#WednesdayWriters: Nine Lives ~ chapter15

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Chapter Fifteen

Later that evening, as Kate was sorting through her painting supplies to decide what she needed to stock up on, she thought she heard a child crying. She often heard all manner of sounds coming from the neighbours, and as far as she knew, no one had any children.

She looked around the room for Dylan, thinking it could be him and the silver tabby was nowhere in sight. It had sounded more like a child than a cat, she thought, and the memory of David suddenly burst into her mind.

He was so small when he was born, too small to have caused so much trouble.

The first hint something was wrong happened the morning after David was born. She awoke in the hospital bed and tried to move her legs, thinking she would get up and go to the bathroom. But something didn’t feel right. Her left leg felt heavy and awkward and didn’t want to move.

She pulled back the covers and discovered a red, angry leg, which had swollen considerably. She called to a passing nurse who took one look, told Kate not to move for any reason, and summoned the doctor.

It was a thrombosis, a blood clot, which apparently could travel to her heart or brain if she as much as moved an eyelash.

Being told she must not move on pain of death, so soon after the rigours of childbirth seemed to work the oracle. Kate simply froze, far too frightened and exhausted to think straight. They gave her medication, and over the next few days the swelling gradually went down and the danger passed.

Thinking about it now, Kate wondered idly if it counted as a life lost. They said she could have died after all. So how many was it? Possibly five or six, she thought.

Kate had tried to be a good mother, never complaining or resenting the demands of her tiny red-faced dictator. She was always a patient person but David pushed her to hell and back. He never seemed to sleep like other babies or behave as she thought a baby should.

She remembered him standing up in his cot every night, grinning at her like a Cheshire cat, almost as if he knew he was being infuriating.

Having a child had not worked for Kate. Instead of having the opportunity to show the world just how it should be done, she had managed to screw it up and do a worse job than her mother. Despite her struggle to do all the right things, David grew up hating her and she never knew why.

Surprisingly, John took to being a substitute father like a duck to water. He never spoke of Michael at all. It was as though his own son didn’t exist and Kate thought she understood. John kept hinting she should marry him and settle down. Forget any dreams she might still have about finding a better life. Kate couldn’t stop expecting to see Michael, couldn’t believe he could stay away. Surely, he would want to at least look at his son?

The time passed and David grew into a moody, rebellious toddler, and if she still had dreams of a better life, she tried to forget them. Which wasn’t easy, as the voice tormented her almost on a daily basis, constantly reminding her of the mess she had made of her life. Kate had started to think it wanted her to do something drastic, like jump under a bus, and she refused to listen, stubbornly holding on to the little bit of hope she had left.

Most people see life in black and white, and for Kate, there were a million shades of grey, plus some mystifying element that eluded her whenever she tried to concentrate on it.

Whatever it was, it was always tantalisingly close and out of reach at the same time. Why was it so difficult for her to find love? She had searched long and hard deep down inside herself, and the elusive answer simply danced away whenever she came close to it.

Kate tried to remember what had made David hate her so and her mind refused to cooperate. It was late; she should pack up and go to bed. No point worrying about any of it, was there?

The voice in her head stopped her in her tracks, asking if she had ever considered that someone else might have influenced her son. Why did it say that? It might explain why she could never quite put her finger on the cause of her son’s hatred. His feelings were strong, so he obviously thought he had a good reason to be so angry. It would also explain why she had always felt it was not anything to do with her. If it wasn’t her fault, why did he hate her so much?

Kate tried to switch her brain off as easily as she flipped the light switch on her way to bed, but the thought it might have been someone else’s fault went with her and she knew she would have trouble sleeping.

She had lain awake for most of the night, convinced she could hear a child crying. Dylan had not made an appearance, which was odd because he never stayed out all night. She would have to look for him when she returned from the art suppliers in Guildford.

She spent most of Tuesday morning carefully choosing the paint and canvases she would need, blissfully happy to be able to do what she loved so much, never regarding it as work. She decided to stop for lunch before catching the next train home and found herself in a smart new Italian place where the food turned out to be good and the waiters treated her like royalty.

Despite her surroundings, she found herself thinking about the mysterious crying child, which in turn made her think of the day Michael did, in fact, turn up all those years ago. Typically, it had to be a day when she looked her worst. Her hair, longer and messier than ever, needed washing and David was being his most frustrating, throwing his toys all over the place one minute then demanding things and throwing them on the floor too.

Don’t do this today, she remembered thinking, but Michael wasn’t taking any notice of his child. He was staring at her, almost as though he hadn’t  looked at her before. John was at work, and Kate didn’t want to think what might happen if Michael was still there when he came home.

‘You’re looking good Kate.’ he said softly, his oh so blue eyes twinkling just as she remembered. Something inside her seemed to move and stretch its legs. What was she supposed to make of this visit? What did he want?

She stood up straight and looked him in the eyes. ‘Why are you here Michael?’

He smiled nervously and pushed his fingers through his hair, a habit that was all too familiar. ‘I wanted to see you.’

Kate was having a lot of trouble keeping herself detached. The way he looked and the things he was doing brought back so many memories she couldn’t concentrate. How long had it been? It must have been eighteen months since he had walked away. What had brought him back now? She had supposed he would be married by then as he was too good looking to stay single for long.

She had to sit down. Her legs were beginning to demand it and she hesitated, knowing he would take it as a signal to be all over her like a rash. She compromised and leaned against the windowsill. ‘Why did you want to see me, I would have thought you would have better things to do.’

He had the grace to look awkward and gave a nervous laugh. ‘I couldn’t stop thinking about you, so here I am.’

And just what do you expect me to do about that, she thought. The next thought slipped unbidden into her mind and made her swallow so hard, she almost choked. Did he still love her?

