Authors: Sally Nicholls
Liz came to visit. She came every week like she used to. I thought maybe she wouldn't after what I did to Grace, but she still did.
When Liz came to visit while I lived with Jim, I was mostly nice to her, but when she came to visit at Andy and Chris's I was horrible. I shouted at her, and threw things in her face, and called her all sorts of names. I thought after what I tried to do to Maisy, she'd finally have realized what sort of person I really was, but she didn't seem to have got it. Maybe she was stupider than I thought.
She took me for a walk in the park. It was wet and windy and muddy and cold, and although it wasn't actually raining, there were big scowly clouds looming miserably over everything.
“I wonder,” she said, as we tramped through the wet trees. I groaned. “I wonder if you're angry with me because you're ashamed of what happened to Grace. I wonder if you're ashamed because the placement broke down, and you're frightened that I'm going to be angry with you too.”
“Leave me alone!” I said, but she wouldn't.
“I wonder if you know that I love you,” she said. “And if you know how sad I am that you're so unhappy.”
“I'm fed up with love,” I said. “Nobody
“I do,” said Liz. “And I don't think I'm the only one, either.”
does everyone always leave me?” I said.
Liz didn't answer. I didn't really want her to. We tramped through the mud, and the brown-paper leaves which were beginning to fall from the trees. Tramp. Tramp. Tramp.
“Jim never wants to see me again,” I said, looking at her out of the corner of my eye.
that's not true,” said Liz.
I didn't answer.
“Have you told him how sorry you are?” said Liz. “Have you told him you want to try living with him again?”
But I shouldn't have to tell him that. He should know without me saying.
“He won't let me live there again,” I said. “He'll say no. Because of Harriet.”
“Well,” said Liz, “that might happen. You need to be prepared for that to happen. But if he doesn't know that you want to try again, how can he decide if he's willing to try too? You should tell him.” I stopped walking. I was almost crying. I turned away so that Liz wouldn't see. She took my face in her hands and moved it towards her own. Her hands were gentle, but her voice was firm. “Tell him,” she said.
I wrote him a letter.
I'm sorry for what I did to Grace. I did it because I thought it would make Amelia go away, but it was wrong, and I shouldn't have done it. I wouldn't do it again, I promise. If you let me come back and live with you, I will try really hard to be good. I will do everything Helen asks me to do, even if it's stupid. I will listen when you tell me things, and I will try not to be mean to Daniel and Harriet any more.
I hope you can forgive me for all the things I did. If you can't, I don't know what will happen to me.
I know I don't deserve a family, but I hope you will let me be part of yours anyway.
I put the letter in an envelope, and Chris wrote the address on it and gave me a stamp.
“First class,” I said. “It
to be first class.”
“Olivia,” said Chris, “you know this might not work, don't you? I know Jim cares about you very much, butÂ .Â .Â . he has other kids he needs to think about. The answer might still be no. You need to be prepared for that.”
“No!” I said. “It won't be no. It can't be!”
“Let's hope it's not,” said Chris, but he sounded sad.
He gave me the envelope and I took it to the postbox at the end of the road.
“Number ten!” he said as I went, and I nodded.
“Number ten.” I kept forgetting which one their house was. All the houses looked the same.
At the end of the street, a granddad was walking along with a kid a bit older than Maisy. The kid was bending down to stroke a cat.
“Puss!” he was saying. “Puss puss puss!”
“Gently,” the granddad was saying. “Don't startle him.”
Why didn't anyone ever love me like that?
The notice on the front of the postbox said the last collection was at 5.45, which meant my letter wouldn't be picked up until tomorrow morning. It would take all day to get to Jim's house, and there was no post on a Sunday. But it would get there on Monday morning. Perhaps I would know what the answer was on Monday afternoon. Perhaps Andy would know when he came to pick me up from school.
“Monday,” I said. I kissed the front of the envelope, for luck, and I pushed it through the letter hole before I could change my mind.
Amelia Dyer was a real person. She was born in 1837 and died in 1896, when she was hanged for murder at the end of a sensational trial. Nobody knows exactly how many people she killed in her long career, but it is estimated to be around four hundred. Some died at birth, delivered in such a way as to look like stillbirths. Some died of diseases relating to malnutrition and neglect while in her care. Others were strangled and dropped into the River Thames. It was partly due to the furore surrounding her trial and others like it that the care system as we know it was created.
Jim's house in
Close Your Pretty Eyes
is fictional, although Amelia Dyer did live in similar places, and moved frequently in her thirty-year career as a baby farmer. There is, however, no evidence that she ever returned to any of them after her death.
This novel had three editors: Marion Lloyd, Alice Swan and Genevieve Herr. You didn't always agree with each other, but between you you all made this a better book. Thank you. Thanks also to my agent, Jodie Marsh, and to everyone at Scholastic for your continued support of my odd book ideas.
Close Your Pretty Eyes
, I read a huge number of blogs and memoirs by adoptive parents, foster carers and foster care survivors. These were too numerous to mention here, but thank you all. Without your honesty and your bravery, this would have been a very different book.
Thanks to my fellow writers in coffee shops, Victoria Van Hyning and Tara Button, and my book-encouragers and moan-listeners, Susie Day, Pita Harris, Jo Cotterill, Frances Hardinge, and all my online writer friends. Thanks to my lovely husband Tom Nicholls, for saying things like, “I don't mind if you don't earn much money,” and “You want that printer fixed right now? Well, all right then.” One day I really will start listening to your accounting advice. Promise.
Last but most definitely not least, thanks to Adele Geras for answering my panicked Twitter request for creepy lullabies with the most perfect of perfect titles. And to Phil Hoggart, who doesn't know it yet, but I stole his TARDIS air freshener to give to Liz. Sorry. I don't think she's going to give it back.
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First published in the UK by Scholastic Ltd, 2013
This electronic edition published by Scholastic Ltd, 2013
Copyright Â© Sally Nicholls, 2013
The right of Sally Nicholls to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her.
eISBN 978 1407 13540 3
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, incidents and dialogues are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.