Brother and sister Peter and Adele Robinson never stood a chance. Dragged up by an alcoholic, violent father, and a weak, beaten mother, their childhood in Manchester only prepared them for a life of crime and struggle. But Adele is determined to break the mould. She studies hard at school and, inspired by her beloved grandmother Joyce, she finally makes a successful life for herself on her own.
Peter is not so lucky. Getting more and more immersed in the murky world of crime and gangs, his close bonds with Adele gradually loosen until they look set to break altogether.
But old habits die hard, and one devastating night, Adele is forced to confront her violent past. Dragged back into her worst nightmares, there's only one person she can turn to when her life is on the line – her brother Peter. After all, blood is thicker than water...
Adele felt bad. She shouldn’t have carried on so much at Peter, then her father wouldn’t have known. It was bound to annoy him, especially on a Sunday. He was always in a mood on a Sunday. In fact, he was always in a mood any day, but Sundays were particularly bad. It was only recently, as she was growing up, that Adele realised why; it was because of the skinful he had had on a Saturday night. All he wanted to do on Sundays was sleep it off. Then he would sit and pore through the papers whilst their mother, Shirley, made a pretence of cleaning the house, and cooked the traditional Sunday dinner in an effort to please him.
This was usually the first attempt at cleaning that Shirley had made all week. She spent most of her days gossiping with the neighbours, sleeping or watching TV. Her evenings were spent in a similar fashion, except for the few nights a week in which she tore herself away from the street to go and play bingo.
Adele got up off the bed and drifted towards the window. She avoided the sight of Peter but looked out instead at the other houses, watching people go about their business. Allowing her mind to drift, she contemplated, for the umpteenth time, her miserable existence.
Lately she was realising that although this way of life was commonplace within these four walls, there was a different world out there. Talking to her friends had made her understand that her circumstances weren’t the norm, and other parents were different from her own. Other children went out with their families to the cinema or country parks. They had holidays at the seaside and expensive presents for their birthdays.
The only advantage she had over other children was her freedom. Her father was hardly ever home, so that gave her and Peter a chance to roam the streets and do whatever they pleased as long as news of their mischief didn’t get back to him. Their mother scarcely showed any interest in where they were going or what time they would be back.
Adele often consoled herself by imagining that one day things would be different. When she was old enough she would get a good job and a rich husband, and she would escape her domineering father and slovenly mother. She would have a beautiful home and children who would never want for anything. It was this dream that kept her going.
Just then Adele was jolted back to reality by the sound of raised voices downstairs.
‘Don’t go, Tommy, I was gonna do you a nice dinner later,’ pleaded her mother.
‘Bugger off, I’m going for a pint. There’s nowt to stay in this bloody pigsty for. I’m sick of you, you lazy cow, and those two scruffy little gets!’
This was followed by a loud slamming of the front door and Shirley muttering something to herself. Adele couldn’t quite hear her mother’s words, but she gathered that she wasn’t happy about him going out.
Adele had had enough of home for one day, so she decided that she would go outside for a while too. She was heading downstairs when she heard the sound of the door knocker. Worried it was her father coming back, she scuttled back to the top of the stairs. It was only after her mother had answered the door that Adele realised it was her grandma, Joyce.
She entered loudly and, appearing as bumptious as ever, declared, ‘I’ve just passed His Lordship in the street. He’s got a right face on him, as usual. It took him all his time to say hello. What the bleedin’ hell’s up with him this time?’ The soft features of her plump face had tightened to form an expression of scorn.
Shirley said nothing, but shook her head from side to side as she led her mother into the living room, leaving the door ajar. Adele would normally have raced down the stairs to greet her grandma, who she thought the world of. Although loud and opinionated, Joyce had a kind heart and was full of good intentions. But the look of resignation on her mother’s face, and the tired way she dragged her feet, stopped Adele from following them. She had guessed that they were about to have one of their chats, and overcome by curiosity, she crept down the stairs so she could listen in. She could just about see them both through the gap of the open door.
‘Jesus, Shirley love, what the bloody hell’s happened to this place? It looks like a bomb’s hit it and smells bloody awful! It’s worse than last time. I thought you were going to try and get on top of things!’
‘Oh don’t start, Mam. Don’t you think I’m sick of it? It’s not me that makes it a tip you know, and what’s the use of tidying it anyway when they only mess it up again?’
‘I’m worried about you, love. Every time I come you’ve let yourself go more. You’re just not happy, are you? Has he been at you again?’
‘Not really. It’s Peter he’s pissed off with, because he made a mess on the garden path, squashing some caterpillars or summat. I wish he’d leave him alone; he’s not a bad lad really.’
‘I don’t know, I worry about our Peter, always up to mischief and getting into fights. I’ve told you, he takes after his side of the family.’
Their conversation then became much quieter, and Adele had to strain to hear them. Without getting too close, and risking being caught out, she managed to catch snippets of her grandma’s words.
‘Bad lot… told you before… bad blood… mad… great-uncle… always fighting… ended up in an asylum.’
A few moments of silence followed until Shirley said, ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do, Mam. I’ve no idea what our Peter will turn out like. I’m just glad our Adele’s all right.’
About the author
Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children.