Rosie’s #Book Review Team #RBRT No One Can Hear You by Nikki Crutchley #Mystery&Thriller @NikkiCAuthor

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‘He said that they’d let me go on purpose. That they could easily find me if they wanted to. He said that they didn’t want me. That I was too much trouble. He said if I went to the cops, he’d know. If I told Sonya, he’d know. If I talked to friends or teachers, he’d know. He told me to pretend it didn’t happen. He told me to consider it a compliment, that I was too strong. His last words to me were, ‘Just forget’.

Troubled teen Faith Marsden was one of several girls abducted from Crawton, a country town known for its picturesque lake and fertile farmland. Unlike the others, she escaped, though sixteen years on she still bears the emotional and physical scars.

Zoe Haywood returns to Crawton to bury her estranged mother Lillian, who has taken her own life. As she and Faith rekindle their high-school friendship, they discover notes left by Lillian that point to two more young women who recently disappeared from Crawton. But Lillian’s confused ramblings leave them with more questions than answers.

As Faith and Zoe delve deeper into the mystery, they become intent on saving the missing women, but in doing so are drawn into Auckland’s hidden world of drugs, abduction and murder.

And then Faith decides to confront the mastermind – on her own.

 

Our Review

A brilliant opening prologue, the story opens in a foster home in 2001.

Faith Marsden had been in worse places, but a late night escapade finds her in somewhere much worse…

Sixteen years later, Zoe Hayward, a teacher at a boys school, is unfairly sacked because of an incident with one of the boys. Her mother, who she hasn’t seen in years, dies and Zoe must return home to arrange the funeral, so she is unable to stand her ground over the dismissal.

Zoe is just doing her duty regarding her mother but gradually becomes involved in the mystery of the missing girls in her hometown. The authorities seem to want it all to disappear, but she isn’t about to let that happen.

Fast paced in the beginning, the thread of this story alternates between the characters and their chapters, which vastly increased the tension.

Such a complicated and skilful plot, you really need to be on your toes with this one. The story unpeels like an onion, each layer full of frustrating clues and red herrings. By the time I was just over halfway through, the tension had built to an almost unbearable level.

The story slowly descends into a gruelling hell as the author describes the extent of the missing girl’s trauma with painful precision.

The climax of the story begins when Zoe makes an important discovery, triggering one of the best finales I have read in a while…

 

Excerpt

Her eyes began to burn from staring unblinkingly into the dark. She shut them tight again. Her hands wandered further, cautiously, off the edge of the mattress. A concrete floor, chilled and unforgiving. She stretched her hands out either side. One side touched hard wood. Shelves maybe? The last time she remembered any contact with people was sitting in Garth’s office at the Crawton Tavern, having a few drinks after work on Sunday, with … who?

She stood on shaking legs, the dark playing with her balance. She hardly knew which way was up, and a whimper escaped her lips. The sound, desperate in the stillness, chilled her. She edged forward, hands in front of her, hesitant, not knowing what to expect. After she’d counted six steps from the mattress her hands found a door. She had performed the same actions days or hours ago. She knew what the result would be but grasped the handle anyway, daring to hope, and turned it.

Locked.

She stumbled to the side and her foot kicked something. A bucket? It skidded across the room. She knocked her elbow on what she guessed was more shelving. Rubbing at it the tears came, wretched, choking sobs that echoed around her prison. Her head thumped as she tried desperately to piece together what had got her here. They’d taken her like she knew they would. She’d told herself what she’d overheard was nothing, even when Tania disappeared. Deep down she’d known she was in danger.

But there hadn’t been anywhere else to go.

Thank you to the author and to #RBRT for my #free review copy…

 

CrossFire…with poem by Anita #MysteryThriller

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CrossFire

Snow has a target on his back

A female finger on the bow.

He may not have long to go

This life a clock ticking fast.

Blood and sand made of paint.

Does Kate still factor in his fate?

Alas, she is taken by the wind

A new female wants her pound of flesh

With arrow poised, she lets it fly

Snow is hit, his trap undone

Ruth has fled, now on the run…

©Anita Dawes

 

Excerpt from CrossFire

‘Do you know why we have brought you here today, Ann?’

