“In practicing my writing, I began to develop the premise for a novel which centred around a man who is struggling with an unidentifiable illness. In this excerpt from the novel (which still remains in the earliest stages of production and will more than probably remain that way!), Cara and Ben – the siblings from a previous Tiny Tale – reprise their earlier roles, but this time it is Ben’s story that drives the narrative forward. As always, your feedback and advice is greatly appreciated – particularly if you’re mid-novel and can give me some handy tips in getting off the ground!!”
Ben is squirming, his skin tingling. In the cramped seat, he groans, extricating his long limbs from the too-small space between himself and the chair in front and stretching them out in the comparable roominess of the train’s aisle. He closes his eyes, allowing the full wave of soothing relief to calm his nerves as well as his sore muscles and momentarily he is transported, his mind safely lost in the wide open spaces of his childhood.
‘Excuse me. You can’t put your feet there.’ The voice is barely audible above the leers and catcalls of a recently boarded stag party and yet it pulls Ben back from his daydream with a forceful tug.
He looks up. ‘I’m sorry?’
The woman opposite him is glaring, her mouth partially open. She sighs and the extensive array of gold jewellery that rests on her large bosom jangles melodically. ‘I said, you can’t put your feet there. You’re blocking the aisle.’
Ben tries to smile. ‘There’s no room in this seat. They’re not designed for people of my height.’ He looks pointedly at the woman’s legs, so short they barely scrape the floor.
She frowns, pushing herself forward and raising her voice. ‘What happens when people want to get passed, hmm?’
‘I’ll move them when more people get on.’
There’s a pause. The woman looks down at her watch, then back at Ben triumphantly. ‘Well, we’re only half an hour from Paddington. Soon enough this train will be heaving.’
Ben swallows. Already the stench of cooked food, beer and body odour mingles with a dampness exacerbated by wet umbrellas and soggy raincoats. He glances back down the aisle at the shadows of passengers already forced to stand in the vestibules close to the door.
A bitter taste develops in his mouth as a familiar stab of pain rises quickly from his feet into his lower abdomen.
The woman doesn’t notice his panting breath. She continues, her voice calmer now, chattier: ‘Last Saturday, there were people standing two abreast all the way down the aisle. It was crazy. One poor woman wanted to get off – I think she was claustrophobic or something – anyway, they had to stop the train and you should have seen her trying to get through the crowd to the doors. It was impossible.’
Ben is sweating now. He can feel cold dribbles running down his forehead. He breathes deeply, slowly, focusing his mind on the woman, knowing that distraction is the only thing that will prevent a full-blown attack. ‘I don’t normally come into London, especially on a Saturday, but I’m…well, I’m looking for someone.’
She smiles, ‘Someone special?’
‘No, no nothing like that. I’m married, I…my wife…’ he reaches towards the bag at his feet then changes his mind. ‘I’m looking for someone I think can help me.’
The woman nods, her eyes only now taking in Ben’s pallid colour, the shake in his clenched hands. She moves ever so slightly back. ‘I hope you find them.’