Short Story: ‘Something Old’

Something Old imageKendra Forrester had been looking forward to her wedding day for a long while. Since Nick had proposed in fact. After all, it wasn’t everyday that a girl got married. She was besotted by Nick Murphy, and he – she hoped – was equally besotted with her.

Kendra was young. She’d be twenty next month and marriage was something to look forward to, wasn’t it?  The trouble was she hadn’t found the right dress.  She wasn’t earning enough on her hairdresser’s wage to afford anything expensive.

She was estranged from her mother. Her father had died. After the blazing row she had with the former, the last thing she intended to do was to ask for money. She couldn’t expect her fiancee and his parents to pay for everything either. They were organising the reception at the posh Election Hall of all places.

Her friend Hannah suggested that Kendra search the ‘Want Ads’, since the cheapest dress she could find in a shop was over £2,000, and that was a basic shift-style dress. Kendra failed to envisage herself walking down the aisle on Hannah’s father’s arm, or joining Nick at the altar, wearing a dress that was little better than a petticoat. Hannah had offered to help out with the dress, but she had done enough already.

That day, however, Hannah suggested they go and have another look around town, “We’re sure to find your dress, Kend.” Kendra only wished that she shared her friend’s enthusiasm.

“Look ,I’ve got an appointment at the opticians.” Hannah wore thick spectacles because of her astigmatism. With her bubbly curls and pleasant features, she reminded Kendra of a friendly agony aunt.

Hannah worked with Kendra at the hairdressers. Kendra was often caught up in her friend’s bubbly personality.  She refused to allow her failing eyesight worry her unduly. Unlike Kendra despairing of ever finding a suitable dress, with her wedding less than a week away.

“Suppose it needs altering?” she moaned.

“Then we’ll alter it,” Hannah announced, slipping an arm about Kendra’s slim shoulders. “Now you go and have a look around. I’ll be awhile in the opticians. We’ll meet at Polly’s Cafe as usual. That’s if it’s okay with you.”

“Of course. But I’ll…”

“And don’t you dare say you won’t find anything. Anyway I have to go.” Hannah paused to flick her watch a hurried glance. “See you at Polly’s.” The two friends exchanged brief farewells, and Kendra started off in the opposite direction.

She realised how that part of town was unfamiliar to her as she wandered into an area she could only describe as quaint. Most of the shop fronts boasted old-style bay windows that more belonged to the Victorian era than the present. The place was called Slater street.

Adjacent to a barber’s shop, she saw them in the window. The two beautiful bride’s dresses. One was fashioned in a silk organdie and worn high to the neck. The other dress was in muslin, and so exquisite that she discovered her jaw dropping involuntarily. An excited, “Wow!” escaped her. She stared at the loveliest dress she had ever seen. Not even all the expensive ones  she had looked at in the classier parts of town were as nice as this.

The muslin dress appeared to be more of a creamy colour than white. A sort of yellowy cream as if it were very old. Plus it had a sweetheart neckline. She always adored sweetheart necklines. The sleeves were puffed and trimmed with roses. The bodice was small and fitted. The skirt dropped gently to the floor. While lace trimmed both the tiny waist and the hem of the dress. There was no price tag on the dress, and Kendra was certain that something as lovely as this would undoubtedly cost the earth.

The shop was called ‘The Bridal Suite.’ The blue-fronted bay window appeared to be desperately in need of a coat of paint. The place really did look old. But that dress. Wow! She really should enquire at least, she thought.

Kendra glanced at her watch, and hoped that Hannah wouldn’t be too long at the opticians. She could have used her advice, but she was certain her friend couldn’t fail to be as enthralled with the dress as she was.

A small bell pinged above the door at her entrance. The place looked so old fashioned that she scarcely believed that any of these shops still existed. The shop was filled with all things bridal. Kendra paused to run her fingers over a delicate lace veil that hung above the counter.

A thinly featured woman was sat behind it, her head lowered over a magazine. Jerking her head up quickly, her small black eyes settled on Kendra almost avariciously, or so the latter imagined.  A sort of ‘come into my parlour, said the spider to the fly’ sprang into her mind.