Ruth thought she would ease her way in, rather than accuse her straight off, for triggering any hostility wouldn’t get them anywhere.

The woman stared at Ruth, her pale, colourless eyes searching for clues. ‘Nah… but I ‘spect you’ll get to it pretty quick…’

Ruth indicated a brown paper bag on the table beside her. ‘We found a pair of work boots at your house, Ann. According to your husband, they’re not his. Are they yours?’

Ann Taylor glared at Ruth. She seemed to be enjoying the interview, her arrogance showing through the previous nervousness. ‘Dunno, can’t see them can I?’

Ruth undid the bag and placed the dirty boots on the table. Most of the mud had dried and fallen off, but still didn’t seem like the kind of boot a woman would wear. ‘Are these your boots, Ann?’

Without looking at the boots, she shook her head. ‘Nah, I don’t think so.’

Ruth looked at Snow, but not for confirmation. She wondered why he was choosing to stay silent. What was the point of sitting in if he wasn’t going to contribute? Not that she cared, one way or the other. She had only looked at him to signify inclusion.

She looked back at the woman. ‘Are you quite sure, Ann?’

The woman shrugged her shoulders and refused to speak.

‘For the benefit of the tape, Ann Taylor has refused to answer.’

Ruth decided to read out the coroner’s report, detailing every bruise and damage to the child’s body. When she read the part about the boot imprint on the child’s back, she slid the photograph across the table in front of the mother.

‘Did you do this, Ann?’

When the woman didn’t answer, Ruth decided it was time to play the ace card, and she looked forward to it. This cold-hearted bitch of a woman was about to be arrested, but not before Ruth had enjoyed herself. ‘Are you aware that the person who wore these boots would have left significant DNA inside them?’

Ruth paused, watching as the realisation sunk in.  ‘And are you also aware that we have tested your DNA and it has been proved that you are the owner of these boots?’

The fear and shame were beginning to show on the woman’s face, and Ruth watched, wondering what she would do now. She didn’t have to wait long to find out.

Ann Taylor’s face seemed to implode, as the terror of being found out took effect.  ‘I swear I don’t remember that part… I know I were angry, but when she fell over and banged her head, I thought she was dead…’

‘So what did you do then, Ann?’ Ruth knew what had happened next, but not which one of them had done it.  ‘Were you aware that Amy was still alive when you dropped her into the canal?’

The horror was all-encompassing, as the woman realised the enormity of what she had done. She looked around the room, just once, before she started screaming…

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#WednesdayWriter: Nine Lives~chapter 20 #MysteryThriller

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Jack wished he could have been there to see the look on her face when she found what he had done. Imagination was a powerful thing but no substitute for being there.

It wasn’t planned either, he had originally intended to wreck a painting or two, just something to get her a bit rattled. When the blessed cat had started hissing at him the minute he opened the front door he just saw red, quite spoiling his appreciation at finding Kate had not changed the locks.

He managed to corner the animal in the kitchen and picked it up, stroking its head and ears until loud purring ensued. Such a pretty little thing, with its silver and black fur and green eyes. It was enjoying being petted.

‘Where has all your anger gone now?’ he asked, his voice soft and soothing. ‘Why aren’t you afraid of me anymore, hmm?

The animal looked up at him, green eyes gently opening and closing in some kind of feline ecstasy. When it stretched up and pushed its head against his hand, some secret switch flipped in Jack’s mind and he slowly tightened his grip around the animal’s neck. In no time at all the animal was a limp rag in his hands and he knew he wouldn’t be able to stop there.

He laid the limp body of the cat on the floor and stared down at it while he decided what he wanted to do. For some inexplicable reason, he decided he wanted to keep the fur so he undressed, removing all of his clothes and making a neat pile of them on the kitchen counter. He found the sharpest knife in the kitchen drawer and tried to teach himself to skin an animal. He had never done it before and didn’t manage to remove the skin cleanly or in one piece. There were lumps of fur and blood all over the floor; his hands, arms and legs were glistening red. Who knew a small animal would have so much blood?

