New Book…

Hi All

Sorry no posts in ages but I’ve been a busy bee.

I’ve just started a new project, it’s a lot different from this story but I’d love to get some feedback from you guys.

Here is a little teaser…

 

1.

Karen Weston had no interest in ghosts or the occult. If you asked her she’d have said she was a sceptic, seeing is believing, with no desire to see.

Her husband Mark was of the same opinion, although in the 5 years they’d been together it was never something they actually discussed.

 

In September 2009 they bought a house together. Before this they’d been renting for a few years and had no real intention to buy, but when Mark was offered a promotion they decided to take the plunge.

The promotion meant Mark would be based 40 miles away. He didn’t fancy the extra driving each day and as Karen was at risk of redundancy at work it seemed like the right time to make a change. She took the voluntary redundancy package that was on offer, a measly weeks’ pay for each full year of service, little more than £2000, but enough to start a little business from home, something she’d been itching to do for some time. Mark’s promotion came with a tidy pay rise and he was happy for her to stay at home, maybe think about starting a family.

They moved to a small rural village, Oxby, near Mark’s new office. Both fell in love with the little stone cottage when they saw it. It was the only house they viewed. The estate agent told them it had only come onto the market the day before; they were the first to view it. It was significantly under budget, which was handy as it needed some work, but nothing that a new bathroom, kitchen and lots of paint wouldn’t fix.

2009 ended on a good note in the new Weston house. Christmas in their first real home together, with a log fire burning in the newly painted living room. Family visited on Christmas Day and everyone was happy.

On the 20th of January 2010 Karen was hit by a car while walking to the village store. The driver did not stop and was never traced. She suffered severe head injuries along with minor cuts and bruises to her body. It seemed the car had only slightly clipped her and she hit her head on a stone wall as she fell. Had she fallen on to grass she’d likely have walked away.

On the 4th of February 2010 Karen woke up. She was confused but Mark and the nurses explained what had happened and over the next week she began to remember parts of the hours before she was hit. The accident itself was a blank. She was allowed home on Valentine’s Day. There seemed to be little lasting effects of the accident other than slight memory lapses and frequent headaches. Everyone kept telling her how lucky she had been. Only Karen knew of the terrible nightmares she’d had while unconscious, and she quietly hoped that once home they would fade.

Mark bought a tiny black kitten for Karen’s birthday in March. They called him Raven. By April Karen was able to start work on her new business, making jewellery at home and selling it online and in local shops. Things started to feel good again.

2.

Rowen Park lived only a few miles away from Karen. She read about her accident in the local newspaper and thought she might have recognised her face from the village. If you live somewhere with less than 100 houses you tend to recognise your neighbours.

Rowen was born and bred in Oxby. She lives in her grandmother’s cottage. When her grandmother died Rowen was 17 and her father didn’t quite know what to do with her. She’d been a late baby; her father was 50 when she was born. Her mother left shortly afterwards. She’d grown up with her grandma, and when her old ticker finally gave up at 92, Rowen was lost, desolate. It seemed natural for her to stay in their cottage, where else would she go? Her father’s flat was barely big enough for them but he’d never give it up and the thought of selling grandma’s house horrified them both.

She’d spent the last 10 years living off grid as much as possible, a self-sufficient lifestyle, more out of necessity and habit than any other reasons. She had a small paddock and kept chickens as Grandma always had and grew most of her own veg. She rarely ate meat as that would involve spending money she just didn’t have. Her only real income was from selling fresh eggs and veg from a table by the gate and fortune telling.

She always hated the fortune telling but Grandma had passed on more than the cottage when she died. Rowan took on her grandma’s jobs too. Some people called her a witch, Rowen thought little of the title but she was smart enough to go along with it. She kept her ear to the ground and listened when spoken to. Telling someone’s fortunes is easy enough when you know the last 5 generations of their family’s history. Things tend to go in circles. Another good source was Magda in the village store. That woman knew everything and took great pleasure in sharing her knowledge. Goodness knows why people continued to confide in her. Rowen bought the local paper every day and barely read it save for obituaries (it pays to know who’s recently dead when you tell fortunes for a living) she was more interested in Magda’s gossip. Yes it paid to listen.

This morning Magda was prattling on about crystals. Rowen was more interested in the two women whispering behind the veg display and had to tear herself away to give Magda the attention she demanded.

“….and I know how much you like your crystals Miss Park, perhaps she can make you something special”

“Yes maybe” Rowan replied, still trying to listen to the women who were now earnestly whispering by the baked beans.

