Read Crystal Balls Online

Authors: Amanda Brobyn

Crystal Balls

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This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

Published 2011
by Poolbeg Press Ltd.
123 Grange Hill, Baldoyle,
Dublin 13, Ireland
Email: [email protected]

© Amanda Brobyn 2011

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

Copyright for typesetting, layout, design
© Poolbeg Press Ltd.

1

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN 978-1-84223-468-6
eISBN 978-1-84223-532-4

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photography, recording, or
any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent,
resold or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition, including this
condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Typeset by Patricia Hope in Sabon 11/14.5

Printed by
CPI Cox & Wyman, UK

www.poolbeg.com

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amanda Brobyn, originally from Liverpool, moved to Northern Ireland in 1999 where she lives with her husband and two children. Amanda’s media career kicked off as a
scriptwriter before moving onto novels, and she recently graduated with an MA in Film and Television Production, Management and Policy from the University of Ulster. She is already working on a
feature film adaptation of
Crystal Balls.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

In an attempt to be inclusive, let me thank all those people who have played a part – no matter how small – in the making and publication of
Crystal Balls,
my debut novel.

I cannot even begin without firstly thanking Paula Campbell of Poolbeg Press for making my dreams come true – you had faith in me all along, Paula, and without you I might still be in the
awful world of financial services, so from the bottom of my heart – thank you. Thanks to Sarah Ormston, also at Poolbeg, for allowing me to pester her regarding my hare-brained PR ideas and
for encouraging me to bring more – you might regret that! A massive thank you to Gaye Shortland, my editor, who worked me like a slave over the Christmas holidays! Joking aside, your skilful
eye for detail has left me glowing in the knowledge that
Crystal Balls
is the best it can be . . . and that is all down to you. Thanks to Paula Clamp who recommended Poolbeg to me and for
carving out the pathway to my new career.

Moving on to family and friends, firstly thanks to Michael and Claire Noble who read the first draft of the book and returned the manuscript to me with a gold star! To my dear friend Richard
Crawford without whom this book would not have been possible – you believed in me as a writer even when I doubted by own ability and it is you who has opened up this whole new world for me
and I adore you. To John Brooks, one of the best friends I have ever had – you predicted that all which has happened, would happen, didn’t you? Your strange insightfulness once again
turned out to be as true as you are a friend to me – and I to you. For Karla Robinson of David M Robinson Jewellers, thank you for being a proud friend and for taking the time to help me with
the book’s promotion and for using your contacts to get it out there. The next favour is from me to you!

Thanks to Cyril and Doris for their creche facilities(!) and for buying me the time I needed to write in peace.

Thanks, Mum, for your constant encouragement, hilarious (and very true) anecdotes and for telling the whole world just how proud you are of me, and thanks to my dad for conceding when I got the
publishing deal! I’m not sure you believed I would, but I can see in your eyes just how much my achievements mean to you. You are both extremely special parents and I hope I make you want to
burst with pride.

An enormous thanks to my sister, Jo, who read and re-read every single draft of the book, bouncing back with copious notes – some good, some bad, and for making me see that I could write
like all the other authors. I always believe you, Jo, because you tell me the truth and this book is for you as much as it is for me.

Thanks to my husband Stephen – who has never read the book but probably knows more about it than me – thank you for not buying ear-plugs and for listening to me over the years
– I love you. To my beautiful children, Josh and Harriet – for Josh, thanks for telling your teacher the book was actually called
Big Balls
and for making me explain to her that
it was not indeed a top-shelf publication! For Harriet, thanks for never grumbling when I spent our entire maternity leave glued to the laptop – you were so good and now Mummy gets more time
with both of you.

Finally, for those inexplicable situations which make your spine tingle and the hairs on your arms stand on end. For the times you spin around to see who is there to be greeted with an empty
space. For the strange smells and cold spells you feel, but no-one else does. For the times the lights flicker or a cold breath hits the back of your neck. For the strangest feeling that someone is
watching over you . . . they probably are. Thank you, too!

 

For Stephen, Josh and Harriet with all my love.

