Authors: Katie Taylor
Some of the events in this book have been condensed but they are true and I am the teller of my own story. To protect the privacy of others, all names have been changed.
’d like to dedicate this book to the following people, without whom I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Firstly, I’d like to thank my dad for his tender love, care, comfort and guidance – for his loyalty and understanding. You are my friend, my hero, my father.
Also, my love goes to Kate for her warm embrace and support when things became too much to bear. I’m grateful to her for her faith in me and her hope that justice would be done – thanks to her, it was. But, most importantly, I’d like to thank her for her friendship.
I’d also like to dedicate this book to my boyfriend, who showed me what real love is. Not only has he stood by me throughout both good and bad times but he taught me how to laugh and smile again. Thank you for always making me feel so loved, wanted and safe. You are my soul mate.
To my unborn baby. I never knew you but I will never forget you. You are close in my heart every day that I live and breathe.
I think of you always. You are my guardian angel, my beautiful shining star. I’m so sorry I had to let you go. R.I.P my little angel, I love you.
To Veronica Clark, my ghost-writer, for making my dream come true in helping me to write this book. I am grateful to you for your constant encouragement, for believing in me and for always picking me up whenever life got me down.
My gratitude also goes to Allie Collins and all the team at John Blake Publishing for taking my story on and allowing me to tell it in book form. You don’t know how much this means to me.
Most importantly, I’d like to dedicate this book to all those victims who are too afraid to speak out and who suffer in silence. You are not alone because I am with you every step of the way.
lenching my hand into a small fist I reached up to my tip toes and knocked on the door. My brother Andrew momentarily shivered, dressed in his devil’s costume.
‘Trick or treat?’ I asked as a middle-aged woman creaked open her front door.
‘Oh my goodness, you frightened me there for a minute!’ she laughed in mock-surprise, clutching a hand to her chest.
‘Now what have we got here? A devil and a witch?’ she guessed correctly.
I nodded and smiled up at her. I had gaps where my baby teeth had fallen out and new ones were waiting to grow through. I couldn’t get used to them and, whenever I smiled, I had a habit of squishing my tongue between the empty spaces.
The woman chuckled when she saw me. ‘Wait a minute, poppet. I’ll just see what I’ve got inside for you.’
I turned to look at Dad. He was standing underneath the lamppost on the street; his hands plunged deep into the pockets
of his jeans. I could tell he was freezing, but he grinned back all the same and gave me a sly thumbs-up.
Moments later the woman reappeared with a bowl of sweets.
‘Take as many as you want – that’s what they’re there for,’ she insisted.
I grabbed a handful but Andrew cheekily scooped up twice as many as me. I shot him a filthy look.
‘Thank you. Bye!’ we chorused as we turned to walk back up the front path towards Dad. I noticed him shiver in the cold night air.
I shivered myself and pulled my black plastic cape tight around me to try and keep in the warm, but it was no good. It was a freezing cold October night, the coldest Halloween I’d known but also the most successful. My little fingers were tightly entwined around the handles of the plastic carrier bag.
‘Look how many sweets I’ve got,’ I boasted proudly, holding my bag aloft under the amber glow of the street light.
‘I’ve got tons more than you,’ my brother sniffed, ‘’cos you’re only a boring witch and my costume’s loads better than yours!’
I stuck my tongue out at him. We were always like that; we loved one another really but we fought like cat and dog. I stuck my nose in the air as if I didn’t care and continued to walk along the pavement. The night was so bitter that a silvery glaze of frost had already coated the grey path and it sparkled like glitter in the dim light. We’d been trick or treating for the last few hours and the cold, damp air had soaked through the fabric of my flimsy costume, making it feel clammy against my skin.
‘Ready for home yet?’ Dad asked hopefully.
I glanced back down at the carrier bag in my hand. It wasn’t even full, but the bottom bit was swollen with all the sweets it
held inside. There were far too many – more than I could ever hope to eat but then I wondered if more treats lay ahead at the other houses. Part of me wanted to stop and go home but part of me wanted to carry on until the bag was full.
Just then a frosty breeze picked up speed and blew an icy chill down the street. Breath billowed out from my mouth like hot steam and rose up high into the night air. I noticed it and huffed a little harder. I pretended I was a scary dragon, breathing out dampened-down fire. Andrew looked over at me and tutted as if I was silly. Suddenly, I felt it. I wasn’t a dragon, I wasn’t even scary – I was a freezing cold little girl, I was tired and now I wanted to go home.
