The second chapter in my give away is below, if you're catching up I'm giving away 6 chapters of my novel to snare you, trap you, hypnotise you into downloading the whole thing, mwah ha ha ha ha.
So, as part of my fiendish plan for world domination, Chapter 2 of The Bench - is FREE below. Below the chapter you will find the link to the full novel on Amazon.com - the best £3.49 you'll spend today.
Do it - do it - oh, and give me your house and all your filthy riches...mwah ha ha ha ha...:P XXX
He’d watched as they cleared snow from around the play area, rock salting as they went, like hi-vis snails leaving brown, peppery trails behind. The guys from the council are always on it quick in the park - where there’s blame, there’s a claim. They had even swept the snow from the bench, and one of the guys - Is it Colin? - even tried to wipe some of the wet away with some dirty towels from his cart. He left a couple of wiped empty rock salt sacks on the bench for people to sit on, tightly packing the sacks to the seat, he took a roll of duct tape and sealed them around it, his workmates shaking their heads as they watched.
‘You don’t get paid extra for that y’know!’
‘Small touches Harry lad, people appreciate that.’
Corny watched this exchange, stood to the left of the war memorial, a thin layer of snow coating this side of it, last night’s fall with a slight westerly breeze leaving it half painted.
‘What happens when it snows again then, clever arse?’
‘Well when it stops they can peel these off and the bench might be dry underneath, eh?’
‘Yeah, and leave the sacks littering the park up.’
Colin just smiled. ‘Keeps us in a job Harry lad.’
The man loves his job, the man loves the park. It made Corny smile.
He’s not smiling now though, far from it, he’s angry.
Some people like to sit on the bench in winter, some people like the bit of peace the park can give them during the day. The park has two faces of course, like all parks have - Jekyll by day, Hyde comes out to play at night. But sometimes, sometimes, Hyde can be seen during the day.
The guy sat on the bench, his back to Corny. Early thirties, a combat jacket over a hoodie, in turn over a leather bomber, dark cargo trousers and biker boots to grip the ice. The hoodie is pulled up over a white wooly hat.
The combat jacket has a patch sewn into the right shoulder, a severed wolf’s head on a stake with the word’s ‘Life Is My Bitch’ in a scroll beneath. Dark, rough shaven, his fingerless weightlifters mittened hands are busy, one works a cigarette whilst the other has been thumbing the buttons of his phone. He’s completed a couple of transactions this morning, visitors tracks in the snow too and from the bench. But it’s early for dealing, and it’s an odd place to Corny. Drugs never sat easy with him now. They had in the past, when he was here, there was absolutely no way he could have argued with that, but they had more than contributed to his spectacular fall. They didn’t rest easy with him now, no, and nothing about this guy rests easy with him at all.
A couple of young girls, skipping school had built a small snowman from some of the snow shovelled off the play area by the council men earlier. The dealer spent a lot of time watching them, in fairness there wasn’t much else to look at as the park was empty, but it didn’t mean Corny had to like that.
Now Sharon Maloney was here, as she was every morning - unless it was raining - and she had young Gemma skipping around the roundabout with Luke asleep cocooned under layers in the buggy. Just a routine to get her out of the house, thought Corny, a single mum struggling with two toddlers, not unusual around here, but not any less hard. Sharon is very attractive and ‘Bitch Boy’ here was spending a lot of time looking at her with a predatory gaze too. Corny watched him, Bitch Boy almost seemed to sense each time Sharon was going to look over at him and had timed his look down to his phone screen to perfection, just a guy on a bench with his phone waiting for someone, maybe texting them to find out where they were.
Sharon had left with Bitch Boy still watching her, and Corny still stood those six feet behind the bench watching him. Bitch Boy’s hand, perhaps subconsciously, moving slightly in his pocket over his groin, enough to wind Corny up even further.
Bitch Boy goes back to working his phone as Corny calmly walks to the rear of the bench, he leans forward whispering something into Bitch Boy’s right ear, then walks back to where he was standing by the war memorial.
Bitch Boy’s thumb stops tapping on the phone’s digits and he involuntarily raises his right shoulder a touch, snapping his head around to the right, then behind him. He stands, pumped and ready. What the fuck? He walks around the bench and looks behind the war memorial, he looks a little freaked out. Corny smiled. Good. Bitch Boy pauses a moment, looking past Corny and over to the children’s play area. Clearly unnerved he strides off, past the bench and down towards the gates at the opposite end of the park. Corny beams a self satisfied grin, watching him go.
There’s a shuffling, sniffing sound behind Corny, he turns to find Spartacus, checking the bushes for fast food cast offs.
‘Hey Spartacus, where’ve you been this last couple of weeks? You got your colour back!’
A black and white Spartacus gives Corny a friendly ‘Arf’ and goes bounding off around the corner.
Behind him, a woman’s familiar voice.
‘Do you want to tell me what just happened?’
He remains facing away from her. ‘How you doing Angel?’
‘Good morning Corny, now what just happened?’
‘Spartacus came looking for a - ’
‘I’m not talking about the dog. Tell me what just happened.’ Terse, officious.
He shrugs his shoulders, reluctant to turn around but so wanting to see her again. ’Nothing.’
‘So you didn’t just speak to that man?’
She sighs. ’Like a child in denial. Corny, look at me.’
He turns to face her, about to reply and as ever her beauty almost takes his breath.
She’s dressed in a three quarter white winter coat, white knee length boots and a white hat, her dark hair tumbling out down the sides and there are strands hanging over her right eye. Piercing green eyes are locked on him, and yes, he can see she’s angry. It’s been too long since he saw her last.
Defence here is going to be tough, have to try because I think I know why she’s here.
He turns to look out on the park, anything to get out of the authoritative glare of those angry Angel eyes.
‘What do you miss the most, Shirley?’
‘Nine weeks down here, and so far? Twenty three incidents.’
‘You can’t count Spartacus!’
‘I’m not counting Spartacus.’ Strong. Powerful. Darkly melodious. The vibration causing a tiny shifting of the snow on the war memorial.
Oh. Angry Angel. Tread carefully Corny.
HIs voice is softer. ‘Well how is it twenty three?’
‘Oh come on man! I couldn’t stand there and watch him fade out like that, freeze in his sleep, become a popsicle in the park? And let’s not forget, one of those incidents was an accident - how was I to know she was a psychic? She didn’t have it written on her forehead!’
She holds out a prosecuting palm in his direction; Exhibit A.
‘That’s the problem. You’re going to have to come back Corny.’ The words he was dreading. He stands, firm, determined.
But she is even more determined, arms folded, eyes blazing.
‘You won’t have any choice in the matter, it’s what I’m recommending.’
He spreads his arms in defence, pleading with her. ‘But I’m not doing anything destructive, every thing I’ve done has been for a positive reason.’
‘So you say. But how long before you playfully say something, or do something that causes someone to react in a way that you didn’t expect, hmm? This isn’t some interactive video game you’re playing Corny - you were allowed here if you behaved responsibly - and that’s clearly not happening as I have witnessed this morning.’
She can see the pleading in his eyes. Please Shirley.
She looks away. ’No. It’s no good.’
‘One more chance.’ Look at me Shirley, please.
‘No.’ She looks at him, but it’s not the look he’s looking for. ’You’re getting involved and that’s dangerous.’
‘I’ve not shown up on youtube or anything have I?’
He goes to her, taking her hands.
‘Come on Shirley, give me another chance - I can’t go back there, it will ki...’ Kill me? Ha! It would be funny if he wasn’t so desperate.
‘I just can’t OK?’
She’s breaks eye contact. Makes it easier doesn’t it Shirley?
‘Listen to me please, I’ve been good, right? Overall I mean, really I have. Everything I have done has been a positive. You saw how I was, you saw what this world had done to me - for Christ’s sake Shirley you were there at the end! You know! I could have gone out there and haunted the bastards but I didn’t!’
‘They might not have even seen you Corny, haunting isn’t just about you going and - ’
‘I know that! But surely the point is I didn’t try? I didn’t do anything negative.’ He looks out to the sky, to the tower blocks, the park.
‘Don’t take it away Shirley, because - well I don’t know - this - seeing it like this. I lost it all while I was still out there. I...I don’t wanna lose it all again, please.’
But it’s there in her eyes. Although they have softened, through sympathy of course, the heavy weight of duty rests on her shoulders. She’s got a job and she’s going to do it, she’s going to try to reassure him, calm him, but she’s going to take this world away from him.
‘You’ve not given yourself enough time,’ She puts her hands on his chest, ‘you’ll grow to like it. It’s always difficult to -‘ He grabs her hands, taking them off his chest, anger rising in him.
The air crackles invisibly at his voice, a slight tremor in the tree’s as a few birds take flight, snow shakes loose from the branches in a soft powder, and the swings move a touch, as though they were all prodded by unseen hands.
He hasn’t noticed due to his anger, just as well there’s no one here to witness it. Shirley’s mouth drops open slightly, she hasn’t seen him this way. She can see the regret in his anger with her, a flicker of shame in his eyes as he moves away from her, sitting on the lip of the base of the war memorial. She pauses a few seconds, not looking at him, not wanting to cause him any embarrassment or upset.
