#FairyTaleDad – Chapter One
“A phenomenal modern-day fairytale that’s clever, uplifting and fun.” – Swoon Reader
That’s how one swoon Reader sums up my story #FairyTaleDad in one sentence.
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about my little baby on Swoon Reads. Since I uploaded #FairyTaleDad on Swoon Reads, it’s been an incredible journey so far. The feedback that this book has received from the Swoon Reads Community has been fantastic and I’ve been absolutely blown away.
When I started writing this story, I had no idea where I was going with it. I just wanted to try a different genre and see how well I’d do with it. Switching from fantasy to contemporary was a challenge, and at times I’d find myself just staring at my pc out of words. Looking back now, it was so worth it. Thanks very much to everyone who’s read, rated or commented on this book so far. Your comments have warmed my heart and encouraged me to continue writing.
I’m hoping to get #FairyTaleDad published and I really would appreciate any feedback or ratings on Swoon Reads! You only have to make an account on the site, but then you can read it for #free!
For anyone who’s still considering whether this book is for you, please check out the first chapter below. If you like it, please make a FREE account on Swoon Reads and read the rest of the story.
I’ve cracked it. Must see you. Jake’s text message flashed on my phone. I grabbed my gown and rushed down the stairs. What is he up to now? I slid my phone into my pocket with a silent promise to respond to my best friend as soon as Mum had left for work.
The soft humming of the television greeted me as I entered the kitchen. Seven thirty a.m. and Mum, on autopilot, had already returned from her morning run, showered, and dressed in her favourite white pencil dress and yellow heels, ready for a client meeting in London. She flipped through the channels when I saw something suddenly pique her interest. She set the remote on the counter, transfixed, a steaming cup of coffee in one hand. On the screen, a bold headline popped up: From Ally’s Scandal to Ally’s Haven. A proposed Billionaire Acquisition.
“Mum, really?” I frowned. “Financial news so early and on a Saturday?” I dragged my feet across the marble floor. After spending half the night studying for my penultimate A-Level exam, today’s trending hashtag was simply #HAoF (half asleep on feet).
A light chuckle escaped her lips. “Being an accountant is not just numbers, Summer. A good consultant keeps in touch with all the latest happenings.” She pressed pause, turning to look at me.
“You’re working on a billionaire acquisition?” My eyes widened.
“My firm is doing well, but not that well.” Mum sighed. “Tony and I have been trying to get on Appleton Holdings Inc’s list of consultants for five years. If we’d landed it, you’d know about it—the whole street would know about it, and I’d be retiring to Mauritius before I turned forty.”
“And taking me with you, I hope?”
“I’ll have to think about that one,” she joked. “I might just do a runner.”
“But I thought you loved your job?”
“I do, but I love the sun, sea, and sand more.” She took a swallow of her coffee.
“And watching that morning humdrum,” I said, nodding at the television, “gets you none of the above.”
“Well, one never knows when an opportunity might present itself,” she countered. “This real estate company is one of the most prestigious in London. Last month, we finally made the shortlist to work on an acquisition proposal for one of its subsidiaries. If we win, maybe next time we’ll nab the top spot.”
“Hmm. Still kind-of boring.” I feigned a yawn, stretching my hand over the marble counter and grabbing the remote. I quickly pressed record and switched to the music channel.
“Now that’s better.” I gave her a cheeky grin.
Her brown eyes gleamed. “Happy birthday, darling!” She rose, strode to my side, and curved her arms tightly around me. I soaked in her embrace, inhaling the scent of her peach and berry infused perfume. The soft glow of sunshine from the kitchen skylight bathed us in its warmth.
“You took your time wishing me a happy birthday,” I teased. “I thought you might have forgotten what today was.”
She chuckled. “No chance. That would be like forgetting to breathe.”
Mum and I lived in St Albans, a small city in Hertfordshire nineteen miles northwest of Central London and we were close. Between running her own accountancy firm, working long hours, and raising me, she didn’t have much time for friends. I was all she had.
“I need to breathe, Mum.” I cleared my throat and wiggled.
“Oh! Sorry.” She loosened her embrace, snatched the remote from my hands, and switched the TV back to the news. Then she beamed at me. “Now that’s better.”
“But it’s my birthday,” I whined.
