I'm head-down in edits for the next book in the series at the moment, and because I literally can't wait to share it with you, I thought it'd be fun to put some of it onto today's blog :)
However, it follows straight on from Grave Secrets, and finding something that isn't a spoiler is kinda tricky...
But there is this bit, which is one of Lucas's memories and, though highly relevant to the story, isn't going to give too much away if you haven't read book three yet.
I've shared fragments of this on Instagram before, so some of this might be familiar to you, but this is the first time I'm sharing the full segment. I hope you enjoy it :)
It was the February following the end of Great War, and the then fourteen-year-old Lucas and his mother were living with Mrs Jenkins and her children until the warm weather returned, the reduced families pooling resources to ensure they all stayed warm and well fed over the winter months.
He was "home" alone with Clara, then aged twelve. Her brother Charlie had returned to the boarding school where he was a scholarship boy, and wouldn’t be back until Easter, Henry was working late at his new job at the police station, and their mothers were at choir practice. The fire burned low in the grate as Lucas sprawled on the sofa with a library book, and Clara sat on the hearthrug, sketching a sprig of winter foliage by firelight.
It was warm and comfortable – and then, there was a quiet sob.
Lucas looked up, alarmed. Clara had silent tears rolling down her cheeks and dripping onto her sketchbook, her hand trembling as she forced herself to continue with her drawing.
'What's wrong?' he said, dropping the book to the floor with a thud and darting to her side. He knelt and reached out to place a soothing hand on her shoulder, and she flung herself into his arms, giving way to whatever unknown sorrow tore at her heart.
He put his arms around her awkwardly, not really knowing how to help, but trying to comfort his best friend’s sister anyway.
But when he finally pieced the broken sentences together, he pulled her into a tight hug, as though that could squeeze the pieces of her fractured heart back together.
Today would have been his birthday.
How could he have forgotten? Ezra Jenkins, beloved father and husband, brave soldier, casualty of war, should have been celebrating his birthday today, just as he should have celebrated Christmas a few weeks ago, his daughter's birthday a month before that, and Henry's fifteenth the previous September.
The telegram in July ended everything.
Lucas held Clara and let her cry for as long as she needed to, the hot tears she'd stoically held back for months now scalding his skin. He adding his own tears, not only for his friend's sorrow and the loss of a man who had loved Lucas like his own child, but for Jim Rathbone, who vanished in the chaos of the trenches.
He hoped, of course, that Dad would come home one day, though he knew it was impossible. However, because he hoped, even if it was a very tiny speck of hope, Lucas hadn’t cried for his dad.
But seeing how Mr Jenkins's death pained Clara brought home the understanding that he, too, had lost his father.
Before he knew it, Lucas was sobbing with Clara, their miserable duet filling the small living room, clinging to each other as their young hearts shattered, the pieces tumbling together so when it came to pick them up, each would unwittingly find fragments of the other's mixed in with their own.
He held her tightly until the tears turned into dry sobs, which in turn became a sad hiccoughing noise, and then he held her for a while longer, just to be sure.
And as he held her, he was overwhelmed by an emotion he didn’t yet recognise. With hindsight, he suspected this was the moment his friendly regard for Clara shifted towards the romantic love that grew over the next few years. It felt like dust dancing in a sunbeam, golden and warm and sparkling despite their shared heartache, and it coiled around them, drawing her closer to him until he wasn't sure where he ended and she began.
'Better?' he asked at last.
'Better,' she confirmed shakily, looking up at him with red ringed eyes, cheeks soaked with sorrow, and a forced smile. 'I'll be all right,' she whispered, and he pulled her back to him as the silent tears started again.
'I've tried so hard,' she sobbed, losing control of her misery again. 'I've tried to be brave for, for Mum, and Henry, and, and Charlie – poor Charlie - and, and, and I've tried not to make it harder for them, and, and -'
'Shush, shush,' murmured Lucas, rocking her gently and kissing the top of her head, as he'd seen her brothers do when she was upset. Taking care of her now far more important than mourning a man he hadn’t seen in years, and he intended on doing everything he could to make her feel better. 'It's all right, you don't have to be brave for me. You're allowed to be sad, you know.'
'I know,' she moaned. 'It's just, Daddy wouldn't want me to be upset, and he wouldn't want me to show it in front of Mum. She misses him so much -'
'We all do,' said Lucas softly, a lump rising in his throat again as he hugged her a little tighter. 'But if you ever feel sad, and don't want to be brave or upset your mum or brothers, come to me and we can be sad together. Then we can look after each other. All right?'
She nodded, sending yet more tears splashing onto his shirt. 'Thank you,' she whispered.
'Of course,' he said, giving her one last squeeze before releasing her, knowing somehow that something very significant had just passed between them, but without quite being able to name it. 'Now, let's get ourselves tidied up before your mum gets home. We wouldn't want her to worry, would we?'
Of course, I'm only into the first round of edits at the moment, so quite a lot of this will probably change, so please forgive any clunky, rambling sentences etc etc.
I'm hoping to have The Ghost Who Wasn't Dead out on digital shelves by the end of 2022 - so I'd better get back to those edits!
Until next time,