My latest novel, The Cloud Catcher, began with this tree – not in Winter as in the photo but in late Summer – plus a cloud and a subsequent chance encounter with a girl on horseback. Her greeting smile burst from her lips like the sun breaking through clouds, warming everything in sight. Yet, despite her smile, she remained silent and strangely absent as if dreaming of a distant world. That beguiling absence wormed its way into my novel with the mysterious girl found abandoned under the tree (read the opening paragraphs here).
Below is a short extract from the end of the first chapter when Fran tries to get the unresponsive but filthy girl to wash. Note, this is a draft and could change in the published version.
The Cloud Catcher – an extract
“You should get undressed,” she told the girl, only to elicit the same blank expression as earlier. “You can’t shower with your clothes on,” she pointed out. To no avail. There was not even a flicker of a smile, or a tight-lipped sign of stubbornness, just a perplexed stare.
There was nothing for it, she’d have to undress the girl, but she didn’t trust herself to do so. A part of her was worryingly eager to see the girl naked. She dreaded the idea she might have become her father’s daughter. Even if she could get the girl’s clothes off, she had no idea how to persuade her to stay under the shower and wash herself. She had comic visions of chasing a dripping girl around her room.
Sparing use of water was a lesson her parents had drummed into her as a little child, so constant running water had her feeling guilty. Unable to wait, she scooped up the girl and stepped into the shower with the girl in her arms and clumsily pulled the curtain to behind them.