Vampire High. Just Cause. Lucky 7. Thanksgiving Family Reunion. Life As We Know It. The Collector. South Beach. Merlin's Apprentice. Painkiller Jane. The Haunting of Sorority Row. Viva Laughlin. Flash Gordon. Knight Rider. True Justice. Chesapeake Shores. Once Upon a Time : Season One. Once Upon a Time : Season Two. Once Upon a Time : Season Three. Once Upon a Time : Season Five. Once Upon a Time : Season Seven. Once Upon a Time : Specials. Starring Cast Members. Once Upon a Time : Current. I fell asleep last night thinking of you, I was dreaming about kissing your mouth, your breasts, the inside of your thighs.
I woke this morning with my head full of you, desperate to touch you. He told her so, often. I feel a flash of intense anger. I feel as though something has been taken away from me. How could she? How could Jess do this? What is wrong with her? Look at the life they have, look at how beautiful it is! I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts. Who was it said that following your heart is a good thing? It is pure egotism, a selfishness to conquer all.
Hatred floods me. If I saw that woman now, if I saw Jess, I would spit in her face. I would scratch her eyes out. I, fortunately, have a seat, but by the aisle, not next to the window, and there are bodies pressed against my shoulder, my knee, invading my space. I have an urge to push back, to get up and shove. I cannot get enough oxygen into my lungs.
I feel sick. I blame Jess. I was walking around in a daze, not concentrating on where I was going. Without thinking, I went into the coffee shop that everyone from Huntingdon Whitely uses. Martin Miles with Sasha and Harriet, a triumvirate of awkwardness, beckoning, waving me over. Sasha and Harriet smiled, gave me tentative air- kisses, trying not to get too close. Not one. Harriet and Sasha were looking over my shoulder at the door, they were embarrassed for me, they wanted a way out. I walked to the very far end, next to the zoo. I must have been there for less than half an hour when my mobile rang.
It was Tom again, calling from the home phone. I tried to picture him, working at his laptop in our sunny kitchen, but the image was spoilt by encroachments from his new life. She would be there somewhere, in the background, making tea or feeding the little girl, her shadow falling over him. I let the call go to voice mail. I put the phone back into my bag and tried to ignore it. I held out for about three minutes before I retrieved the phone and dialled into voice mail. I opened the first one and drank it as fast as I could, and then opened the second.
I called my voice mail again. Our little family. With our problems and our routines. Fucking bitch. She has taken everything from me. She has taken everything and now she calls me to tell me that my distress is inconvenient for her? I finish the second can and make a start on the third. The blissful rush of alcohol hitting my bloodstream lasts only a few minutes, and then I feel sick.
Everything she has is secondhand. I want to know how that makes her feel. I want to call her back and ask her, What does it feel like, Anna, to live in my house, surrounded by the furniture I bought, to sleep in the bed that I shared with him for years, to feed your child at the kitchen table he fucked me on?
I still find it extraordinary that they chose to stay there, in that house, in my house. I loved that house. I was the one who insisted we buy it, despite its location. I liked being down there on the tracks, I liked watching the trains go by, I enjoyed the sound of them, not the scream of an inner-city express but the old-fashioned trundling of ancient rolling stock. But he never found the right buyer, instead he moved her in, and she loved the house like I did, and they decided to stay. She must be very secure in herself, I suppose, in them, for it not to bother her, to walk where another woman has walked before.
I want to ring Anna up and remind her that Assia ended up with her head in the oven, just like Sylvia did. I must have fallen asleep, the gin and the hot sun lulling me. I woke with a start, scrabbling around desperately for my handbag. It was still there.
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My skin was prickling, I was alive with ants, they were in my hair and on my neck and chest and I leaped to my feet, clawing them away. Two teenage boys, kicking a football back and forth twenty yards away, stopped to watch, bent double with laughter. The train stops. I know from the quality of the light, from the sounds of the street outside my window, from the sound of Cathy vacuuming the hallway right outside my room.
Cathy gets up early to clean the house every Saturday, no matter what. It could be her birthday, it could be the morning of the Rapture—Cathy will get up early on Saturday to clean. I cannot sleep in the mornings; I cannot snooze peacefully until midday. The more I want to be oblivious, the less I can be.
Life and light will not let me be. The day stretches out in front of me, not a minute of it filled. I could sit on the sofa with a cup of tea and Saturday Kitchen on TV. I could go to the gym. I could rewrite my CV. I could wait for Cathy to leave the house, go to the off-licence and buy two bottles of sauvignon blanc. In another life, I woke early, too, the sound of the rumbling past; I opened my eyes and listened to the rain against the window.
I felt him behind me, sleepy, warm, hard. Afterwards, he went to get the papers and I made scrambled eggs, we sat in the kitchen drinking tea, we went to the pub for a late lunch, we fell asleep, tangled up together in front of the TV. The pain is solid and heavy, it sits in the middle of my chest. I cannot wait for Cathy to leave the house. I spent all day in my bedroom, waiting for Cathy to go out so that I could have a drink. I went to the Wheatsheaf, the big, anonymous pub just off High Street, and I drank three large glasses of wine.
Then I walked to the station, bought a couple of cans of gin and tonic and got onto the train. I am going to see Jason. Nothing like that. Nothing crazy. I just want to go past the house, roll by on the train. I just want to see him. I want to see them. But what harm can it do? Trains are wonderful. Before, when I was still myself, I used to dream of taking romantic train journeys with Tom. The Bergen Line for our fifth anniversary, the Blue Train for his fortieth. Vision doubling. Close one eye. There they are! Is that him? Is that Jason? Is that Jess?
I want to be closer to them. This is not a good idea. This is a very bad idea. I want to say something to him, but the words keep evaporating, vanishing off my tongue before I have the chance to say them. Is he smiling at me, or is he sneering? My mouth is dry, it hurts to swallow. I roll onto my side, my face turned to the window. The curtains are drawn, but what light there is hurts my eyes. I bring my hand up to my face; I press my fingers against my eyelids, trying to rub away the ache. My fingernails are filthy. Something is wrong. Last night. Something happened.
The breath comes sharply into my lungs and I sit up, too quickly, heart racing, head throbbing. I wait for the memory to come. Sometimes it takes a while. Something happened, something bad. There was an argument. Voices were raised. I went to the pub, I got onto the train, I was at the station, I was on the street. Blenheim Road. I went to Blenheim Road. It comes over me like a wave: black dread. Something happened, I know it did. I feel nauseated, dizzy. I run my hands through my hair, over my scalp. I flinch. My hair is matted with blood.
On the stairs at Witney station. Did I hit my head? I remember being on the train, but after that there is a gulf of blackness, a void. What did I do? I went to the pub, I got on the train. There was a man there—I remember now, reddish hair. He smiled at me.
I look around the room.
My phone is not on the bedside table. I get out of bed. I catch sight of myself in the full-length mirror on the wardrobe. My hands are trembling. Mascara is smeared over my cheekbones, and I have a cut on my lower lip. There are bruises on my legs. I sit back down on the bed and put my head between my knees, waiting for the wave of nausea to pass. I get to my feet, grab my dressing gown and open the bedroom door just a crack. The flat is quiet. Before I went out? Or did I speak to her later?
I walk as quietly as I can out into the hallway. I peer into her room. Her bed is made. At the top of the stairs I feel dizzy again and grip the banister tightly. It is one of my great fears along with bleeding into my belly when my liver finally packs up that I will fall down the stairs and break my neck.
Thinking about this makes me feel ill again. I want to lie down, but I need to find my bag, check my phone. My handbag has been dumped in the hallway, just inside the front door. My jeans and underwear sit next to it in a crumpled pile; I can smell the urine from the bottom of the stairs. I have to lie down. Upstairs, I plug in my phone and lie down on the bed. I raise my limbs, gently, gingerly, to inspect them.
There are bruises on my legs, above the knees, standard drink-related stuff, the sort of bruises you get from walking into things. My upper arms bear more worrying marks, dark, oval impressions that look like fingerprints. The crack on my head feels bad, but it could be from something as innocuous as getting into a car. I might have taken a taxi home. I pick up my phone. There are two messages. The second is from Tom, received at ten fifteen. I have had enough of this, all right?
LitStack Review: Megan by Steven Novak
She thought you were going to. Leave us alone. Stop calling me, stop hanging around, just leave us alone. Do you understand me? Not anymore. Just stay away from us. Why was Tom looking for me? What did I do to Anna? I pull the duvet over my head, close my eyes tightly. I think about sliding open the glass doors, stealthily creeping into the kitchen.
I grab her from behind, I wind my hand into her long blond hair, I jerk her head backwards, I pull her to the floor and I smash her head against the cool blue tiles. From the angle of the light streaming in through my bedroom window I can tell I have been sleeping a long time; it must be late afternoon, early evening. My head hurts. I can hear someone yelling downstairs.
And my clothes in the hallway. Oh God, oh God. I pull on a pair of tracksuit bottoms and a T-shirt. Cathy is standing right outside my bedroom door when I open it. She looks horrified when she sees me. I cannot have this in my house. I cannot have. You were drunk. You were hungover. I cannot live like this. You have to go, OK?
I sit down on the bed and flip open my laptop, log in to my email account and start to compose a note to my mother. I think, finally, the time has come. I have to ask her for help. I can picture her face as she reads my plea for help, the sour disappointment, the exasperation. I can almost hear her sigh. My phone beeps. My heartbeat quickens as I dial into my voice mail, bracing myself for the worst.
You were in some state last night. I do feel sorry for you, Rachel, I really do, but this has just got to stop. I will never begrudge him happiness—I only wish it could be with me. I lie down on the bed and crawl under the duvet. I want to know what happened; I wish I knew what I had to be sorry for. I try desperately to make sense of an elusive fragment of memory. I feel certain that I was in an argument, or that I witnessed an argument. Was that with Anna? My fingers go to the wound on my head, to the cut on my lip. I can almost see it, I can almost hear the words, but it shifts away from me again.
My teeth are chattering in my head, the tips of my fingers are white with a tinge of blue. I had a panic attack on the way home last night. There was a motorbike, revving its engine over and over and over, and a red car driving slowly past, like a kerb crawler, and two women with buggies blocking my path. The driver leaned on the horn and yelled something at me.
I ran home and through the house and down to the tracks, then I sat down there, waiting for the train to come, to rattle through me and take away the other noises. I tried to climb over the fence, I wanted to sit on the other side for a while, where no one else goes. I cut my hand, so I went inside, and then Scott came back and asked me what had happened.
I said I was doing the washing up and dropped a glass. I got up in the night, left Scott sleeping and sneaked down to the terrace. I dialled his number and listened to his voice when he picked up, at first soft with sleep, and then louder, wary, worried, exasperated. I got voice mail then, bland and businesslike, promising to call me back at his earliest convenience. I was thinking about maybe making little cards, seeing if I could sell them in the gift shop on Kingly Road. Like an invalid! The last thing I need is rest. I need to find something to fill my days.
I could never write down the things I actually feel or think or do. Case in point: when I came home this evening, my laptop was warm. He knows how to delete browser histories and whatever, he can cover his tracks perfectly well, but I know that I turned the computer off before I left. A lot of spam emails from recruitment companies and Jenny from Pilates asking me if I want to join her Thursday-night supper club, where she and her friends take turns cooking one another dinner. I am not a model wife. She really wants to be my friend. It would be bad for him, life-wrecking. It would be a disaster for me, too.
He wanted me to talk afterwards, about what happened when I was young, living in Norwich. I told him things, but not the truth. I lied, made stuff up, told him all the sordid things he wanted to hear. It was fun. He lay on the bed, watching me as I got dressed. Maybe I should bring her round for something to eat after?
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I pour the wine and we go outside. We sit side by side on the edge of the patio, our toes in the grass. I think she might be lonely. They make a beeline straight for you. I felt sorry for her, I honestly did, though not quite as sorry as for myself. We were standing in the hallway, which, despite my best efforts with the bleach, still smelled a bit of sick.
I might have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. I might be a barren, divorced, soon-to-be-homeless alcoholic. How did I find myself here? I wonder where it started, my decline; I wonder at what point I could have halted it. Where did I take the wrong turn? Not when I met Tom, who saved me from grief after Dad died.
Not when we married, carefree, drenched in bliss, on an oddly wintry May day seven years ago. I was happy, solvent, successful. I remember those first days so clearly, walking around, shoeless, feeling the warmth of wooden floorboards underfoot, relishing the space, the emptiness of all those rooms waiting to be filled. Maybe it was then. Maybe that was the moment when things started to go wrong, the moment when I imagined us no longer a couple, but a family; and after that, once I had that picture in my head, just the two of us could never be enough.
Was it then that Tom started to look at me differently, his disappointment mirroring my own? When the train stops at the signal, I look up and see Jason standing on the terrace, looking down at the track. I imagine him smiling at me, and for some reason I feel afraid. He turns away and the train moves on. I have a memory of ducking down to avoid a blow, raising my hands. Is that a real memory? The doctor approaches again and peers more closely at the wound.
I bumped it getting into a car. Is there someone I can call for you? Your husband? I wonder if I can ask the doctor to do a blood test or something so that I can provide her with proof of my sobriety. I stepped right out—ran right out, actually—in front of the cab. I was thinking about Jess. It looked like her, she looked exactly the way she looks in my head, but I doubted myself.
Then I read the story and I saw the street name and I knew. Buckinghamshire Police are becoming increasingly concerned for the welfare of a missing twenty-nine-year-old woman, Megan Hipwell, of Blenheim Road, Witney.
Hipwell said. Hipwell was wearing jeans and a red T-shirt. She is five foot four, slim, with blond hair and blue eyes. Anyone with information regarding Mrs. Hipwell is requested to contact Buckinghamshire Police. Jess is missing. Megan is missing. Since Saturday. I Googled her—the story appeared in the Witney Argus, but with no further details. I thought about seeing Jason—Scott—this morning, standing on the terrace, looking at me, smiling at me. I grabbed my bag and got to my feet and ran out of the library, into the road, right into the path of a black cab.
I just want to remain safe and warm in my haven with Scott, undisturbed. I want to stay here, holed up with my husband, watching TV and eating ice cream, after calling him to come home from work early so we can have sex in the middle of the afternoon. Kamal says I have to find a way of making myself happy, I have to stop looking for happiness elsewhere. I think about that time when we went on a family holiday to Santa Margherita in the Easter school holidays. Which, of course, he was.
I miss the way we were when we were together, Ben and I. We were fearless. I trust him, I really do. It matters how they make me feel. Stifled, restless, hungry. Well, sometimes they do. Sometimes all I need is Scott. I have to focus. I was in Ipswich for a while; not long. I met Mac there, the first time. He was working in a pub or something. He picked me up on his way home. He felt sorry for me. And he waited, he did, until my sixteenth birthday.
An old stone cottage at the end of a lane leading nowhere, with a bit of land around it, about half a mile from the beach. There was an old railway track running along one side of the property. I lived with him for. God, it was about three years, I think, in the end. I was. For the first time in a decade, I look for Mac. There are hundreds of Craig McKenzies in the world, and none of them seems to be mine. I can feel them watching me, beady-eyed, calculating. A tiding of magpies. One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told.
Scott is away, on a course somewhere in Sussex. I can do whatever I want. Before he left, I told Scott I was going to the cinema with Tara after my session. I told him my phone would be off, and I spoke to her, too. I warned her that he might ring, that he might check up on me. She asked me, this time, what I was up to.
I just winked and smiled, and she laughed. I think she might be lonely, that her life could do with a bit of intrigue. In my session with Kamal, we were talking about Scott, about the thing with the laptop. It happened about a week ago. There are pictures of almost everyone on the Internet these days, and I wanted to see his face. I went to bed early that night. In any case, I forgot. And the next day, we got into a fight.
One of the bruising ones. Stupidly, I told Scott that he was a friend from my past, which only made it worse. Kamal asked me if I was afraid of Scott, and I got really pissed off. I actually shocked myself. It was a surprise to me, too. I shrugged. When the session ended, I asked him if he wanted to have a drink with me.
