Are you a new visitor, or even a regular, who hasn’t started reading Breaking Faith? Looking at the reviews on the 'My Books' tab may change your mind.
On the other hand, if you're continuing the journey, I assume you’re hooked.
I posted Chapter 1 way back on 13 January. Subsequent chapters have appeared each Friday, and will continue to be posted until all 50 have appeared here. You can find those already posted via the archive; just search by chapter number.
If you missed the start, you’ll find it here: http://stuartaken.blogspot.com/2012/01/read-free-my-novel-here.html
Read, enjoy, invite your friends to join us.
Monday 31st May
‘I’ll be back when I’ve had enough. See you.’
Netta sauntered out of the house and across the lawn to the private stile in the corner. Both of us enjoyed walking the fells, though I wouldn’t have ventured out dressed like that. My interests, apart from the joy of walking, were nature and the landscape. I wondered what Netta derived from her walks alone. She said she needed some exercise with Leigh away in London.
Mum had stayed the night after bringing Netta back to Longhouse and I’d spent the evening learning as much as I could about my real father from her, without letting on that I’d found out where he lived.
‘David was thirty-seven; I was eighteen and fell in love with him the moment I laid eyes on him. I liked clean-shaven men; David had a long, straggly beard. I liked men with short blonde hair; David wore his dark brown hair to his shoulders. I liked men of action; David’s only sport was a walk round the quad with a poetry book in his hand. But he reached me, Faith. He spoke to my mind and my heart and his eyes saw right inside me and touched my secret inner self.
‘He was never a really accomplished lover. In fact, I was probably his first and taught him as much as he did me. But he was passionate and truthful and caring and full of a love for life and things creative and I adored him.
‘He used to worry the authorities would discover us and split us up. In the fifties, romances like ours were condemned. He cared about me and loved me more than any man I’ve known since. I thought he should write; his way with words was wonderful. He would make up poetry as we walked together. Not just love poetry for me, but poetry about the world we lived in, about nature and death and life. He was a remarkable man and when I discovered I was pregnant, I couldn’t let him know. I couldn’t ruin him. So, I had to be cruel. I told him there was someone else. I asked him not to write back, even to that letter and he didn’t. I received that small book of poems with no note, sent anonymously, just two weeks before you were due and I wept all day and all night.’
The unshed tears in her eyes warned me against further questions.
When she left that morning, she hugged me and invited me to spend a weekend with her once Leigh returned from London. I looked forward to that.
Netta was still out after Ma, Old Hodge and I had eaten on the lawn under the sun. With Leigh absent, Mervyn no longer a threat, and Old Hodge almost like an uncle, whatever Netta might say about him, I risked my new bikini to soak up some sun. As I lay on a blanket, reading on the grass, Old Hodge worked at a nearby flowerbed.
He looked at me and grinned. ‘By ‘eck, lass, you look grand.’
That remark, from an older man I respected, made me feel so good about myself. I smiled my thanks at him and turned over to tan my front. Movement near the stile caught my eye. A shape struggled to reach the top of the wall from the far side. I was up and running even as I recognized her.
Old Hodge came after me as quickly as his old legs would take him. She was in a dreadful state. Her dress was in shreds and her beautiful skin beneath was a mass of raised wheals and bleeding stripes. One eye was so swollen she couldn’t open it, the other was red and weeping, both her lips were split and her nose had been bleeding.
I helped her down from the stile and she collapsed at my feet, exhausted. I sent Old Hodge for Ma and sat with her head in my lap, stroking her hair away from her wounds.
The doctor arrived shortly after we’d carried her to the spare room. He examined her thoroughly whilst I remained in case he needed my help. We turned her very carefully onto her back and he examined her front where the stripes were less numerous and not as raised or broken. One crossed her left breast and marked her nipple, making me wince. I helped Paul apply ointment and dressings and noticed his frequent glances at me.
We could make no sense of anything she said through her damaged mouth, but she seemed incoherent more with rage than with any other emotion.
In the kitchen, with Netta asleep under the influence of a sedative, the four of us shared a pot of tea.
‘I’ve seen this before. Almost identical, except that time it was only your back, Faith.’
‘You think my fa... Heacham, did this?’
‘I’m neither policeman nor forensic scientist, but this is the work of one man.’
‘Why would he beat Netta? She’s not even his daughter.’
Paul raised his eyebrows. ‘That, at least answers a few questions. As to “Why?” I’ve no idea. I hoped you might know.’
‘I can’t imagine. Shouldn’t we inform the police?’
‘That’s for Netta to decide, really. But I’d do it anyway. She can always withdraw later if she doesn’t want to prefer charges.’
‘Not prefer charges? Why wouldn’t she want…?’
‘I’ve dealt with more cases of domestic violence than I care to think about, Faith. Women frequently refuse to press charges because the men who bully them brainwash their victims into believing they’re worthless and therefore responsible for their own beatings. Did you press charges after the monster beat you?’
I hadn’t. It was the first time I asked myself why that might be and I understood his reasoning and learned another lesson about myself.
‘Yes, inform the police now, before she has a chance to prevent them at least knowing.’
Ma examined the remains of Netta’s dress. ‘This is for the bin.’
‘Save it for the police. Where’s her underwear? They’ll need it in case there was any sexual…’
Ma explained and the doctor nodded as though he’d heard it all before.
‘Do you really think he might’ve raped her?’
‘It’s a possibility we have to face, in light of what he did to Hope.’
‘Hope couldn’t fight back. Hope couldn’t even tell anyone, not even me.’
