Amongst other things, I am drafting a second novel: The Life of Almost. Here’s something for you. x
Chapter two. Almost’s World
‘Are you listening, Catherine? These are the people you are going to meet. I’m making it a bit old fashioned, but then you and I do not naturally co-exist.
Almost. The protagonist and teller of this story. Well, that’s me, your always friend.
Perfection. She was my sister and her name didn’t suit her. I loved her, though.
Mammy. That’s my mother. She’s dead, but it never makes any difference, does it?
Daddy. That’s my father. He was misplaced. We never found him. That didn’t make any difference, either. it’s funny what doesn’t. Ah – another indeterminate man…That shrub and the indeterminate man out back: they seem to infect every corner of your life, don’t they? But why? I will tell you of terrible deaths and high tides that took centuries and mermaids that could walk and love like no other. That is the sort of thing that should make a difference, but we’ll see. I was saying:
Bronwen Llewhellin. My grandmother. She’s dead, but extremely active and her teeth go clackety-clack and she won’t have them fixed because it’s vanity.
Eleri No-name. That second bit is a mystery waiting for you to solve. She was my great-grandmother, also dead, but never greater. she was rich in vision of the Holy Queen.
Miss Davies. Now she was a rich elderly lady, the crabbed keeper of Clandestine House on the pretty estuary I will bring alive for you. She looked after me, in her own way. Paid for things I needed.
Seren. A beauty. She was Miss Davies’s adopted daughter. A sour, suffering beauty.
Rhys. He was a good man. I didn’t prize him as I should have done. He was my brother in law, husband to Perfection. She treated him like a child, lectured and harangued. But he cared for her well.
Muffled Mfanwy Llewhellin was my aunt. Her voice stopped when she lost her son, Lewis, the Younger. Sometimes it came out in a hoarse whisper, but always her place in the world was minute. She looked out across The Sound, but never said what she saw out there. But I managed to help her change things—oh yes. And she did well to get a job with the Dead Dears
Philip Llewhellin. Now, he was my uncle, Mfanwy’s husband, and dead by hanging, above the garden tools.
Lewis (the Younger) Llewhellin, Mfanwy’s son, dead by shooting over the shuffleboard.
Lewis (the First) Llewhellin. He was a school teacher, stern but we loved him. I found him dead, in a bed of violets, with a half smile on his face.
Derian Llewhellin. A mysterious, wild man and supposed criminal.
Nerys and Dilys. Two beautiful mermaids, they were friends to me. They taught me so much about the beauties of the body and the spirit.
Ishmael Jenkins. My childhood friend.
Evans the Bodies. Undertaker. I was apprenticed to him. He was happier with the waxy bodies than any body he’d known in much life. I think they understood him better. And Mfanwy came into his life, you know.
Gwyneth. She came to help Perfection and Rhys at my childhood home. Perfection chided her and was jealous because she had a certain beauty and Rhys looked at her from the corner of his eye and smiled. I saw him and he knew that I’d seen.
Stephen Garlick. A hostile man who loved Gwyneth and hated everyone else.
Williams, a lawyer. A thing of the darkness. An Englishman who hated Welshmen.
Laura. Williams’s quiet, pretty housekeeper. She was lovely, but not the girl for me, although in a different time…
Ned Owens. My friend in Bath, who went posh.
Anna-Katrina, Ned Owens’s fiancée, who was always posh.
Roland Griffiths. A cruel but manly landowner; courted Seren. I hated him, Catherine. And I had reason.
Robin Nathaniel. A gentleman criminal.
Oh, Catherine. Are you listening carefully and can you remember them all? I know there is much there, but you asked for a story and here is a story of one of my lives. The story of how I got my name and travelled, travelled, travelled. And I have written the names down for you, look. You can refer back, if you need. There is a whole world in what I have written.’
‘But how did you know I would want a story? You prepared your characters ahead for me.’
‘This is why I came. Why I always come. And the story is always true.’
‘I am ready for the story now, Almost.’
And so Almost began and he was on fire with beauty and delight and with a sadness that was victorious.