Tuesday 17 July 2018

Extract ~ Connectedness by Sandra Danby

I am delighted to bring you this tantalising extract from Connectedness

© Sandra Danby
Beulah Press
May 2018

London, May 2010

Darya was asleep, propped up against her pillows, a Sudoku book open on her lap. The blank squares of the grid, empty. Justine closed the door silently and tiptoed down the stairs to her studio. Today’s page in her diary had one word scrawled across it in capital letters. ‘Clean’. It was her end-of-creating process, a day devoted to drawing a line under the completed work, clearing a blank canvas in her mind, the studio and her diary, to make space for the next project. Usually she enjoyed the routine; today she felt as heavy as lead. This morning she had brought Darya home from hospital and safely installed her in bed.

She switched Peter Grimes on repeat, hoping the ‘Sea Interludes’ would transport her north to the Yorkshire coast. More and more she felt pulled to Seaview Cottage, but it was impossible. She wondered if her instinct was telling her to run away. But now more than ever Darya needed routine, consistency, familiarity. She did not need to be piled into a car with luggage and driven for six hours to a strange house where her bed was in an unfamiliar room. Life seemed simpler in Yorkshire, though Justine was not naïve enough to believe the illusion. It was grief talking, the pull of home. 

Perhaps I can take my life with me, when Darya is better.

But she would never move Darya from her home.

With the high violin melody of ‘Dawn’ punctuated by darting viola arpeggios, she allowed her mind to leave London, Darya and ‘Green’ behind, until she stood at the edge of the cliff. Her mother was icing a cake in the kitchen, her father was polishing the car. The wind in her hair and the sound of waves, advancing and retreating, the twirling flight of gulls riding the gusts filled her head leaving no space for worry.

At first she dusted gently but her intensity grew with the rhythm of the music, so that when the CD reached the clashing cymbals and beating drums of ‘Storm’, waves crashing against the rocks, its French horns sweeping up and down the scales, she was sweeping furiously, her cheeks reddened with the effort. She was heading into a tempest but was unable to change direction.

‘What harbour shelters peace, away from tidal waves, away from storms? What harbour can embrace terrors and tragedies?’ 

She should change the CD; it was too emotional, too tragic. But familiar. Familiarity won. She hummed as she washed windows, and still the music pulled her onwards. By late morning the last box was packed, labelled in red marker pen, and put away on a shelf. The morning sun disappeared and roiling dark clouds presaged rain. Summer was still more than a month away. Outside, the limbs of the biggest chestnut tree waved in the manner of a famous conductor instructing his symphony orchestra, while the giant cedar creaked and swayed in the wind and the musical waves crashed on the shore. She estimated the mess had been reduced by half.

She turned on her desk lamp and spent some time online, ordering a biography of Jacob Epstein and a new crime novel. With a ping, Maud’s daily e-update arrived. ‘Green 6: Not Forgotten’ had been sold to a collector, a regular client who had been awarded a private sneak preview. The price was excellent, more than the sales forecast had predicted. Also attached was an interview schedule for tomorrow. 

She turned her laptop off and waited to feel relaxed, expecting the sonorous French horns and the woodwind raindrops at the beginning of Act 2 to combine with the smell of Mr Sheen and work their usual magic. The tone had changed, the music was arresting now, not threatening. Cosy inside, with the afterglow that a hard session of cleaning brings, she made a pot of tea and carried it on a tray to the window. She ran a fingernail along the purple foil wrapper of a new bar of chocolate, and broke off a chunk.

Normally after a successful opening she would leave Maud to do her job and go travelling alone with nothing more than a rucksack, her art box, a couple of books and a change of clothes. The Black Isle, Grizedale Forest, Gower, the Calf of Man; her art owed a debt to each. Sometimes, the idea for her next series came to her during these days of walking alone, sitting, resting, being within nature, thinking. Above all thinking. But the next work would have to be created in London. She closed her eyes and pretended that the dull hum of traffic was really the waves breaking on the East Yorkshire shore, pretended she was walking Danes Dyke, the ancient defensive cutting that slashed across Flamborough Head almost severing it from the mainland in the shape of an unwanted nose. A Roman nose. Thin chalky soil beneath her feet, the scent of salt. She imagined the large sky above and the wide acres of ploughed fields stretching far beyond her sight.

Her mobile beeped. A text. It would be from Maud. Did she never stop working?

I should have emailed to say yes to those interview dates. She’ll keep ringing and texting and emailing until I reply.

She replied with a one word text. ‘Yes.’

The sun reappeared between a gap in the clouds and its rays fell across her chair. The music reached ‘Moonlight’ and the pace slowed; Justine’s heart rate and breathing followed suit. Her thoughts gradually disconnected until she, like Darya upstairs, was asleep, absolved from having to do anything.

‘What harbour shelters peace, away from tidal waves, away from storms? What harbour can embrace terrors and tragedies?’

The music played on and, as always, Peter Grimes died.

© Sandra Danby 

Click here to read how music has inspired Sandra's writing process..

About the Author 

Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted. 

Author Links

Twitter @SandraDanby

Ignoring Gravity Connectedness (Identity Detective Book 2)

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