I thought I’d publish a chapter of my latest book ‘Partners in Time’ for you, which is of the paranormal genre and centres on the Victorian Southcombe Rectory with its inhabitants past and present. Partners in Time is now available at the special pre-order price of $0.99 / £0.99 until May 20th.
So this is what it’s like to be successful …
John Finbow, an enigmatic smile lifting the corners of his mouth, kicked up the stand and swung a leg over the seat of his motorbike, walking it back carefully over the gravel for a few more feet in order to admire his new purchase one more time.
The old south-facing Victorian rectory gazed back at him myopically through sixteen sun-drenched sightless windows framed in drooping wisteria. Ornate chimneys which had survived 170 years of coal fires now stood redundant atop a renewed roof of Welsh slate. A couple of blackened boot scrapers stood symmetrically either side of four grand pillars guarding an entrance portal made of oak, worthy of one of those historical costume dramas that he knew Kay was so fond of.
He could see the previous owner’s gardener, Max, already hard at work training stray fronds of peach, apple and pear along the boundary walls, but the jungle of grass hadn’t yet been cut to a respectable length. John, beginning to sweat in his leathers, let his mind dwell on his as yet unborn child as he, it would have to be a he, pedalled a red tricycle on the front lawn.
He emerged from his reverie, and took a deep sigh of happiness as he kick-started the bike. He returned Max’s farewell wave with one of his own, and rode gingerly over the gravel until he reached the open iron gates leading out onto Church Lane. Yes, purchasing Southcombe Rectory was a sure sign that he had come up in the world.
He spied her amidst a pile of packing crates in the kitchen, one strand of red hair had escaped from her ponytail and flopped over her forehead as she carefully wrapped glassware in yesterday’s news. John let a wave of tenderness engulf him as he snuggled up to Kay’s back and wrapped his arms about her slim waist.
“My helmet’s full of flies.”
A snort of laughter escaped from her lips.
“You can get some cream for that, can’t you?”
“Nah, just a bit of a lick and a polish.”
“Ugh.” Kay reached down and behind, gently squeezing his testicles. “You’re gross.”
He pressed his nose into the warmth of her neck, loving her more than he could ever say. He owed her everything. It had been Kay, who without his knowledge had taken that rejected screenplay from the outside bin where he had thrown it in disgust. The rest, as they say, was history.
“The deal’s complete now; we can move in anytime.”
She turned to face him, green eyes ablaze, and slid her arms around his neck.
“I told you you’d make it in the end. You should’ve had more faith in yourself.”
“What colour shall we paint the nursery?” He kissed the top of her head. “You know what they say – new house, new baby.”
Kay shook her head.
“Not yet. Give me time to get used to being Mrs Finbow first; especially the Mrs Finbow who wears slinky designer dresses and gets invited to film premieres.”
He tried to keep his disappointment hidden.
“Okay, but let’s not leave it too long, eh? We’re not getting any younger.”
“Speak for yourself!” Kay thumped him on the chest. “I’m only thirty four!”
“And I’m nearly forty” John sighed. “Some people are grandparents by then.” He lifted up a strand of dark brown hair. “I’m already going a bit grey, for Pete’s sake.”
She disentangled her arms, and without replying turned back rather too quickly to the packing, and John knew he had pushed the issue a little too far. However, his wife’s reluctance to give up her PA post to that Timothy Burns-Williams twat and become a mother was somehow unsettling; didn’t all women want babies?
For the first time in his life he did not have to worry about receiving the removal company’s invoice, although he mused on whether they had counted up the number of bedrooms and added on another thousand pounds. Money was dripping through his fingers like water, but with every subsequent TV series he wrote, copious amounts of fifty pound notes were appearing on the tree for picking. He was on a roll, and life was good. He knew it would be even better when Kay decided to stop taking that little pill …
His footsteps echoed on bare floorboards that second morning after Kay had left for work in the nearby village of Brackenrye. He knew he should be packing up boxes or settling down to write, but he could almost hear the house demanding that he visit each room to introduce himself before they moved in for good.
John decided to start on the large open-plan fourth floor level. He assumed part of it had once been a nursery and schoolroom, as there were remnants of a worm-infested gate guarding past generations from tumbling base over apex down the main staircase. He’d noticed a succession of Victorian and Edwardian clergymen on the deeds, and imagined them in the bosom of their families, each one with a wife and at least ten children apiece. The nursery was empty, but the bedrooms for a nanny and governess still had some old carpet down and ghastly flock wallpaper, some of it peeling in long strips where perhaps a child from long ago had decided that they didn’t like it either.
The children’s bathroom next to the nursery looked as though it had not been updated since the 1950s at least, and John couldn’t wait to get the decorating team in. His babies’ nursery would be state-of-the-art, with enough painted murals and hanging mobiles to hopefully augment their already higher than average IQ. No governess for them, as only Eton or Harrow would do.
He watched a finger of sunshine illuminate some dust motes in his line of vision before descending to the third floor, noticing as he did so some lighter squares and rectangles on the striped wallpaper where perhaps children’s paintings had hung. Eight empty bedrooms and three bathrooms led off from a galleried landing. He opened the doors and peeped into each one, hardly able to believe that his own creative talents had led him so far away from the council estates he and Kay had grown up on and from where their parents had been so determined to spend their last days.
He looked over the balcony towards their own bedroom and en-suite bathroom sequestered away on a kind of mezzanine floor below, next to his study. He gave a wry smile, knowing he would be running up and down the stairs every night to check on his eight children whilst Kay slept the sleep of the unconcerned.
Walking around the ground floor level he basked in the sight of four spacious reception rooms, each one with panoramic views of the extensive grounds. He let his eyes travel over the kitchen, dining room, cloakroom and conservatory, and finally the large entrance hall complete with original black and white tiles, swiftly coming to the conclusion that the house needed children, many children, to fill it. He took one last glimpse over his shoulder before strolling contentedly out of the door.