Here's a short extract from my debut novel The Magic Touch. Hope you enjoy it.
Is Harry having an affair, or is it all in Emma's head?
‘They’re in the garden,’ Caroline calls out from the sink. ‘Mas is having a sneaky fag.’ She stares out of the window. I didn’t think Mas had arrived yet. Caroline said he had some paperwork to do. ‘Thinks he can sneak in from the side entrance and hide behind the shed without me seeing him, the rat.’
Demi and I peer over her shoulder, she clutching her mobile phone and I all the cutlery, inhaling an infusion of Caroline’s spicy perfume and the aroma of kleftiko, which is resting in a pan on the cooling rack next to the sink. Harry is leaning against the shed, Mas semi-hiding behind him in a cloud of smoke. I wonder what they’re talking about.
‘I’ll go and ask him.’ Demi makes for the kitchen door.
‘No, wait.’ I hand her the cutlery. ‘You finish laying the table. I’ll go.’ She snatches the knives and forks from my hand and disappears around the door, all the while ranting on about her mother’s inadequacies.
I dodge the overgrown trees as I make my way towards the rear of the hundred-and-fifty-foot garden. They’re so engrossed in conversation, they don’t see me approaching from behind the fig tree.
‘Yes, but you know what she’s like,’ Harry sighs. ‘What will I do if …’
‘Just relax, Harry, yeah? It’s going to be fine. Why do you worry so much?’ Harry’s staring at his feet worriedly, hands on hips.
‘Stop stressing, for ****'* sake.’ Mas grabs Harry’s shoulder firmly, reassuringly. ‘It’ll be fine. I promise. I’ll look after you. OK?’ Silence. ‘OK!’ Harry covers his brother’s hand with his and nods.
‘What will be fine?’ I ask brightly, appearing from behind the fig tree like an apparition, arms folded.
Harry and Mas exchange a quick, sharp glance. ‘Nothing, babe,’ Harry takes a step towards me, his smile not quite reaching his eyes.
‘It’s just about work.’ He pulls me into the warmth of his arms.
‘Loves young dream,’ Mas says with a good dollop of sarcasm as Harry wraps his arm around my shoulders and drops a kiss on my head.
‘Really?’ I raise my eyebrows quizzically, stiff in Harry’s embrace. ‘Only it sounded quite serious to me.’
‘That’s because you’re a woman.’ Mas stamps out his cigarette with the sole of his brown cowboy boot, blowing smoke from his mouth, his nose. I narrow my eyes at him. ‘You women always misconstrue everything.’ I look at him expectantly. He’s not going to get away with it that easily and he knows it. ‘Calm down, Emma, will you? We’ve got Environmental Health coming in next week, that’s all.’ He scratches his bristly cheek then pushes back his greying, long, greasy hair with one swoop of his large hand. ‘They’re always meticulous, you know that. Remember what happened the last time we had them round.’ I do – he had to close the restaurant to carry out the repairs. We felt the ache in our pockets and that was only for a week.
Mas laughs, giving Harry a playful punch on the arm. ‘Harry’s got the heebie-jeebies over it, thinks they’ll stitch us up.’
‘Stitch you up how?’ I chew the inside of my lip, my eyes not leaving Mas.
‘Nit-pick.’ Our eyes lock as he readjusts the collar of his denim jacket. ‘Make us spend thousands on repairs.’
‘And?’ I ask confrontationally, wrapping my cardigan around me tightly, blocking out the cold wind that’s been dancing on my bare chest. I knew I should’ve worn my sweater instead of this flimsy, drape-neck top. What was I thinking? Harry, clearly sensing that we’re about to lock horns, jumps into diffuse the tension.
If Mas has to lay off staff to cover costs we might lose our jobs, babe. And then where would we be? How would we pay the mortgage?’ I twist my lips as my eyes flit between them. Losing our jobs at the restaurant doesn’t bear thinking about. But they’re lying. I’m sure of it.
‘I’ve told him not to be so stupid,’ Mas cuts in quickly, ‘he won’t lose his job, no matter what. Family comes first. Ain’t that right, bro?’ He pulls Harry from me and into his arms, and they hug like a scene from The Godfather. Then before I can question them further Demi appears at my side. Annoyed.
‘Emma!?’ I give her a puzzled look. ‘The charger?’
I forgot all about that. ‘Oh yes, sorry, Demi,’ I lay a hand on her arm, ‘we just got carried away.’
‘Well?’ She looks at Harry expectantly.
‘The charger? Did you bring it with you?’
As we walk towards the house, Mas engages me in conversation about the restaurant, boasting about how busy they are, how he’s thinking of taking on more staff if Harry can’t do the extra shifts, while Harry explains to a very disgruntled Demi that he left his charger at home.
‘Oh, Dad, can you go and fetch my charger for me?’
‘Sure, hun, but after lunch, yeah? I’m starving.’ Mas reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out his phone. ‘Here, you can borrow mine for now, it’s fully charged.’
‘Noooo, Dad, your Motorola screen is way too small,’ she retorts, making to walk off.
Harry snatches her by the arm. ‘Here, Dem.’ He unlocks his phone and my eyes twitch as Alistair’s Scrabble move BKDACODE dances before my eyes. ‘You can use mine.’ He grins, handing Demi his handset.
I hadn’t thought any more about breaking into Harry’s phone since Alistair’s brainwave last Tuesday. Particularly as Ola had managed to more or less convince me that a password is prudent, that everyone she knows has one, including John, and that I should stop being so negative and suspicious all the time and concentrate on the positives in my relationship instead of trying to destroy it. But the conversation I just overheard between Mas and Harry has set my mind ticking like a time bomb.
‘Oh, sick! Thanks, Uncle Harry. You’re a lifesaver.’ Harry puts his arm around her shoulders and she leans into him as Andreas appears at the door hollering that lunch is ready. I can’t believe how quickly that boy has grown. Just a few years ago I was taking him to the cinema, and now here he is – a six-foot man with a forty-inch chest, dark curls sweeping his shoulders, and a long beard, which Caroline tells me he softens with conditioner.
We all shuffle inside to the ruckus of Mas grabbing a hold of Caroline and planting a loud, sloppy kiss on her lips, Demi gagging at the sight of them and shouting ‘gross’, and Andreas and Harry chatting enthusiastically about Oxford. I follow behind them, arms folded, head down, wondering how long it will be before Demi tires of playing Candy Crush on Harry’s unlocked phone?
THE MAGIC TOUCH is available to download from the following online retailers:
It's also available in paperback from Amazon and Muswell Hill Bookshop