The win­ner takes it all…

Grazia’s First Chap­ter com­pe­ti­tion dis­cov­ers an­other tal­ented new voice

Grazia (UK) - - Contents -

We have our Wor­thy Win­ner.

Af­ter be­ing in­un­dated with en­tries for the eighth year of the Grazia and Women’s Prize for Fic­tion First Chap­ter com­pe­ti­tion, we’re de­lighted to an­nounce that 53-yearold Faith Eck­er­sall has scooped the hotly con­tested first prize. The com­pe­ti­tion, tak­ing en­tries from as­pir­ing fe­male writ­ers, was judged by Grazia’s deputy editor Caro­line Bar­rett and features di­rec­tor Emily Phillips, along­side award-win­ning The Girl On The Train au­thor Paula Hawkins, who started the story, called The Favourite Child.

The judges found them­selves crav­ing more af­ter Faith’s chap­ter – which in­cludes a wicked twist – promised tan­gents ga­lore if it were to un­furl into a novel.

Faith was pre­sented with her award by Grazia’s editor Hat­tie Brett at last week’s cer­e­mony for the Women’s Prize for Fic­tion, which was won by Kamila Sham­sie for Home Fire. Faith will also re­ceive a ses­sion with a lead­ing pub­lisher to talk about how to con­tinue her writ­ing jour­ney. You can read her win­ning en­try here (far right), then visit grazi­ to read first chap­ters from the two run­ners-up, Eleanor Corn­wall and Lucy Power. We’re sure they’ll be on your Ap­ple Books rec­om­mended list soon...

at­tracts the wrong sort of at­ten­tion. That’s why she’d got mar­ried. She didn’t es­pe­cially love Michael. But she re­alised it would be eas­ier. And af­ter that, the ba­bies just hap­pened. Well, the boys and Cara, any­way. Christ, was Michael so stupid and so weak he’d never won­dered why his sec­ond-born was the only brown-eyed child? Had he never won­dered why Lau­ren bore al­most no re­sem­blance to ei­ther him or her sib­lings, in looks or tem­per­a­ment?

If she closed her eyes and breathed, Kather­ine could still re­mem­ber the smell of the man’s skin, the way he’d pulled her un­der­wear off af­ter press­ing her against the wall in the down­stairs cloak­room, the chil­dren’s coats and Michael’s cy­cling hel­met bump­ing against the side of her face.

He was a de­liv­ery driver and knocked on the door, or so he said, to ask if she knew where Men­ton, a house he claimed was on her street, was lo­cated. His in­struc­tions, he’d grinned, were rub­bish.

It was a wet af­ter­noon, she’d per­suaded Cara into her cot for a nap af­ter a try­ing morn­ing when she wouldn’t set­tle at nurs­ery. ‘Per­haps she’s a bit on the young side to have started,’ said Kirsty, the leader, with just a hint of an­noy­ance.

So Kather­ine had brought Cara home and given her a spoon­ful of Calpol and was set­tling down to read when she heard the bell ring. She’d asked him to wait in the hall­way, be­cause of the rain, as she made an ex­cuse about check­ing her mo­bile. Even as she re­turned from the kitchen, she knew what she would do.

If she was really hon­est, that hot, ur­gent sex was the last time she’d felt truly alive. Af­ter­wards, he’d pulled up his trousers, smirked and left, and she re­turned to her life, tend­ing to the scream­ing, de­mand­ing Cara, and ful­fill­ing Michael’s apolo­getic bed­time wants.

But when she skipped that first pe­riod she couldn’t quite be­lieve it. ‘So soon,’ Michael had beamed. ‘Are you sure an­other one won’t be too much?’

She’d kissed him, mainly to shut him up and be­cause it was eas­ier than try­ing to think of some­thing ap­pro­pri­ate to say. And when they’d placed the tiny bun­dle with its swirl of dark hair and know­ing look into Kather­ine’s arms, Michael brushed away a tear, not ap­pear­ing to re­alise that she car­ried not one of his genes. It made her de­spise him even more.

It was only by chance, eight months later, she dis­cov­ered the de­liv­ery man’s name.

She was wheel­ing Lau­ren to pick up Cara from the new nurs­ery and Mrs Ahmed had just put out the lo­cal weekly on the white wire stand in front of her shop.

The eyes star­ing out from the front page were as hard and beau­ti­ful as she re­mem­bered.

‘Face of the Acton rapist’ screamed the head­line. Kather­ine picked it up.

‘A man who raped three young moth­ers has been jailed for 18 years. De­liv­ery driver Adam Jack­son, 25, of Bad­des­ley Road, Is­ling­ton, has been sen­tenced to 18 years for a se­ries of what were de­scribed as “vi­o­lent and cal­cu­lated sex­ual as­saults” on three women in the Acton area.

‘ The as­saults took place dur­ing the af­ter­noons when Jack­son, who the prose­cu­tion de­scribed as “preda­tory and cun­ning”, knew his preferred vic­tims, young moth­ers, would be at home.

‘ Trial Judge Mr Justice Tate told Jack­son he had de­lib­er­ately tar­geted the women in the knowl­edge they would prob­a­bly re­main silent dur­ing the at­tacks be­cause their chil­dren were in the house and they feared for their safety.

‘“It is just one of the many de­spi­ca­ble and ag­gra­vat­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of your be­hav­iour,” said the judge. “It is also one of the rea­sons I am rec­om­mend­ing you are not con­sid­ered for re­lease un­til you have un­der­gone a pro­gramme of in­tense psy­chother­apy.”

‘Dur­ing the trial Jack­son had claimed that his vic­tims – whose ages ranged from 22 to 34 – had in­vited him into their homes and had en­joyed hav­ing sex with him. Po­lice be­lieve there may be other po­ten­tial vic­tims and have asked women to come for­ward.’

Kather­ine looked up; Mrs Pa­tel was speak­ing. ‘Dis­gust­ing, isn’t it? No one is safe these days.’

‘I know,’ said Kather­ine. ‘It could have been any of us, couldn’t it?’

The kindly old lady leaned over the buggy and gen­tly pinched the baby’s cheek. ‘How’s my lit­tle beauty? Don’t you worry. We won’t let any­one hurt you, will we?’

And, as Adam Jack­son’s eyes turned up to look at her, Kather­ine felt a fierce, in­ex­pli­ca­ble love.

Noth­ing and no one would ever hurt Lau­ren, she would see to that. This child was dif­fer­ent, would be dif­fer­ent. Look­ing at her made Kather­ine feel alive.

Maybe – just maybe – Lau­ren would be the person she could ex­plain it to. Some­one who would un­der­stand just why she had crept into that house on that day so long ago. And what she had done to the old woman in­side when she got there.


Faith re­ceives her award from Grazia’s editor hat­tie Brett

(L-R): Guests at the Women’s Prize for Fic­tion awards, Daisy Good­win, Laura Bates and Paula Hawkins, and five of the short­listed writ­ers, Jes­myn Ward, Imo­gen Her­mes Gower, Meena Kan­dasamy and win­ner Kamila Sham­sie

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