Afraid and lost among strangers

Today I’m sharing an except from my novel ‘Loving Judah’; Judah was Aislin’s step-son, and since his death while trekking in Kashmir, the relationship between Aislin and Judah’s father Peter has fallen apart, both struggling with their grief. Peter blames Aislin for ‘encouraging’ Judah to go, Aislin feels excluded and alone. Thew were renovating their house, an old place they had just moved into, and Peter, while Judah was missing went almost mad, ripping up floorboards, pulling doors from their hinges, stripping out the electricity cables and most of the plumbing leaving them to live in chaos.

Aislin goes into the local town to buy groceries:

Loaded down with her purchases Aislin returned to the car; she went into the supermarket, bought what she needed but then, as she put her shopping in the car, she remembered wine. She was in no hurry to get home, she didn’t want to return too soon and interrupt Peter’s conversation with the vicar.
In the supermarket again Aislin bought half a dozen South African reds and carefully holding the cardboard carrier headed back to the car.
She was nearly killed. A sunflower yellow Subaru screeched past, missing her by inches, leaving her trembling and out of breath with shock.
“Maniac!” said an old man coming up beside her. “Are you alright, my dear?”
Aislin took a couple of deep breaths. “What a madman, thank God I hadn’t got any children with me!”
The car had rocketed out of the car park with a scream of brakes and a skid of tyres.
“Did you see the number?” asked the old man. But she hadn’t, it was yellow, that was all she could say. “You ought to tell the police!”
She assured the kindly old chap she was alright and as her heart settled back to a more normal rhythm she walked back to her own car.
Judah was standing there.
But of course he wasn’t. The man standing by her car didn’t even look like Judah; it gave her a start all the same. As she walked towards him he leant back so he was leaning against the boot and then bent over, hands on knees, head down.
Had he been hit by the car? Was he alright? She hurried towards him.
“Are you o.k.?” she called.
He stood slowly and looked towards her. His face was white, the skin drawn and taught so his glazed eyes looked huge in his face. He was clean shaven but his jaw and chin were dark against the pale skin. He looked as if he was in deep shock, every movement slow and deliberate as if he didn’t know quite what he was doing.
“Are you alright? Did it hit you? The car – did it hit you?”
“Car?” he said quietly as if puzzled, the r in the word rolling. “I’ve been mugged,” he said as if surprised.
“Are you hurt?” she put the wine down and held his arm, looking anxiously up into this face.
“Where is this?” he asked looking round as if in slow motion. What was the matter with him? “Where am I?”
“Copthwaite, Yorkshire. Let’s go back to the supermarket, you can sit down and we’ll call the police. Are you hurt?” she asked again.
He took a deep breath as if he was trying to pull himself together. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Sorry. I must seem mad.” His accent was strong, Somerset maybe.
“Come back to the shop,” she urged.
He looked down at her again and his eyes filled with tears. She thought of Judah. Judah in a strange place, Judah attacked, Judah alone.
“Look, this is my car. Sit in it for a while until you feel better and then we’ll get the police.”
She took his arm and drew him to get into the passenger seat then almost tripped over her box of wine. When Aislin got in the car he was crying, face in hands.
“Sorry,” he said “This is so embarrassing.”
“What happened?” Aislin passed him a box of tissues.
“I was flying up to Glasgow… the plane was diverted to Leeds. I couldn’t face going to Scotland… I got a taxi… the driver recognised me and kicked me out. He drove off with my things. I got in another car, I thought it was a taxi…. He said he knew a quiet place out of town… I think I slept. He stopped here, I had some money out to pay him but he grabbed it and my leather jacket…”
“Right, I’ll drive you to the police station.”
“No. No. I couldn’t face that,” his face was red now from weeping. There was more to this distress than the strange tale he’d told. “You don’t know who I am, do you?”
She stared at him; in his thirties, dark curly hair cut short, straight black brows, brown eyes, a broad handsome face. He was lost. Not just physically, he was emotionally adrift somewhere… and he was frightened, very frightened.
I hope you never felt like this, Judah. I hope you were never afraid and lost among strangers.

© Lois Elsden 2018

Here is a link so you can find out what happens to Peter and Aislin, and who the stranger is – and why he’s in the car-park in Copthwaite!

