Here is the continuing free sample of my unpublished novel FALLEN PAST. We’re up to Chapter Five, and things take a new direction for Craig…
He sat on an old, worn out bench which sagged under his weight, and gazed at the ripples moving over the surface of the lake. The bike stood propped up against a nearby wall, forgotten for the moment. Time had become meaningless. Craig didn’t care. A slight disturbance at the back of his mind; concerns over Mum, what she might say if he rolled up late. Crossland and Samantha and their empty threats. Thoughts of the window-cleaner’s story about Dad. Sporadic, fleeting thoughts, he gave none of them any heed. Instead, the lake held his attention and he allowed himself to drift, not unlike the fallen leaves on the water. So consumed by this state of near thoughtless meditation he did not notice the figure looming up beside him until it spoke.
“Not playing tennis today?”
Craig gave a little jump and looked up. For a second or two he thought he might have slipped into a dream. He blinked rapidly to bring the present into focus, and saw her. He let out a gasp of surprise, heart juddering as if jolted by a surge of electricity. She smiled at him; the girl who had watched him play all those weeks ago. Real, three-dimensional, hair tumbling to her shoulders, eyes big and wide. Her loveliness was even more noticeable this close up. He gaped, struck dumb for a moment.
She giggled and sat down next to him. She wore skin-tight jeans and a white top. “I’ve been watching you for a while.” She stooped forward, picked up a pebble from the ground, and tossed it into the water. “Are you OK?”
Craig swallowed hard, barely able to breathe. Her thigh pressed against his, and her easy, open gaze held his eyes. She was so close he could smell her perfume. The fresh, clean aroma of cucumber mingling with something else. A flower, a spice; he didn’t know, didn’t care. Delicious, whatever it was. He shook his head, battling to find some words. Anything. “I’m Craig.”
She laughed, hand against her mouth. He gazed at the way her hair bounced around her shoulders, shining, reflecting the sunlight. And her face, smooth, skin like alabaster, perfect, no lines, so clear. How old could she be? Fourteen, maybe fifteen?
“I’m sorry,” she said through her laughter, “you must think I’m an awful cow.” Another guffaw. She rocked forwards, looked at him, spluttered, “You look so shocked.” She took a few breaths, brought herself under control. “It’s just that…well, you know. Craig? Is that all you have to say” She pulled out a tissue from her jeans pocket and wiped her eyes. “Sorry, but the way you said it, blurting it out like that.” She shook her head, gave her eyes one more wipe and put the tissue away. “Sorry.”
Mesmerised, Craig took no notice of her words. For all he cared, she might have been reciting the English dictionary. The way her mouth moved, her lips so soft, so full, they held his total attention. Nothing else mattered, his entire world centred on that delectable area of her lovely face. He closed his eyes and breathed her in, tiny explosions going off across his body. No pain. Exhilaration. Unlike anything he’d known. He wanted it to last forever, this feeling. Her. Time stretched out, a soft comforting blanket enfolding him, bringing him warmth, security.
“Look, I’m bothering you.” She slapped her hand down onto his knee and stood up. “Sorry.”
Craig’s eyes sprang open, drank her in. Those dark blue jeans, so tight. Probably Wranglers. She fitted them well, rounded hips straining against the material, legs long and slim. If there was a better-looking girl, he had yet to meet her.
“I’ll, er…” She shrugged, gave what looked like a forced smile and turned to go.
The world snapped into focus at that point, and the panic gripped him. She’d come upon him so quickly, unannounced, appearing out of nowhere, and he’d crumbled, not knowing what to say. He should have said something meaningful, friendly. A simple ‘hello, lovely to see you again.’ Instead, all he’d given was his name, unasked for. What the hell possessed him to be so idiotic? Girls. He’d always been uncomfortable around them. They were like another species, to be admired from afar, not approached and engaged in conversation. Scary.
Not her. No, she was different. Special. She’d watched him at the tennis court and she’d smiled. And what had he done? He’d blown it, not responding, unable to, mouth full of jelly, tongue too big. Now, at his second chance, he’d done the same, idiot that he was. He’d caused her to walk away, her cheeks a little red, embarrassed, probably angry too. Nothing good ever happened. Girls, friends, Dad. Always the same damned result.
Craig gritted his teeth, stood up, breathing hard, a decision wrought out of exasperation at his own pathetic self forcing him to run after her. Without thinking. A new, powerful determination emerging from somewhere inside telling him not to allow this opportunity to slip by.
Words scurried through his head in no order, a mad unplanned rehearsal of what he needed to say. He caught up to her, clutched her arm, turned her around, saw those big, baleful eyes and melted. She held his gaze, waited. The seconds crawled by, all of his courage, determination slipping away.
At last, she came to his rescue, tilted her head and said, “Craig? You want to say something?”
He nodded, gulped. “I’m the sorry one,” he said, voice tight, dry. “Not you. Me.” He grinned, breath coming fast. “I’m really sorry.”
A yawning chasm of silence followed. The evening sun played around with her hair, lending it a golden glow. He held back the urge to reach out and touch her. The birds sang, people walked by. Craig cared for none of it, only the desire to be with her.
They stood and they stared.
“I’m an idiot,” he managed at long last. “I meant to say ‘hello’, that was all.”
“I didn’t mean to laugh.”
“I know, but…well, you surprised me.”
“I guess, yes. Sorry.”
“You say that a lot.” He smiled. So did she. Lit up her entire face. Craig’s heart sang, then skipped a beat when he realised he still held her arm. He quickly let his hand fall away. She giggled. He liked the way she did that. “Can we, er, start again?”
She bit her lip. “You’re not angry?”
“Angry? Why should I be angry?” He nodded back to the old bench. “Let’s go and sit. Give it another try.”
“OK,” she said, and they did.
Over an hour later they still sat and talked. Her name was Melanie, and he was correct – she was fifteen. She seemed so grown-up, so wise and knowing, and yet so easy to talk to. Craig held nothing back, the flood gates opened. He told her about his life, his friends, what he liked doing, what he wanted to do after he left school. She listened, she commented. Not once did she seem bored, or irritated. When she too began to reveal something about herself, her words sounded so sweet, lyrical even, as if she recited poetry or sang a song. They laughed. Time disappeared, dusk giving way to night. Craig offered to walk her home, and she accepted.
He wheeled his bike and she walked next to him. They talked about the cinema, and her favourite pop groups. He listened, taking it all in, logging it away for future reference. Why had he never done this before? To be with a girl like this, was there anything better? He didn’t so much walk as float.
He left her at her front door and when she had gone inside, after giving him a wave and a tiny smile, he wanted to cartwheel all the way down the street. This might have been difficult, as he still had his bike. Instead, he rode home, twisting through the streets, veering left and right, his laughter ringing out across the night.
As he turned into his own road, grin as wide as the Mersey-tunnel, he pulled the bike up short as a sudden thought smacked into him, almost causing him to lose his balance and fall over. He shook his head, ran a hand over his face. Of all the stupid, pathetic things to have done. “I really am an idiot,” he groaned.
He’d forgotten to ask her when they could see one another again.
I hope you’re enjoying this story. To find out more about what I do, please visit my website: www.stuartgyates.com. There you will find all the links to my work, what they are about and where you can buy them.
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http://therivertime.blogspot.com/ (This blog will be ready very soon, with yours truly amongst the contributors).
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