The following scene is from quite early on in the novel, and is still quite rough. It's the moment where my protagonist and narrator Layla meets the boy she falls in love with, and who, ultimately, is forced to leave her again.
The first few days on the estate were predictably predictable. Mary and I had a few things to sort out, what with innumerable relatives in the area to pay the obligatory visit to and a coffee estate to continue running. Even I, in all my disinterest, never once dreamed of selling it. Of course, I never once dreamed I would be the one to tend it, either, but that is an irony I shall never fail to find funny.
When we weren’t being dutiful orphans, we stayed in the house, licking our wounds, quietly grieving our mother, missing her. The house was airy now that it had been lived in a few days, and so, even with all the windows closed after dark, it grew cold at night. We preferred the days. In my high spirits, I convinced Mary to play games with me on the yard, which was one of the few places smooth enough for my wheelchair to roll over unhindered. We read in the evenings, drove into town together to buy fish or pork or bottles of fizzy drinks, cooked ourselves any number of interesting meals just to keep ourselves occupied. In retreating to the house to find peace, to heal ourselves and each other, we had instead become afraid of the silence, of the night-noises in the dark, the soft sounds that everyone claimed were the footsteps of kindly ancestor-ghosts, our father’s ghost, our mother’s. I lay awake so late into the night, in darkness so absolute I could open my eyes and not realize they were open, and I imagined a ghost-ball in the front room, an orchestra of dancing phantoms.
Such were those days, before you.
On the sixth day, I was in a childish sulk for some reason or other, most likely my boredom and a desire to return to the city. I refused to go into town with Mary, and she went in by herself, with a tart warning to me not to complain later if I didn’t like the meat she chose at the stall. Alone, I stayed indoors for about ten minutes before restlessness and impatience overtook me. It was no doubt a silly thing to do, but I did it: I wheeled myself out of the house, bumping my way dangerously down the front steps. It was sheer dumb luck that kept me from toppling out of the chair with each violent jerk, but, having managed it, I started along the road to the estate.
It was a dirt road as you will no doubt remember, studded with stones for grip, and my chair bounced uneasily, ponderously, over the track. I didn’t know where I wanted to go or why I had chosen to take the winding road up into the estate, but I continued on my way, slowly, very slowly. With each bit of distance covered, uphill no less, I grew more frustrated and angry, my arms aching desperately and my legs itching to stretch beyond my wheels, to run.
Run. Ah, yes. No, running was not on my cards any longer, and I admit freely that I was still a little bitter about it. My foot was too weak, too misshapen to take my weight any longer, slight, fragile and young though I still was.
I must have been a few yards past the estate gate, with neat rows of coffee bushes flanking me, when the left wheel caught. Jerked to a halt on the studded road, I cursed softly and leaned over the wheelchair arm to see where I’d caught myself. But it was too directly beneath me and I could not see far enough.
Suddenly aware that, alone and vulnerable out here, where bison, wild boar or, heaven forbid, a hungry tiger, might find me, I felt small cold beads of sweat form on my brow. My achy arms jerked as I tried to wheel myself, this way and that. I tried going backwards, to wheel myself out of whatever hole I’d got myself into, but only made things worse. I don’t admit this easily, but I will say to you now that I was afraid. I didn’t know when Mary would be back, and silly though it was, I could not get the image of the hungry tiger out of my mind. Sleek, beautiful, powerful. Ravenous. Melodramatic of me, of course, when the tigers had better prey to hunt than a girl in a metal chair and better places to be than an estate closer to town than to the forest. But my mother had told me one too many stories of beasts that wandered into estates by accident or, too injured to hunt, to find easier prey. I had thrilled at the stories, from the safety of a house or grey Jeep. Now, I felt cold and afraid.
“Here,” said a voice, “Let me help.”
It came so unexpectedly and from so close, I gasped, and snapped my head around. I looked down the path behind me, twisting as far as I could go, and saw a shape standing on the stone-studded road, a shadow with the sharp winter’s sun directly behind it.
Then it moved, and stepped away from the light, and I saw that it was not a shadow but a boy, flesh and blood. And there, just like that, there you were.