She had to run, had to get away…

Here is an extract from my novel ‘Loving Judah’; Aislin has been kidnapped but manages to escape – she is high up on a moor, in the dark, in a storm, and Pal, the man who kidnapped her is in pursuit:

He groaned and she punched viciously at his face, and felt his moustache and teeth against her knuckles. She threw her fleece over him and tumbled him into the boot and slammed the lid down. It caught him across the ankle and he screamed and when she slammed it down again  trapping him inside as she had been.

Oh jesus jesus jesus

She was shaking violently with cold and shock.

She ran round to the driver’s side and thank  God he had left the keys in the ignition. She couldn’t start it, The engine kept dying, And all the while Pal shouted and kicked in the boot. The car choked into life and as she put it into gear, her wet foot slipped on the clutch and they stalled. She started again, the engine roaring as she revved it too hard then they jerked forward and as she set off she tried to find the headlights, found the wipers first and then the lights came up, full beam. She crashed into second, accelerating up the bumpy road. She had to turn round but couldn’t try the manoeuvre when she didn’t know where they were. There was a crash behind her and she could hear Pal’s voice cursing her clearly now, he had kicked his way through into the back from the boot.

Aislin stepped on the brake and tried to find the handle to get out. An arm snaked round her throat and she was throttled against the head rest. She thrashed her arm around trying to hit him but he grasped her wrist. She slammed her foot down and they shot forward into the darkness.. Pal was screaming at her to stop, she could say nothing because she was almost passing out, strangled by his forearm.

They glanced off a wall  and then were bouncing madly downhill as they left the road. She was nearly unconscious, stars flashing before her eyes as she struggled to escape Pal.

There was a huge crash as they hit something big and hard and Pal rose up behind her with the force of the impact and the windscreen shattered in front of her.

The car had stalled and she found the door  release and tumbled out.

She fell face first into heather and the smell of peat was clean and good. She scrambled to her knees and then the stink of petrol hit her. She had to run, had to get away, the car was going to catch on fire. It was raining in sheets but that wouldn’t stop the car blowing up, she had seen it in a dozen films.

Pal was still inside.

She called his name but there was no reply. Was he dead, smashed through the windscreen?

He was lying across the front seats, the windscreen was shattered but intact. Aislin called his name but there was no response. His legs were across the driver’s seat, his head in the passenger’s footwell. Not another dead boy, not another dead boy.

She stumbled round to the other side of the car and wrenched the door open. She grasped Pal under the arms, he was lying face down and she had to try to lift him as she pulled and tugged his inert body. He wasn’t tall but he was very heavy. There was a crackle and a huge flash and the sky lit up.

Oh god the car was on fire.

But it was lightning.

She heaved him again and he slid from the car and she had a strange image of something giving birth and the new-born slithering into the world.

She began to drag him across the heather, falling every second step as she tripped.

Then suddenly there was nothing beneath her feet and she was tumbling, rolling with Pal across her. They landed on stone and he groaned as he landed heavily.

“Are you alright?” she cried stupidly. “Pal, are you alright?”

“You bitch!” and he lunged up at her.

If you want to find out if Aislin escapes this predicament, or how she got into it, here is a link to my book:

Loving Judah… losing Judah…

I’m going to share an excerpt from the early part of my novel, ‘Loving Judah’; you may think from the title that it’s a romance about someone who is very much taken by Judah. In fact, Judah doesn’t appear in the novel which opens on the day of his funeral. He was the son of Peter and step son of Aislin and died while trekking in Kashmir. Instead of his death bringing them together, it alienates Peter from his wife whom he blames for encouraging Judah to take the trip.

Peter and Aislin bought an old house in need of a great deal of restoration; when Judah went missing, Peter took out his frustration and anguish on it, ripping up the floor boards which had needed replacing but in an organised way, ditto the doors which he took off and smashed up in the garden, ditto the central heating system leaving them with no hot water… the house is almost a ruin. After the funeral, Peter stays in bed – fortunately for Aislin her best friend Sandi arrives to stay…

Peter remained in bed and Sandi ran up and down to him with drinks and sandwiches he didn’t eat.

“Let me take you out to lunch, you look as if you could do with it,” she said to Aislin. “How on earth do you manage with no electricity and no hot water? This house is like a deep-freeze, I mean, hell, how do you wash?”