It turned out to be quite invigorating, as it happened. The sight and smell of all the blood stimulated him to a frenzy and he thoroughly enjoyed making as much mess as possible.

He knew she thought a lot of the animal, always did have a soft spot for anything small and furry, so she should be suitably distraught. Might just cause another heart attack if he was lucky. He was still kicking himself for not having enough time to finish her off when she was in the hospital last time.

All things considered though, he didn’t want her dead. It was so much more fun to make her suffer and even more fun to watch. Pity he couldn’t rig up a camera in here, he thought, looking around the bloodied kitchen. Should be something, pity he wouldn’t get to see it. It did, however, give him plenty of new ideas for the future.

He stood up, the frenzy long gone now, replaced by the satisfaction of a job well done. He glanced at his clothes; quickly deciding a shower was in order and walked to the bathroom. He would have to be quick, as he had no idea how much time he had.

He didn’t want her to find him there, as he wanted this game to go on a lot longer. He was nowhere near finished with her yet.

As he left, he noticed an old woman in one of the houses opposite eyeing him suspiciously. That was all he needed, a nosy neighbour. He turned on the full extent of his favourite icy glare and she shot indoors like a frightened rabbit.

He smiled, slightly amused he still had the power to frighten old women, but he had a sneaking suspicion he might have to take care of this particular woman before she ruined all his plans…

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Jack is a really nasty piece of work, but I loved writing about him…

 

 

 

 

#WednesdayWriter: Nine Lives~ Chapter 19 #MysteryThriller

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Kate had welcomed death from an early age. With no family to speak of and a brother she hates, she waits for death to take her away.

It speaks to her. Teases her, yet will not come for her.

Death takes those around her, making her desire for it greater than ever.

She wonders how much longer it will take for her time to run out…

Chapter 19

On the way home from her walk around the park as she approached the bakers, she wondered idly if they had any doughnuts. The sight of her old friend and neighbour Janet standing at the counter made her walk inside the shop.

‘Hello Janet, I wondered if I would see you today. How are you?’

Janet was buying a small loaf of bread; she was so short she had to stretch to pay the woman. ‘I’m fine Kate, though I could do with a box to stand on in here. This counter is far too high for me.’

Kate held out her hand for Janet’s change and asked, ‘Have you heard a child crying near us lately?’

Putting the change in her purse, Janet shook her head. ‘No, can’t say I have. Someone might have visitors… has that silly cat come home yet?’

Kate shook her head and bought two doughnuts. As they walked to the door of the shop, she realised it was raining heavily. Janet fished an umbrella out of her shopping bag and with a quick wave; toddled up the road looking like a little pixie in her boots and raincoat.

Kate made her way home, looking in every doorway and behind all the bushes and bins. There was no sign of Dylan. Tears ran down her face as she willed the missing cat to appear. It was as though she knew he was gone for good, and she would never see him again.

Once back indoors, Kate had to change her clothes as she was soaked through and cold. She didn’t want to turn on the central heating, so she wrapped herself in her old fleece dressing gown and rubbed some of the water from her hair with a towel. She wandered into the kitchen, intending to put the kettle on for a cup of tea to go with the doughnuts when something about the cat flap made her stop short.

Something dark was smeared all over the plastic flap. It looked like blood, dripping down the door into a puddle on the floor.

‘What the..?’

She didn’t want to look, but knew she must and edged closer. The blood seemed to be all on the inside, she would have to open the back door.

She reached out her hand, but it refused to grasp the handle or the key that was in the lock. She stood, frozen, for what seemed like an age. Desperately wanting to run away and knowing she couldn’t, not yet.

It began to filter through to her brain that someone had been in her flat again. Her stomach dropped to her knees, what if whoever it was, was still there, hiding somewhere?

She couldn’t do this. Her knees had turned to jelly and there was a real risk of her falling to the floor right where she stood. The smell of the blood was making her feel sick and she knew if she didn’t open the door soon, there was a great possibility she never would.