I stretched up and prodded Dad in the ribs.
‘I’m ready to go,’ I whispered, quietly enough so that my brother wouldn’t hear.
Dad beckoned over to Andrew and told him it was time to go home but he was far from happy.
‘There are loads more houses to go yet,’ he protested, pointing down towards the end of the street, ‘but now we have to turn back because of her. It’s not fair!’
‘Andrew,’ Dad said sternly, ‘stop it!’
Huffing loudly, my brother turned to follow us. I smirked at him. I’d won, for now. We headed back home with Andrew dragging his feet behind us.
The warmth from the central heating hit my face as soon as the front door of the house swung open. Mum was busy in the kitchen. As soon as she heard the door slam shut she stuck her head around the corner to greet us.
‘Well, how did you get on?’ she asked, holding out her arms. I instinctively ran towards her and let her envelope me in a big, warm hug. She’d been cooking and I could smell spaghetti
bolognese as I buried my face into the softness of her cream jumper. Spaghetti bolognese was my favourite tea. I glanced to the side and noticed a pan of thick, red tomato sauce bubbling away furiously on top of the cooker ring.
‘Look,’ I said, opening up the bag. ‘I got loads and loads of sweets – penny chews, refreshers, even chocolate bars!’
‘Wow!’ Mum exclaimed. ‘You
‘How about you Andrew?’ she asked.
We both turned to look at my brother but his face was clouded over. He was still sulking and it was all my fault; I’d cut the evening short because I was cold.
‘I got these,’ he mumbled half-heartedly, showing Mum his bag of sweets, ‘but I’d have got loads more if it wasn’t for
Andrew pointed his finger and pushed it hard into my shoulder.
‘Ouch!’ I whimpered.
‘Hey, stop it you two,’ said Dad, trying to intervene. ‘Anyway, it doesn’t matter because Mum’s got a surprise for you both.’
We stopped in our tracks.
‘What surprise?’ I gasped.
Mum was dishing out huge reams of spaghetti. As she pulled it from the pan it slid down from the spoon onto the plates like worms. She topped off each portion with a dollop of sauce and sprinkling of cheese. Mum wiped her hands against her apron and turned to face us.
‘Tonight you can eat your tea in front of the TV in the living room, because I’ve paid for us to watch a concert on telly.’
‘What concert?’ Andrew asked, his eyes darting over from Mum to me and back again.
‘It’s a band, they’re called Steps,’ she told him, ‘and I think you’re going to love them!’
I shrugged my shoulders; I’d never heard of a band called Steps before.
‘Trust me,’ said Mum. ‘They sing some really good songs, very catchy, and they dance too! They’re really good, Katie, you’ll love them, I promise! Now grab a plate before the food gets cold and let’s go and watch it.’
Minutes later we sat in front of the television as the group walked on stage. Even though there were boys and girls, they all wore the same colours, silver and black. But as soon as they started to sing and dance I could see why my mum had been so excited – they were fantastic!
Before long, I’d left most of my dinner and started munching my way through my spoils from trick or treat but I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. I was mesmerised as Steps sang and danced their way from one song to another.
‘Ooh I love this one, it’s my favourite!’ Mum squealed as she grabbed the remote and turned the volume up so loud it slightly distorted.
The TV blared away with the volume up full blast. I was worried the neighbours might complain but Mum didn’t care. Steps started to sing a song called ‘Tragedy’. As soon as they said the word, the entire crowd on TV erupted in one huge cheer. Mum giggled as she dragged me up from the sofa onto my feet.
‘Come on, Katie, dance with me.’
Soon we began to dance all over the front room with Mum signing in her loudest voice. I kept glancing back at the screen because I wanted to copy what Steps were doing but, however hard I tried, I kept getting the dance moves wrong.
‘Don’t worry,’ Mum said, spinning me around in time with the music. ‘I’ll buy you the video then we can watch it over and over again.’
I giggled as she spun me faster and faster in her arms.
Dad chuckled as we twisted and twirled around the living room carpet. My brother Andrew huffed, rolling his eyes skyward – this definitely wasn’t his idea of fun; it was far too girly. After a while, he stood up and drifted out of the room. Steps might not be his cup of tea but it opened up a whole new world to me. I was only ten years old but I’d just discovered the joy of music.
