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Lakeland Lily

Extract - Chapter One


‘Lily Thorpe, if you don’t come in this minute I’ll batter your face with a wet kipper. See if I don’t!’

The recipient of this dire warning made no move to respond, for she was entirely engrossed in holding her breath so as not to interrupt what must be the longest kiss on record.

‘That was your mam,’ the boy said at last when nature forced them up for air.

Lily, dizzy from the kiss, swept aside her shining brown hair and laid her cheek upon Dick’s chest with a sigh of blissful contentment. For a long moment she lay listening to the rapid beat of his heart then lifted her face a fraction to give him the full benefit of her bewitching hazel eyes, glowing almost gold with desire, her tiptilted nose, and the bluntness of a deceptively demure chin which, he claimed, only proved how very stubborn she was. Lily meant to let him see that she would not be averse to the kiss being repeated.

Not, she admitted wryly, that the ash-pit roof from which strings of washing flapped, was the most romantic place in the world to experiment with these delightful new sensations. Situated at the bottom of a yard shared by half a dozen other houses besides her own, shovel-loads of ash from the fire were stored in the pit and used to sweeten the tippler privy next door.

But from its roof Lily could see beyond the huddle of narrow streets and overcrowded fishermen’s cottages that made up The Cobbles, as far as the dark green fringe of woodland that cloaked the lower reaches of the Lakeland hills, the bare tops of the more distant peaks, and, if she stood on tiptoe, the glimmer of silver-bright water that was the lake.

Beyond the lake was the world where, one day, Lily meant to be: Rydal and Grasmere to the north, the busy towns of Windermere and Kendal to the south. To the west lay the snow-capped peaks of the Langdales, while to the east were the high fells of Kentmere. These were the limits of Lily’s knowledge. She had never in her life stepped outside the boundaries of Carreckwater, though she took every opportunity to escape the pungent confines of The Cobbles, squashed as it was between Fisher’s Brow and Old Martin’s Yard, far from the more elegant quarters of the small town.

Lily hated The Cobbles and all it stood for. The sweet-sour stink of poverty gave a sense of hopelessness to the tiny overcrowded cottages. Walls ran with damp both inside and out. The alleys were infested with the kind of livestock nobody welcomed, and her mother fought a thankless daily battle against cockroaches. Each night the drunks would noisily roll home and by morning the stink of urine and vomit would be stronger than ever. Lily’s single all-pervading desire was to leave The Cobbles for good.

She dreamed of making her fortune in the neighbouring village of Bowness. Of holding court in her own fine shop, perhaps a draper’s and mantle-maker’s, surrounded by silks and satins which she would fashion into much sought-after garments. These dreams made her life tolerable.

But she wasn’t thinking of escape today. Nor had she any wish to admire the view. She wanted only to melt into Dick Rawlins’s arms, to be caressed by his fevered hands and kissed into submission by his burning lips. How else was she to learn about life if she didn’t experiment a little? She was fifteen, after all.

‘Did you enjoy it?’


‘That French kiss.’

Lily considered for a moment. It had felt a bit awkward at first with his tongue in her mouth, but then something very strange had happened to other parts of her, which she really didn’t like to think about. Mind you, the girls at the fish market had told her nasty things could happen to a girl after certain sorts of kisses. Was this what they meant? She’d hate to have to give up kissing Dick Rawlins. Lily slanted a smile up at him. ‘Happen I need to try it again, before I can decide.’

Taking hold of her shoulders Dick rolled her on to her back and without asking her permission to do so, stretched himself out on top of her.

‘Here, you cheeky tyke, what you up to?’ she demanded, pushing at his chest, though with little conviction.

‘Don’t tell me you don’t like this either?’ He made little movements up and down and even through her cotton frock and thick flannel drawers she was startled to feel his private parts rubbing against her, all hard and alarmingly large. Lily felt her cheeks grow hot and while she knew she should push him off, at the same moment she was too busy examining her own response and finding it entirely fascinating.

‘It’s all right, Lil. I won’t do anything to you,’ he grunted against her neck, and the sweat from him flowed inside the collar of her thin frock, leaving it all damp. ‘Not till after we’re wed, anyroad.’ He chuckled, while Lily frowned up at the blue sky above his head and wondered if she dared ask what it was, exactly, that he would do to her then, and how it would feel?

She was no fool, nor entirely ignorant of sexual matters, she told herself. It wasn’t possible to live in these streets and not gain some idea of the goings on between men and women. But it was a confused and distorted picture, filled with strange fears, whispered rumours, and unexplained gaps in her scanty knowledge. She’d asked her mother once, but Hannah’s cheeks had grown dark red with embarrassment and Lily had wished the words unspoken.

‘Fifteen is too young for such talk. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Lily Thorpe. Go and wash your mouth out this minute.’

Hannah Thorpe was of the opinion that the less her young daughters knew of such matters, the less likely they were to get ‘caught’. By which Lily understood her to mean, with a baby.

There were six Thorpe children, including herself, and it was still a mystery to Lily why her mother kept having them when she was so close to exhaustion much of the time. Lily had no intention of ruining her own health with a clutch of children, nor of spending her life washing, caring and cleaning up after them. So she needed to understand how it all came about, desperate to make sure she didn’t fall into the same trap.

‘Too much curiosity in you, girl. A woman makes bairns and a woman brings ‘em up. And there are times when they cost her naught but pain and trouble.’

‘Yes, but how? I mean, if they’re such a trouble, why do you keep making more? And why do men keep giving ‘em to you?’

‘Because the daft beggars think only of themselves! Remember that, Lily. Men allus think they’re in charge of everything, but theer’s some things they can’t do. Having a bairn is one of ‘em,’ Hannah had said with tart satisfaction, then added with a stern wag of one finger, ‘you take care what you’re up to, girl, and you’ll be safe. And that’s all I have to say on the matter.’

Thus the mystifying subject was closed, and Lily’s curiosity remained unsatisfied, her thirst for life all the greater.

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‘Freda Lightfoot is strong on sense of place’ Westmorland Gazette on Lakeland Lily

‘Engaging tale set in the Lake District during World War I’  West Cumbrian Gazette

Lily Thorpe is a spirited, ambitious fisherman’s daughter, desperate to escape the poverty of her Lakeland home. When the rich Clermont-Read family spoils her plans, Lily embarks on a personal quest for revenge and marries their only son, Bertie, a handsome indolent charmer. Rejected by his family, the young couple soon find themselves battling against the very poverty Lily had hoped to escape...

A twist of fate brings her the freedom she craves, but the price Lily must pay is vindictive snobbery from Bertie’s mother - as well as another far greater one, finally leading to a passionate affair with Nathan Monroe, a local steam boat captain. Now it is Lily who must protect herself against the threat of vengeance and decide who is more important, her husband or her lover.