Read Gracie Online

Authors: Marie Maxwell

Tags: #Sagas, #Fiction, #General

Gracie

BOOK: Gracie
9.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
GRACIE
Marie Maxwell

To You, the Readers

I have so many supportive and loyal readers both of Marie Maxwell and Bernadine Kennedy and I continue to appreciate every one; I still get a thrill when someone contacts me about a book!

I remember the first ‘fan letter’ I received after my first book was published in 2000; it was hand written on a ‘thank you’ card and forwarded to me from my publisher.

It was so exciting to realize that not only had someone actually read the book, they had also taken the time to write to me about it; reader feedback is so important and I do take note of all the comments.

Nowadays feedback comes through my own website, Amazon and other assorted reader writer websites, but I’m still amazed that readers take the trouble to contact me.

So thank you for supporting me over the years, I hope you enjoy Gracie as much as Ruby. Next will be the story of Maggie who may just turn out to be a bit of a Swinging Sixties rebel!

Bernadine Kennedy

www.bernadinekennedy.com

Table of Contents

Title Page

Dedication

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Read on for an extract from Marie Maxwell’s first novel,
Ruby.

Epilogue

About the Author

By the Same Author

Copyright

About the Publisher

PROLOGUE

‘Hello little one …’ the young woman said quietly as she stared at the baby she was meeting for the first time. ‘I’m your mummy …’

Reaching out her hand, she touched her fingers on the clear wall of the incubator, willing the tiny person inside to know she was there with her and fighting for her. As she spoke the words, she could feel her heart beating so hard inside her chest she thought it might explode with the toxic mixture of love and fear that was racing through her whole body.

‘Touch and go’ was what they had said when they’d grouped around her bed to talk about the health of the child. ‘Touch and go’ – because they simply couldn’t say if the child was going to live or die.

She ran her hands back and forth across the machine that was imprisoning the premature baby in order to save her life and tried not to cry again. It had been nearly forty-eight hours since she had given birth and apart from the fact that her baby was alive she knew nothing, except that it was ‘touch and go.’ Forty-eight long hours, enduring mental anguish and physical pain, before she’d been allowed to make the short journey from the maternity ward to the premature baby unit to see her daughter for the first time.

‘Can I touch her?’ She asked the nurse who was standing behind her with her hands on the wheelchair that was a condition of her visit.

‘I’m sorry my dear but you can’t, not yet.’

‘What do you think? She looks so small …’

‘She is small, but I’ve seen far smaller, that’s for sure. We just have to wait. She’s still with us at the moment and where there’s life, there’s hope.’

The woman continued to stare at the incubator, taking in every detail of her daughter. She was perfect from head to toe and she was certain she was alert and aware, unlike how she had imagined she would be when they had given her the news of her condition.

The tiny baby moved her head and her eyelids flickered.

‘She’s looking at me, I can see her eyes …’ her mother said, her hope rising.

‘I’m sure she is, she senses you’re here,’ the nurse said as she moved around the wheelchair and then turned it slightly. Her expression was serious as she looked down at her patient.

‘Now, I have to talk to you. I don’t want you to get upset again but we think it would be a good idea for her to be baptised. Just in case. Your priest came to visit while you were still groggy from the operation so you may not remember the conversation …’

‘Baptised?’

‘Yes, as I said, just in case. He’ll baptise her as soon as you say the word; I can ring him for you. Have you chosen a name yet?’

‘Yes, but …’

As she tried to interpret the meaning behind the words, the nurse jumped forward and looked closely at the baby in the incubator. The little girl’s chest was heaving up and down as she struggled for breath.

‘I don’t like the look of this, something’s wrong. I’m going to get the doctor …’

With those words, the young nurse was away out of the door.

All that the woman could do was stare at her tiny child in the incubator and pray.

Please don’t let my baby die.

Please don’t take another one away from me …

ONE
New Years’ Eve 1953/1954

The young couple in the middle of the crowded dancefloor clapped and shouted excitedly along with everyone else, as the countdown to New Year was dramatically broadcast across the room by the band leader.

‘… Five, four, three, two, one …’ he bellowed into the microphone and then, as the chimes rang out across the ballroom a loud roar went up, and streamers were thrown out over the heads of the revellers, who all quickly formed into circles, linked hands and started singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

At the height of the excitement, the young man leaned over and spoke to the woman beside him.

‘I can’t hear you …’ she mouthed back before cupping her ear at him. ‘It’s so noisy.’

‘I said, will you marry me?’ he shouted at the top of his voice.

Gracie McCabe stopped still and stared at her boyfriend. ‘Pardon?’

Across the ballroom all the hands dropped as the music stopped and the singing slowly faded away. Some couples fell into each other’s arms and kissed, while others stood awkwardly, not sure what to do at that very special moment.


Last chance, McCabe. Will you marry me
?’ Sean Donnelly repeated as loud as he could, this time with his arms spread wide and a big smile on his face.

