1939. After the sudden and tragic loss of her husband, Helen returns to her mother’s house in Biggin Hill, Kent – the one place she vowed she’d never go back to. Alone and not knowing where to turn, she joins the local women’s sewing circle to find some companionship and comfort, despite being hopeless with a needle and thread. These resourceful women can not only ‘make– do and mend’ clothes, quilts and woolly hats, but the fast–formed friendship with Lizzie and Effie mends something deeper in Helen too.
When the reason for Helen’s husband’s death comes to light, her world is turned upside down yet again. The investigating officer on the case, Richard, will leave no stone unturned – but it’s not long before his interest in Helen goes beyond the professional. As she pieces together old fabrics into a beautiful quilt, will Helen patch up the rifts in her own life?
The Patchwork Girls by Elaine Everest
Chapter 3 Extract
‘Should we have brought something with us, do you think?’ Helen asked, as they watched a woman laden with bags struggling up the path to the church hall. Without waiting for an answer, she hurried after the woman. ‘Here, let me help you,’ she said, taking one of the bags while Effie took another.
‘Are you here to join our little group?’ the red-faced woman asked as she put her remaining bags down on a step, pulling a bunch of keys from her pocket. ‘Let’s get inside out of this awful weather, shall we?’ She ushered them into the gloomy hall. ‘The light switch is on the left,’ she instructed Effie, who’d taken a few steps ahead and then halted, not knowing where to go in the semi-darkness. ‘Dearie me, the caretaker is supposed to open the blackout curtains each morning.’ She tutted as she pulled the drapes aside. Grey mid-morning December light filtered through the criss-cross of blast tape, casting triangles onto the wooden floor.
Helen looked around, not feeling particularly inspired by their surroundings. She had imagined a busy sewing bee with tables heaped with coloured fabric and wool into which she could delve to start a project – to make what, she wasn’t yet sure. But perhaps the atmosphere would brighten up once more people arrived.
‘I’m Letitia Green, but you can call me Tish,’ the woman said, holding out her hand to Helen and Effie, who in turn introduced themselves. ‘It will be good to have fresh blood in our little circle. We certainly need it,’ she grimaced.
‘I thought this was a new group?’ Helen said, hoping she wasn’t going to experience being ignored by an established clique, as she had when she’d first married John and been introduced to his colleagues’ wives. She had spent most of her time watching the clock and waiting for the earliest possible opportunity to make her excuses and leave their little soirées. She’d only been really happy while working alongside John in his office, arranging his social appointments.
‘Yes, this is our first official meeting of the group here in the church hall. I’ve had a few get-togethers at home, but I wanted to do something more worthwhile. Not just for the war effort, but to boost the morale of the women who live in the area,’ Tish added, looking pleased with herself.
‘I’m really not sure sitting in a draughty church hall knitting socks for the troops is going to boost anyone’s morale,’ Effie huffed, obviously not much taken with her first impression of Tish. ‘Do you want me to sort the kitchen out and get the kettle on?’ she added, peering through an open doorway. Beyond it was a long room that ran the length of the side of the hall and contained a sink, a large gas stove and a table.
‘Here, take this bag – you should find everything you require. I plan to carry everything for our tea breaks rather than leave it in the kitchen cupboard; the Boy Scouts pinch anything that’s not nailed down. I dare not leave the biscuit tin here, either, because the verger’s partial to a nibble.’
Elaine Everest is the author of bestselling novels The Woolworths Girls, The Butlins Girls, Christmas at Woolworths and The Teashop Girls. She was born and raised in North–West Kent, where many of her bestselling historical sagas are set. She grew up listening to tales of the war years in her hometown of Erith, which has inspired her own stories. Elaine has been a freelance writer for 25 years and has written over 100 short stories and serials for the women’s magazine market. She is also the author of a number of popular non–fiction books for dog owners.
When she isn’t writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school in Hextable, Kent. She now lives in Swanley with her husband, Michael and their Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry.
Twitter: @ElaineEverest Facebook: @ElaineEverestAuthor Website: http://www.elaineeverest.com