An Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney
Bestselling children’s author Sally Gardner brings us her brand new adult novel An Almond for a Parrot under the pen name Wray Delaney.
Tully Truegood’s life is changed from a neglectful childhood to a teenage awakening when her father takes a new wife and she suddenly acquires two step-sisters. Instead of owning rags and sharing a bed with the house cook, she’s dressed in gowns and in loneliness she chooses to share a bed with one of her new sisters. After a brief but intimate meeting with a stranger the day of her father’s wedding she’s left with a burning that only her stepsister explains to her.
When Tully wakes one morning to find her new female members of her family gone, she’s left with a drunk of a father who shows so little care for her he offers her virginity in a card game. Pushed to her limit, she storms from the house and ends up back with the women she considered family, only to learn they are not quite what they seem.
Her new mother runs a brothel and her ‘sisters’ are highly regarded courtesans. Now Tully has a new choice to make, join the oldest profession in the world or go out on the streets alone.
This fantastical, romanticized tale of a feisty mistress makes for a wistfully fun reading. Touched with magic and blessed with brains as well as beauty, Tully excels in her new profession and make for compelling reading. With a fairy tale touch, Wray Delaney/Sally Gardner’s prize is rich and razor sharp. Tully turns from a timid creature into an outspoken mistress and then to a woman who finds herself behind prison bars. This mixture of fantasy, history and erotic fiction works beautifully and I do hope to see more like this from her in the future.
If you fancy a peak into the world of Tully Truegood then you’re in luck, as the wonderful people at HQ Stories have gifted me the beginning of the first chapter to share with you below.
One of the most disgraceful customs observed in the Fleet Prison in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was the performance of the marriage ceremony by disreputable and dissolute clergymen. These functionaries, mostly prisoners for debt, insulted the dignity of their holy profession by marrying in the precincts of the Fleet Prison at a minute’s notice, any persons who might present themselves for that purpose. No questions were asked, no stipulations made, except as to the amount of the fee for the service, or the quantity of liquor to be drunk on the occasion. It not unfrequently happened, indeed, that the clergyman, the clerk, the bridegroom and the bride were drunk at the very time the ceremony was performed.
Appendix VI, The Newgate Calendar
Newgate Prison, London
I lie on this hard bed counting the bricks in the ceiling of this miserable cell. I have been sick every morning for a week and thought I might have jail fever. If it had killed me it would at
least have saved me the inconvenience of a trial and a public hanging. Already the best seats at Newgate Prison have been sold in anticipation of my being found guilty – and I have yet to be sent to trial. Murder, attempted murder – either way, the great metropolis seems to know the verdict before the judge has placed the black square on his grey wig. This whore is gallows-bound.
‘Is he dead?’ I asked.
My jailer wouldn’t say.
I pass my days remembering recipes and reciting them to the damp walls. They don’t remind me of food; they are bookmarks from this short life of mine. They remain tasteless. I prefer them that way.
A doctor was called for. Who sent for or paid for him I don’t know, and uncharacteristically I do not care. He was very matter of fact and said the reason for my malady was simple: I was with child. I haven’t laughed for a long time but forgive me,
the thought struck me as ridiculous. In all that has happened I have never once found myself in this predicament. I can hardly believe it is true. The doctor looked relieved – he had at least found a reason for my life to be extended – pregnant women are not hanged. Even if I’m found guilty of murder, the gallows will wait until the child is born. What a comforting thought.
Hope came shortly afterwards. Dear Hope. She looked worried, thinner.
‘How is Mercy?’ I asked.
She avoided answering me and busied herself about my cell.
‘What does this mean?’ she asked, running her fingers over the words scratched on a small table, the only piece of furniture this stinking cell has to offer. I had spent some time etching them into its worm-eaten surface. An Almond for a Parrot.
‘It’s a title for a memoir, the unanswered love song of a soon to- be dead bird. Except I have no paper, no pen and without ink the thing won’t write at all.’
‘ Just as well, Tully.’
‘I want to tell the truth of my life.’
‘Better to leave it,’ she said.
‘It’s for Avery – not that he will ever read it.’ I felt myself on the brink of tears but I refused to give in to them. ‘I will write it for myself. Afterwards, it can be your bedtime entertainment, the novelty of my days in recipes and tittle-tattle.’
‘Oh, my sweet ninny-not. You must be brave, Tully. This is a dreadful place and…’
‘And it is not my first prison. My life has come full circle. You haven’t answered my question.’
‘Mercy is still very ill. Mofty is with her.’
‘Will she live?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘And is he alive?’
‘Tully, he is dead. You are to be tried for murder.’
‘My, oh my. At least my aim was true.’
I sank back on the bed, too tired to ask more. Even if Hope was in the mood for answering questions, I didn’t think I would want to know the answers.
‘You are a celebrity in London. Everyone wants to know what you do, what you wear. The papers are full of it.’
There seemed nothing to say to that. Hope sat quietly on the edge of the bed, holding my hand.
Finally, I found the courage to ask the question I’d wanted to ask since Hope arrived.
‘Is there any news of Avery?’
‘No, Tully, there’s not.’
I shook my head. Regret. I am full of it. A stone to worry one’s soul with.
‘You have done nothing wrong, Tully.’
‘Forgive me for laughing.’
‘You will have the very best solicitor.’
‘Who will pay for him?’
‘No, no. I don’t want her to. I have some jewels…’
I felt sick.
‘Concentrate on staying well,’ said Hope.
If this life was a dress rehearsal, I would now have a chance to play my part again but with a more favourable outcome. Alas, we players are unaware that the curtain goes up the minute we take our first gulps of air; the screams of rage our only hopeless comments on being born onto such a barren stage.
So here I am with ink, pen and a box of writing paper, courtesy of a well-wisher. Still I wait to know the date of my trial. What to do until then? Write, Tully, write.
With a hey ho the wind and the rain. And words are my only escape. For the rain it raineth every day.
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