Login   Sign Up 


Sample of latest Novel ` Fermenting Anger`

by janebowyer 

Posted: 20 March 2007
Word Count: 1734
Summary: “I didn’t ask to be a statistic of an unhappy childhood.” Gemma Baker grows up rich in North London. She should be happy, but her neurotic mother and overbearing stepfather nearly push her over the edge. The only person who has ever understood is her brother David. And he's been sent away because she couldn't tell the truth. Is there any hope for Gemma, who seems to stagger her way through life without direction or meaning?

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.


It wasn’t as if what happened was something that I ever had control over. I didn’t ask to be a statistic of an unhappy childhood. Well if I am to be honest with you that is not entirely true, for even as a child I could have spoken up and shouted the truth for the whole world to hear, but instead I kept it quiet, hoping that it would somehow disappear, but we all know that if you ignore a hole for long enough it eventually turns into a pit.
I wish I had told the truth- I really do, but somehow I just never found the right moment and words with which to say it.
Perhaps a letter would have worked; scribbling the dirty deed in blue ink for the whole world to see. But how would I have started it? How could I have even begun?
Imagine if she hadn’t believed me and had chosen her jet set lifestyle over motherhood? Where would that have left me and my brother David? Better still what if she had believed me, would David have never been sent away and would we all be living happily?
Don’t worry, though, for I have been punished for my feebleness and carried what happened like a leech that doesn’t want to let go. I still get panicky every time I see a documentary or child line advert, in the company of others; worried that somehow, somewhere, someone else might know.
To protect myself I have gone through my life wearing my heart behind a barbed wire wall. I could have opened up to Jake on the very day we first met, told him that his face brought pure sunshine into my sparse, meaningless world (and that every time I smell his aftershave I am reminded of him), but instead I made him play my games.
I existed as if I was a mannequin; like I was a different person viewing my days as if they weren’t mine- like I was watching a movie starring some pathetic, desperate girl. I wasn’t Gemma Baker any more and therefore not accountable for what happened to her or for how she lived, apart from when it suited me of course.

At least I can admit this all now, as I’m not such a wimp. I’ve come to realise over time that my story isn’t just about my unhappy childhood but more about the happiness I had chosen to deny myself until something had to change.

