I wasn’t a fungi.
The pretty girls were all in the room behind the stage, which smelt of old shoes and cabbage. They wisped about in lilac and pink and lime, too excited to even notice me. When the moment came for junior dancers to take the stage, I was ready. Just in case the humiliation of the brain cracking mushroom hat wasn’t enough, the music we were to dance to opened with a few bars played on the euphonium. It was a community affair with music provided by the Sea Scouts silver band, and as I made my debut under the blue-white spot light, it was the oom-pa-pah, oom-pa-pah of the euphonium that welcomed me. I began my stately twirls, and a ripple of laughter ran through the crowd, and I thought of Mum, Nan and Lauren, five years younger and already the star of twinkle toes starters, and hotly tipped to play the sugar plum fairy at Christmas, and wondered if they were laughing too.
My turn complete, I limped to centre stage, and dropped into the curtsey I was meant to hold for the rest of the performance. The euphonium was replaced by a volley of trumpets, heralding the fairies. As their little feet thudded behind me, my curtsey became a crouch and I grew ready. I was no mushroom, and they were about to find that out.
The pretty girls danced around me in a ring, and then, at the climax of the piece, which was at least mercifully short, the prettiest of the pretty girls was to jump over the mushroom, aided by the second and third prettiest girls, lifting her from either side. The moment came, I braced myself, the second and third prettiest girls lifted their superior. As I was under the expansive mushroom hat, I cannot say if the
prettiest girl was smiling as her feet left the ground, but I imagine she was. I know I was as I flinched upwards, in such a way that no one, not even the back row, could have thought it was an accident. The prettiest girl didn’t, as I’d hoped, continue her forward momentum off the stage, breaking at least two of her legs and, preferably, her nose into the bargain, but she did collapse sideways with a scream, and both she and the second prettiest girl, smacked into the stage and skidded into the gaggle of minor fairies on the right. Then I used a bad word, one I’d heard the builders doing our front drive use. I’m not sure if it was me saying ‘oh shit!’ or the pretty girl thumping onto her backside, but then everyone was laughing. I’d made them laugh; me, the mushroom girl.
‘I’ve never been so embarrassed,’ mum said on the way home.
‘It was an accident,’ I lied.
‘Accident, my foot,’ Mum said. ‘Goodness know what your Dad’s going to say–’ though that was an empty threat, as Dad would only ever say what she’d said, before telling me to leave it alone now, give mum a rest, get on with something else, why don’t you go and do some drawing, ehh?
‘Oh, come on Gail–’ sitting squashed in close to me, Nan gave my knee a squeeze. ‘Cheered everyone up at least, gave them a laugh.’ I looked at her hand on my knee, at the way the sickly orange street light made all her rings look like amber.
‘Don’t you encourage her,’ Mum said. ‘And don’t think you’ve got away with anything, madam. I had to apologise to Katie’s mum, you know, apologise to her for your behaviour, and your bloody language.’
‘And your bloody language,’ I muttered. When I looked up, Mum caught my eye in the rearview mirror.
‘You’re so sharp, you’ll cut yourself one day.’
Thank you, Sophie Jonas-Hill and Random Things Tours
About the author
Sophie has had what might be politely described as a varied career, which has seen her be a black-smith, silver-smith, jewellery designer, pattern-cutter and wedding dress designer, home help, teacher, extreme knitter, burlesque performer, artist and various combinations of the above. Her one abiding passion alongside drawing has always been writing, from her early work in year four producing hand bound novellas mostly written in crayon, to the inevitable fantasy epic which pushed 500 pages and, thank goodness, has never seen the light of day. She began focusing on her writing after the birth of her first child, and has been working on it ever since, losing hands down to the publishing industry’s gatekeepers and Gorgons, until she met fellow traveller Amanda Saint, who as the name suggests, was something of a shining light on the path. She is currently studying an MA in illustration and discovering how much she hates academic writing, and what a wise move it was to give someone else the task of designing the cover for her first book with Retreat West, Unprotected. She lives in Kent with her long suffering husband, two children and a very handsome cat.
Amazon UK : https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unprotected-Sophie-Jonas-Hill-ebook/dp/B07Z97NQFY/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3S3X32TKLPAYZ&keywords=unprotected+sophie+jonas+hill&qid=1573228743&s=books&sprefix=unprotected+sophie%2Cstripbooks%2C203&sr=1-1