The voice warned her of falling for Michael’s charms again, and to remember how badly he had hurt her.

‘Oh shut up!’

‘Pardon?’ he said, looking anxious.

‘Oh not you, Michael, I was thinking aloud. Would you like a cup of coffee?’

Why had she offered hospitality? She should throw him out, and for some reason, she couldn’t bring herself to be angry with him. He always did have that effect on her.

It was getting late, John could be home anytime soon and she knew all hell would break loose if Michael was still there.

‘Your dad will be home soon, she said, pointedly.

He didn’t look at all worried. Don’t tell me he’s grown a pair since I saw him last, she thought. He had picked up one of David’s toy cars and was turning it repeatedly in his hands, seemingly without a care in the world. She waited for David to notice one of his toys was in someone else’s hands and go into his usual spoilt brat routine and scream to get it back, and he didn’t. She knew he had noticed, for he was watching Michael intently, studying him from behind the armchair.

‘Why are you here, Kate?’

As if you care where I am, she thought. ‘Where else would I go?’

‘There must be better places, than here with him…’

‘He has been good to both of us,’ when no one else was, she felt like adding.

Suddenly she decided she would not be playing his games again, not even for a social visit. ‘I think you should go now. I want you to leave.’

He stood up and crossed the room to stand in front of her at the window. ‘Don’t be like that Kate, I have missed you.’

Oh no, you don’t, she thought and pushed past him to get to the front door. He was right behind her and put out his hand to stop her from opening the door. ‘You don’t really want to throw me out, do you?’

He was standing so close; she could feel the heat coming off his body on the bare skin of her arm. The familiar smell of his aftershave washed over her, evoking so many wonderful memories of their romantic past.

With an extraordinary effort, she managed to pull herself together and gritted her teeth, desperately trying to remember she still hated him.

He leaned towards her and tucked a stray curl behind her ear. ‘Beautiful as ever Kate, I must visit you again and soon.’

He opened the door, which meant squeezing past her. Her body disobeyed every command she gave it and long forgotten sensations came back to life. It was all she could do not to grab him and melt in his arms.

By some miracle, she held herself together and managed to close the door behind him. She stood there for a moment, trying to decide how she felt. She didn’t have to think about it, it was obvious she still loved him. She just hoped it wasn’t obvious to him.

Thinking about Michael usually depressed her but that wasn’t happening today. She felt almost elated and that was insane. It was all of thirty years ago, surely all thoughts of Michael and their ill-fated romance should have been buried long ago?

On the way home, she called in at the local supermarket for there was hardly any food in the flat and Dylan’s was running low too; which reminded her, she hadn’t seen him that morning. Where was he?

When she arrived home, she checked all his favourite hiding places and the silver tabby was in none of them. She checked the cat flap still worked as it had been known to get stuck occasionally, much to Dylan’s annoyance. You would think she had done it just to annoy him, the way he carried on.

Kate was getting worried now. She hadn’t seen him for at least two days and it wasn’t like him at all.

She walked across the road to her neighbour and knocked on the door, waiting patiently for the old woman to make her way to the front door,

‘Hello Janet, I was wondering if you had seen Dylan lately? And how are you these days,’ she added guiltily. Kate thought she looked a bit tired, not quite her usual perky self.

‘Oh I’m not so bad, and no, I haven’t seen his Lordship for a while now. How long has he been missing?’

‘About two days, I think. I hope he’s all right.’

‘I’m sure he is Kate, although there has been a strange car parked outside number ten for over a week now. Nobody ever gets out of it though, not that I’ve seen anyway.’

‘I’ll have to ask around. Do you need anything Janet?’

‘I’m fine; you go and find Dylan, that’s more important.’

‘He’s not more important than you, take care…’

None of the other neighbours had seen Dylan either and by the time she was back home she was worried. She had a quick look at the car Janet mentioned, it was a green Vauxhall and beaten up enough to be her brothers, but the inside was so clean and tidy she dismissed the idea. It had probably been dumped anyway.

It was possible Dylan had gone walkabout, although he had stopped doing that a long time ago. He was too old now, wasn’t he? Apart from ringing the local vet and reporting him missing, she couldn’t think what else to do. She knew cats do sometimes up sticks and move on when the mood takes them. She just hoped that wasn’t what had happened as she would miss him terribly.

 

Where is Dylan, the cat? And why is she remembering Michael, after all this time?

 

Honesty in WorldWar2 by Chris-Jean Clarke #ContemporaryFiction/History@ChrisJeanClarke

 

WW2 through the eyes of a child: It is mid-summer, 1944 and Britain is embroiled in war.

A large percentage of city and town dwellers are being killed; homes bombed, and personal belongings destroyed. The people not only fear for their own safety, but they also realize, that even if they are fortunate enough to survive there is a slim chance their offspring will not.

They feel they have no choice but to send their children to remote country villages to be raised by strangers, in the hope they will have a better life. The only adults permitted to travel with the children are mothers with youngsters under five years old, the infirm and the elderly. Meantime, the community of Honesty Brook Dale feel it’s their duty to rally together to help the evacuees by sharing their homes and limited food and clothing supplies. 

Our Review

I was only a child during WW2 and evacuated out of London to Northampton, but probably a little too young to remember much of what was going on around me. I knew I had been taken somewhere strange, but didn’t feel alone or scared, unlike some of the children in these circumstances.

Reading this book, listening to the children as they tried to cope with being uprooted or worse, have their homes and family destroyed in front of them, must have been terrifying. Making me realise I was a lot luckier than most.

The people who took in these evacuees found themselves taking a very different role in the war effort. For most, it wasn’t easy, squeezing extra people into their lives when food was already rationed. People who must have resented being treated like lost luggage.

