#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.

 

 

#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: #Nine Lives ~chapter16

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Chapter Sixteen

 

Danny was in his usual position, stationed at the window watching the street, an overflowing saucer full of cigarette butts beside him. Further down the road, he could see Kate’s front door, which was why he was there. Ever since she had met Jack Holland, he had made it his business to stay as close to his sister as was humanly possible. He had slept in his car until this flat had become available; no doubt the fact there was a tramp living in a car outside had speeded up the process.

Jack had given himself away quite soon in the beginning of his relationship with Kate, stupidly warning Danny to stay away if he knew what was good for him, prodding him painfully in the chest to make his point. And although he made it seem like a joke and was laughing, Danny knew exactly what he was about and was instantly concerned for his sister’s welfare.

He could sense this Jack Holland could be capable of anything and he had been right. He had watched the marriage turn into a horror story for both Kate and her son. He wanted to take them away to somewhere safe, and Kate stubbornly refused to listen, pushing him away time after time. He had to settle for being around; convinced he could do something, even if it was just to pick up the pieces.

So he watched and waited, hoping he could be of help if and when she needed him.

He wondered what she was doing. It was almost midday and the street had been deserted all morning. He could see what he thought was the postman, beginning to shove things into people’s letterboxes. Seems like a good job; he thought, better than sitting in an office all day, healthy too, all that fresh air.

He could do with some of that; he hadn’t been outside for days and was going stir crazy. He sometimes went out after dark when there was less chance of being seen, just to the local shop for food and tobacco and he was desperate to be outside in the daylight. Kate might go to the park again, that would be good.

He lit another cigarette and sighed, frustrated with the self-imposed vigilance he had to suffer. But he had nothing better to do; did he? He was convinced something was about to happen. There was this weird sensation at the back of his neck, almost like an itch every time he saw his sister.

That time he followed her to the park the sensation was so strong it was almost painful. There were many people around; any one of them could have been watching her. He had studied them all, looking for the one face he would recognise and none of them had looked like Jack Holland.

Kate had looked sad and worried that day and he was convinced something must have happened he knew nothing about.

He wondered if she would be checking up on her elderly neighbour, giving him something else to look at assuring him she was okay.

The last time he had seen her she had wandered over to his car and he wondered if she recognised it as his. With all his secrecy, he hadn’t remembered she had seen his car that day at the hospital. His stupidity didn’t have any boundaries, did it?

He wondered again just what possible help he could be if she needed any, and he was sure she would need somebody soon. He could feel it gathering, like storm clouds on the horizon. Someone was plotting to destroy her and he had a good idea who that someone was.

He had never liked the man she had ended up marrying. On the surface, Jack Holland was the perfect gentleman, all good manners and kind gestures. Most women would fall for his charms, and unfortunately, Kate had, probably because she needed rescuing from an insane relationship with a disgusting old man. He never did discover the truth behind that, and along came Casanova, convincing her that life with him would be wonderful. But life with Jack Holland had turned out to be a perfect nightmare for both her and her little boy.

On his way back from the bathroom, he decided he needed something to eat and the only thing available was toast. While he waited for the bread to pop back up in the toaster, he found himself listening intently for the sound he heard earlier. Yes, there it was again. Someone seemed to be crying. Was it a child?

It was odd, for as far as he was aware, there were no children at this end of the street.


Will Danny be able to protect his sister, or is he risking his own life as well as hers?

#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?

 

#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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#Wednesday Writers: Serialisation of Nine Lives by Jaye Marie #mystery thriller

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Chapter Nine

When Kate opened her eyes on Sunday morning, she decided to take the day off. No painting, housework or worrying about things she had no control over, like who had been in her flat. That last one might take a bit of work, she thought as she made her way to the kitchen to put the kettle on. A cup of tea would help her decide what she was going to do today.

She was nearly out of milk and noticed there wasn’t much to eat in the fridge. She should go shopping.

Sipping her tea, she watched the sun streaming in through the window, bathing the room with wide bands of gloriously golden light. She absently watched the dust motes dancing in a shaft of sunlight as though they were alive.

