I must say I'm looking forward to doing front of house tonight - a chance to see the first night - to watch the cast trying hard to remember their lines.
For those of you following my novel Caught in the Web - here is chapter five:
Evelyn couldn't tell you how many years she'd been lying in this bed, with the changing seasons showing through the same old window frame. The summer sun too hot, the winter chill too cold, seeping through the gaps in the frame where the window never quite closed properly. The curtains were thin, letting in more than enough light and more than enough drafts. Nothing ever took the middle way in this place.
The ache somewhere in her chest was still there although the memories of why and what, where and when were muddled in her mind. She couldn't remember what it was that she'd done to be kept here for all this time, or even if she had been here for very long at all. What had happened to all the people who were important to her? She'd long ago stopped asking.
Every day was the same, waking early to the noises of the other ladies' protests. The repetition of life had brought on a numbness which started at the front of her head and spread throughout her whole being, making her unaware most of the time of what she was doing, eating, wearing, even thinking.
Evelyn didn't talk much any more. She'd talked too much once and that was probably her downfall. So she'd stopped. Dumbfounded they'd called her at first, then “Idiot” but none of them knew her really.
Her mother had visited her in the early days.
‘Come on Evelyn.’ The nurse had brought her a dress from somewhere. Not the usual clothes she wore which were of worn and faded cotton. ‘Let’s get you dressed. It’s visiting day.’
And she’d been walked down the cold corridor to the entertainment hall. The vast high ceilinged ballroom was set with trestle tables. There were already patients sitting at some of the tables, their visitors awkwardly leaning on their elbows across the tables, looks of concern on their faces.
As the nurse steered her towards the hunched woman sitting alone at the table half way down the room, Evelyn felt a deep fear. Her mother stood up as she reached the table. She felt herself stiffen inside as her mother embraced her. They sat down at the table, the nurse standing guard at one end.
‘How are you keeping?’ Evelyn’s mother asked.
But Evelyn couldn’t find any words. She looked down at the table and picked at the broken corner of the surface. Her mother prattled on about something - gossip about the neighbours - the weather - she couldn’t remember.
Awkward Sunday afternoons filled with pain. Then gradually the periods between each visit grew longer and longer until the time came when Evelyn realised that a year must have passed since the last visit. It was on her birthday. The daffodils were yellow in the garden outside the window, so she knew that her birthday must have passed.
Evelyn wondered if her mother had been coming and she'd just forgotten. She couldn't ask anyone as that would mean breaking out of the safety of her silence.
They'd tried to get her moving out of the ward once.
'You need to be rehabilitated.' A different nurse this time.
She'd just stared, a feeling of apprehension pushing its way into her mind.
'You've been here too long,' the nurse continued. 'You're institutionalised.'
Evelyn wondered what that meant.
In the small room at the top of a flight of stairs several women from the ward were sitting around a table knitting brightly coloured wools into ill-shaped squares. She’d sat watching them whilst the nurse cast on the stitches and then handed the knitting to her to continue working with.
'There you are, Evelyn. Nice pink wool,' said the nurse. 'You can knit, can't you?'
Evelyn said nothing.
'It's just squares,' the nurse said. 'Garter stitch. You know, just plain knitting?'
Perhaps it was the colour of the wool, or maybe the sound of the clicking of the needles as the other women worked. Evelyn couldn't really remember what happened. She only felt a raging anger erupting from somewhere deep inside her head which clashed with the pain in her chest, before she heard a loud screaming and felt herself being forced down into a black pit by the three nurses who had jumped on her.
When Evelyn woke up again it was early morning. She could see the sun rising between the boiler-house chimney and the water tower through her window. Her arms were sore and bruised. She could feel a hard painful lump on her right buttock. She was naked under the sheet which barely covered her.
Two nurses came into the room. One carried her clothes, the other wheeled a commode.
'Get up, Evelyn.' They dragged the sheet briskly back, lifted her out of bed and sat her on the commode with a thump. She was too drowsy to protest as she sat there naked, not bothering to hold on to her dignity.
'Come on, pee!' said the nurse. Evelyn found herself letting go. The relief to be emptying her bladder overwhelmed the shame of her situation.
The nurses dressed her as they chatted.
'Are you playing in the darts team tonight?' one asked.
'Yeah,' the other replied. 'We're playing The Miners Arms, aren't we?'
'Are you getting the bus?'
'The seven o'clock,' she replied. 'Evelyn get your arm in here,' she went on, dragging a dress over Evelyn's head.
'I hope they do a good spread,' the other nurse said as she pulled Evelyn's stockings over her feet.
Once dressed, they swung her back on to the bed and left the room, the metal commode rattling over the uneven floor as they went. Without even giving a glance back at her, the nurse swung the door shut and Evelyn heard the key turning in the lock once more.
She sat for a moment, then got up and looked through the small window into the ward. The other women were walking about, following their own patterns of survival. She sat back down and waited for her breakfast.
'Lock me up forever,' she thought. 'I don't care. It's safe in here.'
Eventually she heard the door opening again.
'Well, Evelyn.' The charge nurse entered the room. 'Are you feeling better now?'
She noticed out of the corner of her eye that he had someone with him. The ward doctor standing with his back to the window. Evelyn looked at his silhouette and fleetingly wondered what his face was revealing.
'Now Evelyn,' he said. 'We can't have this type of thing going on in our little O.T. Department can we? Such behaviour won’t get you anywhere.'
Evelyn said nothing.
'I thought I could trust you,' he went on. 'Can you explain yourself?'
Of course she couldn't explain herself. Evelyn looked at the clouds behind his head, scudding across the sky.
'I don't know what came over you, Evelyn,' said the charge nurse. 'One minute you were happily sitting with the other ladies, and then without warning, you attacked nurse Smith with a knitting needle. Lucky for her they managed to pull you off before you hurt her. What was that all about?'
Pink wool and babies' booties. Evelyn was silent, the only thing in her head - pink wool and babies' booties.
They didn't take her back to Occupation Therapy the next day.
She stayed on her bed chasing the memories out of her dreams, staring at the clouds, wondering where they were going and trying not to think. When she closed her eyes she could see the pink wool winding around her body like a giant spider's web, encasing her in a trap that she could never escape from. So she kept her eyes open, staring at the sky and hoping that it would all go away again.
Eventually it did fade into the past and now Evelyn was safe and comfortable in her world. Nothing ever happened apart from the occasional outburst from the other women.
She’d stopped wondering if her mother would ever come to visit again, content to forget what life had been like before coming to this place. Other patients went out on trips, but Evelyn preferred to stay in the safety of her room.
'Just in case,' she thought.
She was unaware of time moving on. She never looked in the mirror so had no idea of how she was growing older. In her heart she was still the bewildered young woman she had been when she arrived here so long ago.
But now her world was changing. She'd been lying in her bed when the new nurse had spoke to her. She didn't understand the feeling of shock and fear that she'd felt when the nurse had touched her. She only knew that she had to stay away from her.
And don't forget you can read the whole novel on Kindle for just £1.69 - or $2.99 US.