Opening Chapter of my Second Novel


I am needing some comments on this one – at the moment it’s just an idea for a first chapter, first draft – does it bore you or leave you wanting more?  I will post more as I go along. Please leave COMMENTS

UNDER DALEWOOD

Prologue

April 1977

‘Room for Rent in 12th Century farmhouse, close to Lyme Regis.  Would suit single person working locally. ₤14pw.

Tel. Axminster 4925

I must give them a call later, I thought.  In the meantime, here I am, new job, new lifestyle and roll on summer.  It wasn’t going to be too difficult to ‘up sticks’ and  leave Yorkshire, surely?

I drove down to Cresswell’s Secretarial Agency in the centre of Middlesbrough.   I know Anne Cresswell, she’d sent me on a dozen missions to various companies over the years and we’d built a rapport. At first, I wasn’t certain about the extended contract but, hey! Why not? Nine months isn’t long and being a temp, I often get bored being in one place for too long. Anyway it’s all good experience.

I put on my best trouser suit, the light grey one that makes me look taller. I parked the car and walked into the town centre. .  At last I began to feel I was moving on in life. I dashed into the hairdresser for blonde highlights. It’s surprising how a new hair-do can be so uplifting. She’d cut it ear length this time and I think I suited it better.

Anne greeted me with the usual ‘Good to see you again, take a seat.’ She handed me the application form.  ‘Just fill out the basics, I’ll do the rest’ she said as I leaned on her desk with a pen in my hand.  I checked it through.

Name … Jessica Stamp

Age… 32

Marital Status… Single

Address… 6aCoulby Avenue

Great Ayton, N. Yorkshire.

Experience & Education –Private Secretarial School 2 years.  Shell UK 8 months, Medical Receptionist local GP, 6 months, Personal Assistant to Research Director, ICI,  1 year.

‘That’s fine Jess, it will be enough. I know most of the rest.  This colleague of mine wants you down there by Monday of next week’ Anne said. ‘They got a pile of paperwork that needs sorting. One of their staff will be off work for a number of months, this guy needs a PA.’

‘Gosh you managed to sort that one out with gusto, how did you…?’

Anne tapped her index finger to her nose and smiled.  ‘We got a link-up with most of the agencies around the country.  I made a few calls.’

Heck, that was quick, I thought – but why not?  Never being one to waste time stewing over my next mission, I accepted.   Going south might get me away from the cold foggy mornings and depressive winters of the north.

More to come on the Prologue

Excerpt from Chapter One

CHAPTER ONE

The trees strobed the afternoon sun along Belton Lane, each bend as sharp as the next one. I pushed my fringe out of my eyes and slowed down in case someone came from the opposite direction at a speed not meant for a road like this.   I couldn’t imagine two cars being able to squeeze side by side, the tall hedgerows seemed like a railway embankment.    The stone wall peeked from behind the hawthorn and honeysuckle, disguising a potential disaster. If someone had been coming along ignoring the signs, as sure as hell it would have been a head-on collision. Sounding the horn seemed a good idea.

Ahead, the road straightened out as I pushed on deeper into the woodland.  The sun’s rays filtered through the sparse April canopy. As I drew closer, at the end of the road was a five bar gate. The old plaque seemed in need of a coat of paint and the letters spelled an age of rust.  Through the windscreen of the car I squinted at the words ‘Dalewood House’.  I stopped the car and got out to check.  Through the woodland a great tit called ‘teacher teacher teacher’ and I heard the repetitive notes of the song thrush through the trees. I used to be in the Girl Guides; bird calls were part of the Nature Watchers badge. I was patrol leader with an arm full of badges. Mum was forever sewing them on in neat rows.  I suppose her obsession for perfection has reflected in my later years too.

It was one of those days when everything felt beautiful.   The weather, the sun, and I could hear the lambs bleating in the distance.  I felt my heart beat as I took a deep breath.  After travelling down the M1 and aroundLondon, I needed this. I’d travelled since four-thirty that morning.

I pushed the gate back and slid the lock over the post and in the distance I saw the house.  Wow, I thought, this looks great!   The tarmac had run out of tar and the ‘mac’ was muddy access.  I was now on a track where the holes in the gravel were the size of footballs and more than ankle deep in puddles. Dad’s old Viva needed some TLC despite the low mileage, so I drove on a further taking extra care.  The shape of the old house became clearer as the scenery opened on to the parkland of a private estate.   I could see the sheep and lambs frolicking in the distance.  I was right – Spring is amazing. But was I really in the right place?

The obvious shape of a house loomed among the trees. It was large, built of timber, tile and red bricks. The roof seemed as if it was about to sag.  It had probably settled that way over the last two hundred years or more rebuilt with the same pantiles time after time.   A chimney stood tall through the centre of the house and the charm of the mullion windows seemed to beckon me.

As I stepped out of the car; it was the silence, as if nature had stopped, even the bleating of the lambs fell silent, but only for a brief moment. I heard a cuckoo; it must have been the first of the year.

Now, where was the front entrance?  I noticed among the tangled ivy an old wooden door and so I walked down the path and knocked, there didn’t seem to be a bell.  God, it was eerie. You know that sickening feeling when you realise you could be raped or killed and no-one would miss you?  I decided not to linger and went around the back. I found another door and knocked again.  On the ground were pair of gardening gloves and a knife, one of those tools where you scrape the weeds from between the paving slabs.  It seemed whoever had been doing the gardening had abandoned the job.   A couple of magpies seemed to laugh at me and I realised perhaps I’d made a mistake.  Today was Thursday?  Yes?  I decided to go back to the car and wait half an hour to see if anyone turned up, perhaps I was little early. So I waited… and waited… There was a Mars bar in the car,  so I destroyed the wrapper and took a bite of chewy chocolate, it had melted in the warmth of the glove compartment.

On checking the time I took the decision to walk back to the gate. Yes it was Dalewood  House on the name plate for sure, so where the heck was Mrs. Dijksman? Well, that’s how she had spelt it on the phone.  She’d told me it was a Dutch name pronounced like the man who made the dikes.

I waited forty five minutes until I’d had enough. Then I gazed in the mirror and found chocolate on my lips, so I rubbed it off with a paper handkerchief. There was no point in hanging around; I would go back to Lyme Regis and to my room at the B & B. How bloody annoying was that?  All this for nothing – a complete waste of time. I felt absolute disappointment, I’d come all this way, having built up my hopes to consider lodging here. Perhaps it wasn’t going to be the way I had planned it after all.

I returned to the car and drove almost to the gate when a battered green land Rover came toward me bouncing over the holes in the track. The woman behind the wheel beamed at me and we both leaned out of our respective windows. She spoke first.

‘Hello dear, sorry I’m late, ‘got held up with the shopping and the traffic in Axminster, it was dreadful, there was an accident.  You’ll have come about the room I assume, you must be Jessica?’

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2 Comments

Filed under Writing

2 responses to “Opening Chapter of my Second Novel

  1. I do think that it’s a great opening because from the first start you begin to wonder what the Room for Rent would look like etc. etc., and that’s totally in alignment with what I wrote about in ‘The Secret to Writing Success’
    (that you can find on a special page by clicking the special link near the top of my Writing Lifestyle Blog)

    All the Best,
    To your Happy – Writing – Inspiration,
    HP

  2. Thanks HP much appreciated. I think perhaps my second novel is better than my first – I decided to use first person in this one, but the first one is a good romance novel I feel. ‘Under Dalewood’ is more mystery and romance. Again thanks.

    Lin

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