Today I am so pleased to welcome Dorothy Piper to Joyfully Jay. Dorothy has come to talk to us about her latest release, Best Friend Forsaken. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Several weeks later, in early October, Ted crept towards the back door, and stepped back when it opened inwards and he came face to face with Mary Mum. She had been outside, putting scraps on the compost heap.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Ter see Bill.”
“Well, you mind your manners round there. And no upsetting Bill, calling his dad a conshee. Be back for dinner.”
Ted closed the door quietly behind him and patted the bulging pockets of his thick, scratchy coat. The local committee had given Mary Mum some used coats for the evacuees in her care, and she had picked this one out for Ted. It hung past his knees, and the one she had given her own boy would have fit Ted better. “You’ll grow faster than Harold,” she had said.
The days had grown shorter and colder, but this day was bright and sunny. People were talking about an Indian summer. Ted and Bill had become close friends. After school they played in each other’s houses or, during weekends, in the nearby wood where Bill refused to play English and Germans. Instead, they took turns pretending to be Robin Hood. Trees became the Sheriff of Nottingham, Friar Tuck, or Little John.
Bill answered the back door and his eyes lit up. “Are you playing here today? I went round yours all last week. It is my turn.”
Ted leaned backwards, his eyes on Mary Mum’s house, before he turned to Bill. “Can yer keep a secret? Cross yer heart ’n hope ter die?”
“You know I can. What’s happened? Oh, Ted, what have you done now?”
“I ain’t dun nuffin’. But I’m goin’… I’m goin’ ter… I’m goin’ ter run away!”
“She’s got it in fer me agin so I’m goin’ ter live on the moor. I took some stuff out o’ the pantry an’ she’s goin’ ter kill me fer that. I come round ter say goodbye. Yer won’t let on, will yer?”
“Of course I won’t. But I’ll miss you. You’re the only friend I’ve got and if you’re not here…” Bill trailed off, miserably. Then he added, “Can I come with you?”
Ted looked at him in surprise. “If yer wants ter. But yer got ter bring yer own grub, ’n summat ter sleep on. I don’ need nuffin’ ter sleep on. I’m tougher’n you.”
“Wait while I collect some things. Look out for Mrs. Craddock. If she sees you, she’ll want to know why you’re here.”
“Oh, heck. Where kin I hide?”
“In the hall, behind the aspidistra. Crumbs, I thought you were going to knock it over. Right, I’ll go see what I can scrounge in the kitchen, get my coat, then—”
“Cor blimey, mate, git on wivvit.”
Bill went into the kitchen and returned a few minutes later carrying a paper carrier bag. “I’ve got a pork pie and a loaf, some butter and some cheese, and a knife.”
“Anyfing ter drink?”
Bill’s face clouded. “No. We’ve already started the milk. I can’t take that.”
“Can’t be helped.” Ted slid from behind the big leafy plant and put out his hand to stop the stand wobbling. “Any road, there’s allus lots o’ water on a moor.”
In the street, both boys turned to look back at the houses. Bill spotted a turbaned head peering out of the parlour window, while Ted heard a faint familiar voice calling Harold. He tugged Bill’s arm. “Come on!”
The way to the moor lay past a straggly wood and into out of bounds. These fields stretched almost as far as they could see, bordered by dry stone walls. They walked near the walls, their feet sinking every now and again into squishy patches where water seeped into their shoes. Then the bottom of the carrier bag gave way and its contents fell into the mud.
Ted pulled a pillowcase out of his pocket. “I was goin’ ter stuff this wiv grass. Ter sleep on,” he explained, while filling the pillowcase with Bill’s food.
“I’m hungry.” His friend rubbed his belly. “Can we stop and have something to eat?”
“I s’pose so. I didn’ wan’ ter eat till we got ter the moor, but it’ll be less ter carry.”
They scrambled onto the broad top of a wall and spread out their supplies. Soon two apples and a fair chunk of the loaf had disappeared inside them.
Bill, who was several inches taller than Ted, stood on the wall and looked around. “If we follow that wall, there. we’ll be able to climb up to the Gorge.” He pointed to another wall running at right angles to the one they were on.
“What? Go up there instead of ter the moor?”
“Yes. It’s a lot nearer. And there are big rocks to shelter under, but it’s awfully steep.”
“Orflee?” Ted teased, making fun of Bill’s better diction.
They picked up their belongings and, laughing and joking, they headed towards the steep hill. The going got dryer and their shoes stopped squelching. Finally, they reached the road that led from Leeds to Otley. They crouched behind a wall when they saw a double-decker bus lumbering towards them and waited until it had gone out of sight before they climbed over. Strands of blackberry clung to their coats, and the thorns jabbed their bare hands when they pulled the vines off. They ran over the road, vaulted another wall, and landed in the stunted bilberry bushes on the other side. Huge rocks were scattered on the hillside above them. Some leaned against each other and formed arches, making favourite places to picnic or play under.
Ted and Bill grinned at each other. They sat on a low rock and hugged their knees.
