Eddy knows he’s not like other teenagers. He doesn’t look like them. He doesn’t think like them. He doesn’t go to school or have friends like they do. Eddy’s not even allowed to leave his bedroom – except on shower day of course. He doesn’t know why; all Eddy knows is that he’s different.
Abandoned by his mother and kept locked away by his grandmother, Eddy must spend his life watching the world go by from his bedroom window. Until Reagan Crowe moves in next door and everything starts to change. She’s kind, funny, beautiful, and most importantly, she’s Eddy’s first friend. Over time, Reagan introduces Eddy to the strange and wonderful world outside his bedroom: maths, jam, love.
But growing up isn’t that simple for either of them. And Eddy has a secret. The tree that’s slowly creeping in through his window from the garden is no ordinary tree. But then again, Eddy’s no ordinary boy. He’s special…
Set over the course of five years, T is for Tree is moving, life-affirming, and shows that we can all find greatness in the small things.
First and foremost HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY TO T IS FOR TREE!!!! You all definitely need to go and buy a lovely copy of this book available at Amazon & Waterstones. I am fortunate enough to be able to share with you the first 2 chapters of this beautifully moving book. Enjoy!
Hailey knew she was still bleeding but it was now or never.
Nobody told her it would be like this. Wasn’t that the doctor’s job – to tell her that something had gone drastically, horribly wrong and how to make it all just go away? Maybe she should stick around in case they were going to tell her they could make it all better. That this could all be fixed.
But her instinct to escape was stronger. She couldn’t bear the thought of a lifetime of disapproving glances. All of those ‘I told you so’s, the first of which would cruise out of her mother’s mouth with a smugness she couldn’t bear to witness.
The nurse, who was pretty nice, all things considered, had wandered out a couple of minutes ago and the doctor was probably off checking his bank balance somewhere. The only other obstacle would be her mother and she was bound to be back at any moment. No, Hailey knew she had to get out and keep going until there was nobody left to find her.
Climbing gingerly out of the bed, she folded the cover back over the red splotch on her sheets. She’d grab some paracetamol or something at a pharmacy on the way out of town.
As she slipped her jeans up her legs, leaving them unzipped because it hurt too much to do them up, the object in the corner made a noise. It was just a simple noise, the sound of a living thing and for a fleeting moment Hailey felt compelled to go over to the clear plastic crib. To go over there would be wrong though. It was a trap.
Taking a purposefully wide berth, turning her head away from the wriggling arms and legs, Hailey paused in the doorway.
No . . . I have to go. I can’t love this thing. I don’t even know how to.
But, unable to help herself and despite the certainty this would ruin it all, she strode back to the place where her newborn son kicked and punched at the strange world around him. Did part of her feel something for this needful thing, this thing that had no control over the way it was made? Yes. Probably. Maybe.
Reaching in, she felt the baby’s tiny hand clench hold of her little finger as his grip tightened momentarily around her heart. This, she recognised, this very moment was a massive fork in the road of her life and whatever she did now, it had to be decisive.
‘I’m so sorry,’ she whispered and surprised herself in the process as she wiped a tear from her eye. ‘Be a good little boy.’
Then pulling her hand away, pretending not to notice how strong the boy’s grip really was, she retreated back to the doorway. No more looking back now . . . this was all about moving forward. Never mind the leaden lump in her throat.
Checking left, then right, Hailey counted to three inside her head and stepped out into the corridor as though she had every reason to be there.
Assuming her rst real obstacle would be the nurses’ station out by the entrance to the maternity ward, Hailey suffered a sudden pang of horror when she turned a corner and found her mother walking towards her. In the half-second it took for her to duck into the closest room, a thin sheen of sweat broke out on her brow and for a moment she thought she might actually need to sit down before she passed out altogether.
Had her mother seen her? They certainly hadn’t made eye contact but that didn’t mean anything when it came to Daisy Sullivan. That woman had keener eyes than an eagle.
Hailey could hear her mother’s footsteps now. She could recognise them anywhere.
Slipping away from the door, Hailey faced into the room and discovered a whole new set of problems. Staring back at her, with some confusion and a growing curiosity, was a postnatal mother, new babe in her arms, and a nurse, who had obviously been in the midst of some piece of advice or another.
‘Can I help you?’ asked the nurse.
Shaking her head soundlessly, Hailey felt, more than heard, her mother’s sturdy stride now. She was right outside the door.
‘Are you lost?’
Listening intently and feeling about as inconspicuous as reworks in March, Hailey ignored the question and focused on the doorway beside her. If her mother walked in now, all hell would break loose.
‘I’m going to have to ask you to leave please,’ the nurse said, growing obviously irritated.
Afraid she would be heard, Hailey clenched her teeth and prepared to leave the room, straining her ears for movement outside. Where were those footfalls now? Her mother hadn’t pounced through the door.
‘Sorry. Wrong room.’ Cautiously slipping back out into the hallway, Hailey found her mother nowhere in sight.
‘You’re the girl from 413, aren’t you?’ the nurse called from behind her.
It wasn’t worth answering.
Ignoring the pain, Hailey hit the corridor at nearly a jog. The sliding door that promised to be her escape was only a few seconds away now.
‘Where are you going?’ The nurse was in the corridor now. Hailey didn’t look back; to do so would only advertise her guilt. ‘Ruth!’
A head poked out from the nurses’ station just as Hailey rushed past.
