This is the current chapter I have been working on for my new novel in the dark. It is about a female reporter who is going blind. She has been in an ”car accident” and will eventually go blind. I would love to have the perspective of anyone in that situation, so I do it justice. I also would love any thoughts on this piece on how I can improve this chapter. This is her first day in a new office where she is investigating the crash, and death of her husband (only Mike knows the real reason why she is there) The others think she is taking over as a food critic, filling in for someone else.
Before anyone else arrived, Mike shows me around the office. ‘Tony’s desk is four steps north east from the door. Barbara’s desk is seven steps to the west. My office is about seven steps straight ahead.’ Allowing space, his voice is in front of me. ‘Your desk is seven steps, south-east. The most important place in the office is a four steps ahead of us. Reach forward, and you will find mugs, coffee, biscuits and whatever you need.’
I’m okay without steps, but I appreciate the kindness. It will help me later, when I’m not able to get around without them. Mostly it’s my peripheral vision, rather than being completely dark.
I can get around, all be it carefully.
My vision is getting worse. This morning, as I went to make a cup of coffee, I spilled the grains on the counter top. They’re still there, scattered over the white like angry bees.
Getting up early, I took the extra time to walk to work. I cannot go in a car. Will not. I’m used to panic attacks, especially after Joe died. Mum and Dad made sure I got therapy. It helped – I suppose. There were many fears I didn’t share with my therapist.
Too weird to say out loud; like bullying myself into submission, where I couldn’t function or checking the door several times, sure I hadn’t locked it. Shame? Probably, at being too weak to change.
‘I have told Barbara and Tony you are here for six months, as a temporary fill in for Valerie.’
‘Do I need to give any money?’
It’s a stupid thing to ask – I’m not exactly working here on a permanent basis. I stop talking straight away, allow him to talk instead. He doesn’t seem surprised by my question though, and moves closer so I can see the imprint of his lips.
‘We tend to put in a couple of pounds each.’
It is like I’m starting a new job, rather than hiding in the eclipses of light. I reach inside my pocket for the change. The glare from the coins, and I am unable to see what I have in my palm. Grabbing a few, I hope they will be enough. It’s stupid to be upset over a few pieces of metal, but they are a reminder it will only get worse.
I’m not sure how I can live when everything around me is cheerless.
‘Is it okay if I walk around on my own for a bit?’
‘Yes, no worries, just call me if you need anything,’ Mike says.
I stop myself from yawning. My bedcovers are all over the place. I woke up in the early hours of the morning, wasn’t even sure what time, but it was still dark. Twisting and turning for a couple of hours I figured I could at least get on with finding out more about Bill Morrison’s lawyer.
Part of me thinks I should have gone to the police. Risking my own life wouldn’t be an issue. Risking my family’s life – isn’t going to happen. Surely they would be safer if the authorities were informed? Richard is right. If there are any corrupt officers in charge the risk could be doubled.
I rub at my temples, and my aggressive headache refuses to quit. I shouldn’t have spent so long on the computer, but at least I managed to find one name. William Bartholomew.
A high profile barrister from a high profile firm.
It’s what I expected, but some of the names he has defended have the money and power to do so. Yet the range of names, and it will be virtually impossible to trawl through all of them in one night.
Jack Simpson, embezzlement, and served no jail time because of a technicality; James Roberts, manslaughter, but got off with diminished responsibility. His first case, a young heiress, called Simona Thompson. She got off a drunk driving charge, where a young girl was knocked over and killed. Community service for a life wasn’t enough, but that’s exactly what she got.
A barrister for hire if there was enough money to pay him. Helen Sharpe, currently serving time for burglary with menaces; the sentence didn’t fit the crime.
My memory isn’t so good, and make a list in a word document. There are still parts of that night which are impenetrable. I should tell my doctor, and I will, when this is all over.
Bill Morrison, has a link with someone on my list, but I don’t know which one.
