Saturday Excerpt: Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone
The weekend is here, and that can mean only one thing! Here is your Saturday Excerpt, for Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone, coming soon in June 2017!
Phaedra Patrick’s debut novel, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, was hailed as “poignant” and “utterly endearing.” Now she returns with Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone, a gem of a novel about family, forgiveness and one man’s second chance at happiness.
Moonstone for empathy. Azurite for memories. Lapis lazuli for truth… In the quiet village of Noon Sun, Benedict Stone has settled into a complacent and predictable routine. Business at his jewelry shop has dried up; his marriage is on the rocks. His life is in desperate need of a jump start…
And then a surprise arrives at his door.
Gemma is Benedict’s audacious teenage niece—the daughter of his estranged brother, Charlie. The two Stone brothers had a falling out and haven’t spoken in almost two decades, since Charlie left for America. Reckless and stubborn, Gemma invites herself into Benedict’s world and turns his orderly life upside down. But she might just be exactly what he needs to get his life back on track…
Filled with colorful characters and irresistible charm, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone is a luminous reminder of the unbreakable bonds of family, and shows that having someone to embrace life with is always better than standing on your own.
AS BENEDICT STONE HUFFED HIS WAY TO WORK, the sweet smell of the cherry scones in Bake My Day made him forget for a moment that his wife, Estelle, had packed her purple suitcase and moved out of their home.
His mouth watered and he stopped, sniffed and needed something weighty in his stomach to help sugarcoat his sorrows. He curled his fingers into his palms and tried to resist, but it was like an ultrastrong magnet pulled him inside the baker’s shop.
A fella like you needs more than just a slice of toast, a sausage roll, bought by a schoolboy, said.
You need something sweet, too, a chocolate cookie, on display in the glass counter, chipped in.
Benedict tried his best to ignore them, but the lure of a succulent bacon sandwich and an oozy jam doughnut was too strong. He bought both and devoured them before he reached the front door of his shop, Stone Jewelry, just a few meters away.
When he unlocked the door, his stomach dropped as he glanced at the 25% Off Sale sticker he’d taped into his window three months ago.
He switched on the light and took off his jacket. Grayaluminum-and-glass cabinets lined the walls of the twoman-deep and two-and-a-half-man-wide space. The walls were all painted dolphin gray, and the floor was gray, too. Benedict thought that the color scheme was calm and elegant, though his assistant, Cecil, claimed it needed more vavoom.
A black door behind the counter led through to Benedict’s workshop. The small, square room housing his workbench was his sanctuary. When he shut himself away in there, he could block out the outside world and almost convince himself that all was still fine with his wife.
He went inside and straightened up a file on his bench. He liked his tweezers, pliers, scissors and soldering iron laid out in lines like a surgeon’s instruments. If Cecil moved his mallet by as little as a centimeter, Benedict could tell. Even with few entries in his appointment book, he felt driven to work. He crafted silver bangle after silver bangle, which he stacked like miniature tires on the shelf.
Benedict slumped into his chair and placed his hands on his rounded stomach. He imagined the food dancing in there, laughing at him. Ha-ha. Benedict Stone is a big guy but he has no self-control.
Shaking his head with remorse, he picked up a brooch he’d been working on. He switched on his gooseneck lamp and his face reflected in the black shiny metal.
Stone was a good name for him. His hair was short, swept back and graphite gray, the same color as the stubble that peppered his upper lip and chin. Estelle said that he had a kind face, like when kids draw eyes and a smile into uncooked pastry. His hands were so large they looked as if they’d been inflated by a bicycle pump, but his fingers were surprisingly nimble when handling delicate silver findings.
Everything he wore was neutral, from his suit to his socks, except for his size 14 burgundy loafers. He’d ordered them custom-made, online, but the company had sent the wrong shade.
I’m sure you can live with a bit of color in your life for once, Estelle had said with a sigh. Dark red shoes won’t kill you.
But each time Benedict wore them, he felt conspicuous. His width and height attracted attention, and now he sported berry-hued loafers.
As usual, Cecil arrived at the shop ten minutes late. He had a tropical dress sense, wearing a powder blue suit, with a peach shirt and an emerald green tie. His white hair was waxed into a small triangle that reminded Benedict of a budgerigar’s quiff. Cecil spent a lot of time with his two young nieces, so often spoke as if he was on social media.
Each day, he brought his cat, the fearsome Lord Puss, into work. A white Persian who thought he was superior to humans, Lord Puss sat on a purple velvet cushion on the counter, where he greeted customers with narrow lemon eyes and a flex of his claws.
“Aloha,” Cecil called through into the workshop.
