The Gateway – Chapter Two

Following on from my last blog post, as a little taster, I’ve made the decision to publish the first three chapters of The Gateway on this blog and also on Wattpad, after completing the second draft on each. I hope you enjoy, please feel free to leave any comments or if you think there are any improvements required.

Otherwise, Chapter Three will be up next 🙂

You can read Chapter One here.

Chapter Two

‘All aboard!!’ yelled the guard as the last of the passengers alighted the train. The automatic doors closed with a hiss and Emmeline settled back into the blue and black speckled seat, clutching her holdall on the seat next to her as the carriage shuttled her off to the coast. Hills rolled by as the train gathered speed and she felt the tension seep from her shoulders, until she noticed the shaggy-haired young man opposite her. He was staring with a strange expression on his face. Emmeline eyeballed him back but he smirked, so she turned her attention to the passing scenery and ignored him.

The last two weeks had been an eye opener. Geoff Sweetman was actually on the wagon, and Joan seemed to have had a personality transplant, bossing both of them about and taking no nonsense. Emmeline wasn’t sure which was worse – the tension from before, or being at the mercy of the imposter who had possessed her former mouse of a mother. Her eyes flickered over the fields as they sped by, and Emmeline’s thoughts drifted to her sanctuary by the sea. It was a dilapidated mess, with seventies wallpaper and grubby carpets; but it was hers and she loved it. She didn’t have much interaction with anyone there, apart from her dear elderly neighbours. But that suited her.

Less than an hour later, the train announced its arrival at Parnham Sea Station. She stood and gathered her things.

The train came to a halt and after waiting for the throng of passengers to disembark first, Emmeline stepped onto the platform inhaling the fresh, coastal air, feeling clean and carefree. Home at last.

As she meandered along the platform, a man dressed in a grey suit rushed past her, shoving her aside. ‘Hey!’ yelled Emmeline, as he ran for his train. She rubbed her shoulder and grimaced as the bruising in her ribs throbbed. Ignorant sod! Then, to her surprise, he turned to look at her, shock frozen on his face.

‘I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you there!’ he said as he continued to back away briskly, then turned on his heel and hopped on the train, pulling the door shut behind him. Emmeline blinked, sure that the doors had been automatic. The shrill blast of a whistle rang nearby to indicate their imminent departure, and she shook her head in confusion.

As she entered the station a guard tapped her on the shoulder. ‘Can I see your ticket, madam?’

She spun round in bewilderment, searching for the automatic gate, which would hungrily swallow her fare in return for letting her off the platform.

‘Yes,’ she frowned, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a thick, cardboard coupon. ‘Where are the gates?’ she asked him.

‘Gates? The station gates are where they’ve always been, at the front of the building.’

Emmeline whipped her head round, taking in her surroundings. A young platinum-blonde woman with rouge lips stood casually near the door, patting her wavy set hair with a white-gloved hand. A round suitcase stood at her feet and her other hand displayed a cigarette holder, its smoke trailing upwards as the ash burned idly.  To Emmeline’s right, perched on a wooden bench, was another young lady with black, bobbed hair tucked under a red berry cloche hat, checking her watch and fiddling with a string of pearls. On closer inspection the station was filled with commuters looking like they were dressed for a 1920s film production.

‘Is someone filming here today?’ she asked.

‘Filming? Not that I know of. I think we’d be inundated with people wanting to get in on the action.’ He chuckled and then bent his head forward to peer at her face. ‘Are you OK?’ he asked. For a brief moment, Emmeline found herself rendered immobile by the intense blue eyes which were studying her own. She tore away from his penetrating gaze and looked up at his cap, PSS – Parnham Sea Stationimprinted above the peak, and took a step back to survey his dated uniform. Sure, she’d not visited for a couple of weeks, but what on earth was going on?

‘I – um –’ she squeaked as she backed away from him. He handed back her ticket with furrowed brows and Emmeline studied his gentle mouth, perfectly set on his clean shaven face, the lines of his jaw clenching as he watched her, bewildered.

After one last glance at the ticket detective, she shot through the station, clutching her coupon, suddenly aware of its thick cardboard presence. Wasn’t the ticket she’d purchased a credit-card sized, flimsy piece of cardboard? Or had they changed them? She would have noticed when she’d bought it, surely. She thrust the little tag into her pocket and burst through the front door to the outside world, inhaling a lungful of fresh air. Either she had fallen asleep on the train and was dreaming, or something was very, very awry. A woman dressed in a pencil skirt and tailored jacket approached the door into the lobby.

