Today is my stop on the book tour for The Place That Never Existed. That cover is so captivating!! Read below for an excerpt, Chapter 1. Also, be sure to stop by the other awesome bloggers hosting the tour!
The wedding day had been amazing. A marathon of excitement, nerves and overwhelming happiness was now coming to a close as the evening crept towards midnight.
Inside the hall the faint sound of Dexi’s Midnight Runners could be heard with the out-of-tune drunken accompaniments of the inebriated wedding guests, who were unwilling to stop the party or alcohol indulgence just as long as the DJ played the music, and the barman served drinks. The DJ was the bride’s odd brother called Jez, and the barman was a family friend, Eddie, so the likelihood was that this could, and would, go on all night. The Town Hall had never had such a knees-up – well, not since the local WI group accidentally booked an evening with a poor-man’s version of the Chippendales, called Dick’s Swingers. Old Margaret Bothersby assumed that the gentlemen were dancers to swing music, and an entertainment that they could dip in and out of while sherry-tasting. The story goes that once juiced with alcohol the normally conservative group of spinsters, widows and People’s Friend readers, got somewhat rowdy and unnecessary, building up into (what was described by some) a frenzy bordering on molestation, pawing at the innocent young men as they swung their members out of harms way and escaped naked. The local constabulary were called, but opinions seemed divided as to what the offence would be, the ladies all remained tight-lipped, and the gentlemen were too embarrassed to press charges.
Paul and Debbie were now married, and sat outside having finally grabbed their first moments alone. For a minute or two they didn’t say a word – sentences formed and spoken could not relay the emotions that they both felt. Paul had lost his tie hours ago and his sleeves were now rolled up to show muscular forearms, and Debbie, even with slightly smeared lipstick and smudged mascara was still a thing of beauty, her hair curled up onto her head with a tiara that sat there like it truly belonged. To take it off would end the day, and that was something that right now she did not want to happen.
“What a day,” Paul finally said holding her tightly, and feeling her smooth skin slowly cool down. The words seemed careless and throwaway, but meant as a conversation starter.
She smiled. “It’s nearly over. But what memories, huh?”
He nodded slowly as he leant in for a kiss. One of the first that they had enjoyed alone without family and friends pointing, mates heckling, and photographers posing them unnaturally. This one, however, was as natural and as tender as two people in love could be. They had both drunk all day, but there was too much formality to the day; being on their best behaviour amongst elderly members of both families, and so careful not to over-indulge in alcohol, as the deep voices from inside had done (and were currently booming out ‘It’s Raining Men’ like a football chant, and nothing like the 1982 original by The Weather Girls).
“Thank you for letting my brother DJ,” she said. “And for inviting him to your stag do.”
Paul smiled at that. Her brother was a complete idiot. A harmless idiot, but still a complete idiot nevertheless.
“What?” she grinned, reading from is expression that there was more to it than a pensive smile.
“Your brother is unique.” Paul then put on a thick Indian accent, “Excuse me sir, but your friend cannot drop his trousers there!” Debbie laughed. “No! He didn’t.”
“Yep,” Paul said before continuing, “I must ask that he cover his buttocks immediately, and cease swinging his manhood around! There are innocent people trying to eat!”
“Stop it!” she laughed, tears escaping from the sides of her eyes that she had to quickly wipe away. She loved her brother, but at some point he lost his ability to act normal, probably the disco side of 1980, she thought.
“The waiter didn’t know what to do with him! We may struggle to get a table there again.”
They made eye contact again as their giggles ceased, entwining their fingers together so that their new rings touched. Their familiar hands now with new additions; a token of love, and a symbol of change, interlocking themselves as one.
“I’m so looking forward to just getting away from it all, Paulie,” she half smiled, and of course he knew exactly what was on her mind.
Or rather who was on her mind.
“She was never going to spoil our day, Debs,” he started, almost not wanting to breach the subject. The very thought of her put a dampener on things. “It wouldn’t have mattered what stunt she’d’ve tried to pull, we were always going to get married.”
Debbie’s pained acknowledgement said many silent words, but the bottom line was that she believed him. It had been a long rocky path that had led them to this day, and the outcome could’ve been so much different, had they both leant on each other for support.
He grabbed her left hand and brought it gently to his lips before adding, “That’s why Tony and Big George were on the door of the Reception room. They wouldn’t have let her speak up and stop the wedding. They were under strict instructions to grab her and throw her out. That’s why they had free drinks all night.”
After a beat Debbie then smiled. “Everybody had free drinks all night!”
“Yes, but they didn’t know that beforehand, did they?”
“I love you, Paul.”