If I were in London, at least I could find out by going there, but it’s difficult to go long distances.
Getting in a car makes me feel claustrophobic.
On the third attempt, I am able to walk from my desk to Mike’s office without bumping into something. I am used to bruises on my shins. It isn’t as big as first thought, and the desks are spaced out evenly throughout the room. A large window covers most of the wall. The early morning light brightening the darkness.
As I sit at my desk, I familiarise myself with my temporary space.
It was totally different from my office at The Mail. It was always a busy hubbub of noise. Outside, ambulances, police cars, and the constant angry outbursts at another driver assaulted my ears.
St Ives certainly isn’t London. The window is open, but apart from the screech of a seagull. Nothing much. The streets are fairly empty, tourists no longer there for the summer.
Not that I can see much of the street below. It is like someone has put strips of black paper over my eyes. In a few months I will see nothing. My stomach aches, and I ignore the pain.
Graham had no business in my business. When he got home, he never took any work back. All I did was take my paperwork with me. Go out in the middle of the night to talk to an informant, who could have waited until the next day.
Maybe two lives could have been saved if I wasn’t so full of obsession?
‘Is everything okay?’ Mike asks.
A heady aroma of warm doughnuts take me out of my thoughts, and directly in the room. I’m not sure whether it is because my sight is diminished, or that I love doughnuts, but I turn around to face the smell.
‘Hi, you must be Sarah,’ she says.
I blink to rid myself of the glare. ‘Hi.’
‘Barbara,’ she says, her hand in mine within seconds. ‘I wasn’t sure whether you took sugar.’
‘Thanks Barbara, you didn’t have to.’ I accept the cardboard cup, and the warmth permeates through from her hands.
‘No problem, would you be tempted with a doughnut?’
A warm sensation to her voice, friendly. You should always look in the pages of a book to see the person underneath. A voice can be masked with a different emotion to what a person is actually feeling.
I had forgotten to eat breakfast yet again. ‘You don’t have to go to all that trouble.’
‘I can’t be the only overweight one here. It’s my evil plan.’
I hint of a grin hits my lips, but instantly it goes again. What right have I to be happy?
‘I’ll take the jam doughnut,’ Mike says.
‘You’re not eating all of them,’ she says, sounding like an old headmistress.
‘As if I would. Barbara, Tony should be here soon . . . no doubt will introduce himself to Sarah when he gets in.’
Mike walks away, and I wind my fingers round the cosy cardboard and take a sip.
‘Tony comes across as a tough guy, but he’ll be fine once you get to know him,’ Barbara says.
‘This isn’t the first office I’ve worked in; I’ll be fine.’
‘Do you know what, I reckon you will,’ she says. ‘He was reporting on a match last night, probably won’t be in for a few hours anyway.’
‘So, what do you report on?’
‘Local issues, like potholes, elections, and the tourist trade – things like that. We don’t really get a lot of crime in St Ives.’
‘No . . .’
‘There’s always something to keep me busy. Tony will let you think he’s the only reason the paper is kept going – he reports on all the sports events. He recently lost his husband, not that he will like anyone knowing. It might give you an idea why he can appear rude. Mike will always do some reporting too. I’ll imagine it’s vastly different to what you’re used to.’
Even though Barbara seems like a lovely woman, I don’t want to reveal my grief Tony’s grief is his own personal demon, and I fight mine every day. It is worse when I am on my own. A film, heard on the television, or a song on the radio, it is as though I have been told for the first time. If Tony is going through the same thing, then I need to give him time to adapt.
‘It’s a good thing – I like to be kept busy.’
‘I’d better go, Mike’s not a hard taskmaster, but I need to get on with my story, we’ll catch up later.’
‘That would be great, it was nice meeting you.’
Sitting at my desk, I hope my taste buds allow me to savour the flavours. Food is all the same just lately. Pleasantly surprised, it is silky on my tongue. The warm jam slides down my throat. The caramel coffee is a nice addition to my morning.
