This is the penultimate chapter. Enjoy what’s left of the ride.
For those who haven’t been following the free read, 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 30th November
My return from Scotland had been so full of hope and expectation. Reality killed all that along with Netta. I examined my reactions to her death and found, amongst the grief and sorrow, I could blame both her and her attacker but neither Leigh nor myself. I felt no guilt, no responsibility, and Leigh’s insistence on his fault confounded me.
At first, I accepted he must be grieving in his own particular way. He would eventually leave that stage and return to his normal self. It was clear he found comfort in my arms and derived pleasure from our nearness, so I couldn’t understand his determination to avoid me. It wasn’t important, for the moment, that he couldn’t make love. The trauma of discovering Netta’s naked and abused body coupled with his natural grief at her loss caused that. Time would sort it out; time, patience and understanding from me. Alex Comfort’s book had taught me many things but that was a most important lesson.
Leigh, having lived so long through and for sex, seemed incapable of understanding it was just one aspect of our lives together, only part of our relationship.
I wanted him inside me again, I wanted to make love. Of course I did. But I could and did still love him without sex. Just to have him in my arms, to have his arms round me, was joy and pleasure. There was more than comfort in our embrace, more than mutual support.
He couldn’t see it.
And his obsession with Netta made it hard for him to accept she was dead. He had to keep her memory alive, had to keep the image of her clear before him as though that would somehow cover up his guilt. Guilt that was misplaced and unnecessary. It had been difficult enough for me to bear his fixation with Netta when she was alive; to have her form a barrier between us now she was dead was almost unbearable.
Eric’s death changed everything. In practical terms, it brought me a new home without the effort of finding one; and with it, an escape from the claustrophobic atmosphere of Longhouse. It brought me Bruce and his unquestioning devotion and loyalty. And it brought Zizi up from London, ostensibly to give me her support and comfort. When I heard them at it through the night I knew I had to leave. He could find a way to fuck Zizi, but not a way to make love with me.
I’d been in Dad’s old cottage for a week, though it wasn’t strictly mine in a legal sense until much later, with Bruce my only companion, when I received news that Heacham’s old Will had been found in favour of myself and Hope. He’d failed to change it after I’d left. I was surprised to learn I now had two cottages. I’d always thought Heacham’s place was rented. But he’d apparently inherited it from his parents. What, I wondered, had he done with all the rent I’d paid for him over the years? It turned out he, or rather I, had been the sole payer of rent for the old stone barn he and his cronies used as their chapel. The rest he’d hoarded in bank accounts and in a box in cash under the bed.
I found grim satisfaction in regaining what I’d lost to him and great delight in ending at once the informal agreement on the chapel. The few who’d joined him in his grotesque distortion of Biblical legend faded into obscurity amongst the community once their meeting place was advertised as ideal for conversion to holiday accommodation.
I would have to take decisions on behalf of Hope but I went to see her anyway. I wish I had let her be. She was all flab and bedsores; her lovely hair cut short, dry and unstyled, her skin red and flaking. There was no dignity in what she’d become. She was no more than meat kept alive and I wished they would let her die in peace if that was the best they could do for her. But I couldn’t and wouldn’t remove her from their care and knew I shared their guilt in my refusal. I used her share of the funds from the Will to employ a private nurse to see her three times a week and care for her skin and general health. I would do no more for her myself; it was pointless, she didn’t even know me. I’d spent my early life sacrificing my needs to the demands of others. It was time I lived for myself.
Heacham’s cottage was a mess and bore the stench of death. I threw the windows open to bring in fresh air but knew I could never live there. It was foul and full of memories I wanted to erase. For three days, I cleaned and cleared out rubbish, burning everything of his, including a handful of foreign-language, pornographic magazines that lay stained and scattered on the floors.
I restored it to some semblance of tidiness so I might do something with the place. Once finished, I was full of tension, angst and bitterness. I must free myself of the memories of Heacham and that house if I was ever to live in peace. I needed some sort of symbolic act, some spiritual rite to wash me free of the filth I associated with his memory. The tarn offered an attractive solution. It was November but not yet seasonally cold and the autumn rains had filled the lake with clear cleansing water.
