Happy New Year, all! Once again, Friday is a public holiday, and as a result you won't be seeing the next installment of A Kill in Time until next week. But we've decided to share some new snippets of our major works in progress with you today so you'll have something to read while welcoming the new year.
Anyway- 2009 was an amazing year for me, but I don't know if I could survive another like it in my lifetime. I'm looking forward to 2010 being delightfully uncomplicated and full of happiness.
I have several resolutions for the coming year, but I'll only share my writing one here- I'm aiming to finish my whole final draft of Between the Lines. This is a lofty goal at the moment, and relies wholly on another resolution (that being to get my daughter sleeping appropriate hours, and in her own bed). But I'm an optimist, and I think I can do it.
In the spirit of new beginnings, I'm posting a snippet written just this week- the first new words I've written in quite a while; what will be (I think) within the new first chapter or two of the story; and of course, a new beginning within the actual story itself. Please note this is brand new, first draft stuff and needs a bit more detail here and there.
BETWEEN THE LINES
c. Claire Gregory, 2010 (hey! 2010!)
One month earlier [NB: this is currently the 2nd chapter (that could change) and the date is July 1940]
Laura Parker tapped the tip of her fountain pen against the blotter for the twentieth time and stared at the blank piece of paper lying on the desk. She could feel the pressure of time on her shoulders, listening to the bustle and hum of the hospital outside the door. She only had a few minutes before the matron would wonder where she was and come looking. The flood of wounded men had reached a furious peak after the return from Dunkirk, but the ebb and flow since had been no less frantic. Right at this minute the building was filled from top to bottom with shattered bodies and broken lives.
He wasn’t down there. She checked every admission, stalking the hallways, lifting limp hands and stroking cheeks and reading identity tags, but he wasn’t there.
Her hand went automatically to the paper.
Dear Jared, she began.
No. No, that didn’t sound right at all. It wasn’t how she thought of him in the deep of night, while she was pressed tightly between strangers in the Underground shelter, trying to stifle her sobs. She swept the paper aside and replaced it, then started again. Dearest Jared…
Wrong. My dear…
Wrong. Wrong, wrong. She threw down the pen in disgust. It was wrong, most of all, that she had to be writing this letter to him at all, sending it out into the ether in the hope it might find him somewhere, sometime, and bring him back. She snatched up the pen again.
J, she wrote. It’s been one month since you left me.
“Damn it!” she blurted. “Damn, damn, damn.” She screwed up the paper and pulled in another. She didn’t want to colour her words with anger. She just wanted him… home.
It’s been a month since you went away.
The tears were rising again. A month. A whole month, and no sign of him. But of course, there were countless hospitals out there, in London, in England, in France and in all the other places young men were being shot down and blown up. He could be in any one.
Or… not. After a month, surely, surely they would know one way or the other. Surely if there was no word after a month, then it meant…
No. She wouldn’t even consider the possibility.
Not in the daylight. Night-time was a different matter. At night she couldn’t seem to control the shadows that overcame her, and she knew she’d never see him again. But in the daytime, in the sunlight, it was different. She had hope. Besides, she wasn’t Jared’s next of kin. Yet. Who was going to tell her? They’d be telling his father instead, all the way over in Australia, and his father didn’t even know she existed.
She sighed. What would she say to him right now, if they were sitting together in a cafe, leaning against one another just for the thrill of their bodies touching?
I still think of you all day and every night. I wonder where you are, and if you’re safe. I hope you are. Things are getting hairy here- they say the bombs are coming any day, though of course they’ve been saying that for some time.
But I don’t want to complain, dearest. I just wanted to reach out and let you know I’m still here, and I always will be, waiting for you. And not only me, my love. I didn’t want to tell you like this, but they say you can’t be found, and I don’t know what else to do.
She took a deep breath. So many times she’d imagined telling him this in person. In her mind’s eye, his handsome face stared back at her, momentarily uncomprehending, before breaking into the biggest grin she’d ever seen. He swept her off her feet, spun her in the air. He set her down and kissed her, long and slow, one hand on her still-flat stomach. He whispered in her ear. You’ve made me the happiest man on earth.
Once in a while in the dark of night, she saw a different side to it. Occasionally that Jared stared at her with a little crease between his golden brows, then rubbed a hand through his hair and turned away. She waited with breath held and a hopeful half-smile, but when he turned back she saw he was angry. And then he said, what are we going to do now?
She dipped the nib again and set it to the paper with purpose. She was sitting here in daylight, and in daylight Jared was delighted by her news.
I’m pregnant, Jared. I’m having your baby.
And even though she’d felt sick to her stomach when she missed her courses twice, even though the very idea of a child made her quake, it still gave her an electric thrill to write that. She set down the pen and leaned back in her seat, resting both hands on her belly. Eight weeks, the doctor had said, give or take a margin of error. No question there was a baby, growing inside her, and in a few months she was going to be somebody’s mother. Nothing was different, and everything was.
It all felt so unreal. But there was no way she could accept the idea that Jared was gone. She couldn’t quite imagine the two of them playing mummy and daddy, either, but however strange that would be, she was determined that it. Would. Be.
One day I know you’ll come home to meet your child, and so we’ll be here, come rain or come shine, and no matter what the Germans throw at us. You know where to find us.
I hope against hope this letter finds you, dear, and that you’re here with me soon. Until then, my love.
She didn’t allow herself the leisure of reading back through it again, or changing another word. She folded the paper in half and thrust it into the waiting envelope, already neatly addressed to the Royal Air Force base at Hornchurch.
She went to stand, but had a last thought and sat back down again. Carefully, neatly, she inscribed her address on the back of the envelope. In case it didn’t find Jared. In case it found someone else.
On impulse, she leaned down quickly and kissed the flap, leaving a bright imprint of her lips.
In case it did find Jared.