The coffee and cake was wonderful too. Thanks to Paula for allowing me the space, and for selling the novel over the counter - selling approx one a day now.
Later that day I sold another copy in the Village Stores - then that evening I sold two copies in the Golden Lion. My best ever day yet for sales!
Yesterday I buzzed around looking for further venues to do book signings and it looks like I will be doing the next one in Wickham in the Chesapeake Mill, hopefully on a Saturday this time - in the next few weeks, thanks to Sandy, who has read the book and couldn't put it down.
Then I'll be doing another in Arty's Wine Bar in Knowle Village - a quirky Pizza-serving bar which is crammed with interesting furniture and objects which you can purchase as well as the food. They have had great reviews but the venue is tucked away from town between Fareham and Wickham on the new village which has been built on the site of the mental hospital that features in Caught in the Web.
I had a coffee with the owner and a great chat. It's worth a visit at any time just to meet him!
For those of you who follow the episodes of Caught in the Web - here is chapter 12. If you like it, you can buy it on Kindle. It's also now on Amazon as a paperback - so, please buy it if you can, and I'd be so grateful if you could write a brief review/like it on the Amazon site. It really does help sales and as you can see from the numbers I'm selling - I'm just at the beginning of something good. Thank you.
'I've brought you a lovely cup of tea.' Karen opened her eyes to the sound of Peter's voice. He placed the cup on the bedside table and slid in beside her.
Peter hadn't spoken to her since she'd told him she wanted to start training as a nurse. She'd spent longer hours at work, reluctant to come home to the chill of his moods. Bringing her tea in bed was something he'd never done before. She was immediately on edge, wondering what he was up to.
'Thank you.' She sat up and took a sip of tea.
'It's time for a little chat,' he said. 'I think we had a bit of a misunderstanding when we talked before.'
'What do you mean?'
'I don't think you realise how important it is to me. Having children I mean.' He shifted in the bed.
'I know it's important to you,' Karen bristled. 'It is to me as well, but so is my career.'
'You can start your career after you've had children,' Peter insisted. 'I know lots of women who work and have kids.'
Karen sighed. 'I know, but I don't feel ready for children yet.'
'For God's sake!' he snapped. 'You're so selfish. I don't know why you bothered marrying me.' He stopped for a moment then turned to her again. 'Are you having it off with someone else?'
'Of course not.' Karen was shocked. 'Why would you think that?'
'You're never here,' he spat. 'And when you are, you're not a proper wife.'
Karen paused before answering. 'I have to work long shifts,' she said. 'And I am a proper wife. I don't know what you mean by that.'
'We haven't had sex for ages,' he complained.
'It's not that long.' Karen felt sick, knowing where this was all going.
'But you've been out when I get home most evenings,' she reasoned.
'You used to wait up for me when I went out,' Peter whined. 'What happened to that?'
'I'm sorry,' Karen said. 'I just get really tired sometimes.'
'Well, give us a cuddle now, then - show me what a good little wife you are.'
'I'm sorry. I can't now. I don't feel well.'
'Come on,' he urged, his hand stroking her leg under the covers. 'I really want you.'
'Sorry, no. I can't.' Karen took a deep breath. 'I just don't feel like making love.'
'Come on,' Peter gripped her hair and turned her head to his. 'Show me you love me.'
'I just can't turn it on like a tap,' Karen snapped. 'I can't do it any more.'
Peter jumped out of the bed and pulled his clothes on. He moved to the door and turned, glaring at her. 'You frigid bitch!' he said as he swept out. A moment later she heard the front door slam.
'Am I frigid?' she asked herself. Maybe he was right. Her mind was churning. 'I can't think straight any more,' she thought. 'But I can't live like this for much longer.'
She tried to push thoughts of Peter from her mind as she got dressed. Soon she found herself wondering about Evelyn.
Abandoned in Highclere for over twenty years after having a baby out of wedlock. Surely there had to be more to her story than that. Why would a young woman be locked away just for having a child? Karen wished she could find out more about what had happened. Only Evelyn had the answers. She couldn't get the thought out of her head that Evelyn had given birth to a baby girl. Somewhere out there, she had a daughter. A daughter the same age as Karen.
Karen rummaged in her work bag and found her notebook. Evelyn's details were scribbled on the page. She'd lived in Fareham before she was taken to the hospital. Karen felt a flicker of guilt at what she was about to do, but her need to find out more about Evelyn was overwhelming.
'Bugger confidentiality,' she whispered. 'I might be her next of kin.'
Once the thought was spoken, it made it more real somehow, and Karen felt the excitement bubbling as she left the house and caught the bus to Fareham.
The church bell was striking ten o'clock as she walked up the street counting the house numbers as she went. Number twenty-eight was one of a row of small terraced houses with a narrow, neatly-planted garden sloping up to the front door steps.
The paintwork on the door had seen better days and was faded and cracked, but the small window facing the street was shining and the net curtains were a brilliant white, hiding the interior from curious passers-by.
