Extract: The Family Friend by C C Macdonald
Erin lives an idyllic life by the seaside with her baby boy and handsome Australian fiancée. She’s upbeat and happy – a natural mum. At least that’s what her thousands of followers on Instagram think.
In the real world, Erin is struggling with anxiety and finding it difficult to connect with her screaming son. So when a famous agent offers to make her the biggest instamum out there, she’s over the moon. And when Amanda, a family friend who’s visiting from Australia, says she’ll move in and babysit to help make it happen, it seems like the stars have finally aligned for Erin’s exciting new career.
But when a devastatingly revealing video is posted online by an anonymous troll, Erin’s brought crashing back to earth. As everything she’s worked for starts to slip away, Erin must find out how far she can trust those closest to her.
Read on for a chapter of The Family Friend by C C Macdonald!
The Family Friend
C C Macdonald
Erin’s heels clack along the uneven pavement like castanets. She got off the train eighteen minutes ago. She bought a vanilla doughnut from the delicatessen opposite the station and ate half of it before dropping it in a bin. She filmed herself doing all of this, told her smartphone camera why she was throwing it away – too much sugar – and why she bought it in the first place – it was luminous yellow and made her smile. But when she watched the footage back, she came across a little irritated, probably because she was thinking about having wasted £1.20, so she decided not to post the video.
Erin runs her fingers over the ridges of a long fence that hems in the gardens of a row of bungalows, nausea bubbling up from her stomach, giving everything she sees a filter of unpleasantness.
She rounds the corner and emerges onto a wider road, where most of the cars drive over the speed limit, and spots the memorial opposite to a little boy who was one of its victims some years ago. Broken shards of old CDs hang from the tree at the memorial’s centre to ward birds away from the dutifully tended floral display and sun-bleached Arsenal shirt. The story goes that the boy’s mother was chatting on the phone and didn’t see him step out. The road is one back from the sea, protected from the harshest ravages of the North Sea wind, but not far enough away to escape the ice water in the air that seems to seep through Erin’s merino-mix cardigan as the light dies away.
Glancing up at the houses, the dusk reveals who’s in and who’s out. The colours glowing from the windows remind her of the blinking lights of a Christmas market. The strobing blue of a humungous flat-screen; pink warmth coming through a mid-range red Ikea roller blind upstairs; the ochre tint of an open fire, shadows licking a paved driveway.
A cloud must have moved as the sky turns from a muted purple to Technicolor terracotta. She stops outside one of the houses, a bungalow with a dormer stuck out of its roof. The square bay window that stretches over most of its frontage emits a golden hue that gives Erin a swell of warmth and she touches her chest as if she can feel it. She gets out her phone, scans the screen for a moment and posts something before dropping it back into her coat pocket. The January air makes her eyes water. She blinks them dry, scratches her right ear with her shoulder and walks towards the bungalow with the purpose of someone prepared to face the music.
She nudges the house’s cast-iron gate gently with her knee and heads up the path. She glances through the window and stops.
A man sits at an oval dining table at the back of an openplan living-kitchen-dining room, smiling. He’s looking at a baby boy with copious dark hair, plumed up in a loose Mohawk, being held out by a striking red-headed woman with a face so chiselled it could have been drawn on a computer. She lifts the baby into the air, staring at him and, is she singing? It seems to Erin like she might be singing. She has the boy stand on her knees and makes him dance, using the hand that isn’t supporting him to move his arms and legs like a marionette. The man glances at the woman and the baby, looks down and his face cracks into a slow smile.
The woman puts the baby back into the crook of her arm and looks straight out of the window. Erin knows that she can’t be seen now that it’s darker outside but she ducks away from the woman’s gaze anyway. The man tickles the baby’s palms as he reaches towards him.
It looks like something from an advert for a gas company. The happy family laughing with each other in the warmth of the home. The woman holding court, mother, friend, lover. Perfect.
Except that’s not her family. It’s Erin’s.
358 posts 36.2k followers 1,321 following
Mum to Bobby. Salty sea-dweller. Bright up your life. Reformed thespian.
These are my hangover shades. Because this is my hangover.
Banger of a #gifted mini-break @digidetoxglamping. Huge thanks. The cocktails were ting. Not entirely convinced about not having my phone for twenty-four hours. Felt a bit like I’d had a frontal lobotomy. Not the best. BUT my first night away from Bobby-boy was surprisingly fun. I can’t wait to see him but feel racked with guilt and nerves about having left my baby boy behind. IS THIS NORMAL? What if he’s pissed off with me and doesn’t want cuddles?! All your good wishes yesterday made leaving him a lot easier. This piñata was in the bargain bin of a shop at the station (everyday travel essential, sure). Not convinced big-Bob will know what to do with it but will look lush hanging by the window in his nursery and maxing out the Frida Kahlo vibes. WISH ME LUCK.
#thehungovergames #toooldtosayting #mumsofinsta #absentmumsofinsta #hotmessesofinsta #haveabreakhaveameltdown #willyoustilllovemetomorrow
AnnaMaitron HE’LL BE SO EXCITED TO SEE YOU
salveno33 ‘thehungovergames’ LOL
Fran_Tony98 i’d never leave my son at nine months and certainly wouldn’t come back still drunk.
motherhubbardglittercupboard Erin, you make it look easy but you still deserve time away. Hope you got my @mysteryboxes to celebrate 30K followers.
Tontonteron some people have real problems
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