So I followed him home. He lives in a flat just down the road from the practice. I got up in the early hours of the morning, head spinning, full of stories. Found myself here. The air is cold in my lungs, the tips of my fingers are turning blue. Part of me just wants to lie down here, among the leaves, let the cold take me.
The child, for once, is silent. Usually, I would pretend to be nice, but this morning I feel real, like myself. I woke feverish, panicky. I do feel guilty. Just not guilty enough. He was getting dressed, pulling on his jeans. He shot me a look. I feel uneasy. I need him. It was on the BBC website and Daily Mail this morning; there were a few snippets mentioning it on other sites, too. From them I have gleaned the following: Megan and Scott argued on Saturday evening. A neighbour reported hearing raised voices. Tara says the last time she saw Megan was on Friday afternoon at their Pilates class.
I knew Megan would do Pilates. According to Ms. She was in a good mood, she was talking about doing something special for her thirtieth birthday next month. Megan has no family in the area. Both her parents are deceased. Megan is unemployed. She used to run a small art gallery in Witney, but it closed down in April last year. I knew Megan would be arty.
Scott is a self-employed IT consultant. Megan and Scott have been married for three years; they have been living in the house on Blenheim Road since January According to the Daily Mail, their house is worth four hundred thousand pounds. Reading this, I know that things look bad for Scott. It could be that I am the only person who knows that the boyfriend exists. I scrabble around in my bag for a scrap of paper. She has run off with her boyfriend, who from here on in, I will refer to as B. B has harmed her. Scott has harmed her. She has simply left her husband and gone to live elsewhere.
Someone other than B or Scott has harmed her. I can hear the blood pulsing in my head. I feel excited. I feel afraid. The windows of number fifteen, reflecting morning sunshine, look like sightless eyes. I let it go to voice mail. I overreacted. You can stay as long as you want to. I wanted a drink at lunchtime; I was desperate for one after what happened in Witney this morning. It was so strange, this morning, my trip to Witney. It may as well have been a completely different place, though, a different station in a different town. I was a different person than the one who went there on Saturday night.
Today I was stiff and sober, hyperaware of the noise and the light and fear of discovery. I was trespassing. Down the concrete steps at the station, right past the newspaper kiosk into Roseberry Avenue, half a block to the end of the T-junction, to the right the archway leading to a dank pedestrian underpass beneath the track, and to the left Blenheim Road, narrow and tree-lined, flanked with its handsome Victorian terraces.
This morning, as I walked past the blackened tunnel mouth, the entrance to the underpass, my pace quickened. There was never anyone there—not on any of those nights and not today—and yet I stopped dead as I looked into the darkness this morning, because I could suddenly see myself. I could see myself a few metres in, slumped against the wall, my head in my hands, and both head and hands smeared with blood.
My heart thudding in my chest, I stood there, morning commuters stepping around me as they continued on their way to the station, one or two turning to look at me as they passed, as I stood stock- still. Why would I have gone into the underpass? I turned around and headed back to the station. I wanted to get away from there. Something bad happened there, I know it did. I paid for my ticket and walked quickly up the station steps to the other side of the platform, and as I did it came to me again in a flash: not the underpass this time, but the steps; stumbling on the steps and a man taking my arm, helping me up.
The man from the train, with the reddish hair. I could see him, a vague picture but no dialogue. I could remember laughing—at myself, or at something he said. Almost sure. I got on the train and went into London. I went to the library and sat at a computer terminal, looking for stories about Megan. They gave a Crimestoppers number, too, which you can ring if you have information. Poor girl, she really is worried about me. Are you on the train? Are you on your way home?
I was in a panic by the time I got back to the flat last night. It had to be something to do with Saturday night. I must have done something. I must have committed some terrible act and blacked it out. I know it sounds unlikely. What could I have done? Gone to Blenheim Road, attacked Megan Hipwell, disposed of her body somewhere and then forgotten all about it? It sounds ridiculous. It is ridiculous. But I know something happened on Saturday.
