Four friends have become three. But that’s only the beginning.
Ruby, Evie, Mollie and Chelsea were the bad girls at school. But Ruby was the baddest. Evie fought her anger, Mollie fought her mother and Chelsea…well, Chelsea just fought. But Ruby set her sights on a bigger stage. And together, they dreamed of a future where Ruby could sing, Evie could make art, Mollie could bake, Chelsea could dance – and all of them could finally feel at home.
A decade later, the girls are reunited for the funeral of Ruby, who took the world – and the charts – by storm, before fading too soon. And Evie doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry when she learns that Ruby has left them a house on Camden Square – the perfect place for them to fulfil their dreams. But does she dare take the plunge, and risk it all for one last shot at the stars?
Goodbye Ruby Tuesday is Book 1 in A.L. Michael’s new series, ‘The House on Camden Square’
When Evie Rodriguez woke that morning and put on her smartest black dress and oversized dark sunglasses, she did not think she would end her day sitting in a damp deck chair with a four-pack of cheap lager hanging from her fingertips. That said, maybe she should have.
She had already wrestled another two chairs from the shed, the lock still broken after all this time. Droplets of sweat ran from her hairline down her neck and the bridge of her nose was burning in the sunshine, but she refused to move. It was a test, of sorts. And she had to believe that they’d come.
‘Did you know her? Did you know Ruby?’
The little town of Badgeley had never seen such a commotion. At least, not since the X Factor tour bus broke down on the way to Milton Keynes in 2007. The little stone church, which had stood in the middle of the town for centuries, was guarded by police for the first time in history. The paparazzi didn’t seem to care, snapping away, taking pictures of the mourners, and Evie twitched her lips as she noticed some of her old classmates playing it up for the cameras. The gossip queens daubing dramatically at their dry eyes, talking about what an inspiration Ruby was. The rugby boys playing it up, grinning at the cameras. They wanted the world to think that they knew the legend that was Ruby Tuesday. And it was all a lie.
Evie adjusted her sunglasses and ran a hand through her curly dark hair. She could not get angry today. She had lots to be angry about; these stupid people pretending they knew her friend, the journalists showing no respect… and the fact that Ruby was gone. She was pretty angry about that all by itself. But she had promised her mother that she wouldn’t be bad today. Evie would show up, mourn her old friend and go back to her life. That was it.
She walked quickly into the church, which was already heaving with strangers. Ruby had only had a handful of friends in Badgeley. She was a troublemaker. A firecracker. Whatever else they wanted to call a young girl with red hair who didn’t do what people expected. The rest were just there for the drama of it all, to say they were there on the day that the superstar Ruby Tuesday was buried. Evie closed her eyes briefly, feeling the cool air in the church soften her nerves just a little. She saw her mother up in a pew near the front, beckoning her, her dark hair shaking with the movement.
‘How are you, my darling?’ Maria Rodriguez stroked her daughter’s cheek, scanning her face for a trace of something. Instead all she found was a blank mask.
‘She was your friend, you’re not fine,’ her mother insisted.
Evie shrugged, ‘She was my friend ten years ago, and only for a little while.’ Her voice didn’t shake but she refused to take off her sunglasses.
‘I’m surprised your father didn’t make it,’ her mother said softly, a look of disappointment gracing her features briefly.
‘Why?’ Evie tried to keep the malice from her voice, hissing a little in the church.
‘Because he always liked Ruby. He thought she was talented. He always said she’d be famous.’
And he’d want to be here to cash in on the chump reporters offering a few hundred quid for a story about her when she was younger. Evie bit her lip and said nothing, shrugging. Thank goodness he hadn’t turned up. There were enough people making money out of Ruby’s memory today. She couldn’t handle Bill being one of them.
She heard people quieten, almost felt them as they turned around in their pews to look at whoever had walked in. Was it one of Ruby’s famous boyfriends? Someone off EastEnders or from a boyband? A few of them were dotted about the front rows, heads down, dark glasses on. Evie turned, hating herself for caring. Instead she saw Chelsea, and a wry smile appeared on her face against her will.
