Saturday, 20 August 2016

Novel Extract: Midnight at the Miro

Chapter 1

She adored London - well, she certainly adored London today, anyway. London was where things happened. Melanie stared pensively out of the side window of the black cab as it wound its way round the one-way system and past the Victorian clock tower at the end of her road. She decided that she was definitely going to open that Chateauneuf-du-Pape and take a proper look at the proof of the brochure she’d just picked up from the printers. Melanie was excited and had never been happier.

Her first proper exhibition was only six weeks away and was being held at the prestigious Victoria Miro gallery in Islington. Victoria was the gallery owner to have a contract with and her endorsement insured your official introduction to the world of contemporary art. Victoria was known for her exceptional launch parties and you could practically guarantee guests like Saatchi and Emin. Climbing out of the cab she generously tipped the cabbie, gave him one of her cheeriest smiles and headed up the black and red terracotta path, her Kurt Geiger black stilettos making a satisfyingly resonant click as she went.

Melanie was a rare beauty. She had an exquisite face with delicate features and a rather ethereal look. Her hazel eyes and honey blonde hair were stunning, and her superb cheekbones gave her a somewhat regal quality. Her friends described her as having a unique look that set her apart from others. Whilst not vain, Melanie was aware of her attractiveness. Nevertheless it didn’t seem that important to her. She simply saw it as the outside surface of who she was and often found it actually got in the way. And, in fact, one of the things that had attracted her to James was that he barely made reference to her good looks.

She swung the front door of her North London flat open and, accidentally treading on the newly arrived mail, dumped her bag of Selfridges shopping and her fuchsia pink calf-skin leather briefcase on the chair next to the hall table. The answerphone signalled ‘0’ messages. She picked up the post and walked down the newly carpeted hall, turning the lights on as she went, and entered the lounge. This was her favourite room - she had chosen the colours with James. They had picked warm colours: peach and cream, cosy rather than minimalist.

James and her had only been in the flat for eight months and had almost finished decorating it. Now that he was working away progress had slowed down, but they still managed to spend the occasional weekend on it. The lounge was welcoming, comfortable and unpretentious, but still had a refined air about it. It was one of those rooms that looked like it had all come together just by chance, but really had been exceptionally well-designed and thought out.

A large soft cream leather sofa was the focus of the room and faced the onyx fireplace. Scattered on the sofa were a number of cushions made of corduroy in various colours from plum to salmon pink. In front of the fireplace was a Peruvian rug in burgundy, orange and cream. The larger pieces of furniture in the room had come from various parts of the world – Singapore, Cambodia, Russia - and strangely all seemed to come together in this one room and managed not to look out of place at all. This was the gift Melanie had for putting things together with panache.

She dropped the post on the sofa, took off her black and silver-threaded pin-stripe jacket and went over to the fireplace to light the hibiscus-and-lychee scented candle. Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror she moved closer to her reflection. She peered at herself quizzically. It was one of those moments when you see yourself more objectively than you usually do. “Who are you?” she said under her breath. The moment passed as she caught sight of the light covering of London grime on her face. She removed the pins and ruffled her well-groomed hair to release the pressures of the day.

The kitchen and the red wine beckoned. She had been intentionally delaying the excitement of reading her brochure, but the anticipation was finally getting to her. While she de-corked and poured the wine she wondered why James hadn’t called, but just at that moment Penguin came in through the cat flap, demanding her attention and distracting her from her thoughts. The dainty black and white cat had been living with them for a year now, after being adopted. Melanie guessed that she was probably a teenager, and she was certainly behaving like one: out all hours of the night and even, on occasions, bringing her boyfriends back to the flat without permission. Melanie fed Penguin, asking her “What have you been up to today, my lovely?”. Receiving barely a miaow in reply she placed the plate of cat food on the kitchen floor, briefly stroked the black and white furry head, and returned to the lounge with her red wine.

Throwing herself into the sofa she kicked off her stilettos, settled into the generous padding of the upholstery and flicked through the post: phone bill, home contents renewal notice, something from Mother (probably a mail order brochure selling bras, she thought, or maybe an article on something that might impact her life in some arbitrary way: for example, “Rape in North London increases by 10% since 1990”). She carried on looking through the remainder of the mail, placing it into two piles: one to keep and one to bin.  Now for the brochure:
Universal Abstractions 
Abstract Interpretations from the Micro/Macro Worlds 
Introducing work by Melanie Peterson The series of paintings on display are inspired by the natural world. It is about the world of unity and the merging of boundaries…


  1. Inspiring. When does it get to the shopping-and-fornicating bits?

  2. She's not yet become part of the Occupy Movement, so still enjoys a bit of shopping. However, it turns out she is a bit of a prude, so no fornicating for my heroine!