The Pineapple Testimony, a novel excerpt by Wendy Hollands
General fiction – Novel excerpt
Title: The Pineapple Testimony
Author: Wendy Hollands
Word count: 680
CHAPTER 1: January 2011, French Alps
Someone’s bare back was pressing against my arm when I woke up. My tongue was dry from the excesses of last night but I resisted moving until I could figure out who I was in bed with. The warped window shutters allowed a ray of light to pierce the room’s darkness. I squinted at the crack of sparkling sun and looked away.
I shielded my eyes and waited for them to adjust. The man snoring beside me had blonde hair poking out from under the duvet. It was Max — a man hard to resist. My head throbbed with a rush of blood.
My jeans pressed on my waist: I was still wearing last night’s clothes. My momentary thrill of waking up next to Max naked was replaced with relief. Nothing had happened, nor should it have. And now, my whole body was throbbing. I had to get out.
Max stirred when I tried to roll out of his bed. “Good morning gorgeous,” he said. He rolled into the crack of sunlight, flexing his chest muscles as he yawned and stretched. The darkness would hide my stare and I kept watching him.
“Hi. Sorry. I’ve got to go,” I said in a low voice.
“What are you sorry for?”
“Waking you up. Crashing in your bed.”
“You know you can crash any time you like, Jane.”
“Thanks. Do you know where my boots are?”
“Not a clue, mate.” “You were sound asleep when we came to bed.”
I looked around the darkened room. “Is there someone else here?”
“Nah, she left before the music stopped.”
“You got lucky with me passed out in your bed?”
Max grinned. “You’re always welcome to join in.”
“Gross, Max.” I felt dizzy as I pulled myself up to stand, looking for my snow boots. I stumbled and almost landed on Max.
“Easy,” he said, putting his hands on my legs to keep me from falling. His touch wasn’t helping. “Don’t you want to know who it was?”
“Only if she recognised me.”
“Unlikely. We had better things to do.”
“Found them,” I said, lunging for my snow boots. “See you later.”
I felt my way out of the bedroom. Part of me wanted to stay with Max, but he wouldn’t change his ways for me. And I couldn’t trust myself around him.
The shared house was strewn with remnants of last night’s party. Every couch, armchair and beanbag was hidden under sleeping bodies. I quietly picked my way between the empty bottles, avoiding wetting my socks in the puddles. At his front door, I zipped up my snow boots, ready to brave the icy air that would antagonise my hangover.
My plans for the day were cancelled again. Sleeping in my own bed was my new goal. Hopefully, I’d feel better by the time my pizza shift started. I opened the door and grimaced.
The freezing air hit my cheeks like a series of jabbing needles. I walked with tiny, slow steps down the icy path to the main road, feeling like a frail old lady with no balance. It’s not how I had pictured my time out from London: I came here to get stronger, not weaker. I needed to put the past behind me and when I had arrived, I was looking forward to learning a new language and mastering a new sport. More than a month into the season, my snowboard remained in my bedroom while I spent most nights mixing with the other English speakers, partying after work until daylight in an attempt to forget. At the age of thirty, I should have been able to resist this hedonism, but somehow it had curled its limbs around me and pulled me in. I spent more time crashing in other people’s beds than in my own. Who had I become?
My escape to the mountains had turned into a dodgy film that I couldn’t watch any longer. No more drugs and no more parties. It was time to face the past.