The final edits are in the bag! Now I can get excited about my new novel for 2020. I'm taking a brave step and sending it out to digital publishers - this might be the one to catch their eye. I await their response in anticipation.
While waiting, I thought I'd share with you a short back story written about Joy, the main character in this new novel, and also in The Way of Life, my first novel.
Joy studied the row of neatly ironed clothes hanging in the wardrobe. ‘Do you think it’ll be cold up on the moors?’ She called out to Daniel. He was busy stuffing walking boots and Gortex jackets into his battered old rucksack. She turned to him. ‘Dan, what are you doing?’
‘What does it look like? I thought we were going walking.’
‘We will.’ She turned back to the array of clothes selecting a low necked, short-sleeved black and cream top.
‘You’ll be cold in that.’ Dan was behind her, caressing her silky smooth arms, still bronzed from their week in the sun last month. ‘Take a jumper to throw over it after we’ve eaten.’
Ten minutes later, she made her way downstairs, the heels of her black knee-length boots click-clacking across the hall floor. She found Daniel sat at the kitchen table engrossed in the sports pages of the Sunday Times. The pungent aroma of strong coffee hit her nostrils. Joy inhaled deeply, loving the smell. ‘Do we have time for coffee?’ She asked. ‘I’ve booked The White Horse, you know.’
Daniel pushed back his chair and folded the paper. ‘I know.’ He watched her as she looked him up and down taking in his comfortable brown cords and the white t-shirt beneath his old cream jumper.
‘I think you could have made more of an effort. You know how upmarket it is, you never know who we might meet in there.’
‘We’re going walking. I’m hardly going to wear a suit and tie. Anyway, I wear a suit every day of the week for God’s sake.’
‘I just wanted it to feel a little bit special.’ Joy’s retreating click-clack of heels drowned out the plop, plop, splat of the coffee peculator.
Daniel’s sigh was audible. ‘Nothing I say or do is right anymore,’ he muttered pouring coffee into two china mugs. The swirl of milk sank and dispersed as he let the glistening, golden sugar flow from the spoon.
He found Joy in their bedroom, staring out of the large bay window, her arms folded across her chest, her blue eyes glinting like steel with anger and tears. He put down the mugs and went to stand behind her, placing his hands lightly on her shoulders. ‘I don’t care who we might meet. I just want a day out with my beautiful wife and our friends.’ He kissed the top of her head.
Joy jerked away from him, spinning around. ‘I care Daniel. It’s important to me. We need to be someone. We need to be respected.’ She took a deep breath, lowering her voice to a whisper. ‘I need to be someone, not just Daniel’s wife.’
He watched her leave the bedroom, her coffee untouched, knowing that things were going horribly wrong. They were on a hurtling meteor, heading for disaster and he didn’t have a clue how to stop it.
‘I’ll drive,’ Joy said, taking the keys, starting the engine with a roar.
They drove the forty-minute journey to The White Horse, up on the Yorkshire Moors, in silence. Daniel had tried to rescue the day by changing into a casual blue striped, Ralph Lauren shirt and smart, black jeans.
She pulled up beside Trish’s red Mini Cooper in the pub car park. ‘Let’s have a good time today,’ she said, kissing Daniel’s cheek. Taking his hand in hers, they walked into the bustling country pub hand in hand, forced smiles on their faces.
‘There’s Rob,’ Daniel had to shout into Joy’s ear to be heard above the cacophony of chatter, clattering of cutlery and crockery, and children squealing. He pushed his way through the crowd. ‘How’s it going?’ he slapped Rob on the back.
‘Great. Like the shirt.’ Rob threw Daniel a wide grin. ‘What are you having?’
‘I’d better check who’s driving first,’ Daniel said, pushing his way back to find Joy. She’d located Annie, and the two of them were already deep in conversation.
‘Water is fine, I’ll drive,’ Joy pre-empted his question. ‘I know you two like a couple of pints when you get together.’
Over their roast beef lunch, amid the hustle and bustle, they discussed the holiday idea, throwing onto the table every obstacle imaginable. Trish tapped her glass with a spoon. ‘Okay, so we all agree.’ Her eyes twinkled with mischief.
‘Let’s go for it, the worst we can do is kill ourselves trying.’ Rob raised his glass, ‘To the West Highland Way.’ They all clinked glasses.
‘Now, who’s up for a walk on the moors?’ Daniel asked.
‘Rather have chocolate cake for dessert,’ Joy and Trish both spoke out at once.
‘Just listen to us, we’re not even up to a Sunday stroll, yet we’re planning a ninety-six-mile walk. We’ll never make it to the end,’ Trish said, laughing.
‘Well, we could always hole up in that luxury hotel planned for day three.’ Joy said.
They compromised. The girls ate chocolate cake while the guys had another pint.
Outside by the cars, they donned walking boots, jackets, hats and gloves. The sky was cobalt blue, the sun shining its light on the beauty f the Yorkshire Moors. Their breath as they chattered rose like white mist from their mouths. The chilling breeze nipped at their ears, but after two miles, they felt exhilarated with glowing cheeks and red noses.
‘That was a great day, today,’ Daniel told Joy as she drove them home. ‘I think the holiday idea is brilliant. Don’t know about that luxury hotel though...’
Joy shot him a withering glance. ‘STOP RIGHT THERE.’ She pulled over to the side of the road, switched on the hazards and turned off the engine. ‘What is it with you?’ She launched her attack. ‘Everything comes down to money, how much things cost. We have enough don’t we? It’s one night, one night in a nice hotel halfway through the week. Are things so bad that we can’t do that? I’ve had enough of it, all of it.’ Her hands gripped the steering wheel. ‘The overtime, the working late into the night; the lack of decent conversation because you’re too knackered to be bothered. The distinct lack of sex these days...’ She paused in her tirade, tears stinging the back of her eyes, she was so angry.
Daniel sat in silence, he listened to it all, let her continue to berate him, knowing it was no more than he deserved. He knew it was true, all of it, but what could he do? It was all such a mess.
‘I know you don’t love me.’
He turned abruptly. ‘How can you say that?’ Daniel knew he had to fight back and quickly before she destroyed everything.
‘You have a shit way of showing it these days.’ She started the engine and pulled off at speed.
‘I know, I’m sorry, it’s just work... and stuff.’
‘What stuff? You need to buck your ideas up and talk to me. We need to get things back on track; otherwise, we may as well call it a day.’ The words were killing her, but she knew one of them had to do something. She knew she was hurting him, but still, she continued. ‘I love you Daniel, but we can’t live this way anymore.’