Today, we are posting Chapter Six of Kate’s story. She is to blame for my writing Nine Lives in the first place and I suspect she thinks she is my alter ego. Not sure about that, but she sure was bossy during the writing of her story. I am having a similar battle at the moment with two of the characters in my next book, PayBack.
No one ever told me that creating all these people would be so complicated. I always imagined it would be fun, but some of mine are managing to drive me to drink!
(I am secretly enjoying their antics, but for God’s sake, don’t tell them that!)
I hope you are all enjoying Nine Lives, and I would love to hear your thoughts!
On her way home in the taxi, Kate racked her brains to come up with a reason for Danny’s appearance. She hadn’t seen or thought of him for years and hadn’t missed him one little bit.
Try as she might, she couldn’t think of a single way he could have known about what happened last night. The thought he might be up to something was making her uncomfortable and more than a little angry. She simply couldn’t have him sneaking into her life again.
She hadn’t thought to take anything with her when they carted her off last night, so she knocked on her neighbour’s door for her spare set of keys.
Janet was a small woman, wrinkled and ancient, almost embalmed, and most days she seemed to be a lot fitter than Kate. She always wore a lavender body spray Kate knew was her favourite and reminded Kate of the fairy godmother in Disney’s Cinderella, tiny, amusing and cuddly, the perfect grandmother. It was a shame she had no grandchildren.
Kate looked around the room; discreetly checking that the old woman was indeed managing. She usually declined all help, especially from the Welfare. She always said the day she needed help was the day they could slide her into a coffin.
Bright as a button, she seemed to sense good people from bad and instinctively knew in which category Danny belonged. One of the reasons Kate knew she wouldn’t have told Danny anything about her.
‘Hello Janet, how are you today?’
‘Oh, I’m fine. How are you would be more to the point? What did they say the problem was? You didn’t look too good when they took you off last night.’
Kate smiled at her. ‘Oh you know, a lot of fuss about nothing.’
The old woman looked up from the china ornaments she was dusting and frowned. She instantly looked about ten years older. ‘You didn’t check yourself out, did you? I know what you’re like.’
Kate laughed, knowing her reputation had gone before her. ‘No, I was a model patient, just wasted their time, is all.’
She could tell Janet didn’t believe her, she knew Kate too well. Changing the subject, she asked, ‘How has Dylan been? Did he miss me?’
Janet stopped frowning at the mention of the silver tabby. ‘I’m sure he didn’t know you’d gone, and you back so soon, no harm was done.’
Kate smiled. She was probably right. Dylan fussed her when she was around, and she knew where he went when she wasn’t. Sometimes she thought he was fonder of Janet than herself.
‘By the way, Janet, have you seen or heard from my brother at all?’
Janet turned her head sharply at the mention of his name. She looked intently at Kate, her shrewd blue eyes peering out of all the wrinkles. ‘No, I have not. Did someone say I had?’
‘He did, he said you called him and said I was in the hospital.’
Kate could see the indignation bristling from every fibre of the old woman’s demeanour.
‘I’d have a job, wouldn’t I? I don’t know where he’s at, or his number. And,’ she said pointedly, ‘I wouldn’t tell him if I did. You know that Kate.’
‘Yes, I know, just checking. He turned up last night at the hospital like the bad penny he always was’.
The voice commented on her lack of affection for her brother, and that she might miss him if anything happened to him. She pretended not to have heard. She wouldn’t miss Danny for a moment, and as common sense reared its ugly head she knew if anything did happen to her brother, the guilt would probably kill her.
Kate often wondered if she had a screw loose because of the voice in her head. When she was growing up the thought having something that talked to her was amusing, even a little exciting. She had a name for him back then and called him the Joker. These days the novelty had worn off and most of the time she regarded him as a nuisance.
Kate remembered weird coincidences, like people seeming to vanish or dying when they annoyed her. In her childhood fantasies, she liked to think she had something to do with it; that she was psychic or something, but it was all rubbish, wasn’t it?
There must be something wrong with her. She never socialised, never seemed to get on with anybody. None of that was normal, was it?
More to the point, none of it seemed to bother her much either, and that wasn’t normal.
This voice or whatever it was, filled her sleep with nightmare visions of every death it could imagine, and Kate would wake up with horrifying images in her head of being stabbed, burnt and dying in ways she didn’t want to think about.
Although these dreams distressed her, she stubbornly refused to believe they were a message of any kind, from the voice or anything else. If she thought anything coherent at all, she supposed they could just be images from a previous life and promptly put them out of her mind.
The telephone was ringing as Kate approached her front door and she wondered idly who it could be; probably Samantha or possibly a customer. It didn’t matter; she would let the machine pick up. She was in no mood to talk to anyone.
As she opened the front door, the telephone switched off and the place was quiet.
She closed the door behind her and leaned on it, drinking in the peace and tranquillity of her own private place. She loved living in Guildford, Surrey. It was just far enough away from London to be reasonably quiet. It was quite a small flat, just three rooms and a kitchen and shower, but it suited her and she felt safe within its walls, probably for the first time in her life, even though it was draughty and hard to heat in the winter.
It had the added advantage of the extra space for Kate to use as a studio, and she could simply close the door and walk away from all her untidy painting clutter, removing the necessity of always having to clear up whenever she was finished for the day.
The voice questioned her conviction that she was safe, curious as to what she based it on.
What was it talking about now, she wondered. Some of what it said never made any sense and she didn’t usually lose any sleep worrying about it. Anyway, she did feel safe there, no matter what it said.
The flat was a wreck when she moved in, and she enjoyed making it her own. There wasn’t much furniture, and to Kate, the colours she used were more important. The walls were white, the perfect colour to hang her canvases on, and the woodwork was a delicate shade of turquoise, which perfectly complimented the carpets, which were the glorious colour of a tropical sea.
For such a small flat, the windows were quite tall which seemed to increase the sense of space. Kate used sheer white curtains to let as much light in as possible and sanded the floorboards back to the bare pale wood.
She moved to the living room doorway and her eyes found the painting hanging over the fireplace. It was her favourite and she would never sell it. A large seascape, it dominated the room with its vision of wild, seething water. Instead of coming across as a hostile image, it was at once uplifting and beautiful. You could almost hear the sound of the wind whipping the waves and sometimes Kate could swear she heard seagulls.
To Kate, the painting epitomised the raw and powerful beauty of Nature, the only thing ever to make her soul sing.
It was probably an antidote against her feelings for human nature, which had never been kind to her. It was a sad admittance, and in all her life, only one person stood out for being truly kind to her, and she didn’t know his name.
She was quite young, about six or seven years old, and her mother had taken her to Brighton for the day. There was usually an ulterior motive for any trip, probably to do with a man. It had been snowing and the weather was freezing cold and not the day for a trip to the seaside. Kate didn’t remember much about it, just that she was cold. So cold, she was trying hard not to cry with the misery of it.
She wasn’t dressed for the weather at all, just a thin coat, sandals and nylon socks which were soaked through. Her mother had dragged her onto a tram and she was sitting there trying desperately not to cry, a punishable offence, when this older man nodded at her mother and proceeded to take off her socks and sandals. What was he doing, she thought, watching through her tears as he wrapped her frozen feet in his big warm hands, mumbling something about her being a poor bedraggled kitten.
It was such a kind thing to do; she was in danger of having a good cry and managed to smile her thanks. For the first time in her life, she felt truly cared for by someone who was a stranger, someone who knew nothing about her. It was a beautiful moment in time never to be repeated. Kate didn’t remember what happened next, but she never forgot his kindness.