Today, I’m really excited to share an excerpt from Lelita Baldock’s new book, Where the Gulls Fall Silent. I hope you enjoy.
Porth Gwynn, Cornish Coast 1852
The high noon sun beat down on the port, a gentle breeze swirled about the rippling currents of the bay, and the children ran.
The white sand of low tide puffed beneath their feet, their squeals of laughter pealing out across the water. Two mothers, skirts hitched to their thighs, arms wet with the sea they’d walked out to meet, looked up from their nets, sun-browned hands shielding their eyes to watch the children pass, then, heads shaking, bent back to their task. The men did not look up from the slimy silver flash of pilchard bodies that squirmed within their catch.
Back on the shore the children closed in. The leader, Rewan Lobb, a boy of about ten summers, dark of hair and eye, whirled a kerchief above his head in defiance and grinned, before leaning to his task and putting on speed. He loved to tease the little ones. Near the back of the pack Kerensa Williams, small and fair, loped, her uneven gait hindering her pace, but not her determination. Gerens, a smaller, lighter version of the boy with the kerchief, kept pace beside her, uninterested in defeating his older brother and claiming the kerchief, just happy to be part of the group. Suddenly, Derwa lunged, hand brushing along Rewan’s untucked shirt, almost catching him. Rewan spun, running backwards for a few steps, taunting. Then, without warning, he spun round, feinted left then darted right up the naturally rocky outcrop that lined the bay. Long legs cleared the rocks quickly, landing on the pebbled streets of Porth Gwynn. On the top he paused, jogging on the spot, watching his pursuers as their shorter legs navigated the rocky climb. Derwa cleared the gap first, Rewan let out a laugh of delight and shot ahead towards the cluster of stone cottages that hugged the bay’s edge. Just coming to the rocks Kerensa looked up, a heavy frown on her face. She watched Rewan gliding fast along the foreshore, his eyes checking over his shoulder periodically, focused only on those upon his heels. The rocks would slow her, the pebbles too. Sand was more forgiving to her uneven gait.
She shot left, running as fast as her mismatched legs allowed, skirting the line of the rock barrier. Confused, Gerens paused, one foot already placed to climb. He watched. The shoreline before him curved in. He saw Rewan moving along the curve, saw Kerensa matching his direction, but from the inside of the curve. He understood. Slowly Kerensa came up closer to Rewan, then in line, then, amazingly started to slowly pull in front. Rewan did not look down to the beach, his eyes saw only Derwa, closely followed by Cardor and Treeve. Letting loose a whoop of delight, Gerens set off along the beach, following Kerensa’s path.
Kerensa’s breathing was ragged and her right foot ached abominably, but she would not stop. Ahead of Rewan now, the end of the bay was approaching, changing suddenly from flat sand to rocky cliff face. Rewan would veer inland, circling through the cottages and huts, back towards the centre of town. She had to intercept him before then. It was time to make her move. Taking a deep breath and bracing herself for the pain, Kerensa bolted right, leaping onto the rocks, hands and feet splayed to scramble up the incline. A sharp edge caught her hand, slicing the tender skin of her outer palm. She didn’t notice, didn’t stop, eyes fixed on the top of the climb, on the street, on her goal.
Scrabbling she cleared the rocks, pulling herself up to standing. Rewan’s head was turned, watching the other children, his loping stride bearing down on her fast. Kerensa braced herself, feet planted firmly, hands out ready to snatch the kerchief.
She didn’t see Kenver, running down from the fish sheds, but Gerens did. Eyes wide he tried to call out a warning, but it was too late.
It all happened at once. Rewan looked forward and saw Kerensa standing in his path, shock loosened his mouth as he tried to slow his forward pace. Seeing his body twitch, anticipating his next move, Kerensa lunged to the side, arms reaching, just as Kenver hit the pebbled streets, the momentum of his downward run affording him no opportunity to change direction and then – bam!
All three children came together at once in a ball of limbs, bones, scrapes and cries of shock.
The pebbled street came up to meet Kerensa’s cheek bone. She rolled with the impact, the wind knocked from her lungs, coming to a stop on her side, the weight of someone else’s legs sprawled across her waist. The legs moved and Kerensa sat up. Kenver, whose legs had landed on her, stood up, shaking with rage.
“What the hell Rewan?” he shouted. “Look where you’re bloody going!”
Sat in the dirt of the street Kerensa brushed down the front of her cotton dress, checking for tears, her nimble fingers finding one just above her knee. She inspected it quickly, it would need a patch. Something to do before mother comes home…
Kenver looked over at her, “You all right there Kez?” he asked, offering her his hand to stand. Kerensa ignored him, pulling herself to her feet, wobbling slightly. He looked away, back to Rewan, laying on his side, face away from them. He hadn’t moved.
The rest of the children arrived, circling around the trio, Gerens coming up the rocks behind Kerensa. Silently he stood by her side, eyes quickly scanning to check she was all right. A small graze on her cheek was slowly welling with blood. He knew better than to say anything, though.
Still Rewan hadn’t moved.
“Rewan?” Kenver called again, voice wary now, his initial fury replaced with a twinge of fear. Slowly the children stepped forward, inching towards their leader. Rewan, the oldest of their group by at least two summers, son of the town’s most successful fisherman, who would inherit the fine boat known as the Silver Sea, whose last summer of childhood was now waning… what if?
Kenver reached down, gripping Rewan’s shoulder, “Rewan, say something,” he pleaded, then rolled his friend’s body onto his back.
Rewan’s face was split wide in a huge grin of amusement, his body shaking with mirth. He was laughing, laughing uncontrollably. And he laughed, and laughed, and laughed and laughed.
Here’s the blurb:
A small fishing village, a shunned healer, her daughter, tradition, superstition and a world set to change.
Kerensa lives with her mother, the healer Meliora, on the edge of a small fishing community on the Cornish Coast.
The townsfolk, who work the fish runs of pilchard and mackerel that make their way up the Atlantic coast, call on her mother for help with their ailments, but never for her company.
Kerensa does not know why.
Curses and superstitions whisper around her as she grows into a competent young woman, fighting for her place amongst the people of Porth Gwynn.
But what has caused the rift between her and the town?
And can their traditional way of life survive in the face of changing winds?
Where the Gulls Fall Silent is an historical fiction that explores the lives of the fishermen and women who made their living from the rough Atlantic Ocean; the hardship they faced; the secrets that divided them; and the community spirit that pulled them through.
A story of love, loss, hope and second chances.
Adult themes, mentioned sexual assault
Available on #KindleUnlimited
Meet the author
Lelita Baldock is an author of historical fiction and crime fiction.
She has a passion for dark stories, with an unexpected twist.
It was during her years studying English Literature at University that Lelita discovered her love of all things reading and writing. But it would be another 15 years before she would take up the challenge and write her own novel.
Her debut novel, the historical fiction Widow’s Lace, is an Amazon best-seller.
Her follow up, The Unsound Sister, saw her take a different direction in her writing, trying her hand at crime fiction and has been warmly received globally.
Her third novel, Where the Gulls Fall Silent, a traditional historical fiction set in mid-1800s Cornwall, is out now.
Lelita also runs a blog and newsletter featuring fellow authors and other creatives.
Connect with Lelita