Reviews of Breaking Faith, under the 'My Books' tab, might convince you to try this book, unless, of course, you’re already doing so.
If so, enjoy the ride.
I posted Chapter 1 on 13 January. Subsequent chapters have appeared each Friday, and will continue to be posted until all 50 have featured 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 along. As an author, I want people to read my writing, simple as that.
Tuesday 7th September
‘I don’t know why you’re so surprised, Faith, you know I witnessed the Will.’
‘I still don’t see how you knew, unless Dad told you.’
‘Of course David gave me an idea of what you’d be worth. He knew you’d be better off than me and I’ve a shrewd idea he expected that to have a significant, and adverse, affect on our relationship.’
‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘That I was witnessing your father’s Last Will and Testament? Hardly helpful when you were still trying to fool yourself that he would…’
‘Why didn’t you tell me how much I would inherit?’
‘David asked me not to.’
She gave me one of her soft looks and I knew I had her on my side again, however briefly. ‘At the moment, my major concern is whether you’ll stay at Longhouse …as my Girl Friday and printer, until I can find someone else?’
‘You want me to leave?’
‘Of course I don’t. But I’ve no doubt you’ll want to be on your way.’
She looked as if I’d made the most idiotic suggestion possible.
For a while, she was silent.
‘I want that holiday, Leigh. I want to go as soon as possible, and I want to go alone.’
I allowed my disappointment to show. ‘I’d hoped you’d want me along.’
‘Under different circumstances, I would. Heaven knows, I don’t want to leave you alone with Netta any more than I have to. But I need time and space to understand myself and work out who and what I am and what I want to do with my life. And I can do that only on my own.’
‘Two heads are better than one.’
‘Dad made his decisions alone. I’ll do the same. Don’t waste your breath trying to change my mind; I don’t want us to fall out over this. When can I go?’
She had enough money to make her totally independent and yet she was asking my permission to go on holiday. I knew when I was beaten. ‘As soon as the travel agent can fix it, I suppose.’
She reached up and kissed me, passing that magic to me so that her withdrawal left me feeling as though some part of my being remained with her. ‘I’ll go into town now. I need to get away, Leigh, as soon as possible.’
I watched her leave and wondered how soon I would be saying goodbye to her for good. That prospect wrenched my insides and tore at my heart in a way that should have warned me. Netta approached and I wondered how much of what had passed she’d observed. Her manner was cautionary as she reached up to embrace me and I found myself not just unwilling to respond to her, but almost incapable. She took my limp arm and placed my hand on her warm, round bottom but I felt only flesh and was suddenly certain I wanted none of it, none of her. ‘Sorry, Netta, I’m busy.’ I left her with her mouth open and went into the studio to work, if I could.
I heard her slam out of the house a few moments later and knew she would make me pay for my act of rejection later. I wondered, however, whether I cared.
They returned almost together, Netta, sooner than was usual and in softened mood, ready to give me another chance, and Faith bursting with barely suppressed nervousness. She hadn’t shed a tear since the funeral, perhaps not even since her father’s death. Her tension had diminished during our picnic but it had been smothered rather than removed and had resurfaced immediately on our return. Whatever had passed at the solicitor’s office, in spite of the bequest, had done little to ease it. She might break down completely if she couldn’t find a way to express her grief.
Netta claimed me as first arrival and I fondled her and promised I’d make things up to her later. She seemed uncharacteristically ready to accept and I wondered how much she understood of my turmoil. I certainly knew I’d escaped lightly.
Faith burst in in a conflict of moods. ‘I’ve booked my holiday. I’m going on Saturday. A woman spat at me in the street and called me a whoring cow. It’s in the papers. Heacham’s trial starts a week on Monday. I’m going to Scotland. An island. It’s a croft and there’ll be no one for miles. She said I was a colluding whore. They were all staring.’
‘They’ll need you for the trial, Faith. I don’t think you can go now.’
She barely glanced at me. ‘I’ve written it down. No one’s said I have to. You won’t be able to reach me. I’m going on Saturday.’
I wondered why the official notification hadn’t already come. Faith was the most obvious material witness to the rapes, although I was certain she’d been completely unaware of what the bastard was doing. I wondered if I should make that clear again, but her manner and her desperation to get away made me cautious about raising a disagreement I hoped had been settled between us.
That she was very near to breaking was obvious in her strange manner of speech and the visible tension in the way she held herself. It seemed as likely as not that a good break from the area and from Netta and I would help her come to terms with all that had happened.
‘Is Heacham still in custody?’
I waved my hand at Netta to silence her but she must know.
‘Well, is he?’
‘No, Netta. They let him out a short while after he attacked you. On bail. Though God knows why. Apparently, he’s considered no threat to anyone else.’
‘Take me to see him.’
I stared at her. Faith, poring over a road atlas, seemed to be taking no notice. I moved closer so I might identify at least the area she was planning to visit. ‘When did you buy that?’ I wasn’t interested, merely wanting the opportunity to see what part of the country she was studying.
‘I won it on the driving course.’
She had never said. I wondered what other secrets, small and large, were locked up in her. I wanted to ask but Netta was insistent and I had to turn my attention to her.
