The Girls of Victory Street by Pam Howes (The Bryant Sisters Book 1)
English | 2020 | General Fiction | ePUB| 2.9 MB
Liverpool, 1939. Bella Rogers thought her life was just starting; she can’t wait to get married to her childhood sweetheart, Bobby. But when war is declared and Bobby is called up, his letters stop, leaving Bella heartbroken and alone. Then her family is torn apart by tragedy when her angelic five-year-old sister dies from a terrible illness. They can barely afford a funeral, but the church is packed with the entire community, devastated for their loss.
Grieving for her sister and lost love, Bella finds a job at the Bryant and May factory, making matches. As bombs begin to fall, Bella gets the workers singing, keeping spirits high amidst the fear. When she meets a handsome American airman, Earl Franklin Jr, Bella’s heart finally starts to mend. Earl encourages her passion and soon she and her friends are offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to travel the country’s army bases, entertaining the troops and singing for victory. They name themselves The Bryant Sisters.
Just as her life is getting back on track, Bella finds herself pregnant – and Earl reveals a shattering secret that changes everything about their future. Devastated, she flees home to Liverpool, but as an unmarried mother, will her family reject her? And, as she faces a terrible sacrifice, will she ever sing with The Bryant Sisters again?
Bella, who would be fifteen next month, and twelve-year-old Molly walked home together as they didn’t finish until four.
Bella told Molly to help Betty put her socks on and take her downstairs to Mam while she got dressed herself. She hurriedly threw on her white blouse, grey pleated skirt and cardigan, and took a look in the age-speckled mirror on the wardrobe door. She’d do. There wasn’t much choice. Her school clothes were all she had to wear during the week. Mam had knitted them all thick woollen socks as part of their Christmas presents and although they were hardly the height of fashion, they were warm and would keep the chilblains at bay on a day like today when her feet were shoved inside her wellies. She didn’t have any other boots that would do in this weather.
Bella quickly made the bed; she picked up their discarded nighties from the floor and folded them before slipping them under the pillows. She pulled a brush through her dark, wavy hair, smoothing down her glossy fringe, and teased out the ends so that they sat on her shoulders in curled flicks. She clipped the sides back behind her ears with a couple of tortoiseshell hair slides and, satisfied that it looked okay, ran down the stairs to join her sisters.
The ice was beginning to melt on the windows as the warmth from the roaring fire worked its way around the small back sitting room. Betty and Molly were seated at the table eating breakfast and their mam was rushing around as usual, handing a greaseproof wrapped package of sarnies to Dad with a flask of tea for his dinner break.
‘Right, you sit down, our Bella,’ Mam ordered. ‘I’ll get you a bowl of porridge.’
Bella smiled. Although her mam had insisted she be christened Annabelle, she was always called ‘our Bella’ at home and her friends called her Bella too.
‘You off now, Dad?’ Bella threw her arms around him and gave him a hug. ‘Don’t work too hard.’
‘I’ll do me best not to, queen,’ he teased. His deep-set brown eyes, the same colour as all his daughters’, twinkled and he gave her a hug back. ‘See youse all later, gels,’ he said, pecking Mam on the cheek and tweaking Molly and Betty’s plaits, which had miraculously survived a night in bed without needing redoing. He hurried down the narrow hallway to the front door with their shouted goodbyes following him.
Bella sat down next to Molly, sprinkled sugar over her porridge and wolfed it down in seconds flat. She eyed up the last slice of toast left on a plate in the middle of the table and hoped no one else wanted it. Good manners made her ask her sisters if they wanted to share but they shook their heads. She reached for the toast and spread a thin layer of mixed fruit jam across the surface.
The label on the jam, bought from the corner shop on Victory Street, gave no clue as to what the fruit might be, but Bella thought she detected apple and possibly plum. Mrs Horner, who ran the shop, made a lot of jams and chutneys and gave a halfpenny back for every empty jar that was returned to her. The older Rogers sisters took it in turn to wash and take back the empty jars and were rewarded with the money to spend on sweeties.