‘Get a grip, girl, what’s the matter with you?’ she said angrily, reaching out for the handle once again. This time she managed to unlock the door and open it, stifling a scream with both hands as she saw what was on the other side of the door.

There was more blood and a lot of blood-soaked silver fur scattered over the doorstep. She knew what it was, but there was nothing she could identify. Just bits and pieces as if he had been hacked to pieces.

She stood there staring, not knowing what to do, so she shut the door, hoping her brain would come up with some plan of action all on its own. She should start by checking the flat; although if she found anyone, she knew she could quite easily kill whoever it was. The shock was wearing off, being replaced by an incredible sadness and anger. Who could do such a thing to a defenceless animal, and more to the point, why? What reason could they possibly have?

The voice sarcastically remarked that the cat had run out of lives too.

What was all this nonsense about lives?

She finished checking the flat but there was no intruder, just the faint smell of cigarette smoke in the living room. Danny! Why would he do this?

She was not looking forward to cleaning up what was left of her beloved old friend. As she willed herself to move and take charge of the situation, she knew her life had just changed dramatically. There was no way she could stay in the flat any longer than was necessary.

She filled the bucket with hot soapy water and walked towards the back door. The sight of the blood turned her stomach over and she just made it back to the sink, heaving up nothing but bile. She retched so many times her muscles began to cramp. With an extraordinary effort, she tried to pull herself together. Dylan deserved that much of her at least, she thought, splashing her face with cold water.

Clearing up took a long time because she had to stop so many times to wipe her face and blow her nose. There seemed to be far too much blood for one little cat. It was so unfair, he was her friend, probably her only friend, as Sam didn’t count, being work-related. She would have to tell her soon she would be leaving, and it was going to be awkward, as Kate didn’t want anyone knowing where she was going. She thought of just leaving and not telling anyone but that felt wrong somehow. Sam was relying on Kate to produce exceptional art for her new gallery.

Anyway, Kate thought she could trust Sam. She had proved herself a good friend in all kinds of circumstances. Depending on where Kate moved to, their relationship would be tested to the hilt. Sam wouldn’t want to work with someone who wasn’t conveniently located.

Kate tried to make a cup of tea, but her hands were shaking so much most of the tea and sugar went everywhere. She gave up and sat down on the kitchen stool, her head spinning. She did feel ill. The room was slowly revolving and she thought there was a chance she might faint. Everything she looked at seemed strange. What was that thing you supposed to do, she thought, put your head between your knees?

The thought of bending over or moving in any direction didn’t seem like a good idea at all, but she managed to pull herself together and walk to the bedroom. She slammed the door behind her, the loud noise triggering something inside her, and she collapsed on the bed and sobbed her heart out…

Amazon Review:

4.0 out of 5 stars
Suspenseful Story
Kate is an artist who’s had a very painful life and a few close calls with death. After a heart attack, Kate tries to go on with her life, however trouble lurks in the form of her vindictive ex-husband. One by one Kate’s friends and loved ones meet mysterious deaths and Kate, fearing she’s next runs for her life.
Adding to Kate’s dilemma is a the mysterious voice that’s been plaguing her her entire life, which at times proves to be more of a nuisance than of help.

At times Kate comes across as standoffish, but after reading about her history and the tragedies she suffered in the past, gives you a better understanding for her attitude. After reading about her past, I was wishing she’d find the peace that she wanted.

The story is very mysterious and suspenseful, and I was left wondering if Kate would escape the murderer. The mysterious voice plays a big part in the story and the ending does a wonderful job of explaining the voice and it’s purpose in Kate’s life.

 

 

#WednesdayWriter: Nine Lives ~Chapter 18 #MysteryThriller

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Chapter Eighteen

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…

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#WednesdayWriters: Nine Lives ~ chapter 17

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Death has been visiting Kate all of her life, leading her to imagine she has nine lives, like a cat.
With nothing to live for, no family, just a brother she hates, she waits for death to take her away when her lives run out.
Death continues to speak to her, teasing her, yet will not come for her. When people around her begin to die at the hands of a serial killer, she hopes to be next.
Has she finally run out of lives? Will she find a reason to live after all, before it is too late?

