FLY OR FALL by Gilli Allan, a beautiful taster that will have you heading to Amazon!
Against her better judgement Eleanor has offered lunch to a new member of the team of builders working on their house. She now feels trapped into sharing the meal break with him.....
.....‘That looks like a bit of a tome. “The Inheritance of Loss”...’ He picked up my library book - the previous year’s Man Booker prize-winner, by Kiran Desai. Instead of turning it over to read the blurb, he glanced up at me with raised eyebrows. I wondered if he wanted a precis of the plot or a justification of why I was reading it.
‘It’s not particularly long.’
‘Looks serious. Not much of a reader, me. ...Apart from the Sun, of course.’
Of course. I’d no need to make clichéd assumptions about the man; he’d done it for me. He put down the book and reached for a roughly hacked doorstep of bread, glancing up at me with an enquiring lift of the eyebrow.
‘I’ve not noticed you around before?’
I felt trapped, wanting this lunchtime interlude to be over, but while he was lathering his bread with spread and helping himself to a sizeable wedge of cheese, politeness kept me sitting across the kitchen table, an unwilling participant in the conversation.
‘...It may need some updating but this is a good sound property,’ he reassured me, following my explanation of how rapidly we’d done the deal and moved in. ‘And for the size, you got it at a knock-down price.’ He paused. ‘But you’re not happy?’
‘What do you mean?’
He shrugged. ‘You seem a bit dead-pan ... bit rehearsed.’
‘I haven’t found my feet yet,’ I said quickly. He continued to look at me as if waiting for more. I looked down at my hands then up and out of the window. ‘I would’ve had reservations about anywhere I moved to. I ... I’m not brave.’
‘Brave?’ His eyebrows had lifted.
‘To start your life again you need bravery. I’m a bit of a wimp. In the past I had a vision of what lay ahead of me. Since we’ve come here it’s as if someone has wiped the board clean.’ Why on earth had I said that to this Sun reading stranger? His brow had puckered. To clarify I added, ‘I didn’t want to move at all.’
‘So, why did you?’
It was a question better directed to my husband. The money was a side issue, Trevor had said. It was merely the tool which had made it possible to fulfil a previously unexpressed ambition to move out of London, to have a house with a big garden, to quit teaching. In retrospect it was this last volte-face which was the biggest surprise of that whole surprising episode, but by that time I was growing used to shocks. This was just another brick knocked from the foundations on which I’d built my life.
In due course I knew we could expect far more in quality of life and material comforts than we’d ever known or anticipated. So why was I still struggling to come to terms with this new affluence? Was it just my dislike of change, of walking blindly into an unknown future? And if I couldn’t justify my ambivalence to myself, why on earth should I try to explain it to a builder whose interest was clearly feigned and whose sensitivity hovered around zero?
‘But you’re getting to know people who live around here?’ He picked up the book again.
‘Yes, I’ve made a few acquaintances...’
‘Katherine Hunt. Felicity Jackson.’
‘Oh yeah. I know the Jacksons. Did a big conservatory extension on their kitchen. They wanted an extra dining area.’ Now he was holding the book up, apparently reading the blurb, I couldn’t see his face. ‘Nepal to Manhattan. Hmmm. Bit deep for me.’
‘But it’s not inaccessible. Yes, it covers some big subjects ... radicalisation and insurgency. But a large part of it is a rather touching love story.’ I immediately regretted my qualification.
‘Ah, a love story,’ he repeated, laying the book down again and looking at me with a teasing smile. Needing to draw a line I stood up and broke eye contact.
‘A necessary part of life, but love, romance ... all that nonsense ... is very much behind me now.’ I said crisply. I’d surprised him. His eyes widened and he brought his hand to his mouth and stroked the scar at the corner of his mouth. ‘And talking of names, mine is Eleanor. And yours, if I’m not mistaken, is Patrick Lynch?’
‘Oh no. I’ve been rumbled.’ He’d begun to smile again. ‘It wasn’t me, honest, missus. What’ve you heard? I didn’t do it.’ Then, as if resigning himself to being unmasked, ‘What gave me away?’
‘Apart from knowing your very much alive father? I guessed.’ As a further signal that lunch was over, I turned the radio back on.
More about Gilli and her top selling books at http://gilliallan.blogspot.com