Following some discussion with a very wise friend about the second chapter of Eat (which mostly focused on how boring it was). I decided to make some changes to it. I've ended up dumping a lot of what I'd written but there was a section I wanted to keep and it made sense for those paragraphs to be included in chapter 1.
Here then is the revised first chapter which I think is stronger and provides a better hook into the story to come.
I'll leave the original version up for reference.
"Come on, it'll be a laugh..."
Looking back later Simon wished he'd followed his gut and pushed back. Told her that no it wouldn't be a laugh. That breaking into an abandoned tower block that was probably full of rats and the stench of tramp piss wasn't his idea of a laugh at all. That he'd rather just spend Saturday in bed with her watching rubbish on the telly and drinking tea and eating cheese on toast and screwing. Saying no then would have saved a lot of pain.
But Eve smiled that smile of hers that always turned him to jelly and he knew all hope was lost. The problem he had of course was not just the smile, or even the idea of this urban adventure she was proposing to him, it was Jack. Handsome, muscled Jack with the tattoos and the winning smile and the ability to make everyone in the room look at him. Jack who Simon suspected Eve (his bloody girlfriend Eve) had a bit of a crush on. She certainly liked his company and laughed at all his jokes (a bit too much in Simon's opinion) and seemed very keen for them to go out with him today.
This whole stupid fucking expedition was Jack's idea and that was what annoyed him about it. The idea of exploring an abandoned building was bad enough but the idea of doing it with the man who annoyed him more than any other man in the known universe (i.e. Jack) made it even worse. Of course if Eve was going he had to go too, because the idea of her and Jack being together without him there to keep an eye on things filled him with a dread that was even more powerful than the irritation Jack awoke in him.
Simon supposed that the exploring bit might not be too bad. Might even be kind of interesting. Maybe. But Jack's presence would no doubt suck any pleasure out of the experience for him. Still, Eve was clearly set on going so he didn't have much option but to go along and make the best of it, rats and tramp piss and all.
"Okay," he said and this elicited squeal of delight from Eve.
"Thank you lover," she said and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
Lying in bed with her, the morning sunshine creeping round the blinds and illuminating his room with a warm glow, Simon couldn't help but feel blessed to have her. She might be a bit of a pain in the arse at times, and prone to getting into fads and trends but she really was truly gorgeous. Truly gorgeous and therefore way out of his league.
He knew they made a bit of an odd couple. She was graceful and pretty; he was awkward and still fighting a war of attrition against his adolescent acne. She was tiny, 4 foot 10 even with her shoes on (flats mind, she pushed 5 foot in heels); he was 6 foot 2 in his socks. Eve comfortably fit under his arm if he held it outstretched and this was exactly the pose they were adopting in the picture he has as the wallpaper on his phone.
That shot had been taken by a friend of his a month or so ago, not long after Simon and Eve got together. They'd met at one of the bars on the University campus in Fresher's week; the two of them had been standing next to each other at the bar purely by chance. Both were queuing to buy drinks for the groups of friends they were with, flush with start of term finds and eager to get out and have fun and meet people. Kings of Leon was playing loudly from the speakers that dotted the walls and Simon found his fingers drumming along on the stained wood of the bar. Looking down at them he saw another pair of hands to his right doing the same thing, much smaller and more feminine hands with long nails painted elaborately. The click of the nails on the bar like a high hat accompanying the deeper drumming of his digits. His eyes ran up the wrists and arms and he saw that the hands belonged to an angel. A tiny blonde haired angel with big brown eyes who was staring back at him and smiling.
"You like them too?" the angel shouted, leaning into him to make herself heard over the music.
Simon found he couldn't speak so just grinned like an idiot and nodded. At that point the batman finished pouring the last of the three pints of cider he'd ordered and Simon nodded again at the angel, still struck dumb, and walked back to his mates who were sitting at a small table on the other side of the room. As he walked he mentally kicked himself for not staying and talking to her longer, asking her name even. Jesus, he was hopeless.
The fates smiled on him though and when he went outside for a cigarette 20 minutes later the angel was standing there too. She smiled at him again as he walked out into the chilly October evening and spoke. He could hear her voice properly this time, light and pretty with a hint if North London in the accent.