Chapter 17

Kate tried not to think about Dylan that evening, and it was hard. He had been such a comfort for so many years; the thought she may never see him again was creating a big dark hole in her life, one she could not afford to fall into.

She made a start on the first canvas, but instead of the tranquil moonlit scene, she had planned, angry waves were starting to build, almost without her permission. Like any artist, Kate firmly believed the materials she used controlled the magic. Writers say the pen almost seems to write on its own and Kate understood why this happened more than most people. There were days when she knew something had taken over the brush and done its own thing, something for which she was eternally grateful.

The evening was turning out to be one such occasion. The hours flew by and before Kate was aware of it, it was late. Her body was aching and she knew it was time to stop. In her youth, she had sometimes painted all night, and Kate knew from experience her old bones would not let her do that anymore. She put down her brush and focussed on the canvas in front of her.

What she saw made her gasp. What had she done?

The image in front of her was quite dark, the ocean at night. Instead of the calm moonlit scene she had envisioned, the waves were churning angrily. There was no moon, so the tips of the waves were just visible. You just knew something was lurking and you had the distinct impression a storm was brewing. Did the painting need something else, like a lighthouse?

It wasn’t bad, she thought; but was it good enough for Sam? She cleaned her brushes, determined to save the final judgement until the morning. Closing the studio door, she checked all the other rooms for Dylan but he was nowhere. She checked there were enough food and water in his bowls just in case he came home hungry.

Wednesday morning arrived, and Dylan had not, his food untouched. Kate made her way to the kitchen to put the kettle on, conscious of how empty and hostile her safe haven was becoming. The urge to run away had not diminished, and she kept pushing it to the back of her mind. She had so much work to do for Sam’s new gallery, any thoughts of moving house would have to wait. There was always the possibility she was too old to run away anymore.

It was getting harder to think outside the box and she seriously wondered if she had the energy to do anything other than paint.

She took her coffee to the studio and put a fresh canvas on the easel. She was in no mood to be objective, so decided to tackle another seascape and see what happened.

For some reason, the thought of running away made her think about Jack. He had come into her life at another turning point when she had finally convinced herself she had to move out of John’s house. She was bored with being an unpaid housekeeper, bored with wondering whether Michael would turn up again.

Michael had turned up on two more occasions, using every trick in the book to try to seduce her into running away with him. She was flattered and tempted, and something always held her back.

On that last visit, John had come home from work and found Michael sprawled on the carpet, playing with David. Kate had never seen such anger in any man and remembering that day she felt scared to death. It wasn’t directed at her, just his son. The older man never said a word, just grabbed Michael by the arms and tried to evict him from his house. They fought like madmen and Kate had to grab David and retreat to the comparative safety of the kitchen.

It was terrifying and heartbreaking to watch a father and son in such a battle. John didn’t speak and Michael kept saying ‘dad’ and ‘please?’ over and over again but it wasn’t having any effect at all.

There was an almighty crash and the sound of glass smashing. Kate didn’t want to look but knew she must. John was standing by what remained of the living room window and there was no sign of Michael. There was a sound at the back door, and Kate turned just in time to see a dishevelled Michael stumble into the kitchen. There was blood on his face and she took a step towards him, but he put his hands up and shook his head as he walked past her, not stopping until he slammed the front door behind him.

John had never spoken of it, and the incident with Michael had made Kate more uncomfortable than ever. So when she met Jack again he managed to convince her that life would be so much better if she was with him.

She had originally met him at her old friend Eileen’s wedding. She was instantly attracted to him, probably because he was so different from Michael. He had blue eyes too, and that was where the similarity ended. His hair was a dark blonde and he reminded her of a young Clint Eastwood. He was also charm personified and seemed to adore David. Kate was glad to have found someone who seemed too good to be true, someone special. As their relationship grew, he convinced her he would take care of them both and be a proper family.

He was true to his word, at first. She left John’s house one day when he was at work. She didn’t want to experience any more of his bad temper. It had been incredibly sad to be leaving the first home she had ever created, the house that was full of her endeavours and experimentations.