Total black; hours lost, never to be retrieved. Tom bought me a book about it. I think he wanted me to see the damage I was doing, the kind of things I might be capable of. His theory was that you get into a state where your brain no longer makes short-term memories. He had anecdotes, too, cautionary tales for the blacked-out drinker: There was a guy in New Jersey who got drunk at a fourth of July party.
Afterwards, he got into his car, drove several miles in the wrong direction on the motorway and ploughed into a van carrying seven people. The van burst into flames and six people died. The drunk guy was fine. They always are. He had no memory of getting into his car. The police officers were sitting on the sofa in the living room, a fortysomething man in plain clothes and a younger one in uniform with acne on his neck. Cathy was standing next to the window, wringing her hands.
She looked terrified. The policemen got up. The plainclothes one, very tall and slightly stooped, shook my hand and introduced himself as Detective Inspector Gaskill. I was barely breathing. Is it my mother? Is it Tom? They want to know what I did on Saturday evening. What the fuck did I do on Saturday evening? Cathy was shifting from one foot to another, chewing on her lower lip. She looked frantic. He motioned to the cut above my eye. I went to the hospital. You can check. Saturday evening? The detective ignored her. Tom Watson? It was just more convenient. His lips barely moved when he spoke.
I think it was around six thirty. Maybe it was closer to eight. Yes, actually, I remember now—I think I got home just after eight. The detective turned around, grabbed one of the chairs pushed under the table in the corner and pulled it towards him in a swift, almost violent movement. He placed it directly opposite me, a couple of feet away. He sat down, his hands on his knees, head cocked to one side. And you were back here around eight, which means you must have left Witney at around seven thirty. Does that sound about right?
So what did you do during that hour in Witney? That must have made me look guilty of something. What is going on? We have been going door-to-door, asking people if they remember seeing her that night, or if they remember seeing or hearing anything unusual. And during the course of our enquiries, your name came up. Hipwell, the missing woman, left her home. Anna Watson told us that she saw you in the street, near Mrs.
She said that you were acting strangely, and that she was worried. So worried, in fact, that she considered calling the police. Blood on my hands. Mine, surely? It had to be mine. I looked up at Gaskill, saw his eyes on mine and knew that I had to say something quickly to stop him reading my mind. I just. He pulled a photograph out of his jacket pocket and showed it to me. It was a picture of Megan. I stared at it for a long time.
It was a close-up head shot, a professional job. Did you see her? So you might have seen her? Watson—Anna Watson—said that she thought you were drunk when she saw you outside her home. Were you drunk? He seemed disappointed in me. He glanced over at Neck Acne, then back at me. Slowly, deliberately, he got to his feet and pushed the chair back to its position under the table. As Gaskill nodded sombrely at Cathy, preparing to leave, I slumped back into the sofa. Huntingdon Whitely? I should never have gone to the police station. I really feel that, crazy as it sounds.
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OK, so helping Scott was not my sole reason for going to the police. There was the matter of the lie, which needed sorting out. The lie about my working for Huntingdon Whitely. It took me ages to get up the courage to go into the station. I was on the verge of turning back and going home a dozen times, but eventually I went in. By that time I was sweating and trembling like a woman on her way to the scaffold. I was shown into another room, smaller and stuffier still, windowless and airless.
I was left there alone for a further ten minutes before Gaskill and a woman, also in plain clothes, turned up. He introduced his companion as Detective Sergeant Riley. She is younger than I am, tall, slim, dark-haired, pretty in a sharp-featured, vulpine sort of way. She did not return my smile. We all sat down and nobody said anything; they just looked at me expectantly. I can describe him.
I slipped on the steps and he caught my arm. I think he was wearing a blue shirt. I think that he got off at Witney, and I think he might have spoken to me. There have been many slips, on many staircases. I have no idea what he was wearing. The detectives were not impressed with my tale. Riley gave an almost imperceptible shake of her head.
Gaskill unclasped his hands and spread them out, palms upwards, in front of him. Is that really what you came here to tell me, Ms. There was no anger in his tone, he sounded almost encouraging. I wished that Riley would go away. I could talk to him; I could trust him. I have some money.