Islington 1985 spring time

’Crumpets are ready. Pass your plates will you.’ Mother’s voice is different on a Saturday: it’s slow like molasses instead of her normal out of control pace. She works hard, my mother; we’ve got a big house to prove it. ’Papa don’t preach, I’m in trouble deep,’ she sings, like a fallen angel, slapping crumpets onto our plates as she adjusts her hair.
Don’t get me started on her hair. It’s as high as the Eiffel tower and a plane could take off from her shoulder pads. Her singing is almost as annoying as the DJ talking over my favorite song.
’Don’t give up the day job, mother, you really can’t sing!’ I shout.
David always sits next to me, eating like an animal, dunking toast soldiers so deep into his egg that the table rocks and yolk explodes over the shell, crystallizing onto his fingers. A bit like dried snot! Yuck!
’And why are you screwing your face up, madam? My mother asks. ’Don’t you know if the wind changes you’ll be stuck like that?’
I’ve screwed my face up hundreds of times before and it’s always gone back to normal. My mother is a liar.
’Mum, he repulses me. The way he eats makes me feel sick!’ I sound like a snob but I’m not, mother won’t let me. I get less pocket money than my school friends. Mother thinks we need to make our own way in the world, whatever that means.
’Don’t be silly, Gemma, leave him alone, will you.’
’But Mum!’
’Drop it, Gemma.’ A smirk smacks across his face and he kicks me hard on the leg, pulling my hair so hard that my eyes water. The insolent little bastard, he thinks he’s great now.
’David, stop it, will you!’ He’s been caught. ’Now, can I trust you two to share these crumpets nicely like brother and sister while I make a phone call?’ Mum’s skin is the colour of milky coffee and she smells of strawberries and cream as she leans over me.
’They’re all mine, Gemma. If you squeal I’ll break your fucking nose!’ Snot-laced fingers grab the majority of the crumpets and suddenly I have lost my appetite. You see, with David, you can’t push him too far. He has a reputation; one that was gained by his actions and not exaggerated whispers. No, David has changed a lot in the last six months. He’ll beat the shit out of anyone who gets close enough for him to do so. His curly, brown hair and divine features can be a trick to the observer, leading many into a false sense of security. Gerry says that David has a demon in him and if you look deep enough into those watery, blue eyes, the devil will grin right back at you. I’ve looked into them before but I have never seen a devil.
’What you got, David?’ I ask, as David empties something out of his pocket.
’Nothing.’ He winks,
’Really? It doesn’t look like nothing from here!’
’You never learn, do you, girl? That mouth of yours works in reverse, Gemma.’ He drops something in the palm of my hand.
’What do you mean?’ I say. ’Shit, it’s a fifty pound note!’
’I mean, when you should be speaking up you don’t, and when you shouldn’t, you do.’
I’m not really listening. I’m imagining myself in the paper shop making grumpy old Mrs. Wash get me fifty quid’s worth of milk bottles and custard and creams. That would really piss her off, having to count them out like that. The greedy bitch would, as well.
’Where did you get it, David?’
’I found it. There’s something we have to talk about, Gemma. I need to ask you something about Gerry.’
’Right, of course you did.’ I carry on ignoring his questions as I adjust my ponytail.
’Shut up, will you, and stick it in ya pocket, I can hear her coming back!’ David kicks me again, but I deserve it.
We’re sitting like a couple of grinning cats as she floats through the door. She looks unhappy, a bit edgy. I’m told to go and get dressed, to leave her and David to talk like adults. ’Hurry up, Gemma. Take your tea with you. You can get ready in my room.’
’Where’s Gerry?’ I ask, as my foot starts to shake, really shake.
’Oh, he had to go out early, had something to do. He won’t be back all day now.’ She looks back at me as if I have two noses or something. The foot settles down.
’Ever wondered why she is asking, Mother?’ David pipes up ’Ever crossed your pickled old brain has it?’
I wish he would shut up. He doesn’t have a clue.
’What on earth are you on about, boy?’ Mother glares at both of us. I can’t look at her.
’You tell me, mother. You tell me!’ He knocks the breakfast table, a cup smashes, it’s my cup but I don’t care.
’Go to my room, Gemma,’ she demands ’Now!’
I’m gone like a whippet, stamping my feet hard once I’m sure that I’ve cleared slapping distance, but my shoeless feet have little effect on the tiled floors.
’Witch.’ I mutter. But my voice is lost in the landing.
In the past, I’ve jumped at any chance of visiting her room; entrance is normally by invitation only, but since Gerry spends half his life in there, I’ve taken to avoiding it as much as I can. Today, I want to be downstairs with the adults. Tough! Nothing is fair when you are eleven and half years old.
Mother’s room is the whole of the top floor of our house. To get to it you have to climb a spiral staircase, open a huge, oak door, and know her personal alarm code.
Obstacles that would normally put off any un-invited guests, but today I am special, I am allowed into her palace. And what a palace it is. Rows of bags, shoes and a whole treasure chest of jewelry! Things she wouldn’t want touched. Tough.
My nightdress has jam down it and carries the faint smell of sweat. I’m cold, even though it’s spring and the heating still on. I just can’t stop shaking, so I climb into my favorite parachute trousers. They have fluorescent patterns on the pockets and normally she won’t let me wear them unless there is a party but she has them in her wardrobe.
Arguments bounce up the stairs.
’David, this is the reason why it has to be this way. God knows I’ve tried but when you speak to me like this, what else can I do?’
’Shut up, Mother. I don’t care. I want to go!’ he spits.
Her footsteps grow closer. She’s coming in here. She’s angry, so I hide underneath the bed. I watch her. She doesn’t look for me, doesn’t look at anything, but pulls down one of her three camel suitcases. The middle sized one, with the Italy stickers on it. Then leaves as quickly as she came, only stopping to kick her feathered slippers off. They become my princess shoes and I balance her diamond necklace on my forehead. I’m a beautiful queen today, even with my hair; hosting a ball for the King of Mars. We waltz around my glittering ballroom lost in the music. I’m suspended in love. Not for long though.
’Gemma! Will you answer that door!’ She screams and my dance is brought to a dramatic halt. I fall off her heels, smacking my mouth hard on her table. A hard lump cascades from my jaws. My tooth. It bounces across Mother’s Persian cream rug, leaving snail trails of blood everywhere.
’Going!’ I scream back, blood falling from my face onto the beautiful trousers as I run down the stairs.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

Luisa at 12:52 on 22 March 2007  Report this post
Hi and welcome to the site and the group!