‘Excuse me,’ Emmeline stood with her hands on her hips and steadied her breathing, taking in the woman’s more modern attire. ‘What is the date today?’ she asked. The other woman stopped and looked at her watch. ‘It’s 27th September,’ she smiled.

‘Thanks,’ replied Emmeline, watching the woman’s retreating back. Obviously. She bit her lip and looked around, then spotted a paper sitting on a green iron bench outside the entrance to the station and wandered over, picking it up and peering at the top. September 27th, 2012. Of course it was. She cupped her hands gently around her face and looked through the window into the station. The automatic ticket gates stood evidently at the entrance to the platform, indifferent to the little game they had just played with her mind. There was no sign of the ticket officer. She shook her head in confusion and walked over to the bus stop, and boarded the waiting bus which would take her home.

Striding up the garden path towards the front door, Emmeline made a mental note to pull some weeds up from the concrete path edge and was suddenly accosted by a silver tabby cat, snaking its way around her legs in a greeting. She dumped her bag on the doorstep and fished her keys out of her purse.

‘Hey, Herbie!’ She stooped down to collect the bundle of fur into a cuddle, being careful not to prod him with the keys. ‘I missed you too, fella!’ Herbie purred and dribbled on her wrist as she stroked his excited head. She opened the door and the cat shot through, meowing frantically and darting back and forth from the kitchen. ‘OK, OK!’ she laughed, then pulled out a tin of cat meat and filled his bowl.

Emmeline had a cat-share arrangement with her next-door neighbours. She’d fallen in love with the tabby a few months ago when the cat belonging to the Bennett’s other neighbour had had kittens. Mr and Mrs Bennett had agreed to care for Herbie during the week while Emmeline was working and Emmeline supplied the food and the cost of the veterinary care.

She climbed the worn, dull green carpeted stairs to her bedroom, hauled her bag onto the bed and proceeded to unpack her neatly folded clothes, placing them carefully into a vintage chest of drawers.  The only sound in the house was the bedside clock as it ticked away noisily. She shoved her bag across the wooden floor and took a deep breath, and then opened a window to let some fresh air in to dispel the mustiness. She sat down on the bed, fondly stroking the green gingham bedspread. The muslin curtains billowed in the breeze as she took off her shoes and socks and spread her toes through the sheep-skin rug she’d found at a flea market in Parnham a few weeks ago. Her eyes swept the room as she admired the wooden floor. Bit by bit, she was getting there. On her last visit Emmeline had been busy refurbishing the bedroom and had pulled up the carpets, hired a sanding machine and stripped the floor boards before protecting them with a light wood varnish. The curtains were her handiwork, crafted on the second-hand sewing machine Mrs Bennett had donated to her.

There was a knock at the front door. ‘Emmeline? Yoo hoo!’ Elsie Bennett’s voice called up the stairs. ‘I brought you a casserole, love! Ernie said it’s top notch!’ Emmeline left the vintage beauty of her bedroom and descended the stairs slowly, still feeling bruised and battered from the accident.

‘Elsie!’ She enveloped her in a warm embrace. ‘How lovely to see you,’ Elsie gave a little squeeze in return and Emmeline gave a small cry as she pulled away, wincing.

‘What’s wrong, dear?’ asked Elsie.

Emmeline smiled meekly at her and shrugged her shoulders. ‘I had a bit of an accident a couple of weeks ago; my car was hit on the motorway on my way here,’ She confessed as warming, pungent aromas of thyme and chicken filled her senses. ‘Mmm, that smells delicious!’ she said, changing the subject.

‘What?’ Elsie’s eyebrows shot up in a state of distress. ‘Oh my goodness, you poor thing!’ she gasped.

Emmeline waved Elsie’s concern away. ‘I’m fine, honestly! Just a couple of broken ribs which are healing slowly and a black eye – which is now yellow, underneath some cleverly applied make-up.’  She lifted the lid off the casserole. ‘That looks amazing,’

Elsie looked at the casserole. ‘Just pop it in the oven, dear, on a low heat, until you’re ready for it.’ She looked back up at Emmeline and frowned. ‘So – that’s why you haven’t been here for the last couple of weeks then?’ she probed. ‘Only we didn’t get your message until last weekend and we’ve been worried! Herbie’s missed you terribly.’ She smiled kindly.