Her failures were there too, the cupboard that never did stand straight and the carpet stains that refused to come clean, along with the bitter memory of Michael’s betrayal. She had considered leaving John a note, and there was nothing to say. Goodbye was inadequate, for there was nothing good about her leaving, even though she was supposed to be moving on to better things.

Her life didn’t settle down to a perfect existence, and she kept the fact she still loved Michael a closely guarded secret. She had married Jack, knowing she was jumping from the frying pan into the fire. What had made her disregard her misgivings and ignore the warning bells?

Kate put down her brush and stretched, realising she was starving. It was time for a break. Before she could move, the voice filled her head and she sat where she was to listen. It was going on about making yet more mistakes, and it was right, of course. It was always right, but that didn’t mean she was about to toe the line this time. It kept nagging at her to leave this place, to forget everyone and everything, but it didn’t feel right.

Kate knew it couldn’t hurt her, if it could it would have done it by now.

Sometimes she managed to convince herself that none of it was real and she was going mad. In the cold light of day, there had to be a logical explanation for the fact she accepted this voice as a natural part of her life. It had always been there and it would be impossible to imagine something for so many years, wouldn’t it?

If it was real, what did that make her?

The fact she might be special in some way never quite managed to be believable. Surely, her life would have been different? Hell, her life should have been wonderful, shouldn’t it?

Her stomach grumbled, making her glance at the clock. It was past lunchtime. Where had the morning gone? At least this canvas was a bit more promising than the last one. It could have been a photograph of the Cornish coast with rocky cliffs and wild outcrops; with wild grasses and those little tufts of pink Thrift that seemed to pop up everywhere. The sea itself was relatively peaceful, with gentle white tipped waves and a couple of seagulls gliding across the view.

Kate wondered again, how she came to paint scenes like this when her mind was usually miles away on something else. She stopped for a quick lunch of a toasted ham and cheese sandwich and when she sat down to eat, her mind went straight back to the problems she had with Jack. When she had married him, she finally seemed to get a family of her own and someone to take care of her. What a bitter disappointment it turned out to be, for she hadn’t expected to discover all the petty arguments and the anger. Something had to be wrong. Hadn’t he promised everything would be different with him?

She remembered her old friend Eileen’s family. They argued all the time, but you never had the feeling they hated one another, quite the opposite in fact. She always thought the way they were together was touching and the perfect definition of a family. Whenever one of the children was old enough to get a job, the first thing they did was to treat their mum to something special. They would usually do some DIY in the house too. So whenever a spring clean and decorating session was going on, you just knew it was because another youngster was spreading not just their wings but a lot of human kindness around too.

That was the advantage of having so many children, and it worked well.

Eileen’s mum and dad never seemed to be overly affectionate, but then there was no discord between them either. Kate remembered thinking there was a lot to be said for peace, for too much emotion seemed to lead to an equal amount of trouble in her experience.

Her relationship with Jack was a case in point. She thought he was the perfect gentleman, but he turned out to be a control freak. It was remarkable how quickly the romance wore off once the wedding and all the promising to love, honour and obey were over.

Were all men Jekyll and Hyde in disguise?

Kate laughed softly to herself, remembering the handsome waiters from yesterday’s lunch. What would they be like, she wondered, once you took the time to get to know them?

The voice interrupted her thoughts, going on about Kate needing the right sort of company. She just knew it was referring to Dylan being missing. Did it have something to do with the cat’s disappearance?

She shook her head. No, that wasn’t possible. It couldn’t do anything like that; it was just a voice in her head, wasn’t it? But her brain thought differently, coming up with incidents it might have had control over. There were so many inexplicable times, far too many to be a coincidence.