“I’ll have a little stand in the window tomorrow; I’ll tell her you’d like to see her then, yes? Yes I’ll just do that. Oh did you hear about Old Jeffrey’s prize pig escaping the barn last night? What a commotion….” On and on and on.

Rowan nodded, now resigned to the fact she was never going to know what was being whispered and she had a suspicion she’d just agreed to something that Magda was saying. A pig? Probably not.

“I’m awfully sorry Magda but I have a terrible headache, I’m afraid I was only half listening. So rude, please forgive me, what were you telling me just now?”

Magda gave her a pained look of sympathy “oh you poor mite, go home and rest your head it was only village tripe I was talking. Don’t forget your paper my love”

Magda patted her on the hand as Rowen left the store. The May sunshine was warm on her skin as she stepped out, but a swift breeze made her turn up her collar. She turned to walk down the road out of the village, paper under her arm. She raised her hand as Old Jeffrey trundled past on his ancient red tractor.

A black Audi A4 flew around the corner, just missing Old Jeffrey, who raised a spotted fist in a mix of amusement and anger.

“That’s that new guy, the one whose wife was run over earlier this year on Lock Lane. He looks in a hurry”, thought Rowen as she carried on towards the cottage. She walked on, mentally listing her chores for the day and listening to the birds in the hedgerows.

 

3.

Mark was indeed in a hurry.

He’d arrived at his office at 8.45am on the dot as always.  When he’d left home, Karen had been sitting at the kitchen table with Raven on her lap. She seemed in good spirits and was looking forward to “a day of making”. He was so pleased for her, a few local shops had agreed to have a stand of her jewellery and the early signs were looking good. She seemed to have struck the right chord with the locals and her pieces were selling well.

His drive to work was uneventful and as he slid behind his desk and started reviewing his tasks for the day, everything looked quite mundane.

At 9.03am his mobile rang. It was Karen. She very rarely rang him in work but he was more curious than alarmed.

“Hey KK what’s up?”

“You need to come home right now” Karen’s voice was shaking

“wh-what’s wrong?”

“I think I blacked out. I remember you leaving for work and the next thing I know I’m in the bathroom staring in the mirror. I’ve cut my hand but I don’t know how. I’m scared Mark, I don’t know what happened”

“I’m on my way. Go and sit on the sofa and wait for me. Are you bleeding badly?”

“I’m not sure. I wrapped it in a towel”

“I’ll be home in 15 minutes” Mark hung up and grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair. As he left the office he stopped to tell Jean on the reception desk that he was needed at home, Karen had hurt herself and he’d be back later. He had no appointments until after lunch.

Karen replaced the bedroom phone and went downstairs. The small TV in the kitchen was still on, breakfast presenters discussing the next big thing in high street fashion. Raven was sitting on the kitchen table, washing his side. She hated him being on the table but the damned cat seemed determined that was where he would sit.

She sat down on the sofa and slowly unwrapped the towel around her hand. There was a shallow cut across her palm which began bleeding again as she flexed her thumb. She winced in pain and wrapped the towel around her hand again, surprised at how much she’d bled. She tried to remember how she had injured herself but nothing came, just a big dark blank.

Black velvet where her memory should have been. Black velvet like Raven’s black fur.

She looked over at the kitten, still washing himself. He looked up at her with those big green eyes and she felt a cold shudder. Raven jumped down from the table and walked over to the sofa. He jumped onto the arm and gave her another icy green stare then stepped onto her lap and snuggled against her arm. She felt foolish for feeling such revulsion at his stare, he was just a tiny little black snuggle puss. She stroked his head and ears until Mark arrived home.

She heard his car scratch over the gravel of the driveway and felt silly for ringing him. She had felt vulnerable since leaving hospital but thought she was getting over it. Maybe not. The car door slammed and Mark ran in to the kitchen through the back door. She stood as he entered the living room, pushing Raven off her lap. He dug in his claws as he slid to the floor and she cursed.

Mark held her for a long time then pulled away to inspect her hand.

“It’s not too bad” he declared “won’t need stitches but it’s going to be pretty sore for a while. Do you remember how you did it yet?”

Black Velvet

“No” she said, “I’m sure it’ll come back to me. I’m sorry for calling you it just really shook me up”

“It’s ok, I have a fairly quiet day” Mark stroked her dark blonde hair and looked into her eyes. Karen found this slightly romantic, not realising her was checking the evenness of her pupils. The head injury from the accident haunted them both more than either consciously admitted. “I’ll make us a coffee then I’ll have to get back” he said and walked into the kitchen.

