Thrilled to be part of Helen Cox’s new book blog tour! You all need to pick up and read Secrets & Fries at the Starlight Diner.. its hilarious!
Here is an extract from the book..
Extract from Chapter One
Outside the diner, ankle-deep in snow again, I watched my breath smoke up into the icy air and shuddered. It was nearing midnight. Besides a Chinese takeaway joint on the corner, the buildings out on East Houston were silent and shuttered. Here, I was the only soul walking the streets. Well, who would be out at this time of night in the cold? The day after Christmas. Even in New York, a city that had a reputation for never really slowing up. Only folk with nowhere else to go would be out on a night like this.
Trudging back to the subway station at 2nd Avenue in my green Doc Martin boots, tears threatened again. God damn it. I had to pull myself together if I was going to get through this. Alright, so the last four days had been among the worst of my life. So I had nobody and nowhere to turn to. Fine. But I got out of Atlantic City alive. What else mattered?
Tonight would be lonely.
Tonight would be cold.
But the next day Esther would be back and things would be better. I’d make her laugh, like I used to, on those gin-fuelled nights backstage at the Crystal Coast Casino. That’d be enough to win back the heart of a one-time friend. It just had to be.
I’d almost reached the mouth of the subway entrance and was debating whether to pay to ride a train or just leap over the turnstile so I might hold on to my last five bucks when I felt it. A heavy hand on my left shoulder, gripping me tight from behind.
Oh God no… They’d found me
I sucked in a deep breath and held onto it.
My eyes widened.
My jaw stiffened.
But that’s all there was time for. Taking more than a second to react might mean I wouldn’t see New Year.
Before fear or doubt could paralyse me completely, I dropped my luggage, cringing at the imagined dent in my Fender Jazzmaster guitar, clenched my fist and swung around as hard as I could, punching my assailant across the cheek and letting out a bass grunt as my fist knocked hard against flesh and bone.
‘Jeeesus!’ The guy cried out and put a hand to his face while I was wringing my hand and gasping at the sting. I’d forgotten how much it hurt to sock a person, but I had my other fist raised ready to strike again when a vaguely familiar voice asked, ‘What you do that for?’
It was Jimmy Boyle.
I’d just punched Jimmy Boyle in the face.
He wasn’t bleeding, but there’d probably be a pretty big bruise there in the morning.
‘Damn it, what the hell did you creep up on me for?’ I yelled, anger rising over the shock he’d given me. ‘You can’t just sneak up on a woman in New York at midnight. Saying that, I’m surprised I didn’t smell your cologne first. You must be downwind
‘Wait a minute, wait a minute. Just let me get this straight. First you punch me in the face’ he said, giving his cheek a gentle prod where I’d hit him. ‘Now, you’re telling me I smell bad?’
Those were two God-awful things to do to a person, especially one right after the other. But probably out of relief that Frankie’s guys hadn’t in fact caught up with me – out of relief I wasn’t going to die, at least not right that second – the urge to laugh bubbled up inside. I clamped both hands over my mouth to contain it, but still, a small chuckle escaped.
‘Oh, I see, this is funny, is it? You think this is funny?’ Jimmy ranted, but his annoyance only made me want to laugh harder and eventually the edges of his mouth gave in to the infectiousness of it and slanted upward. Just enough for the expression to be classified as a smile.
‘Here, let me see,’ I said, choking back another giggle. I put a quivering hand up to his chin and turned his head to the left, so it was illuminated by the yellow beam of a nearby street light. He already looked a little dark along the cheekbone. I cringed, bit my lower lip and moved my eyes from the brewing bruise to the brown of his eyes. They were so intense, like they saw more than most. Or maybe, had seen more than most.
‘You’re shivering,’ he said. His breathing was deep and erratic, as well it might be after being socked in the face without warning.
‘It’s cold, genius,’ I said, telling myself again it was the weather that was making me shake, not the fact I thought my number was up just minutes ago or that the air between me and the reporter seemed suddenly charged with something unspoken.
Though they had more reason to now than before, Jimmy’s eyes didn’t look angry like they had back at the restaurant. He stood stock-still, staring at me, while I ran my fingertip along his cheek, as if that could magic away the pain I’d caused him. ‘I’m so sorry for hitting you, but you scared the hell outta me. You gonna be OK?’
‘I’ll live. Won’t be the first time I go into the office with my face all beat up.’
‘You make a habit outta gettin’ punched in the face?’ I said, shuffling my hand back into the warmth of my pocket.
‘Let’s just say I’m no stranger to the ice pack.’ Jimmy almost growled these words.
‘Bit of a weird way to get your boss’s attention. Don’t most people impress their boss by inviting them to a summer barbeque or something?’
‘Well, I guess I ain’t most people,’ he said, opening and shutting his jaw a couple of times, flinching as he did so. ‘Where’d you learn to punch like that?’
‘I grew up on the outskirts of Detroit. Where do you think I learned to punch like that?’
Jimmy summoned a smile, though it was clear from the crinkling of the skin near his eyes that it hurt when he did.