I loved the name of the village in this book, Honesty Brook Dale. Honesty is one of my favourite flowers and is mentioned several times, reminding me of the shiny silver seedpods I loved as a child.

I know you’re not supposed to have favourites when it comes to children, but I couldn’t help loving Cyril Blessum. A typical boy, into every mischief, desperately trying to understand everything, and not making a very good job of any of it.

“If only me Dad were able to come home, George wouldn’t have to be so tired from working long hours … and we could have fun again,” he added as new tears threatened to spill down his cheeks.

Unbeknownst to Cyril, George had been standing at their bedroom door, listening. “Nobody wants change, our kid, but we have to make the best of what we’ve got,” George said as he joined Cyril by the window.

He gently squeezed Cyril’s shoulder and continued, “Remember when we used to walk for miles over the fields. We would play by the brook and go as far as the entrance to the coalmines or walk across the fields in the opposite direction towards the cottage hospital. That’s how far I biked today looking for ya. I was real worried, our kid. I thought something bad had happened to ya … that’s why I got so mad.”

Cyril slipped his hand into George’s and said, “I am sorry, honest … but I don’t know what to do to make things right with Mam.”

 “Ya know I was thinking Cyril. Mam used to love it when we picked a few flowers for her while we were over the fields. Her favourite is honesty because she loves the delicate shades of pinks and purples. I remember she always managed to find a spare jam jar to put them in. We can pick a few at the weekend if ya want?”

 “Yeah, it will be just like old times … only without Dad.”

This heart-warming but sometimes sad story reminded me of The Railway Children, waiting for the war to end and their fathers and brothers to come home…

About the Author

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Chris-Jean Clarke grew up in the West-Midlands (UK) but now resides in South Staffordshire (UK) with her husband, Geoff and children, Nathan and Kyrsten.

Prior to giving birth to her two beautiful children, Chris-Jean worked for twenty years with people with learning and physical disabilities.

She studied the art of writing children’s stories @The Writing School, Oxford Open Learning.

Chris-Jean also donates stories & poems twice yearly to the Peacock Writers to benefit various charities. (NB She does not publish her contributions in any other form.)

November 2016, Chris-Jean was accepted as a paid reviewer for Readers’ Favorite. During this month she was also accepted as a Publishing Assistant for the Books4Kids program, South Dakota.

Early 2018, Chris-Jean transitioned from Publishing Assistant to author with the release of her educational story: To Dye For.

 

#ThrowbackThursday ~ Excerpt from Let it Go…

Let it Go is Anita’s sixth book, and one we have been neglecting to promote for some reason. My routine as editor/publisher has proved to be totally inadequate of late and it had to change. So many things kept getting in the way last year, but I have a new system in place now to keep track of what I am doing. Organisation has finally arrived at our house!

 

 

Excerpt from Let it Go…

We hadn’t seen dad for nearly a week, and that was a long time, even for him.

Mum was going spare, ranting on about what she’d do to him when he finally came home. Poor dad, it could mean another black eye, or a nose which wouldn’t stop bleeding for hours after mum landed one of her punches. Pretty normal behaviour for my parents and had been going on for years. Considering my mother’s temper, you would think he would stop rolling home drunk and penniless, but he never did.

It was late Friday night when he finally came home. We knew it was him, even though it sounded as if something had been thrown at the front door. We listened to him fumbling with the key for ages; mum with arms folded, waiting for him to fall through it. How she controlled her temper and didn’t rush at the door and tear it from its hinges, I will never know. I think I would have done; it would have been quicker.

I heard the lock turn and dad swung in like a gust of storm wind, holding on to the key that was stuck in the lock. His dark, shaggy hair hadn’t seen a comb in days and his clothes appeared to have been slept in. He stood there swaying, grinning at mum like an idiot.

She slapped his hand from the key, sending him flying across the hall, skidding on the mat that never seemed to want to stay in one place. I had a ringside seat at the top of the stairs and watched as she calmly removed the key and slammed the door…

#WednesdayWriters ~ Nine Lives

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Chapter Fourteen

On her way home from her lunch with Kate, Sam found herself having to fight to hold back the tears. It seemed to be raining, the windscreen streaked with water distorting the view from inside the car. When she realised the water was in her eyes and not on the glass in front of her, she pulled over and parked the car on the side of the road.

She wished for the millionth time there were something she could do to help Kate, something to help her settle down and be happy. Misery seemed to follow her around like a stray dog, her life full of pain and disappointment and didn’t look as if it would be letting up anytime soon. Who was tormenting her, and what did they want?

Two obvious candidates stood out immediately. It had to be either Danny or Jack.

She didn’t want to think it could be Kate’s brother Danny. He was a bit of an idiot, but why would he want to hurt Kate? Then there was Jack, her ex-husband. She didn’t know him well, and on the few occasions, she had met him he had made her skin crawl. Always so courteous, most women would fall at his feet and Sam instinctively knew he was hiding his true colours behind all his mock chivalry. She had watched him with Kate and her son in the past and it was like watching a horror film. You just knew something awful was going to happen at any minute, and as hard as you tried to prepare yourself it was never enough. She was glad when Kate had finally left him and moved away, hoping that would be the end of it.

Jack had seemed to give in without a struggle, which had surprised Sam. She half expected him to move heaven and earth to get her back, but he didn’t. He contacted her a few times, contrite, humble, and pleaded with her to come home, promising her the world and more to make amends.

Kate would have none of it. Sam had expected a few pitfalls or fruitless reconciliations but Kate had not conceded. Something far worse must have occurred, Sam thought. Something Kate obviously didn’t want to talk about.

