BAD LITTLE GIRL
by Frances Vick
About the book...
‘I’m not safe – you have to help me…’
Little Lorna Bell is from a notorious family on a rundown estate. Everyone thinks she’s a nasty piece of work. The schoolchildren call her a thief. But Lorna’s hair is matted, her shoes pinch her feet and school teacher Claire Penny can’t help herself; some kids just need a bit more support, a bit more love, than the rest.
As the bond between teacher and pupil grows stronger, Claire sees Lorna’s bruises, and digs to uncover the disturbing tale behind them. Heartbroken, Claire knows she has to act. She must make Lorna safe.
Just when Claire thinks she has protected Lorna, a chance encounter brings enigmatic stranger Marianne Cairns into their lives. Marianne seems generous and kind but there is something about her story that doesn’t quite add up. Why does she feel so at home, and why is Lorna suddenly so unsettled?
Claire has risked everything to save Lorna. But what can save Claire from the shocking truth?
An utterly unputdownable and darkly compelling read that will have fans of The Girl on the Train, The Sister, and Gone Girl absolutely hooked.
She had never experienced real darkness, until now.
There was no way to mark the time, and the cold seeped into her bones. Her fingers were numb.
Sometimes she heard things. Once, singing, faint, slow. A sudden, shrill laugh, a door slamming. Her thoughts leaned into one another, whispering; how long would she be here? Did they mean to kill her? There must be something here, something sharp, or rough at least. Something to cut through the plastic around her wrists. She crawled around, searching, in futile circles, but it was so dark, her hands were so cold, her fingers useless. She gave up and curled, crying, on the freezing floor.
Lorna Bell was such a happy little girl with a wide smile. That was the first thing anyone noticed about her if they noticed her at all. She charged around the playground on her stick-thin limbs, and, like all the other children, swarmed into the sudden eddies and drifted out into the hasty tides that lapped into the classrooms when the bell rang. Her classmates hadn’t yet noticed there was anything different about her, nothing unusual; she was just a normal, sweet little girl – friendly, open, confident.
It’s strange how things can change so quickly, and how, once they change, they so rarely go back to the way they were before.
It was Friday Golden Time, the one period in the week when Claire felt able to leave her class in the hands of her enthusiastic but hapless teaching assistant; they couldn’t get into too much of a muddle playing with Lego, and Claire needed a bit of a break, a bit of fresh air. She positioned herself just outside the door, so she could keep an eye on the head teacher’s office. Lorna would be coming out of there soon, and Claire hoped it wouldn’t coincide with hometime – surely the girl had been humiliated enough for one day. To endure the stares and breathless tattle-tale of the playground, to walk, shamefaced and tearful, past sorrowful parents, it was too much, too hard. And she’d started school so well! It had seemed that she would be able to come out from under the shadow of her notorious family. That she would be accepted.
The leaves were just beginning to fall from the plane trees in the housing estate next door. Soon the caretaker would be pushing them into heaped, rotting piles in the corners of the school yard, but now they were crisp, beautiful, and they drifted into swathes of colour, delighting the children. Just last week Claire’s class had made a collage from them – it had pride of place next to the white board. Autumn was her favourite time of year. New possibilities and fresh starts; the soft, contented hum of the children in her class, the odd squeal of delight and excitement. These things calmed her, reassured her that nothing was for ever, and everything could be overcome. And then she heard the office door open, a yelp and a clatter, saw Lorna being dragged across the playground by her mother. Lorna’s cheeks were mottled with cold and tears and her feet in those thin-soled shoes stuttered on the cracked tarmac. She dropped her book bag, and tried to go back for it, but her mother, all Puffa jacket and rage, kept pulling her by the wrist.
‘. . . doing? Fucking hell Lorna?’
‘. . . didn’t know . . .’
‘Course you fucking knew! Knew they weren’t yours, course you did!’ And Claire watched as Lorna made a sudden brave effort to wrench her arm free, and shrieked when the grip was not only maintained, but tightened. Claire’s heart shuddered.
‘I just wanted to share,’ the little girl was saying, ‘I just wanted to share them out.’
‘It’s good to share!’ She raised a hopeful face to her mother. ‘Isn’t it?’
And then the woman’s red, raw hand connected with Lorna’s sallow, curved cheek. Claire heard the sharp slap, saw the palm print appear in a blaze on the child’s face.
About the author...
The only child of parents who worked at a top security psychiatric hospital, Frances grew up receiving disquieting notes and presents from the patients. Expelled from school, she spent the next few years on the dole, augmenting her income by providing security and crewing for gigs, and being a guinea pig for medical trials. Later jobs included working in a theatre in Manhattan, teaching English in Japanese Junior High Schools, and being a life model in Italy, before coming back to London and working with homeless teenagers and refugees.
Connect with the author:
Follow the tour...