Setting a novel in a seaside location means that there are a lot of fun places that can appear in your book. Is there anything more entertaining than the thrill of dropping in those two-pence coins and trying to win the crappy little prizes that may or may not eventually fall out of that machine? Not according to my children. They are absolutely addicted to this holiday pastime.
There is a scene in Black Eyed Boy, set inside an amusement arcade in Whitby and I love it because there is such a sense of merriment. Dylan wished to participate in all of the tourist rituals. This doesn’t apply to Emily. She isn’t a tourist. She lives there and she thinks that there’s nothing new or pleasurable for her to find. But she’s wrong.
Dylan is determined to win a plastic butterfly ring. Finally, it comes tumbling out and he gives it to Emily as a gift. I think that this is a rather special moment in the book. Teenagers don’t have an income and can’t afford much, and so the cheap ring takes on a new meaning and swiftly becomes a treasure. There is also humour in this scene and I enjoyed writing it because it gave me the opportunity to show a lighter side of Emily. Despite the turmoil and distress she is experiencing at the time, Dylan is able to make her smile, laugh and enjoy herself. Here is the scene I’m talking about:
I felt tearful, but I didn’t show it. I watched him drop his two-pence coins into the machine and I resolved to cheer up. So, it wouldn’t be permanent. But these days, what was? My life was changing so rapidly that I barely recognised it anyway. I could take pleasure in this time though; right now, I could stop overthinking and analysing every small detail. If the last week had taught me anything, it was that I had no power to change anything at all.
“How many coins?” I laughed as I heard the clank and clatter of copper change falling out of the machine. I bent down and scooped it all up for him. He immediately proceeded to put it all back in.
“We’re not leaving until I win that ring,” he said, pointing to a cheap-looking plastic ring with a butterfly attached.
“I can see why you want it so badly,” I mocked him, “it’s an intricate piece, it will look so pretty on you.”
“Ouch at the sarcasm. It’s for you. Not that you deserve it now, of course.”
“For me? I am honoured and touched and I will wear it forever,” I said, dramatically clutching my hand to my heart and fluttering my eyelashes.
His last coin brought about a massive tumble of coins, he reached down and looked really quite proud as he presented me with the ring.
“For you, my lady. Not exactly diamonds, I grant you, but here is a small token of my affection,” he said, going down on one knee, in front of everyone in the tiny amusement arcade. Once again, I knew I was blushing.
“Please stand up,” I whispered, “Everyone is looking.”
“So what? They’re just jealous of this magnificent treasure which I bestow upon you.”
I could see that people were watching us, but the comical charm of Dylan soon made me realise that I didn’t care either. I took the ring from his hand and placed it on my finger. I’d scoffed and ridiculed the ring, but I had half a mind to cherish it: already it was becoming a souvenir, a treasured memory of a much happier time. We left then, his appetite for the slot machines sated. Hand in hand, we sauntered along Pier Road.