Tag Archives: women’s fiction

The Girl in the Water – Chapter 12

“What the hell is going on?” Lesley had burst through the door in a fury, her face was red and puffy with crying. She wore a short cotton dress over opaque tights, obviously, her outfit for the cinema and drinks with her friends. Over the top of this she had pulled on an old blue sweater. Her normally sleek blond hair was tangled and tucked messily behind her ears. Mascara streaked her cheeks and as she looked at the disaster area that her smart and glamorous sister had become, Jean felt her brittle heart fracture just a little more. She stepped forward, arms outstretched and Lesley collapsed against her, giving way to gulping sobs. Her body shook with emotion and all that Jean could do was pat her back, hold her tight and murmur soothing noises, while she waited for the storm to pass.

“Where is he Jean? Where’s my boy?”

“Come in love, come in and sit down. We have to talk but you need to calm down.” They walked awkwardly into the kitchen, holding each other, and Jean pulled out a chair. Lesley slid onto it and for just a moment she laid her arms on the table and rested her head on them.

Jean poured them both a good measure of whisky and sat in the chair opposite to her sister. She took a gulp of the drink and then leaned forward to clasp Lesley’s fingers in both of her hands.

“Some things have been happening with me over the last few days. I didn’t tell you about them because I didn’t want to worry you.”

“You, things happening with you. What’s that got to do with Carl? Look, you might think that I’m overreacting here but to be honest, Jean, I didn’t come to talk about you. My son is missing, you do understand that, don’t you? Have you any idea how I feel right now? No, you can’t or you wouldn’t start straight in talking about yourself. Christ Jean…”

“No, no – you need to listen to me. I am just as scared and worried as you are. Possibly more to be honest, but that’s what I’m trying to tell you. I need you to listen to me. It’s not about me, well not really, it’s about Carl and where he is. But, I need you to listen and please love, please try and keep calm.”

As she began to recite the events that had led to this moment, Jean was aware of the weight of the mobile phone in her pocket. At some stage, she was going to have to show the messages to her sister. She couldn’t let her see the dreadful picture of Carl, gagged and frightened. But, if she didn’t show her that, how could Lesley ever understand the messages?

The phone vibrated, it burbled and Lesley looked at her sister, a frown creasing the pale skin of her forehead. “I thought you said your mobile had been pinched?”

“Yes.”

“So, what’s that then? That was a mobile.” Jean reached into her pocket and pulled out Carl’s phone. The tiny light on the front told her that there had been some sort of incoming message. She didn’t want to look at it but knew she must. She didn’t want to open it here in front of her sister, but didn’t Lesley, who was now staring at the device, have a right to know exactly what was happening. As she struggled with the inner turmoil, Lesley pointed across the table.

“Jean, is that Carl’s phone?”

“Yes.”

“Why have you got that? Why are you holding Carl’s phone? I’ve been trying to ring him, you told me to yourself, I’ve been trying over and over and all the time you had it here. Are you mad?”

“I didn’t have it all the time. It was pushed through the letter box. That’s why I couldn’t come to you. In case there was something else.

“The letter box? Who did that and how did they have his phone?”

In the face of the perfectly reasonable question, Jean made a terrible decision. She pulled the phone from her pocket and clicked the button to bring it to life.

Lesley’s reaction was instant and extreme. The chair tipped and fell backwards as she jumped from the table. She reached out and grabbed the phone from her sister’s quivering fingers and lifted the screen closer to her eyes, unbelieving and appalled.

“Oh God, Oh God. Carl.” She bent towards Jean. “What the hell is this? What’s this? How long have you had this? Oh, my God.”

Jean had moved around the table and tried to wrap her arms around Lesley but she moved away, still holding out the phone, still screeching. Over and over the same questions, the same horrified tone, until there was no other way to ask where her son was and what her sister knew about it. She stood glaring down at the picture, she shook her head and then, tears streaming across her cheeks, she crumpled and fell into Jean’s arms.

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The Girl in the Water – Chapter 3

It was full dark by the time Bob Rather knocked on the door. Past dinner time by more than an hour but Jean hadn’t wanted to be caught eating. It seemed disrespectful somehow. She knew of course that nothing she did would make any difference to the poor dead girl, but the ordinary everydayness of chicken casserole would be an embarrassment in front of whoever came to take her statement.

“Are you alright Jean. If you like I could ask Eileen to come and sit with you for a while.”

“I’m fine Bob. I keep going over it a bit in my mind of course, but I’m alright.”

“Well I have to make my notes, and I have to offer you counselling.”

“Counselling?”

