I’m pleased to host a guest piece today from Jacqueline Jeynes, an established non-fiction writer who is sharing with us the intriguing prologue for a novel she is currently working on, No Harm Done.
NO HARM DONE: PROLOGUE
“Get out of the way!” he screamed, tooting the horn angrily and flashing lights at other road users. Cyclists ignored him, weaving through the myriad of obstacles, chatting leisurely with wives or girlfriends perched side-saddle behind them.
Luk Say glanced in his rear-view mirror at two passengers squashed tightly together in the farthest corner away from him. The older girl sat rigid, staring straight ahead as she had done since leaving Beijing airport. He was convinced she hadn’t blinked once during the last hour. Very unnerving. About nine years old, he guessed, a little older than her companion.
The other girl slept, cocooned by the coat she clutched tightly around her.
“Good riddance,” he grumbled, recalling his panic that airport security would stop him as the girl screamed and ranted hysterically.
“Still, not long now”.
Manoeuvring slowly down the narrow street, wheels slushed through squelching piles of rotting rubbish. Rivulets of creamy, opaque water splashed onto black shiny paintwork, the stench wafting up in great clouds.
Luk Say pulled up sharply at the shack, a dim light illuminated the family crouched around the tiny cooking area.
“Come and get her, then. Be quick about it, I’ve still got another to take home yet” he shouted jumping from the car. Eagerly they rushed over, excited that she was home. He touched the girl’s shoulder, calling gruffly
“Hey! Wake up. You are home”.
Her howl ricocheted inside the black confines of the cab as she leapt onto the seat, hunched against its yellowing, grimed roof-lining. She rocked backwards and forwards, jabbering wildly as the family watched in silent horror.
Her mother yanked Luk Say away from the door.
“San-li! San-li – it’s me.”
Then louder, instinctively returning to familiar words of childhood,
“I am here, San-li. My little bird, it’s Mummy. You are home now”.
The little girl froze, wild eyes slowly beginning to focus on her mother’s face. Coaxing, soothing, she pulled her daughter gently towards her and carried her home.
Lu Tang had barely moved her head to observe San-li, her doll-like eyes sliding back to resume fixed concentration on the road ahead. As their eyes met, she knew Luk Say would be glad to hand this one over too.
The girl sat straight and still in the back of the car. A few times her eyelids wavered – she was so tired – but her head jerked backwards sharply. Had the driver seen?
“I mustn’t sleep. Must stay awake. If I sleep, they will come…”
She closed her mind quickly to the images, forcing her gaze to the darkness beyond the windscreen. She was wary of the driver, but frightened? No, not really. She had seen fear in his eyes too, at the airport. He was just the delivery man.
Leaving Beijing, they reached Lu Tang’s home. Slowly, she carried her small case from the car, watching her father and the driver as they shook hands conspiratorially. Looking into her father’s wrinkled, weather-beaten face, his eyes narrowed, a hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth. So, he knew all along.
Lu Tang suddenly felt very tired. Sitting on her bed at the back of the house. She opened the case. There was the doll they gave her when she arrived in England.
Such a long four weeks since she had left this room, she thought sadly. And her life was changed forever.
Dr Jacqueline Jeynes has been a published non-fiction author for 20 years, on a range of topics including business books, military history of POWs in Japan, textile crafts, and various forms of travel writing. She has a small-run publishing company and currently has a book due for release by New York publisher on Strategies for Targeting the mature travel sector. She is an art history course writer and tutor with Aberystwyth University. She lives in west Wales and has been married for nearly 40 years with lots of children/ grandchildren/ great-grandchildren.