Almost a year ago, I introduced you to my book, The Lost Things. Some were interested enough to get monthly instalments of the story. That’s done now, so I’ve released the entire book on Amazon for you all.
While a tantalising chapter with a cliffhanger ending might do it for some, I have learnt that most prefer to hold the actual book and read at their own pace, maybe to check the ending makes the story worth reading or to know what the book is called as you read it, unlike the many forgotten titles of the Kindle books we all read.
At the end of this post, I’ve added the opening pages to tempt you into getting your hands on the whole thing. It’s a story that will touch your heart and maybe even change the way you see the people around you, or yourself. I really hope you step into the tale I’ve crafted for you, and find it’s worth reading.
It was the same every morning – the banging heating pipes startling her from a three hour sleep. She looked up at the ceiling and noted the patches. She tensed and relaxed her legs, hoping for a miracle. The heavy curtains kept the weather out of her room. She lifted her head up and squinted. That could be a sliver of sunlight, or just a line of dust along her bedside table. She ran her finger tip over it and looked. Dust. The movement to get out of bed confirmed that no, there had been no miracle. Her legs were still moaning. As she pushed herself up she fell back again. On the third attempt, she found herself on her knees. She laughed. Of course.
As she adjusted her elbows on the soft bed, she closed her eyes and let the names circle her mind. Names of people she’d met years ago, and a few that were new. Elderly widows and widowers of her parish trying to figure out how to do all the things their husbands or wives had always taken care of, young mothers from the toddler group struggling to do everything the books and the web told them they needed to do for the well-being of their babies, kids’ club children from single parent, mixed, same sex, step-parent, foster parent families, Simon, her social worker friend and then, of course, her most recent visitor.
Liz didn’t tell God what to do about all these people, she would never be qualified for that. She just said their names and left the rest to Him. Over the years, it was really quite surprising what happened.
She pushed herself up, groaned, and found her slippers. When they saw her padding round the church in them, people assumed they’d been a gift. But no. She’d seen them in the pound shop one day and laughed so much she’d had to buy them. They were huge, fluffy, rainbow-coloured unicorns. Beneath her black vicar garb, they spoke of crazy, unexpected joy, and that was why she loved them.
She shuffled over to pull the curtains back. It was a nondescript kind of August day. Dry but grey. The children crowding close to the doors of the church waiting for holiday club brought in the colour Liz was looking for, with their one of a pack of three T-shirts, football shirts, baseball caps and fluorescent trainers. She stood to the side, remaining unseen, and watched. One little girl was dressed for church – patent Mary Janes, flowery dress, huge bow on her head. Liz felt anxious for her, amongst the mini football hoodlums. She looked further back. Two boys, one too old for the club and a younger one were saying bye to their mum. But she was too young to be their mother, was she not? Liz moved to the centre of the window to get a better look. She had made mistakes like this in the past, calling older men grandfathers when they were fathers, thinking babies were nieces and nephews when they were brothers and sisters. But this one, surely, was not the mother. She did look like she had the experience, but not the years. A cruel state to find yourself in. Liz made a note to find out about her. If anyone knew. She watched the leave-taking – more nods and pats on the head than motherly hugs and kisses. The younger boy clung to his big brother’s arm as they watched their only person walk away. Liz threw a prayer after them, and the young girl, now heading down the hill, hands pushing points in her faded anorak, dark hair falling over her face.
After coffee and a shower, the slippers were back on and Liz was ready for the day. She climbed down the stairs and followed the narrow connecting corridor into the church office, just behind the main building. What a guddle. The floor was covered with piles of theology books that she was disinclined to read, the desk with letters, scribbled sermon ideas and bookmarks. Why did she have so many bookmarks? She picked up some of the paper and pushed it together, banging the end to form a neater pile. Then she stood holding it and couldn’t find anywhere to put it down. So she threw it up in the air, and watched the sheets flutter and settle where they willed. She’d sort it tomorrow.
She picked up the letter closest to her and read it. Another one from the provost, warning her of the interest shown by Donaldson Developments in buying the church. That would never happen. She reached for another – preparations for the Christmas services. In August. Dear God, she had only just got over last Christmas; the dour principal, the chirrupy music teacher, the shrieking children. The animals. Whose idea was the animals? Possibly hers, after a glass of whisky everything seems like a good idea. The reality was a goat that ate through the antependium, chickens that defecated their way up and down the aisle, and the donkey. The donkey must never be spoken of. She grimaced and set the letter down. It could wait another month.
She turned towards the sanctuary. She followed her slippers past the leaking roof, rotting wooden beams and cracked windows. She reached out and propped up a broken section at the end of one of the pews. She picked her way towards one window, and held onto the deep sill to look…
Set back, and lit up with a single desk lamp, a clay sculpture stood. It was of the prodigal son, collapsed into his father’s arms. She stared at them, the father and the prodigal. It had been a gift from her own dad when she had started here twenty years ago. “A vicar? Can women do that?”had been his only question. Right up until the day he died. But then the sculpture had arrived as part of his will, and she ’d read it as an apology. Every day, she looked at it and forgave him.
She moved closer to the front of the church, reached under the pew and found her Bible, safely pushed back into a place where no-one could reach it, unless they were looking for it. It was her mum’s old Bible. She had died when Liz was eleven. No-one had cared about the worn book, except for Liz. It held her mum’s scent, her precious thoughts, her scribbled prayers. It was her. Liz read it over and over the year mum had passed and knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life. And here she was: a single woman in ridiculous footwear sitting in a crumbling church with a tiny, dying congregation. But she was still sure she was meant to be there. Every day, she told herself that anyway. She had to.
She turned to the sound of stiletto heels clicking hesitantly down the aisle. She turned to greet her mystery visitor; immaculately dressed, face perfected in make-up, glossy pony tail swinging with false confidence. She had been coming since June, and still hadn’t spoken. Again today she kept her eyes down and ducked in to the furthest pew. Liz glanced at her, and added another clue to the story she’d been building in her head: today she was nursing an injured arm, holding it, trying to hide it with her other hand. If she had hurt herself for an innocuous reason, she wouldn’t be covering it. Liz sighed and closed her eyes, sensing pain and fear pulsing across to her. She sat still and waited. One day, she’ll speak to her. But for now, Liz would wait.
The Lost Things is available from Amazon now.