I sit on the chair, adjusting it, so that I’m comfortable.
La Fontana, and It has to look like I am doing the job I was employed to do. Mike hasn’t told Barbara or Tony why I am really here. My visual impairment isn’t something I can get away with, so we’ve gone with the story that it is an inherited condition.
Even though it is all shadow, Tony’s presence is clear.’
‘Hello – my – name – is – Tony,’ he says, spreading out his words like thick treacle.
‘I’m not blind yet,’ I think, but remember Barbara’s words. I stand up and hold my hand out to shake. ‘Sarah, and I’m assuming you’re Tony.’
‘So you’re replacing Valerie?’
‘Only temporarily,’ I say.
‘Just be careful of that chair, it might collapse from all her weight.’
Tony obviously thought he was funny and laughs loudly at his own joke.
‘Leave the poor girl be,’ Barbara says.
‘She’s alright, where’s Mike then? I’m a little late, but I was in an important interview with the manager of the St Ives Mariners. Good chat we had, but I need to let the boss know.’
‘He’s in his office.’
‘What sort of mood is he in?’
‘Let’s put it this way you might need that doughnut and coffee I’ve left on your desk.’
Without saying goodbye, Tony’s mumbled groans imploded as he strode towards the light at the end of the room.
‘Sorry, he just hasn’t had his morning coffee yet. He’s always a bit grumpy without caffeine.’
I can’t help but laugh.
Raised voices from Mike’s office tells me he wasn’t convinced about the story Tony was weaving.
Once Barbara leaves, I resume my search on the computer. Opening the window to full size I search online for La Fontana. Earphones in, I decide to make this as genuine as I can. The food sounds so inviting. The description of the dishes would normally make my mouth water.
I pick up the last of my doughnut, and eat it in one bite.
‘Everything okay?’ Mike asks, his hand in contact with her shoulder.
I take my earphones out, and turn to face his voice.
‘Sorry, didn’t hear you at first. La Fontana, my first restaurant choice.’
He gives an approving nod. ‘Good choice.’
I shrug my shoulders back. ‘You said you go to print on a Thursday.’
‘If you want me to put it in this week’s edition, you’ll need to send it to me by next Monday.’
For anyone listening in, they would believe I was only here to do a food review. I make a mental note of calling Jodie for some tips. If this is to be believed I need to write a great article.
‘I’ll book a table for tomorrow night. It shouldn’t take long to write my story. I’ll send a copy via email. Print one off for you too.’
‘Good to hear,’ Mike said and left her once more.
Once Mike’s footsteps stop, I return to my screen. Turning on the voice software, I listen more than I see. I take some paracetamol out of my bag, and take two. Searching on Google, finding out as much as I can about the location of the restaurant and its owners.
I wonder if they’re aware of what is happening outside their restaurant?
Finding their email, I ask about the facilities for the disabled. I tell them I am new to the area. They reply quickly. I am welcome, to visit anytime as appointments were unnecessary. They would always be able to cater for any member of the public.
They even send a voucher with their kind regards.
Barbara proves to be a kindred spirit – full of gossip and good advice. She even offers, with her bosses approval, to join Sarah on her first review. ‘It would help us bond together. Over good food hopefully.’
‘On the firms time and money, no doubt,’ Tony said.
Sarah held her nerve as the air became thick with accusation. ‘Thank you, but I’ll be fine on my own. The restaurant have kindly given me a voucher. Maybe another time Barbara.’
‘Cool, maybe we could have a drink one night, get to know each other then,’ Barbara said.
‘I’ll be up for that,’ Tony says, his tone thawing a little.
I want to accept, but I haven’t the time to be social.
‘Thank you for the offer, but I’ve got so much to do at home,’ I say.
‘Too good for the likes of us little folk,’ Tony says, as his shoes shuffle against the carpet.