The story of Milla

Fifteen months ago I began a story as part of the National Novel Writing Month challenge… I began to write it with no clear indication of where i was going with it. The main character was Milla who had arrived in my imaginary town of Easthope and moved into shared accommodation. Why she’s there, what she’s escaping, and in fact who she really is, is not revealed – well not until later in the part I haven’t written. She’s anonymous and wants to remain anonymous, but gradually is drawn into friendships with people – those she shares the old house with, the people at the cafe where she steps in to lend a hand, and an elderly dog walker down by the beach.

Here is an excerpt from near the beginning, when she is still exploring where she now lives:

She wore her fleece all the time because it was cold in her room, colder than it was outside. She came out onto the small landing just as the man opposite was going into his room, he glanced over his shoulder and greeted her… not particularly friendly, but not unfriendly either, all for the best.

She locked her door and ran down the stairs. The door into the lounge/kitchen/diner was open and the TV was on but she couldn’t see which of her new neighbours was watching.

Outside it was a brilliant day; the first day of November and it was lovely, warm enough for her to unzip her fleece. She wasn’t in a hurry but she walked briskly, she always did, that was just the way she walked. She had always been quite speedy, but since it had happened she had walked more quickly. At least here she could walk with her head up and didn’t mind meeting the glance of others… it was less tiring, and she felt calm. Anxiety, she hoped was a thing of the past, except in her dreams.

The house she shared was one of a pair of older properties in the seventies estate; she had only recently realised that there was a little passage between two of the properties at the end which gave access to the beach road.

There was an old man with a white fluffy dog walking in the opposite direction. The dog had very sandy feet so she guessed they had been on the beach. The man greeted her in a friendly way and they exchanged comments on the beautiful and unseasonal but welcome weather.

“I can’t believe it’s the first of November!” he said.

She agreed and they called goodbye as they walked in opposite direction.

She came out on the beach road; there was no traffic and she crossed over. There was the large old pub, its carpark in front, tables on some grass at the side. There was a track which ran beside it; she had walked down to explore and found it just led round the pub and came to a separate building what might once have been a coach house, or maybe servants quarters, or where fish was processed… she didn’t know. Maybe she would go to the library and look at the local history section.

She walked along to where the wide worn step, little more than labs of rock led down to the beach and she went down onto the sand. The tide was out, but the wind was fresher here, coming off the sea… on-shore, was it onshore? An onshore wind? Maybe, it sounded right.

She walked down to where the sea seemed to be hanging about, trying to decide whether the tide should come in or not. She walked along the edge, looking at the shells embedded in the damp sand, the strands of seaweed so brilliantly green, the bits of glass worn smooth by the waves.

She gave a shiver, the wind was picking up a little, and although the sea was sparkling and brilliant, it was November after all, the first of November.

She turned her back on the sea and walked back up the beach, over to where there was a tumble of rocks. What sort of rock were they? Not sandstone, these were grey and hard and lumpy.

There was a particular spot she had found last week when she first came down. If she sat here, the rocks at her back were smooth and comfortable, and the wind seemed not able to find her.

© Lois Elsden 2019

I may have a go at finishing this when my other projects are out of the way, the next Radwinter novel and my 1950’s novel. In the meantime, here’s a link t the books I have finished – and published!


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