So, readers – something a bit different, a novel extract.
This is from a novel I wrote two years ago. Hannah isn’t well and she gets back home to Brooklyn after a visit to the hospital. She has the cough that’s synonymous with 9/11. Her fiance is watching her every move, but as a ghost. In this scene an old ‘flame’ turns up, but she only learned of her fiances death a day ago and isn’t in the mood. I don’t know why I picked this extract, its a random passage. I sent this novel out at one stage but now its consigned to the dark recesses of my hard drive. Thanks for reading.Hannah collects her purse and jangles keys darting back and forth through the house. She pulls on her coat and I squeeze out the door behind her. Outside the air is cool and fresh, she is heading to the grocery store. She hasn’t been eating, drinking or doing anything. This seems positive. I watch her meander along the aisle, staring through the produce, running her hand along the shelf edge. The only thing she picks up is a carton of soya milk. ‘Hannah?’ A voice breaks my focus. A man stands across the aisle from her, but she hasn’t seen him. ‘Hannah is it you?’ He raises his voice, she turns and her face changes from thoughtful to something else. Perhaps guarded. ‘I bet you don’t remember me do you?’ His four thousand dollar European suit makes me think he is related through her family, maybe one of her father’s minions. ‘Yes…of course…it’s Graham isn’t it?’ ‘Yes…it’s so strange banging into you down here!’ he exclaims, smiling at her with a smooth, casual smile. A knowing grin – that he has an answer she is searching for. ‘Oh, you live on York Avenue don’t you? You must really like the stuff here?’ He looked down at his bottle, I’m just visiting friends down here, I forgot to get something in Manhattan, I had to stop.’ Hannah turns back to the shelf and drops an avocado into her basket. ‘I was only talking to Grace the other day.’ Now I definitely don’t like him, whoever he is in his La Rukico suit, clutching at his bottle of unimaginative Bordeaux. I don’t like his smooth skin, his smart eyebrows. He’s more good looking than a man should be, I feel uneasy he’s that polished. Anyway a friend of Han’s mother is no friend of mine. ‘That is funny I think she mentioned you when I spoke to her this morning.’ ‘She told me you weren’t so well.’ He switched his weight across to his other foot, as though the conversation is taking longer than he expected. ‘That’s what she said, that I wasn’t well?’ Hannah asked. ‘Sure and some other things, you know, mother’s concerns.’ ‘About Daniel?’ Hannah asks. ‘Daniel? No, she keeps me updated, you know your mother. She fills me in about how you’re getting on, what with your teaching and everything. Since my promotion I can’t seem to avoid your father either, I’m banging into him every day at court. She’s shameless Grace about my promotion, I’m sure you’re bored of hearing about it.’ ‘Oh, quite – do they let you clean the inside of the cars too?’ I laughed, uncomfortably. I feel this powerlessness more acutely with this Graham standing here. He doesn’t seem amused, he hides it beneath an arrogant smile and fake humility. ‘I expect I deserve that, last time I saw you I was a little worse for wear I’m afraid, I could have handled myself a little better. Nevertheless, Grace is always pestering me to call you; she thinks we’d get along marvelously. I didn’t feel a phone call was right really, a bit presumptuous.’ ‘Go with that instinct,’ she said bluntly. They are at the teller’s desk and she puts her milk and avocado down. I try to fit between the two of them, Graham is getting awfully close. ‘Well I expect your mother cares for you, she just wants you to be happy, all the old cliché’s. She only rung me up because she’s concerned, she told me.’ He pauses as she pays the clerk. ‘Oh, I can see you’re busy anyway, I’ll let you get back to your evening,’ he says. ‘She told you what?’ Hannah asks turning back to him and stopping whilst he pays for his wine. ‘Told me you weren’t looking after yourself very well – needed a friend to look after you, a bit of company. She said you were getting thin, I can see what she’s worried about. I mean, if it’s mothering you need I wasn’t going to suggest a date; I was only thinking I could cook for you sometime. I could send a car to pick you up. I do a mean poached salmon – a few glasses of wine to ease the tension, think of it as rehabilitation. We all need someone in these terrible times; I mean, I lost a colleague myself last week.’ ‘Why did you bring that up – did she tell you why I’m not well?’ ‘Yes of course, she said you lost a friend in the attack.’ They are both at the automatic doors and I’m at her shoulder, listening intently – praying she won’t fall into any traps with this smooth faced lawyer. ‘A friend…’ she said contemplatively. ‘How about Friday night, have you anything on?’ He grins, pressing a button on a key fob which makes a silver Bentley at the curb react with a smooth, deep click. ‘Look, you’ve been sent on a doomed mission Graham, my mother is living in a Disney film. I’m really not looking for a date or anything.’ ‘Come on Han, give me a chance, say you’ll forgive me for my drunkenness at the party, it was months ago. Show me you forgive me, let me show you the real me.’ ‘Did she send you down here…what street do your friends live on?’ ‘What street?’ ‘What street and number building?’ she asks suspiciously. ‘Come on…’ he pleaded. ‘I don’t know if she’s given you my home address but if you turn up there I’ll call the police!’ ‘The police, you’re crazy, I’m offering to cheer you up as a favor to your mom, we’re both trying to help is all.’ ‘Look my mom obviously has your number; I’ll think about it and ring you if I’m in need of a lawyer to cheer me up.’ Hannah walks quickly away her head down, her legs pumping. I follow her back up the hill. Once she gets out of sight of the growling Bentley she slows right down. I notice her wheezing, sucking at the air. She has to steady herself on a garden fence. ‘Hey, are you okay?’ A black guy asks in a voice that sounds like a metal rake on stone, he is sitting on a step smoking with the door to a house open behind him. She waves his concern away but stays stooped breathing dreadful noisy breaths. She spits onto the sidewalk, I see the man look surprised. Then she slides down onto the sidewalk, leaning her back against the fence and her head back, her mouth open. ‘Shall I get paramedics?’ he says now stood up. She shakes her head, and is pulling at her coat. He throws his cigarette into the yard and helps her take her coat off and drapes it over the gate. I stand beside her. Hannah joins her thumb and finger and makes a drinking gesture and he staggers off to get a water for her. His voice is heard quietly indoors, and when he emerges his family is an entourage, she drains the glass of water. After a few minutes she is beginning to turn pink again. ‘I’m sorry…’ ‘Hey don’t worry, shit you gave me another heart attack for real then. I don’t need no more stress honey – you got some kind of illness?’ ‘I came up the hill too fast is all, thanks.’ ‘I still think I need to get the paramedics for you.’ He says. ‘I’m fine…I only live up here,’ she points at the corner. The man rattles his keys and goes to a Honda parked on the curb. ‘Come on I’ll give you a ride this last stretch.’ She smiles and lets him help her into the rusted cars passenger seat. When we get home she takes the prednisone the doctor gave her and sits in the kitchen looking out of the back window. I can’t bear to watch her like this, dwindle away.