The thought it might not be just a voice was making her edgy, almost scared. She remembered all the comments over the years about her not dying. Sometimes it had sounded annoyed, almost angry as if it knew it couldn’t do anything about it, and that was good to know…

If you are enjoying these chapters from Nine Lives, and I really hope you are, please comment, as I would love to hear from you…

 

#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…

#Wednesday Writers Serialisation of Nine Lives by Jaye Marie

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Chapter Ten

Kate set out to walk to the park and was no sooner there when she regretted her decision. She had forgotten it was Sunday; the one day she usually avoided going to the park. It was a lovely day, and there seemed to be young couples everywhere, all holding hands or gazing into each other’s eyes. Not exactly what she needed; more reminders she had no one special in her life. She tried to shut her mind down, trying desperately not to think of Michael.

After all these years, why was he still capable of affecting her? She had thought him so perfect and they had been happy. He had probably regretted it, he was always making rash decisions only to backtrack later when he realised what he had done.

What was gone was lost forever. It was too sad for words, but why did it still hurt so much?

Kate clearly remembered the day he had walked out of her life all those years ago, leaving her scared and pregnant. She hadn’t known what she was supposed to do. The morning sickness was bad and she had no idea if it was normal or not. How was she supposed to cope?

But cope she did, and if what happened after he left hadn’t damaged her image of him, she supposed nothing ever would.

It was her fairy tale, but they never come true, do they?


She was still in the habit of visiting Michael’s dad, doing his ironing and keeping him company for a while. She should have hated him for poisoning his son against her, but she just couldn’t. He probably didn’t have to try too hard; she had always known Michael was a little too good to be true. Besides, John was a lonely old man and had been on his own for a long time after his wife died of cancer.

Despite being pleased Michael was having nothing to do with her, he didn’t object to having his housework and ironing done and Kate had nothing better to do, did she?

Little did Kate know John had an ulterior motive right from the beginning. He had fallen for her hook line and sinker and wanted her to fill his lonely world. (And continue to do his ironing, of course).  She was happy to oblige, for it gave her something to do to take her mind away from her problems. The thought she might be able to move in was more than appealing, for her present landlord was making pointed remarks about her increasing waistline. Awkward questions were being asked at work too and Kate was fed up with all of it. She felt so sick all of the time, surely this was not normal?

When John made his declaration of love, Kate gritted her teeth and reminded him about the baby, fully expecting it to be the end of the matter. After all, what was he thinking?

You could have knocked her down with a feather when he said he already knew.

‘I suppose Michael told you?’

‘Of course he did. He doesn’t think it’s his, is it?’

She nodded. ‘And you still want me?’ Hoping he would say no, as she didn’t  want to live in the same house with the one person who had ruined the only good thing in her life, and it was beginning to look as if she had no other choice. It was as though the fates were making the decision for her.

Kate had moved into the spare room and became John’s unpaid housekeeper. She cooked (after a fashion) scrubbed everything clean and tried to make herself useful, the voice telling her all the time it was wrong. And for once she didn’t need to be told.

John’s house was shabby and a bit run down but it could have been worse. After all, he had been on his own for a long time and had brought Michael up single-handed. Kate was literally the first female to have lived there for nearly twenty years. She moved out of her bedsit and quit her job. Her boss was sorry to lose her and said she understood, her round-eyed expression and pointed glances at Kate’s bump speaking reams. She made Kate promise to keep in touch, Kate thought it was a sweet thing to say even if she didn’t  mean it.

Despite feeling uncomfortable with the situation, Kate found herself having a certain amount of fun keeping house for the first time in her life. She started to adventure into the world of DIY and painted the small box room a pretty shade of blue.

She cleaned some of the carpets and removed the one in the box room, replacing it with a cheerful yellow lino, creating what she thought was a suitable nursery.

Spurred on by her efforts, she decided to lay turquoise lino tiles in the kitchen and was surprised at how messy the adhesive was, but she persevered and the result was worth it.

Her cooking didn’t improve much, but it didn’t matter, as John smothered everything she put in front of him in masses of brown sauce.

John was the milk supervisor at the local dairy and the fact he had all their food delivered with the milk didn’t surprise Kate, after all, what did she know?  She didn’t realise that he was effectively trying to stop her going out. He obviously didn’t want her finding anything or anybody better.

