Monday 6 February 2017

Blog Tour ~ Before You Go by Clare Swatman

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's top on the 

Before You Go Blog Tour

...I'm really excited to be able to share an excerpt of Before You Go ...

Pan Macmillan
9 February 2017

When I open them again it takes a moment to work out where I am. I’m not sure what I’m expecting, but I’m surprised to find I’m still in Ed’s bed, where we ended up last night. I’m still nestled in the crook of his arm, and his other arm is slung across the bed, opening his chest up to the room. Gingerly I pull myself into a sitting position and look around. It’s dim, the sun seeping gently round the edges of the blinds, but there’s enough light to see and I can tell instantly it’s not only the room we were in last night, but it’s the next morning, not weeks or months later: there are my clothes in a pile on the floor, Ed’s next to them; across the room I can see our wine glasses in the brighter light by the window, half drunk, smudged and abandoned in the heat of the moment. My face flames at the memory and I smile.
I need a drink so I pull Ed’s shirt on and wrap it round me and pad along to the kitchen to pour myself a glass of water. As the cold liquid hits the back of my throat I try to work out what’s going on here. It’s different from normal – or whatever has become normal – and I’m not sure what to make of it. Why have I woken up the next day rather than days or months later?
Who knows? But it means another day with Ed, so I can’t complain. I walk back into the bedroom and climb into bed. As I do, Ed stirs and opens his eyes, squinting at me in the semi-darkness.
‘Morning, you.’ His breath is stale but I kiss him anyway and he responds hungrily. When he pulls away he’s fully awake and he smiles at me.
‘So, last night was fun.’
I rest my chin on my hand and look down at him.
‘It was.’
He sits up and adjusts his pillows so he’s facing me. ‘So what do you want to do today?’
I meet his gaze. ‘How do you know I’m not busy?’
He shrugs, a smirk playing on his lips. ‘I don’t.’
I elbow him in the side and he falls backwards onto the bed.
‘Oi!’ he wails. I ignore him.
‘As it happens I am free and it would be nice to do something, yes.’
He grins again and glances at the clock. It’s 9.30. ‘How about a picnic?’
‘Ooh, yes.’ I clap my hands together. ‘I love a picnic.’
‘Great. Shall we go to Clapham Common?’
I frown. ‘I can’t go out like this. Do you mind if I go home and change first? Then maybe we could go to Ally Pally?’
‘Yeah, course.’ His eyes roam up and down my body and I feel myself blushing. ‘Anyway, I don’t know why you need to change, I think you look pretty hot in just my shirt.’
‘Why, thank you young man.’ I flutter my eyelashes ridicu­lously and Ed throws his arms around me and pulls me tightly to him until I can hardly breathe.
‘But you’re not going anywhere yet. We’ve got loads of time for this first.’ And then his lips move down my neck and across my nipples and I gasp, lost in the moment all over again.
It’s gone midday by the time I let myself back into my flat, Ed in tow. We’re holding hands, giggling like teenagers, and I’m relieved to find Jane out. He waits in the living room while I jump in the shower and get dressed and I hope for his sake Jane doesn’t come home and find him there all alone, prime for interrogation.
Half an hour later we’re ready to go. I’ve shoved bread, cheese, crisps and wine into a bag and Ed hoicks it onto his back, then we set off through the sun-baked streets which wind up towards Alexandra Park. We hold hands all the way and his touch feels as though it’s burning my skin, but I won’t let go. I can’t let go.
The park is busy on this hot, bright Sunday lunchtime. The sky is a hazy blue, the heat making everyone feel lazy. Roasting bodies glisten in the rare summer sun, hungrily soaking up the rays, while the odd person half-heartedly throws a frisbee or a ball through the thick, sticky air. From a couple of hundred metres away comes the sound of laughter and screams as a group of friends squirt each other with water pistols. We stop and spread out our towels on the grass in one of the few free areas of shade we can find, and Ed unpacks the food as I take in the familiar view. The rows of Crouch End houses in the foreground, reaching out to central London, dotted with spots of green parkland and trees, all the way to the soaring skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and, on a day like today, a hazy, shimmering south London. It’s so stunning it takes my breath away.
‘God, I’m starving,’ Ed says, grabbing a piece of bread and shoving it into his mouth. Crumbs spray all over the towel as he struggles to chew the enormous mouthful.
‘Oh, that’s a lovely way to impress a girl.’ I roll my eyes and attempt to flick crumbs from the towel where they’ve sprayed like bullets.
‘Sorry,’ he grins mischievously, his cheeks puffed out like a hamster.
I grab some bread and cheese too and start making myself a sandwich, the heat making every movement feel like an effort. The air is full of a soft buzzing sound, a mix of distant lawnmowers, chatter and the odd wasp flying lazily past. I peer through the darkness of my sunglasses and take the opportunity to have a proper look at Ed while he can’t see my eyes. He’s still chewing furiously, the muscles of his jaw working hard to get through another huge chunk of bread. His hair, slightly sweaty, is stuck to his forehead, three dark strands trailing in his eyes so he has to keep pushing them away. His skin is lightly tanned, a mixture of sun cream and sweat making it glisten in the sunlight. He turns his head away to watch some kids playing a game of frisbee nearby and I allow my gaze to move downwards, taking in his strong, lean arms beneath the short sleeves of his T-shirt, the soft hairs lightened from hours in the sun. I blush as my eyes travel down further, trying not to think about what’s under those clothes, instead checking out his legs peeking from the bottom of his shorts, the muscles taut. His head whips round and I tear my eyes away, hoping he’ll mistake the redness flooding my face for overheating rather than embarrassment at being caught ogling him.
Ed leans back on his elbows and watches me.
‘What?’ I feel awkward under his gaze, scared he’ll see right through me and know everything that’s going on in my head.
‘Nothing. Just enjoying the view.’ He grins, then lies flat on his back, his hands behind his head. I follow suit, watching the leaves above my head rustle gently in the almost non- existent breeze, my mind full of questions – questions I don’t think I’ll ever be able to answer. Ed’s body is so close to mine and I long to reach out and touch him. I shuffle round so my head is leaning gently on his thigh, and his hand reaches down to play with my hair. A shiver runs through me and I know, before it even happens, that sleep is going to take me away, leave me stranded in this moment. But I don’t even mind because I’m so happy that even if this is my last moment with Ed, then it’s OK. And then tiredness overtakes me, my eyelids droop and I’m powerless to stop them . . .

About the author

Clare Swatman is a journalist for a number of weekly women's magazines. Before You Go is her first novel. Clare was Features Editor for Bella and has written for Best, Woman's Own and Real People. She writes for her local magazine as well as the travel pages for Take a Break. Clare lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two boys.

Photo credit: Leanne Dixon

My thanks to the author for sharing this excerpt and also to Jess at Pan Macmillan for the invitation to be part of this blog tour

Blog Tour runs 25th January - 8th February, do take a look at the other blog stops. Follow on Twitter #beforeyougo



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