If you've come this far, you don't need me blathering on with stuff you already know. Enjoy the read.
But, if you missed the start, here's the link to it: http://stuartaken.blogspot.com/2012/01/read-free-my-novel-here.html
Chapter 1 appeared on 13 January and following chapters appear each Friday. You can find them via the archive.
Read, enjoy, invite your friends.
When she first came into my life, Faith was just a rather idiosyncratic young woman with only the cheapness of her labour and her excellent office skills to commend her. She was pretty in a waifish way but not the sort of woman I sought. But, then, there were those eyes and her baffling innocence.
Over the few weeks she’d worked for me, she’d learned rapidly and well. She quickly took all the finishing tasks out of my own and Merv’s hands. She organized the office and me so efficiently that I never missed an appointment or ran out of stock and, if I couldn’t find an item of equipment, she always knew where it was.
But there was more than work to Faith. Her curiosity, once beyond her father’s boundaries, was endless. She was so eager to learn about everything, it was like having a bright, attractive and well-behaved child about the house. She read voraciously; responding enthusiastically to my invitation to use the library, which Uncle Fred and I had spent much time, energy and money in stocking with a broad-based selection of books.
She’d grown in confidence and this was reflected in the way she now held herself. No longer the round shoulders and stooping walk, no longer the shuffle of shame. She was upright and open. Her face had taken on a semi-permanent half smile, as if she was pleased with everything she saw. And this smile lightened her face and brought a sparkle to those glorious eyes that were so deep I feared I might drown in them. She’d started to put on weight now she was no longer walking miles every day. And the new flesh was distributing itself with real promise. She was on the way to becoming a very attractive woman.
Her dowdy clothes I now knew she wore not from choice but the meanness of Heacham. The trip to York gave me an excuse to do something about that by introducing her to the pleasures of buying and wearing fashionable clothes.
As we left the car park and set off down the broad path beside the river, she was alive with interest, keen to notice everything about her. I wanted to take her hand, to be in contact with this strange, captivating young woman. It just seemed right. She would reject such intimacy, regardless of how innocent it might be. The irony amused me: I’d shared much greater intimacy with so many women without fear of rejection.
‘Why the smile?’
‘I’d like to hold your hand and I was wondering why I find it so difficult to ask you, when I’ve touched every naked inch of so many women.’
No reference to my inexplicable difficulty, no argument or condemnation regarding the other women. Just a simple demand to know my reason for wanting to hold her hand; the very aspect of the situation I found most difficult to understand myself.
‘I don’t know. It seems the natural thing to do with you.’
‘You’re being remarkably honest, Leigh.’
‘Perhaps you’re rubbing off on me.’
‘Careful. Honesty can be dangerous.’
‘Now you’re teasing me.’
‘I’m not sure about the hands. It sounds harmless enough and I expect I’d enjoy it. Let me see if I can tell what that sort of contact means in society.’
‘Are you always so analytical before you make contact? It’d be hard bloody work making love with you if you are.’ I’d said it without thinking, without knowing I thought it. That I spoke in terms of making love rather than having sex was disturbing.
‘If analysis will save me from your rapacious intent, Leighton Longshaw, I’ll use it for the foreseeable future.’
There was no malice, no blame in her response, but she meant it and I knew I’d blown my chance for now.
We reached Lendall Bridge and climbed the flagged slope to reach the road. I took her to a café I’d visited previously and chose a window seat so she could watch the people go by. The waitress was new, from the uni, but one of my previous conquests tipped her off and she smiled a welcome as she brought the menu. I gave her the benefit of an encouraging smile before turning my attention to Faith and the list of items on the printed card.
We ordered my cappuccino and Faith’s Yorkshire tea and, after my reminder that she had agreed to be treated, a cream cake each. The waitress was positively coquettish as she took the order, her gentian eyes finding mine and remaining locked there. I watched her glide across the floor on shapely pins encased in sheer black nylon and automatically assessed her potential as a model.
Faith was absorbed in the doings of the various people both inside and outside the café and was unaware of the exchange between the waitress and me. She was happy observing the activity and I felt slightly put out by her lack of attention to me.
We drank and ate in companionable silence, Faith’s only comment that the tea was good and the cream cake delicious. Another first for her; one of many that day.
When the waitress brought the bill, she was so intent on me, she failed to notice the slip of paper drifting from her saucer. It floated to the floor where Faith picked it up. Before I could stop her, she’d unfolded it.
‘This can’t be right! That’s far too much for two drinks and two cakes!’
The waitress was startled out of her reverie and detached herself from my eyes to glare at Faith. My hand hid the smile as I gently took the bill. I topped the cash on the saucer with one of my special business cards bearing a brief message inviting contact, if desired, as I felt the recipient had potential for modelling. She glanced at the card and nodded. As I steered Faith from the café, the other diners followed our exit with faces full of surprise or scorn.
‘My fault, Faith. I forget just how little you know about society and shopping. The price was fine. We could’ve gone somewhere cheaper but the tea and coffee would’ve been poor and the cakes wouldn’t have been half as nice.’
‘I bet the waitresses wouldn’t be so pretty or liberated either. You could see their breasts through their blouses.’
‘Could you? I never noticed…’
‘Of course you didn’t, Leigh.’
I gave her my wounded look but she saw through that so I grinned and shrugged. ‘A word of advice, though. It’s not English to complain loudly in public. We don’t do it. We call this cowardice “reserve” and the rest of the world expects it of us, which is why we are so surprising overseas, where we complain loudly about everything and nothing. So, for today, I’d prefer you not to voice your opinions on cost, and any other contentious matters, until we’ve left the shop. Okay?’
‘I’m your willing and obedient servant, Leighton Longshaw.’
‘That’ll be the day. Come on, little Miss Outspoken, let’s find that typewriter. Then I’m going to do some serious spoiling.’
‘Aren’t things that are spoilt, ruined?’
‘You need spoiling. Time you had a bit of unbridled pleasure and fun.’ I made the comment in jest, of course, but Faith considered it with real seriousness.
‘Perhaps you’re right, Leigh. Perhaps I ought to indulge a little, if only so I’ve a better idea of what I’m talking about when I criticize it in others.’
I cupped her elbow and steered her into the office supplies shop without a word. For all that I understood how she could say such a thing, I couldn’t trust myself to reply generously to a comment like that.
You've come this far, so it's unlikely you'll stop now. But, just in case you're impatient for the next chapter, you know where you can buy the book.
Web site: http://stuartaken.co.uk
Tweet with me: http://twitter.com/@stuartaken
Tweet with me: http://twitter.com/@stuartaken