Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Pink Ice Creams by Jo Woolaston + Excerpt

Pink Ice Creams by Jo Woolaston
Self published on the 14th May 2019.

Intent on fixing her broken marriage and the alcohol-fuelled catastrophe that is her life, Kay Harris arrives at her grim and grey holiday let, ready to lay to rest the tragedy that has governed her entire adulthood – the disappearance of her little brother, Adam.

But the road to recovery is pitted with the pot-holes of her own poor choices, and it isn’t long before Kay is forced to accept that maybe she doesn’t deserve the retribution she seeks. Will the intervention of strangers help her find the answers she needs to move on from her past, or will she always be stuck on the hard shoulder with no clear view ahead and a glove box full of empties?

Pink Ice Creams is a tale of loss, self-destruction, and clinging on to the scraps of the long-lost when everyone else has given up hope.


Kay has always blamed herself for her brother leaving the safe confines of her entrusted care. A childish argument, a strop, a bent back finger, and he was gone. But at 12, she was still a child herself, so should the blame be at someone else’s door? Adam wasn’t the only person Kay lost that day, as she also now mourns the loss of the mother who abandoned her at a time when Kay needed her most of all, and, despite everything, still does...

She is somebody without effort. A flash of teeth and a sway of hips, and they flock around her like flies around shit. 

‘All in red, all in red, she took him up to bed, down in the valley where nobody goes.’

She sits at the bar on a high stool, legs crossed, her bare legs a deep bronze from her pink painted toenails to the spilt at the top of her red dress. She sips through a straw, lips pouting, eyes bright and hopeful, furtively watching the people walk in, looking for a potential playmate and weighing up her options. I’m longing to go in and sit with her, laugh with her, mock and make fun with her, imitate her actions, mimic her pose, but I won’t. She’d brain me. 

‘I can’t see, Kay, I can’t see.’

We are balanced on an overflow down-pipe, fingers aching and raw from clinging onto a thin flaking window ledge. The windows are too high up for Adam but on tiptoes I can see through, just. I kick Adam off my leg and he falls on his backside and bursts into tears. He is tired, it is way past his bedtime, he is scared of the dark.

‘Get off me! If Mum sees us she’ll kill me so pack it in!’
‘I can’t see Kay, it isn’t fair.’
‘Here, have this, and keep your whiny gob shut.’

I throw down to him his little wooden gonk and lift myself up again to peer over the ledge. It is pretty inside, dark parquet flooring, rich reds and gold, tall heavy lamp-stands with tasselled shades. The air is thick with fag smoke and the music vibrates the window glass, loose in their old frames. She has company now, a man with a mullet well past its sell-by date, with blond streaks that could almost disguise the copper curls if it weren’t for the well-cultivated ginger moustache that adorns his upper lip. What does she see in him, the red-headed copper-top, Duracell ginger-nut? A hilarious character judging by the way Mum’s head is thrown back and her mouth agape, hacking out reams of unconvincing laughter. Her hand has fallen off her straw and has landed between her thighs.

‘Kay can you see her? What is she doing?’
‘She’s laughing.’

Adam’s face is streaked with dirt and tears and his eyelids sag at half-mast, straining to stay open. He has just wee’d his pants, and a dark patch of wet spreads across his pyjama bottoms as he makes the gonk dance in front of him, the little beads on the end of its string arms bouncing against its body. Tip tap tip tap tip tap. 

‘Come on, let’s get you back in bed.’

I pick Adam up and carry him on my hip across the grass verge onto the gravel road and out towards the vans. People pass us on their way to the bar, some of them with kids, some holding hands, all hopeful, bright-eyed with anticipation for the night ahead. Adam wraps his arms around my neck and rests his head on my shoulder, the gonk tightly clenched in his fist. I will wait up for her to come home.

‘Good morning little chicks. Come on Kay wakey wakey!’
‘Hello my little angel, did you have a good sleep? Come on both of you, up you get. Kay?’
‘Come on sleepy-head, there’s no point spending the holiday in bed.’

She looks sweaty. Her make-up is half way down her cheeks and her red dress is still visible under her dressing gown. I waited, a long time. 

‘What time did you get in?’
‘What is this, twenty questions?’ 
‘That’s one question.’
‘I didn’t want to wake you. Sleeping like a baby you were, both of you.’
‘He is a baby.’
‘Don’t start Kay, it’s a lovely morning so let’s not spoil it. Just play nicely.’

Play nicely and you can stay up late. Be good and we’ll go to the beach. Stay put and I’ll buy you an ice-cream. Double cone? Mint choc chip? Raspberry ripple.

‘All in pink, all in pink, she made his fingers stink. Down in the valley where nobody goes.’

Meet the author

Jo Woolaston lives in Leicestershire, England with her extreme noise-making husband and two lovely sons. She tries to avoid housework and getting a ‘proper job’ by just writing stuff instead - silly verse, screenplays, shopping lists...

This sometimes works in her favour (she did well in her MA in TV Scriptwriting, gaining a Best Student award in Media and Journalism – and has had a few plays produced - that kind of thing) but mostly it just results in chronic insomnia and desperate tears of frustration. Pink Ice Creams is her first novel, she hopes you liked it.

Author links: 
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Books by Jo Woolaston / Contemporary fiction / Books from England