Blog Tour - Bourbon Creams and Tattered Dreams by Mary Gibson


Bourbon Creams and Tattered Dreams
By Mary Gibson
Publication Date: 12th January 2017
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 426
Genre: Historical, Drama, Fiction
Format: Hardback
Source: Publisher


Amazon UK / Amazon US



Frank Rossi promised Matty the world. The Cockney Canary would become a world famous movie star. As his wife, she would be one half of a power couple, feted and adored by all.
But the Wall Street crash puts paid to that and as Frank becomes more violent and unstable, Matty knows she must escape and so she flees at dead of night.Once home in Bermondsey, she goes into hiding and starts desperately looking for work. But only the hated biscuit factory, Peek Frean's, is hiring. 
Then, as a secret from her past comes back to hurt her, Matty learns that Frank is on the move, determined to find her and get her back.
My Review 

Matty Gilbie has a heart and soul for singing, so much so people dubbed her as 'The Cockney Canary' life was going good, especially when she got a big chance to go to America although that is where things started to go wrong for her. Frank Rossi would be anyone's dream man on the outside, then again that is until you know him. As when you know him, you will want to run in the opposite direction, which is what Matty does. 
Arriving back in her hometown of Bermondsey, she is broken and a shell of herself, unsure of herself and what people will think of her now that she is back. Hiding away in one of her safe haven's she has time to think and recover from the events that transpired. Seeing her family again is just what she need and she soon starts to feel a bit better, but is still looking over her shoulder waiting for the other shoe to drop. 
Wanting to put her life back together, Matty knows she is going to have to take any job that pays a decent wage, as she is going to have to pay Frank money so that he will stay out of her life for good. Singing is mostly all she knows but as people haven't got money and not willing to pay money to see someone perform when they need to feed themselves, Matty decides that maybe she needs to think of a more long term option. 
The start of the the book shatters your heart when you realise what Matty has been through but as I read on, I felt more and more that she went from strength to strength. Not all of her story is happy, but she seems to take the heartache and puts it towards making something of herself so she can finally be free of her past and focus on her future. 
I would have to say my favourite character would be Nellie, I love her take no crap type of attitude. She is good not just for Sam but for the whole family, she is the glue that keeps the family together as they go through some big changes and some devastating news that affects everyone in the Gilbie family. 
Bourbon Creams and Tattered Dreams (Love the name!) is a heartfelt story about following your dreams, giving it your all and what happens when it all comes apart. I couldn't recommend this book enough, to me it is beautifully written and told throughout the book, making me wish that it would never end. 

Three Words
Amazing, Heartfelt and Moving. 

My Rating

Extract

No Place Like Home

 June–July 1930
 Matty was nervous. She dreaded her brother Sam’s disappointment more than anything. She suspected he would see through the charade of her success where Eliza had not. She’d never worried about disappointing her sister. ‘Are you coming with me to Sam’s?’ Matty asked her the following day, hoping she would say yes. Eliza’s presence might at least deflect some of Sam’s questions. ‘I wouldn’t miss the look on his face when he sees you!’ Eliza replied. ‘He shouldn’t be surprised – I sent a telegram saying I’d be there this afternoon.’ ‘Not surprised. I meant he’ll be so pleased. He’s missed you, Matty.’ But Matty didn’t have to be told that. He’d never wanted her to go to America, but her brother’s letters had been regular and affectionate. 
Now she was regretting that her replies had been so infrequent. She told herself there’d been good reasons: first she’d been taken up with work, and later she simply couldn’t bear to fill her letters with lies about her life with Frank. But Sam had deserved better from her. They walked to Sam’s and on the way Matty was assaulted by her past, the myriad smells of Bermondsey conjuring up her life with Sam and Nellie in Vauban Street and her stint as a factory girl. How could she have forgotten the overpowering scent of strawberries wafting from Lipton’s jam factory or the sickly vanilla of Pearce Duff’s custard? 