‘She’s doing a—’
Hailey guessed the last word was probably ‘runner’ but she didn’t stick around to find out.
She piled through the sliding doors and along the next corridor before bursting out into the brightly lit foyer. Unashamedly limping now and clutching her screaming belly, she straight-lined it for the main entrance. Mercifully the security guard looked like he was a day away from retirement and paid her no heed. After all, she was just a kid.
Jumping into the first taxi in the rank, Hailey patted the bank card in her pocket for reassurance.
‘The nearest train station please,’ she instructed. ‘And please hurry.’
As they pulled away toward the maze of mid-town traffic, Hailey swivelled around and checked through the back window. With one last reflection, Hailey looked to where she figured her room was. Or where her room had been. It wasn’t hard to find either. It was the one with her mother staring out of the open window. Had she seen her leave?
Perhaps she was just getting some fresh air, Hailey told herself. She was surprised to find herself feeling an entirely unexpected emotion. It wasn’t guilt, even though that would be understandable. It was sadness. In that hospital room were both ends of her life. A life as it had every right to be. A mother who, in spite of her shortcomings, had loved her in her own way, and a baby . . . a strange little baby that she didn’t know how to love.
Turning to face forward, Hailey watched as the meter churned away what little cash she had and cried silent tears.
Twelve Years Later
Chapter 1 – shower time
‘Eddy. Get yourself ready, it’s shower day.’ Grandma Daisy punctuated her authority with a short, sharp rap on Eddy’s bedroom door.
Eddy obediently got out of his chair, the one by the old wooden desk, and proceeded to undress. He knew the routine. T-shirt, trousers, undies, socks.
Always socks last. Always.
Within two minutes of Grandma Daisy’s knock he was standing on his side of the closed bedroom door, old clothes in his arms ready for washing, and as naked as he’d been that fateful day his mother had snuck out of the hospital, never to be seen again.
The bedroom door rung open and Grandma Daisy seemed almost to touch both sides and the top of the doorjamb. Eddy knew well enough to stand back because that was the way she always opened his door.
‘Good,’ she said. ‘Now go get under the water. I want half that soap gone by the time I come to get
you out.’ Grandma Daisy reached down and took the old clothes out of Eddy’s hands. There’d be a new set waiting on his bed when he got back. There always was and there always would be. ‘Now get going before you miss the warm water.’
Shower days were all right as far as Eddy was concerned. It gave him a chance to see new stuff . Had Grandma Daisy changed one of the pictures in the hall? If one of the other doors was open, he could get a glimpse of another room, a whole different room than his own. He also got to walk past the top of the stairs, and if he walked slow enough and craned his neck just right, he could actually see the front door. The white front door with windows in it. Windows that showed the big, wide world on the outside.
But there were no doors open today. Grandma Daisy had changed no pictures and she chose today to tail him all the way to the bathroom. There was no dawdling at the top of the stairs. That was okay though. He still liked shower day.
As per usual, the shower was already running by the time he stepped into the small upstairs bathroom. Eddy pulled the shower curtain aside, stepped under the lukewarm water and felt the wetness cover his body like a new idea. He knew Grandma Daisy was off doing her own thing by now and she wouldn’t be back until well after the water had turned ice cold, cold enough so that he had to squeeze into the back corner of the shower cubicle where only the odd drip could reach him.
‘Make hay while the sun shines.’ That’s what Grandma Daisy would say. ‘Make hay while the sun shines.’
So he grabbed hold of the slippery soap from the little shelf beside him and began rubbing it all over before the water turned nasty. You had to do it quick because it wasn’t just a matter of getting it on, you had to get it on as well. Grandma Daisy didn’t like it at all if he still had soap in his hair when she came to dry him off . Not only that. She always did a load of washing at the same time as his shower and that made it like Russian roulette. He never quite knew when that rush of cold water would come with each new washing cycle downstairs.
What Grandma Daisy didn’t know, however, was that while she was downstairs doing her thing, Eddy played a trick on her. Yes, he washed himself good and well, but he’d learned to do that real quick. When he’d finished though, he’d pull the shower curtain ever so slightly aside, hop up on to the little step that divided the shower cubicle from the bathroom oor and look at himself in the mirror on the opposite wall. He’d have to be careful though. Good thing that Grandma Daisy’s stairs were creaky. Two of them always creaked and most times three or even four.
But the mirror, well, that was magical.
He could actually see himself looking back at him. Eddy had always known he was different. Grandma
Daisy was forever reminding him of that in one way or another. But what he didn’t understand until he was tall enough to see in the mirror was what exactly ‘different’ was.
And she was right. He was different. He wasn’t like Grandma Daisy or the lady that came to visit him sometimes (he could never remember her name for more than half a day after each visit). He was different too from the people in the photos on the hallway table. The ones he’d never make the mistake of asking about again. And last but not least, he was different from all the other people he watched going about their lives from his bedroom window.
His eyes were different. That was the easy part to see. But the rest of his face was different too. He couldn’t exactly explain what was different about it but it definitely wasn’t the same as all the others. When he’d asked Grandma Daisy she’d told him that was simply what ‘dumb’ looked like. So maybe that’s just what it was. Dumb people were given different faces just like the runners in his Guinness Book of World Records book were given long legs.
So for as long as his courage held out, Eddy stood on tippy-toes and made faces at the dumb boy in the mirror. And when he smiled, somebody smiled right back at him and that was the most marvellous thing in the world.