Whatever it was, Sam was pleased the marriage was over as she didn’t want Kate having anything to do with him. So the thought he might be up to his tormenting games again was annoying, to say the least. And why now?

She had a mental picture of him keeping an eye on Kate, watching and waiting for opportunities to arise. Sam had never understood how he could have been so nasty to both Kate and her son David. Was he lying when he said he loved her? It couldn’t be love, not the kind of love Kate needed.

Not the kind of love Sam had offered her either and suddenly the tears began again in earnest, threatening to turn into wholesale sobbing.

 

Sometime later Sam had composed herself just enough to resume her journey, deciding to put in a few hours at the gallery, as going home had not appealed in the slightest. Being alone in her tiny flat served to remind her just how lonely she was, but after a few minutes inside the gallery with all its empty spaces and concealed lighting, she realised she was just as lonely there too. She needed someone in her life, someone to share everything with. Over the years there had been some opportunities but none of them had meant as much to her as Kate. It was a great pity she didn’t feel the same in return.

There had been that time when Sam was sure Kate would finally realise how she felt about her, that their relationship could be more than just good friends. They had been at some function, she couldn’t remember much about it. The pair of them managed to get drunk and ended up alone together, and what should have been a romantic occasion had quickly degenerated into a one-sided show of affection from which Kate had rapidly retreated into her shell.

Sam often wondered if Kate had been too drunk to understand what she was offering, and had been too scared to bring the subject up in case it ruined what relationship they did have…

 

5* Review of Honest Hearts by Frank Parker #Romance @fparkerswords

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This book follows the lives of two people of Irish descent. Paul arrives in Brooklyn in 1895 aged 19. He meets and is captivated by Maeve whose parents arrived two decades earlier but met tragic ends. She develops a fondness for the innocent Irishman but is forced to deceive him. On discovering the deception he leaves Brooklyn, eventually joining the gold rush to the Klondike and, later, Alaska. Throughout the years thoughts of Maeve are never far away.

She escapes the clutches of the man who has controlled her since her parents’ deaths and travels to Chicago where she gives up a child for adoption before becoming involved with the family of an artist. Before her parents died she had enjoyed painting and now, encouraged by the artist, studies and becomes a successful painter. The traumatic separation from her child influences her paintings and she harbours an unfulfilled need to find her daughter.

On a painting assignment in Dawson City, she discovers that Paul was there years earlier and considers trying to find him. At the last minute, she decides that revisiting the past would be unwise, bringing back unpleasant memories of the terrible thing that happened to her after Paul disappeared.

Years later she is commissioned to paint the portrait of a nurse newly returned from the battlefields of France and Germany. Simultaneously Paul is persuaded by a friend that he has misunderstood Maeve’s actions and should seek her out in Chicago. The book reaches its climax as all three meet against the backdrop of the Red Riots of July/August 1919 and the horrific circumstances of the daughter’s conception are finally revealed.

Readers with an interest in history, genealogy and/or the Irish Diaspora will enjoy reading this short (60,000 words) debut novel.

 

Our Review

Paul Horan, an ambitious, honest and determined Irish man, travels to America looking to make his fortune.

He meets Maeve, a beautiful and enchanting woman in Brooklyn, but their happiness is short-lived.

“The rain was like a thousand sharp pointed needles battering her cheeks and mingling with her tears. It ran from her hair over her collar bone and inside the high collar of her dress. It squelched within her shoes as she blundered through the storm battered streets and back alleys. None of it mattered. Nothing mattered any more…”

Two very different and fascinating people, but we wonder if they will ever meet again after circumstances drive them apart. Maeve is forced to deceive Paul, causing their relationship to explode and they part company. Life for the two of them continues in very different ways, making the likelihood of them ever meeting again very remote. Especially since Maeve has a secret, one which must surely prevent any happiness for either of them.

At this point, I was very impressed by the attention to detail in this book. The author leads you into both threads of the story, leaving no stone unturned as you watch both the stories unfold. I particularly liked the descriptive way the author lets you enter the world of an artist, I could almost smell the paint!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this romantic and historical drama; it is brilliantly written and presented.  I can definitely recommend this book to readers of believable dramatic and romantic fiction…

Biography

Frank is a retired Engineer. He spent most of his working life in England where he was employed by UK based multi-national companies. He always wanted to write but has only found the freedom to do so since retiring to Ireland in October 2006. He lives with Freda, his wife since 1963, in Stradbally, County Laois.

He has four novels published on Amazon:
Honest Hearts is about the lives of Irish migrants to North America around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. With settings that range from the Irish countryside to the Alaskan gold rush, via Brooklyn and Dawson City, Canada, this romantic tale reaches its climax in Chicago during the “Red Riots” of the summer of 1919.
Summer Day offers a contrast, with the action set during a single day and within the confines of a small rural community during the long hot summer of 1947. Feel the tension rise with the temperature and humidity as storm clouds gather. Suffer with young Henry and his dog as he tries desperately to evade his pursuers. The events of this Summer Day will change him forever. Reading about them will change you.
Strongbow’s Wife seeks to answer the question: “what was it like to be a teenager forced to marry a medieval warrior?”. Along the way, a crucial period in Anglo-Irish history is brought to life.
Transgression is an exploration of changing attitudes to sex and sexuality in Britain over the past 70 years. Four people conspire to conceal a pregnancy, an action that has consequences for three of them forty years later.

#ThrowbackThursday~ The Power of Books x4…An excerpt from Simple

 

There has been a lot of talk lately about bullying and how wrong it is. How damaging and cruel and all the places you find it. One of the worst places, I think, is inside the family unit.