She had the idea to take her camera and walk to the park. She went there often, as the lake and trees had become a source of inspiration for her artwork, and Kate enjoyed feeling like a photographer. She could pick up something to eat on the way back.

For some reason, the sunlight was evoking memories of her childhood in Kent. It was one of the few memories that didn’t make her cringe whenever she thought of them.

After a long run of unsuccessful foster parents, she had ended up at a boarding school in a tiny village called Birchington, somewhere near Margate. She was just ten years old, skinny and withdrawn; and instantly felt at home for probably the first time in her life. Schooling was included for her age group and in the good weather, lessons were conducted out of doors, which were pleasant but didn’t help her to concentrate in the least.

Kate was the eldest and soon found herself helping with the younger children. She didn’t know it at the time, but an unpaid helper was just what the place desperately needed.

Coming from the disappointments and hardships of her life in London, Kate was in her element. When she turned eleven, she had to attend an all-girls school. It was close enough to cycle to, and although she had misgivings, Kate found she liked being in the all-female environment.

Little flashes of memory played like a newsreel in her head, and Kate found herself trying to think back to the two occasions when she thought she had nearly died. Were they as dramatic as she thought, or was she simply remembering things as a child would, filtering out the unimportant and focusing on the dramatic?

She remembered that first day of term when she awoke in pain and feeling sick. Matron had tried to drag her from her bed, thinking her a malingerer, but soon called an ambulance when it appeared Kate was not making it up.

Her appendix had ruptured and it was serious, they had to operate in a hurry, and wasn’t there a priest there somewhere?

She didn’t remember much about the occasion; only what she had been told. Another incident stood out in her mind like a beacon for the truth. It was when she caught one of those foreign influenza’s, and she must have been quite ill, for the following Sunday in church the vicar said a blessing for her in front of the whole congregation. So it must have been serious.

She also remembered her mother had not visited her on either occasion.

So that accounted for two lives, had she used up any more?


While she was growing up, Kate had tried to convince herself she did love her mother, despite the fact her mother demonstrated repeatedly she could not possibly love her daughter, not in the way that mattered anyway.

When she was a small child, it had been easy to explain away her mother’s behaviour. All those times she had been sent away, dumped on the mercy of strangers had seemed quite natural to Kate as if it was something all parents did. She wondered why she thought it was all perfectly normal, and then she had nothing to compare it to, did she? Many of the kids at school were in the same boat, or worse.

Kate had found it necessary to become a ghost, an invisible and silent ghost. The years she spent at school were the worst. The other children sensed there was something wrong with her and instead of avoiding her, drove her mad with their constant tormenting. She desperately wanted to be a grown-up, free to follow her own instincts, and she knew deep down nothing would make any difference, not then and not ever.

She considered suicide, desperate to leave a world she didn’t seem to belong in, never once considering there was nothing wrong with the world, it was she who didn’t fit.

As she grew older, her soul seemed to shrivel up and die and she became like a caged animal, eating and sleeping, doing only what was necessary. She loved no one, cared for nothing and knew she was different, an alien in an unforgiving world.

Kate always wanted to be part of a family; it seemed to be the perfect way of life. She would spend hours as a child out in the cold and dark, combing the streets of London or wherever she happened to be, looking in countless windows, searching for a family who might take her in. She was fascinated by everything she saw, the peaceful and normal life everywhere she looked. Sometimes people noticed her but when they didn’t, she would knock on the door and simply stand there, trying her best to look lonely and appealing. She didn’t have to try too hard; she must have looked as desperate as she felt.

People always treated her kindly and made her welcome, but still called the police to take her away. No one had ever wanted to keep her.

Most of what her mother subjected her to was sad, some  neglect and some simply child abuse. Would a mother get away with leaving a small child outside a public-house at night for hours on end these days?

Or those times when she vanished for days at a time, leaving Kate to fend for herself and take herself to school?

One such occasion resulted in Kate presenting herself at the local police station. She was about eight years old and had been on her own in the grotty bedsit with precious little food or money for the best part of five days, and for once she was sick of it.

