The preparation for the show in Cambridge is nearing completetion and my thoughts turn back to the studio and to words. Met with Judy and Natalia yesterday and discussed our 'lit night' the spark of which was the story Judy wrote from an open studio in 2011.
The hot afternoon sun is making Chloe drowsy. She blinks, focusing her eyes on the path of a bumblebee drifting from one clover bloom to another. The scent of honeysuckle and chlorine mingles in the air. A faint trickle of sweat slowly wriggles its way from her scalp to the space between her shoulder blades. Her book is still lying on the other side of the lawn in the shade her twin cousins dragged her from when they cast her in the role of umpire.
The game of draughts is the third challenge of the day, following a venomous tennis match, won by Amandine, and a swimming race won by Blake. She can see the pool water drying on their bronzed, over-privileged limbs and remembers something her mother once said, about how, the higher up society you go, the thinner the veneer of civilisation, like oxygen on a mountain peak, stretched brittle and insubstantial over the bloodlust.
“You’re cheating!” Amandine’s voice rings out. “Chloe, he’s cheating! He put it in his mouth!”
Chloe sighs and rouses herself. “Blake, is it true? Open your mouth.”
Obligingly he does so, sticking out his tongue, the disk balanced on it like a rosy indigestion tablet. His eyes are laughing as he plucks the draught piece between finger and thumb, dropping it onto the board like something disdainful – he knows full well that his sister won’t touch it now it’s tainted with his spittle.
“Game to Amandine,” Chloe decides, and the cousins erupt into shrieks of glee and outrage.
Next on the agenda is rhetoric, and Chloe feels her skin tighten with dread, imaging the barbed words waiting to be unfurled and flung.
Author bio: Judy Darley is a travel journalist and fiction writer. Previously she’s had fiction published by literary magazines and anthologies including The View From Here, Gemini Magazine, ‘Crab Lines from the Pier’ and ‘The Love of Looking’. Her travel writing has appeared in magazines, on websites and in ‘1001 Retreats to Make Before You Die’, published by Penguin. Recent journeys include visits to Slavonia, Iona and Tunisia. She tweets at http://twitter.com/EssentialWriter