The man she presumed to be Kid spoke in a voice that sounded as though it had been dried hoarse by the Australian sun. His face was like tanned leather and covered in fine wrinkles, testament to an outdoor life. He held his hat in his hands, exposing a head covered with short-cropped steel-grey hair. His legs were slightly bowed, as though he spent more time in the saddle than on his feet. He looked uncomfortable in his ill-fitting dark suit. Elizabeth wondered if it had been borrowed for the occasion. He didn’t look like a wealthy man. Her father must have got it wrong.
And here's our first meeting with a young Jack Brennan in my latest (unfinished) novel, Cynara's Shadow:
The porridge was burnt again. Mary always left it bubbling on the stove in unspoken criticism of the late risers. It was Cecily who’d made Jack late this morning. He’d been huddled under the blanket, putting off the inevitability of rising on a morning that had frosted the window panes so heavily the room was still dark. She’d found his notebook under the mattress and read bits out in a mocking tone, until he managed to wrest it from her grip. He wasn’t ashamed of what he’d written. It was just that it sounded feeble when read out loud by a younger sister, eager to gain some leverage in the constant sibling rivalry that characterised their home. He had nothing to bargain with, other than brute force - a brief Chinese burn should keep her in her place, without occasioning real damage.
‘You’re both late,’ said Jack’s father, wiping his hand across his mouth to remove any traces of porridge that might have adhered to his moustache. ‘And what was all that thumping and banging I heard? You been fighting again? If you were, I’ll leather you.’
There was an unspoken code that you didn’t tittle tattle on each other, but Cecily had always struggled with it. Jack threw her a look, to warn her to say nothing.
‘Our Jack wants to go for the Queen’s Scholarship.’ She looked at him slyly.
‘Shut it’ he mumbled.
Maybe that Chinese burn had been too painful – or more likely not hard enough to dissuade her from snitching on him.
‘And he’s been writing poems. He’s got a little book he keeps stuffed under the mattress. Daft poems about nature and dreams.’
Jack cursed his own stupidity in thinking any place in this cramped and overcrowded house would be safe from prying eyes and twitching fingers. He should have left the notebook in the cupboard at school.
Extracts from A Greater World and from Cynara's Shadow, due to be published later in 2015. To be notified of publication sign up here
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