“Can I help you, Miss?” The woman’s accent was a cultured well-spoken English. An high-necked blouse was matched with a brown pleated skirt. Her hair was short, neatly permed. Kendra entertained the strangest sensation that the shop and its austere proprieter were so tucked out of the way, that they must have lost touch with the real world.

“The muslin dress in the window. Can you tell me how much it is please?” The smile that appeared on the woman’s face was barely there at all, but it was one Kendra could only describe as sly. All her imagination of course.  The Olde Worlde shop was so dark she could have imagined all sorts.

“Oh the price.” The woman crossed to the window to examine the tag at the back of the dress. “£35.”

“£35! Is that all?”

“Well, my dear,” the woman almost laughed, but the effort was forced and hollow, “would you like to try it on? There’s a fitting room over there.” A bony hand indicated a beaded curtain to the rear of the counter.

“Please.” Kendra could barely believe her luck. The most exquisite wedding dress she had ever seen, and it was only £35.

The woman took but a moment to remove the dress from the mannequin. With it draped over one arm, she invited Kendra to the fitting room.

“You’ll probably need some help, my dear,” the woman said.

Kendra realised who she reminded her of. Mrs Danvers in Hitchcock’s ‘Rebecca.’ Her mannerisms, her very speech, were a positive replica of the sinister housekeeper.

“Yes, of course,” responded Kendra meekly, and followed her into an exceptionally small fitting cubicle that was barely large enough to accomadate both women in spite of the slightness of their statures. The Mrs Danvers lookalike helped Kendra out of her own dress and into the cream lace wedding gown. As she pulled it over her head, adjusting the skirt so that it fell gracefully to the floor, Kendra noticed a small, barely perceptible stain on the right breast. The stain looked a little brown. But when she mentioned it to the assistant, the woman dismissed it as being a trick of the light. Kendra decided that she was probably right. And that the stain was merely in her imagination.

The dress fitted perfectly. It looked so lovely on her, the way it highlighted her skin in the first flush of youth, and afforded her green eyes such a vibrant quality.

“You look exquisite, my dear,” the woman enthused, clapping her hands almost childishly.

As Kendra stood before the mirror admiring herself, she imagined that a hand rested on her waist. She turned instinctively half expecting ‘Mrs Danvers’ to be the one to whom the hand belonged, but she had gone. Kendra was quite alone. How odd, she thought. All at once a strange lightheadedness seemed to wash over her. She began to feel dizzy, her head spinning momentarily.

She was certain there was someone in the room with her. Someone wearing black buckle boots. She could see their feet as if they were peeking from beneath the curtain. Then the image was gone but not the dizziness. On the point of collapse, Kendra called out to the shop assistant. ‘Mrs Danvers’ was there immediately. In her hand she held a glass of water out to Kendra, almost as if she expected it to happen. She quickly helped her off with the dress. As she did, the woman chortled about the stuffiness of the room on such a warm day.

Kendra was beginning to feel better. The dizzy spell had passed and she thanked the woman for her concern. “And the dress?”

“I’ve already packed it for you, Madam,” she responded in her best ‘Mrs Danvers’ voice.

Kendra wrote a cheque for £35 before leaving the shop, all the while wondering if the dizzy spell she had experienced, might be due to pregnancy. She was still having her period, but that dizzy spell  was really odd. She had never had one before.

When she met Hannah at Polly’s Cafe, she refrained from mentioning the incident, aware how much her friend would fuss over her. Naturally Hannah was thrilled to learn that Kendra had bought such a beautiful dress for only £35.

“Where did you get it?” she wanted to know.

When Kendra told her the name of the shop, Hannah frowned and admitted that she had never heard of it. She wanted to see the dress, and couldn’t wait until they returned to Kendra’s flat.

“You look a bit pale, Kend,” observed Hannah, a frown puckering her brow. “You okay?”

“I’m fine.” Kendra dismissed her friend’s enquiry.

When they returned to Kendra’s flat, and Hannah suggested that she try on the dress, Kendra was quick to decline with the excuse she was feeling tired.

“You sure you’re okay?” Hannah persisted with concern.

“I’ll be fine, honestly.”

She longed to confide in Hannah all that had happened in the shop that day. When her friend had gone, she wished that she had. Particularily when she hung the dress on her wardrobe door and the sunlight caught the stain, which she was certain that she had not imagined. The stain was about an inch wide and a sort of brownish colour. Maybe it was because the dress seemed so old it had discoloured. That was probably the reason why she had got it so cheaply. Still, if she placed a posy there or something, it might serve to conceal the stain.

Kendra cooked a meal  and settled down in front of the television to await the call from Nick. The call came every evening. They, or rather Nick, had decided not to see each other for a week before the wedding. It had concerned her at first, but there was such a lot to do, and he did call her every night.

That evening Kendra was oddly restless. She kept journeying back and forth to her bedroom to take another look at the dress, and recollected the dizzy spell she had experienced. The strange shop assistant. The hand she was certain had slipped around her waist. It seemed that it only happened when she tried on the dress. Suppose she tried it on again? Would the same thing occur? The temptation was too great.

The next thing she knew she was standing before her long wall mirror wearing the muslin wedding gown.

All at once the room began to spin, and she was compelled to hold onto the bedpost for support. When she looked into the mirror again, Kendra Forrester couldn’t fail to emit an involuntary gasp of alarm. The arm slipped against her waist like a sensuous snake. She was aware of the buckled boots. Only this time they belonged to the man into whose arms she had fallen.

He was there with her in her bedroom. She had no idea who he was or how he got in. His eyes were so blackly piercing that she fell spellbound beneath them. She was drawn into their depths without a will of her own. His hair, long and wavy, was as black as his eyes, and pulled back with a ribbon. His athletic frame was barely concealed beneath a white linen shirt. while black velvet breeches were tucked into a pair of high leather riding boots. He was young and handsome.

She heard his voice, strong and masculine inside her head.  “Do not be afraid, Lucy my darling. Guy Lewarren will protect you now. No one can touch us, not when I make you my bride.” His lips on hers were soft and warm.  Kendra longed to enquire who he was. Where had he come from? What on earth was he talking about?

He said, “They cannot hurt us now.” No matter how much she longed to speak, no sound would come out. All she could feel was this man’s arms about her. Those smouldering black eyes that continued to stare into hers.

“Mine for always…” he murmured.

When the phoned shrilled loudly, the man disappeared as swiftly as he had arrived, leaving Kendra, although frightened at first, strangely disappointed when he had gone.

What had happened? Who was the man?

She quickly changed out of the dress and into her jeans before answering the phone when it rang again.

“You took your time,” came the swift reprimand from her fiance.

“I’m sorry, I… I was in the bath,” she lied.

Their conversation consisted mostly of small talk. Kendra wondered what to tell him if he asked if she had found a dress yet, but he didn’t ask. For some  strange reason she neglected to tell him. He wanted to know if she was okay, he thought she sounded a bit odd. She countered that she was merely tired, and they concluded the call.

Unable to erase the memory of the man who had called himself Guy Lewarren from her mind, she telephoned Hannah. Kendra realised that she needed someone to talk to.

While she waited for her friend to arrive, she wandered into her bedroom again, tempted to try on the dress once more. Kendra had to admit that the man was pretty dishy. She gently touched the dress. ‘What untold secrets did it hold?’ she wondered. Was Guy Lewarren merely a product  of her imagination? A ghost. The way he had entered her room and had vanished so abruptly. How could he be anything else?

When Hannah arrived, her eyes, behind her big owl glasses, enlarged, and she exclaimed, “Kendra, you do look pale. What’s wrong? ‘Cos I know something is. What’s so urgent?”

Kendra poured out her heart about the evening’s events. The dress. The man in her room. His strange words about someone not touching them anymore.

Hannah plumped her weight into the nearest armchair. “Oh c’mon, Kend, you were dreaming. Pre-wedding nerves and all that.” She shrugged. “Maybe you’ve got doubts about marrying Nick, so you fantasized about some 18th century bloke. Did he look like Nick?”

Kendra shook her head. “Not at all. And I wasn’t dreaming. I’m certain that it has something to do with the dress.”

“And the dizzy spells you mentioned,” reminded Hannah. “Perhaps you ought  to see a doctor.”

“Hannah, you’re not listening.” Kendra entertained a twinge of exasperation with her friend. “Every time I put the dress on it seems to happen.”

“It’s just a dress,” Hannah laughed  “A lovely dress, but just a dress all the same. Hey, what’s this? ” She broke off. “I hadn’t noticed that stain before.”