Kate knew her mother would have a blue fit and she would be sorrier than ever to have involved the police, but she was hungry so something had to be done. What if she never came back, she thought. That idea didn’t seem to bother her as much as it should have done, as long as someone fed her now and again.

The police were kind but distant. They didn’t  know what to do with her and it showed. She didn’t remember much about what happened, just that they managed to find her mother and she was madder than a wet hen.

Kate was quite used to her mother’s anger as a rule, and on that occasion, she was scared she might kill her.

The worst times in her childhood were when she was left with strangers because her mother didn’t want her around. The best of them simply ignored her, and the worst of them considered her their new sexual plaything. When this started to happen more often, especially as Kate grew older, she knew she had to leave and make her own way in the world.

She was barely fourteen when she found a shabby little bedsit and for the first time in her life was officially on her own. She worked in a local greengrocers shop, living on chips and discarded fruit, as she started to make plans for her future.


The first few years were tough, and Kate didn’t care. She was making her own decisions, and if she made mistakes along the way, so what? The fact they were her own mistakes seemed to make all the difference in the world.

She had numerous jobs as she tried to find something to do. From the greengrocers she tried Woolworths, then Sainsbury’s. Office work was next and it bored her rigid.

Then she found a small and friendly tailoring firm where she learned how to cut patterns, use a sewing machine and create designer outfits that cost a small fortune. It was an interesting and different kind of job and she loved every minute of her time there. This was where she made her first real friend, a girl of the same age called Eileen Jenkins.

Through Eileen, Kate was introduced to a different kind of family. They were incredibly poor, living hand to mouth, but seemed to be happy with their lot. They were forced to live on benefits because Mr Jenkins wasn’t well enough to work. Their house was a mess and the younger children were always grubby, and there was so much love between them you didn’t notice the broken furniture and shabby surroundings.

Mrs Jenkins always insisted on feeding Kate, something that made her feel guilty, and though the place was shabby, all the children looked well fed and healthy. Unfortunately, this friendship was not destined to last long for Eileen was looking for a rich husband; something Kate didn’t  want to be involved with.  Despite all her best intentions, she was introduced to Jack Holland on the day of Eileen’s wedding. He had a good job, something to do with the property market and seemed nice enough, but she kept her distance as he was an old flame of Eileen’s, discarded when his prospects seemed inadequate.

The tailoring job was the first one to cater to her artistic side, but still didn’t quite satisfy the need in her to create something special of her own.  None of the jobs had paid much and though the rent on her bedsit was cheap, she usually found herself with nothing to eat long before the end of the week.

She found out quite by chance the local cinema needed an usherette, so for the first time was earning enough to live on.


Kate smiled as she remembered that time of self-discovery; she had experimented with many things and most had proved to be a disappointment. She didn’t make friends easily and most of the people she met seemed to instinctively know this and didn’t try too hard to be her friend. She met many men in her search for the right one and only succeeded in finding many wrong ones, as they all seemed to want just one thing from her. And after trying that too and being thoroughly disgusted, she gave up looking.

All her life, something had always been wrong, wrong place, the wrong person. Something was always wrong, never close to being acceptable. Some people called depression the ‘black dog’ and sometimes it did seem as though she had a pack of them following her around, sniffing at her heels. Almost as if she wasn’t meant to be happy and God knows she had tried.

Sometimes she would get close, managing to achieve a sense of calm, almost contentment, especially when she was doing something that called for total concentration like her painting.


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#WednesdayWriters Chapter 7 of Nine Lives by Jaye Marie #MysteryThriller

Struggling to do even the basics, I am trying to keep my schedule going…

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Chapter Seven

Dylan was sitting on the arm of the couch, and she could swear he had a disapproving look on his face. She sat down beside him and rubbed gently behind his ears. ‘Did you miss me, or are we still sulking?’

He shrugged her hand away and jumped gracefully down to the floor, heading for the kitchen. She knew exactly what he was doing, he would go and sit by his food bowl and glare at her.

Why did she care about him so much, she thought, deciding not to play his game. She had never been sorry she found him one rainy night not long after she moved in, but sometimes he could try the patience of a saint!

