Skip's an outsider. He's never fitted in. So he takes to the streets. Life there may be hard, but it's better than the one he's left behind, especially when he teams up with old homeless man Billy. Then come the bombs which bring little Max and Tia, the sad dancer with a tiny baby, into Skip and Billy's world. Scavenging for food, living on love and imagination - how long can Skip's fragile new family hold out as war grips the city?
Today, Glenda introduces an exclusive extract from her book:
This extract from chapter 16 of ’A Small Free Kiss in the Dark’, particularly the last couple of paragraphs, always makes me want to cry. I thinks it’s probably because it’s getting towards the end of the book when the characters have had a chance to develop so that I care what happens to them. Skip, a homeless twelve-year-old boy, is the main character and has developed a relationship with six year old Max who is separated from his mother after war breaks out. They’ve been on the run ever since, avoiding the fighting, trying to find food and shelter. All the while, Skip is conscious that Max’s mother might be alive and searching for her son. But despite this, he develops a caring relationship for the younger boy, who, together with old Billy, become a substitute family, something Skip longs for. In chapter 16, Skip has readied himself for the inevitable, letting Max go to look for his mother. First they have have a ‘slap-up’ meal on the beach that Billy has promised them. Then Skip makes a speech and presents Max with a going away gift that he’s made. It’s that last line that always gets to me!
Billy had already cut the chicken down the middle so it was flat. He sprinkled it with salt and cooked it over the coals in the wire rack he’d made from mending wire. I tried not to think about Mona’s lovely face, because we hadn’t had meat for so long. Max and me got the drumsticks. Billy got a wing and the parson’s nose, because that was his favourite bit. It’s the part of the chicken where the tail feathers grow. Tia had breast meat and she found a small bone, shaped like a V.
“That’s the wishbone,” Billy said. “You’re supposed to dry it out for a couple of weeks before you pull it.”
“I know,” said Max. “Grandpa and me do it and I always get the biggest bit.”
“Two weeks is too long,” said Tia. “Let’s do it tonight.”
She sat on the sand with her legs crossed and she licked her fingers clean, slow and thoughtful, while we all watched. Then she held the wishbone in front of her, up against the inky sky. Her white hair streamed out like birds’ wings beside her moon-kissed face. She looked like a goddess. I stared, hardly breathing, with longing to be the chosen one. Then she pointed the bone towards me.
“Skipper.” I saw pearls in her mouth and the velvet cushion of her tongue and I heard the magic words come out of her. “Me and Skipper will break the bone.”
We joined ourselves together with unblinking eyes and a pinky finger each around the wishbone. Then we pulled apart with a sudden snap, and a tick of bone dangled from Tia’s finger. She closed it away in the palm of her hand like a charm.
“Don’t tell anyone your wish,” Max said.
Tia closed her eyes. I made a wish too. I wished that Tia would make the right wish and that it would come true.
After the wishing, Tia walked away on the wet and shining sand. The wind howled and the waves roared and her footprints disappeared behind her. She was gone too long. I should have gone with her and given her the silver necklace. The longer I had to wait, the stronger I imagined its power to be. Until Tia wore it, I was afraid something terrible might happen to her. Then I saw her coming back to us through a mist of salt spray, leaping and curling under the moon like the waves.
Sixpence slept and Billy cried while Tia danced. Then Max and me threaded pink and white marshmallows and chunks of tinned pineapple onto pieces of wire and toasted them over the coals.
“Better get some sleep now,” said Billy when we’d finished eating. “Early start tomorrow.”
“Wait,” I said. “There’s something else.” I’d got ready to let Max go and now I had to do it. I drew a circle around myself.
“Max,” I said, “take your beanie off and come out here. Stand in the circle with me.”
Max stepped in beside me. The wet sand mirrored the sky and we stood in a garden of stars.
“This is the Circle of Brotherhood,” I said to Max. “A circle has no beginning and no end. That means that even when we are far away from each other we will still be brothers.”
We spat on our palms and did our secret handshake and then I undid the side pocket of my suitcase and took out the surprise. He gasped because it was so splendid. It was an Indian brave’s headdress. I put it on his head and the rooster feathers fluttered under the moonlight while I said a silent prayer to Max’s ancestors. I asked them to comfort him and whisper wise thoughts to him and guide his footsteps through the dust. Then I said the speech I had been practising in my head. I said it out loud so that everyone could hear.
“This is the headdress of the brave, Max Montgomery; wear it proudly because you are very brave.” Then I kissed Max because I loved him, and everyone I had ever loved before had gone away and I had never kissed them goodbye.
Check out the blog tour's other stops here. Tomorrow's stop will be at So Many Books, So Little Time.
Read the first ten pages of A Small Free Kiss in the Dark here.
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Many thanks to Glenda and Templar for including Teenage Fiction for All Ages on the tour.