She walks around to the front of the bench, the bench that someone has taped some rock salt bags to, odd, and she sits. She takes in the play area and then the tower blocks beyond.
After about a minute she speaks. ‘Valentine’s Day.’
‘What?’ Sharp, irritated.
‘What I miss the most.’ Her voice is soft, light, like fingers dancing playfully on the back of his neck. ‘Valentine’s Day. It’s today.’
He lowers his head, letting out a Damn how could I have missed that? sigh.
She smiles to herself, hearing him sigh.
At least he regrets missing it, but still - it would have been nice? Ah well.
‘And Tom Jones. Ooh! Stud-ly!’ A seductive, husky purr to her tone. ‘All that sweat and thrusting groin.’
He can’t help but smile, he crosses to the back of the bench, both hands leaning on it.
‘Really? Have a thing for the older man, eh? Still, Tom’s still rockin’ it isn’t he?’
He climbs over, sitting down next to her.
She continues to look out at the play area, purposefully, she has to keep it together, no matter what - Corny, you’re too damned cute.
‘I’m talking about 1969 love. I was on my way back from one of his concerts, at the Empire. Five of us in a Mini Morris - just my luck, it was only me that copped it - just bumped my head on the windscreen, barely a mark on me, beautiful corpse - as you can see.’
‘Yes, the damage was mini-mal’ God, you are beautiful.
‘That’s why they called you Corny, they must have known.’
‘Drop dead gorgeous’
‘Too late - already have.’
‘No, I meant -‘
‘I know what you meant, another shit joke.’
He moves closer, his breath on her neck. She can’t help but shiver slightly, giddily.
Oooh, that’s so...
‘No, I meant you are drop dead gorgeous. Heaven is truly missing an angel.’ ‘More femme fatale.’
She turns and looks straight into his eyes, he’s getting too close.
No, this has to stay professional.
She puts her hand on his chest, a move meant to push him away but instead a move that stops once her hand is on his chest, her fingers spread. His eyes so sharp,
clear and warm.
‘My kinda girl.’
Damn it! She slides her hand up around his neck. He moves his face closer to hers, his voice a soft whisper.
‘I’d live for you.’
Ooh my god, I’m going to melt.
Their lips are almost touching. Fuck the rules, Corny you’re getting it.
‘My kinda guy.’ She breathes into him. ‘Come on, let me show you heaven.’
Their lips have the barest of touch, when Corny breaks the moment, looking away as though for the answer, leaving Shirley hanging, waiting for the kiss.
‘Can you get pregnant here?’
‘What,’ sighing, ‘in the park?’ Typical bleedin’ fella, wouldn’t know romance if you
served it up on a snow covered bench in the park!
‘No I meant -’
‘I know what you meant.’
The slight irritation in her tone. Shit, idiot, get back on track!
‘Don’t tease me, I’ve had a very sheltered death.’
‘Stop it. Stop the joke, this is the last time I can come here Corny.’
Wait a minute, that is a decision. She’s made a decision - I think she has, she’s building to a warning - why would she have said that? Am I staying? Am I?
‘Do you know how lonely you’re going to be?’
Keep it light. ’I’ve thought about it, I could be bored to life.’
‘You can see right through me, can’t you?’ A cheeky grin.
But she looks very serious. No, she looks sad.
‘Shirley, I’m really sorry - look - I just - am - am I staying now?’
Just the shift in her body language, the sinking of her shoulders, the soft breath of a confirmation.
‘YES!!!’ An elated shout as he leaps to his feet. The snow shakes down in the tree’s all around them again, the birds squawking as they take flight, the swings move a little more this time.
‘Will you stop that.’
‘That’s me? How am I doing - I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Wow. Thanks Shirley, thanks so much!’
He turns to look at the park, the estate beyond, like a man who was staring a prison term in the face that has just been granted his freedom.
‘If you break one more rule I’ll be back for you.’ ‘OK.’
God, he just doesn’t get it does he?
She stands up, taking hold of his hand to turn him around.
‘I’m telling you this because - ’
He takes her by the waist, pulling her too him, her breasts crushed into his chest, his face leaning down to hers, kissing her long, passionately, a kiss so madly full of life. She melts into it, one foot raises off the ground, a warmth awaking in her. He breaks the kiss, looking into her eyes with a clear understanding.
‘I know why.’
Corny walks around to the memorial, putting his palm against the stone, a habit he’s picked up since coming back. He’s found that if he holds his hand here a while he start to experience a very mild tingling sensation - I’m not the only one to come back here am I?