Chelsea Donolly had shocked them all. Growing up like Evie and Ruby on the estate, everyone was convinced she’d amount to nothing. Maybe because her mother was a nasty piece of work and her stepdad had some dodgy business dealings. Maybe because she used to pull back her striped blonde hair into a tight ponytail and wear huge hoop earrings. Chelsea had a way of raising an eyebrow and jutting her hip that made you want to shit yourself with fear. That much hadn’t changed at least.
She waltzed in. Her hair was beautiful, a razor sharp platinum bob, her expensive black shift dress fitted tightly, and the red soles of her Louboutins screamed ‘local girl done good’. Evie wasn’t sure if Chelsea was trying to compete with their dead friend in that way. Chelsea scanned the rows for a space; and zeroed in on Evie, a half smile gracing her lips as she nodded. The last time she’d seen Chelsea was just before they’d gone their separate ways – Evie had gone to art college, and Chelsea was off to Oxford, desperate to show the people in this town that she was better than they knew.
A little part of Evie wasn’t sure if she hated her for that. If it was jealousy or failure speaking, she didn’t know. All she knew was that the woman in the Louboutins was not the Chelsea Donolly she had grown up with.
Evie watched as Chelsea tilted her head, waiting for people to let her in to one of the pews. At least that action was recognisable. She slipped into a row with some of the older townspeople, most of whom had thought Ruby was a little shit. Chelsea’s eyes seemed to scan the crowd and Evie watched as her eyes settled on Mollie, who sat primly in her black smock, her long, golden hair tied neatly back in a ponytail. Her daughter Esme sat beside her, like a mini doll version of her mother. Chelsea widened her eyes and looked back at Evie, raising an eyebrow.
Evie nodded, yes, that’s her kid.
Shit, Chelsea’s eyes seemed to say, and Evie watched for signs of judgement. Chelsea simply put her dark glasses back on again and looked straight ahead.
So it began. The songs were slow and solemn. It was a perfect June day, and the light filtered in through the stained glass windows. The priest spoke about Ruby’s fire and her passion, which was funny because he’d called her the devil incarnate more than once. Especially that time Ruby had convinced them to sneak into the graveyard to look for ghosts, and he’d found them gathered around an old grave singing Led Zeppelin. Evie had thought the old man was going to have a coronary. They’d scattered, giggling and squealing, jumping the fence. Evie had faced the disappointed eyes of her very Catholic mother for that one.
Old Father Hypocrite droned on, even citing Ruby as a ‘lyrical genius’.
‘She made music that really said something, that reached out and touched people. I think we all sensed that when Ruby was a young girl here, she was reaching out. She always wanted to touch people.’
Evie tried not to snigger, biting her lip as she looked at Mollie, whose own mouth was twitching. Ruby had started her career as a burlesque dancer in London. The priest was making her sound like Mother Teresa. And as for the lyrics, well he’d obviously never heard her first number one hit: Atheist Sucker Punch.
The service went on, the heat of the day filtering in among the bodies, and Evie realised this really had nothing to do with her friend at all. Ruby’s foster parents, who she’d lived with for the two years she’d been in Badgeley, were obligated to do something. But they never really knew their charge. Then again, Evie thought, did she even know Ruby Tuesday? She knew Ruby Montgomery – the person who stole art supplies for her because she knew she couldn’t afford to go to the classes. The girl who flirted with every taken boy, just to see who was enough of an arsehole to forget about his girlfriend. The girl who brought together Evie, Mollie and Chelsea, three ‘bad girls from the estate’ who had never really been given a chance in their tiny town.
Evie remembered that they’d been sitting on the hill in the park, drinking cans of coke and chewing on pick’n’mix, doing their homework when Ruby pointed out ‘they’re always going to think you’re bad girls, no matter how good you are’. She’d gestured at the homework, ‘You may as well earn the title.’
They were never really that bad, Evie smirked, just a little... mischievous. Ruby was a terrible influence though. Those two years were the most fun they’d ever had. And then she was gone.