Hi guys! A new day, a new blog tour! I am very excited to hosting “The Summer of Second Chances” by Maddie Please and I have a lovely extract from this lovely little novel for you. I am currently reading it and guys, what can I say? It is a light – hearted read with some heavier issues as well and it sounds really, really promising – keep your eyes peeled for my review in the next few days! And in the meantime, enjoy the extract.
[Extract 3 from Chapter 1 ]
I stood outside Holly Cottage, lost in thought. Just about everything I had taken for granted had gone wrong. Now I had to take this chance and focus on the future because I certainly couldn’t change the past.
I got out, locking the car behind me although, to be honest, it didn’t feel as though there was a living soul for miles. I wandered around to the back of the house, my heels catching between the broken paving slabs. I wondered if the ‘huge and bear-like’ Bryn was around to watch the homeless idiot arriving. Might he be lurking in the shadows under the trees down the lane? For some reason I pictured him standing, shoulders hunched like Lurch from The Addams Family, knuckles dragging on the ground. Fortunately there was no sign of him. But he had left the back door key under an upturned bucket in the porch as Jess had assured me he would. The key stuck for a heart-stopping few moments and then turned in the lock with an unwilling squeak. I let myself in to the hall.
The stale scent of wet dog, mingled with something even more unpleasant, hit me. The smell of damp carpet, neglect and, unmistakably, fish.
I left the door open and made my way into the sitting room, one hand over my nose. The room was flagstoned with a large rug over the top, which was soaking. Someone had flung a plastic bucket plus water into the middle and my shoes squelched as I took a hesitant step into the room. They had also enhanced the décor by chucking around a few shovelfuls of ash from the fire. The walls were pale and marked with squares of grime where pictures had been removed. Underneath one windowsill the paper had been pulled off altogether and someone had drawn stars in pink and purple felt tip pen on the wall.
The smell was stronger here, pungent and eye watering. Trying not to gag, I pushed back the curtains and opened both the sash windows. The crispness of the evening air was welcome. I hurried back outside for a moment to refresh my lungs and then went upstairs to explore further, finding a small bathroom and two bedrooms.
There was evidence in the expensive wallpaper and the sisal carpet that this place had once been very pretty, but now it was neglected and extremely dirty. There were stains on the floor and muddy fingerprints around the china light switches, and someone had been free with wax crayons on the walls of the landing.
In the corner of the bathroom was a huge web, the spider still busy in the middle with a struggling bluebottle. I shuddered. On the mirror, in coral lipstick, was scrawled Bitch. It neatly crossed over the reflection of my cold, pale, frightened face.
Jess had wanted me to clean and decorate, that was the deal, but it was obvious this place wasn’t just in need of a flick round with the antiseptic wipes and a lick of paint; it needed pressure washing. The stink from downstairs was curling up the stairs so I opened all the windows and re-buttoned my coat.
In the larger of the two bedrooms was a mahogany wardrobe that had once been highly polished and beautiful, but was now scratched, covered with globs of Blu-Tack and propped up with a brick at one corner where one of the feet had been lost. There was a sink in the corner filled with scummy water and dead flies.
‘Bloody hell!’ I said.
My words echoed around the room.
‘What on earth’s been going on here?’ asked a voice from behind me.
I spun round, squeaking with shock. There was a silhouette of a man in the doorway, his shoulders almost filling the space. I yelped again.
‘Well, if you don’t want people to walk in you shouldn’t leave all the doors open,’ he said, unapologetic.
‘And you shouldn’t just wander in to someone else’s house uninvited,’ I said, my voice shrill with fright. I flapped my hands at him to shoo him back down the stairs.
He turned and went, his movements unhurried and careful in the confined space of the stairwell. I followed him downstairs and into the kitchen, trying to calm the thudding of my heart.
‘What’s happened here?’ he said. ‘It wasn’t like this the other day. And what’s that terrible smell?’
‘How would I know?’ I replied. ‘I’ve only just got here.’
‘Hang on,’ he said and went into the sitting room, ducking his head under the lintel. He searched around for a few minutes and then retrieved a rotting fish wrapped in newspaper from behind a radiator.
‘Jesus!’ I clamped my hand back over my nose and watched him take it outside into the garden.
He reappeared, framed in the kitchen door. ‘I’ve no idea where that came from. I’m assuming it’s nothing to do with you?’
‘Of course it isn’t. Why the hell would I do a thing like that?’
‘OK, calm down. All I know is it didn’t smell like this when I last called in. Nor was there a pond on the sitting-room floor. Perhaps the Websters are responsible?’
Oh yes the Websters. What had Jess said about them? I should have paid more attention.
‘The last tenants. Two years without a problem and then Mr Webster discovered skunk and scratch cards. They left a few days ago. Spent all his money on things other than his priorities. But I know he left his house keys behind when he left. I can’t think how he could have got back in. I’ve been here, Webster had a beaten-up old camper van. Red and white. I’m sure I would have noticed…’
I stood watching him for a moment wondering who he reminded me of.
‘It needs a bit of a sort out,’ he said, his blue eyes flicking from the piles of junk mail behind the door to the chocolate handprints on the wall. At least I hoped they were chocolate.
‘A bit of a sort out?’ I said, incredulous. ‘Never mind the smell, it’s absolutely filthy and disgusting.’
‘Ah well.’ He shrugged his shoulders. They really were very broad. ‘I’m Bryn Palmer, by the way.’ He held out a hand and I shook it.
‘I’m Charlotte Calder. What do you mean “ah well”? Would you want to live here?’
He stuck his hands in the pockets of his jeans and rocked back on his heels. ‘Nope.’
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