As mentioned last week, Coming Home to Hope Street, the second book in The Hope Street Series, is out next week.
I wrote this during lockdown, mainly because I couldn't get my head around a dark crime book when the world was in such a grim place.
There is a great sense of community in my Marcie Steele books and I often thought I could visualise the characters who live in Hope Street clapping for the NHS, key workers and superheroes at 8pm every week.
I think Hope Street would definitely have been a good place to live during lockdown, with people like Hannah, from The Man Across the Street, to keep an eye on everyone, and The Coffee Stop turned into a community hub, as well as the community centre.
Here's a sneaky peek of chapter one, introducing Livvy and Pip. I hope it whets your appetite.
Coming Home to Hope Street is only 99p for a limited time at launch too.
Livvy stepped off the bus in Somerley High Street and glanced around at the familiar yet newness of the town. For a moment she thought she was going to bring her lunch up. She swallowed quickly, trying to shake away any doubt that she was doing the right thing.
‘This way,’ she said to Pip as she threw a bag over her shoulder and picked up the suitcase she’d deposited on the pavement.
‘Where are we going?’ Pip asked, already two metres behind her.
‘Hope Street. It isn’t far, a few minutes at the most.’
‘There doesn’t seem to be much happening. Is this it? One main road?’
‘I’ll take you for a walk around later. But as far as I can remember, Somerley has a bit of everything.’
Livvy glanced behind her, catching Pip rolling her eyes. She sighed and continued on her way. The high street was busy, people coming and going in and out of the row of shops on either side. She passed the chippie on her left and Ray’s Café on her right, both of which had been there since she was a teenager.
They crossed the road at the indoor market and walked on. There was so much she remembered, and yet so much had changed too. There was even a shoe shop, and a clothes shop across the way. It seemed a bustling place.
A man walked past her and smiled. She lowered her eyes, expecting him to recognise her and tell her off for coming back, but he didn’t. A woman pushed a toddler in a pushchair, her nose in the phone as she multi-tasked, scrolling down the screen. An elderly man shuffled slowly along.
People were going about their day as if everything was normal. No one had recognised her, and why should they? It was just her nerves playing up.
At the Hope and Anchor, Livvy stopped to wait for Pip, who was way behind her now. The pub had been a haunt of Livvy’s for several months after her eighteenth birthday. Being such a small town, no one could get away with drinking in there until they were old enough. Back then it had been the only one in the town too; she wondered if it was the case now. Her stomach flipped over involuntarily, and she closed her eyes for a moment while it settled.
‘Come on,’ she cried. Although she was trying not to show it, the way Pip was lagging was beginning to get her down. Even though the baggage they carried between them was heavy and cumbersome, it was equally a necessity.
‘We’re nearly there,’ she chirped as they turned the corner into Hope Street.
‘Nearly where exactly? From what I’ve seen so far, this place looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere.’
‘It’s not that bad.’ Livvy walked on, not believing her own words for a minute. She had left Somerley years ago. Now she wanted it to welcome her back with open arms on a fresh September day, saying how much it had missed her and come along inside now.
Actually, that’s what she wanted her sister to say when she saw her.
‘It’s going to be so boring staying here,’ Pip went on, dragging her feet as usual. ‘Why did we have to come in the first place?’
Livvy sighed. Pip wouldn’t understand even if she told her the cold, hard truth. She tried not to think of leaving everything behind, dragging her child away from everyone she knew. Life in Manchester wasn’t all that bad, but she couldn’t manage on just her wages any longer. Which meant the rent wouldn’t get paid, and she hadn’t heard from Kieran in months. So there had been no alternative but to come back with her tail between her legs.
‘This is the last place I wanted us to be, but it can’t be helped,’ she told her. ‘Unless you want to stay under the stars in a doorway, this is the best I can do.’
‘But Dad won’t be able to find us.’
‘I’ll send him the address if he contacts us.’ The lies came so easily she was almost ashamed of herself.
‘He won’t want to come here.’
Livvy stopped and turned to her abruptly. ‘Will you stop your moaning, Pip? I’m doing my best, okay?’
‘No, it’s not okay. Why should I have to start again here? I’ve left my friends behind because of you.’
Tears sprang to Livvy’s eyes, but she kept them at bay. She turned away from Pip and continued down the street. Her daughter was right; it was her fault. But it was Pip’s father’s fault, too.
Even though she hadn’t been there in years, Livvy wondered if there’d be anyone she knew living behind the doors in Hope Street now. Some of them would have died, she was certain, but terraced houses like these, two rows opposite each other across a cobblestone road, would be full again soon after they became empty. And it was nice, no matter what Pip thought. It had a vibe to it. Although what Livvy was going to add to that was anyone’s guess.
Would she be welcome? There was only one way to find out.
As she drew level with number thirty-four, she popped a smile back on her face. It wasn’t just for Pip. It was to make herself feel confident. There was going to be one hell of a show down, if she was let into the house at all.
Pip came behind her and put her bags down next to the suitcase. ‘Is this it?’ she asked, wrinkling up her nose.
‘Yes, it is,’ Livvy answered. ‘Remember, be nice.’
Pip tutted and proceeded to examine her nails.
Livvy took a deep breath and, with a slight hesitation, knocked on the door, all the while rehearsing what she was going to say.
After a few seconds, she knocked again. Still no answer, and it stalled her. She hadn’t been prepared for no one to be home.
‘What are we going to do now?’ Pip flopped down and sat on the doorstep.
‘We’ll have to wait.’
‘But that could be ages!’
Livvy dropped down next to her and put an arm around her shoulders. She pulled Pip close, thankful there was no resistance. Looking up and down the street once more, she made a decision. She would leave a note and then go back to the high street. They could get something to eat and drink.
And then perhaps Pip might forgive her when she had something sugary inside of her.