Aislin made light of it; she’d manage the same as her granny had, and at least there was a launderette in town.

“And no doors? It’s mad!  How long’s it been like this?”

It had been months… Aislin began to realise soon after they moved that it wasn’t going to be as easy as they’d imagined. They could decorate, and fix shelves and units… But plumbing? Electrics? Renovating the kitchen and bathroom?  Peter had a vision of knocking down walls but Aislin soon saw that they didn’t have the least idea of how to do any of these things.

Sandi suggested getting a builder in straight away, move into a hotel until it was all done.

It had all gone wrong with the first phone call a matter of weeks after they had moved. Judah was missing; they held on for a while, waiting for the good news that he was found safe and well. For about a month they hung on… until a few weeks before Christmas when Aislin went completely to pieces. She couldn’t stop crying and Peter threw himself into physical activity, as if occupying his body would take his mind off the dreadful fear, the not even daring to hope, the awful stomach churning, numbing pain and dread. He attacked the wiring, ripping out sockets and switches off the walls and tearing out cables, plunging them into darkness… literally and metaphorically. Aislin followed him about snivelling and annoying him while he created chaos. There was plaster in his hair and a sort of black gunge out of the roof space when he brought the ceiling in the little bedroom down. The original ceiling roses had been beautiful but all had come down with the heavens falling about them.

“Did none of your friends come and help? Did no-one offer to put you up?”

“Of course! Pete just… well, he can be quite rude… and after a while the visitors stopped coming and so did the offers of help…” Aislin shook her head, in despair.

His madness went on for weeks, working destructively like a maniac until it was too dark to see, only stopping to phone the Foreign Office, there was no electricity so no computer. As soon as he’d ripped out all electric fittings, he attacked the bathroom all the tiles off the wall, the shower unit out…

“God that was a nightmare, he’d forgotten to turn off the water!”

He’d torn the doors from their hinges, then ripped the floorboards up from the hall and hurled them out of the front door into the garden. He was so angry.

“One night he decided to go for a run.  I was so frightened, I thought of calling the police, but I went to bed and lay in the dark, crying my eyes out.”

He came back as it was beginning to get light and attacked the floorboards again. Aislin had snatched the crowbar away and threw it into the garden. He went after it and she wrestled it away and then they had both broken down.

“It began to rain and we came in, into the icebox. He was so tired, emotionally as much as physically…  We seemed closer then, reconnected to each other and we stayed in bed for a few days, it was so bitterly cold apart from anything else…

“We were filthy, hadn’t washed properly, hadn’t even thought about it…   the kitchen was heaped with dirty dishes and half eaten food. We heated pans of water and washed us and the dishes. But he got up in the early hours and started again, ripping the units out of the kitchen, the madness, the frenetic activity started again.”

“Ashy, you should have got help…” Sandi was appalled, horrified.

One night she managed to drag him to the pub… she was beginning to think it was the house’s fault, that it was responsible. Stupid, but at times like that you think stupid things, say stupid things. Suddenly his phone rang and it was the worst possible news. They’d found Judah. The landlord Jimmy, a friend of Pete’s, got him upstairs and into the shower while Aislin dashed home and packed his bags and found his passport. Jimmy drove him to the airport and she walked home alone.

“It was only as I stood on the drive and looked at the house, the front door wide open as I’d left it, the garden full of broken floorboards that I wondered why I hadn’t gone with Pete. I realised our worry and anxiety had set us apart from each other, any emotional and mental closeness was an illusion.”

If you want to find out what happens to Aislin, here is a link to my book:

Location, setting or place

I was thinking about writing about location, setting and place with my writing group yesterday I set them a task to write about… location, setting or place with a few pictures as inspiration or stimulus if needed.

This is what I asked them to do:

For next time… Some suggestions…

  • Write a descriptive piece about a real or remembered or imaginary place
  • Use any of the pictures as stimulus – or not!
  • When you’ve finished your piece, maybe share some thoughts on what you have written – such as those mentioned on the sheet

I hope they will bring their pieces to share next time, in the meantime yesterday, while they shared what they had written over the last month, I read something I’d written, about location, setting place!

This is from one of my novel’s but slightly rewritten to take out things which wouldn’t be understood as an extract without a lot of explanation! I have also changed the names of the characters here:

 Ben takes his friend Alyse to visit the house he shared with his ex-wife, Sasha.

It was a large house and beautiful. The hall was spacious, a window on the mezzanine casting light even on this miserable day. Ben was in the lounge, green carpet and one green wall contrasting with three pink walls. Everything was co-ordinated, even to the pink and green leather suites, even to the tiles surrounding the large replica fireplace. All the fittings, lamps, curtain rails, sconces, candle sticks were old gold. An ornate mirror hung above the fireplace and there was not a single picture on any walls. It was like a show home and Ben’s description of it as a hotel was exactly right. It was perfect, expensive, but impersonal, characterless. Even the large doll clowns, lounging here and there added nothing.

Ben led her through into a huge sun room filled with cane furniture and massive house plants. A door opened into a dining room; on the long glass table was a vase of artificial flowers; the chairs were a grey metal chairs, and along the walls were metal and glass units. The décor here was purple and lime. There was another mirror but again, no pictures.

Stepping into the kitchen was like arriving in Morocco, fierce Mediterranean colours, terra cotta, blue and green wavy lines. It was overwhelming. All the cupboards were faced in distressed wooden doors; a farmhouse style table stood in the centre and to one side a butcher’s block. At last a couple of books, TV bakers and the Helmsleys.

He looked into a final room, a family or play room then led her back into the hall and upstairs. He went into what had been his and Sasha’s room, decorated in purple and gold. The white carpet was thick and deep, the voile that shimmered at the windows down to the floor was shot with gold thread, the mountain of soft toys on the four-poster bed matched the decor, all in shades of purple or gold. At last there were pictures, twee paintings of sad-eyed clowns.

Ben slid aside the doors of a walk-in wardrobe; another door revealed drawers and he pulled out a couple and left them open. As Alyse watched from the doorway she felt it was unlike him; in her home he’d always put everything away – when he cooked he washed and cleaned and tidied.

Ben went into another room, opening wardrobes, checking drawers and then into a small room with a single bed; it was carefully decorated but not as ostentatiously perfect as the others. The wardrobe was full of his clothes, suits, jackets and shirts; rows of shoes were on racks at the bottom. He took nothing but went to the chest of drawers. He pulled out each drawer, full of folded underwear, t-shirts, sweaters. Alyse had thought he wanted to collect some belongings but he took nothing, touched nothing.

They stood on the landing; he stared at her but it was as if he was thinking of something or someone else.

There were three more rooms, a family bathroom, a study and a nursery… The nursery was beautifully decorated in lilac and eau de nil. Alyse stepped looked round; a cot, a mobile hanging above it, a rocking horse, shelves stacked with white garments, and more soft toys. Suddenly she felt sorry for Sasha. Sasha had fallen in love with Ben and against the odds had managed to ensnare him into marriage. She’d had such plans, such domestic ambition, and then she was betrayed. There was something disturbing in this room, something weird and not right. This would be Sasha’s child sleeping here, not Ben’s.

© Lois Elsden 2017

Here’s a link to my ebooks and paperbacks… the story this extract came from is Loving Judah:

No glimmer of a light

All sorts of things trigger a thought which develops into a scene, which ends up as an episode and becomes a book.  Loving Judah is about a bereaved couple – the death of the husband’s son, Judah, causes a rift between him and his wife, Aislin who was Judah’s step-mother. It should have brought them together, but this tragedy drags them apart. However, the original inspiration was the story which was across all the media, about a famous person who had been held up as a model for all, an example of honour, dignity, sincerity,  who had betrayed not just his family and personal friends and associated, but all those who had admired him and looked up to him. He was disgraced. In Loving Judah,  Aislin meets Bavol who was also disgraced – but on a much smaller and more local scale.

The book is the story of the fragmentation of Aislin’s marriage, and her relationship with Bavol. There seemed so much talk in the story I needed some action! I hope this scene does appear realistic in the context of the whole story – Aislin is kidnapped by Bavol’s jealous brother, Pal, and is taken out onto the moors because he wants to ‘talk to her’ – although she fears he intends much worse:

She staggered and limped beside Pal; he’d picked up a stick and held it like a club as they walked slowly back up the road. It was made up of setts like the old parts of town at home. They were miles from anywhere, there was no glimmer of a light, no sign of habitation.
The boot of the car still yawned open, Aislin was going to have to climb back in. She stopped and unzipped her sodden fleece, struggling to unlatch it at the bottom.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“It’s soaking wet,” she replied and turned slightly away from him as if to try to see where it was caught.
“Hurry up!”
She undid the zip and pulled it off. Suddenly she lashed out with her foot and caught him on the knee, he staggered and she kicked again and connected hard against his balls. He groaned and she punched viciously at his face, and his moustache and teeth mashed against her knuckles. She threw her fleece over him and tumbled him into the boot and slammed the lid down. It caught him across the ankle and he screamed and when she slammed it down again she trapped him inside as she had been.
She had to escape because Pal intended to kill her. There was no logic in his arguments, no reason to what he said. He believed Bavol loved her and he wanted to take her away from him, that was all.
Thank God he’d left the keys in the ignition! She was shaking violently with cold and shock and the engine kept dying, and all the while Pal shouted and kicked. The car choked into life but as she put it into gear, her bare wet foot slipped on the clutch and they stalled. She started again, the engine roaring as she revved too hard then they jerked forward and as she set off she tried to find the headlights, found the wipers first and then the lights came up, full beam. She crunched into second, accelerating up the bumpy road. There was a crash behind her and Pal’s cursing was clear, he’d kicked his way through into the back of the car.
Aislin stepped on the brake and tried to find the door handle but an arm snaked round her throat and she was throttled against the head rest. She thrashed around trying to hit him but he grasped her wrist and she slammed her foot down and they shot forward into the darkness. Pal was screaming at her to stop but she was almost passing out, strangled by his forearm.
They glanced off a wall and then were bouncing madly downhill as they left the road. She was nearly unconscious, stars flashing before her eyes as she struggled to escape. There was a huge crash as they hit something big and hard and Pal rose up behind her with the force of the impact and the windscreen shattered.
The car stalled and she found the door release and tumbled out and fell face first into heather and the smell of peat was clean and good. She scrambled to her knees and the stink of petrol hit her. She had to run, had to get away, the car was going to catch on fire. It was raining in sheets but that wouldn’t stop the car blowing up, she’d seen it in a dozen films.
Pal was still inside and she called his name but he was silent. Was he dead, smashed through the windscreen?
He was lying across the front seats, his head in the passenger’s footwell. Not another dead boy, not another dead boy!
She wrenched the nearside door open and grasped him under the arms; he was face down and she pulled and tugged at his inert body. He wasn’t tall but he was very heavy. There was a crackle and a huge flash and the sky lit up.
Oh God the car’s on fire! But it was lightning.
She heaved him again and he slid out and she had a disturbing image of something giving birth and the new-born slithering into the world. She dragged him across the heather and then there was nothing beneath her feet and she was tumbling and landed heavily on stone with Pal on top of her.
“Pal, are you alright?” she cried stupidly.
“You bitch!” and he lunged at her.
She pushed him back and jumped up and began to run. They were back among the trees, and Aislin was blindly following a cobbled path. Judah was urging her on as Pal grunted and lumbered after her.
Suddenly the path wasn’t there and she fell into soaking bracken. There were heaps of mossy stones like fallen masonry. She could barely see in the dark and the slashing rain but there were lumps of granite beneath her bare hands. She skittered across on all fours, having some space in her terror to worry that she would slip and break her ankle.
She jumped down a stone wall and was inside a ruined building and there was water racing nearby.
She screamed and dodged away but she was trapped. There was a collapsed doorway and she clambered over the fallen lintel, shrieking now, yelling desperately.
She stopped just in time from dropping into a raging torrent of a mountain stream and turned to face Pal. He was going to push her in but with a surge of courage she ran straight at him and he was taken by surprise, his reactions slowed by whatever hurt he’d sustained in the crash. They rolled on the floor in a crazy embrace, she trying to cling onto him, he trying to get her over the edge. She flailed around and her hand connected with a slimy branch and she brought it down on his head. He cried out and she rolled away and he tumbled into the stream.

© Lois Elsden 2017

If you want to find out how Aislin ended up in this situation, and whether she escaped from it, here is a link to Loving Judah:

Settings… too close to home?