Ordinary people who wouldn’t dream of bullying in the general sense can be guilty of the quite severe bullying of a family member. Most families have at least one relative whose modus operandi is to shoot people down. Usually condoned as ‘being for their own good.’
As if nagging someone to the point of insanity can ever do any good.

Sometimes, even the kindest people think they have the right to do it, simply because they are family, especially if they think the recipient deserves or needs it.

I am sure quite a lot of us have been on the receiving end of severe nagging that all too often can slide into bullying. There is a very fine line separating ‘helpful suggestions’ from the cruel taunting that is present in a lot of our homes.

Here is an excerpt from Simple by Anita Dawes, a story about such family bullying. Even more despicable in this case because the abused is a mentally challenged man, someone with the mind and heart of a child. Someone who only had one friend in the world, his half-sister, Leanne.

“Simple was almost well enough to leave, but Belle made us stay a few days more than we needed, said she liked the company. As we left, she said I should come by some time, ‘Bring Simple if you want. There’s a bed and food on the table whenever you have need of it.’

I thanked Belle for her kindness and told her I understood there was more than one way of telling a story. Simple was pulling at his ear, the way he did when Lizzie cries, or when his thoughts won’t settle, or his mind won’t let him hold on to one long enough to say what he’s feeling. He didn’t need to tell me, I could feel his fear alongside my own. I took his hand, the one that didn’t want to let go of his ear and led him towards the clearing, to the path that would take us home.

On the way, I told Simple that Gran wouldn’t be mean to him anymore, that I wasn’t going to let anyone hurt him again. We walked slowly; there was no need to hurry as I was in no rush to see Gran. When we stopped every now and then to eat the food Belle had given us, I wondered how it would be. Simple was still pulling at his ear while trying to tell me Gran was gonna be mad at him. Then he said he couldn’t go back. ‘Lizzie s-sad, Simple didn’t get b-baby.’
It didn’t seem to matter what words I used, his mind was stuck on Lizzie having what she cried for.

Then it hit me. I would work on Lizzie! The thought came like a flash of lightning. If I stopped her from carrying on, Simple would stay out of trouble. I was feeling better about going back with every step we took.We needed to reach the caves before it got much darker. I could feel the rain coming and the need for sleep was slowing my body to a stumble. We staggered on and finally saw the mouth of the caves. I never thought the sight of them would be welcome, but it was a temporary haven. Better than what awaited us at Gran’s.”

Will they escape to a better life? Can there be a better life for Simple?

You can find Simple here… myBook.to/mySimple

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#WednesdayWriters~ Serialisation of Nine Lives Chapter13 #MysteryThriller

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Chapter Thirteen

Kate decided to ring Sam later, and tried to concentrate on a theme for a new canvas. She spread her collection of photographs out on the floor, but her brain didn’t want to work. She was having trouble doing much of anything these days, and housework was the least of her worries. She too tired to care, who would see it anyway?  She started to think about her health, something she didn’t usually bother about. Since the heart attack, she had been preoccupied with the idea she might not have much longer to live, and increasingly felt as though her body was giving up, one day at a time.

Despite all that had happened in her life, she had always felt invincible, as though nothing could affect her. Now that feeling was gone. It sounded ridiculous, but she could feel a degeneration happening to her, leaving her in no doubt her time was nearly up. She thought she was also developing angina, what did that mean? Was her heart going to stop again? She should try to remember to take the pills, for who knew just how much time she had left?

Then she started to think about all those hints she had been getting lately about the lives she had apparently lost. Was the voice trying to insinuate she had been using them up, like a cat? Surely, there hadn’t been that many. Had there?

She tried to count them and promptly gave up, dismissing it as total rubbish, just another one of its stupid remarks.

Sam answered the phone almost before it had a chance to ring, sounding pleased to hear Kate’s voice.

‘Did you ring earlier Kate?’

‘Yes, I did, and your junior said you were off sick or something.’

Sam laughed. ‘You must have misheard her, Kate. She wouldn’t have said that. And I was being a little mysterious with her; she is far too nosy you know.’

‘So where were you?’  Kate asked, trying to sound mildly curious.

‘I was in London, meeting with the owners of the building I am thinking of leasing.’

‘And…’

‘And it’s a done deal. It’s a lovely place, just right for a gallery. And it’s the perfect location too!’

Kate’s mind went into overdrive.  Now the new gallery was becoming a fact, Sam would need a lot more art for the walls. Things might be looking up after all. ‘Does that mean I shall be seeing less of you then?’

‘No, I’m getting a manager so I can stay down here. London is fine for the odd visit, and I wouldn’t want to stay up there.’

Kate was busily trying to predict how fast she could paint. ‘How soon will all this be happening?’

There was a pause and Kate could hear people talking in the background.

‘Look, Kate, I would prefer to have this conversation in person, how about lunch tomorrow?’


Sam had arranged to pick Kate up in her smart yellow VW beetle and they were headed for the local Harvester, with Sam was driving much too fast in her usual erratic manner. It was a good choice as the food was always delicious, with a vast menu, which catered for all possible tastes; which was ideal if you didn’t fancy anything particular or simply couldn’t make up your mind. The free salad bar was a great idea too and Kate looked forward to their meal almost as much as the chance to catch up with her friend.

The Harvester was busy, as usual; and they were seated and discussing the menu inside five minutes.

‘So Kate; how’s everything? Have you finished the commission?’

‘Yes, I think so. You can take it back with you.’

Sam thought Kate seemed to be in a weird mood, almost as if her mind was somewhere else entirely. ‘Are you okay Kate? You seem a bit off.’

Kate looked up at her friend; suddenly realising she didn’t know about her heart attack or the business with Danny.

As she relayed everything that had happened, she was amazed by Sam’s reaction. There was surprise, shock, concern and finally sadness. It looked as though she were about to cry.

