Check out the first chapter of The True Tale of Jezebel Cole. I hope you enjoy it and want to read more!!

Everyone was talking about the disappearance of Patty Belleville. She had been a media celebrity for nigh on thirty years, appearing on practically every chat show – even agreeing to participate in a series of Celebrity Big Brother once just to promote her latest book. She thrived on publicity and acclaim, and no one could understand what had prompted her to disappear out of the public eye without telling anyone where she’d gone. Some people assumed she was dead, others that she was just doing it for attention. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t every day million selling novelists dumped their cars at Dover and slipped away, never to be seen again.

The months rolled on and Patty didn’t return. The longer it went on, the more people were willing to accept she may have taken her own life. Her last novel ‘Two Hearts’ had been a departure from the usual raunch she was famous for, and had been a complete flop. In 1978 she’d published her first book ‘The Tale of Jezebel Cole’ – the story of a high-class prostitute who marries a rich Arab and briefly steps into respectability. It had been an overnight success and the thirteen subsequent novels telling of all her exploits had shot Patty into the stratosphere, and now she was second only to Jackie Collins. Her books had been translated into fifty different languages and made into Hollywood mini series and films. People had come to love her frank, explicit style of writing and there had been widespread condemnation when she’d released ‘Two Hearts’ – a tale of star-crossed lovers in the years around the First World War. There had been no sex and no swearing. There was even speculation that it had been written by someone else, that Patty had lost the ability to write and maybe that was what had driven her to end it all.

No one knew the truth and while the public joked about it, as they stood by their water coolers and at bus stops, in reality, Patty had left behind three women who were equally puzzled and bereft. Her daughters, Sasha, Rorie and Dana also had no idea where their mother had gone. She’d told them she had to meet someone in Paris and they’d assumed she would travel on one of her friends’ private jets. When it had appeared she’d chosen the more down-market Cross Channel ferry, it made no sense. If there was one thing Patty appreciated, that was luxury and she wouldn’t be seen dead on a ferry, having to mix with the hoi polloi. While none of the girls could claim to have ever been close to their mother, she had been the one constant in their lives and now she was gone. Without admitting it to one another, they knew they had to face the prospect of her being dead and none of them wanted to do that.

ONE

April 2009

          Sasha Fletcher stepped out of the London Studios and for a moment the bright sunlight hit her eyes and made her wince. She’d spent the morning ensconced in a tiny studio filled with artificial light and the stifling heat of cameras and electrical cables, and to be greeted with real life was a bit of a shock to the system. The reason she was here was that she’d been invited to do an interview with Natasha Murray – the queen of daytime television. Her show went out live every morning and was usually dedicated to the shenanigans of the great unwashed who were demanding free DNA tests to prove paternity or lie detectors to ensure someone had not been cheating. Ratings had been dropping of late and it had been a scoop to get an interview with the daughter of Patty Belleville.

Sasha had hated every minute of it. Unlike her mother, she had no desire to be famous. Even being married to a Premiership footballer hadn’t changed that. Sasha shunned the WAG lifestyle and there was more likelihood of her going to a BNP meeting than having hair extensions or her nails done, and to spend a morning under such close scrutiny had been uncomfortable and unpleasant.

          Thinking she would have to catch a cab to take her to Victoria, she received a shock when an Audi TT roared up beside her. She immediately recognised it as one of her younger sister Rorie’s fleet of cars. Rorie Chase was one of the world’s highest paid models and most of her wages went on fast cars – and maintaining the stream of unsuitable, sponging boyfriends who seemed to gravitate towards her.

          The window slid down, and Rorie stuck her head out, pushing her sunglasses back over her head.

          ‘Fancy a lift?’ she asked.

          ‘Where did you spring from?’

          ‘I was just doing a shoot down the road and I saw you on TV. I thought you might need a lift back to the station.’

          Sasha was rather taken aback by her sister’s altruism. Rorie could never be described as generous or particularly caring. Out of the three sisters, she was the one most like Patty.

          The only thing Sasha had in common with Rorie was her height and build. Both were tall and slim and as Sasha folded her body into the small car, she wondered what pleasure her sister got from driving it. Indeed, Rorie had the front seat pushed back rather far, just so her feet could reach the pedals. It seemed like rather a lot of effort just to show off.

          ‘How come you agreed to do the interview?’ she asked, moving off.