 

Contents

Prologue

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

 
Prologue

Slumped over the battered suitcase, she flings up her hood, protecting herself from the violent grey rain as it hurls down from the murky London skies. Each drop whispers words
of failure, basking in its power to pelt her harder and harder. Gloating like a playground bully. Her torso is already numb but no amount of physical affliction can come between her and the
gruesome mental punishment which holds her trapped in anguish and despair.

Unable to hold back, a tear escapes from her tightly closed eyes, followed by another and another, and she begins to sob uncontrollably, not caring about the weird looks from passers-by. None of
whom are bothering to ask if she’s okay. But hey, this is London.


This isn’t how my life is supposed to be
!” she screeches hysterically, her voice breaking under the exertion. “I’m talented,” she whispers, sobbing,
“and I don’t – know – what – else I can do – if I can’t do –
this
.”

She breaks down once more and her shoulders convulse with each sporadic heave of breath as she cries wildly. Red eyes squint from beneath the oversized hood and her face glimmers with an
iridescent wetness as she continues to weep in desolation. She is now oblivious to the awkward glances from the foot traffic around her. Her best monologue yet, wasted on their closed ears and
selective eyes. Wiping her runny nose on the arm of her sleeve, she hangs her head in remorse, immersed in a fog of blankness.

How can she tell her mother she’s failed? Failed her.

Her mother had spent her own early years wanting to make it as an actress, under the constant repression of an unambitious family telling her to wise up and live in the real world. So from the
moment her own daughter could walk and talk, she was pushed incessantly by a woman who was clearly living her dream through her offspring. Every ounce of energy her body possessed was injected into
allowing her child to have the opportunity to become that very thing she never was.

“And I have failed her,” the girl repeats again and again. “I have failed her.”

The dream is no longer.

She stands, slowly and painfully, cold from being static for so long and stiff from putting her body through excessive auditions day and night, year upon year.

Dragging the heavy case behind her, she trudges heavily through the sopping streets of Soho, looking for a home and silently praying for someone to take her away.

 
1

Chantelle clambers up the stairs, thumping loudly on each one, with all the grace of a baby elephant. How is it that weighing in at only eight stone such a little thing is
capable of creating a mini-tremor?

Breathlessly she knocks at the office door.

“Tina, are you in there?”

“No, I’m not here!” I answer with playful sarcasm. “I’m the boss and I’ve given myself the afternoon off!”

Chantelle enters, panting heavily, and plonks herself at the opposite side of the desk. An immediate emission of stale cigarettes fills the air.

“Chantelle! You told me you’d given up!” I exclaim with the disgust only an ex-smoker is capable of.

“Well, I’ve kind of given up so I wasn’t lying,” she explains, straight-faced and earnest. “I’ve actually cut back which in reality means I’ve given up
what I
used
to smoke.” She stares at me, looking smug and clever at her response.

I can’t even contradict her – there’s logic in there somewhere.

I trained Chantelle as a saleswoman, a better one than even myself, but the downside is that she has an answer for everything and at breakneck speed.

I’m feeling mellow today after a joyous meeting with my accountant and it’s a day for celebrations. Let her kill herself with lung disease if she wants to, providing she abides by
the rules of no smoking on the premises or in front of the building or during any type of hospitality event. I guess I can’t ask for much more, apart from asking her not to
really
kill
herself of course. She’s my right-hand woman and I’m not sure I could survive without her, but as much as I tell her, I’m not quite sure she believes it.

“Chantelle, don’t you know how unattractive it makes you look?” I preach. “You’re drop-dead gorgeous but you ruin it all by having a fag hanging out of the side of
your mouth.” I laugh off the frustration. “Very ladylike! And why do you keep knocking, you daft sod? If the door isn’t shut tight, just come on in. Open-door policy,
remember?”

Chantelle nods approvingly. “You know what, Tina, I got so used to being treated like a skivvy and a nothing in my old job, it still seems, well, kind of weird that you’re the boss
but you’re so nice at the same time.”

Her honesty and respect are admirable qualities although I can’t help but feel that, at twenty-seven, she ought to be showing signs of greater maturity and aiming to work as more of an
equal rather than being happy as a subservient. And this is why I made her the office manager twelve months ago, a recognition well deserved and well overdue in terms of her entire career span.

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