She switched the kettle on and checked the letters Janet had put on the hall table. A quick glance told her there was nothing important; she could safely bin the lot.

She didn’t know why, but she almost convinced herself that Danny might have sent a card or something. He wasn’t supposed to know where she lived, so how did he know what happened to her? There was no logical answer to that question and tried to put it out of her mind. But the mysterious voice had other ideas. The thought he might come there, to her own private place, filled her with dread.

Thinking back to her childhood with Danny, she remembered how mysterious he liked to be, revelling in pulling the wool over her eyes at every opportunity. Like hiding from her, sometimes for hours on end, only to reappear from the first place you looked.

The oddest occasion was when Matron swore she had seen him in the village, and Kate knew he had not left the house.

Danny loved to play tricks, sometimes quite cruel tricks carefully orchestrated to make her cry even though she was the older than him by several years.

There was that time he lured her to his favourite hiding place in the woods. He tied her up and terrified her; she thought he wanted to kill her, but she couldn’t recall exactly why.

Knowing all these things about him never helped her to remember exactly what it was that made her dislike him.

She knew all his faults, that he could lie and cheat, be selfish and cruel, not to mention deliberately getting her into trouble, but despite all that, she was sure there must be something else.

The kettle boiled and she made a cup of coffee, determined to stop thinking about Danny. With a bit of luck, she wouldn’t see him again.

She found herself thinking about the time she had that bad influenza when she was a child. It was a nasty virus, killing hundreds of people old and young, and surprisingly she seemed to be the only one in the village to get it. She didn’t remember much about it, but Matron constantly moaned about how she sat up with her for three nights, desperately trying to keep her temperature down or she might have died.

The voice in her head mumbled something about a fourth life, and Kate groaned. Not that again, and what did it mean; fourth life? Did it think she was some kind of cat?

Her mind travelled back to the boarding school. Why was she the only one to get the flu, what was so special or different about her? The one thing she did seem to remember clearly was Danny coming into her dormitory and whispering to her she should have died and seemed angry she had not.

She remembered feeling sad, frightened and alone that day, and swore as soon as she grew up her life would be different.

She started to think back, forcing herself to try to count all the times she had nearly died. Her memory wasn’t what it was and she soon gave up. What did any of it matter anyway?

Kate was putting her medication in the bathroom cabinet when she suddenly remembered her cigarettes. There was an unopened carton in her bedside cupboard she should throw away. The fact she had no desire for one was surprising and unexpected. She wouldn’t push it though, a promise was a promise.

She had wanted to quit for a while now, along with the diet she never quite managed to start. It was time to turn over a new leaf, better late than never, or so they say.


Kate opened the cupboard door next to her bed, expecting to see the familiar royal blue carton inside, but it wasn’t there.

She stared into the cupboard, fully expecting them to materialise at any minute. When they didn’t, she slowly sat down on the bed, trying to remember exactly when she put them there. She brought them on her way back from having lunch with Sam. That was on Thursday and she remembered it clearly because she almost ran out and wanted to be sure there were enough for the weekend. Today was Saturday, so where were they?

Kate systematically checked every hiding place and came to the obvious conclusion they had gone, and where?

She noticed other things too; things had been moved as if someone was looking for something. She became aware of a faint trace of tobacco smoke laced with a flowery scent that seemed to be lingering in every room. Gradually a horribly creepy sensation began to seep into her mind and body. She felt sick; trying desperately to deny the fact someone had been in her flat and taken her stash of cigarettes. She couldn’t deny the fact the cigarettes had gone and somebody had taken them. Someone had touched her things and ruined the perfect peace and tranquillity of her private place, her sanctuary. It will probably never feel the same, she thought, sadly.

Who could have done it?

Her brother’s smiling face floated into her mind, chilling her to the bone. As far as she knew, he didn’t smoke. Could it have been him?

How did he get in? The lock wasn’t broken, so did he have a key?

She wandered around the flat and looking around her perfect living room, she shivered, realising she had always felt safe there, but not anymore. Someone had spoiled everything she worked so hard to achieve, and her first impulse was to run…