          ‘I don’t know,’ Sasha pondered, looking out at the concrete jungle that surrounded them. ‘I suppose as the eldest I felt I should do something.’

          Rorie glanced round at her and nodded approvingly.

          ‘You look nice.’

          Her tone said it all and Sasha had never felt more frumpy. She was wearing her only designer outfit – a dark brown Prada trouser suit she’d bought to attend a footballing awards ceremony with Luca in 2004. When she’d turned up at the studio with her frizzy hair tied back in a ponytail, the hairdresser had ranted for half an hour that she could not believe Sasha was Patty Belleville’s daughter as Patty always took so much time on her appearance. Trying to ignore the insult, Sasha had sat there while her hair was straightened into a sort of bob. The make up artist had been more complimentary and had cooed about her fabulous cheekbones and big brown eyes and by the time she was finished, Sasha looked quite stunning.

Even so, she could never compete with Rorie. To look at her younger sister, no-one would ever guess their mother had been mixed race – except perhaps for the natural tan to her skin. She’d inherited her father’s blue eyes and fair hair, and while it was naturally curly (although Rorie always kept it straight), she had none of the afro frizziness that had plagued Sasha all her life.

But then Rorie knew who her father was and knew she had inherited his looks. Jonathan Chase was a very famous actor – a heart-throb when he’d married the newly famous Patty Belleville; and with her exotic beauty and his Nordic looks, everyone just knew their baby was going to be a stunner. No one paid any attention to the five year old daughter Patty already had. The little girl who didn’t know who her father was. All her mother would tell her was that he was a bad man who beat her and made her run away to a women’s refuge, where Sasha was born. Sasha guessed he must have been white, as she was far paler than Patty and her features were pretty European. But she just wished her mother would just tell her something about him – good or bad, just so she could draw a picture of him in her head. Rorie had a dad around and even Dana – the result of a fling Patty had with an 19 year old American surfer called Chad Perry, knew her father was on the other side of the Atlantic and could be contacted any time she wanted. Sasha had no one; and now it looked like Patty had gone forever, it seemed she was never going to find out.

          ‘That Natasha Murray’s a nosy bitch,’ Rorie said. ‘Why did she ask all that about mum’s childhood?’

          ‘I guess she just wanted to see if there was any chance she would go back to her childhood haunts.’

          ‘Well she made you look like a complete idiot. You couldn’t tell her anything.’

          ‘Thanks Rorie.’

          ‘No I don’t mean you are an idiot. None of us really knew much about mum did we? It’s just that it makes us look like a really crap family who never talk to each other.’

          ‘We are a crap family. You, me and Dana hardly ever see each other. Our mother’s disappeared and not thought to tell us where she’s gone. Dana’s convinced she’s been murdered. You’re positive it’s a publicity stunt and I think she’s lost her mind. Just shows how much we all knew her seeing as we can’t agree.’

          ‘It is a publicity stunt Sash. Do you remember when mum had that lesbian affair with Abigail Burns? In reality she was shagging that wanker Ahmed, and Abigail Burns had a film coming out about a killer dyke. But it got publicity for her and caused a stir about mum. And lo and behold the next book that comes out, Jezebel toys with lesbianism. I tell you Sash, mum could teach Jordan a thing about all publicity being good publicity.’

          ‘I’m not convinced. What was Two Hearts all about?  Why did mum write such a soppy novel?’

          ‘Fuck knows. Perhaps it was just a quota filler for the publisher. Who can say? I just bet that by the end of the year she’ll miraculously reappear and we’ll find out she’s been sunning herself in Mustique or something.’

          Sasha wasn’t convinced, and as she sat on the train back to Surrey, she pressed her aching forehead against the cool window and closed her eyes, thinking over her life with Patty. It was true what Rorie had said, she had appeared vague in the interview with Natasha Murray. After all, everyone felt they knew Patty Belleville – the larger than life author famed for her raunchy books and over the top persona. Everyone thought she was Jezebel Cole, and that by reading of her exploits they were somehow getting a glimpse of the real Patty. But were they?

