On this gorgeously sunny Thursday I’m pleased to share with you a chapter of John Harvey’s Body & Soul. I seem to be on a right role at the moment and I’m owing Catriona for that. So thank you lovely I seem to have my mojo back.
The house was at the edge of the village, the last in a row of stubby stone-built cottages backing onto elds which led down to the sea. Elder pulled the front door rmly closed, edged his coat collar up against the wind and, with a last look at his watch, set out on the path that would take him across open country to the headland. Up ahead, the sky was slowly darken- ing, scudded with cloud. The ground became increasingly stony and uneven underfoot, the elds giving way to granite cli s. Rabbits ran, startled, helter skelter as he passed. A little way out, a small shing boat wavered on the tide. Gulls wheeled overhead.
At the headland, he stopped and turned, looking back. Above the village, the road on which she would come curved steeply between the high moor and the elds beneath, a scrim- mage of rock and stone, rough bushes of heather and gorse. The lights of cars, soft, as in a mist.
How long since he’d seen her? Katherine. His daughter. A degree ceremony that had turned sour when, misjudging the moment, he’d been unable to nd the right words. Since then there’d been phone calls, his mostly, and mostly lled with protracted silences, terse answers, laboured sighs. His occa- sional emails went largely unacknowledged, as did his even more occasional texts. What did he expect? Twenty-three, ris- ing twenty-four, she had a life of her own.
Then, out of the blue: ‘I thought I might come down for a bit. If it’s okay. Just – you know – a few days. A bit of a break, that’s all.’
‘Yes, yes, of course, but . . .’
‘And no questions, Dad, okay? Interrogation. Or I’m on the rst train back home.’
He’d realised, after she’d rung o , he no longer knew for certain where her home was.
When he’d said he’d drive in and meet her at the station, she’d said there was no need, she’d catch the bus. Lengthening his stride, he was in time to see its headlights as it rounded the hill; time to see her step down and walk towards him – ankle boots, padded jacket, jeans, rucksack on her back – uncertainty ickering in her eyes even as she summoned up a smile.
‘Kate . . . It’s good to see you.’
When she reached out her hands towards his, he struggled not to stare at the bandages on her wrists.
At the cottage he pulled open the door and stepped aside and, ducking her head, she walked in past him, shrugging o her rucksack and jacket almost in one.
‘Just dump stu anywhere for now. You can take it upstairs later.’
Katherine stooped to unlace her boots and handed them over for him to set alongside his own, beneath the barometer in the hall.
Tea? Coffee? There’s juice if you’d rather. Orange or . . .’ ‘Tea’s ne. But rst I need to pee.’
He pointed her through the kitchen to the bathroom, filled the kettle at the tap and set it to boil. Did she look any di er- ent? Her face, certainly; thinner, cheekbones more prominent, almost gaunt. And she’d lost weight. At least, so he thought. It wasn’t easy to tell. Tall like her mother, she’d always been slender, long-limbed and slim. Distance, that’s what you should be concentrating on, the coach at her athletic club used to say. The five thousand, maybe even the ten. You’ve got the build for it, not this four-hundred lark.
She hadn’t listened to him either.
‘I thought we’d get something out tonight,’ Elder said. ‘’Stead of eating here. If that’s all right.’
The living room was small: a single easy chair, co ee table, TV, two-seater settee. Katherine held her mug in both hands, dark lines around her eyes. Outside it was all but black, the evening closing steadily in.
‘That’s fine. Just let me crash for an hour first. It’s been a long day.’
‘As long as you’re sure.’
‘Dad, I said it’s ne, okay?’
Fine. Not so many years ago it would have been accompanied by a rolling of the eyes.
The pub was further along the coast, sprawling, low-ceilinged, the car park all but full. Elder found them a table in a side room, hunched up against the wall.
‘Music night,’ he explained, nodding in the direction of the doors leading to the lounge bar. ‘Gets busy. We could go in later, have a listen.’
‘What kind of music?’ ‘Jazz, I think.’
‘You don’t even like jazz.’
Elder shrugged and opened the menu. Hake; corn-fed chicken breast; goat’s cheese tart; scampi; rump of beef.
‘You still veggie?’
Katherine answered him by ordering the beef. Wearing the same skinny jeans she’d travelled in, she’d changed into a red turtleneck top with long sleeves, the bandages only showing when she moved her hands towards her plate. He still hadn’t asked.
‘So where exactly are you living now?’
Elder nodded. East London. He had been stationed near
there for a while in his early days in the Met. Stoke Newing- ton, Borough of Hackney. He imagined it had changed a great deal.
‘So, what? You’re in a at?’
