This morning, when I desperately needed a nap, my lovely two-under-two wouldn’t sleep at the same time, and now that I’ve finally woken up they’re sleeping like angels.
So I’ve taken to chapter one, considering all this…
… excellent feedback from The Other Writers’ Group. Many thanks to them. (Though I don’t think any of them would have stumbled across this blog, but just in case.)
I think/hope that the opening is now ready for querying.
In all its slightly corny glory, here it is:
The Icing on the Cake
Sun Geary didn’t go to many parties, and this one had been disappointing. She paused in the kitchen on her way out. There it was, her masterpiece, a cake in the shape of an aeroplane. She wondered how they would cut this marvel atop it’s clouds of meringue.
But she wasn’t going to hang around to find out.
She’d never expected a fantastic evening, and it hadn’t been so bad. But then someone remembered the rugby was on, and someone else turned up the volume, and someone else spread the word, “Quick, or you’ll miss the Haka.”
Rugby inspired something akin to patriotism in this corner of the world. Conversations ceased, someone muted the music, and all attention turned to the television.
She slipped out the back door and took a long, deep breath of fragrant evening air, of cut grass, barbecue smoke and daphne – a whole bush of it overflowed onto the steps.
The all-too-familiar tones of sports commentators wafted out after her. Sun sighed and went down the stairs, then saw her car, parked in by half a dozen other cars.
She’d arrived early and driven up to the house – a weatherboard bungalow, bursting with character on the outside and pizza boxes on the inside. She had a cake to deliver. Driving in had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now she was stuck.
Without starting a riot, she had two choices: She could wait till half time and then ask people to move their cars. Or she could pick up her car tomorrow, and find some other way home.
She sat down on the steps. She certainly wasn’t going back inside. Not yet.
Someone opened the door. She turned, hoping it wasn’t her ‘date’, Ricky. What had Maria been thinking, setting her up with a rugby-nut? Maria was a perfectly nice person, but not a close friend. She had, no doubt, been trying to make up for asking Sun to make a cake, and then inviting her to the party as a sort of polite after-thought.
Sun wouldn’t have minded not being invited. She’d only agreed to stay out of a misguided sense of guilt at having no social life. She’d agreed to being set up on a date for similar reasons. Bad reasons.
But it was not Ricky joining her outside. It was another guy. A better looking guy; his broad shoulders filled out his shirt, tanned and taut biceps half-hidden by the sleeves. And he wasn’t watching the rugby.
Better and better.
He sighed heavily before he saw her, then smiled by way of greeting and sat down a couple of steps up from her, on the other side of the stairs. “Nice night.”
She nodded and looked up at the sky. You could see a fair number of stars, despite the city lights. And it was warm for Christchurch in March. She was only wearing a light cotton cardigan over her t-shirt, and sandals under her jeans. He had faded red flip flops on under his jeans and no jacket. In fact he looked rather like the type of guy who would be inside, watching the game closely, protesting the referee’s calls. “You’re missing the game.” She couldn’t resist.
He shrugged. “So are you.”
“I’ve never ‘missed’ a rugby game in my life.”
He laughed. “I’m Scott.”
“Sun,” She held out her hand. He took firm hold of her hand in his larger one. His skin was warm and dry. His shake suggested restrained strength, harnessed power.
The connection was too brief.
“So, how do you know Maria and Jeff?” Sun asked.
“Jeff’s my brother.”
“Maria and I went to school together.” She volunteered her own answer to the question.
“You kept in touch? Nice.”
She shrugged, “We catch up every now and then. I’m mainly here because I made the cake.”
“Seriously?” He leaned forward, “That cake is amazing.” He shook his head, “It looks incredible. I don’t think anyone will want to cut it.”
“They’d better. There’s a berry-drenched mud cake in there.”
His eyes were wide – impressed. “You’re not staying to try some?”
“I ate far too much of the practice run.”
He looked her up and down, clearly mystified as to how she looked the way she did, after indulging in all that cake.
She felt self-conscious, and flattered all at once. “I usually throw a lot of it away. The plain cakes don’t hold much appeal anymore – I mean plain as in boring, not plane as in aeroplane. This is the first aeroplane. But the plain flavours – I don’t mind throwing them away. Anything with berries, though, and I can’t resist.”
“So that’s what you do – for a job?”
She nodded and fished in her pocket, pulling out a polka-dot card-holder. Inside she kept a couple of business cards, along with the usual essentials: cash, her bank card, driver’s license, and some not-so-essentials: a photo of her mother, and a note from Carly which read, “Just say yes.”
She passed him a business card.
“You have your own business? That is great. Very brave.”
She smiled, “It’s pretty new, but going okay so far. I just moved into a shop, with a proper commercial kitchen. Life is going to get a whole lot easier.”
“I bet.” He pocketed the card.
“What do you do?” Sun leaned back on the banister and stretched her legs out on the step, crossing her feet at the ankles. Waiting till half-time was becoming a much brighter prospect.