‘Oh flipping hell, Sean, I don’t know what to say!’ Gracie McCabe laughed and put her hand up to her mouth.

‘Last chance …’

‘I suppose I might just marry you Sean Donnelly, but you have to do it properly; propose I mean, so as I know you really mean it, that it’s not just the beer talking. You’ve had more than a few tonight!’ she pulled a face and giggled. ‘Mind you I’m not one to talk, I’ve gone a bit overboard on the port and lemon meself.’

Laughing, he grabbed her hand and pulled her through the mass of people, over to the side of the dancefloor where it was less crowded. Turning to face her, Sean went down on one knee and took a red leather ring box out of his jacket pocket. He flipped the lid and held it out to her.

‘Gracie McCabe … for the very last time, will you marry me?’

Caught up in the excitement of the moment, Gracie jumped up and down on the spot. ‘Yes, yes, of course I will, yes …’

He took a delicate diamond ring from the box and slipped it onto her finger.

‘Do you like it?’ he asked.

Gracie held her left hand up in the air and waved it around. ‘Oh Sean, it’s beautiful and it fits just perfect …’

Beaming, she spun round on the spot, making the full skirt of her black and white polka dot frock flare out and show a lot more of her petticoats and legs than she anticipated. Gracie stopped and pulled a face.

‘Oh God, I’m making a fool of myself again … but I love it, Sean, I love it’.

She looked down at the ring and studied it for a moment. It was a classic engagement ring, pretty and dainty with a small diamond mounted high on the shoulders, which were diamond chips set in gold.

‘And I love you,’ he said, as a round of applause broke out around them. ‘Let’s tie the knot as quick as we can, I don’t want us to be having to wait a second longer than we have to. I want us to be married; I want us to be together forever.’

As Sean stood up, she flung her arms around his neck and kissed him.

‘I’m so happy, thanks for asking me, especially tonight. We can start the New Year as a proper engaged couple,’ Gracie said emotionally; she blinked hard as the tears prickled at the back of her eyes.

The band started playing again but the pace of the music had slowed right down, and the atmosphere in the ballroom changed from celebratory to romantic as the Last Waltz was played. Sean took Gracie’s hand and pulled her towards the dancefloor. ‘Come on, we have to dance to this tune and remember it forever. It will be our song, we can play it at our wedding and on our anniversaries …’

The sprung dancefloor moved as a swarm of couples took to the floor for the last dance in the glittering ballroom that was filled to capacity with couples of all ages dressed in their finery for the occasion.

As the lights dimmed and the music of Glenn Miller echoed around the walls Gracie smiled and followed her new fiancé onto the floor. She’d often fantasised about being married and having a home and family of her own. It was what she wanted most, and in one instant it had all become a reality; Gracie McCabe was going to be married. She was to marry Sean Donnelly, the hotel chef she had known and worked with for so long.

She hadn’t initially been that attracted to him, even though she liked him as a friend and occasionally went out with him, but he’d been persistent over the years and slowly but surely he’d grown on her. Gradually, she had become comfortable with him. It had only been in the previous few months that Sean had become more intense and Gracie had started to take him seriously. She could imagine him as a good husband and father, providing well for his family, and that was what she wanted, all she had ever wanted.

Everything that had gone before was suddenly irrelevant. The past that could easily have destroyed her had in fact made her stronger and she was ready to move forward in her life with Sean Donnelly.

Sean had to be at work early the next day, so as soon as the music stopped and the lights went up in the ballroom again they grabbed their coats from the cloakroom and ran out ahead of most of the partygoers. They turned onto the seafront and headed to Thorpe Bay, quickly walking arm-in-arm along to the hotel where Gracie lived and worked. The seafront was quiet and dark bar the moonlight and even though they couldn’t really see it, there was the sound of the high tide lapping up against the tide-line. They talked as they walked and kissed on the doorstep but then Sean turned round and walked back the way they’d just come. He returned to the Palace Hotel at the top of the hill, opposite Southend Pier, where he worked as a chef and also lived-in.

Gracie stood at the gate of the Thamesview Hotel and waved until Sean was out of sight before walking round to the back and quietly letting herself in. Taking the stairs two at a time, she raced up the three flights to the self-contained flat at the top which she shared with her friend Ruby Blakeley, who also owned the hotel. But instead of creeping quietly into her own room as she would usually have done, she flung Ruby’s bedroom door wide open and switched the light on.

‘Ruby, Ruby, wake up and look at this. Look, look, look! Sean proposed to me tonight, properly proposed. Look at my engagement ring, Ruby. I’m going to be married at bloody long last! I’m not going to stay sitting on that sodding shelf forever …’

BOOK: Gracie
9.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Home is Where You Are by Marie, Tessa
Enslaved by Elisabeth Naughton
Guardian's Hope by Jacqueline Rhoades
Dog Boy by Eva Hornung
Eight for Eternity by Mary Reed, Eric Mayer