Matty glanced up at a row of tall windows. ‘God, look at that custard powder still on the sills, Eliza! I swear it’s four inches deeper than when I was last here… I don’t know how Nellie stands it.’ ‘Oh, Nellie’s not on the factory floor any more, didn’t you know? She’s cleaning the offices now – part-time. It’s easier with the boys.’ Matty felt guilty that she didn’t know this small but important detail about Nellie’s work. Once their lives had been as intertwined as mother and daughter. She should have known. But achieving her own heart’s desire had resulted in casualties. Going to America had meant walking away from her friends, her family, and abandoning Tom, the man who’d wanted to marry her. 
Not for the first time, she rued the day she’d ever persuaded herself to leave. Yet she knew she could have done nothing else. ‘Ah, home sweet home! Can’t beat that old boneyard smell, can you!’ Matty took an exaggerated breath of the smells from Young’s glue factory. Its two tall brick chimneys loomed up at the end of Vauban Street. They belched smoke that billowed between the rows of crumbling terraced houses. She was only partly joking, for in spite of the smells and dirt from the surrounding factories it had been a sweet home that Nellie Clark had made for her and her brother Charlie after their mother died. 
Eliza pointed up to a huge hoarding on the side wall of a grocer’s shop on the corner. A man on a ladder was in the process of removing the old poster in readiness to put up a new one. Although half of it had already been scraped away, Matty recognized it immediately. ‘Oh dear God, I don’t believe it!’ Matty tipped back her head. There was her own face, looking back at her, sad and haunted, haloed in the glow from a gas lamp, against a backdrop of a foggy London scene. In the other corner a villainous-looking man with a long chin and slicked-back hair looked at her lasciviously. 
Hear the Cockney Canary Sing! was emblazoned over the top of the film title London Affair. ‘Well, I’m glad you got to see it,’ Eliza said. ‘It’s been up there for months. The boys have been so proud. When they showed the film here the queue went all the way round the Star and back up almost to Dockhead!’ Matty clapped her hands in involuntary delight. ‘Oh, I wish I could have seen that, Eliza! It would have meant more to me than any New York showing.’ And suddenly she was surrounded by a crowd of excited children. 
‘That’s my aunt! She’s famous, she’s American!’ She heard her nine-year-old nephew, Billy, before she saw him, running towards her, followed by his two younger brothers. She was glad she’d defied the smutty air of Bermondsey and worn her pale pink, shawl-collared coat, with matching kid gloves and shoes. The outfit might be more fitting to the sun-washed streets of Los Angeles, but she drew herself up, ready to be Matty on the stage, just for Billy.
 A woman poked her head out of the nearest window to see what all the commotion was about and soon neighbours were standing at their doors. ‘Giss a song, Matty!’ a young fellow trundling a handcart full of vegetables from the greengrocer on the corner called out to her. She laughed and caught up a cabbage, holding it in front of her, like a bouquet, then did a twirl to show off her costume and sang a snatch of ‘Why am I always the bridesmaid, never the blushing bride?’ which elicited a cheer from the little crowd. Billy dragged her to the nearest open front door and into the beloved old house.
 ‘I’ve a good mind to tan your hide, Matty Gilbie, how was I meant to put on a spread with one day’s notice!’ Nellie pulled her into a strong embrace. Her boys, Billy, Sammy and Albie, were ranged for inspection, neat in grey shorts and white shirts. Poor Nellie must have had a morning of it trying to keep them clean and off the street. 
They broke ranks and gathered round as Matty dug into her bag, drawing out her gifts, model cars that brought cries of joyful recognition. ‘A Cadillac, a Bugatti, a Chrysler!’ ‘Come on now, boys, give Auntie Matty a bit of room.’ Albie, the youngest, threatened to be swallowed up in the depths of her bag, looking for more, and Nellie pulled him out. ‘Sorry, Matty, they’re just over-excited. We all are.’ Nellie showed her to the kitchen table, which in spite of the short notice, she’d managed to load with sandwiches and cake and trifle – no doubt courtesy of Pearce Duff’s jelly and custard departments. 