‘Flat share, yes. Ex-council. Nice. Not one of those tower blocks.’
‘You should let me have your address.’
‘Don’t suppose I’ll be there that long.’
Whenever the doors to the main bar opened, music drifted
out. Trumpet and saxophone. Applause. A woman’s voice. ‘Still working in the same place?’ Elder asked.
Katherine shook her head. ‘Got laid o . Ages ago now.’ ‘I didn’t know.’
She shrugged, looked down at her plate.
‘You’re managing okay, though? Rent and that?’ ‘S’okay. Mum helps out occasionally.’
‘She didn’t tell you?’ ‘No.’
If she’d asked him, he couldn’t have told her the last time he and Joanne had spoken. Around the time of Katherine’s birth- day most probably, but that was months ago and since then . . . He had his life, such as it was, and she had hers.
Main courses nished, they were contemplating desserts when a woman on her way through from the lounge bar stopped at their table, a hand on Elder’s shoulder. Black dress, pumps, serious hair.
‘Frank. Didn’t know you were in tonight.’
Elder turned, half rose, some small embarrassment on his face. ‘Vicki, hi. This is my daughter, Katherine. Katherine – Vicki. Vicki sings with the band.’
Katherine squeezed out a smile.
‘Kate’s staying with me for a few days.’
‘That’s nice.’ Vicki took a step away. ‘You’ll pop in? Second
set’s just starting.’
‘Wouldn’t miss it.’
When he sat back down, there was no mistaking the grin on
Katherine’s face. ‘What?’
The band were playing ‘Bag’s Groove’, the trumpeter soloing, eyes tightly closed, while the alto player stood listening intently, bell of his saxophone cupped in both hands. Piano, bass and drums. Elder led Katherine to a couple of empty seats down near the side of the makeshift stage.
When the number nished and the applause faded, the trumpeter leaned towards the microphone. ‘Ladies and gentle- men, the pride of the Penwith Peninsula, Vicki Parsons.’
Her voice was deep and full, smoky round the edges. She moved her body as she sang, feet planted rmly, one hand fast around the mike stand, the other hanging free. ‘Honeysuckle
Rose’ was slow and lazy, hips swaying; ‘Route 66’ swung hard. ‘Can’t We be Friends’ was knowing and, with a quick glance in Elder’s direction, playful. For an encore there was a rolling, bluesy ‘Tain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do’.
‘Well,’ Katherine said when it was over. ‘Hands full there, I dare say.’
Clouds crossed the moon where it hung low over Zennor Hill. A bird shifted in the trees at the end of the lane and something scuttled past them in the dark.
Katherine shuddered. ‘At least in Dalston if someone’s out to mug you, you can see them coming.’
‘I think you’re safe here.’
He reached out a hand but she was already turning away. No
need to read the expression in her eyes. One thing she’d learned the hard way, he knew, there was no such thing as safety. Anywhere.
The interior of the cottage struck cold. ‘You want anything before you go up?’ ‘I’m good, thanks.’
‘Sleep well, then.’
‘You, too.’ Partway up the stairs, she paused. ‘If I hadn’t been here, would she have come back?’
‘Unless you’ve got someone else.’
‘Maybe. Not necessarily, no.’
‘I’m sorry if I’m getting in the way of your love life.’ ‘You’re not.’
He made tea, sat and watched the news on TV, sound turned low. It had started suddenly, as these things were wont to, an after-hours party, a lock-in at the pub; too much alcohol and, in Vicki’s case, a little weed; when she brushed up against him the third time in thirty minutes he read it for what it was. They progressed awkwardly from the side wall of the pub to the front seat of her car and from there to the king-sized bed in her at in Marazion, a view out through the window next morning across the tideline to St Michael’s Mount. That had been – what? – six months or so ago, and Elder was beginning to wonder if the spark, the sense of anticipation that had passed between them, was already in danger of fading.
Can’t we be friends, indeed.
He woke up on the settee with a start. A little after half past two. Switched o the TV. Turned the key in the front door.
Quietly climbing the stairs, he hesitated outside the second bedroom; after a few moments, eased open the door. The cur- tains had been left undrawn. Katherine lay on her side, ngers of one hand clutching a length of her hair, holding it close towards one corner of her mouth. A gesture from childhood. The other hand was wrapped around an end of the sheet where she had gathered it fast. Her breathing was even, her shoulder bare. Elder stood watching her for a while longer, then went to his room, climbed into bed and fell, immediately, fast asleep.
If that chapter has you wanting more then you can purchase it via https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B074BTTDJ8/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524149372&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=body+and+soul+harvey also make sure you check out the rest of the blog tour thank you Anne once again for hosting a fab tour.