I thought I would share an exclusive excerpt from my debut novel The Doctor’s Daughter. Let me know if this whets your appetite!
After breakfast was over and Herzl had left to resume his day, the hotel concierge invited Leopold and Marta to sample the spa. Ever one to take advantage of benefits, he took up the offer whilst Marta declined, choosing instead to take a walk around the city.
‘Before you go off for a stroll Marta, can I just check that you have packed something suitable to wear to the opera?’ Leopold asked as she turned to leave the hotel lobby.
‘I have my shift dress. That will be suitable enough.’
Leopold reached into his pocket and pulled out a money clip. ‘Marta please, will you make the effort and buy yourself something pretty?’ He said, flicking through the notes before sliding some out and forcing them into her palm.
‘You’re meant to be a lady, go and treat yourself.’ He added moving away from her and toward a smiling salon girl who was eager to show him to the spa.
She wrapped her fingers around the notes and tried not to show her disappointment. Outside she returned to the car which was waiting exactly where it had dropped them off earlier. She tapped on the window, startling Lajos.
‘I’d like my bag, please.’
‘Wouldn’t you prefer to leave it in the car until you reach the house Madam?’
‘No thank you. I’ll take it with me now, but I will leave my coat if I may? What time did you say we are leaving?’
‘Thank you Lajos. If Dr Kaposi comes out before I return please inform him that I will meet him back here at midday.’
‘Certainly.’ Lajos exchanged her bag for her coat and got back into the driving seat.
She looked at her wristwatch, it was 10.25 and the weather had turned unseasonably fine. Marta scrunched up the money Leopold had given her and put it into a pocket in her bag. She felt boosted by the opportunity to spend an hour or two in solitude on the bustling streets of Budapest. She strolled for a while in no particular direction, studying the differing faces of the local people. Some had prominent noses and razors for cheekbones whilst others had snub noses on wide faces, and within each Hungarian face she could find traces of her own lineage. Upon reaching the Great Market Hall on the Váci Utca, she wallowed in the scent of persimmon and clementine, paprika and caraway. She marvelled at the creamy coloured juhturó, trappista and pálpusztai cheeses. She listened intently to a leather-faced old lady in a headscarf as she bartered with a stall holder over the price of yellow onions. Elise would have loved it here, she would have wanted to taste everything, she thought.
Back out on the street she bypassed the boutiques; she would not be trying on dresses no matter who was paying. Instead she made her way to Vörösmarty Square, eventually taking her place on a bench behind a monument which overlooked an impressive fountain. Once there, she chose to ignore the view in favour of pulling the child guidance book from her bag. It was a sizeable volume but one she was determined to complete. She took out her reading glasses and a pencil then pulled her knees up in front of her chest so that she could use them as a book rest. As she absorbed the contents, she made notes in the margins and circled passages of text erratically. This was where she was happiest, studying, learning, refining. Her head lost in the pages it didn’t matter what she ate, how she spoke or whether or not she was dressed appropriately. She was aware of attracting curious glances from some of the women walking by but made no effort to hide her work, only pulled her hat down further over her head to obscure more of her face. It was getting hotter and it made her uncomfortable but the soft shallow brim shielded her a little from the sun whilst ensuring she could avoid having to connect with anyone.
By 11.30, the heat was becoming more intense and the text was soon spoiled by the black spots that started appearing before her eyes. Marta sat for a moment surrendering to the heat. She was tired and a thirst was drawing the moisture from her throat until it felt as though it was lined with fine sand. She removed her hat and used the sleeve of her middy blouse to eliminate the hair that was clinging to her now moist brow. Flicking the pages of the book in front of her face provided a welcome breeze which cooled her skin and helped restore her vision to normal.
She sighed in wonder at what she was doing here. Was this independence? Yes, these were new experiences, new places, and of course she could think and act without seeking approval but Leopold was still the puppet master pushing her forward and making decisions without even consulting her. She was operating under his tutelage. How would she know when she had made it? Before Leopold, she did not have even a glimmer of hope that she could do it alone. She was not a fan of superstition and prophecy, but she wished she could see into the future and gain some reassurance that the path she was choosing was the right one. Come to think of it, she wished she could see into the past too, maybe then things would come into focus. Whatever was to come next, Leopold was expecting her, they had business to attend to.
The Doctor’s Daughter is out now. The Kindle edition is available at Amazon in the UK and USA as well as on Amazon sites worldwide. A paperback edition is available now at CompletelyNovel.com and will also appear on Amazon in 2-6 weeks.