Fairly Jane – Kathryn Cowling
Fairly Jane will move you, shock you, and warm your heart
This powerful, passionate, highly emotional novel tells the story of Jane Fairly and her struggle to find love and happiness after being adopted as a baby.
Coerced into marriage at the age of sixteen, Jane only narrowly avoids being killed by her abusive husband. She manages to escape to Cornwall, where she tries to rebuild her life.
Events don’t always run smoothly, but eventually Jane starts to find herself and to discover how to be happy.
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I was now six months pregnant and looked like a tiny whale. It took me a while to work out if I was happy to be bringing a new life into the world; I knew I’d forgotten what it felt like to feel unafraid. My body was always on high alert, taut and afraid of any approaching abuse Travis would inflict on me. I had developed a twitch in my left eye and a terrible stammer whenever Travis spoke to me; this seemed to infuriate him. A lot of my sentences would go unfinished because Travis lashed out at me when I couldn’t get the words out.
Daisy and Hester visited once but they were offended when I told them to leave before Travis came home so they stopped coming. Aunty Violet was not at all fazed about Travis but when I told her he would sulk if he knew she had been to the flat, she stopped visiting too. The isolation and loneliness I felt was almost as painful as the beatings.
Sometimes I stood at the window of the flat for hours on end, staring down at the world below. I watched everyone going about their business and they seemed happy with their lives. The couple that lived in the flat below didn’t work. Each morning the husband went to the shop along the street to collect his morning newspaper.
He always wore ill-fitting trousers, held up by braces with a string vest which was always peppered with different coloured stains. Without fail, he always had a rollup cigarette stuck out of the corner of his mouth. His wife’s hair was forever in curlers and she never appeared to wear anything different from her brown striped overall but they seemed pleasant enough.
They always looked up at me when they walked by. They smiled and waved when they saw me standing at the window. I always waved back; I liked to think they were my friends but in reality I knew nothing about them. It was three thirty in the afternoon. Travis always insisted that his meal was on the table at quarter past five sharp. I had already prepared it, it was liver, onions and mashed potato; it just needed to be cooked.
The sound of the doorbell ringing made me almost jump out of my skin. I had no idea who could be calling on me. It could have been the post man or bread man but they usually came earlier in the day. I lumbered carefully down the steps, pulling my cardigan around me for warmth. It was mid-February and bitterly cold but Travis had instructed me not to put the portable heater on until he arrived home.
I pulled the door open and gasped with joy. Standing there was my cousin, Lenny, looking extremely handsome in his navy uniform. I was so delighted to see him that I squealed then threw my arms around him. Lenny beamed as he followed me back up the steps hoisting his kit bag over his shoulder.
We sat down in the lounge he explained that he was on his way back to his ship and his mother suggested he popped in. I loved auntie Violet for that, did she know that I was starved of human company? I quickly boiled the kettle and made a pot of tea. As I poured us each one, Lenny shivered and asked as to why it was so cold in the flat. I lied that my pregnancy was making me overly warm. Lenny didn’t seem convinced and insisted on switching the plastic coal effect heater on.
We both sat cupping our drinks in our hands and talked about childhood memories and how much things had changed. We then move onto more current issues. Both of us agreed about the massive relief we felt once the Cuban missile crisis had ended and expressed our astonishment of the men behind it. No one wanted another war but it had come so close.
I was having a wonderful time chatting to Lenny; I still couldn’t believe how much he had changed since he had joined up. The whole time he was here I had half an eye on the clock. I knew Travis would not be pleased if he came home to find a visitor in his home.
At twenty to five Lenny stood and announced that he had better be going otherwise he would miss his train. I tried to disguise my relief but it felt almost palpable. Lenny would be long gone by the time Travis came home. I watched as my cousin pulled on his great coat and chattered away; amazed that he has not noticed my tension. But then, I had become a master at hiding my emotions since I married Travis.
Such was my anxiety it seemed to me that Lenny was moving in slow motion but he wasn’t. At last, he leant down and picked up his kitbag then turned to give me a final embrace. Travis had crept in so quietly that I had not heard him, I only saw him when Lenny released me from his loving bear hug.
Immediately I could sense Travis’s anger. Lenny must also have noticed how frosty the atmosphere had become despite the heat from the fire. He moved forward and put his out his hand to shake Travis’s. Travis swatted it out of the way like a cumbersome fly. Lenny’s countenance immediately changed. He frowned and his bushy eyebrows almost became one, he looked at Travis and growled:
‘What’s your problem mate?’
‘I’m not your bloody mate and I don’t appreciate my bloody wife whoring around while I’m at work!’ Travis snarled, as he glared at Lenny.
Lenny moved towards Travis. He was a head and half taller than the weedy, skinny coward of a man. I looked at Travis’s face as he weighed up the situation. He knew he was no match for a man of Lenny’s size. He immediately burst into fake laughter and declared:
‘Only joking mate, I know who you are, aren’t you Jane’s cousin Lenny, living life on the high seas?’
Lenny turned and looked, first to me then back at Travis. He nodded at the man standing in front of him. It was blatantly obvious that Lenny disliked Travis with a fierce intensity but he still managed to give him a curt nod. Lenny then got all his stuff together. He gave me a final hug then I walked him down the steps and closed the door behind him.
I felt a desperate, almost insane longing to run after him and scream for help, but I did not. Beads of sweat trickled down the back of my neck as I dragged myself up the steps to the flat. Travis was standing in the middle of the room, he turned and stared at me with an expression I could only describe as a deep loathing.
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About the Author
Kathryn Cowling was born and still lives in Cornwall, UK. She started writing after her two children left home and now has three published novels: Some Day Soon, When Will the War Be Over?, and her latest, Fairly Jane. Kathryn especially enjoys writing fictional stories about people living in the West of England during World War two, although Fairly Jane is set in the 1950s and ‘60s.
Although Kathryn has her own business carrying out Energy Performance Certificates, her ambition is to give this up and write full time.