“Yes. You’ve had a trauma, you can go and talk to someone about it.” He looked abashed as he said it. He knew her well enough to be embarrassed about the offer.

“Well, I shan’t need that I don’t think.”

“No, well just so I can say I offered it, that’s another box ticked. Sorry Jean.

“Now then, you pulled her out of the water.”

“Yes, I realise that I probably shouldn’t have, but it was instinct more than anything. I didn’t want to just leave her there.”

“Did you try any sort of CPR or anything. You did the course didn’t you, at the WI when Eileen did it?”

Jean shook her head. “Yes, I did the course but – with her, the girl no, I didn’t, there was no point. It wouldn’t have made any difference.”

“You were sure of that?”

She paused before answering. He wasn’t looking at her, but rather staring down at the notebook in his hand. Jean took a deep breath. “She was dead, Bob.”

The policeman didn’t answer. She was swept with a terrible doubt and guilt that turned her stomach over. Could she have saved her, should she have done more?

Bob filled the awkward silence, “So, you didn’t hear anything before you found her, you didn’t see anyone else? There was nobody else around at all?”

“No, nothing, no-one.”

It didn’t take long to finish the rest of the statement and as she signed it, though she knew it would be too early, and anyway probably against the rules, she couldn’t help trying to pump the sergeant for a bit of information. “So, have you found out who she is?”

He shook his head. “Last I heard they were still working on that.”

“Do they know how she came to fall in?”

“Oh, come on Jean, you know as well as I do that it’s far too early for us to make any sort of decision about that. They’ll do the post mortem, have a good old look at the canal there, all of that stuff. Ha, I reckon you know as much about it as I do. You with all your research and books.”

“I know the routine but that’s not the same as doing it, is it?”

“Well, anyway it’s too early to know very much at all. Look Jean, I have to be off, everyone’s running about like blue arsed flies, ‘scuse my language. We’re short staffed as usual and there’s those robberies over in Calthorne demanding attention, and now this. Well you can imagine. But, are you sure you’re alright?”

“I’m absolutely fine Bob, truly I am.”

“All right then. But it you get a bit wobbly in a day or so just give us a ring. Some people do, once the initial reaction wears off.”

“I will, thank you. But really, I’m sure I’m going to be fine. I know you’re limited to what you can tell me but, it would be good to know when you find out who she was. I hate having to keep thinking of her as ‘The Girl’.”

“Well, we don’t know yet. No bag you see. No handbag, no phone. Of course, we’re dragging the canal. Might put a diver in if we can afford it, but that’s not up to me thank goodness. Tell you what though, if I do hear her name, I’ll give you a call. Just to set your mind at rest eh?” He tapped the side of his nose. “Just between you and me.”

“Thanks Bob. I’d really appreciate that.”

She watched as he walked down the drive and then pushed the door closed and leaned with her back against it. The casserole didn’t really tempt her and so she turned off the oven, poured a glass of red wine and climbed up to the office in the little front bedroom. Maybe a couple of hours editing would settle her mind, close down the day calmly, and give her at least a chance of sleep.

***

Every time she closed her eyes the image on the back of her eyelids was the canal bank. The damp undergrowth and the little moorhen hiding in the reeds. She saw, over and over, the body, dark hair floating weed on dirty water and arms spread wide. After a couple of hours Jean gave up the fight. She knew that she had to deal with this. Once before, years ago, she had been involved in a nasty traffic accident which had left one old man dead. The aftermath had plagued her for months playing and replaying in her mind until she thought she would go mad with it. She had fought her way through it and since then she had dealt with the worst of all traumas. She had lost James so very quickly to prostate cancer, and after that had thought nothing would have much effect on her again. It seemed she had been wrong and this poor dead girl just would not leave her alone.

She made a cup of fruit tea and went into the office to fire up the computer. She would write it all down. She would move it from her mind where it circled constantly and she would lay it down on the screen.

She put down the date as a heading. She made a note about the rain and then the details about the girl, her trousers and top, the long dark hair. She noted the time that she had gone for her walk. As she typed she felt the tension ease. This is what she knew, it was what she did. Hour after hour she made small black marks on virtual paper and as if by magic she wove worlds, and lives and happenings. It wasn’t always of any use and sometimes she would delete a whole day’s work in an instant. She never regretted it, she was a fierce critic of her own stuff, and if she wasn’t happy then, just as if it were a crumpled piece of paper from the old days she would put the document in the bin.

This time though she was happy with the way it worked. The description came easily. She typed with her eyes closed, redrawing the trees, the water and the dreadful floating corpse. As happened on some rare and magic occasions the thing developed, took on a life of its own and fact and fancy, truth and fiction melded so that by the time she had finished there was the start of something. She knew the trick had worked and she would be able to go back to bed and sleep.