The voice in her head warned her about it repeatedly; but what else did it think she should do? She needed help and no one else had offered. It did seem like the only game in town.

As she grew bigger and the arrival of the baby was imminent, she was grateful just to be somewhere safe and warm, as the winter had turned bad with freezing fog and ice and snow. Despite all John’s precautions and conniving’s to keep her indoors, Kate went for a walk most days, needing to be out in the open air. She was still desperately trying to make some sort of sense of her life, still hoping for a miracle to save her from the boredom of living with John.  It wasn’t ideal, but then her life had never been, so there was no reason to suppose it would change now.


On a bitterly cold February day, the baby decided to make his way into the world. Kate was awake and uncomfortable most of the night, and it never dawned on her it might be something else.

When the penny did drop, there was no one to help her. John was at work and they had no telephone, so she put what she thought she needed into a carrier bag and walked up to the High Street, trying hard not to panic and barely succeeding.

It was still early and the only shop open was the newsagents. She managed to convince the owner to call an ambulance, and eventually found herself in the local hospital in an ugly grey painted room, alone, with the pain in her stomach beginning escalate into a real problem.

As the time slipped away and the pain increased to an unbelievable level, she desperately wanted to change her mind and would have done anything to make it all go away. Why couldn’t she do that?

Realising it was not an option, Kate felt more alone than she had ever done before. A cheerfully large bustling nurse seemed to choose the precise moment she wanted to scream the place down in her frustration to check up on her.

The hours dragged by, or so it seemed. She had never thought much about childbirth, and now she regretted not having the basic information on the subject. Was it supposed to last this long? Or be so painful?

She had no idea if anything could be wrong. The nurse she had seen seemed to think it would all happen without her assistance. As if she could tell just by looking at Kate that all was well, or she didn’t care one way or the other. Why had she allowed this to happen, didn’t she have more sense?

It was the last thing she wanted. Her life was a bad enough mess without throwing a baby into the mix. She had tried hard to lose it, taken enough Quinine to kill a horse, some foul black liquid and the sure-fire pills everyone swore by, but nothing had worked. A bottle of gin and a hot bath hadn’t worked either. It was obvious she was doomed, but Kate had never understood why. Had she done something so bad it warranted this much punishment?

As the pain rolled on and on, Kate just wanted to die. She knew no one was going to rescue her, they never had before and it was a little late to start believing they would now. For some reason, she knew it was her lot in life to suffer, to be alone and be miserable, no matter how hard she tried to make her life any different. Surely, it was time for the curse on her life to stop? The voice in her head said otherwise, apparently, there was much worse to come. What could be worse than this, she thought.

Once the pain started to make her want to push, it all became a little more bearable. At least she felt more in control of the situation, not just lying there helplessly, being tortured.

The baby, a boy, was born that evening and nobody could have been more pleased it was over than Kate herself.

Throughout the ordeal, the voice had kept up a running commentary about her life being ruined. How she had wasted every opportunity and how sorry it was. The last bit surprised her, for she had always thought it disliked her. It had never said anything with any hint of kindness in it before. If it was simply trying to depress her more than she was already, it had succeeded.

Kate remembered looking at the baby, her baby, amazed at how ugly it was. Where was the cute little bundle she knew other people had? This scrawny screwed up thing was not what she had been expecting at all. It looked half dead. She had hoped to feel a surge of affection, and she felt nothing at all. Not even relief it was all over because she knew it wasn’t.

All her troubles had just doubled and she could see no way out of the mess she had made of her life. No one was going to rescue her, that was for sure. Realising real life was nothing like the movies was harsh, and timely.

Despair flooded in as Kate realised something else. She would no longer be able to keep herself invisible. With a screaming baby in tow, the whole world could see her and know what she was doing.

Why hadn’t she been more careful?


As Kate sat in the park, misery beginning to seep from every pore, she knew she would have to pull herself together and get a grip. Other people had a lifetime of sadness to get through and her life could have been so much worse. Brooding never helped anyone, she thought.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you could put all your sad memories in a box and never open it again?

She sniffed. Avoiding the park at the weekends would be a step in the right direction though.

 

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