Wednesday, 12 March 2014

'A Good Day for Jumping' on Amazon Countdown (99p/$0.99) 14th - 19th March

Here's a snippet from chapter 12 of 'A Good Day for Jumping' (contemporary fiction/character-driven mystery/suspense, set mainly on the island of Crete) which will be offered at a promotional price of 99p/$0.99 from 15th - 19th March.

Dear Sis,
How’s things?  Hope you and Mum are okay.
It’s a bit mental out here to tell the truth.  One of the lads in the picture got shot in the head today, out on patrol.  He hadn’t been here long and was just a kid.  I didn’t see it happen but Johnny did.  He knew the lad best and has taken it badly.  It’s hard to say how it hits you, especially the first time (Johnny’s, not mine) - but it stays inside you for ages, like something heavy in your stomach.  I’m no good with words so I can’t really explain it any better to you.
I suppose we shouldn’t be so shocked by it but we are.  All I think about is having a laugh with him this morning – we were cleaning our kit, four of us together, cursing the dust and listening to Rob’s letter from a woman who’d sent him some chewing gum and some batteries.  Jamie’s face was a picture – all smile – like in the photo.  Sorry, he’s the one at the front, that’s Rob on the other side of me.  So I just keep thinking of chewing that gum and listening to this woman telling us about her garden and her house and how she thought we were all heroes.  And then Jamie went out on patrol and got shot.  It knocks the stuffing out of you.  Some of the lads got so angry Sarg had to calm them down and stop them going back out to get the guy who’d shot him.
Then, as if all this wasn’t enough, a chopper came in to take the Taliban sniper to the trauma unit.  One of the other patrols got him - shot in the shoulder.  They brought him to base and he just lay there moaning, saying he was a villager, not a soldier.  Sarg had to keep a couple of the lads back to start with but sis, when you saw him lying there, not understanding what we said, covered in blood…  He must’ve been scared shitless.
Galling to see him lifted to safety though, when Jamie didn’t have a chance.  Days like these are tough. 
I know you won’t tell Mum all this, but you can tell her I’m all right and getting lots of grub.  Spam and noodles!  We get Spam most days with other stuff like beans or rice.  You know what they say about beans – well Spam is evil, I tell you.  Some nights we could kill the Taliban with the fumes, I swear.
This week has been rough, princess.  I can’t lie to you about that.  But every day that passes is one day closer to coming home.  The thing I miss most is the smell of you.  Sounds daft, I know, but out here the dust fills your head.  There’s dust and sweat – ‘man’ smells.  But if I concentrate I can smell that perfume you wear all the time.  Funny.
Anyway, can’t wait to see you and Mum, tell her I love her and say a prayer every night (a lot of us do that even though we never have before).  Keep the letters coming and send some more chocolate biscuits – the lads loved them.  
By the way, that photo you sent has the boys going crazy.  They all want to marry you when they get back!  Ha ha!
Love you Sis, now and forever,

Sarah let her hands rest in her lap, the letter held gently between them as though she thought it might fly away. She felt as though her mood before opening it had been trivial.
The photograph seemed to have altered subtly, now she knew that the boy with the smile, dressed in his over-sized army gear, was no longer part of the living, breathing universe.  Now, when she looked, she could swear that his eyes held the clue to his own future; that his death had somehow been inevitable, and, feeling this so strongly, she looked at Andy, afraid to see the same dark truth in her brother’s eyes.  But she could not decide, and she didn’t believe she wanted to know, anyway.  It was enough that, of the three soldiers, it had not been Andy who had been hit by the sniper, though the relief she felt was cold and flat because it was at the expense of this young boy’s grieving family, who, perhaps at that very moment, were sitting as she was, holding a different letter and looking at (who knows?) the same photograph. 
Usually, Sarah read Andy’s letters again and again; picturing him writing, chewing the end of a biro, wondering what to write, editing the truth.  Today however, she had read with such concentration that she had extracted everything.  This time the letter had been about Jamie, not Andy.  Her brother had simply been a messenger, conveying information and grief. 
When she remembered to do so, she sipped her tea, too drained to move, the warmth of the radiator wafting over her and soon she was dozing. 

