Happy New Year!

Here’s a festive extract from So the Doves for you….


You walked side by side through the still unblemished snow, the only people out and about. Coloured lights flashed in the windows of the houses, and one or two had gone over board and had flashing reindeer and snowmen on their front lawns and giant plastic Santa’s balancing on their roof.

The two of you reached the main road that cut through town and led out to London just before dusk, your breath and voices hung in wisps of vapour before cooling and binding with the air. The chalk cliff – created when they cut through the old hill to build the new High Street and flyover – merged with the snow; the white, soft bones of sea creatures, not yet stone, still damp from being buried under fathoms of the heaving abundant sea and the pale temporary solid water that lay on it now.

The sky was grey and heavy with more snow; the roofs and cars were covered, giving no colourful relief from the soft whiteness. Only the two of you were out on the streets; trudging along, leaving your coupled footprints trailing behind as if the world belonged only to you. The town was placid and still. Even the pubs were shut for a few hours.

You got to Georgie’s not long after four o’clock. The lift wasn’t working – which Mel said was a blessing as it stank of piss and the lights didn’t always work – so by the time you knocked on her 5th floor door you were sweaty and red-faced despite the cold.

‘You’re here!!! Come in, come in.’ Georgie grabbed you both, pulling you close for a hug. ‘I’m so glad to see you! I’ve got presents and a tree and everything!’ You followed her down the hall after shrugging off your coats and boots, past the bathroom into her living room, where a small green plastic tree wound with red and gold tinsel and flashing white lights took pride of place by the TV. A single bed was pushed up under the large window that looked out over the town and the river behind running khaki and devious like an enemy combatant lying low. A row of patchwork cushions lined the bed converting it to a sort-of sofa. A breakfast bar separated the living area from the small kitchen area. The whole place was spotless and smelt of fresh paint and air freshener.

‘Jesus, George this place looks amazing,’ Mel said, pulling out a couple of presents and tucking them under the tree and then handing the bag to Georgie. ‘There’s some chocolates and a bottle of Bacardi from me mum in there for you.’

‘Oh bless her, say thanks for me. D’you really like it? I’m saving up to get carpet, so I’ve just got this for now,’ Georgie wrinkled a round yellow rug with her pointed foot. ‘But I painted all the walls meself, and got the bed linen and everything, and…’ She turned and walked into the kitchen area. ‘See, I’ve got a fridge and a cooker and a washing machine! The social sorted that out and me bed. All brand new an’ all.’ She put the bag on the counter and started opening the kitchen cupboards as if she were a dolly bird displaying prizes on one of those old-fashioned Saturday night TV shows. ‘A fitted kitchen too.’

‘It’s brilliant,’ Mel said and you nodded, unsure what to say.

‘I’ve even got some stools so we can sit and eat proper too.’