Carmelle Jones blew into Greyling Bay one sultry afternoon, surfing good intentions and waving doubts farewell. Armed with deliciously strokable notebooks, modest wine supplies, and chocolate for every chapter, Carmelle was ready for writing heaven. She’d spent the train journey—followed by a taxi ride with a driver who didn’t seem to hear her mention that she was A Writer—being progressively less able to contact her Facebook friends, as the signal on her dongle dwindled and died. Good people, gorgeous, whose hugs and kisses and virtual chocolate touched her on an hourly basis. Carmelle felt perfectly nurtured by them. But this week was a challenge that she (and her Creative-Life-Counsellor) had set—to come where she could not be fingered by Facebook or touched by Twitter or anything else that damaged her acclaimed alliterative ability.
Prospect Cottage had no wifi and no phone signal. Truly, Carmelle was facing her fear, but her writing group had sent her off with encouragement in her ears and Valrhona in her handbag. You’re fabulous, Carmelle. You have a gift. Ignore that editor. What does she know?
One look inside Prospect Cottage and she’d known this was the place. It had Genuine Atmosphere. Two looks and she felt the need for coffee. It wasn’t the cottage, just how the fisherman owner guy had eyed her. God, she hadn’t come here to be seduced by some bitter herring-breathed rustic with a nasty madness in his pink eyes.
Carmelle approached the café, sucked in her stomach, swung her hips like a hammock. A little pout would do no harm. They’d be watching her, clocking her pre-Raphaelite hair, jealous of her smooth city skin, skin which a boyfriend had described, so sweetly, as being like a piglet’s. Carmelle was used to people envying her. Which was why that editor’s comment had wounded her so, until her wonderful friends had poked her on Facebook and reflated her self-esteem.
Carmelle wielded a notebook and two pens: pink and turquoise. The café doors hung open in the heat and voices limped into the air like tired butterflies. She smiled at this image: she must write it under the heading, “Similes for future use”. With the turquoise pen, she thought.
God, but this lot ...
Fat girl with her rosebud mouth slightly open, waiting to pay for a cream cake that she’d already gouged with her finger. Grinning biddy in a wheel-chair. Sepia woman staring at her hands with a Jesus expression. Two tarty young women and a kid with a buttered face. A couple staring at the table as though they’d rather be anywhere else. And the men—Christ, they looked spiritless. Seaweed had more zest.
And into their midst, Carmelle.
“Triple chocca-mocha macchiato with caramel and marshmallows and a butterscotch twizzlestick. And whipped cream.”
“What?” The waitress was waxen-faced, hollow-cheeked, as though something was sucking her from inside.
Behind her, someone smiled.