‘Are you all right now, medically I mean?’

‘So they tell me. If I keep taking the pills, I should be fine. My heart apparently needed an MOT and they had to put these bits in to keep the arteries open, so I should be good for a while yet.’ She laughed. ‘They managed to talk me into giving up smoking…’

‘Good for you Kate. Now, what’s all this about Danny?’

Their food arrived, temporarily halting the conversation, and they ate in silence. And Kate noticed Sam was picking at her food. Surely, her news hadn’t upset her that much?

Sam put down her fork. ‘I’m not hungry today. Tell me about Danny.’

Kate described what had happened, keeping her voice low as she noticed the family at the next table were eavesdropping. ‘I’m absolutely sure it was him, who else could it be. He must have a key or something, nothing was damaged.’

Sam looked deathly serious. ‘Did you manage to change the lock yet?’ she asked, already knowing what the answer would be.

‘Err, no – do you think I should?’

‘Definitely, or do you want a return visit from your brother, or whoever else it might have been?’

Kate promised faithfully to replace the lock, and having finished their meal, made their way to Sam’s car.

‘For some inexplicable reason, Kate, I keep thinking about the time you had that virus. I never knew anyone could get so hot and survive, and you did and from what I know about you, you’re good at surviving.’

Kate had forgotten how bad the virus had been. It had turned out to be viral meningitis and she had been lucky to come through it without any brain damage. Her temperature had reached such high levels it was a wonder her brain hadn’t fried.

It had been a normal day, Kate had been painting off and on, and a violent headache was building to epic proportions. She had gone to bed early, hoping to sleep it off, and no such luck. She awoke shivering, the pain in her head and neck excruciating and she knew something had to be wrong.

Kate telephoned Sam to cancel their lunch appointment. She must have sounded so bad Sam had dropped everything and turned up on her doorstep. She took one look at Kate and called the doctor.

When he arrived, he tried to play down the seriousness of it all and stressed Kate had to cool down even if it meant throwing her into a cool bath.

Apparently, the first time Sam tried it was hilarious. Kate had ended up being dragged along the floor in the hallway, grabbing at every doorway she passed, begging Sam not to be so cruel. But  Sam had her instructions, and come hell or high water she would keep Kate’s temperature down if it killed them both in the process.

For nearly a week, she nursed Kate and dragged her to the bathroom every time her temperature went up another notch. It couldn’t have been easy, for Kate was bigger and usually stronger than Sam, and determination obviously won through.

Kate had never thought to ask her friend how she had managed so well. She knew she had slept a lot and not eaten for several days, but Sam must have been so worried. Kate had been so grateful she had stayed with her, for she knew she might have died without her help.

So that was probably another life used up and she hadn’t given it a thought until now. How much more had she forgotten about?

Kate laughed, and without enthusiasm. ‘So that’s what my friendly pest keeps going on about.’

‘You mean it’s still talking to you?’ Instant frown lines appeared on her forehead. ‘So what’s it saying now?’

‘It keeps going on about how many lives I have used up; makes me feel like a cat.’

‘And how many have you used?’

Kate frowned, trying to remember. Her memory was getting worse. ‘I can think of four, but there was that time when Jack’s car went out of control. That was pretty scary.’

Sam dropped Kate at her flat and went to park the car. As Kate unlocked the front door, she studied it closely to see if there was any damage to the lock. There was none she could see; wasn’t it supposed to be possible to open doors with a credit card? Well, that should rule Danny out; he wouldn’t get a credit card in a million years. And if it wasn’t him, who…?


The rest of the afternoon was spent discussing the new canvasses and the time just flew by. Kate was to paint four large seascapes for the new gallery. She wanted to include different water scenes, and Sam was adamant. ‘You can’t paint anything else for the grand opening Kate — the gallery is going to be called Seascapes, so that’s what I want to specialise in, at least at first. You can try other things later on.’ She smiled, her face lighting up with excitement. ‘You will come up to London next month for the opening, won’t you?’

It wasn’t  a question, Kate realised. She was expected to be there; come hell or high water. It reminded her of the frightening dream of Sam drowning in the water. It was symbolic of her latest enterprise, jumping in the deep end sort of thing.

She had always assumed her friend knew what she was doing and everything would be okay, never giving the financial risks any thought at all. But Sam was no fool. She must be supremely confident to consider setting up a brand new art gallery from scratch, and in London of all places.

‘Kate?’

‘Oh sorry, I was miles away. Yes, of course, I’ll be there. You couldn’t keep me away.’

‘You’re not still worried about Danny, are you? You probably won’t hear from him again, you know.’

Kate nodded, unwilling to spoil the afternoon with her thoughts about the break-in if that’s what it was. She couldn’t tell Sam how she felt about living there now. She was beginning to understand what she had to do, and now was not the time to discuss it.

She was haunted by the fact that her special place, her sanctuary, was not so special anymore. It felt used and dirty somehow, and try as she might, she could not get past that fact…


Is someone trying to hurt Kate, or is it all in her imagination?

 

#WednesdayWriter ~Serialisation of Nine Lives #Mystery Thriller

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Chapter Twelve

 When Kate returned from the park on Sunday afternoon, she had a splitting headache. She wasn’t sure if it was due to the bright sunshine or the uncomfortable stroll down memory lane. It was probably both.

She put a saucepan of water on to boil, intending to make some pasta for the convenience store had nothing that appealed to her, wondering all the time what it would take to make her forget Michael. God knows she had tried hard over the years to put him out of her mind, but nothing seemed to work. She was tempted sometimes to try and find him, hoping for a glimpse of him. She knew it was stupid, for his memory seemed to be linked to everything else that had gone wrong in her life. It would be impossible to flush all of it out of her mind, and she should try harder. Hadn’t Jack taught her that any relationship with a man was doomed to fail? The differences between men and women were just too great.