When she finally opened her eyes it was with a start that sent the remainder of her cold tea over her skirt and onto the carpet.  She cursed and looked at her watch; she was already late for the party.
You have to go if the old man invited you.
She had no energy to contradict the voice in her head and so she stood and went to the kitchen to get a cloth for the spilled tea.  Then, to the bathroom to wash and finally, to the bedroom to dress.  Less than thirty minutes later, she ran downstairs and out onto the street.  It was cold but she didn’t care.  She didn’t care about anything, really.  Andy was safe.
She rode the tube to Kensington and found the hotel.  The receptionist directed her enthusiastically to the Crimson Suite and Sarah gave her invitation to the girl on the door.  It was doubtful whether she was aware of much up until the moment Mr. Firth handed her a glass of champagne and planted a huge kiss on her cheek. 
“Didn’t think you were coming.  So glad you did.  Let me introduce my idiot of a son to you:  Stephen, this is Sarah, perhaps she can talk some sense into you.” 
Her boss practically shoved the two of them into a corner and left them, going off to join a group of businessmen dressed in suits and doing a very bad job of chatting up one of the hotel waitresses.
“Sorry about Father.  He’s a control freak,” the young man said, his face lit by the dimmed wall light.  “You probably already know that, though.”
Stephen Firth had an air of boredom about him that was shocking.  He looked around the room as he spoke and then put his head back to drain his full champagne glass.
“Want another?”  he asked, not really noticing her.  “Waitress!” 
Sarah, still in her new mood, wondered vaguely how long it would be before he acknowledged her. 
“Hey! More champagne, for God’s sake!” 
A girl came over, carrying a tray, and waited while the young man blinked at the drinks and at her, before taking a glass and waving her away with his other hand.  She took it well, rolling her eyes and going gracefully off to another group of guests.
“Nice looking girl,” he said, finally glancing at Sarah.  “You can go if you want to.  Father wants me to talk to you about May.  Says you’ll be able to sort me out.  Like a kind of agony aunt.”  He downed half the glass and finally met her eye.

Stephen Firth was drunk.  Not completely, but a good way along.  His father’s secretary was either stupid or shy.  Either way, it didn’t matter.  She didn’t matter.  He wondered whether she would say anything at all, and the thought of her standing there, not speaking, tickled him.  A small smile played around his mouth and spread to a crinkling at his eyes, then his lips parted and his cheeks rose up so that he beamed at her.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Firth,” said Sarah.  Then, she walked away.

Stephan Firth was drunk.  Not completely, but a good way along.  His father’s secretary was either stupid or shy.  Either way, it didn’t matter.  She didn’t matter.  He wondered whether she would say anything at all, and the thought of her standing there, not speaking, tickled him.  A small smile played around his mouth and spread to a crinkling at his eyes, then his lips parted and his cheeks rose up so that he beamed at her.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Firth,” said Sarah.  Then, she walked away.

Henri was there and so was Daisy.  She saw them suddenly, standing behind the men in suits.  Steering a careful path around the latter, not making eye contact, she reached her friends.
“Sarah!  You are here!”  It was enormously comforting to be in Henri’s arms and looking into his laughing, shiny face.
Daisy smiled and hugged her too.  It was like being held by a child, after Henri.
“I didn’t think you were invited!” Sarah said quietly.
Daisy opened her eyes very wide and looked up at Henri, who was still chuckling and now tapping the side of his nose with his finger.
“This woman is with me!  Oh yes!  We are lovers!”  he boomed, rolling out the final ‘r’ like a low purr.
Daisy stood on his foot and he pretended to be injured, hopping around and crying out.  Then, putting his finger to his lips, he made extravagant shushing noises.  Daisy and Sarah couldn’t help laughing, even though he was making an exhibition of himself and people were looking over at them. 
They settled into conversation, while, across the room, Stephen Firth stood alone, his mobile phone in his hand.  Sarah thought him wholly the idiot his father had introduced him as.
“Everything fine?”  Daisy asked.
“Much better with you here,” Sarah replied, squeezing her friend’s arm.  “You and Henri are not really…?”
“What do you think?” she said.

It was good to be out.  If she had stayed in the flat she would have spent the evening torturing herself.  Instead, she was introduced to several clients and a couple of competitors.  Her boss rescued her when things got tough and eventually allowed her to return to her friends.
“Have you met his son?”  Daisy got herself an orange juice and handed Sarah another glass of champagne.
“Yes, briefly.  Although I don’t think he noticed I was there.  Seems a bit drunk and a bit stuck up.”  She looked around but couldn’t see him.
“He’s getting married soon.  The Captain wants him to take a job at the agency, stop spending the family fortune.  He goes a lot on vacation. Too lazy to do some work.” Daisy looked very serious.  “In Hong Kong we work hard.”
“Is that why you left?”  asked Sarah, grinning wickedly.
“Ohhh!  You not nice!  I work very hard!” 
Henri tuned into the fun and together they teased her for a while.

