Blog Tour: Be My Baby by A. L. Michael

Two’s company…

If you asked Mollie whether she struggled as a single mum, she’d have to cover her daughter’s ears before answering. Surrounded by friends, watching Esme grow into the sassiest eleven-year-old in North London, and building her name as TV chef Mollie Makes, Mollie’s never been happier. Well, that’s what she’d tell you. But as her best friends pair off, and Esme starts getting into trouble at school, Mollie wonders whether life would be different – not better…but easier – with a team mate.

Three’s a crowd?

But Esme’s dad, Jamie, would be the last man Mollie would team up with. After all, he made it clear eleven years ago that he wasn’t interested in playing the family game. So when he suddenly reappears, Mollie can’t believe her eyes. And soon, she’s got to ask herself the hardest question yet: she knows she can succeed as a single mum. But what if her daughter doesn’t want her to?

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In Crouch End, not far from the studios, a man sat aimlessly watching morning television. He hadn’t slept that night, or the night before, and the mindless chatter of the television kept enough of his attention to stop his mind wandering. There were things he didn’t want to think about. He was back on leave from the army, and he knew the routine – it would take another two weeks before he could properly sleep.

But god, morning television was asinine. Top ten tips to your winter wardrobe, let’s chat to this nineties pop star who is now in a West End musical... why weren’t they talking about war, about politics? Why did no one know about the horrible things happening in other countries and what he’d been fighting for? That said, a bit much to watch whilst chomping away on your Weetabix.
He needed something to keep his mind active, he knew. He needed a distraction, a reason for hope. A new hobby, maybe he could volunteer at a charity or something. That’s what his counsellor said. He wouldn’t be confirmed ready to return to active duty unless he got his head in order.

He often felt that this wasn’t meant to be his life, that if he could follow it back to the root, that moment when everything changed, he might be living in a different place, doing something different. Instead, he had started a life of misguided gut instincts and limited choices, and here he was. A damaged soldier in a dark room, with no one to visit.

‘We’re here today at the Ruby Rooms in Camden Square...’ the perky news reporter with the scary teeth started and the man blinked at the screen, leaning forward and turning on the light so that he could see more clearly. Ruby Tuesday, they definitely said Ruby Tuesday. Which meant... that was really Mollie on screen. His Mollie.

She looked beautiful but awkward, her long blonde hair the same as it had always been, curling slightly at the ends, and her face had softened. She was wearing subtle make-up, and a smart white shirt with black trousers that made her look a little like a waitress for a catering company. Her eyes were still piercing, dark against her light hair. That shirt showed off how her figure had developed since they were teenagers, she looked womanly, warm and soft and strong. She was still as beautiful as he remembered.

He listened intently as she spoke, laughing awkwardly and looking into the camera at certain moments. It made sense she’d go into healthy cooking, her mum was terrible at feeding her. She said she’d once survived for two weeks on turkey dinosaurs for dinner, because her mum got eighteen boxes for a pound when the corner shop freezer broke. Suddenly all those memories started returning, all those moments with Mollie that he hadn’t forgotten, but stored away somewhere safe.

She had a kid, she was a mum. Well, that wasn’t surprising. She always wanted that, eventually. It was a timing thing, that was the only problem with them, back in the day. He was glad their issues hadn’t stopped her. The man ran a hand through the rough stubble on his chin and thought about it – well, he’d been the hurt party, she was the one who’d disappeared without a backwards glance or a telephone number. And if he was over it, why shouldn’t he stop by, see an old school friend? Especially when she was only down the road?

It felt like a sign. He’d been asking for a reason, a reason to turn on the lights, to leave the house, to engage his brain in any way. For the first time in the two weeks since he’d been back in the UK, Jamie MacAllister got up and actually smiled.

About the author
A.L Michael is a writer and workshop leader from North London. She has a BA in Creative Writing with English Lit, an MA in Creative Entrepreneurship and is starting an MsC in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. She likes learning and hates essays.

She's a fan of cheap wine, expensive chocolate and still wants to be a secret agent when she grows up, but she'll settle for lying on the page.


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