I know I’m mentioned this before, rambled on about it most likely, but I’m puzzling over the feasibility (for me) of writing something set in a location which is not only real, but somewhere I know very well… for example the place where I live now. Most of my novels are set in an imaginary town, on an imaginary coastline, with an imaginary big city with an airport and motorway connections nearby, with imaginary villages all around, moors, hills, marl pits, post-industrial landscapes… all completely fictitious, all existing only in my own mind and that of my readers.

I have only set one of my novels, ‘Flipside’ in a real place, the town of Oldham where I lived for many years. I did set another novel, ‘Loving Judah’ in two real areas of the country, Yorkshire and Cornwall, but the actual locations were just invented.

Why have I done this? Well, for me it gave a freedom to be totally creative in terms of plot… I needed a run-down, shabby town… so here is Castair; I needed a rather posh village, the ‘locals’ pushed out by townie incomers who bought up local homes and pushed up the prices, so her is Bethel; I needed marl pits – here they are on the far side of Castair… I need an old disused factory, a Methodist chapel turned into a posh restaurant, a network of little ‘lanes’ filled with expensive jewellery and knick-knack shops, fancy ice-cream parlours, ethnic delis, over-priced footwear boutiques… All can be done with an imaginary place. I am very careful to make my places ‘work’ and to be consistent with directions, connections and distances.

Having an imaginary setting can help to ensure that the reader understands my characters are totally fictional, completely products of my mind, and that any accidental similarities to anyone is just a complete coincidence.

I have mentioned all this before, but it is playing on my mind a little as I have written a series of scenes based on where I live now, a small village right next to the sea, on the estuary of a river which was once navigable deep into Somerset, but now is a sleepy remnant of itself for many of its miles. My characters go into ‘my’ pub, drink the beer I drink, go for meals in ‘the other’ pub, go into ‘our’ paper-shop, walk past the village school, the castle the bluebell field, Rose Cottage, the old school cottage…  My dilemma is whether I should rework these scenes into another imaginary location, changing, omitting, adding features and places. Might people I know think I’m writing about them if my story is here in our village? Might I inadvertently have a story-line which parallels a real situation of a real person – a person who might think I have stolen the story from them?

Recently I have been reading a series of books set not far from here, in and around Bridgwater, Burnham, Brean Down and the coastline all along here, a coast I know very well. The series is by Damien Boyd, they are police procedurals ‘starring’ Nick Dixon a maverick police officer.  As a reader it’s been quite exciting -‘ooh, I know that golf club/church/street/motorway services!’  I have even been into a couple of the pubs he mentions (no surprise there!) One of the novels is set when we had terrible floods down here in 2014 where a lot of our county was under water for months. Of course, in the novel, the crime scene was also under water!

Reading Boyd’s novels has really set me thinking yet again about location… our little village has so much to offer as a setting for novels – ruined church built on the site of a much older Anglo-Saxon chapel, a Neolithic hill fort, an ancient wharf where Phoenicians, Romans and Vikings shipped stuff out and brought stuff in, brickworks, claypits, quarries and lime kilns, ancient caves, water meadows, dangerous mud and quicksand, dunes, floods and a tsunami, golf course, wonderful pubs, restaurant, tearoom, picturesque and quaint old buildings, stylish new buildings, mysterious wooded areas with strange earthworks, nearby motorway connecting to London, the north, the south… anywhere in the country really! – legends of pirates and smugglers, local characters, real celebrities (John Cleese, William Lisle Bowles, Hannah Moore) sea frets and sea fog (the fog horn now defunct)…

Hmmm, I must ponder some more…

Meanwile, a link to my books:

“Loving Judah”:


I really recommend Damien Boyd’s books and you can find more about him and them here:

…and an interesting article from some time ago about Uphill:

The first light of dawn

This morning I am sharing the second chapter of my e-book ‘Loving Judah’; when a terrible tragedy strikes, some people are drawn together even more closely, others’ relationship is ripped apart. In my story, Aislin’s step-son has died on a trekking expedition to Kashmir; her husband Peter, Judah’s father, is understandably devastated but his grief seems to be drawing him away from her, rather than pulling him closer:

The beautiful day was a mockery. Aislin had seen the first light of dawn as she  stood by the uncurtained window and now She watched Peter, stiff from sitting downstairs all night, slowly stumble out into the early morning. He was bent like an old man as he almost tripped over the pile of rubble, splashed into the pool which had gathered. He seemed barely conscious, as if all feeling, all thought was buried beneath the huge weight of misery that overwhelmed him. Hardly aware of what he was doing he unzipped his flies and peed into the heap of sand.

