P. J. Swanwick, Fiction for a New Age,
Transforming Pandora would be a good summer read because it features the heroine's coming-of-age as well as her later life and loves, so can be enjoyed by both mothers and daughters and, who knows, sons and father, alike.
Extract from chapter 21, Transforming Pandora by Carolyn Mathews
The apartment was clean and bright. Beneath us I could see a restaurant patio, set with tables and chairs which overlooked the beach and the Mediterranean sea, beyond.
My mother joined me on the balcony, bringing two glasses and a bottle of red wine. She placed them on the table and we both sat down on the hard, metal chairs. Her features assumed a coaxing expression and I wondered what was coming.
‘Darling, would you mind calling me Frankie while we’re here? You see, Señor Capella saw my wedding ring and assumed Toby and I were married. He started calling me Señora Packwood-Jones so we went along with it.’
‘And if I introduce you as my daughter, it just complicates things, because . . . ’
I finished the sentence she was struggling with.
‘Because obviously Toby isn’t old enough to be my dad.’
I stopped there, not wanting to twist the knife further. Frankie certainly didn’t look her forty-two years, but Toby was only about twenty-five or so. If I turned up as a daughter it would draw unwanted attention to the gap in their ages.
‘So who am I, Mum?’
She poured us each a glass of wine. I took a sip and nearly spat it out. She laughed.
‘You’ll get used to it. It’s vino tinto, otherwise known as gut-rot.’
I raised my eyebrows, waiting for my mother to answer my question, and she spoke quickly, as if it was already a done deal.
Thank goodness she hadn’t said little sister. That would have felt really weird.
‘Okay, but don’t ask me to call you Aunty.’
‘Good God, no. Frankie’s fine. That’s settled then. Come on, I’ll take you down and show you the work in progress.’
The shell that was being transformed into the Inner Beast night club occupied the basement of the apartment block. Frankie explained that there was a primitive form of ventilation but, of course, no windows, so she and Toby had been sweltering in the heat. Señor Capella had promised to have a modern system installed as soon as possible but, in the meantime, they roasted.
When we got down there, we found some Spanish workmen putting finishing touches to the toilets, but otherwise Toby was the only person working in the vast, L-shaped area. The place smelled of paint and turpentine. And putty. There was dust on the floor from the building work, which no one had bothered to clear up.
Toby put down his brush, got off his step ladder, and came over to us. He was dressed in dungarees with no shirt underneath, giving him the appearance of a hillbilly. The trouser legs had been cut off at the knees and the garment was so spattered with paint that the original colour was scarcely visible.
He took off his dust mask and looked from one of us to the other, appearing unsure whether to kiss me. I’d only met him once before, when Frankie had been angry with him for giving the game away about my dad asking for a divorce, and I wasn’t sure what to do either.
He was sweating. Dabbing his face and hands with a paint rag, he shook my hand tentatively.
‘Good to see you. Did you have a good flight?’
Frankie answered for me, putting her arm round his waist.
‘Everything went like clockwork, didn’t it Pan?’ I nodded. ‘I told Pandora that as far as Carlos and anyone else is concerned, she’s my niece. To keep things simple.’
Toby looked blank, the shrug of his shoulders implying there were things that women said and did that he found impossible to fathom.
We all sat down on one of the long, black, concrete banks set round the edge of the club. We’d taken Toby a cold lemonade and he drank it greedily. He waved the bottle towards the walls.
‘What do you think of it?’
‘It’s super,’ I answered, emphasising and elongating the first syllable. As soon as I heard myself, I blushed, aware that I was already taking on the cadences of my mother’s remodelled accent. Since she’d been living with Toby, I’d noticed she’d acquired a bit of a Chelsea bray. Which was odd, because Toby was doing just the opposite – toning down his accent to sound less posh. Trouble was, neither of them was getting it quite right.
I got up and had a look round, absolutely loving what they’d done so far. John, Paul, George and Ringo were already finished and dominated a large wall opposite the dance floor. Einstein and Che Guevara were sketched out, waiting for Frankie to colour them in, and Bob Dylan was in the process of being fine-tuned. Adjacent to the dance floor, stood a tall glass box in which a disc jockey would eventually preside over the dancers. A large bar snaked round a corner, mimicking the L-shape of the room.
I noticed a self-portrait of Toby on a minor wall, beyond the bar. Unlike the Beatles, who were gigantic, Toby had painted himself as less than life size, complete with dungarees and paint brush. It reminded me of the children’s puppet, Andy Pandy – all he needed was a stripy hat and a teddy bear.
Decorating one of the larger walls, was a portrait of Frankie, which could only have been painted by someone in love. She was naked, her long dark tresses partially concealing her generous breasts.
Her enormous green eyes stared out, Mona Lisa like, and her lower torso curved in a way any mermaid would be proud of. I could indeed have passed for this woman’s sister. Without the voluptuousness,
of course. And the fishy tail.
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