An extract from Jessie Cave’s funny and moving debut novel
We’re holding hands and walking up a hill. Our hotel sits at the top. A messy red plait hangs down her back and her summer dress is too short so it keeps riding up. She doesn’t notice, or maybe she doesn’t care because we’re on holiday.
She’s pulling me along, and as my heart starts pounding I regret not keeping up with swimming, keeping up with anything. I wish I had her discipline, her strength. My pink flip-flops are digging into the sides of my feet and sand nestles in a new blister; my calves ache from walking on the beach today. I’m so full of pizza I beg her to sit down.
We sit on the edge of a grassy mound and catch our breath as the sun goes down. The sky is splashed with neon pink and orange like a painting. She points to the setting sun.
Her: That was lucky –
Me: I planned that.
Her: Come on, up we go –
Me: Hannah, I can’t, please –
Her: You can –
Me: Let’s just stay here for another minute and watch the sun go down –
Her: It’s gone. But there’s always another one tomorrow.
She sprints ahead in the dark, laughing. I sit still, unable to move without her, refusing to move without her. She comes back. Of course she comes back.
List of weird things I’ve done in the last eight months:
– Severely burnt my tongue on microwaved lasagne and got so angry that I threw it out the window. It landed on top of a bus stop and was eaten by pigeons for days and days.
– Hit a stranger in the head because I thought he was trying to high-five me as he walked past.
– Took the train to Edinburgh to surprise the only friend I had at art school, to find out that she has stopped liking me. I went to the Edinburgh Dungeons, which was empty apart from me. Applied for a job there on the way home.
– Stuck gum on my wall as I went to sleep each night because I couldn’t be bothered to get up from bed. Slowly I accumulated a ‘gum mountain’ which is now home to six dead flies.
– Bought ingredients in the middle of the night for carrot cake even though I hate carrot cake. I tried to give it to a homeless person, but I couldn’t find one who’d take it.
– Fell asleep in the bed department of John Lewis. Had a graphic nightmare and woke up screaming, surrounded by three sales assistants and an uninterested policeman.
– Went into a pet shop and spoke at length to the pet shop manager about the intelligence of my parrot, and how I decided on her name – Marge. I don’t have a parrot.
– Incorrectly completed multiple sudoku puzzles in newspapers and wrote slightly aggressive and cryptic things like I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER next to them.
– Masturbated to Location, Location, Location with an expensive vibrator that I stole from my sister.
Extract from Sunset by Jessie Cave (Welbeck Publishing, £12.99). Buy a copy here.
Jessie Cave is a special guest on A Drink with the Idler on 30 September. Register here.