Today I am taking part in the blog tour and sharing an extract from When We Were Young by Dawn Goodwin, published by Head of Zeus.
Four best friends. One of them is dead. Are their secrets safe?
Uni friends Stacey, Paula, Bev and Valentina used to be inseparable until one weekend before graduation when nothing was ever the same again.
Thirty years later, reunited at Valentina’s funeral, Stacey receives a letter written by her late friend asking for one last wish… that the three friends go back to where things fell apart and finally bury the hatchet.
As they revisit their old haunts of their uni days and follow a series of clues left by Valentina, their friend’s death begins to look suspicious and it is up to them to find out what happened – but they all have secrets to hide.
They say good friends are hard to come by, but when there is so much at stake and someone is lurking in the shadows, how do you know who is a friend and who is a foe?
It was supposed to rain at funerals. Like it did on the television, everyone clad in black, weeping and wailing into a hole in the ground, the sky as sombre as the outfits.
At least that’s what Stacey Maxwell had thought.
But on the Thursday they buried Valentina Mackenzie, the sun was making her squint and the sky was inappropriately blue, not a cloud to be seen.
Of course, choosing an outfit had been difficult. Not least because Valentina wouldn’t have been seen dead in head-to-toe black. Stacey giggled, then clamped her hand over her mouth, even though she was alone, sitting on the edge of her unmade bed, clothes tossed around her, staring out the window at that ridiculously jaunty sky.
She fired off a ‘what are you wearing’ message into the newly formed WhatsApp group, aptly named ‘Val’s funeral’. Bev Powell was admin on the group, naturally. She’d uploaded a photo of the Powerpuff Girls as the group’s icon. It didn’t really fit – they’d never watched the cartoon together and, as far as Stacey was aware, there were three Powerpuffgirls, not four – but maybe Bev was being ironic. She could be obtuse sometimes. Well, she used to be, but Stacey didn’t actually know what she was like now. She hadn’t seen any of them in nearly thirty years. Facebook friends, sure, but not real friends. Not anymore.
Her phone buzzed. Bev’s reply said that she was wearing a black dress. Stacey sighed and grabbed the navy dress that was almost black that she had tossed onto the pile of rejections, all the while feeling strangely traitorous to Valentina, who would’ve at least managed to slip some glitter in somewhere, maybe a spot of leopard print.
Stacey wriggled and contorted herself to get the zip up over her muffin top, then had to bend her arm unnaturally to get it all the way up the back. There was probably a hack for this, designed just for single people. If there wasn’t, there should be.
She stood in front of the full-length mirror impassively, tilting her head this way and that, examining the shapes and angles that had changed so much over the years, the extra flesh that padded out the bones now. What would they think when they saw her? Anxiety sucked the moisture from her mouth. She nearly knocked over one of the many used mugs stashed on her bedside table as she twisted and turned.
Then the doorbell went, announcing the taxi she had booked extravagantly. It was now too late to change.
As the taxi pulled up outside the church, Stacey was regretting her choice of dress even more. The material was too thick and beads of sweat were running relays down her spine. The rolled neckline, combined with the opaque tights that now felt a size too small since the last time she’d worn them, were making her feel claustrophobic. She kept clawing at the neckline in defiance of suffocation. The taxi driver had a strong whiff of sweat about him and was blasting out an inefficient air con that served only to circulate the rancid air around the car. He’d spent most of the twenty-minute journey with earphones in, talking loudly over the radio in a language Stacey didn’t understand. Occasionally he’d bark out a laugh and she’d jump, her nerves on high alert. She stepped out of the taxi in relief, inhaled deeply and tugged at the crotch of her tights where they were pinching.
The irony that she had lived only twenty minutes away from Valentina without knowing it was not lost on Stacey. Three of their group had grown up in and around the village of Shilbottle, known locally as ‘Shitbottle’ after someone graffitied the town sign years ago when she, Bev and Paula were kids. The graffitied sign was still there today, standing proud and still making people snigger. Every time it was replaced by the council, the graffiti came back.
Valentina had been the odd one out, the stranger who had burst into their lives in their last year at university, all bright colours and wild Italian hair. Stacey had spent the years after graduation trying to get as far away from Valentina as possible and yet here she was, twenty minutes down the road after all that.
End of extract
WHEN WE WERE YOUNG BLOG TOUR
Follow the tour along the way for these bloggers thoughts on When We Were Young.
LET’S GET TO KNOW DAWN GOODWIN
Dawn Goodwin’s twenty-year career has spanned PR, advertising and publishing, both in London and Johannesburg. A graduate of the Curtis Brown creative writing school, she loves to write about the personalities hiding behind the masks we wear every day, whether beautiful or ugly.
Now a company director, what spare time she has is spent chasing good intentions, contemplating how to get away with various crimes and misdemeanours, and immersing herself in fictitious worlds. She lives in London with her husband, two teenage daughters and British bulldogs Geoffrey and Luna.
BLOG TOUR ORGANISER
My thanks to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for my spot on this blog tour and for the promotional materials.