“You don’t recognize-” He stopped himself, surprised, then relaxed, pleased about something, and let his shoulders drop, “Oh.” He reclined against the banister and stretched his legs out on the step, his expression turning to mischief.
She looked quizzical, watched him, waited for him to finish what he’d been about to say.
He did not oblige.
“Have we met before? I don’t see a whole lot of this crowd,” Sun nodded toward the house, “It must have been a while ago; I’m sorry. I don’t recall.”
“No,” he shook his head, “We haven’t met.”
“Then why would I recognize you?”
He hesitated, began to speak several times, and bailed from every attempt.
“What?” She laughed at his sudden inability to complete a sentence. “Are you famous or something?”
He smiled and looked away. Busted.
“Seriously?” She watched him, looking for some familiar feature. “Are you on television or something?”
“Ah, not really, well, sometimes, but – never mind.”
“Oh, come on. You’ve got to tell me now.”
He looked at her again, his expression pure mischief, “I don’t know. It’s kind of cool that you don’t know.”
“Is it something embarrassing? Are you on an advertisement for something?” Probably for the Ab-Pro or similar, she’d guess if pushed.
He laughed, “Let’s talk about something else.”
“All right.” She crossed her arms, “What do you do for a living?”
He shook his head. “Nice try. Subtle.”
She sighed and decided to change the subject, hoping he’d let his guard down and maybe, later, let his identity slip. “So, is Jeff your big brother or little brother.”
“He’s the youngest – and off to see the world.” He shook his head, “A fast way to make me feel ancient.”
“Have you travelled?”
“Not in the conventional sense.” He said.
“Yeah, me neither. Not like most New Zealanders, off to the UK, to serve pints and drink pints and all that.”
He laughed, “That about sums it up, doesn’t it.”
“Didn’t appeal much. I went to Hong Kong – shopped and ate, and realised that I’m not as Chinese as I look.”
He seemed interested so she went on.
“My grandmother was Hong Kong Chinese, which makes me a quarter. Feels like more when I’m here, but over there I felt like a total Kiwi.”
“I like Hong Kong. Except for the heat.”
“A couple of times.”
“For work?” This might do it – give him the opening he needed to accidentally tell her what he did for a living, what he was famous for.
He nodded, smiling, clearly on to her.
“Big clue.” She uncrossed her legs and then crossed them the other way.
“So,” He began, a little awkwardly, either because he was trying to change the topic, or because he wanted to say something that made him nervous. He’d definitely looked at her legs just then.
She hoped he was trying to say something that made him nervous. She hoped he’d go right ahead.
“Are you here with anyone tonight?” He finally spoke.
She looked toward the house, “Sort of.” She sighed, “I was set up.”
“Not at all.”
He laughed, “Did I catch you escaping?”
“Unsuccessfully. That’s my car.” She pointed to her tiny red hatchback.
“What’s your plan now?”
“Wait till half-time, I guess. Try to make all these people move their cars.”
“I can give you a lift if you like. My car is on the road.”
She hesitated. He seemed nice, but in reality he was a virtual stranger. And he’d probably been drinking. It was a party after all.
“Don’t worry. I haven’t had a drop.” He said in response to her silence.
“You don’t drink?” It seemed unlikely he’d have refrained otherwise.
“I’m on medication that doesn’t play nicely with alcohol.”
She nodded, wondering if it was something serious, but knowing she didn’t have any right to ask. “All right then.” She stood and then rather indulgently watched him stand. He moved so smoothly, with easy strength. That shirt really did fit him rather well. So did the jeans. But it was his arms that held her attention; long lines of toned muscle under lightly bronzed skin, peppered with blond hairs and a few freckles; she resisted the urge to reach out.
They walked down the driveway toward the road.
She paused after a few steps, “Wait, don’t you want to stay, though? I mean, he’s your brother.”
“I’ll see them again. We’re having a family thing next week.”
“Oh.” She kept walking. “Rugby doesn’t hold much appeal for you then?”
“Maybe something else is more appealing.” He had a cheeky smile on his face but wasn’t quite brave enough to look her in the eye as he spoke.
She stared at him, surprised at his frankness. “You followed me out?”
“No. I wanted some air.” He didn’t look so cheeky now. Something was bothering him, but he hid it well. “Just lucky, I guess.”
“I feel bad for pulling you away.”
“I’m probably doing the pulling. I’m only disappointed that I won’t get to try your cake.”
“I can probably rustle up something at home. Call it cab fare.” She surprised herself. She was not usually so forward. She hoped he wouldn’t read too much into the offer.
“Oh, I have an early start tomorrow. I’d better not.”
She was impressed and ever-so-slightly offended. He didn’t want to stay over, or at least, he didn’t intend to. Not that she’d actually been offering, but she couldn’t blame him for assuming she was. “I actually meant cake.” She clarified. “Just cake.”
“No, that was my fault. I speak before I think and then I hear what I say and realise… anyway.” She rambled, hoping he’d believe her.
“Cake would be great.”