"Hello again," she said. "Bit quieter out here. I'm enjoying the peace almost as much as the fag." She gestured with the roll up she was smoking.
"Hi," said Simon, speaking to her for the first time and thinking he probably needed to say more than just that. "Simon," he added after a pause.
"No, Eve," the angel replied and laughed, not cruelly but in a way that made him feel a little more at ease. "You don't talk much do you, Simon? Strong silent type? Like Clint Eastwood or some other old guy?"
Somehow that broke the spell on Simon and he was able to respond with more than a single word. He realised this was probably a great opportunity to throw in a line about how he was struck dumb by her beauty (which would have been the truth); wasn't that what Bogart or Clint or, for god's sake, Robert Pattinson would have said?
He wasn't any of them though; and didn't have the guts or the swagger for a move like that so he played it safe.
"Sorry," he said, "I guess I'm still a bit overwhelmed by all of this." He waved his arm loosely over his head, indicting the university campus as a whole. He'd only been there a few days and guessed the same was true of Eve. Exciting as it all was it was a big change from the safety and comfort of home.
"God yes," she replied with a smile. "What do you miss most?"
"Mum bringing me tea in bed at the weekend probably." He said, hoping that didn't make him sound too much of a wimp. It obviously didn't because she smiled even more and the next thing he knew it was half an hour and a few more cigarettes later and he was suggesting they get a bottle of wine from the campus supermarket and go back to his halls to talk somewhere warmer.
"Like your bed?" she asked.
He blushed at that and said no although of course he meant yes.
"Shame," she replied, "I wouldn't mind a cuddle at least."
She had stayed the night and they had cuddled, her tiny frame snuggled up against his giant one. Both of them demurely still clothed in their underwear but his doing little to hide the painful erection he had. With what he came to recognise as her typical blunt honesty Eve commented on it. "You're not putting that near me," she said, "not on the first night."
At that he prayed there would be a second night and there was. And a third. And now a month on they were still dating and everything that went with it.
They might not be the most obvious couple, he thought as he lay there with her that Saturday morning, but when they were together he felt happier than he could ever remember feeling and when they were apart he felt sick. Was that love? Probably. He wondered if he should tell her? Not yet, he decided, she already had him wrapped round her little finger as it was. Which is why he was now going to be spending his Saturday traipsing round a derelict building for kicks. Bloody brilliant.
The building in question was called heights and stood about eight miles from where Simon and Eve lay. It might be condemned but it wasn't empty. A motley assortment of creatures occupied the once luxurious apartments. Simon was right about the rats, they ran freely in the hallways and through the once plush accomodation. They squirmed in grand, empty bath tubs and nesting in rotting bedding left behind by the previous human tenants. The rats were joined by their cousins the mice, hiding in the walls to avoid their larger more agressive relatives. Hunting both sets of rodents were stray cats and dogs, pets abandoned by owners who'd either lost interest or couldn't afford them anymore. When they weren't hungry the dogs would go after the cats for sport, chasing them in small packs, trapping them in dead end rooms and ripping them apart for the thrill of it. Other less bold animals joined this happy menagerie. Urban foxes kept their distance from the vicious dogs and lived off the scraps they left behind. Squirrels lived up high in the spaces the others couldn't reach, venturing out to neighbouring parks to hunt for food, and then returning to the Heights to sleep.
Of course there were a range of bugs and creepy crawlies as well: worms and beetles, spiders and ants, silverfish and flies. They lived for the most part off the leavings of their larger neighbours, the carcasses of kills and the piles of faeces that littered the halls. All this life teemed within the building that had been given up on by its owners. Running and killing and shitting and eating and fucking and spawning and living and dying.
So unbeknownst to the thousands of people who walked and drove past it every day the building had its own mini eco system, a circle of life revolving in the darkness; and that food chain went all the way to the top - there were humans in Sunline Heights too.
Buy Sunliner for non-Kindle devices (iOS, Kobo, Sony Reader)
Buy Sunliner for Kindle (UK)
Buy Sunliner for Kindle (US)