          All Sasha knew of her mother’s history was that she was the daughter of an English singer and a black American jazz musician. Her mother, Molly Keegan, had disowned her when she was sixteen (she never said why), and in 1976, when she was twenty, she became pregnant for Sasha by a man she never named. He beat her and forced her to flee to a woman’s refuge in Hammersmith and shortly after Sasha’s birth, the Patty Belleville fairy tale began. The owner of the home was the daughter of a famous publisher and when she read the first draft of The Tale of Jezebel Cole, she passed it to her father and he immediately offered Patty a publishing contract. Everything from then on was in the public domain – the affairs, the three daughters by different fathers, the flirtation with lesbianism. But something had caused Patty to disappear. Something had made her write that boring love story that she knew would be commercial suicide. Perhaps if Sasha could discover why her mother had done this, she’d be closer to finding out where she’d gone.

          By the time she got home, Luca was back from training. He’d left his muddy kit on the middle of the kitchen floor, telling her to wash it without uttering a single word.  Sometimes Sasha wished she could be like the other wives and girlfriends and hire a team of servants to do the work, while she dedicated herself to her appearance, but it wasn’t in her nature. If things had been different, by now, at thirty three she would have had at least a couple of kids to look after, but nature hadn’t blessed them with children. Luca blamed her – after all, he’d proven himself at just seventeen by fathering Kylie, his daughter who lived with them. And because he already had a child, he told Sasha he had no desire to try IVF. In his eyes, she’d raised Kylie since she was eight, and he couldn’t understand why she wanted a child of her own.

          Like a robot, Sasha loaded the washing machine and made herself a pot of coffee, getting a cup out for Luca. She wasn’t sure where he was but guessed he was probably downstairs in the swimming pool. He usually liked to unwind after training by pushing his body even further. At thirty-five, his career as a premiership footballer was coming to an end. He’d spent ten years at Chelsea before succumbing to a vicious hamstring injury in 2003. Shortly afterwards Jose Mourinho took over and considered Luca a liability, and he was sold to Sutton Town FC for thirty million pounds and even with his abilities as a star striker, it wasn’t enough to stop them hurtling towards relegation. Sasha knew if they ended up going down, the first sacrifice would be her husband. She didn’t even want to think about that because Luca would make her life a misery.

Pouring Luca a cup of coffee, Sasha took the rest of the pot and retreated into her studio. Since leaving art college, she’d worked as a illustrator of children’s books and had her name in more published works than even her mother. It was the perfect career for Sasha – solitary and imaginative. She preferred to live in her head, and she guessed she got that from Patty. After all, she must have imagined Jezebel Cole to start off with, before she morphed into her herself.

          There was a knock on the studio door and before Sasha could say anything, it opened. Luca walked in, and when Sasha saw him, it was as though she was viewing him for the first time. It was always like that with Luca. He was a total bastard and they barely had a conversation these days that didn’t escalate into an argument; but it didn’t stop her finding him gorgeous. He’d inherited his Italian mother’s dark hair, green eyes and olive skin, and standing there, with his top off, exposing his athletic body Sasha could only look at him with a mixture of lust and bewilderment, wondering exactly what he saw in her. Men like him married girls like Rorie, not bookish artists who could hardly be bothered to wear make up or dress nice.

          ‘Thanks for the coffee,’ he said, raising the cup to her.

          ‘No worries.’

          ‘How did the interview go?’

          ‘Rorie reckoned I looked like some sort of moron because I couldn’t answer questions about my mother’s life.’         

          ‘Maybe she should have done the interview then, not left it all up to you as usual.’

          ‘I’m the eldest, it’s my job.’

          ‘I’m surprised Dana didn’t want to do it; that girl’ll do anything to get her face on telly. What is it at the moment? Celebrity Sewage Worker?’

          ‘She’s training to be a make up artist with a load of other celebrities. I’m hoping she gets a career out of it.’

          ‘But what makes her a celebrity? That’s what I’d like to know. She’s famous for being Patty Belleville’s daughter. For her mother taking her to parties dressed like a slut when she was fifteen. She..’

          ‘That’s enough,’ snapped Sasha. ‘I’m quite aware of what my sister’s like. I don’t need you reminding me.’

          ‘Okay Okay. Anyway I just wanted to let you know I won’t be home tonight. It’s Tyrone’s birthday and he’s throwing a party at Chinawhite. I thought I’d stay at a hotel rather than come in and bother you and Kylie.’

          Sasha didn’t respond. The house was so big, she could sleep on one side of it and Luca could creep in and sleep on the other, and she wouldn’t even hear him enter. But she didn’t argue. If she did, she would end up saying something she’d regret; like expressing her fears that he was having an affair. Maybe it really was his team-mate’s birthday. Maybe he wasn’t lying.

