Interview with a main character: Tom
Okay, Tom - I can smell the turps and linseed oil from here so I’m guessing I’ve taken you away from your current work in progress? What are you painting right now?
Tom: It’s fine, I was just putting the finishing touches to a huge portrait and it needs to dry before I carry on. It’s kind of different from my usual style; wilder and less ... tidy? Lots of crashing waves, The tourists loved my old stuff, views of the big Norfolk sky and calm seas and the pier and the lighthouse so it was risky trying this, but I don’t care. I was going mad never being able to let myself go.
But you mentioned that it was a portrait? That sounds more like a landscape to me?
Tom: Ah. Well it would be, but there’s a woman in it. A beautiful woman.
A friend of yours, is she?
Tom: Yes. Just a friend. Her name’s Molly. I met her on the beach.
I’m sensing a romance here, Tom?
Tom: I should be so lucky. Bloody hell, I sound like Kylie. I mean, if there was more to it than just friends, I’d ... I’d ... oh well, it’s never going to happen, is it. Look at me.
I’m not sure what you’re getting at, to be honest, Tom.
Tom: Come on, cut the crap. She’s not going to fancy a bloke in a wheelchair, is she? She’s gorgeous. What have I got to offer a woman like that?
Erm ... you’re pretty gorgeous yourself to be quite truthful. Strong, funny, talented. I could go on.
Tom: Yeah, right. Anyway, we’ll see. It might happen. Watch this space.
The next day, Tom took his courage in both hands, put on his favourite faded Levis, his old leather flying jacket and a red t-shirt, and got into his car. As he drove to Molly’s house, he rehearsed his lines over and over again. He had to strike just the right note or he’d frighten her off before he could get to know her properly.
He pulled in behind her car, which looked as if it had been abandoned rather than parked, and swung himself out of his own, intending to reach for his sticks. Before he’d had a chance to organise himself, Hattie came flying out of the front door.
‘Tom! I saw you from my window – I sleep at the front – no-one else likes it because it’s a bit noisy but I like to see what’s going on in the street, and I saw you. I’ve got my own room now. Have you come to see how we did in the sleepover?’
She paused to breathe and Tom started to manoeuvre himself out of the driving seat.
‘Do you want your chair?’ Hattie asked, going to the boot. ‘I can do it, I know how.’
At that moment, Molly emerged from the house, and Tom was struck dumb by her beauty. She was wearing one of her floating-type ensembles, layer upon layer of crimson, burgundy and russet material over skin tight leggings. Her hair was tied up on top of her head, and curls cascaded around her face. She opened her eyes wide when she recognised her visitor, but rallied quickly and came towards him smiling.
‘Tom, this is nice. I was going to come into the shop again to see your new paintings properly.’
‘Hi Molly, I was just passing and I thought I’d bring in the girls’ sponsor money.’ There was an ominous silence and Hattie became very interested in the toes of her boots.
‘I tell you what, we’ll talk about that inside,’ said Molly, glaring at her youngest daughter. Hattie sprang into action, wrenching the wheelchair out of the boot, opening it up deftly and bringing it to just the right place for Tom to slide into. He grinned at her.
‘You’ve done that before,’ he said, settling into the chair.
‘Yes, I’ve got a friend at school who’s d–’ she stopped suddenly, exchanging agonised glances with her mum. Tom laughed.
‘Who’s the D word,’ he finished. ‘You don’t have to walk on eggshells around me, sweetheart, I’ve been in a wheelchair for a long time. I’m used to it.’
‘But why?’ Hattie ground to a halt again as Tom began to propel himself towards the house. The step was tiny, and he easily got through the wide doorway. Over his shoulder, he said to Hattie, ‘You can ask me anything you like, if you give me a cup of tea.’ Hattie shook her head, biting her lip.
Soon Tom was relaxing in one of Molly’s most comfortable chairs, with a brimming mug next to him and a slice of Hattie’s flapjack, made that day at school. He had never felt so at home in someone else’s house before. Usually it took him several visits to grow accustomed to a new place. There were practical issues, such as whether the loo was accessible, and if the floors were laminated – major slipping hazard – and whether the home owners tried to make too many allowances for his needs.
Suddenly bereaved, Molly White realises that she has never really known her feisty husband Jake when random boxes begin to appear through the post, each one containing a tantalising clue to the secrets of Jake and Molly’s past. Someone who knows them both well, for reasons of their own, has planned a trail of discovery. The clues seem to be designed to change Molly’s life completely, leading her around Britain and then onwards to rural France and deepest Bavaria.
Meanwhile, waiting in the wings is Tom, a charismatic artist who runs a gallery in the same town. Strong, independent and wheelchair-bound from the age of fifteen, he leads a solitary life and has no idea how devastatingly attractive he is to women. When Tom meets curvy, beautiful and funny Molly, he knows that she is his dream woman, but she seems way out of his orbit until the boxes start to weave their spell and the two of them are thrown right out of their comfort zones.
Little Boxes is a story of love in a variety of guises - mother-love, unrequited passion, infatuation and the shadow-love held in memories that refuse to go away.
Celia J Anderson spends most of her spare time writing in as many different genres as possible, including children’s fiction. In her other life, she’s Assistant Headteacher at a small Catholic primary school in the Midlands and loves teaching literature (now comfortingly called English again but still the best subject in the world.)
She tried a variety of random jobs before discovering that the careers advisor at secondary school was right, including running crèches, childminding, teaching children to ride bikes (having omitted to mention she couldn’t do it herself) and a stint in mental health care. All these were ideal preparation for the classroom and provided huge amounts of copy for the books that were to come.
Celia enjoys cooking and eating in equal measures, and thinks life without wine would be a sad thing indeed. She is married, with two grown up daughters who have defected to the seaside. One day she plans to scoop up husband and cats and join them there.
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