“Hello. The kettle’s boiled,” Benedict shouted back, pleased to hear Cecil’s voice. He’d spent the weekend alone, mooching around listlessly and wondering what Estelle was doing without him. He watched too many action films and wondered where the heroes got their energy from.
“Coolio.” Cecil set his cat basket down and Lord Puss swanked out. The cat blinked around with disdain and settled onto his cushion.
Cecil made two cups of tea—one black for him and one white with three sugars for Benedict. He placed coasters on the workbench and set the cups down. “Ooh, what are you making?” he asked.
“A silver brooch.” Benedict held it up for Cecil to see.
“Another triangular one?”
“It looks a bit Star Trek-y.” “Great,” Benedict said.
“Yes, if you want to look like Captain Kirk…”
Now that Cecil said this, Benedict thought the piece did look a bit space-age. He placed it at the back of his bench.
“We should make more effort to follow trends,” Cecil said. “What about festival jewelry, or friendship bracelets? How about ear cuffs, or adding gems to your work?”
Benedict stared at him, as if he was speaking a foreign language. “This is Noon Sun,” he said. “The villagers like simple, classic things.”
Cecil opened the appointment book and flicked through it. “Well, I can see that you’re not going to be rushed off your feet when I go into hospital for my hernia op. I’ve told Lord Puss that you’re going to look after him.”
“I don’t know how I’ll cope without you,” Benedict admitted. He imagined Stone Jewelry being as still and quiet as his own home, and the thought made his jaw ache. He wished that he could chitchat with customers like Cecil did, but his own words queued up in his head like cars in a motorway traffic jam.
“I don’t like to leave you on your own here, especially with Estelle moving out. How are things between the two of you?”
Benedict’s smile slipped. He picked up the triangular silver brooch and gave it a polish on his trouser leg. He would only allow his friend to see his hurt. Even though Cecil was a gossip, cooing and flattering customers, Benedict knew his assistant had integrity and always looked out for him. “All fine, I suppose,” he mumbled.
“Benedicto. You don’t have to put a shine on things for me. How are things really?”
Benedict’s shoulders sloped. He wished that his life could be as shiny and simple as his jewelry. “Not good. Estelle’s still staying at her friend’s apartment whilst Veronica’s working away in America. She’s been gone for six weeks now…”
“Couldn’t she just check on the apartment each day?” Cecil asked.
Benedict looked down at his big hands. “She wants a proper break, to clear her head. But the longer she’s gone, the more it feels that she won’t come back. Anyway—” he lifted his voice to try to sound more positive “—I hope she’ll be back for our tenth anniversary, in three weeks’ time.”
“Fingers crossed. Have you got anything spesh planned?”
Benedict opened the drawer in his workbench and took out a long gray box lined with white satin. The necklace inside wasn’t yet long enough to reach a quarter of the way around Estelle’s collarbone. It was made up of hundreds of interlinked jump rings, each the circumference of a ladybug, in platinum, rose gold, yellow gold and silver. If Benedict didn’t think that a ring was good enough, he dropped it into an old teacup on his bench. It was almost full to the brim of the ones he’d rejected.
Cecil nodded. “Très elegant. But what else are you planning to do to win her back?”
Benedict frowned. “I’ve bought her flowers, I took her out for coffee… What else can I do but wait for her to make up her mind?”
Cecil moved the lamp out of the way and sat on the workbench. “You’re going to have to make a proper effort to stop her slipping away. In the medieval days you’d get on a fine white charger and joust for her.”
“I can’t ride,” Benedict said as he picked up a link. “I’d squash the horse. I want her to come home, but the thing we want more than anything is the one thing we can’t have…” His throat suddenly felt like there was a pebble stuck in it and he couldn’t swallow it away. “We’ve really tried, but I don’t think it will ever happen for us…” “Children?” Cecil asked quietly.
Benedict nodded. “We want a family so much.”
No matter how many times he thought about his and Estelle’s unsuccessful attempts to have a baby, it always felt like he’d been shoved off a railway platform onto the track, in front of a speeding train. He was forty-four years old now and time was flying by. He longed to feel tiny fingers curled around his own and a small heart beating against his chest. The ache of wanting a child weighed him down like wet cement.
“Estelle says she’s come to terms with being childless. But I haven’t.” He swallowed. Not wanting Cecil to see that his eyes were growing watery, he shifted his seat closer to the bench and stared at the necklace. “I’m happy to adopt, but Estelle doesn’t want to. I hope that staying at Veronica’s gives her time to realize that it’s the best way forward…” Cecil gave his shoulder a firm pat.
Benedict moved his lamp back into place. “I’m sure everything will work out for us,” he said, sitting more upright in his chair. “I just need to bring Estelle home.”