There might be a decent film to watch on the TV, or she could try and finish the painting she had been working on when her heart had screamed uncle on Friday night.

Thinking of the artwork reminded her she was supposed to call Sam about another commission. With a bit of luck, it would be a definite booking, not just an enquiry as her bank balance was looking a bit bereft.

Waiting for the pasta to finish cooking, Kate wandered about the flat trying to decide what she would do with the rest of the day. Dylan was snoring gently on the couch, seemingly oblivious to her presence. Well, that was cats all over. Humans were only supposed to be acknowledged when a need arose.

She stopped at her studio door, taking in the gentle clutter, but since the break-in, she couldn’t shake the feeling that everything was ruined. It looked and felt spoiled, almost like a rape, and she knew deep down she would have to find somewhere else to live and soon.  The thought of packing everything up, not to mention trying to find a place she liked as much as this flat was becoming a bridge too far. She didn’t think she could do it again, but she might have to, for like it or not, living here now was getting increasingly uncomfortable.

The intense colours of her painting glowed like a beacon, drawing her into the studio. There was something unfamiliar about it, almost as though someone else had painted it.

Looking closer, she found herself trying to focus on a particular spot in the waves. There was something there but it was so small. What was it?

There was a magnifying glass somewhere in a drawer but the question was, which drawer?

Of all the faculties you start to lose as you get older, Kate’s memory would be the one she would miss the most. Aches and pains, creaking joints, plus all the side effects from the medication she had to take for her heart, these were all the things she knew were inevitable. Two things she couldn’t afford to lose were her eyesight and her memory. Not the old memories, they could go to hell for all she cared. Just leave her with the day-to-day stuff, like where she left her keys, or what she did ten minutes ago.

She found the magnifying glass at the back of the drawer where she kept her photo collection. Logical place, she thought, wondering why she hadn’t looked there first. As she approached the painting, she wondered what she was going to see. It was probably nothing important. In the pain and confusion of Friday night, anything could have happened. It was some kind of miracle she hadn’t ruined the entire canvas.

She leaned closer, trying to focus on the tiny detail bobbing about in the water. What she saw almost made her drop the glass. It was a woman’s face.

Hang on, she thought, not just any woman’s face. It was Sam, and she looked worried, almost scared. What on earth? Where had it come from?

She didn’t remember doing it, but why would she paint Sam in the sea? She couldn’t swim. It had always been a joke between them, the fact they got on so well together but had such contrasting opinions about water. Kate loved it, whereas Sam loathed and detested it.

Kate would never imagine her going anywhere near any sort of water, so what was going on?

That night, Kate was plagued by nightmares. All she kept seeing was Sam, struggling in the water, panic distorting her face into that of a stranger. She opened her eyes in the morning, surprised she had managed to get any sleep, and resolved to call her friend and check up on her. She hadn’t hinted at any problems when they met up for lunch last week, none Kate could remember anyway.

She was always reluctant to call anyone on a Monday morning, remembering how disorganised the start of any week could usually be so she forced herself to wait until after lunch.

The office junior answered the phone and said Miss Cameron was having a few days off, and no, it wasn’t because she was ill.

Kate hung up, puzzled and worried in equal parts. As far as she knew, Sam hadn’t mentioned this either, or had she forgotten? She tapped her home number into the phone, and while she waited for her to answer, tried desperately to recall everything they had talked about.

Kate suddenly realised no one was picking up. There was obviously no one home.

Suddenly, what the voice had said earlier had a more sinister tone and she worried that something had happened to Sam.

Kate wandered into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, trying to think and thoughts of Sam kept getting in the way.

They had met when Kate had almost decided to quit her tailoring job. She had moved from tailoring to an executive position in a fashion firm, and although it could be exciting, most days it bored her to death and was not what she wanted to do at all. She was painting in her spare time and having a modest success at local fairs and exhibitions. People loved her art and she had sold several canvases, which told her it was time to concentrate on her passion full time, even if it meant sometimes going hungry in the beginning.

She smiled at the thought of losing some weight. Always a bit on the chunky side, she was always thinking about going on a diet but somehow it never happened; which was odd, considering how skinny she was as a child. The way her hips were aching lately, they would probably appreciate a little less of Kate.

Sam had been at one of the locally run art exhibitions and started a conversation with Kate about the paintings, unaware she was one of the artists. In turn, Kate thought Sam was somebody who lived locally and appreciated the artwork. Samantha, or Sam as she became, was roughly the same age as Kate, and that was where the similarity stopped. They turned out to be as different as chalk from cheese. Everything about Kate was on the verge of being out of control and not just her weight. She wore scruffy casual clothes, (comfortable, she called them) and her mane of mousy curls had a life all of its own. She was unorganised and messy, and magic seemed to happen every time she picked up a paintbrush.

Sam, on the other hand, could not have been more different. She was always neat and tidy with short dark hair that seemed glued in place. Never to be seen wearing anything remotely ‘comfortable’, always looking as though she was late for an interview or important meeting, and she usually was.

Like Kate, Sam also lived alone, and that was where the similarity ended. She was a social butterfly; having so many friends Kate couldn’t keep up, not that she wanted to.

Because they were so different Kate always wondered why Sam had bothered with her in the first place, but they got on like a house on fire right from the start, almost like sisters.

Sam ran a successful local art gallery and was thinking of opening another one in London. Their friendship had led to a business arrangement that worked well. There was that awkward time years ago when Jack was getting her down. Sam had strong feelings about that and became quite upset when it looked as though Kate’s work would suffer. At least, that’s what Kate thought it was…

Thanks for reading Chapter Twelve… all feedback is most welcome!