‘Where’s Sam?’ Matty asked, puzzled that her brother hadn’t rushed to greet her with the rest of the family. ‘Oh, I think he’s just having a smoke in the backyard, I’ll go and get him.’ She saw a look pass between Nellie and Eliza and immediately felt excluded from an inner circle that she’d once taken for granted. ‘No, I’ll go,’ she said, and slipped past Nellie into the backyard. Her brother was standing with his back to her, a cigarette held between finger and thumb. She doubted that he hadn’t heard the commotion of her arrival. 
‘Sam?’ He took a long drag on the cigarette and for a moment she thought he wasn’t going to turn round. Then he faced her. His weather-bronzed face looked older and there was more grey in his dark hair, but it was his dark eyes that she searched for the signs of forgiveness. ‘Hello, stranger,’ he said, flicking the cigarette to the ground. How could Eliza have pretended he would be pleased to see her? He didn’t seem pleased at all. Then she ran to him and flung her arms around his neck. ‘I’m sorry I didn’t write much!’ she blurted out, refusing to let go as he tried to unpeel her arms. ‘Well, it’s like Mum used to say, I suppose, “out of sight, out of mind”.’ Now she was sure she’d hurt him. ‘Never out of mind, Sam.’ He shrugged. ‘Nellie’s had to rush round getting a tea together.’ She couldn’t bear this coolness from her once adoring brother.
 If he knew, she told herself, why there had been no notice, why there had been so few letters, he wouldn’t be so hard. But they were the last excuses she would use to defend herself. ‘I’ve not had an easy time of it lately. I just needed to get home.’ At the sight of her tears, Sam’s eyes softened and she felt strong arms enfold her. 
‘Well, I’m happy our little canary’s come back to us,’ he whispered into her hair. And when he used the phrase, it had nothing to do with the six-foot poster at the end of the street. It was just her old family nickname, earned when she’d sung from morning till night just because it was as natural to her as breathing. After tea the boys were allowed out into the streets with their cars and as Nellie cleared the tea things, Matty offered to help wash up. ‘No, you won’t, you’re the guest of honour. Eliza will help me.’ 
Both Matty and Eliza knew when not to argue with Nellie and her sister followed meekly into the scullery, leaving Matty alone with Sam, who silently rolled another cigarette. She stood at the kitchen window, looking along the row of houses where roofs dipped at drunken angles and fences were rotting. She was still feeling a little awkward, even though she knew she’d been forgiven. Sam followed her gaze. ‘The council are talking about pulling the whole lot down and building flats here.’ He plucked strands of tobacco from the roll-up. 
‘Not a moment too soon, it’s driving poor Nellie up the wall. The place is crumbling with damp and the rats are coming in from the boneyard. We’re up half the night making sure they don’t go on the boys’ beds.’ ‘Oh, Sam, I didn’t know it had got that bad. But where will you go?’ ‘We’re down for a council flat, in The Grange – you know, by the leather factories. Just hope they finish building them soon.’ Matty felt a familiar guilt. 
She had planned to come back a rich woman, able to buy Sam and his family a semi in a nice suburb rather than a council flat opposite some of the smelliest factories in Bermondsey. ‘I wish I could do more,’ she said lamely and saw Sam bristle. ‘My family’s not your responsibility, Matty. Besides, the new job at the Bricklayer’s Arms pays better money than I’ve had all me life.’ Sam drove a horse and cart, working out of the huge railway depot up by Old Kent Road; it had been a step up from working for Wicks, the local carter, and the extra wages would at least mean he could afford the rent on the new council flat. 