I put on my working underwear, grabbed a towel and walked up the hill, Bruce running ahead of me as if impatient to get to the tarn. In the shadow of the trees, with sunlight sparkling on the silent water, I folded my outer clothes; the idea of Mervyn watching me swim naked had spoiled the place to some extent and I wasn’t prepared to risk treating him again.
The water was cold enough to take my breath away but I waded in until I was able to swim. The cold and the clarity of that fresh, untainted water flushed away my tension and I felt my spirit healing within me as the tension left. A few strokes took me to the very centre and I ducked myself beneath the surface and struck into the depths. Kicking hard, I touched the bottom and then pushed myself hard and fast toward the light above. I broke surface and gulped the sweet, fresh air and laughed aloud in exultation.
Bruce barked. I turned to see Mervyn in the trees, a large fallen branch in his hand. Bruce stood, hackles high, menacing the lout as he approached my clothes.
‘Go away, Mervyn! Leave me alone.’
His silence was unnerving. Bruce went for him and Mervyn shook him off his arm. I had no time to decide what to do. He fended Bruce off with the stick. I was swimming, wading, running for the bank before I ever thought of what I was doing. As I emerged from the water, Mervyn turned to me and gave a savage kick to Bruce. My poor dog was hurt and he caught him by his collar in one hand, the other holding the branch over his head.
‘Dog’s fuckin’ dead, less you do as I say. Get them off, cunt.’
‘Leave my dog alone. He’s done nothing to you.’
‘Off. Or the dog’s meat, cunt.’ He waved the bloodied bough and Bruce suddenly seemed so vulnerable. Perhaps I could buy time, distract the pervert. I slowly slipped off the bra and made myself stand proud.
‘Them an’all. Get the fuckers off.’ He waved the bough close above Bruce’s head and I knew I had no choice.
I stood naked before him and understood what he did not; that he had no way to rape me whilst holding Bruce. If I were to run, he’d be forced to make a choice. And I was certain I knew what choice he’d make. Bruce would be safe.
He took a step forward. ‘On the ground, cunt. Legs apart an’ arms underneath. Or I’ll whip your tits with this.’
I stooped and grabbed a handful of wet pebbles. He was so engaged by my body, he failed to notice what I was doing. As my stones peppered him, he was startled into dropping his weapon.
I took my chance and ran. ‘Come on, Bruce!’
The fool moved to my clothes. As if I cared about that when he threatened my very existence. I ran for the cottage as fast as I could, his mistake giving me the lead I needed.
Heavy, fat and unfit, he wasn’t as fleet as I. But I had to watch for sharp stones that might damage my bare feet and disable me. And I’d misjudged him. He paused only to batter Bruce hard enough to stop him running with me. I stopped, uncertain what I should do; concerned for my dog.
But he moved away from Bruce and started toward me. I turned and ran again. I gained on him only slowly and he was still within sight as I reached the cottage. I’d left the back door unlocked and I opened the garden gate, closing and bolting it behind me, and was quickly inside the cottage and safe. I locked and bolted the back door, top and bottom, and leant with my back against it, breathing hard and fast but relieved to be secure inside whilst he was locked outside.
The front door opened. I’d left the key in my coat. He’d watched me leave by the front door, seen me pocket the key, and followed me to the tarn. I suspect he took the key whilst I was in the water, just in case.
He took his time, stepping inside and closing the door behind him. He locked it and put the key in his pocket. I desperately tried to return to the back door I’d just secured. But he was in the kitchen before I’d undone the top bolt and I had to dodge round the table to escape him.
There was blood above one of his cold eyes. My stones had been more effective than I’d thought.
‘I’m gonna fuck you, cunt. On the table, on the floor, over the chair, up your cunt, up your arse, in your mouth. Then I’m gonna beat your fuckin’ brains out, just like I did that other lyin’ cunt. Onny, wi’ you, I’ll leave my cock in when I come ‘cos no-one’s ever goin’ to know what happened to you. Your body’ll burn with this house once I’ve ‘ad enough. But I’m gonna teck me time. I’ll tie you up an’ come back to fuck you every day for as long as I like. An’ no one’ll know.’
He studied me as he took off his coat. He eased each of his boots off in turn. He untied the string he used for a belt. ‘Gonna tie your ‘ands together wi’ this. Tight, so it hurts.’ He removed his trousers. ‘This is gonna split you an’ meck you bleed an’ scream before I’m done wi’ you.’
I was shivering now that I’d stopped moving, still damp from the tarn, cold from the air as I’d run, and terrified by his threats. ‘Leigh’ll be here soon. You’d better go, if you know what’s good for you, Mervyn.’
Fear flashed briefly across his face and then he sneered. ‘Think I’m fuckin’ stupid? You ‘aven’t seen Leigh in days. I bin watchin’ you ever since you come. Seen you around the ‘ouse in nowt but your knickers. See you now in nowt at all.’
‘I don’t understand why you hate me, Mervyn. What have I done to make you dislike me so?’
‘You and your whoring sister got me sacked. Cunts! Well, I did for her and she were beggin’ for mercy before I finished her. Your turn now. You’ll teck longer, be more fun. No one comes up ‘ere since your pervert father topped hissen. They say it’s haunted. Soon be haunted by more’n ‘im. Like being a ghost, will you?’
‘What do you want from me, Mervyn?’
He moved suddenly but I reacted as quickly and kept the table between us.
‘Want? I’m gonna ‘ave what I want, cunt, whether you like it or not. I’m gonna ‘ave you. Any way I want and as many times as I like. You can’t make no bargains wi’ me. I can do what I like wi’ you.’
I put my hands on the table to steady myself, emotion and physical fatigue making me suddenly unsteady. My hand caught the edge of the table. My finger caught the handle of the drawer. I opened it and grabbed the large carving knife that Heacham had kept razor sharp to slice the Sunday roast.
Mervyn saw the blade and backed involuntarily from the table. He searched for a weapon and I took my chance, grabbing the teapot from the sink behind me and throwing it at him as hard as I could. Caught off guard, he moved too late and it hit him on the side of his head. I dashed from the kitchen and slammed the door closed behind me.
Desperate, I pushed the armchair against it before he had time to recover. For a few seconds, I stood, uncertain of my next move. It gave him time to recover and barge through into the sitting room. He was armed with the wooden rolling pin and came straight at me.
I dodged his first blow and struck out blindly with the knife. I felt resistance and saw blood drip from his free hand.
He swung at me again and I ducked, the end of the rolling pin crashing against my shoulder. I turned and side stepped. This time I held my ground as he rushed at me. The knife stabbed through his shirt and into his midriff as he brought the rolling pin down, hitting the top of my head.
I was stunned for a few seconds, blackness fighting my instinct to remain conscious. I won through the pain and dizziness to find blood flowing across my left eye. Mervyn was staggering nearby with the knife still in his body. I picked up the empty coalscuttle and slammed it as hard as I could across his head. He stumbled and turned to face me. His hands were scrabbling at the knife and his face was drained and white. I picked up the rolling pin from the floor and hit him back and forth across his face and head. He put up his hands to defend himself and rose from his knees to try to reach me. I moved aside as he came forward and he fell onto his face. I hit him again on the back of his head and then dashed to the front door. It was locked and he had the key.
I jumped hard on his writhing body as I passed and rushed for the back door. Frantic with terror, I undid the top bolt, turning to see if he was behind me. There was no sign of him in the kitchen as I ran from there into the back garden and opened the gate. I peered round the cottage, fearing he might have opened the front door. But he wasn’t there. I ran down the stony lane, heedless of the sharp stones cutting my feet.
Mrs Greenhough’s shop was closed. Early closing day.
I stumbled across the Green to the red telephone box, picked up the receiver and dialled 999.
‘Police and ambulance. I’ve been attacked and I think I might’ve killed….’
Impatient for the final chapter? It’ll appear after Christmas. If you’re really that impatient, perhaps you can persuade someone could give you it as a Christmas present. It’s available in paperback (through online or high street outlets) or ebook format for whatever ereader you use, just click on the cover picture or visit ‘My Books’. I’d appreciate a review, posted wherever possible - Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords, or any other bookish site. Reviews get indie published books noticed, you see.
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