Read Queen of the Mersey Online
Authors: Maureen Lee
Tags: #Thrillers, #Fiction, #War & Military
Whats happened? she gasped. It would appear a miracle had occurred overnight.
We sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar while you were asleep, Theo said gleefully. Were in the Mediterranean. Oh, Queenie! He took her in his arms.
I know youve hated every minute so far, even though you didnt say a word.
Next time we come, well fly halfway and youll never have to make that terrible journey again. Now, do you feel like a hearty breakfast?
Yes! she breathed. Afterwards, shed put on her shorts and sunbathe.
That night in the lounge, she and Theo drank champagne and danced to Frank Sinatra records. It was turning out to be the holiday of a lifetime, after all.
Maureen Lees award-winning novels have earned her many fans. Her recent novel, The Leaving of Liverpool, was a Sunday Times top 10 bestseller. Maureen was born in Bootle and now lives in Colchester. Find out more at: www.maureenlee.co.uk.
Have you read them all?
Curl up with a
Lizzie OBrien escapes her dark Liverpool childhood when she runs away to London towards freedom and a new life. But the past is catching up with her, threatening to destroy her dreams …
LIGHTS OUT LIVERPOOL
Theres a party on Pearl Street, but a shadow hangs over the festivities: Britain is on the brink of war. The community must face hardship and heartbreak with courage and humour.
PUT OUT THE FIRES
1940 the cruellest year of war for Britains civilians. In Pearl Street, near Liverpools docks, families struggle to cope the best they can.
THROUGH THE STORM
War has taken a terrible toll on Pearl Street, and changed the lives of all who live there. The German bombers have left rubble in their wake and everyone pulls together to come to terms with the loss of loved ones.
Just as Annie Harrison settles down to marriage and motherhood, fate deals an unexpected blow. As she struggles to cope, a chance meeting leads to events she has no control over. Could this be Annies shot at happiness?
DANCING IN THE DARK
When Millie Cameron is asked to sort through her late aunts possessions, she finds buried among the photographs, letters and newspaper clippings, a shocking secret …
THE GIRL FROM BAREFOOT HOUSE
War tears Josie Flynn from all she knows. Life takes her to Barefoot House as the companion of an elderly woman, and to New York with a new love. But shes soon back in Liverpool, and embarks upon an unlikely career …
LACEYS OF LIVERPOOL
Sisters-in-law Alice and Cora Lacey both give birth to boys on one chaotic night in 1940. But Coras jealousy and resentment prompt her to commit a terrible act with devastating consequences …
THE HOUSE BY PRINCES PARK
Ruby OHagans life is transformed when shes asked to look after a large house.
It becomes a refuge not just for Ruby and her family, but for many others, as loves, triumphs, sorrows and friendships are played out.
LIME STREET BLUES
1960s Liverpool, and three families are linked by music. The girls form a successful group, only to split up soon after: Rita to find success as a singer; Marcia to become a mother; and Jeannie to deceive her husband, with far-reaching consequences …
QUEEN OF THE MERSEY
Queenie Todd is evacuated to a small town on the Welsh coast with two others when the war begins. At first, the girls have a wonderful time until something happens, so terrifying, that it will haunt them for the rest of their lives . .
THE OLD HOUSE ON THE CORNER
Victoria lives in the old house on the corner. When the land is sold, she finds herself surrounded by new properties. Soon Victoria is drawn into the lives of her neighbours their loves, lies and secrets.
THE SEPTEMBER GIRLS
Cara and Sybil are both born in the same house on one rainy September night.
Years later, at the outbreak of war, they are thrown together when they enlist and are stationed in Malta. Its a time of live-changing repercussions for them both …
KITTY AND HER SISTERS
Kitty McCarthy wants a life less ordinary she doesnt want to get married and raise children in Liverpool like her sisters. An impetuous decision and a chance meeting twenty years later are to have momentous repercussions that will stay with her for ever …
THE LEAVING OF LIVERPOOL
Escaping their abusive home in Ireland, sisters Mollie and Annemarie head to Liverpool and a ship bound for New York. But fate deals a cruel blow and they are separated. Soon, World War II looms with surprising consequences for the sisters.
MOTHER OF PEARL
Amy Curran was sent to prison for killing her husband. Twenty years later, shes released and reunited with her daughter, Pearl. But Amy is hiding a terrible secret a tragedy that could tear the family apart …
Queen of the Mersey
AN ORION EBOOK
First published in Great Britain in 2003 by Orion Books.
This ebook first published in 2010 by Orion Books.
Copyright Š Maureen Lee 2003
The right of Maureen Lee to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the copyright, designs and patents act 1988.
All characters and events in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
ISBN: 978 1 4091 3230 1
This ebook produced by Jouve, France
The Orion Publishing Group Ltd
5 Upper St Martins Lane
London WC2H 9EA
An Hachette UK Company
For my agent, Juliet Burton, with love.
About the Author
What are you doing here? Vera Monaghan enquired.