‘You’ve done enough for me, Sam, over the years.’ She went and sat on the arm of his chair, draping her arm round his shoulders as he smoked silently for a while. ‘I’ve only ever been glad for your success, duck. I’m sorry about before. You mustn’t feel you owe us anything.’ It was going to be now or never; she just had to be brave. ‘Sam, I’ve got something to tell you.’ ‘What’s that?’ He put out his cigarette between his finger and thumb, saving some for later, and looked at her expectantly. ‘I’m thinking of making it a longer stay, perhaps try to get a run in the West End, what do you think?’ Eliza and Nellie came back just in time to overhear her question.
 ‘Ah, I knew there was something!’ Eliza declared, smiling triumphantly first at Sam then at Nellie. ‘She’s been homesick. I feared as much. But, Matty – a London show? What would happen to your screen career – aren’t these things all a matter of timing?’ Matty would rather have explained things to Sam first, but now she went on. ‘I can’t pretend I haven’t been homesick. I’ve missed you all, and I’ve missed the London stage, my home crowd… you know.’ 
Matty could normally hold a smile for hours, but unaccountably she felt her lower lip tremble. Suddenly Eliza leaned forward and took her hand. ‘Rubbish, of course you’ve been homesick, Matty. And God knows I wouldn’t blame you. When I was in Melbourne with Ernest I used to walk by the river and pretend it was the Thames! There’s no shame in that.’ Had Eliza seen shame on her face then? There seemed little point in trying to deflect her.
 ‘Well, yes… but it’s not only homesickness,’ she said. ‘If you’re not happy in America, you don’t have to stay there, duck,’ Sam said matter-of-factly. ‘God knows, we’d be happy enough if you come home. Besides, don’t they make talkies in England too? But I suppose Mr Rossi would have something to say about it.’ ‘Oh, I don’t take orders from Frank!’ Matty declared, perhaps a little too strongly. ‘No, of course not – nor from anyone else!’ Sam raised his eyes and they all laughed. ‘But it’s not been so easy financing the new film, since the Crash that is.
 There’s been a bit of a hiccup… I thought I’d make the most of it, see my family, you know.’ Matty felt she was stumbling. ‘Talking of Mr Rossi,’ Eliza interrupted with a knowing smile. ‘He’s been a great friend to your career – but is it a little more than a business partnership between you two?’ Matty felt a flush rising and was glad of the pale face powder she’d dusted herself with so liberally. She dipped her head to her handbag, feeling around for her cigarettes.
 ‘Leave her alone, Eliza, you’re making our Matty blush.’ Nellie tried to come to her rescue and Matty shot her a grateful look, but Eliza would not be put off. ‘I saw the photograph you sent Sam and Nellie of you two in his beautiful car, where was it? Los Angeles? He’s very handsome, Matty.’ Matty smiled as if Eliza had caught her out. Yes, Frank was handsome. She hadn’t been able to take her eyes off him that first day they’d met, when he came backstage at the New York  Hippodrome. Hair black as a raven’s wing, swept back from his forehead, brown eyes fringed with dark lashes, long as a girl’s, and teeth like sharp pearls, flashing a smile as warm as the Italian sun he’d been born under. 
Oh, he was handsome all right, and Matty, to her intense annoyance, had felt the power of his charm pierce her normal defences with ease. ‘All right, if you must know, it is more… or rather, it was for a while.’ She shrugged her shoulders and flicked a tube of white ash into the fire grate. ‘It just… didn’t work out.’ Eliza, never one to ignore an awkward silence, plunged on. 
‘Are you very upset about it?’ ‘Upset? No! Not at all.’ And that part at least was true. That evening Matty called in at the Star to see the manager, Bernie, for old time’s sake. These days it was primarily a cinema, but they still staged variety shows and a weekly talent contest when young hopefuls such as she’d once been could try their luck. 