Within weeks the pretty, girly posters on my bedroom wall had been ripped down and replaced with new ones – posters of Steps. I idolised Claire and wanted to be her. She definitely had the best voice and, in my opinion, she was also the prettiest. H was my favourite boy. He was cool but not too cool; he was blond, friendly and he always smiled. I thought how nice it’d be to be friends with a boy like that.
Soon, I’d bored my best friend Lauren so much with my new-found love of Steps that she went out and bought their CD too. We became their biggest fans and would spend hours in my bedroom practising dance moves from the video Mum had bought me.
A few months later, on Christmas Day, Mum handed me a huge box. Giddy with excitement, I tore off the wrapping paper and gasped when I saw what it was – a karaoke machine.
‘Thanks!’ I said, running over to my parents to give them a hug.
‘That’s not all,’ Dad smirked. He pulled out a much smaller, flatter present from behind his back. He must have been hiding it there all the time.
‘Go on then, love, open it!’ he urged.
I ripped off the paper and turned it over in my hands.
My eyes widened when I saw it – a Steps CD for the karaoke machine.
‘Now you really can be in Steps!’ Dad said and everyone laughed. It was the best day of my life.
Night after night, I played and replayed each song until I’d learned all the songs off by heart. Even though the words flashed up on screen, I didn’t need to look anymore because there were all there imprinted inside my brain. Lauren practised with me and soon we knew every word and Steps dance routine.
Whenever ‘Tragedy’ came on, Lauren and I would jump to our feet. Whatever the song, though, I insisted on being Claire because she always seemed to have the biggest part.
Another little girl called Megan lived across the road and we roped her into being in our pretend Steps group too. We’d start by deciding who would play who and then we’d keep those parts for our entire ‘performance’. But I was always Claire.
‘No, Megan,’ I corrected her one day in my bedroom, ‘You don’t do it like that, you do it like this,’ I said, running through the moves a second time.
‘Oh, okay…’ she sighed, having another go.
‘Much better now, let’s take it from the top,’ I said, clapping my hands as if I ran my own dance studio.
Minutes later, all three of us were standing on my bed looking across the rest of the room. The bed was our stage, we were Steps, my teddies and dolls were the audience and, in our world, they were crying out for more.
At that moment the door swung open. It was Mum; she was holding a fresh pile of folded clothes in her hands.
‘Brilliant!’ she cheered. She shoved the washing underneath one arm and clapped like mad.
As soon as I saw her I flushed bright red. I loved being in Steps and, when I was up on my bed – the stage – I really felt as if I really was in a pop group, but the truth was I didn’t want a real audience. I was happy to perform to thousands in my imaginary world, but I didn’t want to perform in the real one – I was far too shy.
‘You’re getting better and better every day,’ Mum remarked as she closed the bedroom door behind her and went downstairs.
I looked over at Lauren and Megan; their faces were bright red too. We all felt daft and began to giggle. It was embarrassed laughter. I felt silly that we’d been caught playing Steps because that was our world – our safe little world. When I played Claire in Steps, I felt untouchable.
A few months later Mum had a surprise of her own – two tickets for a Steps concert.
‘You wanna come?’ she smiled, knowing full well what my answer would be.
I squealed with delight, wrapped my arms around her neck and planted a warm, sloppy kiss on her cheek.
‘I can’t wait!’ I squealed. ‘It’s like a dream come true!’
Seeing my favourite band felt like the biggest night of my life and, in many ways, it was. If I wasn’t already obsessed with them, after the concert I was ten times worse. I vowed to practise every night until I was as good as my heroes.
Lauren and I even made up our own dance routine to a Steps song called ‘It’s The Way You Make Me Feel’. By now we were so sure of ourselves that I even asked Dad to film us on his video camera. Later that day, he called us down to the living room.
‘Ready?’ he asked, steadying the camera in his right hand.
‘Ready,’ I nodded, signalling to Lauren that I would count us in.
‘One, two, three…’ I mouthed as Dad pressed track number four on my CD player. Within seconds music blared out from the speakers and we danced our way through the song. Afterwards, Dad pressed pause on the camera as we held our positions.
‘Brilliant!’ he cheered. I looked over at Lauren and we started to laugh. It
been brilliant and for the first time we felt it too.
I couldn’t wipe the grin from my face as we rewound the film and watched it through for the first time – now we looked like proper pop stars! No one could touch us. We were protected in a perfect bubble of happiness but, as I was soon to discover, the real world was a much tougher place.