Here's the first chapter of one of my novels. To read the back page blurb, click here.
I walked up the path to the front of the Police Station, the cheery notes of Begin the Beguine in the back of my mind. That wartime song was a favourite of everyone the same age as my Gran and it made me briefly reflect on what tomorrow’s elderly would be rocking their chairs to. As much as it was amusing, George Michael, Spiderbait and Averil Lavigne just didn’t have the same sort of class.
My Gran embodied class. She was old school when it came to ladylike. Licking her fingers was truly a devilish indulgence for when no one was looking. Gran was tall and elegant in a Lauren Bacall sort of way, and her neck was slender and sculpture-worthy like Audrey Hepburn’s. It was near on impossible to liken her to anyone outside her own era. None possessed themselves like the style masters and icons of the 40’s and 50’s.
Her pants stayed on her waist, not her hips. Her tops were buttoned, seldom knitted unless it were a ‘sweater girl sweater’, making even me jealous, and her pearls were always present in either necklace, earring or ring form. Gran never wore bracelets, only a narrow-banded wristwatch with a face so tiny I needed glasses to read it. Having worn it without fail since her 21st birthday, it took only one repair its whole life, and it gave me a kick to catch her winding it from time to time, so dutifully, and always followed with the hint of a reminiscent smile.
Once when I was younger I asked her what she was smiling at.
Gran cupped my chin with cool, elegant fingers. “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”
Perhaps her secretive, wry smile said it all.
When I was older—all of 14—I asked again. She didn’t cup my chin but the smile remained the same.
“I’ll tell you when you’ve got a boyfriend.”
At the end of high school I got one and again asked.
“That boy’s a self-absorbed moron, Jonti. I’ll tell you when you’re married.”
Well, right now I didn’t have that claim to fame. The boyfriend back then was a bit lacklustre, but he was gone by mutual consent, and I was wiser at 25. Yet to learn the secret behind the smile I could still only wonder and ponder my perfect Gran’s greatness and poise, and live in hope that I would be as cool and lithe as her when I was 80.
Gran could still move, still think, still drive, still wizen me to a few choice ideas and outwit anyone’s smartest remark. Unbent, with a lively gait and movement as smooth as a woman far younger, I’m sure Gran caught people out now and again when she gave her age.
My Grandad, her husband, died when I was 7. I don’t remember much of him except that he loved her and she adored him. After he passed, I felt closer to Gran and she doted on me even more. It’s sad how some Grandies never see their grandkids. I couldn’t imagine being without her. Ironic, but I don’t see nearly as much of my Dad’s parents. It’s just the way it works out. Weird.
Gran and me have only so much in common. The day I got told I have her hands I was thrilled. Even now her fingers are free of arthritis and beautifully slender.
The most we have in common is love.
A single look at her is enough to convince she’ll live past a hundred. I want her to. I don’t want my kids to miss out on her. But first I have to get married for that to happen and learn the secret behind the watch-winding smile. It made me think that Gran was keeping secret more than one big mystery in her life, and somehow I loved not knowing everything. It kept her mystique alive.
So why she called me to her side at the Police Station I was looking forward to finding out. The reason I was given was a lie, I was sure. I knew already there was no way she could have done what they said she did.
Villette Hasluck didn’t smuggle drugs.