“And watching the news for five minutes won’t kill you. Lose the frown and eat something.” She gestured to the left side of our spacious kitchen, and I turned to see the breakfast bar brimming with home-baked muffins, cookies, cupcakes, and a gigantic ice-cream cake—enough food for a huge party. But there wouldn’t be a party. Just the usual me, Mum, Uncle Tony (who was actually my mum’s business partner, but also my godfather and as close as any real uncle), and Aunt Crezelda—Mum’s step-sister—the only family Mum and I had. My Aunt and Uncle Tony would turn up eventually. They never missed my birthday.
“How did you manage such an exquisite banquet overnight?” I approached the buffet.
“Mums can be fairy godmother’s, too.” She swung back toward the TV, the sun silhouetting the figure Aunt Crezelda was so jealous of. Mum was slim, five-foot-four, and curved in all the right places. Supposedly, I’d inherited her looks, but I didn’t see it. All I saw were the features of a father I would never know. My skin tone was lighter than Mum’s. My brown, curly hair was a tad longer. My eyes were the only thing that mirrored hers.
“I would rather eat sugary birthday food than watch fake news.” I grabbed a cupcake.
“Since when are you savvy enough to tell fake news from real news?” Mum waved a cookie in the air.
“Since the informative journalism retreat you kindly sent me on last summer, and even more so, since I turned seventeen.” I strode to the fridge.
“Technically, you’re not seventeen yet. You turn seventeen at 10:17 pm tonight.”
“I can still smell a hoax from a mile away. Just check out the headline. They’ve used bold font over the already ‘in your face’ text. The choice of words is truly genius.” Just then a thought struck me. “Hey, in just thirteen days, I’ll be on summer break, and I could intern for The BBC or Sky News as a promoter for the truth.”
“You’d get fired on your first day,” she teased.
“Possibly, but only after they’d seen the light and moved toward more ethical journalism. This has been Summer Dawn Le-Winton.” I grabbed the milk jug from the fridge door, using it as a microphone. “Advocate for the truth, Sky News, coming to you live from St Albans.”
Mum burst into laughter as I poured myself some milk.
“Now, the dashing and scandalous gentleman on our TV is staring back at us blankly,” I continued my commentary.
“Dashing?” Mum straightened and glanced at the screen. “Agreed. He’s quite the catch. But scandalous? Not quite. He’s not the scandal. He’s simply entangled in one,” she said playfully.
My phone buzzed from my gown pocket, and I slid my hand in, angling the screen so I could see it.
“Birthday messages?” Mum asked, running a hand through her shoulder-length hair, flicking it back in agitation. She hated social media. She thought it was an intrusion of privacy and a time waster. Seriously, sometimes I thought she was from another planet.
I responded to the birthday wishes with a blanket thank you and turned back to my mum. “I don’t want my online family to think I’ve deserted them.”
“Online family? And yet, I gave birth to you. What is this world coming to?”
“Doomsday or death by social media,” I mumbled. I knew I was winding her up. “Listen, stop worrying. I’m using Jake’s Summertime feed now. There are no stalkers, bullies, or lurkers on Summertime.” Jake Alden was my neighbour, best friend, and also a computer genius.
She smiled. “Named after you, no doubt?”
“I’m an inspiration.” I grinned. “And a guinea pig. He’s still working on the programme. It’ll hit social media like a storm—Jake’s words. I’m supposed to voice record and post an update and a hashtag every day without fail. I have no idea what he plans to do with the data.”
“He’s a good kid. You both are,” she said, her happy mood instantly restored. She was such a positive person. “Don’t let life pass you by,” she always said. I wondered why she’d never married. She could have had any man in the world, and yet her world was only me.
Of course, I’d asked—asked her why she’d gone through a fertility agent, a sperm bank, then a fertility clinic, and had me on her own. And she always told me the same old story. Her mother had died when she was young, and she had been raised in several foster homes, which she hated. Family was important to her, and determination ran through her blood. She was bold and independent, and as soon as she came of age, she had me, so she could be a mother…the mother she never had. Surely, the most logical step would have been to find a man, get married, and then have a child. A family of three would have been perfect. A girl could wish.
“Since you won’t let me throw you a party,” she said, interrupting my reverie. “At least make a wish before I go to work.”
“Mum, I’m seventeen, not four.” I pulled up the leather breakfast barstool and plopped onto it, staring down at the ice-cream cake she’d made. It matched the white and red colour theme in our kitchen.
“You’re never too old to make a wish.” She gently curved a warm arm around my shoulders. “Seventeen years ago, I wished for a daughter and—”
“I came true,” I finished, looking up to meet her gaze. “I was your summer at the end of a long and dispiriting winter,” I repeated the words I’d heard from her more times than I could count. I sighed, biting my lip.