          ‘Do you want dinner before you go?’ was all she managed to say.

          ‘No, I’ll grab a Maccy D’s in town. Anyway, I’ll leave you to it.’

          He retreated, closing the door behind him. Sasha cursed herself, wishing she was more assertive. Luca treated the house like a hotel and her like an unpaid washer woman, cook and nanny. Thankfully Kylie was nearly eighteen and perfectly able to look after herself, but it hadn’t always been like that. When her mother decided she wanted to go off to LA to pursue her modelling career, she’d dumped the little girl on the newlyweds and Sasha had gone out of her way not to play the Wicked Stepmother, and it was easy enough as Kylie was a lovely kid but it could have all turned out so differently.

          Luca went out at five, dressed in his favourite Armani suit, hair slicked back, stinking of Aramis. As he left, his daughter came in, joining Sasha in the kitchen.

          ‘Where’s dad off to?’ she asked, tossing her satchel onto a chair.

          ‘It’s Tyrone Carpenter’s birthday apparently. They’re having a party at Chinawhite. I wasn’t invited of course.’

          ‘Sash I think you’re far too clever to want to spend an evening with a bunch of boneheaded footballers and the orange bimbos who are trying to get into their pants.’

          ‘You’re probably right,’ Sasha laughed. ‘Do you want something to eat?’

          ‘Could you fix me a sandwich? I want to just get on with my biology homework. I’ve got to write an essay on photosynthesis. How interesting?’

          ‘It will be when you’re a doctor. You’ll be able to look back on all these boring essays and laugh.’

          ‘I hope you’re right.’

          Kylie got on the phone to one of her friends while Sasha fixed her a tuna mayo sandwich. Rorie always nagged Sasha about trying to persuade Kylie to do modelling. She was a stunning girl, with her father’s jet black hair and her mother’s model figure. But Kylie wasn’t interested. She respected Sasha as a role model and realised there was more to being a woman than looking pretty, and was determined to become a doctor. She didn’t even plaster on make up like her friends did; she was naturally beautiful and Sasha wasn’t surprised there was always a succession of boys knocking on the door, asking to take her out. The last one had been an undergraduate called Jeremy. Sasha thought he was far too much of a drip for her step-daughter, but she remembered what it was like to be eighteen and finding your feet where men were concerned.

          With Kylie in her room and Luca out for the night, Sasha took the opportunity to get on with her latest assignment. She was illustrating a book about pixies, written by a new author called Kitty Jefferies, who was being tipped as the new Beatrix Potter. Sasha sat in a world of her own, sketching and listening to Kate Bush on her iPod and because so ensconced in The Hounds of Love, she didn’t hear the front door bell ring and jumped out of her skin when the studio door opened and Kylie walked in.

          ‘Sash there’s a man here to see you,’ she said.

          ‘Who is it?’ Sasha asked, removing her earphones.

          ‘He says his name is William Morton. I’ve no idea who he is.’

          ‘Is he a friend of your father’s?’

          ‘No, he’s asking for you.’

          Sasha put down her pencil and iPod and followed her step-daughter out into the hall. Standing in the middle of it was a man. She estimated him to be in his fifties; tall and wearing a tailored suit and expensive looking shoes. He clutched a document case close to his chest and she caught him off-guard, looking up at the huge chandelier Luca had had imported in from France.

          ‘Can I help you?’ Sasha asked.

          He jumped a little and turned around. He was a pleasant looking man with short, silver hair, bright blue eyes and a neat moustache. Sasha had absolutely no idea who he was.

          ‘Sasha,’ he said, smiling. His teeth were far too Hollywood white for someone his age and it was obvious he was very rich, ‘My name’s William Morton. I was wondering if I could talk to you about your mother.’

          ‘Are you a journalist?’

          ‘No. I knew her when we were kids.’

          ‘Okay.’ Sasha looked at Kylie and told her it was okay and the young girl leapt up the stairs. William watched her go.

          ‘Is she your daughter?’

          ‘Step-daughter. Would you like to come into the kitchen?’

          Sasha led William into the kitchen and he seated himself on one of the sofas that ran along the far wall. Sasha asked him if he wanted coffee and he replied he’d prefer tea. He was well spoken and gave an air of intelligence and it fitted that Patty would have known someone like this when she was growing up. She did, after all claim to come from a wealthy family.

