hi, here are the opening 700 words of A Simple Mistake, book three in the Dorset Chronicles series:
It was a simple mistake to make. He had thought it
Wednesday when it was only Tuesday.
But it had enormous consequences.
Thomas went to Bagber Manor, as he did every Wednesday
and Sunday, for church. He went the normal way; across the
bridge he had helped to build and which had been his
introduction to the building profession. He always crossed it
with a mixture of pleasure and pride. Then along the southern
bank for a few hundred yards, right at the mill, and up the track
that followed the Stour to the Divelish. He crossed this
tributary where the road dipped under the water and went
across the fields to the trees, following the Divelish all the way.
He had seen that stream in every mode from raging torrent to
sleepy trickle but that day it was somewhere in between, with
lazy loops of water in slow but constant motion, as if searching
for their essence or their character; for how they would be that
He knew every inch of the route for he was a frequent visitor,
especially now that he was walking out with Amelia Taylor.
He thought of her long and often, wondering what she was
doing that moment and how she would react to a particular
topic running through his mind. He saw things through her
eyes, knew she did the same. It was as if they were an elderly
couple celebrating a life spent in each other’s company.
Sometimes, like today, he held conversations with her as he
walked. Mostly, these were confined to his head but that
evening he spoke out loud, as befitted the glorious April day
with new growth everywhere; plants stacking up to blossom in
a few short weeks.
He stopped abruptly when she answered his chatter. It was
her voice, for certain, although the words were muffled. It came
from the trees ahead, just where the stream bent to the south
and a large flat stone made a natural point to sit and dangle feet
into the water below. Her voice was as well-known to him as
his own breathing patterns. He made to talk, then stopped
again; she was not answering him but another and her voice
was light and playful. Then he heard her words, as if delayed
by lingering a while in the new leaves on the oak and ash and
blackthorn above and around:
Let me scratch your back if it itches so, my dear.
The words sent a shaft into his heart.
He edged forwards to the rock ledge, obscured from view by
a bank of early nettles and brambles. It prevented sight of her
but also hid his proximity. He listened again to her beautiful
laughter. She was teasing someone, giggling quietly as if acting
in a private play. Incensed, he strode forwards, remembering
afterwards the young nettles attacking his skin with their
“Mealy, what brings you…” He never finished his sentence,
instead backed away, for she was almost naked; just a loose and
soaking-wet undergarment from bosom to knees but riding up
at the side so that her left thigh was half visible. His eyes rested
on that thigh and, for a moment that went on and on, he could
not look away. Yet his brain was working on the outrage, the
deceit. And it worked on its own schedule, to its own tempo.
Amelia looked up, blushed deep red and grasped for an item
of clothing, anything within reach. She held a dress upside
down so that the skirt covered her breast and shoulders and the
top made partial cover only for her legs. He could still see her
thigh although his vision was watery, as if he had dipped his
eyes in the same Divelish she had patently been in. But his
wetness sprung from tears and those tears were of anger, with
a dash of wonder at what he had seen.
“Thomas!” she cried, standing up and backing away. “Cover
your eyes.” He covered his eyes, backed away, not wanting to
see what he had next seen.
For lying next to Amelia, similar in attire, was his sister,
Amelia had offered to scratch Elizabeth’s half-bare back.
And, presumably, would be scratched in turn herself.