We’re now two weeks from the release date so, as promised, here’s another brief excerpt from Weeks and Days. (If you haven’t read the first excerpt yet, it’s here.) This part happens pretty early on–I didn’t want to throw something at you totally without context, and I also didn’t want to give too much away.
Also, keep in mind that I’ve taken this chunk right out of the middle of a section (which is why it begins and ends kind of abruptly). I hope it still reads okay–and I hope you enjoy it!
Stephen leaned back a little and stretched, then leaned forward again and stood. “Right now,” he said, looking down at me, “I’d like a really good ham and cheese sandwich. Later I’ll need to do math homework. In the interim, would you like to go for a walk?”
“I could go for a walk,” I said. I assumed he meant with him.
“Good,” said Stephen. In the kitchen, he put me at the far end, with him between me and all the appliances except the microwave, which was so large it appeared almost threatening. “You can sit on the counter if you want,” he said, nodding to the clear spot behind me. “Mum’s not home.”
I pulled myself up and watched him move along the kitchen, opening and closing drawers and cupboards and the fridge. “Do you want anything?” he asked. “I make really good sandwiches.”
I told him I’d be okay.
“What kind of bread should I use?” he asked. He’d covered almost an entire section of counter with an array of sandwich fixings, and was holding up three loaves of bread, none of which were pre-sliced. “Pumpernickel, spelt and white, or this new one with Asiago cheese blended in and”—he set down the other two and held the bag close to his face, squinting through the plastic window—“that looks like caraway? Well?”
My dad, no doubt, would’ve had a great answer for him. I didn’t. We always had whole-grain bread at home, but I was still used to the kind that was cut into half-inch slices and came in a full-plastic bag (not a mostly paper one) with a twisty on the end. I shrugged helplessly.
“Asiago, then,” Stephen decided. “You can never have too much cheese.”
I let myself become absorbed in watching him prepare the sandwich. First, he put away almost everything he’d gotten out; apparently the fixings he chose were largely reliant on the type of bread. He poked at the middle of each thick slice—to test the texture, I guessed—and set them at angles to one another on a plate. In between, he layered two different kinds of ham into an oval shape, topped with a thin slice of sharp cheddar and a sprinkling of shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano (because there was no Asiago in the fridge). “Normally,” he told me, while waiting for the plate to turn its fifteen seconds inside the microwave, “I’d use a less offensive appliance for this purpose, but we’re in a bit of a hurry, aren’t we?”
The microwave finished and began beeping in an undeniably offensive way, although I had a feeling that wasn’t what Stephen had meant.
Back in his work area, he arranged a bed of torn pieces of dark red lettuce and what looked like ribboned kale on one of the bread slices. The ham and cheese pile went on top of that. Then he pulled out a mandoline, sliced two tiny radishes into perfect coins and pressed them into the melted cheese, and finally, the second slice of bread went on top.
The remaining lettuce went back in the crisper, ham in a parallel drawer, cheese in the refrigerator door (it had its own shelf). “Mum insisted on the mandoline,” Stephen said, as he carried it and the Microplane over to the sink to rinse off. “She’s convinced I’ll slip and slice off a finger if I use knives. Of course, she wasn’t much happier when she saw how sharp the blades are here, but at least now, unless I work very hard at it, I can only remove half a finger at best.” He had to shout to be heard over the water, and I noticed his accent didn’t change.
“But I suppose all parents are a bit like that when it comes to their children and sharp objects,” he added, then shut the tap off with his elbow. “She doesn’t care much for the grater, either.”
Despite what he’d just been discussing, Stephen then took a heavy serrated knife out of a drawer, cut the sandwich diagonally, and arranged the knife to appear as though it had carelessly been left out on the counter. He took one sandwich triangle and offered me the other half.
I shook my head.
He took a bite, swallowed, then said, “Are you just not very hungry, or are you repulsed by one of the ingredients? Or,” he added, “is it because I’ve touched all of them?”
That’s it for now, but you can read the whole thing in two weeks. Pre-order a copy now (you should get it on or before April 6, the release date), or add Weeks and Days to your to-read list on Goodreads.