Book Extract - The Summer of Taking Chances
My latest novel, The Summer of Taking Chances, was published on 4th June. In this extract, Emma Stevens is talking with her friend Lizzie. She has just seen Jake Murray for the first time in ten years...
‘I have to ask,’ Lizzie said, ‘Are you alright?’
‘Why wouldn’t I be?’ I said.
‘In a word – Jake.’
‘I’m alright.’ I considered this statement, and decided it was true. It had thrown me, seeing Jake, even after all this time, but the moment had passed. ‘I admit it was a shock seeing him tonight, but only because I didn’t expect it.’
‘So you’re not going to be crying yourself to sleep?’
‘Not a chance,’ I said. I’ve shed far too many tears over him already, I thought.
For a long moment, Lizzie regarded me in silence. Then she said, ‘Emma, I know how much he hurt you.’
I thought, you don’t know the half of it. Aloud, I said, ‘What happened – I had a crush on a boy, and he wasn’t interested. It’s hardly a Shakespearean tragedy.’
‘It was more than a crush,’ Lizzie said. ‘At least, as far as I remember.’
‘Whatever it was I felt for Jake Murray when we were teenagers,’ I said, ‘I was over him a very long time ago.’
‘You’re sure you’re OK?’
‘I’m fine,’ I said. ‘Really I am. The kettle’s boiled by the way.’
Lizzie jumped up out of her seat, located the coffee jar, and reached into the fridge for milk.
‘See you tomorrow,’ I said. ‘Goodnight, Lizzie.’ Leaving her in the kitchen, I went upstairs.
Considering it was almost midnight, my bedroom was surprisingly light. I went to the window, rested my hands on the sill and looked out. The sky was clear and the moon was full. Ill-met by moonlight. A memory surfaced, the first time Jake had said those words to me…
* * *
I am fifteen, and I’m to play the role of Titania in my school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Jake is playing Oberon. He and I are rehearsing our scenes on the beach, proclaiming our lines to an audience of indifferent seagulls.
‘Try it again,’ I say. ‘From the top.’ I like using theatrical language. Even when I’m not talking about the theatre.
He says, ‘Ill-met by moonlight, proud Titania.’
‘What, jealous Oberon!’ I say. ‘Fairies skip hence; I have forsworn his bed and his company.’ 'Tarry, rash wanton; am I not thy lord,' he says.
The surf is pounding against the shore, and our words are snatched away by the wind. Grey clouds are scudding across the sky.
‘Jake,’ I say, ‘there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.’ I take a deep breath. I haven’t revealed this to anyone else yet, not even my parents or Lizzie. ‘I’ve decided I want to go on with my acting after I leave school. I want to be a professional actress.’ I study his face for his reaction, half-expecting him to laugh – he laughs at a lot of the things I say to him. Instead, his expression is solemn.
He says, ‘I’m glad you told me that, because I feel the same. Next year, I’m going to apply to drama school.’
‘Oh, Jake,’ I say, ‘that’s so great. Just think – we could end up training at the same place.’
Jake smiles. ‘In ten years’ time,’ he says, ‘both of us could be performing in the West End or on TV.’ He does laugh then, and so do I for the sheer excitement of all that lies ahead of us. He catches hold of my hands and spins me around, and we run down the beach to the edge of the sea. Both of us breathless, we stand looking out over the white breakers to the horizon.
Jake’s attention is caught by something lying on the sand. He reaches for it and holds it up to the light, and I see it is a piece of sea-glass, blue and worn smooth by the waves.
‘It’s beautiful,’ I say.
‘If you like it, you can have it,’ he says, handing it to me.
I bend my head to look at the glass more closely, and when I look up again, Jake’s eyes meet mine. In that instant, it comes to me that this good-looking boy, my friend who shares my love of the theatre, is about to kiss me. A shiver runs through me that has nothing to do with the cold wind blowing in from the sea.
He says, ‘It’s time I went. I’m going out tonight.’
‘Hot date?’ I say, keeping my tone light.
‘I may get lucky,’ he says with a wolfish grin. He turns and starts walking back up the beach. Still holding the glass, I walk beside him. I remind myself that we are friends. I wonder if whichever girl he’s seeing tonight would be jealous if she knew he’d spent the afternoon on the beach with me. Probably not, I think, as all we did was recite Shakespeare.
I ask myself what I’d have done if Jake had tried to kiss me, and realise I wouldn’t have pushed him away...
* * *
I gazed out of my bedroom window at the night sky. We were so young, I thought. Reminding myself that I was no longer the naïve teenage girl with stars in her eyes who’d fallen for Jake Murray, I drew the curtains, shutting out the moonlight.
If you would like to read more of The Summer of Taking Chances, it is available in paperback and ebook here (Ctrl + left click)
The Summer of Taking Chances
When Emma Stevens was seventeen, she and Jake Murray were both living in the small seaside village of South Quay, dreaming of glittering careers on the stage. Jake left the village to go to drama school, and the following year, Emma planned to do the same…
Ten years later, Jake is living in London, a successful and well-known actor, while Emma is still living a quiet, uneventful life in South Quay, and working in a local hotel. Her ambitions to become a professional actress abandoned, she is an enthusiastic member of the village amateur dramatics society, and barely remembers the dreams she and Jake once shared.
Then Jake returns to South Quay for the summer…