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Nell Gavin

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Hang On
by Nell Gavin   

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Books by Nell Gavin
· Le Mille Vite di Anna Bolena
· Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn
                >> View all



In 1973 “crazy” Holly unexpectedly falls in love with Trevor, a roadie for a famous English rock band. From the moment they meet, dreams of marriage, children, and a normal life are suddenly – finally – within Holly’s grasp.

Unfortunately, Holly has a secret...

Author Nell Gavin

In 1973 “crazy” Holly unexpectedly falls in love with Trevor, a roadie for a famous English rock band. From the moment they meet, dreams of marriage, children, and a normal life are suddenly – finally – within Holly’s grasp.

Trevor takes her with him on tour and introduces her to the very “un-normal” backstage world of Rock and Roll. When she walks onto the band bus, she becomes part of a colorful, exciting adventure in a world completely different from the life that awaits her back home, where she chases cockroaches with a shoe, works at a low-paying job, and sleeps to escape the hunger.

Unfortunately, Holly has a secret. Plagued by panic attacks, periodic rages, and depression, she needs to learn why her mentally ill mother committed suicide, long ago, so she can save herself. Thus far, she has found no answers. She must conceal her symptoms from Trevor in order to keep him, but as their relationship becomes progressively more serious, her illness becomes increasingly more difficult to hide.

This sly and darkly humorous novel won the silver medal in the Living Now Book Awards under its original title, ALL TORC’D UP.

Caution: Some strong language.


Chapter 1
February, 1958

On bad days, Mommy stretched out on the sofa, wrapped herself in blankets and didn’t speak. Her eyes were strange and unfocused, and her voice was distant whenever I prodded her to respond to a question. Her answers sometimes didn’t make any sense, or she let them drift off and fade away, unfinished. Sometimes she told me to leave her alone and go find something to do. I would obediently turn on the television, and watch it for hours. Mommy listened to the radio or slept, and let me play by myself, find food for myself, fend for myself. It had always been like that, with her intermittent “bad days.”

Since I couldn’t read yet, and Mommy didn’t like to read to me on bad days, I would tell her stories, making them up to go along with the pictures in my Golden Books, which I held in my lap while sitting in the crook of Mommy’s limp arm. I always pulled her arm around me in a kind of a hug. Sometimes I made her tea with cold tap water and a tea bag. When I would offer her the cup, she would take a sip and smile, then place it on the table and forget about it.

I would try other things to entice Mommy to notice me on bad days. I played my red 78 rpm record, “Tina the Ballerina,” and twirled and danced to it in front of her. I sang the songs I’d learned from children’s programs on television. Or I drew her pictures, which I would tape to the refrigerator myself after Mommy absently told me they were “good.”

Mommy would occasionally lift herself up to go to the bathroom, then would patter barefoot into the kitchen and open the refrigerator. She might grab a piece of fruit or a few slices of bread, or merely shut the refrigerator door again, seemingly preferring hunger to the effort involved in food preparation, or even in making a decision on what to eat. Then she would get herself a glass of water from the faucet before settling back on the sofa.

Sometimes the effort of getting up for fresh water was too much, and Mommy would drink my stale tea, still waiting for her on the table. When she did, I was very proud.

Mommy had had one bad day after another for a long time before she went away.
Just before she left, she’d stopped changing her clothing or combing her hair. She stopped giving me baths as well. When I would speak to her, she’d stare back as if she didn’t know who I was. Other times, she’d run her fingers down my cheek, then let them fall as if it all required too much strength.

I lived on grape jelly sandwiches and water on most bad days. I made the sandwiches myself, leaving trails of sticky jelly that eventually hardened into a kind of cement on the countertop, the table or the floor, creating a feast for the cockroaches. For a treat, I would pull a kitchen chair over to the counter, climb up, and help myself to handfuls of sugar from the canister on the shelf. Mommy never said anything about that. Sometimes I’d pull a carrot from the refrigerator—they had long white hairs growing from them the last time I got one, and were kind of floppy and limp—or I would find an orange and saw it in half with a steak knife, then suck on it.

The last summer I spent with Mommy, she had a friend, Jack, who came to see us. He took us to the movies and the beach, and took Mommy out to eat and dance while I stayed with the babysitter, Trudy.

Mommy had lots of good days that summer when she sang, lifted me up in the air, or tickled me. She took me to the park where she pushed me on the swing. She told me stories and fussed over my hair, twisting it into curls and setting it with bobby pins after my evening bath so I could look like Shirley Temple in the morning. I liked Shirley Temple movies a lot back then. Mommy talked and talked, sometimes about things I didn’t understand that involved my Daddy, whom I didn’t remember ever meeting.

Sometimes she talked about Jack. She told me about the places the three of us would visit someday, and the house we would live in with a swing set in the yard. Mommy and I went shopping for pretty clothes so we could look our best for Jack. We made Rice Krispies treats together, and Mommy cooked for us, day after day, one wonderful dinner after another, with vegetables and dessert. Sometimes Jack ate with us and later read me bedtime stories.

On warm sunny days, Mommy often threw open the windows. The two of us stuck our hands into buckets of soapy water and scrubbed down the kitchen and appliances, then polished all the furniture. Mommy swept and mopped and vacuumed, humming the whole time. She did the laundry in the basement and hung it out to dry on the clothesline in the tiny yard behind the apartment building. My sheets smelled like sunlight in summer. As if nothing made her tired, Mommy cleaned and folded laundry long after I went to bed.

That summer, Mommy wore lipstick and dresses and took me to restaurants or on a bus to the zoo. We went downtown on the El train and got rock candy at Carson’s, then visited the Field Museum to see the Egyptian mummies. We went to lots of places that summer and did lots of things together.

That summer was nice, but as soon as it got cold outside, and the days got shorter, Mommy’s friend stopped coming to see us. She got quiet more and more. It seemed as though winter was longer than summer.

Then Mommy was gone. I could still recall what she was like on the last day we were together, and how she had told me to “always be a good girl” before sending me off to bed. She’d had tears rolling down her cheeks, but she had had more energy than usual that day. She had also seemed more decisive than usual. Looking back, I knew that she had made her choice and roused herself to an action she could not have taken in her usual lethargic state.

I had offered her my doll that night, asking her if she needed it to feel better. Mommy had shaken her head. She had hugged me especially hard, and for a long time, before letting me go. I didn’t wonder what Mommy had meant when she’d said, “I’m really sorry, Pumpkin. Please don’t hate me.” She’d often say that to me. Years later, I would merely wonder where Mommy had gotten the gun.

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Books by
Nell Gavin

Le Mille Vite di Anna Bolena

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Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn

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