She stood before the front steps, looking up at the old building which was dominated by huge film billboards. She was sad to see the old ‘Lardy’, as it had been known in her day, was no longer looking so ‘la-di-dah’. Bernie had let the place go and she thought it looked a bit of a fleapit. She pushed through one of the front doors. ‘Is Bernie in?’ she asked a young woman who was clearing up after the afternoon’s tupenny rush. The girl looked up and blushed, recognition dawning on her face. ‘I’ll get him for you, Miss Gilbie.’ 
She hurried away and while she was waiting Matty poked her head into the cinema. If she needed any convincing that the glory days of the old music hall were numbered, this was it. The carpet was still littered with the detritus of the tupenny rush, and a young boy was going along the rows collecting empty bottles of pop and sweeping up peanut shells. The ironwork was rusting on the ornate horseshoe-shaped balconies and great chunks of ornamental plaster were missing from the ceiling. That much hadn’t changed – the plaster had been crumbling for years – and she searched out above the stage the very patch which had fallen during one of her performances and nearly killed her. She seemed to hear the echo of her former self ringing around the place. 
All those rousing patriotic songs, God forgive her, she’d sung on that stage during the war. How many young men had been inspired by those to take themselves off to the battlefields of France? She shuddered, then turned at the sound of Bernie’s voice. ‘Matty, you’re a sight for sore eyes! Come here, beautiful.’ Bernie gave her a loud kiss and laughed. ‘What you slumming it down the old Lardy for? You should be in Hollywood making yer next talkie!’ 
He beckoned her out and she followed him to his tiny office. The walls were plastered with old programmes and posters proclaiming the luminaries who’d graced the Star’s stage over the years: Marie Lloyd and Vesta Tilley, Dan Leno and Charlie Chaplin – she doubted he’d ever be popping in to see Bernie again. And of course, she was up there too – the Cockney Canary. Bernie poured her a gin and fixed her with his professional eye. It was Bernie she had to thank for her first singing job – last on the bill a couple of nights a week during the war, and although the Star was now past its prime Bernie still knew the business inside out. 
‘Between you and me, Matty, and it won’t go no further, I heard about yer bit of trouble.’ Matty froze. How much did he know? Nobody knew all of it, not even Esme. She took a gulp of gin and leaned back against the torn leather chair. Keeping her face expressionless, she waited for Bernie to carry on. ‘I heard Mr Rossi’s been finding it hard – getting you a backer for that new talkie. Not surprising the way things are over there.
 Is that why you’ve come back? Drumming up a bit of homegrown support?’ Matty let out a silent breath. If this was all Bernie knew, then she had nothing to fear. She’d brought home with her secrets far more dangerous than a failing career. 
‘Times are hard, Bernie. To be honest I’m looking forward to having a break from the acting, getting back to singing while Frank’s doing all the financial stuff.’ Bernie nodded his head. ‘Esme’s been on the blower. I told her these days we only have a show once a month… the Lardy’s not what it used to be.’ He flung his arm wide, taking in all the past stars in its firmament.
 ‘But we’d love to have the Cockney Canary back… if you’re sure it’s worth your while?’ He fixed her with an appraising eye. Where was her star? He seemed to be asking himself. Was she still in the ascendant, or was she even now dipping low in the night sky, soon to disappear forever? Perhaps she might have to disappear one day. 
If Frank came looking, he’d only have to scan the show bills to find her. But for now she needed money and the down-at-heel old Star, tucked away in the maze of Bermondsey’s streets, was the least risky place she could earn it. Besides, the possibility of singing again had been the first thing to lift her heart since she arrived back in England. If she had to give up singing, then she might as well give up breathing.
 ‘For old time’s sake!’ She smiled and lifted her glass. ‘To the good old days!’ Bernie lifted his own and she noticed his shirt cuff was frayed. Times were hard for all of them it seemed. As she left Bernie, with a firm booking for top billing at the next variety show, she reflected on the ‘little bit of trouble’ Bernie had referred to. She was relieved he only knew the half of it, but she’d been surprised that particular piece of showbiz news had made its way across the Atlantic already. 