“I love you Debbie.” They kissed again as the chill of the night whipped up a little just to let them know that it might be time to go back in. They didn’t want the evening to end, but they were also looking forward to getting back to the hotel room and cuddling up together in the blissful knowledge that they would wake up the next morning as a married couple.
Just then the tattooed barman Eddie came purposefully out. “Hey Paul, sorry to disturb you both. The bar is just about run dry and, er, your DJ is having issues…”
“What is my brother doing now?”
“He’s playing ‘Smack My Bitch Up’…”
“His wife has just turned up again?” Paul guessed. She had been there earlier but had disappeared at some point, as was her way, and as a token of his love and humour, Jez had slipped on The Prodigy.
“Correct. His wife has a face like thunder,” Eddie added. “Having them as neighbours, I know how they get!”
“Wives, eh?” Paul grinned winking at Debbie.
“Nothing but bitches, us!” Debbie grinned back as they all went back in to see what was happening.
A few people were sat down finishing off their drinks, even though it was plainly obvious that no one would die of thirst tonight. Plastic cups, paper plates and streamers were either discarded on tables, or lay defeated on the floor.
“Come on, DJ Billy-Big-Balls,” she said loudly, heavy with sarcasm. For a second Jez looked rattled, but then a little fiddling with the buttons on his computer-decks, and The Prodigy was replaced with Guns ‘N’ Roses singing ‘November Rain’. Paul was then wondering whether or not a song with an accompanying video depicting a tragic wedding to funeral story was a bad omen, when old Jez was suddenly on the dance floor swaying gently hip-to-hip with his wife; she was grinning wildly as Axl Rose was telling us how nothing lasts for ever, not even cold November rain. Paul felt Debbie’s arm slide around him, and saw Eddie swigging a shot of something, then catch his eye and nod the glass in a silent Cheers! He was certainly a good guy to have in your corner. Tony was impersonating Slash with his air guitar, and he spied his old work colleague Mike looking a little worse for wear, but still here, even though his teenage son, Conor had disappeared a week ago, or just left home, as most people concluded. Of course that was a story for another day.
Paul’s parents had left an hour earlier, with his father now unable to stay out anywhere late, another depressing mark of time; gone were the days when his father would drunkenly argue, “Just one more drink,” and they would laugh, the drink turning into two and a couple of long winded stories that people would gather around to hear.
His teenage cousin Tina was there frantically texting on her phone, her mum was in deep conversation with Debbie’s mum, who momentarily looked up and winked at the married couple.
This would be another of those snapshots that Paul would always remember, for so very many reasons. There was a semblance of relief that they had made it over the finishing line, and he took a moment to yawn then, squeezing his new bride was ready to whisk her off and ravish her naked body like many times before, but tonight would have an extra meaning.
Outside in the car park she sat alone, furious with the circus that this wedding had been. Tears spilled silently down her cheeks.
This should’ve been me, she thought hitting the steering wheel hard, her empty vodka bottle rolling around in the foot well.
She looked down at the picture of her and Paul together. Her dark exotic complexion complete with a sly little smile, wearing a small swimsuit that left nothing to the imagination, and Paul stood proud with his lighter skin tone turning red from the hot sun on their holiday.
This was the perfect couple. Not those two pretenders in there.
This ends here. If I can’t have him, then nobody can have him, she silently thought grinding her teeth.
She looked into the mirror at the little face in the child’s seat and said, “Don’t cry, Susie. Daddy will come home soon, he’s just being a silly man!” But it all got too much. She cried loudly and hysterically, unsure whether there was an ounce of truth behind the words.
Susie’s expression didn’t change and she remained completely silent.
The gun suddenly felt very heavy on her lap. It is amazing what some men will get their hands on for you.
As a child Jim wanted to be a truck driver – more specifically Kris Kristofferson in the movie ‘Convoy’, however somehow this never happened, nor did he ever smuggle moonshine in Hazzard County, find treasure with his buddies in the Goondocks, or hunt sharks on Amity Island. He did win ‘The Spirit Of Judo’ award as a seven-year-old, and have published his design of a ‘Dog-Walking Machine’ in an English text book at the age of ten; so every cloud and all of that…
Jim has had poems and articles published on a number of websites, and for eight years, was a weekly music reviewer for a popular music website where he got to meet bands and see free gigs.
Jim has published two books ‘Lost Connections’ and ‘The Place That Never Existed’, and had his short story, ‘The Moth In The Jar’ selected and published in the charity anthology ‘Dark Minds’.
Jim lives with his wife and three children in Swindon, Wiltshire, and is currently writing his next novel ‘A Cold Retreat’ (due out in summer 2017); and more than likely eating chocolate. And watching football.