          ‘I saw your interview this morning,’ he said. ‘I could see you were struggling at times.’

          ‘Yes, well my mother is missing. What do you expect?’

          ‘No I don’t mean that. I mean, there seemed to be things you couldn’t answer. I felt I had to see you, so I contacted her agent and he told me where you lived.’

          Sasha brought him his tea and sat beside him, a part of her wanting to hear what he had to say; another part of her frightened, wondering exactly what secrets her mother had been keeping.

          ‘How did you know mum?’ she asked.

          ‘I used to live near her in Notting Hill. We were really good friends, best friends for a time. Then she disappeared.’

          ‘Disappeared? What do you mean disappeared?’

          ‘She left home when she was sixteen and I never heard from her again. As soon as she became famous as Patty Belleville, I recognised her but I never contacted her. She wouldn’t have changed her name had she wanted people to know who she was.’ 

          ‘I know so little about her life before she had me. She always said my grandmother disowned her when she was sixteen, but she never said why. Do you know what happened?’

          ‘Molly never disowned Patsy,’ he scoffed, using a name Sasha had never heard her mother addressed by. ‘Molly was arrested shortly afterwards and by the time she got out of prison Patsy had gone.’ 

          ‘Prison? What are you talking about?’

          The humour left William’s face as he realised he was dropping a massive bombshell upon this young woman. It was obvious her mother had kept so much of her early life a secret from her.

          ‘I’m so sorry. I thought you knew,’ he uttered.

          ‘Knew what?’

          ‘About your grandmother. About the brothel.’

          ‘What brothel? What are you talking about?’

          He looked away, his hands shaking as he held his teacup. He laid it upon the table before him.

          ‘I feel so terrible now. I’m so sorry. I didn’t realise how little you knew.’

          ‘Patty said her mother was a singer and her father a black American jazz musician and that they were wealthy and my grandmother disowned Patty when she was sixteen and she made her own way in the world.’

          ‘Your grandmother was a prostitute Sasha. I’m so sorry to tell you that, I really am. Molly ran a brothel on Talbot Road.’

          ‘A-And my grandfather?’

          ‘He was a Trinidadian who was killed in the Notting Hill Riots in 1958, when Patsy was two. Legend had it that when he died, Molly turned to drink and then to prostitution.’

          ‘I’m speechless,’ Sasha uttered. She felt so stupid. It was as though Patty was in the room with her; taunting her, laughing at how gullible she’d been to fall for her ridiculous story about being some discarded heiress. She was the daughter of a whore.

          ‘The reason I’m here is because when that woman was asking you why Patsy wrote Two hearts, you weren’t able to tell her. I thought I’d give you something to help you.’

          He opened the case he’d been carrying and pulled out a manuscript. It was yellowing and gnarled and held together by treasury tags. He passed it to Sasha and when she laid it upon her lap, she could see it was a book. The front cover was of two hearts drawn in red biro and the title written in black pen. ‘Two Hearts by Patricia Keegan’. At the bottom it was dated ‘May 1972’.

          ‘Patsy wrote that for me,’ he said. ‘It’s virtually the exact same story as the novel she published last year.’

          ‘She wrote it for you?’

          He looked down, seemingly ashamed.

          ‘Patsy thought she was in love with me. I adored her but she wasn’t the type of girl I could go out with. She wrote me this and the next month, just after her sixteenth birthday, she disappeared. It was only after she’d gone that I read it. She’d cast me as this dashing World War One officer and herself as a nurse from the other side of the tracks and we fall in love and everyone is against us. It’s quite beautiful and you wouldn’t believe it was written by a fifteen year old. When the other one came out I bought a copy and couldn’t understand why everyone was being horrible about it. My wife read a few of the Jezebel books and when I glanced at them I thought they were dreadful. To me Two Hearts was written by Patsy Keegan, the sweet girl I knew.’

          ‘Is there anywhere you have to be Mr Morton?’ Sasha asked.

          ‘No,’ he replied. ‘I’m fine.’

          ‘Good. Would you stay for a while? Tell me more about my mother?’

          ‘It would be a pleasure,’ he smiled.

(c) Karen Mason 2010

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One Response to “The True Tale of Jezebel Cole – the first chapter!!”

  1. Bluebella Says:

    Love it!! Where do I get the rest?


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