My new novel, Plaster Scene, will be out shortly and today sees the final excerpt being posted on the blog. Here you can read either the first excerpt or the second excerpt, which were both posted earlier this week.
Today’s passage sees the introduction of the ‘love interest’. Coral Wreath (hilarious, I know) is a young girl who has some pretty big secrets.
In a different place altogether, a young woman was happily walking down a road in the sun. She was carrying a fruit box which she had filled earlier that morning with sculptures and was now on her way to the village. Even though the box looked heavy she still managed to bounce from one foot to the other as she marched down the hill.
‘Hello Mrs Gunston,’ she said, as she passed an elderly lady on the other side of the road. The lady looked up as she said it and, in the time it took her to reply, the girl with the box was already too far away to hear.
On she went, an imaginary song playing in her head as her feet moved to the rhythm of it. The fishing village was up ahead and she knew she would be there in a few minutes. On days like this the village was glorious. So often it was shrouded in a rainy mist or a bitter wind blowing through its streets but, when the sun came out, it made the buildings shine. Neighbours could be seen talking to each other over hedges, the butcher was repainting his sign and some children were chasing each other with water pistols.
The village was the kind of place where people were born, grew up, had families and died without ever thinking of leaving. It attracted the odd tourist in the summer months, especially walkers, but most of the time the same people rattled around in the same places. This was why Coral was so interesting to those who knew her. She had only moved there a year before and no one, not even Mrs Gunston, knew anything about her.
The bell above the door to the newsagents chimed as she pushed it open, balancing the box awkwardly against her chest. She was only small and the box was dwarfing her, but she would hate for anyone to think she was struggling.
‘Alright there, Coral,’ said the young man behind the counter.
‘Hi Gareth,’ said Coral awkwardly.
‘Do you want a hand with that?’
‘No, I’m alright thanks. I’ve just made it all the way from the beach, so I think I’ll be able to get to the counter.’ But Gareth had already moved around the edge of the counter to lend a hand.
‘I mean it,’ she carried on as he tried to take the box from her. ‘I’ll be… oh, alright then, if you insist. Here you go.’
‘I’m getting stronger, you see,’ said Gareth. ‘I’ve been working out.’
‘Oh yeah,’ said Coral. ‘I can see that.’
‘Yep, I’ve been lifting rocks on the quay.’
‘Because they’re heavy. I read in a magazine that this is the perfect time for me to lift heavy weights to bulk up.’
‘I think you’re meant to lift proper weights, not rocks. You’ll end up hurting yourself, and why’s it the perfect time?’
‘No, I can handle it, and it’s my age, that’s why it’s the perfect time. Not that I’m that young anymore. I had my eighteenth last week, we all went to the Rose and Crown. You should’ve come.’
‘Ah, well, maybe next time.’
‘Yeah, it was brilliant. One of my mates has got decks so he played a set in the back room. It was so funny, all the old geezers left. You would’ve loved it.’
‘I don’t know about that, Gareth, it doesn’t really sound like my scene.’
‘Oh, well, who knows? Anyway, I’m glad you’ve just come in, I want to ask you something. We’re all going to go down to the quay tonight for a barbecue, they’ll be loads of us, we’re all going to get totalled. You should come, we’re…’
‘Alright Gareth, alright,’ shouted a woman coming out from the back. ‘Haven’t you got something you should be doing? Go on, disappear, we still need those boxes counting.’
‘Oh yeah, Mum,’ said Gareth, ‘I’ll lift those heavy boxes up for you and put them on the shelves. See you later Coral, maybe tonight yeah?’ Coral just smiled.
‘I’m sorry about that,’ said the shopkeeper. ‘I think he likes you.’
‘Yeah,’ said Coral awkwardly again. ‘He’s a bit young for me, I think.’
‘I’m sure he is. Him and his mates still act the same as they did when they were twelve. But, what can you do, he’s a good kid.’
‘So, what have we got here?’
‘Just a few more that I’ve made,’ said Coral moving the box about two inches along the counter. It was full of sculptures made from seashells and driftwood.
‘Fantastic, they’ve been really selling, you know. The tourists love them. Here, I’ve got some money for you somewhere. Oh yeah, here we go, I knew I’d put it in an envelope. Yeah, they really like them, had some great comments from people. You’re very clever, I couldn’t do anything like that.’ Coral just smiled. ‘They’re lovely, they really are.’
‘Well, thank you, as long as they keep selling, I’ll keep making them.’
‘Good, I hope you do, I’m going to put this lot in the window.’
‘Really? Wow, thanks very much.’
‘Not at all. I’m only doing it because I secretly want you to stay. You’re about the only bit of new life that’s happened here for ages, and the only thing you need now is a man.’
‘Well, you don’t have to worry about me going anywhere. I’m staying put for the foreseeable, and as for men, I’m quite happy on my own thanks.’
‘Oh, you can’t be. A pretty girl like you living out there, all on your own, it’s not right. What you need is someone to look after you, carry these boxes around. I know the perfect one as well.’
‘Oh, no, no, please, I’m not interested. Honestly.’
‘Ssh, it’s not Gareth. Now listen, you’ll be interested when you’ve heard. He’s been away you see, but I know for a fact that he’s coming back soon. He’s gone off to that university and he’s got himself qualified as one of those solicitors. Oh, he’s a lovely lad. I know his mum, see, she lives just round the back here. Ooh, I saw a picture of him last week in his college rugby kit. Big arms, he’s got. He’d look after you, I’m sure. What do you say, I’ll put a word in and arrange for you two to meet when he gets back?’
‘No thanks,’ Coral laughed. ‘I mean it, I’m alright. I want it this way.’
‘No one wants to be on their own sweetheart. You can’t fool me, I can see it in your eyes. You’re such a lovely young thing too… what do you say?’
‘Honestly, I’m fine. I’ll just bring the sculptures for the time being and we’ll keep it like that. Anyway, I’ve got to go, that sun’ll disappear soon. That’s the only thing I need more of in my life. See you for now.’
‘See you later love, you can’t say I haven’t tried.’
Coral walked quickly over the road desperately trying to make some distance between her and the shop. She had a feeling that Gareth was probably watching her from an upstairs window. Eventually she reached the middle of the village, where the huge cast-iron anchor rested, and sat down in the sun on one of the benches surrounding it. She smiled and pulled out the envelope that she had stuffed into the pocket of her shorts.
After counting the money she put it back and sighed. She knew that the summer season would be over soon and the tourists would start thinning out. The money would last for a while but she was only avoiding the inevitable. Sooner or later it would dry up and Coral had no idea what she was going to do then.
Until next time…