This canvas is turning out well, she thought, casting her professional eye over the composition. She had tried to capture the glory of a sunset on a calm sea, and the flood of colour across the water was almost right. She put down her brush, needing a cup of coffee.
While the kettle boiled, she thought about what the voice had said about her needing company. It obviously didn’t know her at all, for she had always preferred her own company. Pity, she hadn’t remembered that when she met Jack. Michael too, come to think of it. Why had she broken her own rules so many times?
She had always attributed her momentary lapses to plain stupidity, for who knew better than she there was no Mr Right lurking about anywhere.
She went back to her studio, still thinking about how badly their marriage had turned out. She had often heard women discussing how men would change once they put a ring on your finger, and surely there must be some kind of clue, some sign you were making a mistake before you walked down the aisle? If there was, she never saw it.
Jack must have been one clever bastard, that’s all she could think, for she fell for his charm like a ton of bricks. The first time he had spoken to her as if she was the worst woman he had ever met had wounded her deeply. After Michael, she didn’t think she could be hurt like that again, especially by someone like Jack. She had been so wrong.
He had literally become someone else, someone she didn’t recognise at all. He became rude, sarcastic and moody. He started to instigate rough games, which always resulted in her getting hurt. Even now, her hip hurt most days where he had viciously kicked her off the bed.
The one thing that broke her heart was the way he treated her son, David. He had promised to be a good father and seemed to care for him before the wedding, but that changed, along with everything else. He did still play with him sometimes, but he played rough and she was terrified he would hurt him the way he usually hurt her.
She increased the intensity of the orange paint near the horizon so that it seemed the sun had just slipped out of sight. The dying light streamed across the sea, spreading shades of peach and salmon pink that gradually faded into the cobalt sea. Kate nodded to herself, finally satisfied the sunset before her was as splendid as she could make it.
Something made her think of Sam’s face appearing in one of her other paintings. What was that all about?
The voice was talking about Sam, asking if Kate really knew her at all.
What was it going on about now? Of course, she knew how she felt about Sam. She was a good friend as well as a big help with her art, and there had been the time when it was all a bit emotional. She thought at the time they would have to go their separate ways, for Sam had become so upset by her relationship with Jack. She was simply being overprotective, wasn’t she? After all, Kate knew by then he was a bastard, so Sam was right.
And what was all that about her suddenly vanishing?
She thought of Dylan, and it suddenly felt as though her stomach had just dropped to the floor.
Kate awoke with another splitting headache. The night had been full of nightmares, bloodied babies, cats screaming in agony, and the angry face of a man she didn’t recognise. She nearly gave up in the early hours and thought about getting up, but she must have gone back to sleep again. Not that she felt at all rested.
She staggered into the kitchen and switched the kettle on. While it was coming to the boil, she looked for some painkillers. She hated taking pills of any kind and only conceded with the antacid tablets because she usually ended up being violently sick if she didn’t.
Kate remembered Sam’s raised eyebrows when she couldn’t convince her she had been taking her medication after the heart attack. She couldn’t help it, she just didn’t remember. She didn’t see the point in prolonging the inevitable, always assuming she would die one day anyway. She hoped so. When she was younger, the thought of living forever seemed like a great idea, but not if you couldn’t drag yourself out of bed. Something which was getting harder to do, pills or no.
Every bone in her body ached, and mysterious shooting pains were starting to worry her. She should be taking the pills after all because she wasn’t quite ready to shuffle off just yet.
Right now though, she was having trouble deciding what she was going to do today. She wasn’t completely happy with the first canvas she had done, and she should do some housework, the place was filthy.
She suddenly felt emotional, tears were not far away, as she remembered how much she was missing Dylan. Where was he? She couldn’t bear to think he might be hurt or shut in somewhere. Oh for a crystal ball, she thought. Wouldn’t that be handy?
The next thought to push its way past her emotions was Danny, smiling at her with that soppy grin he always thought was cute. Why had she suddenly thought about him?
The voice blamed Danny for being in her flat, and it could have been him, remembering the smell of cigarette smoke. He would be stupid enough to smoke in her flat. The thought of him, nosing around in her belongings was making her skin crawl. He was her brother; she shouldn’t be feeling like that about him. It might help a lot if she knew why she did, and the truth refused to escape from the dark recesses of her brain.
After a shower, Kate went to her studio. Housework had been voted against, after all, no one would see the place so what did it matter?
She studied both canvases, trying to be objective. The sunset was good, but the dark, edgy one was not. It would have to be done again. She had the idea in her head of a magical lake scene with mist rising from the water. It wasn’t a seascape, so Sam might not like it, but it was what she wanted to paint and wouldn’t be able to move on to the next one until she had transferred it from her head to the canvas.
With the day planned and the problem solved, she set to work; suddenly realising she could hear the child crying again. It seemed to be more insistent now as if it was alone, uncared for, and wasn’t helping Kate concentrate.
During the morning, the crying intensified and Kate began to feel as if something was wrong. She couldn’t remember David ever crying like that. Quite the opposite, he was a happy child, infuriatingly happy most of the time. As he grew older, the moods and bad tempers began to take over. Which puzzled her at the time, for weren’t children supposed to take after their parents?
She couldn’t blame everything on the crying child. The flat hadn’t been the same since the break-in. She wondered if it might have happened before. Not that she had noticed anything anyway as she was not the tidiest person on the planet.
The feeling the flat was no longer her special place was growing stronger, almost too strong to ignore. She knew she would have to move, even though the thought of doing it all over again filled her with dread. She was too old to move house again.
The voice changed tactics, saying she should stay where she was. That whoever had broken in would find her wherever she went.
Oh, no you don’t, she thought. ‘Quit using reverse psychology on me, I’ll do what I want, not what you think I should…’
She stopped mid-rant, realising she was shouting at something that wasn’t real. She should check herself into the funny farm, that would solve most of her problems, wouldn’t it?
Oh get a grip, she thought. She moved house before and thoroughly enjoyed it, she could do it again if she had to; of course, she could.
Suddenly, the need for fresh air was overwhelming. She had to get out of there if it was only a walk around the block.
Once outside the front door, Kate didn’t know what she wanted to do or where she wanted to go. The green Vauxhall was still parked outside number ten and didn’t appear to have been moved. It couldn’t possibly be Danny’s, could it?
She contemplated dropping in on Janet to see how she was, but her need for fresh air was more insistent. She began to walk, hoping something would occur to her as she made her way to the High Street.
Dark clouds were slowly building into a menacing mountain, not just rain if they had anything to do with it. It matched her mood perfectly, so the thought of getting wet didn’t bother her at all…