At a little after eleven, the party was in full swing and, having lost sight of Daisy and Henri, Sarah went off to find the ladies’.  She took a wrong turning and wandered into a conference room, by mistake.  The lights were dimmed but there was someone sitting with his back to her – it was Stephen Firth. 
The evening had gone well, and she spoke without thinking, “Are you all right there?”
He turned to look at her.
She didn’t know why, but she went over and sat with him.  His expression was less brash now, and she couldn’t help but notice how handsome he was. Not at all in the same way that Blair was.  He looked directly at her then, and she felt electricity fizz madly down her spine.  He put his head into his hands and moaned quietly. 
Sarah shivered, as the muscles in his strong shoulders moved beneath his shirt and the brown skin on the back of his neck was exposed; even the timbre of his voice affected her terribly.  It was as though every inch of her body was responding to the closeness of him, as if he were denser than she were, exerting a kind of gravity over her. 
When he looked up again she was too excited to speak.  He sighed.  Even this sound was exhilarating to her.  And without saying anything, he took out a cigarette and lit it in front of her, then, as an after-thought, offered the packet to her. 
“Don’t smoke, either?”  He made a funny little grunting noise after he said it, as though it had not been worth the effort.
She watched his wolf-like smile.  “Either?” It irritated her that she felt this ineffectual.
“So…perfect.”  He shook his head and sat back in his chair, his expression derisory. 
“You make it sound like something horrible.”  She wasn’t and had never wanted to be ‘perfect’, but she suddenly felt indignant.
He took a long draw on his cigarette, watching her squirm, as though she were his prey and he were playing with her. 
    “Isn’t it?”
“There are many more horrible things in the world to be,” she replied instantly, as the photograph Andy had sent her came to her mind with a jolt.  The thought made her angry that this man, this wealthy young man, should complain about things that didn’t matter. 
It wasn’t worth explaining.  How could she have felt so moved by this man? It must have been a base, animal attraction.  It made her feel stupid now.  His complacency was appalling, after all.  He was everything his father believed him to be, and worse. 
She considered the clever things she could say to him, to make him ashamed, to bring him to his senses and make him grateful for his easy life.  She could show him the photograph that she had tucked into the zipper pouch of her bag, of the young soldier who had died, but the thought that even this might not affect him was too big a risk to her. 
He leaned back in his chair and looked at her through the smoke of his cigarette. 
She watched as he worked a hand into his pocket, the sinews and bones, the jutting of his wrist, unnerved her. The way the creases of his trousers fell across his abdomen made her clench her jaw and swallow hard. 
He pulled out a white envelope, folded untidily.  He opened it out slowly and slid out a card, smoothing it between his thumb and forefinger.
“What d’you think?”  He handed it to her.
She held it carefully, as though it had already been damaged enough.  The gold lettering on the front of the card read: ‘Wedding Invitation.’  She looked at him and he nodded for her to open it.  The language was formal and the script elaborate.  She read the names, the date and the place, searching for something unusual, a reason for his having given it to her. 
“Perfect, eh?”
She cringed and held it out for him to take back.  Then she opened her handbag and took out the photo.  She held it out to him and he took it.
“The one in the middle is my brother,” she said, watching his face.
“Where is he stationed?”  He sat forward and balanced his cigarette on the edge of a table.
He handed the photo back to her after a short moment, and when she took it, he held on to her wrist and pulled her gently out of her chair towards him.  When he stood, she could feel the heat of him, and when he kissed her she was overcome by the musk of his skin. It amazed her that she would do such a thing and yet she would not have stopped kissing him even if someone had walked in and found them. She could not think any more, so completely was she taken up with this moment.  He had placed one of his hands on the back of her head, his fingers like a cradle, and the other hand was moving from the middle of her back down to the soft roundness of her buttocks.  She felt him hard against her and let him pull up her dress and slide his hand inside her knickers.  He kissed her neck and pushed his fingers deep inside her as she released the clasp on his belt.  Neither of them heard the door opening and then closing.  Neither of them cared.


  1. Thanks for the heads up, Bev! BTW, have left a comment about print publishing on your last post!

  2. Intrigued! Yet another one I'm going to have to add to the reading list.

    1. Thanks for popping over, Randi. Glad you liked what you found.