#Wednesday Writer Serialisation of Nine Lives by Jaye Marie ~ Chapter 11

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When he decided to follow Kate to the Park, Jack had no real idea of what to expect. The weather was pleasant enough, she probably just felt like a walk. Didn’t quite fit with what he remembered about her. She didn’t usually just go for a walk, there was generally more to it than that. She looked as though she had a purpose though, as he watched her striding along the main pathway. Was she going to meet someone?

As far as he knew, she had no friends these days. He found himself remembering the one she had when she was younger, an old school friend called Eileen Jenkins. He had never approved of their friendship, as Eileen was what he called a ‘good time girl’ who spent most of her time hunting for the perfect man. If they didn’t have plenty of money or the prospect of getting some, she moved on to the next one. It was Eileen who had introduced Mr Perfect to Kate, discarded by her as his prospects weren’t up to scratch.

It was a pity she hadn’t lived long enough to see how wrong she was about me, he thought. He had gone on to be very successful in the property market and made a lot of money in the process.

Jack’s involvement with Eileen was simple enough. He wanted her to stop seeing Kate, to stop filling her head with ideas of finding a better husband. She made the huge mistake of arguing with him and he soon lost his temper. She ended up being the first person to die in his quest to get Kate back. She wouldn’t be bothering Kate anymore and that was a fact.

He ducked behind a tree as she slowed down and looked around with what seemed like a disappointment as if whoever she was expecting hadn’t turned up.

When she eventually sat down on a bench facing the lake, she looked decidedly miserable. She barely glanced at people as they passed and he could tell she was deliberately not looking at the children, obviously remembering her son, David.

It gave him a small glow of pleasure to see the damage he had inflicted all those years ago still causing Kate pain. It was only a small glow, for he knew he had so much more to give.

For a long time, he thought his chances were over. When she first ran away from him all those years ago, he thought he might have to give up on her as it was not much as much fun if he wasn’t there to witness the effect first hand. But new opportunities had presented themselves and with a few adjustments here and there, he was having as much fun as before.

It was interesting that she immediately thought it was Danny who had been stealing from her. The lock on the door wasn’t broken, so how did she think he had managed it? He was also unexpectedly annoyed that she didn’t automatically think of him, and made a mental note to rectify that mistake, sooner than later.

 

After a while, it seemed she wasn’t meeting anyone after all. He had fully expected the love of her life to turn up, even though there had been no sign of him in years.

The thought of Mr Perfect, all curly hair and blue eyes still made his blood boil. He had turned out to be a bit of a bastard after all. He suspected the real reason Kate ran away from him was down to the fact she still loved Michael and no one else would do. He would never understand the ways of women in a million years and Kate was no exception.

He often wondered why the thought of her still filled his every waking moment; especially when she so obviously didn’t care or notice all of the annoyances he had subjected her to. It was something of a miracle she had discovered the cigarettes were missing in the first place and then insisted on blaming her brother for their disappearance. It was as if she never thought of him at all. Could she have forgotten him so completely?

That was all down to her friend, the art dealer. She had somehow managed to remove all traces of Kate’s anger towards him and nearly created another unpleasant circumstance if his memory served him correctly.

Kate had seemed to forget all about that too. What was the matter with the woman?

He would have to think of something dramatic to shake her up a bit. More than a bit, if he could manage it.

He watched Kate leave the park and declined to follow her, his mind full of nasty possibilities. Thinking that way always made him feel so much better and he had enjoyed his visit to this park, full of an interesting mix of the human race. Watching them gave him all kinds of ideas.

His gaze didn’t linger on all the courting couples, their open displays of affection irritated him and shouldn’t be allowed in a public place. If he had a silent weapon, he would kill them all where they stood, ridding the world of all the sentimental slush that usually ended up meaning nothing to any of them. There were some tired looking mums with toddlers, doing their best not to be envious of the single people with dogs. What did they envy the most, he thought. The state of being single, or owning a dog? People did love their animals, didn’t they? A smile slowly spread across his face like the dawn breaking, as an idea arrived and took hold.

Here and there were older couples, touchingly holding hands or helping each other to sit down on the benches. He found himself watching an old man, sitting on a bench overlooking the lake. At first, he thought he was already dead, as he had been sitting in the same position for quite a while. The man was staring at the water, obviously lost in his memories.  He had a sad air about him as if he had lost someone? Or was he hoping to die as he sat there as if wishing could make it so? What kind of bargain was he prepared to strike to make it a possibility?

He knew all about the bargains people try to make, had made more than a few himself over the years only to realise there was nothing to bargain with. If you wanted something to happen, you had to do it all by yourself.

And that, he had discovered was the fun part. If he had a mind to, he could have helped him out, but he wasn’t feeling generous today.

When the day began to end and the sun started to slide down the sky into a sea of tangerine streaked clouds, he made his way home, his mind full of interesting and malevolent thoughts…

#Writephoto Thursday Photo Prompt: Crossing

 

Thank you to Sue Vincent for another lovely #writephoto prompt…

 

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When I used to drive across the Tamar Bridge, my heart would jump around like a caged bird, knowing I had just entered Cornwall, the one place that always felt like home.

Tintagel pulled me back year after year. I believed I was born there in a former life. I loved to pretend that I owned the whole stretch from the parking lot to the beach and Merlin’s cave. Including Camelot Castle on top of the hill, that was mine too.

On the last one of our trips to Cornwall, the way back to London was both amusing and sad. A large falcon flew low in front of our car for some distance, escorting us away from Cornwall, and in my heart, I knew a door had been closed behind me.