I enjoyed reading your excerpt and I particularly liked the way you brought the family scene to life with snappy dialogue and sparing but evocative description. The main character's voice is strong.

I wasn't too sure whether you needed the prologue - I wasn't sure what it added, and I felt it maybe gave too much away in the final sentence. But I have never been a fan of prologues and I tend to skip them when I'm reading, so this is probably a personal thing.

I hope you enjoy WriteWords.


Lammi at 16:42 on 26 March 2007  Report this post
I agree with Luisa about the prologue. The blurb on the book's cover will almos certainly give your readers the appropriate emotional frame, and the lines you want to keep could be fed in elsewhere. Don't give your reader everything at once: let the reader discover these things for him/herself.

I thought you conveyed the atmosphere in the house well and there were some good lines, eg the one about the devil in David's eyes and 'I've cleared slapping distance.' 'Arguments bounce up the stairs' is another one, and 'I'm suspended in love.' As an opening, this scene's quite dynamic and hooky.

Tweaks: you have to pay to quote even fragments of pop songs, so I'd stop after 'preach' (unless you want to give Madonna a stack of cash). Titles are ok to quote.

Try: 'What have you got, David?' I ask as he empties...

No need, I'd have thought, for a new paragraph after 'alarm code.'

Try rendering 'She doesn't look for me...slippers off' as one sentence. It seems a bit chopped up as it is.

Lower case S for 'she screams'?

'Cascades' seems the wrong verb, suggesting a continuous stream. I also wasn't sure about the snail trails comparison, because a snail trail is regular in thickness whereas these are irregular smears or drops of blood.

Account Closed at 21:26 on 27 March 2007  Report this post
Eek, her tooth!!!! I enjoyed this very much as well, afraid I agree on the prologue, don't think it added anything to what I was reading, I think you should cut it and just get into the story.

Very promising stuff, hope you'll join us permanently and get posting some more!


kezza at 13:08 on 29 March 2007  Report this post
Welcome to the group - hope you like it here! :)

I enjoyed reading this, although I'm afraid I agree about the prologue. Your mc has a really strong voice and there are some lovely details (I particularly liked "My nightdress has jam down it and carries the faint smell of sweat.")

Just a couple of things:

I could have opened up to Jake on the very day we first met, told him that his face brought pure sunshine into my sparse, meaningless world (and that every time I smell his aftershave I am reminded of him), but instead I made him play my games.
I liked the first part of this, but I thought the aftershave comment was a bit prosaic and doesn't really add anything.

David always sits next to me, eating like an animal, dunking toast soldiers so deep into his egg that the table rocks and yolk explodes over the shell, crystallizing onto his fingers. A bit like dried snot! Yuck!
Love the (revolting!) imagery here, but think it would be stronger as "crystallizing onto his fingers like dried snot". Although your mc's only 11 so maybe not.

Anyway, really enjoyed this and I'm looking forward to reading more.

Keris x

Nikkip at 06:46 on 03 April 2007  Report this post
Welcome to the group.

I agree with the others about the prolouge - you don't need to give all the info now -let the book tell the story.

I really enjoyed the scene between your kids and their mum, I really got the feeling that David's a nasty little boy and your MC is a bit of a dreamer (and mum just wants them both out of her hair).


ang at 07:41 on 17 April 2007  Report this post
Hi Jane,
Hate to disagree with the crowd, but I liked the preface. I felt it put the childhood scenes into perspective otherwise I'd be sat there wondering why you were telling all of it.
But that's just my humble opinion!
I love the way you really feel as though your transported back to her childhood as well.
Angela :)

To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .