Read and feedback as I write a novel: Imperception – Chapter 54

Chapter 54: Simon

“How did this happen?” she had asked.  This woman who had come from nowhere and who carried a sadness and vulnerability with her that he recognised only too well.  The stoop of her shoulders and her limp lack-lustre hair telling a story beyond any that her words might.  

He didn’t know who she was or why she cared, but she was the first person in so long to ask him a question and to apparently care about the answer that he could not help but get drawn into answering.  Besides, this was the self-same question he had been agonising over for days now.  How had this happened?  How had he, Simon Warmington come to find himself imprisoned?  A wife and child beater?  

How had he become that man?  The kind of man he despised, and rightly so.  The kind of man he could not understand at all, let alone imagine being.  How had it happened?  It made no sense.  

In life’s lottery he was one of the luckier ones, born of middle class parents he had attended good schools all his life.  Schools that cost his parents a little more money than they had to spare but which, they assured him, were an investment in his future – and theirs in turn, they would joke as they talked about their only son looking after them into their old age. 

He had been happy enough at school.  Academic rather than athletic, much to his frustration and that of his father, but he did well in class and had found a handful of likeminded friends with whom he spent his free time gaming or putting the world to rights from an early age. 

He had never been short of people with whom to pass his time, but he had perhaps been short of real friends, the people who you couldn’t wait to spend time with and who you prioritised above all else.  He didn’t really have that.  Rather he floated through each day with a group of people who were ostensibly by his side, but no one who was really watching his back.  

It had never really seemed to matter until his Mum got ill. He had been eight when she first got ill.  They hadn’t known what was wrong for a long while.  They were the type of family that didn’t talk about things to each other, that didn’t acknowledge or explore their worries and who tried not to make a fuss.  So whether his mother was worried about her own health earlier than he learned about it and had just kept quiet, whether she’d simply put on a brave face and soldiered on, he might never know.  But certainly there were several months of weight loss and his mum becoming more pale, more quiet and more withdrawn before he learned of her diagnosis.  

It was the little things that made the uncertain time remain in his mind.  The way she had placed her fork quietly down by the side of her plate during Christmas lunch, uttered ‘excuse me’ then taken herself off to the bathroom where she could clearly be heard retching and vomiting over the sound of the King’s College Choir, whose carols had filled the room whilst they quietly ate.  Then there was a running of taps, a lot of coughing and his mother had returned, pink cheeked, to her meal which she had quietly continued with, saying nothing of her temporary absence from the table.  

Or the time that he had had to wait for an hour in the secretary’s office after school because his Mum did not show up to collect him.  How anxious he had felt whilst Mrs Jones, the secretary had repeatedly dialled the landline at home but got no answer before clicking through to the answerphone, on which she left increasingly strangled, anxious messages.  

Eventually, his mother had called back and the secretary’s face had flooded with relief before telling him to put his coat back on and pack his bag as his mother would be here in five minutes.  She had fallen asleep and not woken in time to collect him from school.  Nothing like that had ever happened before.  She had picked him up from school almost every day since he had started in the infant school, and this hiccup unnerved him; but he did not have the comprehension or the words to explain why – and there was no one he could have spoken to about it if he had.  

It was the spring after he turned nine that he learned of his mother’s diagnosis of breast cancer.  Alongside Easter eggs came the news that Mummy was really poorly.  The prognosis was middling – it was back in the days when cancer filled people with more fear and was more synonymous with the word ‘death’ than the word ‘fight’ and as soon as he learned that his mother’s body had cancer inside it, he became completely convinced that she would die and there was nothing that anyone could have done to convince him otherwise.  Though, as ever he told no one how he felt and made a pretty good show of appearing unaffected by the devastating news.  

But thoughts of his mother’s death filled his head every single day.  She was the most important person in his world, a pillar of safety on which he had always relied.  As her treatment commenced he saw her become thinner and paler and more ill.  She was frequently sick and her hair would fall out in chunks on the pillow.  

He did all that he could to help care for her.  He wanted her to hurt less and to still have things in life that made her smile.  The only template he had was the way that she would look after him if he was off school with a tummy bug and so he would tend to her as a mother would to a young son.  He learned to make her jugs of orange squash and keep one always by her bedside.  Then he learned to heat up soup in the microwave – always Heinz Tomato soup, her very favourite and served in the big mug with the roses on which she liked to wrap her hands right around.  She would sigh with pleasure when he brought her soup after he returned home from school claiming that the soup warmed her inside and out.  

Then he would sit and read to her.  He had always been a competent reader having read daily with his mum from an early age and soon they progressed from the shorter children’s books on his bedroom shelves to longer, more exciting novels that the librarian in town would help him choose.  His ailing mother would sit and listen for many hours whilst he read to her – he worked his way through the whole of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series, transporting them both for hours on end to a different, whimsical world.  One which was full of magic and goblins and an imagined reality where he and his mother did not exist and she was not ill.  It was a wonderful escape for both of them and allowed them to hide from the increasingly poor state of Simon’s Mum’s health.  

Simon’s Dad became more and more absent in this time.  Simon didn’t question it at the time and if he had, he wouldn’t have understood the reasons.   He now understood that his father’s distance was a combination of the necessity of him increasing his working hours now that he was the sole bread winner and the inevitable fact that he found it incredibly hard to be in the company of his ailing wife who was so far from the vivacious and bubbly woman he had married that he found it painful even to be in the same room as her.  

Simon was apparently far more accepting of his mother’s condition and, as it worsened, he became increasingly adept as a junior nurse.  He learnt to administer painkillers, first through tablets and later through injections.  He learnt to clean and dress wounds and he learnt to ensure that his mother would be safe comfortable and occupied in the hours when he was not by her side.  It was a real wrench for him to leave her each morning to go to school – he hated the thought of her in that room all alone all day and would hurry home at lunchtime for a few minutes, to make sure she was comfortable and that the carers who’d have visited whilst he was out had done their jobs properly.  He would leave her with the TV blaring or the radio on, a pile of books by her side though she had neither the concentration nor the motivation to read rather than to be read to so the pile only ever grew, never diminishing unless Simon were the narrator of a new novel.  

Weeks turned to months and during this time Simon felt more and more of a stranger within his own life.  His friends were still pleasant to him but he never went to friends’ houses to play nor invited them to his house.  He would spend time in the presence of other boys and girls he once considered his friends at breaktimes, but he would only be present in body.  His mind would be back at home in his mother’s bedroom worrying.  He had never told his friends, nor his teacher, about what was happening at home.  It had seemed unimportant to do so and he did not want them to feel sorry for his Mum as he knew that she would really hate that.  So instead he just got on with it, a shadow in class and around his classmates; present but absent. 

The Christmas after she had become ill, they were offered a lifeline, the cancer suddenly seemed to be responding and the doctors suggested that Simon’s Mum who had progressed from lying to sitting in bed, was well enough to undergo a radical double mastectomy.  Simon had not known what these words meant at all but his Mum had patiently and gently explained that it meant that a surgeon would remove both of her breasts.  As she said this she had cried, quietly, something Simon had not seen her do throughout the whole of this torturous process, and he struggled to see why she felt sad now, when this was a positive step. 

He didn’t ask her to explain.  That wasn’t how they did things in his family.  He just assumed she was scared about the surgery so he made a mental note that he would have to be especially upbeat and strong as the date for the surgery approached.  

The doctors had said that whilst the surgery may cause a temporary dip in his Mum’s wellbeing that the hope was that combined with the other treatments she was having, that there was some hope of recovery.  Simon could not remember what it was to have a Mum who did not pass all her time in bed – whilst it had been less than a year, it was a huge period of time for a nine-year-old; so long that he could not remember things ever being another way.  

The surgeons carried out the operation in early December and his Mum stayed in hospital for a few days but wanted to come home as fast as she could, confident that her home carers and Simon would see to it that she was well looked after and comfortable.  And just as the doctors had said, she was not very well at all at first. The operation had been invasive and long and had left her physically wrecked.  Her body was fighting hard to heal itself and she seemed weaker, more pale and in more pain than he had ever previously seen her.  But then things began to change.  She began to sit up in bed again.  A little colour returned to her cheeks between bouts of sickness from the radiation and she began to become an active participant in their reading sessions, asking Simon questions about what he thought would happen next and sharing her opinions about the antics of the various characters.  It no longer felt like he was reading to a corpse.  He was reading to his Mum and they were enjoying the stories together.  

Just before Christmas his Mum had a much anticipated scan which would be able to give an idea of the prognosis following the surgery and her most recent bout of treatment.  They knew not to keep their hopes up too high but never-the-less they all travelled to the hospital together to hear the news.  The news was good.  It seemed that his Mum was cancer free.  Cancer free!  The doctors were careful to explain to Simon that this did not mean his Mum would instantly be back to her old self but rather that it would take some time, and they stressed many times the importance of good food and good rest whilst her body worked hard to overcome the ravaging it had suffered in the preceding months.  

He understood all this – but the most important thing he walked away with that day was hope.  Hope that his mum was not going to die after all.  For so long, this had been a far too true possible reality that he had lived and re-lived in his head.  Every day for as long as he could recall he had worried that this day might be his Mum’s last.  But now he understood that it would take time, and it would not be easy, but that his Mum was getting better.  

It was the best Christmas present ever and in their low-key way, Simon his mum and his Dad celebrated together.  Simon had a more generous than usual haul of presents that year – but he had eyes for none of them on Christmas day.  He could not take his eyes off of his mother sitting in her old chair in the living room with wrapping paper around her feet and presents and ribbons in her lap.  

It was the first time she had left her bedroom in months and Simon could not wipe the grin from his face.  He was on top of the world and high on hope.   

The next few weeks passed in a euphoric haze.  His Mum was getting better in increments that would seem slow to most people, but each tiny, baby step felt like a giant leap to Simon and his Mum.  Even his Dad started to engage with family life a little more again.  It was some time before Simon’s mum felt ready to leave the house, but when the time came the trip was prepared for as if it were a round the world expedition rather than a short walk – or ride in the case of Simon’s Mum who would be pushed in a wheelchair – to the nearest park.  As Simon felt the weak spring sunshine beat down on his face as he stood in the park with his Mum’s hand in his hand, his Dad’s hand resting on his shoulder, he felt the happiest he could remember feeling in his life. He finally felt sure that everything was going to be okay now.  

She was dead by June. 

The loss of his mother blew his world apart.  Perhaps it hit him especially hard following the preceding few weeks remission before they discovered the tumour on her brain which took first her personality and thein her life within less than a month.  For weeks he could not begin to accept it even on a base level, he would find himself running straight to her room on his arrival home, keen to fill her with the stories of his day which were never interesting to him but were the only window through which she viewed the outside world.  

He would find himself calling at the chemists, where the pharmacist knew him by name, before realising that there was nothing to collect anymore.  One such day, the sad look in the pharmacist’s eyes as she bid him farewell filled Simon with a rage so big he didn’t know what to do with it.  He punched a wall.  Hard.  And instantly he felt better.  

He cradled his bloodied knuckles in his lap and let his tears flow.  He wanted to scream and should and kick and punch.  Suddenly this felt like the best way to feel better.  But he didn’t.  He cried briefly, then he boxed up his feelings and he went home where he found his Dad sitting at his desk, ostensibly working, but Simon knew this to be an untruth.  He knew that his father was just staring at the words on the page and thinking about his mother.  But of course, his father didn’t say anything.  That was how they did things.  

Neither father nor son cried at the funeral – it was hard and Simon wasn’t sure if he should be crying or not but felt it important to be strong for his dad.  And this was how Simon and his dad muddled on for the next few years.  Each being strong for the other, neither talking about what was wrong.  Simon putting on a brave enough mask to convince the rest of the world that he was indeed fine, whilst harbouring big, angry, upset feelings he didn’t know what to do with until every now and then he would take them out in a fight with a wall.  

He had no idea why punching inanimate objects made him feel better, but it did.  It was almost as if each day his body was filling more and more with venom and bile until he feared it may burst and every now and then he had to do something to reset the levels and that punching things seemed to do that for some, inexplicable reason.  He always felt far better afterwards and he never thought to tell anyone about it, instead finding a myriad of excuses as to why his hands were bruised and battered.  The excuses all sounded ridiculous to him but, he concluded, it was remarkable what people were prepared to believe if they didn’t want to hear the truth. 

Simon found it increasingly hard to identify even with the few somewhat distant friends he had had throughout primary school and began to spend more and more time alone, focusing instead on his school work.  He found a real outlet in applying himself academically.  It came relatively easily to him and felt like a part of his life where he could fully take control and completely lose himself.  The harder and longer he focused, the more that the muddled feelings about the loss of his Mum which never seemed to dissipate despite the passing years, would fade into the background.  As the work at school became more challenging as he got a little older, he found he was completely able to lose himself in quadratic equations and trigonometry.  Maths became a source of true passion, and his secondary school maths teacher became something of a mentor to him.  She would praise his efforts but continuously push him harder.  Expecting more from him, pushing the boundaries of what he could achieve, and he responded every time by working harder, working longer and reaching the new bar she had set.

In time he was probably closer to his maths teacher than to anyone else in his small world – but they talked of nothing other than maths.   His private torments remained his own only. Unshared with another soul but punched periodically into the brickwork of the disused garage round the back of their house. 

[View all chapters shared so far here]

Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.

Posted in Novel: Imperception | 2 Comments

Read and feedback as I write a novel: Imperception – Chapter 53

Chapter 53: Dee

Why she did it, she wasn’t sure.  It felt like a betrayal of the one friend she had in the world but she had felt a desperate need to know her enemy.  A need to understand this man who had caused such grief to her friend and to the most perfect and beautiful child she had ever known in her life.  

It had happened almost by chance.  

One morning, whilst sitting at the foot of Isla and Milly’s beds, she was reading the local paper, and looking out at her was the mugshot of a man she felt she knew.  Big, scared, angry eyes connected with hers across the page.  The story was brief and had the feel of a half story – untold not because there was not more to tell but because the journalist was either unwilling or unable to share more. But this man, this ‘Simon Williamson’ was reported as being held at HMP Brixton awaiting charges of grievous bodily harm against his wife and daughter who the article stated as critical but stable in St Thomas’ Hospital.  

Dee had glanced up from the paper at that point, equating the words on the page with the reality that lay before her in two bodies, one big, one small, both gripped by sleep or unconsciousness.  Healing or hiding or both.  She considered the word ‘stable’ and wondered if it could ever be applied to someone who had been beaten until they could no longer function by someone they should be able to love and trust.  Could the word ever apply?  Perhaps medically, but emotionally? It seemed unlikely to Dee.  

As she pondered this, she came to an understanding that she must find this man.  Must meet her enemy.  Must know who it was that she was going to dedicate her life to keeping Isla and Milly safe from.  

And so it was that she ended up in the visitors’ queue at Brixton Prison.  She did not worry that he would not be expecting her, that he did not know who she was.  She had a story prepared that she was a woman of faith who gave of her free time to relieve the suffering of those who found themselves faced with harder times, whether in prison, in hospital or on the streets.  She knew such people existed, so kind and giving of themselves that it felt almost impossible that they could walk the same earth as someone like Simon.  She also knew enough from watching films and reading books to realise that the monotony of prison life was such that even after a short time, Simon was likely to welcome a visitor, any visitor, to ease the tedium.  

Dee was right,  Simon welcomed her visit unchallenged and on the first occasion that she had left their bedside during the ten days they had spent in hospital so far, Dee found herself face-to-face with Isla and Milly’s attacker.  

She had had so long to imagine him whilst she sat in the hospital and in the weeks prior.  Since she had seen the injuries on Isla’s arm that day, she had begun imagining the beast who could have done this to the woman he purported to love.  She had a very clear vision of him.  He would be big and strong.  Someone who clearly liked to work out and whose muscles would be apparent even when clothed.  He would have a severe look about him and steel grey eyes that shone with coldness and were empty of emotion.  His voice would be harsh; his actions powerful, smooth and strong and the moment she clapped eyes on him she would be filled with such revulsion, such hatred of this man that she would barely be able to contain her feelings and it would take every ounce of her self-control to continue the conversation.  

It wasn’t so.  

The man who was escorted into the visiting cubicle was a broken man, not a strong man.  It was hard to imagine him ever having been strong.  He did not look physically strong either and the tattooed guard, who looked a lot like Dee’s imaginings of Simon, towered over him. He was, perhaps five foot six or seven.  His hair was receding and greying at his temples and his arms were not those of a fighter but those of a writer.  Long, smooth arms that looked more likely to envelope someone in an embrace than to inflict any form of harm on them.  

The thing she had been most wrong about though, were his eyes and his voice.  Both were harsh and cold in her imagination, but as he took a seat opposite her, his deep blue, sad eyes locked with hers.  Their colour intensified by the depth of emotions he seemed to be experiencing at their meeting and his voice was not that of a strong man, in command of his situation and unrepentant.  It was that of a boy broken and lost; unsure of his place in the world and waiting to be kicked whilst he was down.  He spoke in a barely audible whisper as if ashamed or afraid to make too much noise and when he did speak.  His words were hesitant, stilted, and his voice threatened to break with emotion, just as his eyes threatened to spill over with tears.  

Dee felt sorry for him. 

Dee despised herself for feeling sorry for him.  She dragged her thoughts back to Isla and Milly in the hospital and commanded some of the hatred and bile she had felt towards this man before he had entered the room.  But it was almost impossible to equate the monster in her mind with the mild, meek and broken man she saw sat before her.  She was sure that if they both stood, she would tower above him.  That she was heavier and perhaps even stronger than he. So how had he been able to inflict such pain and suffering she wondered briefly, but the answer was of course that the strength, the power to manipulate and the power to control another person did not come purely through physical force.

Dee’s intention had been to spend as little time with Simon as possible, wanting to know her enemy, to recognise his face and to get the measure of the man from whom she imagined she may spend the next few weeks or months running and hiding.  

But she could not leave.  She could not, after a few minutes of pleasantries, turn and leave this broken man in this room here alone.  And so, when the smallest of small-talk had dried up and there was a natural break when she might have taken her leave, she looked at her watch.  She had used up eight minutes of the allotted thirty.  She had twenty-two minutes left.  Dismissing the guilt she felt, the feeling that she was somehow betraying Isla, she asked just one question and then sat back whist this monster who should not be allowed to call himself a man answered her.  

“How did this happen?” she asked.  

[View all chapters shared so far here]

Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.

Posted in Novel: Imperception | 1 Comment

Read and feedback as I write a novel: Imperception – Chapter 52

Chapter 52: Isla

Following Simon’s threats and after much agonising, Isla felt that she and baby Milly would be safer if they stayed rather than trying to escape, and so Isla turned her mind to working out how to make the best of a bad situation.  She turned over and over in her mind ideas about how to keep both herself and her baby as safe as possible whist living with a man who was, at best, abusive, and at worst, possibly murderous.  

Isla realised that she needed to be both vigilant and organised.  Having lived with the man for many years, she understood the rhythm of his days.  She knew that he woke up horny in the mornings.  She knew that he was most abusive in the time between his arrival home from work and the point at which he was too drunk to feel anything.  She knew that there were certain things that sparked his anger like not having enough whisky when he needed it, like not having a fresh hot meal served to him when he was ready for it, like having his anger responded to with physical or verbal fear or dissent.  

And she knew that each and every one of the things that she had learnt about Simon over the years was something that could be used to keep her safe now.  In order to keep her daughter safe, she was going to have to be giving of herself and to forfeit some of her morals, values and rights to safety and freedom.  But this she did all this willingly in order to keep Milly just a little safer.

Isla worked hard to get Milly into a routine where she slept in a little later in the morning so that she could be sexually available for Simon when he awoke.  It made her feel physically sick to feel him inside her, but with each thrust she thought of her daughter sleeping safely, soundly, unknowingly in the next room and she found the will to continue.  She thought this would get easier with time, with practice – that perhaps she could learn to go to a different place in her head and remove herself from the situation, but she never could.  

She found herself unable to play along beyond physically being there.  She did not respond to his advances, she did not moan or hold herself in alluring ways, she simply lay there and allowed him to continue.  Simon seemed entirely oblivious to the one sidedness of these morning interactions and continued regardless.  For this, Isla was grateful and each morning as he stalked off for his morning shower, relatively calm and collected, she told herself that she had done the right thing, that she had kept her daughter safe for a few more hours.  She would then assemble his breakfast and pour him coffee and kiss him on the cheek as he left for work.  This simple act of domesticity made her physically recoil also.  This parting kiss causing her to burn with shame more even than allowing herself to be taken advantage of sexually each morning.  But this was the role she must play and following the kiss came hours of safety whilst Simon was at work.  

This was the golden time when she and Milly could continue as they wished.  Where they could live their lives like a normal mother and daughter and without fear of being spat at or beaten.  But it came at a cost.  At 6pm every day, Simon would arrive home angry, violent and so full of venom that he physically shook.   True to his word he never ever laid a finger on his daughter and would coo and cluck over her on the better days before turning and beating his wife senseless.  

After some months, Isla realised that a simple solution to these evening beatings was simply not to be available at the times when Simon needed to vent his anger this way.  So she took to preparing a meal for him and leaving it in the slow oven to keep warm and forcing him to fend for himself whilst she and Milly took themselves far away.  

Each day like clockwork Isla and Milly commuted two stops on the train in order to escape Simon’s fists and his venomous tongue.  This did not make him happy but Isla learnt that if she stayed away long enough then he would settle into his drinking regardless of whether he had relieved his anger through beating her and that by the time she and Milly arrived home later in the evening, he would have passed out from his liquor consumption and she and her daughter could creep into bed unnoticed until the next morning when she would walk, naked, to his side and so the charade would begin all over again.  

[View all chapters shared so far here]

Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.

Posted in Novel: Imperception | 1 Comment

Read and feedback as I write a novel: Imperception – Chapter 51

Chapter 51: Dee

Of course, Dee knew none of Isla, Milly and Simon’s history as she researched the numbers and locations of local refuges.  She had no idea that Isla believed that the only way to keep her daughter safe was to remain at home with her abusive husband and had no idea that Isla had come so close to leaving.  

Dee had reinvented history, and in her mind, Isla’s story was one of constantly wanting to escape, of planning how she and Milly would make their way out into the world without Simon, but of finding themselves unable, trapped by lack of means, fear and intimidation.  

Perhaps Dee’s version was not so very far from the truth, but when Isla eventually awoke, the history she recounted to Dee surprised her.  Dee found it hard to understand how a woman who loved her child so whole-heartedly could willingly remain in the house of a brutal monster. But then she supposed Isla might find it hard to understand how anyone could live in a home they once loved and ignore every piece of mail that arrived for several months until somehow things escalated to the point where their house was to be repossessed.  

Maybe, thought Dee, it is not our place to judge the lives of others until we have tried living them. 

“Why didn’t you leave?” she asked Isla when she awoke.  She knew it was an unfair question.  She knew that Isla must feel responsible for the fact that her daughter’s life was teetering on a knife edge and that this could have been avoided, but in truth Dee felt angry with Isla.  Inwardly she seethed in the knowledge that Isla had played chance with Milly’s life in this way.  

It is one thing to put one’s own life at risk, but to risk the lives of those we love, and especially those too young, too innocent, or without sufficient knowledge or means to make better choices of their own was just plain wrong so far as Dee concerned.  Whichever way you looked at it, Isla had done the wrong thing, thought Dee, until Isla explained what had happened all those years ago and the threat that Simon had made.  The promise that if Isla left that not only would she be unsafe, but that she would be taking the life of her daughter in her hands too and putting her precious, perfect daughter at risk of the wrath of this madman. 

Dee began to understand then.  She understood that Isla could not leave; but she could not see how Isla managed to get from morning to night without worrying herself to death about the safety of both herself and her child, and so Isla began to explain the extraordinary lengths a mother is willing to go to in order to keep her child safe.  

[View all chapters shared so far here]

Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.

Posted in Novel: Imperception | 3 Comments

Read and feedback as I write a novel: Imperception – Chapter 50

Chapter 50: Isla

After many hours of solace and pain, once Simon had arrived, Isla had laboured more easily. Her hand held by a kind and loving man – or at least by a man who was being kind and loving right now – and with good support from excellent midwives.  It took little time for Milly to arrive. A perfect little bundle of baby.  Isla fell instantly, irrevocably in love with her as, it seemed, did Simon.  

The sight of tiny baby Milly held close and safe in Simon’s arms was one that filled Isla with hope.  The baby who she had been terrified might not survive pregnancy due to her father’s brutality was now nestled in his strong arms.  The centre of his rapt attention.  And it stayed that way for some time.  

Simon absolutely doted of Milly and couldn’t seem to get enough of her.  At every opportunity he would scoop her up and cradle her, his huge face looming in on hers and whispering sweet words of love.  She filled his every waking minute and his drinking drastically reduced as he chose to get intoxicated on his daughter’s love rather than his usual poison of whisky.  

Isla felt that things were really beginning to change, though she did feel that she stood somewhat on the side-lines of the love affair going on between her husband and her daughter.  She didn’t mind though, she was just so grateful to have a new focus in her life and some respite from the verbal and physical abuse to which she had grown so accustomed.  

However, as the weeks went by, the disadvantages of Simon’s hands on approach to his daughter began to become apparent.  He had a view on how everything should be done and it almost universally contradicted with the way Isla was currently doing things.  

After a while Isla became paranoid that he was purposefully being obstructive and that his style of parenting was dictated entirely by her own – in that he would always choose the opposing view or method to whatever she had chosen, regardless of what he actually believed in.  She continually dismissed this idea though;  she only had to see Simon with Milly to appreciate that he really did deeply, deeply love her.  So it seemed entirely unlikely that he would put her welfare at stake in any way simply to gain one-up-man-ship on Isla. 

Simon’s constant questions, critique and dismissal of her way of parenting did feel very oppressive though.  She rapidly became embarrassed to do even the simplest baby-focused tasks in her husband’s presence, unsure that she was able to change a nappy right or feed her baby appropriately.  When he began to criticise the way she interacted with Milly, suggesting that the way in which she spoke with her baby was likely to be hindering her cognitive development, Isla took herself away and cried.  

None of these words were said with venom.  Each was said with Milly at its heart and expressed with kindness with the child between them, the focus of each of their love and attention.  Simon would soothe Isla in soft tones, imparting his parenting wisdom and dismissing her own. 

By the time that Simon returned to work full time, having used all of his leave and all of his favours, Isla was terrified of parenting without him.  She was so certain that she did everything so badly that surely, left in her hands alone, Milly would suffer.  

For the first three days she spent much of the day holding her beautiful, beautiful daughter who had arrived with such promise, whilst she wept.  As the baby grew hungry or wet and would begin to cry, Isla would feel herself paralysed with fear about whether she would be able to meet her daughter’s needs and this fear prevented her from even trying.  And so Milly would begin to cry too and the two of them would sit and cry together.  Isla rocking back and forth, back and forth, in time with her baby’s howls.  

Simon came home and found them this way one day.   That was the first time he struck Isla again.  

His fists rained down on her.  He was incandescent; ranting about her failure as a mother.  Reminding her again and again of her incremental failings as a mother, as a wife, as a human being.  No daughter of his should have to be raised by someone so incompetent he shouted.  She would grow up defective, he spat.  Isla should be ashamed of herself and her many failings he spewed as he swung his open hand into her cheek as she crouched, huddled over her baby.  

She had drawn Milly tight into her and tried to imagine her own body as a protective bubble around her precious daughter.  As if her very love could act as a force-field against the blows of this angry madman.  She did not feel the physical or the emotional pain of the attack, she was focused only on keeping her baby safe.  So, with each new wound that opened, she was not angry nor sad that this was happening to her, but relieved that this was another blow that she had taken and not her baby.  

She did not fight back.  She did not defend herself physically and she didn’t open her mouth to say a word during the whole attack.  

Whilst it had been a little while since Simon’s fists had beaten her, this was all too familiar territory.  She had learnt the rules of engagement and she knew that the very best and quickest route to safety was to sit limp, like a rag doll – like a punch bag – and to let Simon work his anger out.  She knew that once he had beaten out of her whatever feelings it was that were bubbling inside of him, that the pounding would stop and he would stalk away to find his whisky. 

Sure enough, after what felt like hours, but was in reality probably no more than a few minutes, of acting like a human battering ram, desperately contorting her body to shield her child, Simon suddenly stopped. Unable to hear anything other than a rushing and ringing in her ears, her own heavy breathing and the wailing siren of her daughter, Isla risked looking up. 

Breathing heavily, Isla lifted her face, trying to see through swollen eyes; was the monster still in the room?  The answer came in a putrid ball of phlegm which landed square in the middle of her face and dribbled down her nose and cheeks leaving wet sticky tracks.  Drops of spit, blood and tears dripped from her face, mingling in the lush pile of the cream wool carpet on which she was slumped. 

And now, he walked away. 

Isla watched his back as he retreated from the room without a backward glance.  She held her daughter tightly and she vowed that something must change.  Something MUST change and then she was overwhelmed with the pain of his actions, the pain of the situation and physical pain of the brutal beating and, still holding her wailing daughter close, she passed out. 

She had woken some hours later in a pool of her own blood, vomit and urine, Milly limp but breathing, sleeping in her arms.  She was broken but determined.  She had never been able to leave this monster for herself but she found it far easier to make the decision for her daughter.  They could not stay, this was not a safe place for them.  

Unlike Isla, Milly was entirely physically unharmed from the attack.  But that was this time, thought Isla, what of next time?  What if she was less able to protect her daughter?  She realised that she must pluck them both from the situation, somehow, and take them somewhere safe.  She had no idea where or how but she felt absolutely sure that there was a safer somewhere out there for them and that she must find it. 

But she was so weak, so tired and in so much pain.  So first, she must sleep some more.  She looked down into Milly’s peaceful face and tuned into her slow, steady breathing and allowed herself to drift back into the world of sleep.  She slept peacefully, dreaming of a future where she learned to be the parent her daughter deserved.  Where her daughter grew and flourished and where neither of them suffered from the evil actions of the brute Isla had seen fit to marry and to make a father.  

Some time later, Isla woke.  Her head was thudding and her thoughts were slow, oozing like treacle around her brain.  She forced her eyes open despite the swelling and found herself looking straight into the eyes of her attacker. She was so startled that she took a sharp intake of breath and physically recoiled although the logical part of her brain, fighting always to keep her safe, was screaming at her not to, screaming at her that this was the type of weakness he hated and exploited and made every effort to beat out of her.  But she couldn’t help it. She was so horrified to see this monster of a man before her as she awoke and she was so scared, not for herself, but for Milly; her reason for being, her reason to fight; and so she recoiled.  

And as she recoiled he first clenched and then slowly lifted his right fist which, she noted, was bruised and bloodied – presumably as a result of the beating he had given her the previous evening. 

“Stop!” She shouted.  “I’m leaving.” 

Instantly, his fist dropped to his side and the grimace of anger that had been on his face morphed into sadness and he let out an almighty sob.  Isla had never known Simon to cry before and did not know how to handle this new emotion.  He cried without let up for five minutes.  She felt an urge to go to him, seeing again the kind and vulnerable man she had once loved so much.  The man who had coached her through the birth of their child and who had held Milly in his arms for so many hours.  

But he was a monster.  How could she go to him?  How could she, beaten black and blue, still unable to see straight or hear clearly, offer comfort the beast that had caused her such harm?

She took a deep breath and, despite his tears, despite the hurt he clearly felt right now and the fatherly compassion she was now learning he was capable of feeling, she told him that she was leaving.  That she could not remain here.  That she didn’t blame him but that her first responsibility was to their child, and that she didn’t believe that Milly was safe whilst they all resided under the same roof.  

As she spoke, Simon’s shoulders heaved as he quietly sobbed and Isla had to keep checking herself to stop her from retracting her words and wrapping him in her arms like a child.  She had never dared to contradict or challenge him in the past and she felt a certain sense of release in doing so.  As she finished, she got up, a sleeping Milly still nestled in her arms and she made to leave.  She felt bad walking out on her husband whilst he was so clearly hurting and broken but she couldn’t stay. During this rare moment of strength, she had to take her leave of a relationship which in her heart of hearts she had known had been broken for a very long time but which she’d previously been too blind, or too broken or simply too scared to leave.  

She had taken two steps towards the door when she felt his iron grip on her shoulder, forcing her to sit back down.  Tears and all signs of sorrow and sadness had vanished from his face.  In there place she could see pure, undiluted rage.  With his face just centimetres from hers, he spat his words at her, his breath smelt of whisky and bile, his words were sharp, whipping her into submission,

“You will not leave” he whispered, but with the force of a gale “You will stay here.  I will never, NEVER, harm the girl so long as you stay, but if you leave than I will not be held accountable for my actions against you both.”  He said.  “Do you understand?”

A silent tear rolled down her cheek as she nodded her head, holding her baby just a little bit tighter and letting go of the plans for a future that just moments before had felt terrifying, but possible, and resigned herself to a future as Simon’s beaten wife.  So long as her baby was safe, that was all that mattered and she was now sure that if she left, not only would she be unsafe, but that Milly’s life would be in danger also.  

And so she stayed.  

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Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.

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Read and feedback as I write a novel: Imperception – Chapter 49

Chapter 49: Dee

The days spent in the hospital had proven hugely restorative for Dee.  She had a feeling of purpose that had been absent from her life for as long as she could remember.  She felt that it was her job to keep Isla and Milly safe.  She didn’t know how but she knew that she must.  It was one of the reasons that she rarely left their bedsides; she felt that her role was to watch over these two broken beings and to guard them whilst they healed.  As her own mind settled and became more free, she found that she was able to begin to turn her attention to more practical matters.  What were they going to do?  

None of the three of them had a home to which they could go, or at least not for long.  Dee’s home would no longer be her own within days and surely Isla and Milly could not return to their home after what had happened?  Dee imagined that it was also highly unlikely that they’d want to, even if it were possible.  If, for example, Simon were in prison and the house were free of him, Dee was sure that neither Milly nor her mother would welcome the idea of returning to a house where every corner they turned brought them more reminders of the monster who had beaten them that night.  Dee wondered what Milly would recall of the incident – her emotional healing would surely take longer than any physical healing that had to take place. 

How do you ever get over an incident like this – or maybe she already had?  Dee suddenly found herself wondering whether Simon had been abusive to Milly in the past.  Strangely it had not occurred to her before – she has assumed, perhaps because of Milly’s endlessly sunny disposition and apparent lack of injuries, that she had remained unharmed by her father, with the full force of his abuse being aimed at her mother.   But perhaps she was wrong.  Why would Milly be lying next to her mother in a hospital gown if her father never hurt her; what could possibly have been different this time?  

Dee hoped with all her heart this was the first time Milly had been hurt by her father and she was determined to think of a way to ensure that it would, without doubt, be the last. 

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Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.

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Read and feedback as I write a novel: Imperception – Chapter 48

Chapter 48: Isla

With each day of her pregnancy, Isla felt a little stronger.  Although she was physically battered and bruised, she felt mentally strong.  She was fighting not for herself, for whom she had little remaining fire, but for the new life growing inside her. She could imagine in intricate detail this baby in her belly although, unlike most expectant mums, hiding her bruises meant she had not experienced the joy of ultrasound scans which would have let her see her baby’s ghostly form and allowed her to make plans with a firm knowledge of whether she should be planning for a bundle of pink or blue joy.  

For Isla none of this mattered.  She felt certain she would have a girl, she would call her Milly after her grandmother Millicent who had always been a calm voice at even the stormiest times.  In fact, it was Grandmother Millicent’s voice who Isla often heard in her head reassuring her and leading her on at the bleakest of times now.  It was she who told Isla that she must be strong for her baby.  And Isla was strong, speaking in reassuring tones to her growing bump, trying to calm both herself and her unborn baby when Simon had left them in a state of fear and panic.  

Isla would feel her heartbeat calm as she spoke to or sang to her growing baby.  The very thought of baby Milly penetrating her ragged breathing and helping her to draw her breaths deep, long and strong.  

When the time came for Milly to be born, Isla attended the hospital alone.  She left a note for Simon who was passed out in an alcoholic stupor in his chair and she got into a cab with her hospital bag and a belly full of baby and hope.  She knew there were risks involved in going to the hospital.  She was aware that it was possible even that her baby could, perhaps should, be taken away from her because no baby could possibly be safe in a house where such brutal and regular beatings occurred.  But Isla also knew that she could not deliver her baby without help.  The risks were too high and she was unsure she could keep her precious daughter safe.

 So she entered the fray of a busy labour ward with midwives who were somewhat inquisitive at her lack of notes, but who were well accustomed to supporting women whom for one reason or another had felt it inappropriate or impossible to access antenatal care.  More questions may come later, reasoned Isla, but for now everyone’s key focus was on the safe delivery of the life within her.  

Isla was aware that she was the only woman alone on the wing and this made her feel a little sad, though she was unsure who she would want by her side.  It was as she lay labouring alone, that she realised quite how isolated a life she had created for herself.  Friends had either drifted away or been pushed, and her life was so insular these days that she rarely had an opportunity to meet new people. 

She had learnt to be self-sufficient though.  In Isla’s life, the only way to ensure things happened was to do them yourself and the only person on whom she had ever been able to rely was herself, and so she just quietly got on with it.  She took this same approach now, choosing to tune out the husbands, mothers, sisters and friends of those around her and focusing instead in on herself and on the baby who would bring an end to her isolation.  

She had read enough about labour and birth during her pregnancy to be aware of the process, so she knew she would be here a little while.  She had prepared for this, bringing along several of her favourite childhood story books.  She would read to her baby whilst she laboured – that would keep them both calm and help to pass the time.  

She was on chapter six of One Hundred and One Dalmatians when Simon arrived.  His arrival was completely unexpected and Isla would have greeted Simon’s presence with fear but for the fact that gathered in his arms was the most amazing bouquet of flowers that Isla had ever seen.  It was simply breath-taking with all her favourite colours – and the smell was divine.  

He walked calmly over to her, planting a kiss on the top of her head and asking her gently how she was.  Isla was genuinely taken aback and found herself wondering how one man could be home to two such conflicting personas.  But she liked this one.  This one made her feel wanted and loved.  This was the man she needed to hold her hand through childbirth.  

Isla didn’t know how to make him stay, this other Simon, this kind, loving, funny, gentle Simon.  She would give anything to make it so; but in her heart she knew that this would be temporary.  In a way, the kindness he showed in these moments made it harder to manage the anger, disgust and fury that were so evident at other times.  If he were consistently evil, perhaps she would grow more accustomed to it, but these glimpses of how life could be, made for a stark comparison and made the anger and beatings harder to take. 

But right now she must not dwell on the past and on the future but on this moment right now.  She had a job to do, a baby to birth and she must count her blessings that the right side of Simon had turned up to hold her hand today and welcome their daughter into the world.

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Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.

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Read and feedback as I write a novel: Imperception – Chapter 47

Chapter 47: Dee

Whilst Isla and Milly slept, Dee planned.  She had walked into the hospital with her only friend, uncertain what she would find and uncertain too about what the future held for all three of them.  She was no surer now of the details of it, but she was sure that something had to change.  The three of them deserved more than the half-lives to which they had become so accustomed, and as an absolute minimum they deserved to be safe – Dee from herself, Milly and Isla from Simon.

Dee was fearful at first that Simon would show up at the hospital.  Isla had been in no fit state to tell Dee exactly what had happened that night when she came to the station so Dee didn’t know quite how the pair of them had ended up in the hospital or what had happened to Simon.  

The thought of Simon revulsed Dee.  In her mind, she’d painted him as a tyrant of the type that always gets away, alluding capture and punishment.  And so she feared that he was at large somewhere and was likely to have a good idea of where to find his wife and child and may come looking for them.  

The key reason for Dee’s anxiety that Simon might turn up was that she simply didn’t know how on earth she would keep her cool if he were to arrive.  The damage he had done to his beautiful, wonderful, loving wife and perfect, innocent child was just absolutely inexcusable.   Even just thinking about the man behind this pain made Dee completely livid.  She did not know what he looked like and when she tried to conjure his image in her mind’s eye, all she could muster was a ball of rage and hatred.  

If he were to arrive, she couldn’t be sure that she wouldn’t lash out and hurt him.  Badly.  More badly even than he had hurt his family.  She feared that upon seeing this demonic man that she may respond with primitive, visceral rage that knew no ends.  

Dee spent many hours thinking about Simon.  Wondering how someone as kind and bright and loving as Isla had ended up with such a monster.  Wondering what he was doing now.  Wondering how he could ever live with himself and wondering how he had fallen into this habit of harming others – presumably unthinkingly, because if he were to give it any thought at all, surely, surely he would stop?  

Unsettlingly, there was a tiny part of her that could understand.  

A tiny part of her knew what it was to cause harm and not turn away.  A part of her that repeatedly caused harm despite the pain it caused, despite the reaction it gave rise to, despite the fact that nothing changed as a result of the pain other than a very temporary relief of feelings far too big to manage otherwise.  But, of course, the pain she caused had always been to herself and so it didn’t matter, did it?  

Dee had such a very low opinion of herself and felt, with such certainty and determination that she did not deserve to grace the Earth, that the cuts and burns and bruises which she inflicted upon herself felt far from inappropriate.  They felt like just what she deserved.  They felt like a punishment to her for taking up space in a world where she didn’t belong.  

She remembered the first time she had hurt herself.  An accident which had occurred when she was in a rage.  She had been so angry at herself for doing something stupid.  She had flown into the darkest, deepest and most dangerous rage and found herself acting like an angry caged animal, screaming and throwing herself around with no regard for her own safety.  Her only thoughts had been of finding a physical form for her anger to take.  

She struck the wall several times and on the fourth time, her arm connected accidentally with a door handle and the pain was so intense, so sudden, so… big…that her thoughts were instantly removed from the cause of her initial upset.  All she could think about was the pain in her rapidly swelling hand.  

It felt good. And bad.  And so many different things all at once – but most of all it felt different and it helped her to manage the feelings that a moment ago had overwhelmed her.  

At that time she had been prone to epic and devastating mood swings, moving from terrifying displays of anger to melancholy moods which would plunge her almost instantly into deep dark pits out of which there appeared to be no escape, until suddenly she would find herself walking on cloud nine, happy to be alive.  But all of these moods were fleeting and ungrounded and each would leave Dee unsure of herself and uncertain how long the mood might last or even where it had come from.  Hurting herself had given her a physical focus for her feelings and had blocked out all thoughts beyond the pain that she felt, both physically and emotionally, at that moment.  

And so she did it again.  Only the next time wasn’t an accident.  She had not planned it but it was a purposeful action.  Again, she had found herself in a dangerous rage and her mood was refusing to abate.  She had returned to the state of a wild animal and did not know what the next minutes would bring and whether she was safe.  She felt like a kettle boiling furiously but failing to turn off.  She needed to find a way to take her mood off the boil before the kettle ran dry or boiled over.  It was when reflecting on moments like these that she retrospectively most feared for her life.  These were the moments when she was sure beyond doubt that given the means, she would have killed herself.  Handed a gun she would blast out her brains, presented with a bridge she would jump, handed a bottle of pills she would devour them unthinkingly and unhesitatingly. 

And so she raged and raged and a tiny part of her broke through and reminded her that there was another way.  That there was a way to focus her feelings, to break through this mood and move on, to keep herself safe from herself and so, once more, she hurt herself.  Punching her hand through a small pane of glass and finding that as the blood ran down her arm and down the window pane that her mood ever so slightly lifted.  

But it had proven such a vicious, ugly and addictive cycle.  The pain helped, seeing herself damaged helped because she felt it was what she deserved. But the relief was only temporary.  And then she would be left with blood and wounds to manage.  And the blood and wounds which brought such relief and perhaps even a perverse sense of pleasure during her most intensely distressed moments brought no such thing in the cold, reflective light of day.  Instead they would stir up feelings of shame and guilt and fear.  She could not identify with this raging part of her when she was calm, and she could not understand at all how she could bring herself to inflict this pain, to self-sabotage so spectacularly.  

She failed to see how dong herself such damage could possibly help, nor why she found herself driven to these behaviours, and yet she found herself going there again and again when the cloud of rage descended.  It was never planned.  It was always when her mood was most extreme and most dangerous.  It always helped temporarily then caused her great distress afterwards.  And it always happened again when she found herself faced with the same problems and no new solutions. 

So in a way, she could understand how Simon might find himself inflicting pain and fear that made no sense outside of the moment that he caused it because, in a very different way, she was doing the exact same thing.  

But, she reasoned, hurting yourself is a very, very different thing from inflicting pain on others and no matter how she might, in some small way, be able to identify with how things might have escalated, with the relief that causing pain might bring, with the terrible, out of control, animal-like feelings that might underlie the moments that gave rise to these ultimate violences from Simon.  She simply could not, would not, would never understand what might drive him to lay a finger on Isla or on Milly.  Dee felt a deep love for both mother and daughter despite having known them only a few weeks.  Surely after many years Simon must love them too? 

But could you hurt the ones you love, Dee wondered.  Despite many hours spent thinking about Simon, his motivations remained a mystery to her.  Whilst it frustrated her, in many ways she was glad, because if she were able to truly empathise with him, surely that would make her a monster too?

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Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.

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Read and feedback as I write a novel: Imperception – Chapter 46

Chapter 46: Isla

Periodically, Isla would open her eyes and surface for a moment.  Each time she did so, she noted that Dee was still sat at Milly’s bedside, holding her hand and that Milly was still there, still clinging on to life and hopefully working her way back towards the surface.  Dee’s presence, and Milly’s continued fight repeatedly gave Isla the reassurance that she needed to sink back into sleep, which she would do after only a few moments, desperately seeking the oblivion from the physical and emotional pain that tormented her in the waking world. 

On her fifth waking, in the moments before she returned to sleep, she realised that she felt safe.  This was a feeling almost so entirely unknown to her that she didn’t recognise it at first.  It had been so many years since she had felt safe that it was hard for it to register.  It was a welcome feeling though, as was finally being able to sleep fully, deeply and without remaining on constant alert in case something went wrong.  In case He entered the room in a rage; in case she became scared for her daughter’s welfare.  

She fell into the oblivion of sleep, welcoming it like an addict deprived of her hit.  She had forgotten how sleep’s warm embrace felt and she could feel her brain slowly, slowly resetting and charging and preparing for the new life that she would have to forge when she eventually awoke. 

It had not always been this way, she thought as she drifted yet again into sleep.  Once she had felt safe and loved, and as she carried her new baby she had become increasingly convinced that things had changed with Simon for good.  That there would be no more fear, no more hatred, no more beatings.  She truly believed that he loved this baby she was carrying as much as she did.   Why would that not be the case, the baby was made up half of his genes after all.  

