I’ve been quiet on the blog lately, but real life does intervene at times, and the bank account is like an open maw constantly needing to be fed. But I haven’t been ignoring fiction. That chugs slowly along. And this is the start of something new, set in Leeds – of course – in the 1930s. Because you’ve been so nice and let me mumble on in peace, here’s the opening. Please do let me know what you think…and I do mean that.
No title yet, but the year is 1934.
He parked the Austin Seven Swallow outside the Eagle. There’d been hardly any traffic on the drive, a few lorries, cars bucketing along as fast as they could, the drivers’ faces fierce with concentration.
He buttoned his suit jacket and put on the hat, checking the brim in the wing mirror to see it was just so. A late May evening, some warmth still left in the air, and that feeling of dusk, with daylight starting to seep away and casting long shadows. 1934. The world might be poor, but there was still some beauty in it.
Only a few customers were in the pub. An old husband and wife, holding hands a chattering away easily, halves of stout on the table in front of them, a few ancient fellows, leftovers from Victorian times, gathered to play dominoes, a young couple out to do their courting, and a group of four middle-aged men, eyes like flints, standing in earnest discussion.
The landlord was cleaning the polished wood shelves, his back turned.
He saw her, sitting at the end of the bar, a glass of gin and tonic in front of her, a cigarette between her fingers. She was wearing a nubby tweed skirt and an ochre sweater, the sleeves rolled up on her red cardigan. There was a wedding ring on her finger, but she was on her own.
She’d glanced up when he walked in, then turned away again.
‘Can I buy you another?’ he asked as he stood beside her. She looked at him, eyes carefully appraising. Her hair was neatly set in waves, her lipstick bold red. In her early thirties and definitely pretty.
‘My mother always said I shouldn’t take drinks from strange men.’
‘We safe them. I’m not strange.’
A smile flicked across her mouth and she arched her brows.
‘Who told you that? Your wife?’
He grinned. One of his front teeth was slightly chipped. Someone had told him once that it made him look irresistible. Dashing. Wolfish. A little like Ronald Colman.
‘Someone much more reliable.’ He cocked his head. ‘I have to ask, are those eyes of yours eyes blue or grey?’
She was staring at him now, and smiling.
‘Take a guess. If you’re right, you can take me home.’
She waited a moment, then started to gather her handbag off the bar.
‘Eyes and name,’ she told him, then asked, ‘Where should we go? Your house or mine?’
‘Oh, yours, I think,’ he answered without hesitation. ‘My wife’s a terrible housekeeper.’
Her elbow dug sharply into his ribs.
‘You’d best be careful, Johnny Williams, or you’ll be sleeping on the settee tonight. What kept you? I thought you’d be home this afternoon.’