“It’s just a stain, Hannah.”

Frowning, Hannah touched a finger to the circular light-brown stain on the otherwise beautiful muslin dress. “It looks like blood,” she declared.

“Blood?” Kendra collapsed onto the bed. “Don’t be ridiculous. Now whose fantasising?”

Hannah shook her head ruefully. “Perhaps you ought to buy something else. Where did you say you bought it from?”

“A place called The Bridal Suite in Slater Street. Anyway I can’t change it now. My wedding is in a couple of days.”

“Maybe you should go and see your doctor before then.”

“After the wedding okay. When we return from honeymoon I’ll go and see him then.”

“Okay, babes, it’s your funeral,” Hannah told her.

The muslin wedding gown was the only one that Kendra wanted. She could have taken it back to the shop, she supposed. But the dress was so beautiful even if it was haunted. Maybe she had imagined Guy Lewarren. Hannah was right. Maybe she had simply been dreaming.

Her wedding day. Hannah helped her with her dress. Kendra had suffered another couple of dizzy spells. Not wishing to alarm her friend she made no mention of them, although they continued to concern her somewhat.

Nick and Kendra were married at St Saviour’s Church. When he took her into his arms and they kissed so passionately, she made an effort to shrug off the memory or dream, or whatever it was, of the man from the 18th century. With tears in her eyes, Hannah told her that she had never seen a lovelier bride, while Nick complemented her on choosing such a beautiful dress.

The sun was bright when they left the church, but the sky had suddenly darkened, black clouds threatened to obscure the afternoon. Photographs of the bride and groom were being snapped all over the place. People she failed to recognise came over to both kiss and congratulate them.

The dizzy spells were becoming more frequent with every flash of the cameras. Putting on a brave face, Kendra continued to smile at everyone.

It was then she observed, although no one else seemed to, the three horsemen approaching the lych-gate. Alarm coursed through her when she saw that the riders faces were masked by black cloths. That they wore long brocade coats and black leather riding boots, their hair tied with black ribbons. Tricorne hats sat on their heads. Spurs dug into their horses flanks. Either they were filming, or the riders belonged to another age. Kendra froze when she realised they appeared to be bearing down on her. That the man in the lead brandished a flintlock pistol.

A scream rose in her throat, but died when she realised that the guests and Nick were completely oblivious of the horsemen.

She barely heard the shot, but she felt the pain and the sensation of warm blood that flowed from her right breast, darkening the white muslin. There was also a terrible pain in her head that was so excruciating, Kendra crumpled to the ground, amidst the shocked gasps of those around her.  Nick exclaiming, “Oh my God,Kendra, whatever’s happened?” seemed to issue from a long way off.

Then silence…

Only the man she knew as Guy Lewarren held out a hand to her.

Hannah Westerman’s grief was inconsolable over Kendra’s death. If only she had been firmer in persuading her to go to the doctor’s. Kendra’s face had been the colour of her dress when she left the church. It was obvious that something was wrong. Who was to know that her friend would suffer a brain hemorrhage on her wedding day. The reason for her hallucinations, her dizzy spells. Not that Hannah had any plans to confide in a distraught Nick about the wedding dress

Deciding to do a spot of detective work soon after Kendra’s funeral, Hannah found herself in the local library perusing the history of the area. Her heart thumped when she came across the name Guy Lewarren in an old book.

Either Kendra had discovered the same book, or she really had seen the man the way she described.

1786. Guy Lewarren was the oldest son of one Squire William Lewarren of Warren Park. It seems that Guy was in love with a pretty servant girl named Lucy. The Squire wanted his son to marry into the wealthy Cathcart family. Guy’s marriage to Lucy would have been dishonourable. Squire Lewarren and Sir Harold Cathcart, plus two of his servants, gate-crashed the wedding and shot Lucy in the chest and the right temple.

Hannah could scarcely believe her eyes, now filling with tears. The dress Lucy wore at her marriage to Guy was the exact dress Kendra had worn. Seeking more answers, Hannah paid a visit to Slater Street. It was odd, but no matter how much shoe leather she used, she never found the shop called ‘The Bridal Suite’.