Her first talkie had given her minor fame, but she’d known for a long time that a second would never be made. The Cockney Canary’s flight had in some ways been cut short by the flights of others. They’d called them ‘the flyers’, the ruined men who couldn’t face life after the Wall Street Crash last year. She’d seen one with her own eyes, casting himself from the skyscraper on to the merciless wind. Matty had looked up, following Frank’s excited, pointing finger. She wasn’t worried for the man, caught like a disjointed puppet on a whirling eddy. That ridiculous optimistic streak of hers had made her certain that he could fall hundreds of feet and at the last minute be jolted back from death by the invisible wire. 
Her years in the theatre had taught her that a flyer always had a harness and a wire; she’d flown with one herself, that year she’d played Peter Pan at the Alhambra. But instead the poor man had exploded on to the sidewalk like a ripe watermelon and Frank had to hustle her away into the nearest speakeasy, plying her with bourbon till the trembling gave way to a shocked numbness. She couldn’t know how in that moment her own fortunes had already turned, diving with the flyers whose ruined fortunes would leech money from backers of Broadway shows and talkies alike. Matty’s show at the Star sold out in days. 
Her Bermondsey fans filled the balconies and she gave them her trademark selection of music hall favourites and new jazz songs. Her versatility had been part of her success; she could sing anything. She was pure and bright with ‘Silver Lining’, smoky and sultry with ‘Am I Blue?’ Then she made sure to make them laugh with her native cockney version of ‘Don’t Have Any More Missus More’. It felt good to be back here, in the place where she’d started. It reminded her of an earlier, simpler self, when all she needed to do was follow her desire to sing. 
She felt all the scattered parts of herself returning and as she sang, she felt the weight of her grief begin to lighten. She was aware of Sam and Nellie and the rest of the family sitting in the front row, but in her imagination she placed another two in the audience: her mother, Lizzie, and her father, Michael Gilbie, who had died when she was only eight. They would stand her in their little kitchen when she was small, teaching her to sing from the stomach, indulging her fanciful ‘shows’ and praising her efforts so that she knew she could only ever be a success. 
Whatever stage she was on, in New York or London, it was always to them that she sang, and tonight was no different. The applause was so thunderous she thought the balconies might collapse along with a bit more of the ceiling plaster. After the show well-wishers called backstage, where Bernie had put on a party for her. 
‘They gave you a good old Bermondsey welcome, didn’t they?’ Will James plucked two drinks from a side table and offered her one. Tonight he was dressed in a sharp evening suit and looked nothing like a docker. Matty felt the collar. ‘Nice whistle, you wearing that for the next rally to Hyde Park?’ ‘Very funny, I’m just making an effort for you! But I bet all this must seem small beer after those glamorous Hollywood parties?’ Matty shook her head. ‘This is the best audience in the world!’ Eliza had overheard them. ‘She’s in no hurry to rush back to America, are you, Matty?’ And Matty smiled, perhaps a little too fixedly, for Eliza drew her to one side. 
‘Is everything all right, Matty? If you’re tired we can leave. Sam and Nellie need to get back for the boys anyway.’ Matty nodded. ‘I’m ready to go.’ She was tired, but she was also worried. Esme had been unable to get her any more bookings. The Star once a month and the occasional appearance at the South London Palace wouldn’t keep the wolf from the door. Esme had promised to try the provinces for her. But Matty knew her tiredness was mostly the result of keeping up the charade. She had never been good at keeping secrets, and now she felt weighed down by layers of them.
 Will walked them as far as Reverdy Road, but the night was still young for him and he stopped on the doorstep. ‘Actually the “whistle” wasn’t just for you.’ He smoothed down the well-cut jacket. ‘I’m off to a little club in Soho and you’d be surprised how many well-heeled young men will cough up for International Red Aid, especially if the person asking is wearing a decent suit!’ 