“Where are we going to live?” Bill asked.
“Look fer a cave. I’ll light a fire afore it gits dark. I’ve got some matches.” Ted dug in his pocket and pulled out a box of Bryant & Mays. “I’ve got a big torch too.”
“You can’t use it in the blackout.”
“I ain’t sleepin’ up here in the dark. I don’ like the dark. Any road, who’ll see us?”
They scrambled up and down the hill, in and out of the bushes, peering between boulders. Several times they had to grab the low, tough bushes to stop their feet sliding down the hillside. After an hour, they chose a niche between two slanting boulders that met like an upside-down vee over their heads. Their shelter was open at the back, and the ground sloped so they had to shuffle up frequently to stay in one place, but they were happy. They spread out their food again and finished off the bread and cheese.
The light faded, and wind whistled between the rocks.
Bill shivered and pulled his coat tighter. “Can’t we block that draught?” he said.
“’Course we can. Jus’ need a big flat stone ter put acrost the back. Look, there’s one.”
But the heavy stone was firmly embedded in the ground.
“There’s more’n one way of skinning a cat.” Ted gave up trying to move the stone. “We’ll get littluns an’ build a wall.”
That was an easier task, but it took many trips up and down the hill before they found suitable stones. After lodging them in place, they tugged up handfuls of tough grass and stuffed them between the gaps.
“We’ll never finish this tonight!” Bill slumped inside the cave and dug in his heels to stop sliding down the slope again.
“We don’ have ter. That’s our window. When yer lies down, there ain’t no draught.”
“I’m cold. And it’s getting dark. And the wind’s spooky, moaning like that.”
“I’ll light a fire. Help me grab some sticks ’n stuff.”
They crawled onto the hillside and searched for kindling. The light faded fast and the ground became slippery underfoot while they stumbled and slid among the bushes. Ted pushed his wet, dishevelled hair out of his eyes, and he felt rain fall onto his hands.
Patter. Patter. Splat, splat, splat, splat. Soon it was raining steadily.
“Cor blimey, that’s orl we need.” Ted turned and hollered, “Come back!”
Bill turned. Ted saw him lose his balance and start sliding. Faster and faster he hurtled down the hill, crashing through the low bilberry bushes while he yelled for help.
In the gathering darkness, Ted heard a loud crack.
He scrambled to where he had heard the cries, at the same time waving the torch like a lunatic. The rain increased, turning the path between the bushes into a stream. Then Ted saw his friend crumpled at the base of a huge rock, the bottom half of his left leg sticking out like a broken puppet’s. Bill was silent. He had passed out.
This weren’t supposed ter happen. Bill’s hurt. Hurt bad. And it’s all my fault.
They were alone. Alone on a hillside where people only came for picnics on sunny days. But it was pitch black now except for short intervals when the moon broke through the clouds. No friendly lights shone from the windows of the village in the valley below. They were all blacked-out, of course. And it was still raining. Raining hard.
Ted and Bill, evacuated to Yorkshire during World War II, vow to be best friends the day they meet. When the war ends and they return to London, where Bill’s father dies, and Ted’s family take Bill into their home.
The boys’ friendship deepens into forbidden love. Henry, Ted’s father—who can’t abide homosexuality—throws Bill out of the house and forbids Ted to see or contact Bill again. The youths go their wildly different ways but defy Henry by secretly keeping in touch.
Two years later, during a distressing family gathering, Henry learns of their ongoing love affair. Furious and disgusted, he tells Ted “It’s him or me. Give him up or I disown you.” Ted chooses his lover, but Henry, determined to get his own way, goes to see Bill and lies to him, saying Ted has broken off the romance rather than be disowned. Henry is convincing, and Bill believes him. Heartbroken, Bill moves away and forsakes Ted.
Bitter and angry, Ted moves back to Yorkshire and throws himself into a job that leaves no time or energy to dwell on life without Bill.
A loveless future lies ahead for both young men unless Fate can intervene.
- NineStar Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/best-friend-forsaken/
- Books2Read: https://books2read.com/best-friend-forsaken
Dorothy Piper was born in Hornchurch, England, in 1936, and won her first prize-winning essay, When I Grow Up, when she was eight. When she did grow up, she found that becoming a sister in a children’s home was not for her after all. Instead, she combined a secretarial career with being a working mother.
In 1995, Dorothy left England and came to live in America, where retirement gave her more time to devote to her first love—writing. She writes under different identities. Her collection of stories and poems (Literary Allsorts); an unfinished five-part sci-fi fantasy series; and two history books about five generations of the Piper family have been self-published under her maiden name. Two more stories (Truth Will Out and Brotherly Love) were self-published under the nom de plume of Joni Havcl.
The difference between now and 1944 is so vast that it led Dorothy to write Best Friend Forsaken which has been accepted for publication by NineStar Press. You can find Dorothy on Twitter – http://twitter.com/DorothyPiper14
One lucky winner will receive a $50.00 NineStar Press Gift Code!
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