Published by Serpent’s Tail
Ebook and Hardback (10 October 2019) | Paperback (2 April 2020)
ABOUT THE BOOK
How well do you know your girlfriend?
How well do you know your lover?
How well do you know yourself?
Daniel and Victoria are together. They’re trying for a baby. Ruby is in prison, convicted of assault on an abusive partner.
But when Daniel joins a pen pal program for prisoners, he and Ruby make contact. At first the messages are polite, neutral – but soon they find themselves revealing more and more about themselves. Their deepest fears, their darkest desires.
And then, one day, Ruby comes to find Daniel. And now he must decide who to choose – and who to trust.
My thanks to Rachel of Profile Books for the invitation to take part in the tour and for providing the extract. I rather like the look of this one and shall be buying a copy to read.
Thank you for writing to me and for enclosing your photograph. You are as beautiful as I imagined. I have Blu-tacked you to my wall.
Before we meet – if we meet – I should warn you: I don’t much resemble the man you may have seen in the papers. That all happened so long ago. (Has it really been sixteen years?) I’m heavier now and that thick mop of black hair is long gone. I don’t want my appearance to shock you so I have enclosed a photograph of myself. I certainly don’t expect to end up on your wall. I have often thought about what it would be like to see you, to hear about your life, what kind of person you are, your dreams – your fears. But in my heart I never believed it could happen. I must have read your letter a dozen times and each time I open it I expect your words to have disappeared. But there they are.
I’ve been contacted many times over the years, by journalists, bloggers, one time a screenwriter, all wanting to know ‘what really happened’ in the cottage, when all they really want is for me to confirm what they’ve already heard. They ask about Ruby. They ask about Lanes End. They ask about the trial. I throw their letters in the bin. But you ask me a different question. You ask me to tell you ‘who I really am’. And I get the feeling you truly do want to hear my side of the story. It can’t have been easy for you to reach out to me like this. I imagine you’ve heard a great many things about me already. I expect you’ve googled me. I’m so grateful you’ve written at all. That you ask for my version shows integrity. That you’re even considering meeting me feels like a miracle. You want the facts before judging me. I cannot ask for a fairer hearing than this. So, assuming nothing, let me give them to you. Whether this serves my own ends or not, when you finish reading this letter you will know ‘who I really am’. And then you can decide for yourself. So, who am I really?
I may as well start right here with this desk. These tapered legs, the panels that fit together so neatly they form a perfectly flush surface, these wooden pegs that connect it all together. It’s all my handiwork. I used to make my living crafting and selling furniture. Now I do it for the love of it. I love that each type of timber has its own smell. I love feeling, with each swipe of my block plane, smoothness replacing roughness. And the gentle sound the shavings make under my boot. And the softness of fresh sawdust.
The last couple of months I’ve been crafting a miniature chest of drawers for Gordon, for his wife’s fiftieth. I’m reluctant to call him a friend but I suppose in a way he has become one to me. She can keep all her earrings and bracelets and loose things inside it. It’s been a long time since I lived with a woman but I still remember the catastrophe of Victoria’s things. Gordon and I had a good laugh about that. The last layer of French polish is drying tonight. It’ll shine like a mirror.
I’m working on something for you too. A little gift. I’ll give it to you if you choose to see me. You should know, though, I’m a perfectionist; if you keep me waiting too long I’ll have sanded and smoothed it down so much there’ll be nothing left of it. I suppose that’s a bit like love isn’t it? You spot things that displease you or that actively irritate you; maybe a facet doesn’t glint in the light like it should or when you run your finger along an edge you feel a snag, and then you’re reaching for the sandpaper and burnishing it into fine dust. That, or you chuck it in with the offcuts and start again.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A. S. Hatch grew up in Lancashire in the 90s and has lived in Taipei and Melbourne. Now he lives in London and writes fiction in the early hours of the morning before going to work in political communications.