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The Legacy

Chapters 1 to the final chapter have been removed for safe keeping. Just in case this ever does make it to publication. The final chapter will be available for another couple of days.

When I started it I didn’t intend it to but it’s grown a life of its own so we’ll see. If anyone is interested in reading just leave a comment and I will send you a pdf of the missing chapters to get ou up to date.

Cheers.

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The magic name changing WIP

Okay – Trevor, became Kevin and he has now become Mark. – Bear with. I’m a writer.

Chapter 7

Carol stood beside the little table in the hall, tears had tracked down her cheeks, dripped from the end of her chin and darkened the front of her pyjama top. In her hand the little notebook that they used for telephone messages and shopping lists quivered. She took in a deep breath and turned away.

She had feared that this might happen. Even though her friend had seemed stronger, seemed to be recovering, the darkness was still there as a shadow in the back of her eyes.

She went through to the dining room and booted up her laptop. She began to enter words into the address bar. She hadn’t told Flora what she had done, in the past, how she had thought she might help. It had never come to anything and she didn’t know whether the address would still be in the list.

Yes, there it was. An investigator locally. She had laughed on first seeing it. Why would a private detective set up in Ramstone? It was silly, but maybe it wasn’t really. This Simon Fulton may have his base in Ramstone but he could be everywhere, he was anywhere it was reasonable for him to travel to. She lifted the receiver.

“Simon Fulton.”

“Oh, hello. I thought I’d get your reception.” She glanced at her watch. Oh, God, I’m sorry it’s too early, I didn’t realise it was only seven.”

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. Who am I speaking to?”

“My name is Carol, Carol Price. I need your help.”

“Okay.”

“My friend has disappeared. She’s run away. We live together and all I have is a note from her. It tells me not to look for her and that she’ll come back when she’s sorted everything out.”

“Right. So, she’s just gone away for a while. I don’t see how I can help to be honest. I don’t really do searches for missing people, at least I haven’t up to now. But, seems to me that she’s just gone off to do something and when it’s done she’ll be back. I don’t see why you need me. Maybe you should just give her space, let her handle her business. Is she your girlfriend?” At his end Simon was standing in front of the window, rubbing at the sleep in his eyes and sipping his morning coffee. He had known there had always been a risk that he would be asked to search for missing partners, and indeed he had fielded several just such calls, even some for runaway children. He didn’t want the task with the associated heartbreak and betrayal that might accompany it. There were many other organisations much better equipped than he was. He didn’t want to be rude and as he was about to read out the number of the Salvation Army that he had stuck on his notice board for just these calls he heard the woman at the other end begin to sob.

“Please don’t be upset Carol. How long has she been missing?”

“She must have gone sometime during the night.”

“Well, you know, maybe she’ll be back very soon.”

“No, no you don’t understand. It’s dangerous, she could put herself in great danger. She’s not my girlfriend no, but I love her. Please, I need to find her quickly. I know you’re thinking I’m over reacting, that’s why I can’t go to the police, but you don’t know what’s happened. She’s fragile, just starting to get better, at least I thought she was. For a while now she’s been dealing with stuff and there’s Mark ?”

“Mark ?”

“Yes, he was her boyfriend. He vanished. They thought she’d killed him. Of course, she didn’t, but she always thought nobody believed her. Well, they didn’t not for a while and now she says she’s got to try and find him.  Please help me Mr Fulton.”

She sounded so desperate, frantic, he didn’t have the heart to turn her down. “Look, why don’t you come and see me? Are you local, where are you calling from?”

“Near Bradford, I can come there. I know Ramstone, a bit anyway. Where are you?”

“My office is in Stonebridge Road, off Bradford Road.”

“I’ll find it, I’ll use my Satnav. Do I need an appointment?” Simon smiled to himself, he had no other jobs, had nothing since the work he’d done for Charlie Clegg.

“I can fit you in this morning. Just come along when you’re ready. I’m in the office all morning as it happens.”

“Oh that’s brilliant. Thank you so much. I’ll come straight away. Thank you.”

As he clicked off the phone and swigged back the last of his coffee his forehead wrinkled in thought. This woman wasn’t even really missing was she, she had simply gone away for a while. He realised then that he hadn’t even asked for the girl’s name. He peered out into the grey morning. Gloria was away in Salford, looking at flats in a new development, he had no work, nothing planned. It would be good to pretend for a while that he was what his business card and website said he was. He would reassure this woman and maybe sometime in the future she would remember and tell someone who truly needed him that he was one of the good guys.

He went down to the office, it was tidy as always. There was no reason for it to be anything else, he pulled out a legal pad and wrote her name at the top of the page. He’d make it look as though he knew what he was doing. It was good practice at least and when all was said and done, she had called him so for this morning at least, he had a client.

 

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Chapter 4

So, something is happening with this. I have realised that I can actually make it into Book 3 of The Truth series – Quite exciting.

Chapter 4 

Carol sat on the settee beside her friend who, by now, had regained some of her composure. “Look, I know you’re upset, well of course you are, but you have to be rational about this. You should have thrown it away ages ago. I don’t know why you kept it.”

“I didn’t know what to do. For a long time his stuff was just there in his wardrobe, in the drawers. I couldn’t bear to look at them until that day. I remember it as if it was yesterday. It was when the police had finally decided that I’d had nothing to do with whatever had happened. That Inspector, Carter, do you remember?” Carol nodded, “Well, he came to Mum’s, all smiles and sympathy to say I definitely wasn’t a suspect and did I need any victim support counselling. I was so angry. I needed help at the beginning, when it happened, when my life fell apart, that’s when I needed counselling, not weeks and weeks later when they had made it all worse by not believing a word I said. None of them believed that I couldn’t remember.” She shook her head and grabbing a tissue from the box on the side table she blew her nose. “Anyway, more than anything else I was angry. I was furious with the police, and his mum and dad because of the way that they’d behaved. Right from the start they blamed me, oh they never said anything up front, but I know they blamed me. We’d never got on. Well, I went back to the house that day. I was torn up with rage at the way I’d been treated, fuming and crying and then fuming again and in the end, all the anger focused on him. Trevor was the cause of it. I hated him, for what he’d done. No worry about whether he’d been killed, no sadness just anger. I blamed him for all of it. That was when I filled the case. I just dragged all his stuff out and shoved it in there and then carted it through to the spare room and stuck it in the corner.”

“Okay, I see that. And you’ve never opened it since?”

“No. Well I never really stayed there properly. Just a night now and then if me and mum had been cleaning or if they needed the spare room at home and I had no choice. Now and then I would look at it and wonder whether to throw it out. I was scared of doing it because for a long time I half expected the police to come back. It took ages for me to accept that it was all over. Well, you know that, you were with me through it, you kept me going.” They leaned together into a warm hug.

“I didn’t open it, just left it there in the corner, I blanked it. It was as if I couldn’t see it anymore. Then when I was sorting stuff to move out, well… … I wish I’d just thrown it all out, back then, months ago. I wish I’d never seen any of it again. I thought I was so much stronger by now, that I’d be fine. I truly believed I was getting over it and look. All come back – whoosh.”

“No, it hasn’t. You are strong. Look, what we’ll do – we’ll just take it to the tip tomorrow. I’ll go into work late. We’ll go as soon as it opens. You’ve seen now that it’s just his stuff and it’s all too difficult so we’ll just take it to the tip, fling it in the skip and then we’ll forget all about it.”

 

***

Flora didn’t sleep, although they had talked through her worries, Carol had tried to reassure her and calm her nerves but still the image of the suitcase and the articles inside wouldn’t leave her. She lay in the cosy darkness of her bedroom and went over it all again and again. Her therapist had told her not to hide from it, that she should face her fears, that if she did that maybe, in time the memory of the night he disappeared would come back and at last she would be able to shed some light on the mystery.

After a couple of hours yoga breathing, listening to relaxing music and the other “tricks”, to still the clamour in her mind, she threw back the covers. The nearest clothes were her soft sports pants and sweat shirt, she dragged them on over the T shirt that she used for sleeping in. The house was cooling, the heating had turned off. They had a light burning in the hall and the drapes were open so that the glow from a full moon smeared silver across the polished surfaces and deepened the shadows.

From the cupboard in the hall she dragged out a bag with shoulder straps. Back in the bedroom she stuffed in some underwear and toiletries and a couple of changes of clothes. She ran back into the hallway and pulled out her thick coat and a woollen hat, she slipped her feet into her favourite boots.

Stopping beside the little table in the hall she wrote a note on the shopping list pad. She grabbed her handbag and then as a second thought opened it, took out her purse and stuffed it into the front pocket of the travel bag discarding the rest. With a quick glance around she pulled open the door and stepped into the chill of the early hours.

She closed the gate behind her and looked to her left and right, unsure which way to turn her nerve almost failed her. This was not necessary; she could go back. Live here with Carol, move on and push the thought of Kevin into a box in the back of her mind. She could learn to live with the empty place that she carried. She hadn’t loved him any more. Their relationship had been finished. Maybe in the end she could learn to pretend that they had simply parted the way out of date lovers do. She looked down at her hand on the slick metal of the gate. All she needed to do was to push it inwards, slide back into the house and climb back into her warm bed, and carry on living the lie.