‘Take me, Leigh. Or I’ll go alone.’
Unlikely as it seemed, I believed her threat. ‘Why? What’s he to you?’
‘Hope’s my half sister. I owe her. Take me, Leigh. Now.’
I shrugged. ‘We’ll be back later, Faith.’
‘If you’re going to do him any violence, either of you, make it painful and humiliating and tell him I’d like to see the foul, hypocritical, bastard dead; painfully, lingeringly dead!’
Her venom shocked me but I nodded and followed Netta, almost demure in her summer dress, to the car.
He was alone in the cottage, his vest and trousers stinking with sweat and the floor strewn with rubbish. Unshaven, unkempt, dirty and dishevelled, he didn’t want us in the cottage. But Netta made it clear she wouldn’t be refused and I just barged my way in with her in close pursuit.
‘Why did you beat me, Heacham?’
‘Answer Netta’s questions, Heacham. I’m in no mood for mercy and I’ve shown you once what I can do.’
He sulked and glared as he sat in the armchair amongst his filth. I wanted it over with as soon as possible so I took a step toward him and he put up his hand in self-defence.
‘All right. I’ll not have my daughter parading naked in public, showing her all to the world and making a laughing stock of me. Whore!’
‘I’m not your daughter. Neither is Faith. The only child you fathered is that damaged little girl you repeatedly raped.’
‘Oh, shut it, Heacham! Leigh caught you with your prick in the poor helpless baby and you admitted you’d been fucking her for years! I’d have your filthy balls off only you’re not worth it.
‘Prison’s where you’re going, Heacham, and they don’t like men, if that’s what you are, who rape helpless kids. They won’t care about your balls. They’ll burn and crush them, tear them off you. And the prison guards won’t even hear your screams. Every day one of the perverts will bugger you. They’ll fuck you till your arse bleeds and you scream in agony and still no one will do anything to help you because they’ll all know you deserve it.
‘Your life inside’ll be a living hell. When you’ve been beaten and castrated and raped until your arse is a pulp of blood and shit, they might give you solitary, for your own protection. Of course, you might be dead by then, if you’re lucky. I thought you’d like to know what you’re going to, that’s all.’ She marched over and spat into his terrified face. As he wiped it clear, she raised a leg and, true to form, he was so taken by the sight of what she revealed, he failed to understand her purpose. Her stiletto heel drove hard into his groin and he screamed. Removing her foot, she slapped him several times, her hands making vicious contact with his unprotected face.
I let her take her revenge until he tried to protect himself. Then I stepped in, pulled him to his feet by his greasy hair and planted a single straight right that made the satisfactory crunch of breaking bone as my fist connected with his nose, already broken after my previous attack. He reeled back into the chair.
‘That’s for Faith and all the years of childhood and joy you denied her. That sweet innocent girl hates you absolutely and comprehensively and wishes you a long and painful death, by the way. Such has been the outcome of your worthless life. Personally, I think you’ve got off lightly. What I’d like to do to you is worse than your wildest nightmares, Heacham.’
Netta gave him one last slapping before she backed away. ‘Why not just do yourself in and put the rest of us out of your misery.’
In the car, I looked at Netta with renewed respect. ‘How did you know all that about prison?’
‘One of my men friends has been inside.’
I almost made a joke in response but managed to refrain.
Faith was nowhere to be seen when we returned and Ma had gone home after preparing our evening meal of chicken salad.
‘Christ, that’s made me randy!’ Netta was panting with some strange passion.
I was seething with unspent rage but I let her undress me in the sitting room and watched her strip her own sweet body before we gave ourselves to lust on the floor.
Faith was standing in the doorway when we finished. She stared at us with such contempt I felt compelled to move out of her sight, but the only way from the room was through the doorway she blocked. ‘You really are the most pathetic creatures, aren’t you?’
I felt so small.
She failed to join us for dinner and we ate in subdued silence without looking at each other.
The next day she worked silently in the office and the darkroom and ignored me unless I asked her a direct question. I felt diminished in her eyes and wanted to apologise and make an explanation, but there was none.
The weather was no help; oppressive and hot, with a sky clear by day and clouded by night so that there was no relief from the build up of heat.
On Friday night, I’d intended a small celebration to mark Faith’s departure for holiday; a private party to send her on her way with our best wishes. But she was absent again from dinner and remained in her room.
Netta and I eventually went to bed, having consumed the wine I’d opened for the parting, Netta drinking the lion’s share. I wasn’t in the mood for sex and, to my surprise, she seemed unconcerned by my indifference, perhaps too drunk to care. I suspect she felt that once Faith had gone, she’d be free to have her way with me again as often as she pleased.
In the early hours, thunder woke me and I lay awake listening to Netta snoring softly beside me, undisturbed by the violent storm. Booms and rolls and roars echoed from the fells as lightning strobed across the open window. Soon her breathing was drowned by torrential rain that poured over the gutters and pelted on the tiles above and against the glass of the window I had to shut.
From within the house I heard the sound of something falling, followed by a heartrending cry of utter desolation.
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