At that moment, Emmeline wondered why she didn’t just move here permanently. She was missed. Even if only by my cat and my neighbours.  She sighed, and thought of Geoff and Joan, wondering how long this strange pretence could last before her father buckled and started drinking again and her mother crumpled under the disappointment. They needed her. How could she even be so selfish as to think that she could put herself first like that? Besides, she earned good money at work; when I’m hitting target, she thought. A picture of her boss’s face appeared and she shuddered in irritation at Louisa’s existence infiltrating her refuge. ‘Go away,’ she muttered under her breath as she mentally watched Louisa pace the meeting room, flinging buzz words and wasted enthusiasm around.

‘What was that dear?’ Elsie brought Emmeline back to the present.

‘Nothing, sorry, I’ve been in an odd frame of mind today,’ her thoughts wandered back to the confusion at the train station.

‘Well, if you need anything, you know where we are,’ Elsie studied Emmeline, concern creasing her papery face.

‘Thanks, Elsie. I think I’m just going to open a bottle of wine and enjoy your lovely cooking with some old black and white movies on the TV!’ She stretched pleasantly at the thought, feeling exhausted already and looking forward to curling up with Herbie and shutting the world out. Tomorrow was a brand new day; perhaps she might go for a browse among the second hand shops and take a stroll along the beach before tea time.

‘You enjoy, Emmeline,’ she paused, her hand hovering on the door knob. ‘Do you know, there’s something different about you today?’

‘Huh?’ She had been watching Herbie curling himself round and round, trying to find a comfy spot on the sofa.

‘I can’t quite put my finger on it,’ she tapped her lip with her forefinger. ‘You seem, I don’t know… stronger somehow,’ she said, then shrugged. ‘Well, enjoy your evening dear; holler if you need anything at all. I must get back to Ernie.’ She kissed Emmeline on the cheek before closing the door behind her, leaving them both in peace.

Stronger? Who was she kidding? Emmeline was clearly losing the plot.  She put the casserole in the oven on a low heat and lit the fire, then popped open a bottle of Shiraz and joined the cat on the sofa to see what the television had to offer.

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Update – The Gateway

I had some really nice feedback on The Gateway today, and the reader told me she’s interested in seeing more (thank you, Jane!:-) ). I’m still working on the second draft (practically rewriting, actually, as I’m changing the viewpoint) and have already been debating whether to post the second chapter on the blog and also on Wattpad. I have reservations about doing this simply because I still have a large amount of research to do and feel unsettled at the thought of putting something out there which is as yet unfinished. Of course the novel is written, in the first draft stage, but there are plenty of loose ends and anomalies which need to be tied up too. On the other hand, it’s really encouraging that people want to read more and I find myself wanting to polish up Chapter Two and get it out there. Because hopefully more of the story will increase interest. But then there is the other dilemma I’m faced with; I’m still not sure whether I want to try the traditional publishing route first or head straight to self-publishing. Both have their pros and cons. I’ll think on it a little bit more but hopefully I’ll be in a position to supply you with more of the story in the near future,
even if it’s only the next two chapters.

In the meantime, I’m working on an interview with a new upcoming author, of which I hope to have more details to share soon.

If you haven’t yet read the first chapter of The Gateway, you can do so here: The Gateway – Chapter One

Honestly, I was wheelie scared

I had a good, productive day yesterday. I took my 1 year old down the park, did lots of research, and ran a few errands in the afternoon. I had company last night and when my visitor left at 10pm I went to bed with the intention of delving further into the chick-lit book I’m currently reading, The Tangled Web by Lacey Dearie. I can’t sleep without the window open at night, so I whipped the curtain aside to invite the cold, crisp air in and froze as I noticed the gate to our garden was wide open and I heard a scuffle. Not only was it wide open, but there appeared to be two people skulking around outside the gate. The first one I deduced was either a dodgy youth or very short, but whom I only saw fleetingly, putting doubts in my mind later as to whether there was just one person, and the second intruder was taller and slinked past the gate into the darkness. A small dog barked aggressively and I stood there for a minute, rooted to the spot, waiting for them to reappear. Perhaps it was our neighbour walking the dog. But why was the gate open? Was the noise I heard when I went to open the (still shut) window, the intruders opening the gate? Had I scared them away by appearing at the window? In true ‘brave parent’ style I pelted down the stairs, threw a jacket on and shoved my feet in a pair of fluffy lined boots then flew outside and bolted the back gate. On returning, after peering out of all the windows in the house and double-checking that everything was definitely locked, I went back to bed and eventually fell into a restless, disturbed sleep. Anyone who is tired and looks out into the night can easily see shadows and believe that there are things there. Doubt was dancing in my mind and I kept trying to reason with myself that it was just the neighbour walking their dog, yet the feeling of unease remained. As a result of such a spooky night and poor sleep, I fancied a bowl of kitty kibble for breakfast, apparently. Fortunately I realised my mistake when I looked down to discover what had arrived in my cereal bowl.

