Actually, I’m still working on the rewrite of Icarus Down. With The Night Girl unsold and likely to undergo further revisions (more on this later), the sequel I planned (entitled The Day Boy) is very much on the back burner.
But the thing about having things on the back burner is that they’re still cooking. Ideas bubble up, and sometimes they need to be written down, or stirred, so things don’t boil over or spoil.
Enclosed, please find a prologue for The Day Boy, set six months after the end of The Night Girl. It’s pretty close to a first draft, and will likely change once the story gets going.
The phone rang on Perpetua’s desk. Scooter, the desk chair, perked up when he heard it.
The phone rang again. Scooter squeaked from his place behind the reception desk, and trundled around to the front and looked this way and that, but the reception area was empty.
The phone rang a third time. Scooter turned for the main office door. It was a heavy oak door, sturdy, but the gold lettering reading “T. P. Earthenhouse” had faded and was scratched. It had not been removed, however.
The door was ajar. There was the sound of rustling paper inside. Scooter knocked the door and let out a “squeak.” It trundled back to the receptionist desk.
The phone rang yet again.
There was a thumping of footsteps on the carpet. Perpetua burst out of the main office into the reception area, her black skirts swishing. She dove for the phone. Scooter trundled out of her way, so that she fell on her face rather than skewered herself on its arms. She still managed to catch the phone as she went down.
“Hello?” came her muffled voice from the floor.
The dial tone laughed at her.
Perpetua hauled herself onto her knees and slammed the phone down on the receiver. “Damn!”
Using her desk, she hauled herself to her feet. She looked around. The office was empty this early in the evening, and she liked it that way. The silence let her think, and when she could think, she could work. And when she worked, she didn’t have to think.
But, now, looking down at her receptionist phone, with the voice mail button blinking at her, she knew she couldn’t put this thought off any further.
“It’s time for me to get away from this desk, Scooter.” She looked up. “It’s time for me to pick what office I sit in.”
Scooter squeaked, inquisitive.
She turned to the door marked for T.P. Earthenhouse. Motioning Scooter to follow, she walked in.
The rich carpet stretched before her, still meticulously neat, even if the top of the desk wasn’t. The piles of paper and the piles of open folders drew the eye, but couldn’t disguise the rich mahogany wood. Behind it, a tall, leather swivel chair stood silent and still. Not waiting for anything.
My other desk, Perpetua thought. Then she checked herself. My desk.
“I know he left it to me,” said Perpetua. “This place. This business. But Earthenhouse could still come back.”
Scooter squeaked at her.
“He might,” said Perpetua. “Fergus came back. In a way.” She held up her hand and wiggled her fingers. “I have the engagement ring to prove it.”
This time, Scooter said nothing. Silence stretched.
“I guess it’s more true that I want him to come back,” said Perpetua at last. “I miss working for a boss. When people ask you to speak to your manager, it’s harder when that manager is you.”
Scooter shifted, but kept its sympathetic silence.
Perpetua stared at the desk a moment longer, then walked around it, slowly. She grabbed the back of Earthenhouse’s chair and tilted it back and forth. It didn’t even squeak.
She looked back at Scooter. “It won’t be offended?”
Scooter tilted slightly to one side. Perpetua blinked. So that was how a chair raised its eyebrow.
“It’s not alive,” she said, firmly, easing the rich leather chair out of the way. “Still, perhaps I can sell it to a good home on eBay.” She hesitated, took a deep breath, and then shoved the chair away. It breezed into the corner, making no sound until it bumped into the wall.
Perpetua let out the breath she was holding. Then she took another.
“Come, Scooter,” she said at last.
Scooter trundled up behind her and was ready as she sat down. It squeaked as Perpetua pulled herself deeper into Earthenhouse’s desk. She shifted the blotter and moved the keyboard, tapping at a few keys experimentally. Then she looked back at the open office door and folded her hands.
“This is going to work,” she said, mostly to herself.
But this desk still feels way too big for me, she thought.
Or perhaps it’s just that I feel way too small…