Little Boxes is the story of Tom and Molly - two people who are starting afresh. I loved writing it, but owes an awful lot to several important people. The Romaniacs (http://romaniacgroup.wordpress.com) have always been my writing backbone, and in the summer of 2013, Laura James and I represented the Romaniac gang on the most fabulous writing course ever. It was in Italy - what’s not to like - at the beautiful Arte Umbria headquarters. The very lovely and hospitable Sarah and David Moody at http://arteumbria.com usually concentrate on painting or sculpting courses, but this time they’d decided to branch out and try something different.
I typed ‘the end’ on the plane home. I’m going back in July 2015. My new book, Living the Dream, is in dire need of the Sue Moorcroft touch!
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.
The next afternoon, Tom was sitting in one of his usual places on the beach with a canvas propped up on his knees, trying to make something new and interesting of the view of the promenade, when suddenly Molly was beside him, all breathless and apologetic again.
Although summer had officially begun, it was one of those days when a brisk sea breeze was making concentration difficult. Whipping up the waves, it sent stray pieces of seaweed and sweet wrappers scooting over the pebbles and, like a few others on the beach, Molly was wrapped up as if the weather was still chilly. She wore a huge soft scarf in shades of russet, green and blue today, and a long, flowing red cardigan with the sleeves casually pushed up. She dangled a dog’s lead from one hand and scanned the horizon as she spoke.
‘Excuse me, I’m really sorry to bother you… Tom…’ He put down his pencil as she asked, ‘Have you seen a little dog go past? Sort of brownish, with a black patch over one eye? And a bent ear?’
Tom couldn’t help noticing the rise and fall of her chest even under the layers of cardigan and high-necked t-shirt – it was mesmerising. He gulped and opened his mouth to answer, but she rushed on. ‘I think the dog might be on heat, that’s the trouble; I shouldn’t really have brought her out. I’m only looking after her for one of my neighbours, but it looked so quiet down here, and the poor thing was desperate for a walk.’
Tom took a deep breath and cleared his throat. It seemed hours since he’d spoken to anyone. The last person must have been his landlady, a comfortless woman whose legs didn’t meet at the top and who looked as if she’d been sucking a lemon.
‘Erm… so, do you like dogs?’ he asked huskily, anything to keep the conversation going. She raised her eyebrows.
‘Oh yes, I love them, especially spaniels – we always used to have one when I was little, but Jake won’t let us have one.’ She paused, biting her lip.
‘Is Jake your husband?’
The silence lengthened until Tom was thoroughly uncomfortable. ‘So… why not?’
‘Huh? Why not what?’ Molly jumped slightly, looking totally confused. She must have been miles away in her head, but where?
Tom persevered. ‘Why won’t Jake let you have a dog?’
Molly flushed. ‘Oh, I don’t know. He won’t say. It’s not worth another argument.’
‘Do you argue a lot then?’ Tom wondered if he’d gone too far with this question – it seemed much too personal a thing to ask someone he’d only just met properly, but Molly shrugged and grinned.
‘Oh, you know – not more than most long-married couples, I guess. We’ve been together since we were at school. You change, don’t you?’
‘How do you mean?’
‘Well, we were too young to know what we really wanted out of life when we first got together, and now…’ She broke off, blushing. ‘Listen to me, rambling on about Jake and you don’t even know me. You must think I’m off my head, wandering around talking to strangers.’
‘I’m not a stranger now, though, am I? You could stop and chat if you see me again. I’m quite safe.’ Tom glanced down at his useless legs and grimaced.
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.