He winked at Matty, who found herself relieved he wasn’t coming home with them. Grateful for time alone with Eliza, she’d learned that her sister could be a wise confidante. Perhaps it was time to be more truthful. Who knew, she might be able to help? They sat in the parlour with sherries, which Eliza had insisted they end the evening with.
 ‘It’s a triumphant return – you can’t go to bed on a cup of tea, Matty!’ Matty gave a tired smile and heaved a deep sigh. ‘Eliza, the truth is, it’s not a triumphant return at all. I’ve not been straight with you,’ she said in a rush. ‘And my career’s not going well, it’s going badly – has been since the Crash.’ She let out a breath. It was a relief to finally tell even that much of the truth, but she felt a blush rise to her cheeks as Eliza stared at her doubtfully.
 ‘Not going well? How can that be, Matty? Didn’t you see that poster in Vauban Street they were taking down? And look at tonight! They love you here, they loved you on Broadway, and what about Mr Rossi – he’s getting you into another talkie, isn’t he?’ ‘Well, he did have plenty of ideas about my fabulous screen career. But, Eliza, he never counted on the Crash. The money ran out.’ ‘But your Broadway show was a big hit. Surely they’d want you for another one.’ Matty raised her eyes and cocked her head to one side, in what she hoped was a plucky-looking gesture. 
‘Truth is the show closed a few weeks after the Crash and there’s no backer for a new one.’ ‘Oh, Matty, I’m so sorry, my dear. You’ve had all this worry and you never said a word to us.’ ‘You couldn’t have helped me, Eliza. Not unless you’ve got any advice on how to revive a failing music hall career. If you have I’d be all ears!’ And she pulled at her lobes in a stage gesture which didn’t have her sister fooled for an instant. ‘Matty, dear.’ She put her arm round her. ‘If they don’t want you over there, you must just come back home, everyone loves you here.’ 
And she looked down with eyes full of an unaccountable love, which had always surprised Matty and sometimes puzzled her, since she’d done nothing at all to deserve it. For an instant she let herself lean against her sister, pretending that this was the extent of her problems, that all she had to do was pick up where she’d left off three years ago. 
As if the world was still bounded only by the West End and the Old Kent Road and she’d never heard of Frank Rossi, nor any of his plans for her great screen career. ‘It’s not as simple as that, Eliza.’ ‘Actually, it is, Matty. The simplest thing is always to go where you are loved, and leave where you are not.’ It made Matty cry to hear this, after her months of feeling so alone with her secret loss, and she wished she could tell Eliza the whole truth. 
But instead with her finger she traced an old scar on the inside of her wrist. It looked like a wild strawberry, but was nothing so sweet; it was the trace of a cigarette burn earned for questioning one of Frank’s business choices. ‘My agent’s having trouble getting me bookings. I’m a bit worried about funds.’ Eliza looked shocked. ‘I put my own money into the new film…’ Matty explained. ‘Ohh, I see. And has that taken up all your savings?’ Matty nodded. ‘But things will get better, Matty, and until then you’ll always have a home here and you’re not to worry about money, do you hear me?’ Matty grasped Eliza’s hand.
 ‘You’ve always been so good to me, Eliza, not that I’ve deserved it. I know I used to be such an ungrateful little cow, but you’ve been the best of sisters.’ Eliza held on to her hand and Matty saw her eyes pool. ‘That means the world to me, Matty.’ Eliza closed her eyes and a spasm passed briefly across her face as she was caught by a coughing fit that left her breathless and unable to speak. She put a hand to her side, trying to cushion the effect of the coughing. 
 ‘Liza?’ Matty asked, alarmed to see her in pain. But then her sister opened her eyes and smiled. ‘Those old seats at the Star have wreaked havoc with my back muscles. Let’s go to bed, and remember what I said, this is your home now and it always will be.’ She got up and put her arm round Eliza. ‘I don’t deserve you,’ she said, and together they walked slowly upstairs, Matty’s heart feeling lighter for having shed at least one of her secrets.

Another day, another book, 
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