Unedited excerpts from early manuscripts

 The Original Beginning

The sound of the alarm echoed throughout the room, and Bea found herself stirring. Not at the persistent ringing near her ear, but due to the sunlight streaming through the thin, pink curtains. She slowly forced her eyes open and watched dust particles dance in the pink light. She yawned and reached over the bedside table fumbling around at the buttons on her mobile phone. At last, a brief silence. Bea could hear the dustmen outside indicating the day and time of the week. She rubbed her eyes, yawned again, and pushed back the quilt. ‘Another day,’ she mumbled.

After getting ready for work, she made herself a cup of tea. This was Bea’s daily routine, no breakfast just caffeine and nicotine keeping the world at bay that little bit longer. She groaned into her cup, ‘What am I doing?’  

Today was Brandon’s sister’s twenty-first birthday. Brandon was Bea’s ex of six months, and she had managed to avoid him for the last part of them due to becoming a semi-recluse. Not a condition that she actually minded, any escapism from Brandon was heaven after the two years they spent together. She gulped down the remaining tea and started to make her way down into the bookshop when the phone rang. 

Bea lifted the mobile to her ear, ‘Hi Liza.’

‘Morning!’ Liza beamed. 
Bea knew it was Liza without looking at the caller ID, as she called most mornings, it had been that way since childhood.
‘You know I’ve phoned to check up on you!’ 
‘Yes.’ Bea lent against the wall by the stairway, waiting the lecture.
‘Don’t chicken out.’ 
Bea rolled her eyes and sighed.
‘I know that sigh, you can’t back out.’ Liza pushed.
‘I just don’t feel comfortable about going.’    
‘Hey, we discussed this. You’ve gotta get out of that safe zone. The sooner you do it, the sooner you can move on.’ 
‘It’s been six months…both of us have moved on.’ Bea lit a cigarette.
Liza gasped. ‘Have you started smoking again?’  
 Bea realised she must have heard the lighter click.
Liza laughed. ‘Ok look, one thing at a time…no pressure, we’ll conquer Brandon and the party first, yeah?’ 
‘Sorry didn’t quite catch that?’ 
‘Yes!’ Bea resigned.

 The smell of books was home, and brought a warm sort of comfort.  The bookshop held many memories for Bea. As child she would visit her estranged uncle in London with her mother. He seemed very kind and gracious, so it was difficult for Bea to understand why there was friction between her mother and uncle. There would always be an awkward silence in her presence. Upon their last visit to the shop, Bea was left with her estranged uncle, while her mother, Ellen, popped out. She had stated that she wouldn’t be long, but never came back. Bea would often to listen to the shop bell in anticipation of seeing her mother return. She never did. Growing up, Bea’s uncle reminded her to always leave the past where it belonged, in the past. Those same words echoed through Bea’s mind when she’d caught Brandon cheating. Even when he kept asking her to forgive him, over and over, she remained adamant, the past stays in the past.

A bellowing voice snapped her out of the thoughts.

 For the rest of the afternoon Bea tried to free her mind of worry about the night ahead. She also tried to hunt down some Andrew Lang books, as promised for Mary. When Bea rang her uncles old contact Ron, he had called her Bethany. It had been so long since someone used her full name, and it made her feel nostalgic. The sudden transition from Devon to South London was quite a culture shock at the tender age of seven. Bea remembered how she missed the large, open green spaces, and the blue sea of her childhood. The smell of the country came back to her in an instant. The last seventeen years had not changed any of the memories, they were all still so very clear. The urban greys of the city appeared to reflect her mood of the last few months. Bea’s uncle had passed away seven months ago, and as he lay dying he confessed that her mother had passed away. Her illness being the reason that Bea was left at the bookshop as a child. At the time, it felt as if she were losing her mother and uncle in the same moment. The attachment to her uncle had made it more difficult to watch him pass away. He had refused to stay at the hospital, stating that his place was with Bea at the shop. Her heartache was not over as she soon found out that Brandon was having an affair. His explanation involved, I did not want to pester you. You were going through so much. I did not love her, it was only sex. Needless to say, Bea’s perception of Brandon did not improve after the poor excuse of his betrayal as her uncle lay dying. 

 After a long soak, Bea used her last forty minutes to find something to wear. She looked around the room, ‘Unbelievable,’ she mumbled, there were clothes everywhere. She stood back to get a better look at herself in the full length mirror and laughed, ‘Well that’s casual Bea.’ After forty minutes of chopping and changing, she found herself in a familiar safe zone. Old River Island jeans, a simple pale gold jumper, and flats. She smiled, ‘Comfort every time.’