Shirley is taking in the park again.
‘Why here?’ Of all the places you can go you spend all your time here - in this grotty park.’
‘I don’t spend all my time here.’ He takes his hand away, rubbing it against the other, the tingle passing.
He walks over to her, standing behind her his arms around her waist, his head resting on her shoulder, feeling her hair against his face. She puts her hands over his as they both look out at the play area.
‘I grew up here. I’ve played on them swings and that roundabout, fell off that slide.’ He lets go of her, walking around the bench and pointing further down the park, a
tour guide to Corny’s Park Life, he’s almost bursting with enthusiasm.
‘I’ve played football down there on those football pitches with me mates.’
He walks across the front of the bench, pointing to the other side of the park. ‘I had a scrap with Billy Howcroft at that water fountain.’
His hand sweeps across the landscape.
‘I used to do four circuits of the whole park at dawn when I was training for my fights, my last lap would finish here at this war memorial where I’d do my Rocky punching the air bit - Eye of the Tiger - it’s just under two miles in total, fit lad was Corny ‘Pitbull’ McGeehan.’
He darts over to the bench, gives her a mischievous look.
‘I kissed Sherree Welsh on this bench.’
She gives a whatever shrug.
‘I’ve walked down here with my dog on Sunday afternoons and sat on this bench,’ he sits ‘the same bench me dad used to sit on and watch me and me sister playing on them swings’
He stands, taking her by the waist again. ‘This...is my world.’
She takes his hand, turning to face him.
‘It’s not love. You’re locked out of it now, you’re just watching, you’re not part of - well you’re not supposed to be part of it, try to remember that.’
He shakes his head. ‘It’s mad, but I feel as part of it as I ever was.’
She hugs him, putting her head against his chest. ’You’re going to get lonely here, Corny.’
‘I felt lonely when I was alive, nothing new there - I think I was haunting my own existence. Dick head, fucked it up, pissed it away. You saw how I was those last few hours, that was just a snapshot Shirley, if I had my time over.’
‘Yeah, and if your auntie had balls she’d be your uncle. You were very noble, what you did in those last few hours. Anyway, not now, I don’t want to talk about that now.’
She holds him tighter. He whispers softly in her ear.
‘A cloud of mystery rained lies on the bed
Seems I’d woken and found myself dead
My noir was my dream, my femme fatale thriller She’d stayed in my dream and that...was the killer...’
She looks up at him, about to speak, he puts his finger to her lips. Takes her in his arms and starts a slow waltz.
‘Dance in the park, Death tango’s in the night; a soft touch in the shadows From out of the past, she saves me at last, and on her smile...the sun rose.’
He kisses her again, not as long, a smile on his face he spins away from her. ‘What’s that from?’
‘It’s mine...well no, actually, it’s yours. Valentine’s Day’
‘You wrote that for Valentine’s Day?’
‘I haven’t written it so much as thought it, a lot, and no - I genuinely forgot it was Valentine’s Day. It’s just a mood you left me with, the first time you came here.’
Oh Corny, you know how to make things hard.
‘Did you write when you were - ’
‘I was shit. Well, half OK. The other half was the empty part of the glass - no, the full part of the glass...that I emptied a lot. Maybe I could have found the time, but I spent most of it with me demons din’t I? Now I get to spend a bit of time with an Angel - life eh? Or should I say...’
‘Come with me.’
‘I can’t. Maybe one day. Keep coming back for me.’
‘I’m not coming back again Corny. Break the rules again and someone else will come, not me, but I’ll hope to see you. I won’t be back. I will be around here - ’ she looks fleetingly to the estate, ‘ - but not for you.’
He forces a big beaming smile. ‘I know.’
‘Well you don’t have to smile about it. But that’s what you want me to take with me, right?’
‘More smiles per mile. Go babe, just go because I can’t make this last.’
There’s a wetness around his eyes, and it hurts him to see the tear that falls down her cheek. She turns, starting to walk away. He closes his eyes. The one thing life and death has taught him is that everything has a price, a toll.
‘Give me another kiss before you go.’
She doesn’t turn, keeps walking.
‘No.’ He can hear the wetness in her voice, hear her fighting it.
‘Aww come on Shirley, let me taste you one more time before you go.’
‘No. If you want me, you’re going to have to break the rules.’
The wind blows up a soft flurry of snow, a cloud, and as it dissipates, Shirley is gone.
He stares at that cruel space a while, then turns to the bench. He looks at it a while, then raises a hand, and slowly rests it on the back of the bench. He looks to the children’s play area.
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