As it’s Mothers’ Day weekend I thought I’d post an excerpt from my novel the silence which will be published in June. Because it’s on Mothers Day, which Abby is celebrating at her in-laws that the secret she has guarded for 25 years resurfaces, threatening to blow her life apart:
A child’s cry brought her attention back to the garden.
‘One of mine. Better go and see what he wants,’ said Trix with a sigh. ‘No, don’t you get up. Sit and have a read of the paper.’
She plopped it into Abby’s lap and strode off shouting, ‘Now what have you done?’
The paper was full of stories about a terrorist attack, Brexit and a teenager victim of cyber bullying. So, unsurprisingly, a macabre discovery at a villa in Italy was given little coverage. If the rental guests hadn’t been British, it probably wouldn’t have got any at all.
And yet the picture jumped out at Abby. Her hand went to the side of her head. It couldn’t be. Her heart was hammering before she even read the text. Everything slowed as her eyes slid across the page. Her head pulsed. Fear coiled through her as she read it and then read it again. The news she had been dreading for so many years and she was reading it right here in a garden with James’s family all around her. And yet a little voice whispered: why not now? Why not here? It wasn’t as if there would ever be a good time or place.
Bodies Found at Tuscan Holiday Home
An English family’s dream holiday turned into a nightmare when they discovered two skeletons in the grounds of the Tuscan villa where they were staying.
Miranda and Robert Hamilton, who run an IT business in Orpington, had booked a two-week holiday at Le Rondini, an idyllic-looking villa in a classic Tuscan hill village.
It was the couple’s six-year-old daughter who made the grisly discovery while playing in the garden. Builders had been clearing a fallen building but the site had not been fenced off.
‘We chose this property because it seemed so peaceful and had lots of space for our children to run around in,’ said Miranda Hamilton. ‘The last thing we were expecting to find there was a couple of bodies.
‘We’ve been offered alternative accommodation, but our children are traumatised and we’re having to think about arranging counselling for them.’
Police say they are waiting for forensic test results before they can speculate on how long the bodies have been there and the manner of death, but they are cautiously optimistic about being able to identify them and are following up on several leads…
Looking up, seeing her daughters peering into the fairy tree, their pretty dresses rippling in the breeze, Abby felt everything dissolving in front of her eyes. The ground didn’t seem solid any more, the trees looked artificial, none of the colours looked natural.
She had a sudden vision, so powerful, of the villa as she had known it – a mishmash of stone and render clad in creeper so thick it was impossible to fold back the flaking shutters, the roof tiles held down by stones, the broken stone steps and the fallen balcony.
For a moment, she was back there lying in the hammock under the fig trees, watching lizards dart along the dry stone wall. Had it really been that idyllic? No, of course it hadn’t.
How much could she really remember? Not much at all. Just scenes. Snapshots. She tried to sort them, but they kept slipping out of her control because of the one that overshadowed everything.
Perhaps she was getting this wrong. There must be thousands of villas that looked similar. And there were several differences, including the name. Le Rondini was a good choice. It reminded her of how the sky had filled with swallows on those warm summer evenings. She remembered watching them flit and dive in and out of the little conical nests they had built under the loggia.
They had found one once with an injured wing and tried to nurse it back to health, keeping it in a shoebox. She saw Philippa’s hands deftly cutting the worm into pieces to feed the bird. She had wanted to look away but was fascinated all the same to see if it really did turn into lots of little worms, as she had been told. It didn’t.
She saw herself sitting at the stone table under the pergola with Philippa and Mina, listening to them arguing about whether curses really existed and if the house could be cursed; keeping secrets for each of them. Heard her own childish voice, barely a whisper, ‘What will you do if I tell?’
But now the villa was slipping away as she had seen it on that last night, peeping behind grubby, tear-soaked fingers. Retreating into the red earth and chestnut trees behind it like a wounded, blind beast as the car bounced away. Dark, closed-up, silent. And yet somehow, she had always known, hadn’t she, that she would see it again? It would find her.
No, she was being ridiculous. Surely she was only making connections with the villa because of the dream she had had? Heart hammering, she scanned the picture, exploring every millimetre. She tried to reassure herself, but it was no use. Perhaps having the dream had just made her more alert so that she noticed a picture she would otherwise have flicked past.
The villa stared back, smug in its new disguise. With its smooth, pink façade, decorative friezes, and window boxes of cascading geraniums, it certainly lived up to the newspaper’s description ‘idyllic holiday home’. But no amount of paint and repairs could fool her.
The creeper had been cleared away, the two enormous Cypress trees that had blocked the windows of the salotto, or living room, making it permanently dark, had been cut down, the iron balustrade had been repaired, and the shutters rehung. But the stained-glass window Alan had salvaged from the little church that had been damaged in an earthquake was still there, and an inset image showed a close-up of the demonic doorknockers.
How could looks be so deceiving? She wanted to rip the page into shreds and trample it into the ground. Instead, she slid it out, trying to stop her hands from trembling, folded it, and slipped it into her bag. She took a gulp of Pimms and then another.
Her head squeezed. Nausea swept through her. Battling to keep it under control, she stood up and stumbled towards the house. Dodging children, cats, offers of sherry, and invitations to solve disagreements, she climbed the stairs two at a time and shut herself in the bathroom where she sank to her knees and retched into the bowl.
This could not be happening.