I’m going to share an excerpt from the early part of my novel, ‘Loving Judah’; you may think from the title that it’s a romance about someone who is very much taken by Judah. In fact, Judah doesn’t appear in the novel which opens on the day of his funeral. He was the son of Peter and step son of Aislin and died while trekking in Kashmir. Instead of his death bringing them together, it alienates Peter from his wife whom he blames for encouraging Judah to take the trip.
Peter and Aislin bought an old house in need of a great deal of restoration; when Judah went missing, Peter took out his frustration and anguish on it, ripping up the floor boards which had needed replacing but in an organised way, ditto the doors which he took off and smashed up in the garden, ditto the central heating system leaving them with no hot water… the house is almost a ruin. After the funeral, Peter stays in bed – fortunately for Aislin her best friend Sandi arrives to stay…
Peter remained in bed and Sandi ran up and down to him with drinks and sandwiches he didn’t eat.
“Let me take you out to lunch, you look as if you could do with it,” she said to Aislin. “How on earth do you manage with no electricity and no hot water? This house is like a deep-freeze, I mean, hell, how do you wash?”
Aislin made light of it; she’d manage the same as her granny had, and at least there was a launderette in town.
“And no doors? It’s mad! How long’s it been like this?”
It had been months… Aislin began to realise soon after they moved that it wasn’t going to be as easy as they’d imagined. They could decorate, and fix shelves and units… But plumbing? Electrics? Renovating the kitchen and bathroom? Peter had a vision of knocking down walls but Aislin soon saw that they didn’t have the least idea of how to do any of these things.
Sandi suggested getting a builder in straight away, move into a hotel until it was all done.
It had all gone wrong with the first phone call a matter of weeks after they had moved. Judah was missing; they held on for a while, waiting for the good news that he was found safe and well. For about a month they hung on… until a few weeks before Christmas when Aislin went completely to pieces. She couldn’t stop crying and Peter threw himself into physical activity, as if occupying his body would take his mind off the dreadful fear, the not even daring to hope, the awful stomach churning, numbing pain and dread. He attacked the wiring, ripping out sockets and switches off the walls and tearing out cables, plunging them into darkness… literally and metaphorically. Aislin followed him about snivelling and annoying him while he created chaos. There was plaster in his hair and a sort of black gunge out of the roof space when he brought the ceiling in the little bedroom down. The original ceiling roses had been beautiful but all had come down with the heavens falling about them.
“Did none of your friends come and help? Did no-one offer to put you up?”
“Of course! Pete just… well, he can be quite rude… and after a while the visitors stopped coming and so did the offers of help…” Aislin shook her head, in despair.
His madness went on for weeks, working destructively like a maniac until it was too dark to see, only stopping to phone the Foreign Office, there was no electricity so no computer. As soon as he’d ripped out all electric fittings, he attacked the bathroom all the tiles off the wall, the shower unit out…
“God that was a nightmare, he’d forgotten to turn off the water!”
He’d torn the doors from their hinges, then ripped the floorboards up from the hall and hurled them out of the front door into the garden. He was so angry.
“One night he decided to go for a run. I was so frightened, I thought of calling the police, but I went to bed and lay in the dark, crying my eyes out.”
He came back as it was beginning to get light and attacked the floorboards again. Aislin had snatched the crowbar away and threw it into the garden. He went after it and she wrestled it away and then they had both broken down.
“It began to rain and we came in, into the icebox. He was so tired, emotionally as much as physically… We seemed closer then, reconnected to each other and we stayed in bed for a few days, it was so bitterly cold apart from anything else…
“We were filthy, hadn’t washed properly, hadn’t even thought about it… the kitchen was heaped with dirty dishes and half eaten food. We heated pans of water and washed us and the dishes. But he got up in the early hours and started again, ripping the units out of the kitchen, the madness, the frenetic activity started again.”
“Ashy, you should have got help…” Sandi was appalled, horrified.
One night she managed to drag him to the pub… she was beginning to think it was the house’s fault, that it was responsible. Stupid, but at times like that you think stupid things, say stupid things. Suddenly his phone rang and it was the worst possible news. They’d found Judah. The landlord Jimmy, a friend of Pete’s, got him upstairs and into the shower while Aislin dashed home and packed his bags and found his passport. Jimmy drove him to the airport and she walked home alone.
“It was only as I stood on the drive and looked at the house, the front door wide open as I’d left it, the garden full of broken floorboards that I wondered why I hadn’t gone with Pete. I realised our worry and anxiety had set us apart from each other, any emotional and mental closeness was an illusion.”
If you want to find out what happens to Aislin, here is a link to my book: