This month SolQu Shorts are proud to host an excerpt from a debut novel we all love. It is written by Sam Lenton and is called ‘Accidental Crime’. So why not have a free read below and see what you think. Remember to leave a comment at the end and have a quick look at the video…
An excerpt from
by Sam Lenton
On the fourth day, Jarrod met Janine.
Janine: it was perfect – reassuringly working class with a tinge of Australian – with the oral comfort of a familiar opening letter sound. Jarrod and Janine. There was an almost song-like quality to the pairing. Poetic perfection.
Confusion over correspondence would be a daily delight. ‘J Bowman’ – was that Mr or Mrs? Distinguishing gender would be even more important than usual.
It began with a bagel, as no relationship Jarrod had ever read about before had begun, and, for now, there was little development beyond the bagel. Their hands hadn’t quite met but it was clear they were both reaching for the same goal, flavoured with a hint of cinnamon, and it was with this joint venture that initial eye-contact begun.
Jarrod could barely believe the words escaping his lips when he found himself apologising and offering sole custody of the bagel to the equally apologetic Janine. He became quite insistent as she threatened to weaken her stance, nudging the plate a little closer in a sacrificial gesture, whilst turning to the less-favourable alternative of a tuna sandwich that raised his lunch costs 50p higher than previously intended. If future promise held secure, it would surely be a price worth paying.
As Jarrod and Janine turned away, clutching their lunch with overbearing possessiveness, there was an unspoken assumption that they would seek out the same table and continue whatever it was that the bagel-battle had just begun. The canteen was unusually busy for a Thursday and the limited table options made sharing an even more likely outcome. Intent to show decisiveness, Jarrod strode confidently to the chair he would now have occupied three days in a row. Four days in and habits were already forming, routines being established, and there was a pleasant familiarity about the red plastic he had at first criticised heavily to the absent guests before him.
As he took his seat, Janine became the first real guest to his table.
‘Is it, is it OK if I sit here?’ she asked, avoiding his eyes. Before Jarrod could respond, the bagel had landed.
He briefly flirted with a line he’d been working on – Why ask what you’ve already answered – before settling for a gentlemanly demonstration of solidarity in shyness, gesturing towards the red plastic opposite as the word ‘please’ swiftly followed a nervous cough of preparation.
‘Busy today, isn’t it?’ Janine interjected, her eyes circling the room as if she doubted Jarrod would have noticed the crowds of colleagues surrounding their table for two.
His mind turned to Lawrence. He had brought him to lunch as usual and he was certain that it would not be appropriate to conceal him now simply because he had company. The Rainbow would be his trump card, a topic-shifter should one be needed, although he found himself wondering whether bringing a book out of his bag mid-conversation might be construed as a little rude, perhaps even a conversation-ender. It would surely be a risk worth taking if it provided just a little glimpse of recognition to skate across Janine’s active eyes. He would not force the moment but he would know it if it came and then The Rainbow would be given its time to shine.
‘Sorry, I don’t think we’ve met before. I’m Janine.’ She was reaching out her hand. The first opportunity for physical contact. Jarrod couldn’t remember if his hand was in an acceptable condition for this moment. He faintly remembered scratching his nose in the queue but was that with his left or his right hand? As he looked at the slender, nail-polish-less fingers hovering above his sandwich he knew that immediate response was important. Nose or no nose, he would have to take the risk. If all else failed, he could run. Running was always an option.
Their hands met. The first contact. In that moment, Jarrod pictured future hugs, long-familiar embraces, deep, sensual kisses, the all-enveloping celebration of flesh entwined, two unified as one, the glimmer of rings, the incessant screams of unwanted children, the decaying of frail, aging bodies, the funeral he would stagger through as a man defeated, heartbroken as the last whisper of life’s breath passed through his watery, wrinkled lips.
Or, perhaps that was it. One handshake, and a rather statesmen-like one at that, defining the everlasting boundaries of their relationship. Janine? Oh yes, she was someone he met at the canteen once. Works in reprographics. Talks funny. You know the sort. Nice girl though. Nice girl.
He did afford himself a glimmer of a stroke of the finger tips as their hands withdrew. It wouldn’t be enough to provoke uneasiness but at least it was something, a sensation to replay throughout the afternoon whilst his now-lonely fingers skipped across the already-tiresomely-familiar keyboard.
‘Have you worked here long?’ she inquired, continuing to fulfil the role of lead-questioner with a surprising confidence that defied the gentle blush that had arisen on her delicate cheeks.
‘Oh, er, no, no, not really,’ Jarrod responded, offering the occasional glance upwards at her steady stare while his fingers continued to grabble with the plastic encasing his tuna sandwich. ‘First week actually. Feels like my fiftieth, of course, but no, it’s just been four days so far. Well, three and a half. I guess this would be the fourth day. Yeah. But, you know. I don’t expect to be here long. Just a stepping stone and all that. Something to tide me over for now. I mean, no-one ever intends to stay somewhere like this do they? How long have you been here? A couple of weeks? Three perhaps?’
‘Five years, actually,’ she responded, before tucking into the bagel.
He hadn’t intended to contribute quite so many words in one go and Janine’s cheeks, bulging with the Bagel, provided welcome distraction and a chance to re-evaluate, to regain momentum with a carefully planned apology-cum-joke.
‘Five years too long, I bet!’
Janine flapped a hand in front of her mouth, as if fanning the food down her throat, eager to rejoin a conversation that had slipped precariously out of her control. Jarrod plunged his teeth into the tuna as she took a final swallow.
‘No, really, it isn’t that bad. I’ve loved it here. I still do. I know everyone. They know me. What’s not to like?’