 

That afternoon Karen walked into the village to take her jewellery stand to Magda in the store. Magda told her everything she’d heard that morning, even though Karen knew few of the people she was talking about and the few she did know were by sight and little more. Magda asked about the bandage around Karen’s hand,

“Oh, I got a sharp bit when I was in the wood shed this morning” Karen lied

“You must be more careful my girl, you should see the doc for one of those Tet-anus injections. Do you think they call them that because they go in your bum?” Magda laughed at her own joke and Karen couldn’t help but join in.

“I was talking to young Miss Park this morning, you know Rowen don’t you? She likes these crystals and things like you make. I told her you’d pop around there to see her, you don’t mind do you? She’ll likely give you a tincture for that hand too, better than anything the doc will give you”

“I don’t think I’ve met her” Karen replied “is she a homeopath or something?”

Magda laughed, her little round belly shaking “I don’t know what kind of path she is my lovely but she’s been called many names that my ears have heard, not all of them good. Alls I know is that if any of the locals has a rash or a cough or maybes something they don’t want to go to the doc about, they go to young Rowen. She learned well from her Gramma and she does the job every time mark my words”

“Is this the lady with the eggs for sale on the table?” Karen asked

“That’s the one” Magda nodded “you’d get on well I reckon, about the same age I’d say. She’s not got many friends either”

Karen wanted to be affronted by this comment but Magda was right. Since moving here she’d not had chance to make friends. They’d ventured to the village pub, The Crooked Cross, on a couple of nights and had a lukewarm reception but they weren’t big drinkers and then the accident and… Magda was probably the only person in the village who she’d had any real conversation with.

“I’ll go there now I think. Is there anything I could take?”

Magda shook her head, “just yourself my love, just yourself”

 

4.

Rowen was busy in her garden, pulling weeds from the veg patches. The earlier breeze had died down and Rowen had stripped off her light cardigan and was mud streaked to her elbows, long skirt tucked into her waist band so it was knee length.

As she pulled weeds from around the broccoli, she stopped to pick off the caterpillars. She’d let the chickens out while she worked and they followed her around eating what they could find and fighting over the plump green caterpillar treats she threw to them.

“Maybe one day you stupid birds will learn what’s a weed and what’s not” she said, batting a fat brown hen away from the young courgettes. There was a big jagged tear in one of the new leaves where the hen had pecked. The hen bobbed away, clucking with indignance. The other hens continued to scratch around, bocking quietly to themselves.

She squatted amongst the veg and pulled her tobacco packet from her apron pocket and began to roll herself a cigarette. Her Grandma had always smoked roll ups and Rowen had picked up the habit. As she licked the brown, liquorice paper she heard the gate open. She turned her head to see a small woman close the gate and turn up the path.

“Over here” Rowan called, waving a hand. She stood, untucking her skirt and letting it fall back down to her ankles. “Can I help you?”

“Hi, My name is Karen Weston. I live in the cottage over on River Road. The lady who runs the village store told me you wanted to buy some jewellery; I hope you don’t mind me stopping by unannounced”

Rowen laughed “Oh so that’s what Magda was telling me this morning! I wasn’t listening to her; I thought I might have agreed to something”

“I’m sorry” Karen blushed “I’ve come out of turn, I’ll go”

“No, No!” Rowen laughed again “It’s my fault, Magda is a kind soul but her mouth is hung on both sides. Often times I just agree for a quiet life. My Name is Rowen” she said, holding out a slightly muddy hand.

Rowen saw the mud and blushed almost as deeply as Karen had. She quickly wiped her hands on her apron then held it back out.

Karen smiled as she shook Rowena’s hand. “You have a beautiful garden”

“Really? I always think it’s messy. Pretty much everything in here is edible; my Grandma planted most of it. She’s been gone 10 years now but I keep it just how she did, well, with a few minor changes.”

Karen let her eyes wander around the garden. Everywhere she looked there were flowers or rows of vegetables, each was carefully labelled. She bent down to look at a label

Alfalfa – Pee problems. Fatty.

“What does this mean?” Karen asked

“Well it means that Alfalfa is good for people with a bladder infection or someone who wants to lower their cholesterol. My Grandma knew about the pee problems but I googled the other. Not sure what it means but I give it to the dieters anyway” Rowen replied, shooing away another chicken who was trying to peck her skirt.

“This orange one here is Marigold, it’s good for wounds”

Karen looked down at her crudely bandaged hand. As she looked up again Rowen caught her eye.