The End

Illustration by Peter Shorney

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Poem: ‘The Doctor’s Waiting Room’

I’m waiting here with boredom drear

For an appointment with the doc

He hasn’t buzzed in quite awhile

All I do is look at the clock

The hands roll round to half past three

My feet are stuck to the floor

There’s a pregnant woman who’ll soon give birth

Before the clock strikes four

 

A baby cries with watery eyes

His tortured lungs fit to burst

“Is there someone here for blood?”

Enquires a long-suffering nurse.

“The doctor’s out on call,” she says

“You will have to wait your turn.”

A young lady holds up a bandaged arm

“But I’ve got a nasty burn.”

The Strange Case Of Cassie Sparrow

I tend to work on my books, but every now and again I like to write short stories and other pieces that takes me out of that sometimes. For that reason, I present:

The Strange Case Of Cassie Sparrow

JULY 1974

I was in my early twenties. Maurice was 35. We had never actually dated, but were simply work colleagues. I was just embarking on a nursing career. Maurice was a qualified consultant with more letters to his name than I could possibly concede. I learned from my colleagues, that he was something of a medium-cum-psychologist. Although this might simply be hearsay.

I had recently finished my nursing training and spent the early part of my career in a cottage hospital in Bath.  There I read of further opportunities that would give me more money than I was currently earning. I was trying to keep up the payments on a damp and pokey flat, that I considered practically unfit for human habitation.  When I saw the advert in ‘The Nursing Times’ I didn’t hesitate.

The job was only temporary. But it was live-in, and treble the money I  was getting working at the hospital. Unfortunately it meant that I wouldn’t see Maurice for awhile, but he’d given me no encouragement as to how he felt. Besides there were more accomplished colleagues to flirt with than a recently qualified nurse.

Mrs Sparrow was the lady who required a live-in nurse for her daughter while she was away. It would only be for a month. The money was equal to at least three months working at the hospital.

The large and spacious house was one of those old Georgian places  that Bath boasted. On my arrival, Mrs Sparrow drew me into her kitchen with an invitation to take tea.  Her movements were oddly quick, birdlike (she aptly lived up to her surname). She poured water into her kettle. Her hands shook so badly, I was afraid that she might scald herself. In fact, I was so unerved by this I offered to do it for her.

Mrs Sparrow turned her back quickly. I swore I saw tears in her eyes for no accountable reason, while I just wanted nothing more now than to see my patient.  I had learned – courtesy of the agency – that Mrs Sparrow’s daughter, Cassie, had been involved in a tragic accident on her wedding day. The car both she and her new husband were travelling in had crashed headlong into an oncoming lorry. Cassie was left paralysed from the neck down with a spinal injury. Her bridegroom died of massive head wounds at the scene.  I longed to learn a little more about Cassie from her mother, but it seemed she was more interested in discussing the holiday to Spain she was about to take with her friend.

In the lounge Cassie Sparrow sat in a wheelchair by the window, her gaze staring off into the distance. When I spoke her name she neither turned her head, or moved to acknowledge either her mother or me.

Mrs Sparrow informed her that I had come to look after her while she was away. Still Cassie remained unresponsive.

Cassie was so thin and emaciated, I wondered if she was getting enough sustenance. She had a drip attached, plus a catheter, which indicated she had no capabilities of either feeding herself or going to the toilet.

Cassie Sparrow sketch by Peter ShorneyI suggested to her mother that Cassie might be better off in hospital. The small, birdlike woman shook her lank locks emphatically. She didn’t know how long Cassie had, she said. She wanted her home if anything happened. I could understand this, but still…

Cassie’s own hair was equally as lank as her mother’s, as if  neither woman had opened a shampoo bottle in a long while. The agency informed me that Cassie had been like this since the accident more than six months ago.

Carers came in twice a day, but Mrs Sparrow needed someone with her daughter constantly. Cassie had been discharged from hospital at her mother’s request. Besides there was nothing more they could do for her.  She had simply lost the will to live.  Cassie obviously missed her husband. That was only natural. But she was still alive. That’s if one could call this pathetic kind of existence living.

Mrs Sparrow had gone, and I found myself alone with Cassie. It disturbed me the way she lay there so stiff and unresponsive, almost as if she were carved in stone. I checked her drip and catheter regularily, chatting to her all the while. Still there was no response. I could have been talking to a statue for all the life she exhibited.

