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Women are fragile, that is their strength. In the same way that an orchid can be crushed under the foot of an elephant, a woman can be crushed in the palm of a firm hand; that doesn’t make them weak, it makes the hand cruel.

This is how it had been for Julia; gripped in the locked, iron fist of her mother – who’d clenched it tight in an angry response to a male world which had failed her – and which now pressed and bruised her daughter with an ugly weight of disapproval and hatred.

It is a hard thing for any daughter to acknowledge, hatred from the one who is supposed to love you the most, especially when the mother doesn’t even acknowledge it herself; but – that look in the eye, that turn of the mouth when she spoke and that way, Mother’s hand instinctively moved in a gesture of dismissal, whenever Julia dared to express and opinion, communicated this unspoken secret quite clearly.

Julia had spent her whole life trying to please the bitter and twisted woman, but what she knew in her heart, she refused to believe; convincing herself that it was somehow her own fault and searching for what it was that displeased so much. But the searching was a wasted energy – her mother hated her for no other reason than she had been born.

Her mother, Edith, had been a village girl with city dreams – bright lights, fur coats and red lipstick. The sparkle-glitter, soft focused world of Hollywood, where men in lounge suits, slicked back hair and that loveable roguish smile would pour diamonds into your satin lap; a world where the only role of a woman was to be adored and beautiful.

Edith had hated her name, thought it belonged to the Sunday-School register. When the chaps from the local army base came to town on a Saturday night, Edith called herself Claudia, a name she practiced all the way to the dance hall as she stuffed her father’s socks down her older sister’s bra. She told her Mama that she served the tea to the service men that came to play cards at the church hall. Her Mama told her she was a “good girl”. Claudia knew better. Claudia was a wicked girl, who craved the love of a handsome hero; the intense moments of eye contact with inky eyes that sparkled with stars, the sense of lips close to touching, the feel of a strong hand on the small of the back and the orchestral score pouring through the night as he whispered those special words.

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