“Summer Dawn Le-Winton, you are a beauty.” She lowered her voice, “Now quick, make a wish before the cake melts.”
“There are no candles.”
“It’s an ice-cream cake.” She winked.
I stared down at the beautiful confection I was supposed to wish on. There was a reason I never had a party. For me, my birthday was a bittersweet event. On the one hand, everyone wanted to celebrate that I’d been born, which was nice. But that always reminded me I’d been born without a father, which sucked. All I knew was that my dad had to be white, because my mum was black, and I was biracial. Sadly, that wasn’t much to go by in a country where more than eighty percent of the population was white. Every white man over the age of thirty-five in London—stop—in England, rather in Great Britain, could be my dad.
“I don’t want to wish. There’s no point.” My stomach knotted as I turned away from the cake, then decided to just make the same wish I had for as long as I could remember. “There. I wished,” I said gloomily, turning back to the cake.
Mum surveyed me and swallowed hard. “For a dad?”
I nodded. We had this chat every year. And I hated it. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate you, Mum,” I whispered. “I love you. It’s just that I want a dad, too.”
“I’m sorry.” She took my face in her hands and waited for me to glance up. “If I knew who he was, I would tell you.” Regret tinged her tone. “The records are sealed. You know that. Everything was handled by an agent. The law that waved donor anonymity only came into force in 2005. Before then sperm donors were guaranteed anonymity, and I don’t even know which sperm bank it was.”
“So, I was conceived six years too early then,” I murmured. Of course, I didn’t want to push. There was really no point. But some things didn’t quite add up. First, her determination to have a family on her own was very bold. Second, I had no idea how sperm banks worked, but I’d heard in those days there were rules about heritage and ethnicity when choosing a donor. Some sperm banks didn’t even allow one to choose a donor from a different race.
And I’d asked Mum—asked her why she chose sperm X instead of sperm Y or sperm Z. Surely, she must have had some criteria to choose from?
“I chose the sperm that was available to me, and didn’t have to worry about race or the donor,” she’d said. “I wanted a child that was mine—you.”
Still, I wasn’t entirely convinced. Choosing to be a single parent was not something people just did on a whim. There must have been a reason why she made that choice—one she hadn’t shared with me. I looked up. “If we could find the agent, that would be a start.”
“Tony and I have both tried looking, darling.”
Uncle Tony was great. But having a godfather who adored me still didn’t extinguish my yearning for a real dad. It was surreal. I had an almost perfect life full of people who loved me. But there was always this dad-sized void in my heart that no one else could fill. I wanted to trace my genetic origins. Surely, it wasn’t too much to ask.
And I knew how much that upset my mum, how every time I brought it up it hurt her, and she seemed to age before my eyes. Yet, I still couldn’t let it go.
“I know.” I rubbed the top of my arms. “It’s just—every year of not knowing gets harder.” I swallowed a thick lump in my throat. “Which is really silly because I don’t even know the guy.” I shrugged. “Is he dead or alive? Does he know I exist? Would he want to know? If he knew would he care? Would he accept me? Would he not?” I babbled on. “I feel so stupid longing for someone I’ve never met.”
“It’s not stupid,” she insisted. “If I’d thought through my actions at the time, I’d have done things differently. But I wouldn’t trade you for anything. You know that. You have a right to know your real father, where you come from, and I wish I could—”
“Mum.” I laid a comforting hand on hers and gripped it tightly. “Let’s have cake.”
She fell silent, eyes misty. “I’m sorry, Summer.”
I cut two slices and placed them on two plates. Then we dug into the cake in silence. No matter how difficult things got, Mum and I always had each other.
“You’re working late tonight?” I slid her a second plate of cake.
She nodded without looking up, and I knew she was still upset.
A pang of guilt went through me. “Working on a Saturday sucks, huh?”
“Working on your birthday sucks even more.” A shadow crossed her face. “But this client had to meet today. I tried to push back, but he’s flying to Australia tomorrow.”
“It’s fine, Mum. Don’t worry.”
“I’ll make it up to you.” She smiled warmly. “We can drive to Paris for shopping once you’ve finished your exams.”
“Yeah, that would be nice.” I took a swallow of my milk, then pushed the conversation in another direction. “So, where’s my present?”
She didn’t answer, but she looked at me slyly.
“Come on. I promise I won’t open it until you say so.”
Mum had a thing about my birth time. Every year she gave me my present at precisely 10:17 pm without fail. “I’m not telling you until it’s time,” she said.