The first thing I opted to do was to wash her hair. I gently rubbed in the shampoo. Wiping her hair dry with a towel. I continued to chat, mainly about myself. I was too afraid to discuss her own tragic circumstances.

When night came I geared myself up to prepare her for bed. With no assistance from my patient, I slipped off the drab pinafore dress she was wearing, exchanging it for a pretty cotton nightie I found in a drawer, and settled her down.

Dressing her was effortless. She was so light I could have almost carried her myself. Plus it was like putting a rag doll to bed. As before she merely lay there stiff and unresponsive.

Her eyes, so huge and dark, stared back at me imploringly, almost as if she had forgotten how to close them. So I did it for her, while a shiver coursed the length of my spine for no accountable reason.

I drew her attention to the bell placed beside her bed. If she required my assistance during the night. Although I doubted if she would use it. Besides, I would check on her anyway.

My room was small but comfortable. I had a nice soft bed to lie on. While I undressed, washed and loosened my hair from its chignon, I couldn’t stop thinking about Cassie. Even when I lay down my thoughts wandered to the tragic bride.

I was awoken abruptly by the sound of music playing somewhere in the house. Unmistakably a waltz tune. Had I left the T.V on? Quietly slipping out of bed, and pulling on my robe, my senses adjusted and I realised the music was coming from Cassie’s room. I knew there was a radio in there, but I swore that I had turned it off when I bade Cassie goodnight.

When I entered the room, everything was quiet. Her eyes were closed tightly, while her hands, white and. pale, rested on her chest as if she were dead. It was a stupid notion, and I admonished myself instinctively for thinking it. Returning to my room I no longer heard the music, and I soon settled down to sleep.

When I awoke the next day, everything remained the same. I washed and dressed Cassie as usual. This limp rag doll in my arms. I often found myself close to tears when I thought about what had happened to her, the way she was.  Especially when I found her wedding photo while I was searching for aspirin for a headache. The girl in the photo was not the same girl as the one on the bed. I knew it was Cassie, but the girl in the photo looked so young and beautiful. She smiled up at the handsome young man in his wedding suit beside her, a jubilant light in his eyes for her.

That night I lay in bed, my thoughts preoccupied with Cassie as usual. I dozed off finally, only to be awoken by the familiar waltz music. When I opened my eyes I was astonished to observe Cassie Sparrow standing beside my bed!

Wearing the cotton nightie I had found for her, Cassie smiled directly down at me. I exclaimed, “Cassie, what are you doing here?” She did not speak. Composing myself a little from the shock at seeing her, I asked her what was wrong. I got out of bed and offered her my hand in order to guide her back to her room.

Yet, crippled or not, she moved faster than I. In fact, she was so fast she’d already disappeared from the room, barely had I thrust my feet into my mules. The music ceased with her exit.

The following day I admonished her about holding out on me, and even her own mother. She could walk after all. She had come to my room. Also, the girl who had come to my room more resembled the one in the wedding photograph.

I urged her, somewhat angrily, to get up. To walk. “Come on, Cassie, show me what you can do! She lay on the bed as if she hadn’t heard me. I began to grow a little afraid. Why, I didn’t know. Cassie didn’t appear to be a threat. After all she was, to all intents and purposes, crippled.

I heard the now familiar waltz music again the following night, I was out of bed quickly and heading to Cassie’s room. As the music played I saw them. Cassie and her bridegroom.

She was dressed in white satin. Her husband was so carefully groomed and handsome. His eyes were locked into those of his young bride, with so much love that I failed to avoid the tears from springing to my own eyes.

They waltzed across the bedroom floor. Cassie was beautiful and free from pain. Her hair was softly curled and spilling to her shoulders, not lank and unwashed as I was used to seeing it. The entire tableau was surrounded by an almost angelic light. My heart hammered so loudly that I felt close to fainting.

When I could move again I realised there was no light, no music. Cassie lay on the bed as stiff and unresponsive as always. Certainly not the girl I had witnessed dancing with her bridegroom.

A gasp escaped me however, when glancing in the mirror, I was aware of the reflection of a man I recognised as Cassie’s bridegroom. Only this time blood was pouring down his face from a terrible head wound. When I screamed the man disappeared.

