Hurrah. I made it. Claire’s journey is finished, for now. She’s found a new home and what I suspect will be only the beginning of fresh adventures. Already the new characters intrigue me. Timothy, for example: he’s Maggie’s gentleman friend but for some reason I think he might lean the other way. Eddie is going to be a real handful. And the quiet Kayla might surprise everyone.
You’ll have to wait though. I have other novels to write, sleep to catch up on, books to read, before I even think about picking up Claire’s journey again. I want to start immediately, but I think we all need a break. I’ll be making notes, though, and any feedback is of course always gratefully received.
If you enjoyed the series, tell your friends. I hope to pull the entire 365 installments into one ebook at some point soon, although I won’t be editing it (except for any typos that I discover). The raw first draft (albeit one that was line-edited as I went along) is part of the challenge and should stand untouched. I’m proud of it as it is.
So, what’s next? After the sleeping and the reading and the hopefully shifting this cold finally because I’ve had it for weeks? Well, Class Act needs work. It’s currently a 50,000 word romance that I have plans to extend into a full length novel. Then there’s Finding Lucy. And a sequel to Dragon Wraiths. And of course a continuation of Claire’s adventures in Cornwall. I’m going to miss her and Conor, although it’s good to miss people!
The blog might be quiet for a while. Or it might not. I think stopping blogging might be like coming off the Christmas chocolate: both a challenge and a relief. I’ll see you when I see you. Please hang about and if you see only this post for a while, please understand! Maybe I’ll have more time to read and comment on some of your blogs now. That said, as it has been raining for the last two days, and my head is fizzing with blog entry ideas, it might not be quiet for all that long!
Wishing you all an amazing New Year and here’s to a 2014 full of words.
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:
Her clothes filled the small wardrobe; her rucksack sat empty in the dark recess of the cupboard, tatty after its long journey. She could never have imagined, back when Carl had presented her with it as a leaving gift, that she could become so attached to a bag.
“We’ve come a long way, you and I. Time for a rest, for you at least.”
Claire laughed as she realised talking to an inanimate object was probably the first sign of craziness.
Maybe I am crazy. Do crazy people ever actually know that they are?
She thought about leaving Conor standing alone on the beach, and shivered. It had been two days and he hadn’t tried to contact her. She didn’t know if that made it easier or not. Dozens of unsent messages sat on her phone, taunting her. Her last words echoed continually in her mind, like a song stuck on repeat.
The man I love like breathing.
She considered it, as she walked across the tiny room to gaze at the ever-changing view of the sea. Was it true? Did she love him? Could you love someone on such a short acquaintance?
But it wasn’t short, was it? Four months is a long time, and he’s been there for me since day one. All the time in New Zealand and every time I needed someone since I returned.
Dwelling only intensified the pain. She cast one last look around her room and felt a glimmer of a smile through her grief. Her room. It felt good.
Downstairs, the children were finishing dinner. Claire hadn’t spent much time with them over the weekend. Timothy seemed to instinctively know she needed space to settle in, and had quietly assured her that she had no duties until Monday morning. She attended meals and sat in the shared lounge to read and think. Sometimes she nestled in the window seat she’d discovered along a corridor, overlooking the sea, and listened to the children giggling in their rooms. The sound of laughter rang constantly throughout the old building.
Outside, the sky hung overcast. She wandered through the bushes and trees until she reached the rolling lawn that led down towards the sea. Within minutes she had scrambled down the rocky path to the private beach.
A group of children clambered amongst the rock pools under the watchful eye of Eddie. He raised his hand in greeting and she nodded in return before heading to the other end of the sand.
Thinking she really needed to buy a surfboard, Claire found her favourite rock and climbed on it. Sitting with her arms clasped around her knees she stared out at the horizon and let the peace wrap around her like a blanket.
A tapping at the door roused Claire from a doze. She checked the time and was surprised to discover she’d been asleep for an hour. Thinking it must be Timothy wanting to remind her about something for the morning, she rolled off the bed and went to open the door.
She grasped the frame for support as her questioning gaze met a pair of familiar green eyes.
“What? How did you know where to find me? How did you get in?”
“A bit of research found the centre and a chat with your man Timothy meant he let me in. Seems he’s a sucker for a romance.”
“You could be a stalker or a murderer.” She frowned, unsure how she felt about the invasion of her privacy.
“I showed him this.” Conor held up his phone to show a photograph of the two of them in bed, tangled in the sheets.
Claire stepped back into the room to hide the blood rushing to her cheeks. “You’d better come in.”
Uncomfortably aware that the room held only a bed, she waited for Conor to perch on one end of it, before going to stand, arms folded, by the window.
“Why are you here?”
“To ask why you keep running away from me without letting me speak, woman. I had something to add to your marvellous speech, you know.”
He stood up and crossed the room, coming to a stop only inches away from her. He leant in until his lips brushed the hair near her ear, sending flurries of heat across her skin.
“I love you, too.”
Claire rested her head against Conor’s shoulder and stared out the window at the multi-hued sky. They had talked long into the night, until the dawn light began to paint the horizon in stripes of silver and pink. Her head ached with the fog of missed sleep, and she knew her first day at work was going to be a disaster, but her heart felt like a bird floating on an updraft.
She looked around the tiny room, listening to the heartbeat and slow, sonorous, breathing of the man beside her. It wasn’t ideal, agreeing to a long-distance love affair, but she didn’t care. He loved her and she loved him; that was all that mattered. The rest was just geography.
As she lay in his arms and watched the sun rise, she realised she had finally found what she had searched for through two hundred long days – through a lifetime – something that wasn’t outside the window, or even in the room, but rather in her heart. A contentment; a sense of belonging and of peace.
She was home.