I was about to argue like I always did, but the doorbell chimed. Before either of us could answer it, the front door swung open and a deep voice rumbled from the landing. “Sum, did you get my text? I’ve cracked it!”
Jake, my best friend, hurried into the kitchen, then halted when he saw Mum. At six-feet tall, with dark hair, blue eyes, and a nice chin, Jake looked nothing like the typical computer nerd. “Morning, Ms Le.” He gripped his iPad tightly against his chest and swallowed hard. I had no idea why he bothered to ring the doorbell when he always just waltzed in anyway. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise you were home.” He brushed his dark curly hair away from his face with his free arm, then swung me a troubled gaze. Why was he acting so edgy—like he’d just been caught with his hand in a cookie jar?
“I live here, Jake,” Mum teased.
I looked past Jake out toward the driveway. Mum’s Audi was parked in its usual spot. Surely, he’d seen it. “What have you cracked?” Mum’s eyebrows rose.
Jake frowned, tucking his iPad under his arm. “Nothing important, Ms Le.”
“Nothing important to me, you mean.” Mum gave me a warm look, checked her watch, and hopped to her feet. “If I leave now, I might beat the London traffic. Don’t forget to put the cake in the fridge, Summer.” She strode to the utility room and grabbed her coat from the side hook. “My keys.” She swept her gaze around and spied them on the far counter. “Don’t get into any trouble, now.” She reached for her keys and patted Jake’s shoulder. Then she turned to me, leaned over and placed a light kiss on my brow. “I’m on my mobile if you need me.”
“We’ll be as good as gold, Ms Le,” Jake reassured.
Mum hesitated, her gaze lingering on Jake’s iPad. “You promise?” Worry clouded her eyes. Jake and information technology were a lethal fusion. Three years ago, he’d been expelled from school for hacking into the headteacher’s email, and not only that but for hacking into the Exams Board database and downloading an exam paper he wasn’t even sitting for. It was one of the strangest and stupidest things he’d ever done. After that, he had to be home-schooled, just like me, but mine wasn’t mandatory. My mum just wanted me to learn to think outside the box. So, now we were both sitting for our A-Levels, and he was darn lucky to have a best friend like me.
“Go to work, Mum. It’s all good here,” I said, my tone reassuring. But I’d known Jake long enough to know he was up to something, and that something was probably not mum-approved. Then again, my mum hated social media and Jake had practically re-invented it, so they were never really going to see eye to eye. Speaking of eyes, the sparkle in Jakes’ was shining with excitement. Whatever he had to tell me, it was big.
“Okay,” Mum said, sounding unconvinced, but torn because she had to get to work. “I’ll be home as soon as I can, and Crezelda will pop in later.” She headed for the door.
I didn’t moan or complain, even though I knew my Aunt Crezelda, who was a hairdresser, was going to harass me to do my hair. Again. But I just wanted to get Mum going so Jake could spill the beans. As soon as I heard her car door slam and the wheels crunching out of the drive, I turned to Jake. “What are you up to, my sneaky little friend?”
“Hey, I’m not little anymore,” Jake protested. “You might have noticed, I’m way bigger than you.” He had a point. Better yet, he had no idea how good-looking he was.
“But I am sneaky,” he clarified, his eyes glinting.
“What did you do?” I demanded.
“No big deal,” he shrugged, holding out his iPad. “Just got you a little present.”
“More online tickets to an Alien Science Fair with you?”
“You’re never going to let me forget that, are you?” He feigned hurt. “And no, this is way more epic.” He held the iPad out to me again, an intensity on his face I’d rarely seen. His lips were actually twitching with anticipation.
My pulse sped. “Jake, what have you done this time?” I took the iPad from his hand, afraid to look down at the screen.
He shrugged. “Just a little code I’ve been working on for about two years. I call it Sum’s Code, and a few months ago I finally finished it.”
“A hacking code?” I asked, fear and anger welling up in me. Fear for Jake. Anger that he’d do this again after all he’d gone through last time. “You named it after me?”
“Sum, don’t worry,” he said, taking my trembling hand in his so I didn’t drop his iPad. “It’s untraceable. I made sure of it. And this was for a worthy cause.”
“There’s no cause worth breaking the law.”
“Not even finding your dad?” he asked softly.
My heart missed a beat. “What?” Blood rushed through me at supersonic speed.
“I found him, Sum.” His smile widened as he squeezed my hand. “Right here in London. I found him.”
I hope you enjoyed this first chapter. If you did, you can read the rest of the story here —