Thanks to a lovely email from a reader, I remembered that I have long wanted to post some of what was deleted from This Is Shyness during the editing process. In my original manuscript, I included seven chapters told from the points of view of characters other than Wolfboy and Wildgirl, namely: Ortolan, The Kidd, Guadalupe, The Dreamer, Paul, Blake and Diana.
While others ran away from the Darkness, I came back. I was overseas when it began, but when I heard what was happening I returned without question. Even now I’m not sure why. I’ve often asked myself if it was fair to bring Diana to this place. But dark times have to be traveled through, and there’s beauty and light in the most surprising places.
My business grew, like most things, from tiny accidental beginnings - making clothes for friends when they asked me to, copying things I’d made for myself. Then a local shop wanted to buy a few pieces, and they sold them all in one week. Soon I was supplying a handful of boutiques right across the city. When I saw an old shop front for lease near my old house I took the plunge. We’ve got the shop downstairs, and our living quarters upstairs.
Business was slow, until a magazine journalist wrote an article about Shyness, painting it as an untapped haven of hipness and danger. They took a photo of me standing in the door of my shop, my dagger-shaped sign hanging above my head. If you know to look you can see Diana in the first-floor window, her little hand pushing Giraffe against the glass so he can see what’s happening outside.
When the article was published women came from all over the City, breathless and exhilarated that they’d dared to visit the Dark Side. They wanted strait-style jackets in black leather, widower’s veils, lycra shrouds and storm trooper suits in paper-thin silk. I’m never short of inspiration in Shyness; all I have to do is walk the streets and ideas come and find me.
I should go back inside now. I always need a few minutes to calm myself when I run into Jethro. There’s always that split second where I see Gram, and then a sinking feeling when I realise it’s just his brother. Sometimes when I’m talking to Jethro I can see Gram looking back at me through those blue eyes, as if he’s slipped inside Jethro’s head for just a moment to take a look at his old world.
It’s been three months since I last saw Jethro and he’s changed again, even in this short time. He seems heavy, as if something is dragging him down to the earth. His eyes float in sleepless shadows. I heard he lives alone in the family house now.
His girlfriend is gorgeous, curled up in that chair like a cat, her hair winding around her, but she looks at me like I’m the enemy. There’s something about that boy that makes women crazy, like you’re going to run off with him when they have their backs turned. Wildgirl – the name suits her - has the kind of skin I wish I had, deep olive and flushed with pink. The kind of skin that would be bad for business. My pale skin is a stamp of authenticity in a city full of pretenders.
I tuck my hair behind my ears and pull my sleeves down, smoothing out the fabric. I’m going to go back out there and make polite conversation with potential clients.
What would I say to Jethro if I were being honest rather than polite? That’s easy. I’d say: it’s been a long time since I’ve seen you smile.