And at first, it had been son.  Excited by the idea of becoming a father, he had littered her with flowers and gifts, he’d even written her sentimental cards – not something he had ever done before.  He seemed genuinely excited and Isla was delighted that her plan was working – in fact it was working better than she’d ever dared to hope.  

This baby was going to be a fresh start, and a new life.  Her husband was returning to his rightful role of lover and protector.  She felt loved for the first time in many years and the tenderness with which he touched her belly or stroked her shoulders made her ache.  

But sadly, it was not to remain that way..  When she was six months pregnant, she returned home from some local errands late one morning and she found her husband sitting rigidly on the arm of the sofa.  She walked into the room, ready for his embrace which felt almost normal by now.  She had let her guard right down and so she was taken entirely by surprise when she was hit in face with such force that she thought she might vomit.  

The magic was gone, the spell broken and even her swelling belly and all that it promised was no longer enough to keep her husband from hurting her.  In fact, if anything he seemed ever more ready with his hands.  Sexual frustration may have had its part to play.  As she ballooned and was no longer so easy or inviting a sexual prospect for him, he became bound like a tight coil.  It seemed that he needed to vent somehow and when he was not able to do so sexually, he used his fists instead.  

The smile on his face as he would strike her told her that he sought pleasure from inflicting physical pain every bit as much as he sought it from sexual endeavours.  She sometimes found herself wondering why he couldn’t just take a cold shower or go for a run like other men, but wondering these things did not change the situation. 

She became worried about the wellbeing of the baby inside her and hoped and prayed that her swelling belly was a safe cocoon.  She avoided check-ups, worried that the midwife would note the bruises on her belly, arms and legs.  Instead she bought a small heart monitor and would obsessively listen to her baby’s heart, just checking that it was still beating.  She would also count the number of kicks every hour, making sure that they did not drop too low.  

Every time her baby kicked or she heard its heartbeat, Isla knew her hopes of a new future were still alive. 

[View all chapters shared so far here]

Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.

Posted in Novel: Imperception | 6 Comments

Read and feedback as I write a novel: Imperception – Chapters 43, 44 & 45

Chapter 43: Dee

Dee did not know how many hours she had spent at the station but the rush hour had come and gone.  Tired from her sleepless night, she had been dozing when Isla finally arrived, waking with a start at sound of her name being called.  Isla approached her slowly, limping and without her daughter. She had two black eyes and carried herself like a broken woman.  Dee choked back a sob and jumped up to embrace her friend.  

Isla fell into the embrace, leaning hard on Dee and whimpering slightly as the gentle hug set off a relay of pain in her many injuries both seen and unseen.  She pulled away slowly and looked Dee right in the eyes.  Dee could see that they were full of fear and threatened tears.  

“Come” said Isla simply.  She seemed to have neither the energy nor the vocabulary for further words.   There was a cab waiting at the station entrance and Isla indicated that they should both get in, then she told the driver to take the pair of them as fast as he could to St Thomas’ Hospital.  

Dee’s thoughts turned instantly to Milly – presumably that was why they were heading to the hospital.  Dee realised that she could not bear the idea of anything ever happening to the little girl who had so gloriously brought tight hugs and technicolour to her muted life.  

What was going on, she wondered. But she knew that in time, she would know what horrors had unfolded for Isla and her daughter and that Isla was clearly not in a position to talk about it yet.  So Dee allowed herself to be led, first in the taxi and then on foot, until eventually she found herself at the bedside of the child that she loved as if she were her own.  And this child, this glorious, beautiful, bubbly child, usually so very full of life was deathly pale with tubes and wires forming a macabre nest around her tiny body.  

A ventilator was making her chest rise and fall whilst a beeping machine monitored her heart beat.  Instinctively, Dee reached out a hand and took Milly’s tiny hand in hers.  She realised she was crying when a tear splashed down upon their entwined hands.

Finally she summoned the courage to ask Isla 

“What happened?”  Isla took a deep breath.  

“He did.” She said.  And that was all the explanation that was needed.  

Chapter 44: Isla

Isla could not face this alone.  

She could not face the prospect of maybe losing her child without someone by her side, so with barely enough strength to hold herself upright and with pain searing through every inch of her body, she had gone to get Dee.  It was many hours after their normal meet up time, but Isla had known instinctively that her friend would be waiting for her and would accompany her in her hour of need.  

Isla was not well enough to be out of bed, but she kept dragging herself to Milly, desperate to be by her side as she fought for her life.  Dee talked to the nursing team and arranged for a bed to be wheeled up next to Milly’s.  She made sure that Milly was comfortable, and that Isla had all that she needed.  It seemed that it did not cross Dee’s mind to leave, and the staff seemed happy to allow her to stay; and so she did. 

For days and nights she remained right by Milly and Isla’s beds, their hands in her hers, Isla absorbing the love and strength of her friend as she and her daughter slept and slowly healed.

Chapter 45: Dee

Side by side in their hospital beds, Isla and Milly slept on and on. 

Milly was in a medically induced coma due to the extent of her injuries and the painful healing that must happen, but there was no such explanation for Isla’s slumber and staff seemed somewhat puzzled and troubled by it.  

Dee was less concerned though – Dee saw a broken woman who had stayed too strong for too long.  A woman who had fought to keep her child safe and saw danger around every corner.  A woman who had been on high alert not for minutes, hours or even days on end, but for weeks, months and years. That, Dee knew, would be utterly physically draining for even the strongest body, so it was no surprise at all that it completely ravaged an already broken one.  

Dee looked on at Isla with wonder.  How had she managed?  How had she been able to keep herself and her daughter physically and emotionally safe enough to function every day? From where did she find the strength and courage?  And why?  Why had Isla not left long ago?  

Briefly, Dee explored this avenue in her mind and though it made her feel guilty to do so, she found herself questioning whether Isla’s choices had always been in the best interests of her daughter.  But she soon dropped this line of questioning with herself, realising that Isla had no more made a choice than she herself had.  They were both the victims of abusive relationships, the only difference was that Isla’s husband was the perpetrator in her relationship whilst Dee’s own mind was her abuser.  

Dee knew enough about abuse and suffering to understand a little of why Isla had not walked away.  Of why this wicked man’s abuse had been allowed to perpetuate for who knew how long.  Dee found herself wondering – had he been abusive even before Milly had been born?  She remembered reading something about how pregnancy and parenthood can be a trigger for domestic violence.  Perhaps this had been what happened with Isla and Milly?  Dee did not know yet.  Perhaps one day she would when Isla was ready to share this story, but for now she could only watch on, pray for healing, keep everything tightly crossed, and quietly plan.  

[View all chapters shared so far here]

Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.

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