When Peter wandered into the bedroom she was in bed and lay watching him as he took off his suit and pulled on his pyjamas and the sweater he slept in. Surely it was light enough for him to see that she was not asleep?

He got into bed but lay as far from her as he was able, on his back staring at the ceiling.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

Peter did not reply but rolled over so his back was towards her.

Aislin swallowed her upset; She had lain weeping through the night, images of Judah flashing in her mind whether her eyes were open or closed. And somewhere deep in her heart she secretly pondered whether she would have felt differently if he had been her son. Surely she could not hurt more? Her sorrow was physical, a pain that constricted her chest.

She got up and for some reason thought of how she used to go to bed naked; When she and Pete were first together she did not even possess a night dress

She pushed her feet into her trainers and staggered into the chilly bathroom, climbing over the cardboard packages containing the shower unit. Can I really bear to wash in cold water again? Yesterday she had risen early and heated water on the range and brought it up to the bathroom… Yesterday. She had a sudden flash of the coffin. It was biodegradable.

She cleaned her teeth, and shivering returned to the bedroom.

Peter was awake.

“Can we get the electricity fixed and the boiler connected as a priority, I really have just about had it with washing in cold water,” she said, stripping off her sweatshirt and pyjamas.

“Have you forgotten what happened yesterday?” Peter asked, his pale face unusually flushed.

what did he mean? Apart from the funeral, nothing had happened yesterday.

“What did happen yesterday?” she asked, zipping up her jeans.

“What is the matter with you?” he bellowed, sitting up. “Not content with sending my son to his death, you can’t wait to get him in the ground and forgotten, as if he never existed!”

“Peter!” she exclaimed outraged.

“He was always a problem to you wasn’t he? You didn’t even want to marry me because of him!”

“Peter that is so unfair!” she could hardly think of the words to combat this nonsense “I loved Judah, I always loved him! Right from the first! I’m sorry but you’re out of order to say that – I know you are upset – “

“Upset!” Peter screamed “Upset? My only child dies thousands of miles from home, of course I’m bloody upset!”

He threw himself back onto the bed and pulled the covers up over his face.

Aislin’s heart was turned to stone even as her mind tried to reason. He’s hurting, he’s grieving, but that is so so bloody unfair. the doctor had said something about grief and grieving, about bereavement – anger, guilt, disbelief, acceptance, she had muddled it. Whatever. Peter was angry, angry with her, but it was only because she was there. She stamped out of the room and if there had been a door she would have slammed it. That had been one of Peter’s first jobs in the house, ripping every hideous door from its hinges and flinging it in the skip. They were horrible, even without the awful paint flaking from them, but at least they allowed for some privacy in the bathroom. Aislin was indifferent to it now and wondered if there was a door yet designed which would please them both.

Her foot connected with the lantern still standing at the top of the stairs where she had left it last night and it tumbled down the steps and she heard the glass shatter.

She took her anger out on the house. This sodding house, this bloody house, this damned bloody bloody sodding house. She stamped down the stairs, cursing at each step.

Let’s sell it, Pete, lets sell the damned ruin. Lets find a brand new house, an executive dwelling on an exclusive estate. The whole thing was a mistake a crazy damned stupid bloody sodding mistake, bugger it, bugger, bugger, bugger.

She hopped across the joists and into the kitchen as the back door opened and a tall windswept blond woman strode in and dropped a travel bag.

“Ashy,” she said. “Oh Ashy! I know I’m late, too late, but oh Ashy!”

It was Sandi.

If you want to know what happens to Peter and Aislin, and to Sandy, here is a link to my book which I hope to publish as a paperback next year:

… and here is my blurb for the book:

The tragic death of Aislin McManus’s adored step-son Judah is a catastrophe; the fact that his father, Peter, blames Aislin almost breaks her heart.
Her attempts to mend the breach between her and her husband are failing and when Aislin meets someone else who is blamed for the death of his best friend she resolves to do everything she can to reconcile him with his family, even though she puts herself in danger by doing so.