Although it was after midnight, I knew I didn’t want to be alone. There was only one person I needed, so I telephoned Maurice. I wondered if he might be tucked up in bed with the new locum, Alexa Mason. Everyone knew how much she fancied Maurice. He told me, when I asked, that he was alone. He said he would be there as soon as he could. I gave him the address. When he rung off I burst into tears.

Waiting for him to arrive seemed to take forever. I shut myself up in my bedroom, hands over my ears while the waltz music continued to play, making me aware that Cassie and her groom were still dancing somewhere in the house. They were oblivious of my presence, lost in their own world wherever that was.

Soon I was in Maurice’s arms, pouring out everything that had happened. I felt foolish because I half expected him to put it all down to my imagination, but he didn’t. When I explained what was going on, and followed him into Cassie’s room, I realised that the music was no longer playing.  There were no apparitions, no injured man in the mirror.

His tall frame lowered over the girl on the bed. Maurice lifted her limp hand in his before he asked if I would fetch him a small hand mirror. When I returned with it, and passed the mirror to him, he held it over Cassie’s mouth. His next words practically sent me into a state of collapse, for he quietly announced that Cassie was dead.

“What?” My gaze flickered upward, while my knees began to buckle beneath me. “But… but she can’t… I… I mean…” My words trailed. I didn’t know what I meant.

Maurice’s dark eyes were sympathetic when they turned to me again. “I’ve had some experience of these things. I believe that Cassie’s mind, her consciousness if you will, had left her the night of the accident. She lived, but only as a shell.  As if her soul had abandoned her body. That would certainly account for her unresponsiveness. Perhaps she was just waiting for her mother to leave. I believe that a person knows when their time has come. They don’t want loved ones hanging around to see it.”

“But the apparitions, or whatever they were that I saw?” Maurice smiled and tilted my chin with a forefinger. “I think that what you witnessed was Cassie finally re-united with her beloved husband. The only way she knew how. In death. Don’t they say love transcends death?  I believe she has been with her husband since the accident, at least her spirit has. After all, where do people go while in a coma? Is it sleep? Do they cease to exist? The brain stops functioning? Who knows. But at least for Cassie I believe this has a happy ending.”

Postscript:  Maurice and I were married a year later. Now we’ve been together almost forty years.

‘Stalking Aidan’ Out Now!

StalkingAidanAfter writing it for about three months, my new book, Stalking Aidan is out!

It’s a prequel to Borrowed Time, and tells the story of why the main character, Aidan McRaney leaves London for Ireland.

Setting up a blog to write about my writing, and any other stuff that catches my attention has made me look at why I write what I write. So why have I written about this McRaney character, and the themes around his story?

The truth is, I really like to delve into the mind of a man rather than a woman, and Aidan McRaney’s story in both of these books is told in the first person. I’m actually working on the third book in the series right now, which carries on this way. To be perfectly honest, I’m enjoying writing for the character and his family, I’m even considering a fourth book!

There was so much happening in his London life, from the time he’s released from prison in Stalking Aidan, through to his relationship with a 19 year old, Caitlan McKenna, the tale just keeps expanding.

Stalking Aidan is set before Borrowed Time, as I’ve previously mentioned, which starts Aidan’s story. He’s released from prison and the only thing he wants to do is to see his son. Unfortunately for him, there are others out there who are manipulating and sabotaging his life making it almost impossible.

If you’ve already read Borrowed Time, this Aidan will appear rather more naive in Stalking Aidan. This is highlighted by one of my favourite scenes to write, in which he has a dinner date with a sophisticated woman, while he himself wears an outmoded suit.

There is something of Jack Higgins’ novel that served as a bit of inspiration, especially his books Confessional and A Prayer For The Dying as well as Gerald Seymour’s wonderful Harry’s Game. I can’t deny that other influences came from The Long Good Friday, The Resurrection Man, and shows like the 1960s Untouchables.

The biggest influence, however, would perhaps be actor Aidan Turner (Being Human, The Hobbit), as I’ve kind of based Aidan McRaney on him. Perfect casting!

I hope you enjoy the book. You can download Stalking Aidan now.

Look out for the next book in the series, The Irish Connection!