Whilst plucking up the courage to read Blood & Fire back from the beginning, I have started work on my new novel, the first ‘prologue’ chapter of which I’ve posted here – hot off the press so to speak.
The character came about after a misheard me commenting on how autumnal a mid-August morning was this year, and the character and story developed between the two of us during the 45 minute car share each way to and from work. A synopsis, of sorts, can be found here.
Louis Tumnal stands under the flickering light, on the street corner on the road glistening under the rain as cars sweep round the square. He looks across at the Fish Bar opposite with the door, open to cold, early autumn night. Looking right first, he crosses the road, and quickens his step midway to get to the other side. He looks up at the green fronted building once more before entering, and making straight for the counter, Formica-topped and lined with industrial sized bottles of salt and vinegar.
“Alright sir,” greets the young girl. She is maybe just eighteen, with bleached blond hair, hooked back under a baseball cap.
Louis answers the girl’s greeting and— “No Aimee tonight?”
The girl shakes her head. “What can I get you?”
Louis glances up at the board behind the bar, but he doesn’t know why for he doesn’t read it. “Haddock and chips please,” he orders and listens to the usual explanation that haddock would be a few minutes wait and was that alright.
“That’s fine. I get it freshly cooked if I wait,” he laughs. The young girl grins, and calls out the order to the guy in the back.
As he leans forward onto the bar, Louis reaches into his pocket and pulls out his mp3 player; slipping one ear piece into his ear he flicks the player back to music. He looks aimlessly across the bar and finds his eyes subconsciously focusing in on the young girl.
“That an iPod,” the girl points towards the music player, “What music you listening to?”
“Handel. Trumpet concertos,” answers Louis.
“Come again?” the girl replies, and then before Louis can answer, “Classical. Whoa…”
Louis is about to reply, explain, justify his musical tastes to the girl, but she drifts off, poking some fish round the fryer with big stainless steel tongs. She chats away to a colleague and Louis returns to his music, poking at the slider to adjust the volume.
“How old are you?”
Louis looks up. The girl is smiling at him.
The girl looks at him with big, wide eyes. “Really?! You don’t look it. You look a lot younger. You act it too—”
“Err … thanks. You’re too kind.” Who is this girl, Louis wonders.
“Haddock wasn’t it?” The girl asks.
Louis nods, “—and chips.”
The girl looks up and smiles, looking at him with big, wide, beguiling blue eyes. “With salt. No vinegar.” She sprinkles salt liberally from the large plastic bottle, and begins wrapping the fish and chips in layers of clean, white newsprint paper; folding in the corners, turning the package over; again and again. She slides the whole package into the bag.
“That will be three-seventy,” she smiles.
Louis hands over the fiver and waits for the change. As the girl passes the bag, she looks up, directly at him. “I’m Caz.”
Louis smiles. As he takes the carrier bag from Caz, the fingers linger for a moment almost entwined. “Thank you Caz.”
“Thanks. Have a good evening,” she replies chirpily, “See you again soon.”
As Louis leaves the shop, he turns one last time to see Caz staring after him, with those big, beguiling eyes, and that bewitching smile.
Louis steps in to the hallway of his ground floor flat of the big Victorian house, and pushes the door closed with his foot. He moves straight through to the kitchen and dumps the carrier bag down on the counter before shedding his coat. He returns to the bag, taking the distinctive smell of fish and chips, warm and converting; batter and hot oil with greased newsprint paper. Taking a plate from a cupboard, he empties out the battered haddock and steaming chips onto it.
Fetching a glass he fills it with water from the tap and takes both glass and plate to the pine dining table. He sits down and as he tucks into his dinner he flicks on Radio 4 and to an airing of The News Quiz.