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As for the intruders, it turns out that it was indeed our neighbour walking their dog. The gate? It hadn’t closed properly after the last person went through it. The dodgy youth? Next door’s wheelie bin which was being put out – by our neighbour – for collection in the morning. My mind is now totally at rest, but needless to say, the gate is now well and truly bolted and I think it’s time for an early night (after The Vampire Diaries of course). Sleep easy! 🙂

Back in the land of the living

I feel like I’ve been out of the loop for ages, but I’m sure it’s only been a week.

Apart from some precious time spent in the library, last week was pretty much a write-off, as most of the time I felt really, really lethargic. My daughter had a nasty cold virus, which of course was the reason for my lethargy, as it attacked me next. The introductory pounding headache totally killed off Wednesday and Thursday. I struggled even to read, so had to make-do with TV dramas and other daytime TV. Some may think that’s a luxury, but trust me, it isn’t. I hate daytime TV. Thank goodness for Netflix, is all I can say. In the meantime the washing has been piling up, the nutrition in our meals has depleted and the dust bunnies are on steroids. All I’d planned to do last week went untouched and an overwhelming sense of guilt began to creep up on me.

I hate being ill. I’m more of a ‘get on and do it’ type of person, so when I’m floored in such a manner (or more to the point, resigned to the sofa with an 18 month-old kicking me in the head as she climbs all over her poorly mummy), it throws me and causes unease.
Fortunately, after a couple of days of doing nothing (and half a bottle of lemon squash), I’m starting to feel a bit more normal. You know, like a human. A human being with a purpose.

More importantly, I’ve got solid plans to work on.

For those who don’t know, as well as working on becoming a published novelist, I’m doing a long distance writing course. My latest assignment is to write for a trade publication. This involves knowing (or knowing someone in) the trade or profession you have chosen to write for. I came up with several ideas, all of which turned out to be dead ends. Until I got talking to an associate of mine and suddenly I had a lightbulb moment. Why had I not thought of this before? It was obvious! Anyway, I won’t say any more on the matter as it’s unfinished work (and we never talk about our work unless it’s complete). But providing it’s successful I will of course be supplying details at a later date. I’m reading again now too which means I can travel anywhere I feel like once more. You’re probably thinking ‘so what?’ The thing is, now that I no longer rush around like a crazy person I’m more aware of time and when it passes. So when I’m unable to use that precious time to the best of my ability it feels like eons until normality resumes.

So if you are suffering with this vicious virus that’s doing the rounds, you have my deepest sympathy. Give in to it and wrap yourself in a duvet, drink plenty of water and watch trash on telly. Hopefully you won’t have a toddler clambering all over you. 🙂

The Gateway

For those of you who missed it the first time around, the following is the ‘Blurb’ for The Gateway. The first draft was completed in November during ‘National Novel Writing Month’ and revisions are currently underway.

I’m currently planning to post the first chapter on here and on Wattpad when it’s ready, so watch this space for further information.

Any questions please feel free to ask 🙂

The Gateway

Imagine a concept where your emotions are so powerful, they can open a gateway to another world? A portal to another time zone. Not time travel, but just another place in time where you can meet your soul partner to show you the way, the way to find your true self? The gateway to happiness and to the love of your life…

Emmeline Sweetman is fed up. Her job is demanding, her social life is non-existent, and her father is an alcoholic. Lumbered with supporting both her parents financially and emotionally, she lives for her weekends, where for two days each week she escapes to her sanctuary by the sea. Emmeline lives a lonely existence, until a near fatal car crash leads to her meeting a mysterious stranger…

Book Review: Isle of Sensuality by Aimee Duffy

Isle of SensualityIsle of Sensuality by Aimée Duffy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a lovely, heart-warming (and steamy!) story. From page one Aimee Duffy has you hooked with real, genuine characters you’ll warm to instantly. This love story is full of passion, emotion and conflict, with both characters having their own personal issues threatening to come between the couple. I won’t say anymore for fear of spoiling the story, but would highly recommend this as a perfect novel to curl up and escape into for a few hours. If you enjoy a good romance then this is the book for you, as it reminds us why we fall in love.

View all my reviews

Click here for a sexy snippet of Isle of Sensuality