Friends: 2013 365 Challenge #177



I caught up with two good friends today and nattered for five hours in total, not including my normal interaction with the children. Needless to say, I’m a bit low on words. (Like yesterday’s Claire installment. That rubbish 400 words took me all evening to write!)

I think my brain is in full-on edit mode, too, which makes it hard for the ideas to come. Unfortunately I have a double deadline of Sunday to finish my first pass on Baby Blues and write my Two Hundred Steps Home month-end cliff hanger (and work out what it’s going to be, as I haven’t decided yet, although I have done the front cover!)

I realised, though, that it’s nice to be out of words, instead of having them crowd my head. It was nice, too, to be with friends that require no masks. I don’t have to wonder if I’ve said the right thing, or wonder what they’re really thinking, because they wear no mask with me. It’s like getting out of a stuffy car and feeling the cool breeze, smelling the cut grass and wrapping your hand around a hot cup of tea. In other words, like coming home. Glorious


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


Claire gazed around Ludlow Castle with jaded eyes. She’d visited three castles in Wales, and now this one over the border. They were all starting to merge in her mind. Any novelty, if there had been any two months before, had long since worn thin. With Sky as a companion it had been just about bearable, but coming along, merely to say she’d been and take a picture, felt utterly futile. She could learn as much on the internet without leaving a hostel.

For that matter, I could talk about the hostels without visiting them. A few web pictures, a few visitor reviews, and I could write a convincing story in my sleep. The hostels were all pretty much the same, anyway. All that varied was the colour of the decor, and the quality of the food. And they don’t change much. I guess it’s like any convenience product, chain store or restaurant- the predictability is the selling point. Makes for a boring trip, though, if that’s the sole purpose.

She thought about the rest of her assignment. Of course, there’s that. Even that had become a bit predictable. Once you’ve climbed up a few things, jumped off a load more, what was so exciting about it? I’d rather read a book, at least the character’s names change, even if the plot doesn’t.

With a gusty sigh, Claire pushed away the heaviness and trudged further into the castle complex. Her target was the tower, where she hoped it might be possible to climb up for an aerial photograph without scaring herself stupid.

When she reached the tower, she noticed a buggy at the bottom, by itself. Her heart picked up tempo as she approached it, searching all about for the parents.

Oh, God, someone’s abandoned their baby. Crap.

She didn’t know what to do. A closer inspection revealed a sleeping infant about the age of Sky’s half-sister. The gnawing sensation in Claire’s tummy grew stronger, until it dragged bile to the back of her throat. Her hands itched to hold the child and offer comfort, but it was sleeping.

Claire searched around again, expecting to see, what? She wasn’t sure. Maybe a young mother, watching to be certain her baby would be cared for. Claire reached forward, about to grab the handle, when a sound intruded at the edge of hearing. Giggling. The sound got louder, nearer. And then she was no longer alone.

A couple, she guessed in their thirties, skipped out of the tower towards her. They looked surprised to see her. The man smiled in greeting, but the woman’s forehead wrinkled in a suspicious frown. It took a moment for Claire to realise what it must look like. Not that she was rescuing an abandoned child, but that she was about to abduct their daughter.

Claire took a swift step back and raised her hands, as if to reassure them of her good intentions. For a moment she had an urge to berate them for leaving their infant unattended in a public place. The words hung hot in her mouth, but she swallowed them. It was none of her business. Instead she smiled as sincerely as she could.

“She’s adorable. Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

She took another step back, relieved to see the frown ease on the woman’s face. The couple closed in on either side of the buggy, both focussed on the child inside. Claire felt their bubble of exclusion as her presence was forgotten.