‘Loving Judah’ – my next novel, preview chapter 1!

This is the opening of my next novel which is set in Yorkshire. ; it is very different from the previous two:

They sat at the kitchen table, the flame from the candle flickering slightly in the draught. It was a round, fat creamy coloured candle set in a saucer between them. It was very cold in the kitchen, the stove had not been lit or had gone out or… but who cares. They stared at the flame as if hypnotised, utterly silent, absolutely still. There was nothing to say and there was little point in doing anything.

Aislin shivered suddenly and Peter glanced up, startled. Aislin’s teeth started to chatter audibly and she realised that her ankles were cold. Peter stared at her expressionlessly. His face was shadowed and gaunt and he looked more like his father as his father looked now. Peter looked as he would when he was eighty.

“I think I shall go to bed,” said Aislin. “Can I get you anything before I go up? Would you like a cup of tea? Or anything else?” Her smile was a mechanical contraction of muscles in her face, it took a deliberate effort.

“No, thank you,” said Peter coldly, as if offended.

Aislin did not ask what the matter was. They had buried Peter’s son today, her step-son.

She stood up and her chair scraped on the tiles. Peter winced and frowned slightly as if she had done it on purpose.

“Sorry, Pete,” she said contritely, squeezing her eyes to stop the tears.

She hurried to the dresser to get the lantern. The matches kept going out and she burnt her fingers before the wick lit.

“I’ll leave it at the top of the stairs so you can see your way up,” she said.

It was a bizarre thought but should she kiss him? Of course she should but when she tried to kiss his cheek he turned his head sharply and her nose bumped against his ear.

Tears sprung into her eyes. He wasn’t rejecting her, of course he wasn’t. It was his grief, it was making him fragile, the slightest chink and he would shatter completely.

Without another word she hurried to the door, the swinging lantern casting strange looming shadows round the chilly kitchen. She looked back at Peter. He was staring at her, aggressively.

“You shouldn’t have encouraged him to go,” he said in a low voice. “If he hadn’t gone to Kashmir he would still be alive. You should not have encouraged him.”

Aislin was stunned, shocked out of the daze in which she had floated all day. Poor Pete, poor, poor Pete. She had loved Judah, she was riven with the pain of his loss. But Peter was his father, Peter had seen him come into the world, had been the first to hold him. Judah was his son.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I am so, so sorry.”

Pete looked at his hands, cupped on the table before him.

Aislin waited but he said nothing more.

She turned and almost slipped between the joists, forgetting that there were no floorboards in the hall. The heel of one shoe hooked against a timber and she tumbled forwards by luck arriving on all fours, her bottom ludicrously in the air, the lantern tumbled in the crawlspace. An inappropriate laugh bubbled, but she choked it back for fear it would bring her even nearer to tears. She glanced over her shoulder as she regained her footing, still crouched on the joists. Peter hadn’t moved despite her broken off cry, still staring at his hands, either lost in thoughts or deliberately ignoring her.

Aislin knelt on the timber to reach the lantern which amazingly had landed on its base; the rough edge of the wood dug into her shin and as she got up her tights snagged and tore.

She was suddenly angry. Angry that she’d hurt her shin and ripped her tights, angry that she’d twisted her wrist when she tumbled, angry that there were no floor boards and no electricity, angry that Judah was dead.

Aislin feels apart and alone

Judah’s death affects Peter and Aislin in different and unexpected ways, and it affects others’ attitudes and expectations of them. However, what Peter does to try to make some sense of the tragedy of a lost young life, is totally unexpected, and has a devastating impact on Aislin.

I would really appreciate feedback on this, I’m not afraid of criticism,working without an editor or proof-reader, it’s very difficult to be objective!

Loneliness stretches ahead

14 Comments

  1. grumpytyke

    I don’t have time to make a studied comment, which is well deserved. There are great possibilities from this beginning I think. I can’t claim to give a ‘writer’s’ point of view but I have been reading fiction since I was three, almost 70 years, so maybe I can contribute something. I’ll have another more careful read when I have time, maybe next week when I’ll be on holiday (in Romania).

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  2. rossmountney

    I agree Lois, it’s so difficult to be objective. That’s why self publishing is so scary – it has no endorsement from anyone. But this is looking good to me. May you be blessed with the courage to carry on! x

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  3. Deborah

    Hi Lois, I find myself already wanting to know more about the characters whilst feeling such sympathy/pathos for them both. Surely, this is what an effective introduction should be all about!! I was a bit thrown by the description of the candle in the second sentence because I just wanted to know who ‘they’ were!! Apart from that, bravo and looking forward to more x

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  4. Jeremy Nathan Marks

    I think the strongest part of this “scene”s is the way Aislin understands but is also victimized by Peter’s grief. I think the fact that she becomes angry is a very realistic response to the way Peter is responding to her. And of course when she tumbles and hurts herself it “feels” like this is a physical confirmation of the battering she has just received from Peter. I find that to be very effective.

    I would like to see this scene in the context of more of the work to get a sense how it connects to what has transpired both before and after. What I will say is that already Aislin is a very sympathetic character. I think the way you blend emotional with physical pain here is excellent. There seems to be a sweeping movement from Aislin bumping her nose into Peter’s ear to her falling on the floor. And the fact that Peter doesn’t seem to notice? Very effective.

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