I live here, Mam, Mary replied, grinning. It was a game they sometimes played.
Well, Ive never seen you before. When did you arrive?
Five years ago last week, Mary said promptly.
Ah, I remember now! Youre me little girl. Whats your name? I cant rightly recall.
So it is. You know, Mary, sometimes I cant believe youre real.
Mary pinched herself. It hurt. I am, Mam. Honest.
Come and give your mam a hug so shell know youre really real. Vera threw her fat body into a chair and held out her arms.
Mary scrambled from under the table where shed been tying knots in the fringe of the chenille cloth, sat on her mothers knee, and showered the beloved red face with kisses. Dyou believe Im real now, Mam?
I do, I truly do. Youre me little angel, the best surprise a woman could ever have had.
And a man, Mary reminded her, thinking of her dad.
And a man, Vera agreed.
Mary had arrived, quite unexpectedly, when her mother was forty-seven and already had eight children, all of them boys, the youngest seven and the eldest almost twenty-one. She had thought her childbearing days were long over and Mary had taken her and Albert entirely by surprise. The lads had considered the whole thing hilarious. They hadnt realised people as ancient as their mam and dad still indulged in a bit of nooky, and if ever a boy woke in the dead of night when the old folk were in bed, he would listen hard, just in case they were at it again.
When Mary was brought home from the maternity hospital, the entire family stood around the cot, staring down at the tiny baby. They had a girl!
Girls dont have willies, remarked Tommy, nine. How will she wee, Mam, without a willy?
Shell find a way, his mother assured him.
Shes pretty, said Caradoc, the youngest.
You were all pretty when you were babies. Vera looked at her eight big lads whom she loved with all her heart and found this hard to believe. Dick, the eldest, was six feet two and excessively hairy.
I wasnt pretty, growled Victor, aged twelve.
Oh, all right, so you werent. Anything for a quiet life, she thought, although Victor, with his long dark lashes and rosy cheeks, had been the prettiest of the lot.
Weve got a sister, Dick said in awe.
Ive got a daughter, Albert Monaghan said in much the same tone.
Mary became their pet, better any day than a kitten or a puppy. The younger boys brought their paintings home from school to show their sister and were hurt when she tore them to pieces with a delighted shriek.
She doesnt understand great art, their mother told them. Not yet.
The four older boys were working. On Friday, pay day, they would buy Mary sweets or chocolate, sometimes a toy. Once, Mrs Monaghan found her two-year-old daughters mouth stuffed with bubble gum that took a good ten minutes to remove.
Shes getting spoilt rotten, Vera, Albert would say fondly, though he was the worst of the lot. Mary had more dolls than she had brothers.
Too much love never hurt anyone, his wife would reply.
They were a contented couple, the Monaghans, happy with each other, loving their children, and Mary had been the icing on the cake. Vera had once been pretty herself, but bearing nine children had created havoc with the body that had once been described as a figure eight and now resembled a great big nought.
Everythings collapsed, she would tell people dramatically. Me breasts, me tubes, me womb. Everything.
Her shape hadnt been helped by her diet during the early years of marriage, long before any of the boys had gone to work, and money had been short. Albert didnt earn much as a tram conductor and there were a lot of mouths to feed.
Often, the family would sit down to a plate of scouse, sometimes blind, if meat couldnt be afforded, while Vera sat down to nothing at all.
I had mine earlier, she would explain when her husband wanted to know why she wasnt eating. All shed had was a couple of slices of bread dipped in the scouse pan.
Albert believed her because she was putting on weight, not losing it. Vera ate bread like there was no tomorrow. She particularly enjoyed it fried. It reminded her of what a proper meal would taste like.
Then Dick had started working, followed shortly afterwards by George, then Frank, Billy, Victor, Charlie and Tommy until, by the time Mary was five, there was only Caradoc still at school. Money wasnt exactly rolling in, but they were flush compared to the old days. Yet still Vera couldnt keep off the bread.
Shed grown used to it. Anyroad, people said it was the staff of life. Her excess flesh was soft and doughy and Mary liked to poke it with her finger and watch it slowly rise back up.
She did so now, sitting on her mothers knee, then examined the red, shrivelled elbows that always fascinated her.
Why arent mine like that? she wanted to know.
Ive told you before. Cos youre not fifty-two, thats why. Now that weve established who you are and what youre doing here, are you going to stay on me knee all day?
If you like.
What Id like, Vera said, trying to sound stern, is for you to untie the knots youve made in the fringe of me bezzie tablecloth. Ive only just noticed and it looks dead peculiar. That cloth was a wedding present off your Auntie Dolly.
All right, Mam, Mary said equably. She slipped off the soft, cushiony knee, and was under the table, undoing her mornings work, when there was a knock on the door.
Who on earth can that be! her mother exclaimed when she went to answer it. It must be a stranger, because the front door was wide open. Everyone they knew would have walked straight in.
Mary heard a voice babbling hysterically and a few minutes later, her mother returned with a girl about her own age.