‘I still wouldn’t rule it out. The man’s a brutal pervert. I’m just thankful you escaped that side of his exploitation, Faith. Netta will have to be asked when she comes round from the sedative. The more I consider, the more I think I should contact the police. May I?’
I showed him the phone in the office. When he returned, he changed the subject abruptly to me.
‘Are you well, Faith?’
I told him I was. ‘And happy; Mum’s more at ease now you’ve given me the pill. She cares about that sort of thing, so I just went along with her wishes to keep her happy.’
‘A wickedly personal question, Faith, but I have my reasons, and they are medical. Do you need the contraceptive pill?’
‘Mum said I would one day and I should be prepared.’
‘So, no change from when you first asked me to prescribe it? No mood problems?’
I shook my head. I didn’t think my anxiety over Leigh had anything to do with taking the pill.
‘And I can see you’ve only put on weight in the places it’s to be expected. No problem in that area. Good.’
I wanted to get the conversation away from personal matters about me. ‘Should we call Leigh, do you think?’
‘Not yet. There’s nothing he can do. But do call Matilda.’ He smiled at me and I felt there was more than professional concern in his friendly look as he left.
There was no answer when I tried Zoë’s number anyway. Matilda said she’d be at Longhouse as soon as she could. I tried Zoë again in the evening but there was still no reply.
‘Probably out on the town.’ Matilda suggested. She’d come down for a break from Netta’s bedside and was drinking coffee laced with Leigh’s scotch.
‘Will they press charges, do you suppose?’
‘No doubt about it. Bastard was on conditional bail. How did he know where to find her and why did he do it?’
‘I should’ve said before, I suppose, but it was all done and over with and there seemed little point. Tell the truth; I was glad to see the back of him.’
We waited for Ma to explain.
‘Merv never tried to rape Netta. She tricked the poor fool to get him sacked…’
‘She did what?’
‘Sorry, Matilda, but I’m sure that’s what happened. She asked me what Leigh would do if Merv attacked a girl in the house. I told her he’d fire the young sod on the spot. You can’t tell me it’s coincidence Netta accused him of attacking her that very day.’
‘Why would Netta want him sacked?’
‘You’re still so naive, lass, for all your growing up. She’s your sister. She knew Merv upset and frightened you.’
‘But that’s terrible. I never asked her to …’
‘Of course you didn’t. You didn’t have to. It’s called sisterly love.’
Matilda nodded. ‘It’s the sort of thing Netta would do, love.’
‘Poor Merv! No wonder he swore to get us both. But this was Heacham, wasn’t it?’
‘Merv would be too scared to do anything on his own. He’ll have sent pictures of Netta to Heacham, knowing the shit would do it for him because she threatened his reputation.’
‘His reputation’s already ruined.’
‘He still wouldn’t want the world thinking his own flesh and blood would pose naked for the world to see, Faith.’
I thought of the pictures of me Merv had helped print and was thankful he hadn’t been able to take any with him. ‘But Netta’s not his flesh and blood.’
‘He knows that, but the village folk don’t.’
I was amazed at the way the pair of them had apparently worked out what had happened. ‘How did Heacham know where to find her?’
‘Merv again. He’s a peeping Tom. Wouldn’t mind betting he’s been spying on this house ever since the day he left, in the hope of seeing you both without your clothes.’
‘I’ve been in my bikini in the garden. Those horrible piggy eyes looking at me. Ugh!’
‘You were feeling sorry for him a moment ago.’
‘Not if he did that. Do you really think he’d go to all that trouble, Ma?’
‘I’ve little doubt, to be honest. That lad’s got a strangely determined streak when it comes to spying on female flesh and to getting his own back.’
‘What’ll happen to Heacham, do you think?’
‘They’ll hold him for the night and charge him with assault. In the morning, he’ll be back out and free as air. It’s only a girl he’s beaten half to death, after all.’
‘I thought you believed we were equal now, Mum?’
‘There’s no fundamental change. And cops are generally right wing and chauvinistic. As are the courts, come to that. No, I love men and their company, but I hate what they’ve done and continue do with society. It’s still a man’s world; for all we burn our bras, take the pill and enjoy sex without fear of pregnancy. Women are still second class citizens. That’s why I use my sex to get what I can out of the little darlings.
‘I’ve no illusions, Faith, so don’t look so scandalized. They don’t love me. They love sex and my body, even if I am nearing forty and I’ve had three kids. I keep myself in trim so they’re not disgusted when I take off my clothes. I can still excite them, still make their willies stand up and perform. But I make sure they pay; in pleasure for me, and clothes and food and other services. I’ve never paid a tradesman to do a job. And my little bungalow’s a palace with all mod cons.’
‘I’d far rather my Old Hodge with his faults, than all your passing men friends.’
‘Ah, but then you love Old Hodge and he loves you.’
‘You loved David, Mum.’
‘But I lost him. You can’t live on memories and dreams of what might’ve been. Anyway, I’d best get back up there. I don’t want Netta waking up alone.’
‘I’ll take over during the night, Mum. Then you can sleep.’
‘You’re a good woman, Faith. I’m very proud of you, proud to call you daughter. Proud to know such goodness has come from my love for David.’ Mum smiled at me and went back upstairs.
‘What was that about?’
‘Your Mum’s had a sad, strange sort of life, with lots of disappointment. But you do exactly the right thing at every opportunity. In you, she sees a sort of redemption for all the mistakes and badness there’s been in her life.
‘Now, away with you to bed if you’re going to be up in the early hours.’
‘I’ll just try Leigh once more.’
‘You won’t. Leigh and Zoë’ll be in bed. There’s no point interrupting them with news he can do nowt about. Call him in the morning. Bed, now.’
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