That’s it. Happiness came from knowing and being known. It was so simple – and certainly worthy of being written down the moment a pen became available – and there was something almost Lawrencian in its profundity. It was surely time for The Rainbow.
‘Don’t you like it, then? Come on, who’ve you met? Oh, what about Dave? You must have met Dave. He’s hilarious. Have you seen that thing he does with his tie? Priceless.’
Lawrence slid back into the bag.
‘Dave? You mean David Gordon? Mr Gordon. Flash himself.’
‘Flash Gordon? I like it!’
She liked it. ‘It’ was close to ‘you’. They were both pronouns. Just a slight alteration and she’d be confessing her like – if not quite yet her love – for him.
‘Oh yeah, I know Dave. He’s been around a bit, has he?’
‘Oh, he’s been around a bit, if you know what I mean?’ she giggled, providing Jarrod with his first wink of the day. He had been about to embark on a feast of Lawrencian discourse and now here he was indulging in innuendo, gnawing on the latest gossip like a mischievous teenager. What exactly could Dave do with his tie?
‘Sorry, I’ve just realised I never asked your name.’ Her eyes glistened with anticipation. Perhaps Jarrod would be for her what Janine was for him. In one single word, the appropriate Proper noun, the name she had longed for would be uttered. Years of doodling the name ‘Jarrod’ in her diary would finally reach their fulfilment. Jarrod took a deep breath, coughed, and stepped into his future.
‘Um, it’s Jarrod. Jarrod Bowman.’
‘Jarrod?’ she pondered. ‘Mmm. Interesting.’
Interesting? Merely interesting?
‘Oh, nothing. I just thought you looked like a Simon, that’s all. But no, Jarrod suits you well. I can see it now.’
He looked like a Simon. Simon. Simon was her Jarrod. Well then, perhaps Janine wouldn’t be his Janine. He would need a new Janine. Perhaps a Margaret – no, that wouldn’t do – or a Kirsty. Yes, a Kirsty. Jarrod and Kirsty. Together in the alphabet, together in life. J and K. It was perfect. Goodbye Janine.
‘Jarrod? Jarrod, are you OK?’ she asked, noticing that a piece of Tuna was sliding its way gracefully onto his unshaven chin, whilst his eyes remained fixed on the unmoved coffee machine behind her.
‘Sorry?’ he finally responded, his eyes returning to hers as his fingers brushed aside his second choice lunch.
‘I didn’t mean to freak you out or anything. I’m usually good with names, that’s all. I really thought you looked like a Simon.’
‘Is that a good or a bad thing?’
It was worth finding out for sure.
‘What do you mean? A name’s a name. There are no bad names.’ She returned to her bagel, leaving Jarrod scrambling to find a name that would prove her wrong.
‘How about Sue?’
‘Yeah. Sue. That’s a pretty bad name.’
‘Sue? What’s wrong with Sue?’
‘Well, it’s no name for a boy is it?’
‘Who’d call a boy, Sue?’
‘It’s in that Johnny Cash song. ‘A boy named Sue’, or something like that. Got to admit that’s a pretty bad name for a boy.’
‘That doesn’t count. If it’s a good name for a girl then it’s fine.’
‘OK then. Forget Sue. How about Page?’
‘Page? Mmm. Yeah, that’s definitely a weirder one. Not that weird though. My friend Sally’s girl’s called Page. Page with an i though. Not like the page of a book.’
‘It’s crazy, isn’t it? You might as well call someone chapter or paragraph. Poor child.’
As she shook her head and took a further bite into the bagel he realised his moment had come. The perfect link. Page, paragraph, chapter. The obvious next stage was novel.
Lawrence’s moment had arrived.
He reached into his bag and brought out The Rainbow in one swift movement, placing it down before him with the title facing Janine’s alerted eyes. It would be important to make the link obvious. The threat of rudeness still lingered while the prospect of embarking on a reading session mid-conversation remained.
A precious look of familiarity, tinged with confusion, spread across her face, as the bagel slid down her throat, freeing her tongue to dispel any doubts scrambling around inside Jarrod’s anxious mind.
‘Oh. You’re reading Lawrence, are you?’
Then again, perhaps all this proved is that she could read the name on the cover, although her dropping of the D.H. was certainly promising.
‘Yes. Yes, I’ve been reading this one for a little while now. Usually finish them a bit quicker but, you know, with the new job and all that. So…do you know Lawrence at all?’
‘Oh, not really no. I mean, I know of him of course. And I read Sons and Lovers a few years back. I might have dipped into Women in Love but I can’t really remember to be honest.’ She picked up the book and examined the cover. ‘The Rainbow. Mmm. No, I don’t think I’ve read this one. What’s it like?’
Kirsty and Simon skipped hand-in-hand out of the room. A wry smile fell upon Jarrod’s face. The words consummation and communion embraced within the dustiest hallways of his subconscious. Dave could put his tie away. He knew nothing of the love, the fulfilment, the eternal union of two souls brought together under a common purpose of mutual desire, of agreement of body and soul, mind and matter, heart and head. The rain would dance off their golden bodies glinting in the moonlight, the sun would bathe their souls in everlasting warmth, the wind would whisk them away to shores yet unseen, to experiences yet imagined, to emotions yet explored. They would –
‘Jarrod? Jarrod? The book. What’s it like?’
He looked deep into her eyes.
‘What’s it like? Well, it’s very…Lawrencian, if you know what I mean,’ he responded at last, before adding with a slight swagger, ‘which of course you do’.
If you loved that excerpt and want to read more then why not check out Sam’s book in full
The novel Accidental Crime is out now on Amazon Kindle!
A paperback version is available to order from Sam’s website.
To read more sample chapters for free, please visit Sam’s blog.