She turned to the left because that was the way the moon had laid a path and she strode away.

 

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Chapter 3

They poured another glass of red wine, pushed back the coffee table to make a space in the middle of the lounge floor and Carol carried it through.

It hadn’t benefitted from sitting in the corner of the damp garage and the handle came away as she had lifted it. She wrapped her arms as far around it as she could manage and, resting it against her front she staggered back into the house. “It’s huge is this. Why on earth did you buy one this size? You could never check it in on a flight, the weight of the case on its own would take you into excess baggage land.”

“Oh I know. Actually, it was never really used as a suitcase. Kevin had it in his flat at Uni, he used it for storage because it fit under his bed. It was a cheap one bought specifically for that and we just carried on.”

“Is it locked?”

“No. The locks have never worked as far as I know and it didn’t matter.” Carol stood aside, her hands on her hips, looking down at the big, old brown case.

“So do you want me to do it, or are you going to?”

Flora moved nearer, “Here, I’ll do it” on her knees she bent forward and with her thumbs, clicked open the small metal fasteners. She took a deep breath and then grasped the edges of the lid and with a flourish she threw it backwards.

For a moment, she was quiet looking down and then she stood, stiffly, her eyes fixed on the suitcase. She shook her head and then backed away into the corner of the room. She crouched in the corner and began to whimper.

“What! What! Christ, what’s the matter?” Carol ran to her friend and enfolded her, “Ssssh, sssh. It’s okay, it’s okay. Flo, I’ve got you. It’s all okay. I’ll take it away. Don’t cry I’ll just take it away. I told you not to didn’t I? I told you not to.” Flora was shaking her head now, tears soaking the front of Carol’s jumper. Her whole body was trembling and her streaming eyes were wide with distress. “Hush, come on now, come on. Just breathe. It’s all okay.” Carol had held her often in the throes of the panic attacks that were so much a part of life for the first weeks after Kevin had vanished. She had thought that was over and now here was Flora, gulping for breath, shaking and sobbing, her fingers digging painfully into Carols arm.

“I can’t, I just can’t.” From where they were, crouching in the corner Carol turned and peered across at the case. From what she could see there was nothing to explain this reaction. She had expected it to be difficult but this total, over the top panic had her nonplussed.

“It’s okay love. It’s just his clothes, some of his stuff. It’s okay, there’s nothing to be frightened off, it’s just stuff.”

“It’s his stuff, God Carol it’s all his stuff. Look, his football medals, the trophy from that daft golf tournament he went to. It’s his life, not just his stuff?”

“I know, I know.” As she rubbed at her back Carol urged her up from the floor. Look come on, get on the settee, have a drink of your wine. Breathe, just breathe. Calm down now Flo. Just calm down.”. She reached out with her foot, slid it underneath the lid and flipped it back over the top, hiding the contents of the case.

Flora took a big gulp of the wine and struggled to gain control.  “I’m sorry, I’m sorry Carol. It was just such a shock. I’m okay. I am, I’m okay now. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be silly, don’t apologise. It was forced to be difficult.”

“No, no you don’t understand. I wanted him to go, do you see? I wanted us to split up. That row was just the last. There’d been so many and I wanted him to. But, not like that, I just wanted him gone, but not like that.”

“Of course not. I know, I know. Look, you just need to get rid of it, but it’s okay we’ll do it together and then you can forget all about it.”

“No, no I can’t. I won’t ever be able to, I’ll never be free of him. If he’d gone. Like I told him that night. I told him to get lost, sometimes I can remember bits of that row and I know I said that to him. ‘Get lost you loser.’ I said that to him. But I didn’t mean this. I didn’t mean any of it to happen the way it did.”

“Well, of course not. Look we knew, Waleed and me, we knew things were bad between you but I know you would never have wished him any harm. Don’t go back there again, back into the darkness. You’ve fought so hard to move on. Don’t go back.”

“I was so angry. I just threw his stuff in. I didn’t fold it. I didn’t wrap it up properly. I didn’t do any of that, I just stuffed it all in.”

“It doesn’t matter, look it’s all going on the tip, so it’s not important. Listen to me, listen. Even if he did come back, and let’s be honest if he was going to it would have happened by now. Wherever he’s gone he’s not going to need this stuff. It’s rubbish, it’s finished.”

“I don’t feel as though it’s ever going to be finished though. I was feeling so strong, so happy here and now it’s all come back.”

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