Although my first published book Casablanca, My Heart is a romantic novel, I do not by definition concentrate on the development of romantic relationships in my work. My next novel Prior To You, which I jokingly call my magnum opus as I’ve been working on it for some eight years now and never seem to finish it, is a psychological thriller. I really want to complete the first draft this summer but still have at least some 15,000-25,000 words to go. The first chapter is also available here on my website.
Anyway. Here’s just a random chapter, which still needs editing.
Chapter 10 The Ghost
Jenna was sitting in the middle on the tipped up back seat of the Renault with the front wheel of Bill’s BMX prodding in her back. She sat huddled in her anorak, feeling slightly nauseous and out of sorts. Vincent was driving slowly along the dark lane that was partly covered by wisps of low-hanging mist that looked like cordless white hammocks hanging in space. Vincent dipped the head lights but the sight remained poor. He bent his head closer to the windscreen to increase his restricted outlook. Bill was sitting next to him in the passenger seat, an upright little figure turned in on his own thoughts. Neither of them spoke, thick silence enveloped the darkness inside the car. Vincent was clutching the steering wheel between his fingers and didn’t even dare to take them off to switch on the radio. The headlights, swaying with every slight curve of the road propelled them forwards as if they were going through a white narrow tunnel.
“What the hell!” Vincent braked with all his might. A person doomed up in the middle of the road, stepping out of the mist only fifty metres away from them. He was facing the car, a compact, dark persona, with a cap deep over his forehead. He showed no intention to move aside. Bill squeaked, but as if preventing himself from making another sound, he clapped both his hands over his mouth, breathing audibly through his fingers. Jenna rose up from her dormant position, eyes fixed on the man outside, adrenaline rushing through her body, making her fully awake. She spoke one word, her voice metallic almost inhuman:
It was both an accusation and a statement. Somehow the sound of her voice broke the tension and the two males relaxed a little in their seats.
Three pairs of eyes saw the figure disappear, vanishing in the shrubbery on the right side of the road. The Renault had almost come to a halt but Vincent pressed his foot on the throttle again, longing to jam it full on and speed away from the evil scene. Unsure whether the person would suddenly return, he forced himself to drive slowly, cautiously passing the spot where they had just witnessed the phantom. There was nothing now. Vince turned his head to look at Jenna but it was too dark in the car to see the expression on her face. He concentrated on the road again. Bill relaxed his hands in his lap, still staring straight ahead of him. Vincent’s eyes darted to the rear mirror but the road was already disguised by mist. While they continued their route in silence something had sensibly changed in the interaction between the people in the car. They were vigilant now and aware of a change in the energy field around Jenna.
It was if things clicked into place in Jenna’s head and the fog outside was no longer the fog inside her. She knew exactly who he was. He had visited her the night she had tried to kill herself. She didn’t know his name and she still needed to figure out what he was doing in her life but it was as plain as a pikestaff that he had business with her and she with him. She could feel him on another level than the physical one and understood why people thought he was a ghost. But he wasn’t. He was as alive and breathing as they were but he needed to leave the impression he could travel between worlds. Well, she saw through him. A new sense of responsibility poured from her, she would have to protect Vincent from “him”, maybe even Bill. She was dead-calm, not even excited. Cold steel and blood, that’s what she saw, ahead of her.
Vincent had meanwhile reached the village and drove through the main street.
“Drop me off here, please.” Bill said, “I don’t want my parents to see I am with you.”
“Will you be okay?” Vincent looked at the boy and saw his own concern reflected in the boys’ eyes. Bill nodded nevertheless. They got out of the car and untied the string that kept the boot lid down. Jenna also slid out and stood next to Bill.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “Whoever he is, he isn’t your great-uncle. But I’ll find out what’s going on.” Both Vincent and Bill looked at her and saw her determination. Bill swung his leg over the crossbar of his BMX. He dawdled for a moment.
“Come back to the cottage in a couple of days,” Jenna urged him, “we’ll take the sting out of this thing. You’ll see.” Bill looked doubtful but obviously felt better in the well-lit street of his home village. “Ok,” it sounded tentative, “I’ve been longing to understand this curse tale for quite a while, so yes please, I’ll come by again soon.”
“You think you want to stay in this place that long?” Vincent’s turned to Jenna.
“Oh yes,” Jenna smiled, “I’m starting to quite like it here.” Again Vincent saw the lively shine in her eyes. The story had her hooked where he only saw problems.
“Bye,” Bill shouted as he pedalled in the direction of the garage.
“Bye,” brother and sister chimed in chorus and Jenna added “thanks for stopping by and informing us.”
Vincent closed the boot lid and replaced the backseat in its original position. Jenna sat in front now. For the first time since they had met up again the roles seemed reversed. Vincent’s face looked haggard, it had somehow lost its youthful enthusiasm and determination to use his profession to the benefit of the girl he’d loved ever since he’d laid eyes on her. Too many things clouded his mind: his approach to Jenna’s disorder, the problems with the villagers, his budding relationship with Margot. He felt like he was heading towards an identity crisis, something he’d never experienced before in his life and he instantly knew what the problem was: it was Jenna. Somehow, through it all, she’d been his beacon, despite her mood swings, her absence in his life. She was the one he had trusted with his life and now he wasn’t so sure about that anymore. Where were they in reality? Why did he intuitively feel the basis was still sound while in reality everything was crumbling under his fingers? He looked at her in the harsh electric light of the streetlamp and felt on the edge of confiding in her, telling her about his doubts, about his infinite love for her, how he needed her help to steer them both towards safety. She was sitting inside her own thoughts, staring straight ahead, not seeming to wonder why he didn’t start the car. Her profile was so fine, exposing her aristocratic features, the straight nose, the fair skin, the well-shaped mouth with the lips pressed softly together, the emerald eyes not unlike Liz Taylor’s eyes. Yes, she looked a bit like the old diva. “Jenna,” his heart cried, “please help me, help us. We’re in this together, always have been. Mum and dad just circled around us, but we were the two that ruled the roost.”
He started the car and soon they were leaving the village again and headed towards the country lane that led to the cottage. Vincent was bracing himself for another encounter with the ghost but Jenna broke the silence. Her voice was clear and relaxed:
“He won’t be there, Vince. Don’t worry. He only wanted to show himself to us and he’s done that now. There is no need for him to do that right again.” She sniffed with contempt. Vincent was baffled. How did she know that? Was she hallucinating? He was about to ask her if she knew who that person was but he bit his tongue. The mist was even thicker now and he had to concentrate on staying on the narrow path. The trip did pass without the ghost showing himself. Vincent felt tired, slightly irritated.
“First thing we do when we get home, is get some food in our stomachs. Aren’t you hungry?” He asked the question despite himself and braced himself for the reply. But Jenna sounded truthful and mellow.
“What was it you were cooking when Bill came around?”
“I was making tomato soup? Care for that? Thought with some brown bread it would be the right thing to eat in this bleak weather.”
“Yep, sounds good.” Vincent ventured a quick glance away from the road to capture her expression but it was again too dark to see Jenna’s face. Hope sprung up in him.
“Alright then we’re almost there.” Several minutes later Vincent parked the old Renault on the driveway next to the cottage and got out. He listened intently. All was silent but for the dripping trees and the owl in the distance calling to its mate. The answer came, shrill through the thick darkness of the night. He locked the car carefully. Jenna was shivering in her anorak so he quickly opened the door to the cottage and the warmth of the wood burner welcomed them. The house felt more inviting now as if Bill had left his card that all would be alright. Not entirely reassured though, Vincent quickly closed all the curtains. The eyes of the night were best left unseen.