“I can take a look at it if you like, folk round here often ask me to fix their ails” Karen looked uncertain but Rowen continued “I’ll even throw in a cup of tea, and then you can show me your jewels if you like.”

“That is very kind of you” Karen said and followed Rowen up the thin path between the veg.

The kitchen door stood open, A solitary hen was scratching at the tiled floor, looking for crumbs. Rowen roughly guided it outside with her foot then picked up an old black metal kettle and filled it. She put it on the range cooker, first lifting the lid that covered the hob and holding her hand over it to test the heat. Once the kettle was settled on the hob, Rowen picked a small piece of wood from a basket on the floor and opened the little door at the bottom of the range. She threw the wood in and closed the door. Karen watched in amazement. She’d seen Aga’s in magazines and catalogues and loved the look of them, but this old range cooker looked like it had come from the ark.

Rowen saw her looking and said “Grandma said her Ma used this old beast too. I’m the third generation of Park’s to cook on it, although I mostly burn things. No fancy thermostats on here” she patted the old, chipped enamel. “but it bakes good bread and keeps the house warm in winter, sweats a fever out of you in summer though”

“You make your own bread?”

“Well, bread rolls mostly, I can never get a loaf to rise properly. Never could. The kettle will be done in a few minutes. Would you like me to see to that hand of yours?” Rowen gently lifted Karen’s hand before she could reply and began to unwrap the bandage.

“Really it’s nothing” Karen protested but Rowen took no notice. Once the bandage was off Rowen lifted Karen’s hand close to her face and squinted at the cut. “Not deep” she said “jagged though, looks like a nasty cat got you.” She turned around and went through a little door that Karen hadn’t noticed. She came out moments later with a bowl and a little brown bottle sealed with a cork. There was no label on the bottle and it just about as old as the range cooker.

Rowen took a cloth from a drawer and uncorked the bottle. She poured a brownish liquid onto it then lifted Karen’s hand again, dabbing the damp cloth on the cut.

Karen expected it to sting or burn but she felt no pain. She smelled a flowery perfume and asked “what is in the bottle?”

“Not much really, just some of that nice Marigold to sooth your skin and a little Lavender for antiseptic. I doubt there’s a kiddy in this village that hasn’t had this old mix on their knee at one time or other’ most of the adults too I reckon. One of my best sellers.”

“You sell herbal remedies?” Karen asked

“I sell whatever people want, so long as I have it to sell. Within reason anyway” She winked at Karen “Old Jeffrey, the one with the old tractor, well his son Ronny has been after my hand since we were young’uns. Offered me a pretty penny to be his housewife too, a share in the farm when his daddy dies no less. That’s one prize I’ll never sell.”

“You don’t like him?”

“I like him plenty but my work is here. My Grandma and my Great-Gramma before her and maybe the one before her, all did my job and I can’t do it if I’m a wife. They all learned from their Ma’s and did what they could as they grew, then when they married they couldn’t do it no more, had to raise the kiddies. Once the husbands were gone away though they could work again. Wise women are always unmarried or widowed. Perhaps that’s what makes them wise”

Karen laughed, thinking of what Mark would say if he heard this. “I think you may well be right Miss Park”

“Rowen, please. I’m all done here now, this hand shouldn’t bother you no more, but I’d give that cat a kick if I were you”

“My cat didn’t scratch me” Karen said

“Are you sure? Looks just the same as every cat scratch I ever saw.”

Karen hesitated “I’m not sure, no. I don’t know how I did it if I’m honest. It just kind of, appeared there. I have little memory gaps sometimes. I had a nasty knock to my head a few months ago…”

“Yes I saw that in the paper” Rowen interrupted “bad business. Did they ever find the driver?”

“No”

Rowen looked at Karen, straight in the eyes. She saw a flash of something, then Karen looked away, uncomfortable at her stare. Rowen saw her discomfort and changed the subject.

“Let’s have a look what goodies you have to tempt my lonely pennies”

 

Let me know what you think!

Sian

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6 Responses to “New Book…”

  1. Looks good. Where do you plan on going with the story from there?

  2. I like it. The images come easily as I read it, which is always good.

  3. I am intrigued! Would love to know who the driver is and what connection Rowen has with this. Also the memory gaps are an interesting twist. Could get messy (er) for Karen!
    Nicely written!

    • Thanks. Obviously I have an idea of where the story will go but only an idea, the details will come out as it is written. I’m not posting any more until it’s finished. Just wanted some feedback on the first couple if “groundwork” chapters.

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