Karen noticed the narrow alley at the side of the house, which divided it from a similarly small house next door. The buildings were connected above the alley, which was paved in cobble stones, now shiny and wet from the recent rain.
Suddenly too afraid to knock at the front door, Karen took a deep breath, approached the covered alley and walked briskly through to the light at the far end. She had a feeling of familiarity, as though she'd been here before, but couldn't remember when.
A pathway ran along the back of the houses - she could see along to the end each way she looked. There was a tin bath hanging on the side of a brick out-house.
'Surely they don't still bathe in tin baths.' She thought of her own cosy little house with all the modern conveniences.
The back yard was small, the cobbled ground sloping towards a gulley which ran the length of the row of houses. Rainwater was still running freely towards the storm drain at one end. Karen could smell the damp brickwork kindling memories of a time past which were lost before she could grasp the sense of them. Beyond the yard was a vegetable garden with a red-bricked path leading to the outside toilet at the end.
Another memory forced its way into her senses - the darkness of the enclosed space, spiders' webs in the black corners above her head, the pungent odour of the muck-filled pit beneath the wooden seat, damp newspaper torn into squares and threaded on coarse string hanging from the wall. So vivid a memory, but Karen couldn't tell where it had come from.
She was gazing at the empty washing line when she felt a shiver down her spine. Turning, she realised that the back door to the house had opened and she was no longer alone.
'Can I help you?' An old woman stood in the doorway. 'This is private property. Not a public footpath!'
Karen smiled at the indignation of the woman. 'I'm so sorry,' she said. 'I was looking for a Mrs. Chapman who used to live here.'
'Well, you've found her,' the woman answered. 'What do you want with me?'
Karen felt her chest tighten. Her throat was dry and the blood rushed to her face.
Mrs. Chapman was a small woman with white hair cut into a bob and clipped back behind each ear with a hair grip. Her face carried the lines of her age, with more worry lines than laughter mapping out her past cares. She wore a flowery cotton overall which covered a tweed skirt and pale blue blouse. A hand-knitted cardigan, the sleeves pulled up above the elbows, completed the picture.
'Well?' Mrs. Chapman was speaking again. 'What is it? Cat got your tongue?'
'Sorry,' Karen stammered. 'I shouldn't be here really. I feel awful.'
The older woman glared at her for a moment longer, then her face softened. 'Well you'd better come in then. It looks like rain again.' She ushered Karen into the tiny kitchen. 'I'll put the kettle on. Would you like a cup of tea?'
'I'm having one anyway, and you look like you need something to perk you up.' Mrs.Chapman picked up the kettle from the stove.
'Thank you,' Karen smiled. 'Sorry. I'm being very rude. I'd love a cup. Sorry, I'm Karen Edwards.'
'Grace Chapman,' the older woman said. 'Mrs. Chapman to you.' She busied herself filling the kettle and lighting the gas with a match as she spoke. 'Soon have the kettle boiled. Now what brings you looking for me? I don't know you, do I?'
'No, no. We've not met before.' Karen wished she hadn't come. 'This is really difficult,' she went on. 'I wondered if you knew about someone called Evelyn. Her name's Evelyn Chapman, and she used to live here a long time ago.'
Mrs. Chapman's face blanched. She looked at Karen, her eyes like flint.
'What do you know of Evelyn?' she demanded.
'She's a patient on the ward where I work. I just wondered if any of her family were still alive. No one ever visits her you see. She just seems so alone.' Karen was babbling now knowing that she shouldn't really be here. 'I'm sorry, I shouldn't have come. It's very unprofessional of me. I'll go.' She was opening the door before Mrs. Chapman responded.
'Don't go. Please don't,' she said.
Karen hesitated, her hand still on the latch.
'Come back in. You can't just come round here like this and then run away,' Mrs. Chapman pleaded. 'Please come through to the front room and we can talk properly. I'll make the tea.' She smiled at Karen, and led the way to the small parlour. 'Do sit down, my dear, I won't be a moment.'
Karen sat on the sofa beside the black-leaded fireplace and looked around the room. It was gloomily lit by the net-draped window and was crammed with Victorian furniture. A deep red tablecloth covered a dining table almost filling the room which was surrounded by several mismatched dining chairs, all pushed neatly in place to allow more room to pass.
The mantle-piece was covered in brass objects, all lovingly polished. The walls were adorned with over-large sepia portraits of stern-looking ancestors. Karen studied their faces wondering whether they could be her own great-grandparents or whether she was just chasing a dream.
The door opened and Mrs. Chapman came back in, carrying a tray laden with teapot and china cups. She placed the tray on the table and sat down next to Karen.
'We'll just let it brew for a while,' she said. 'You’d better tell me about Evelyn.'
Now that she was actually sitting down face to face with the person she assumed was Evelyn's mother Karen hesitated. She could think of nothing to say.
'I don't know where to start,' she said.
'Well, you seem to have an interest in her,' Mrs. Chapman said. 'How is she?'
'She's well, I suppose.' Karen wondered how she could describe the madness of Evelyn. 'I mean, physically, she's quite well. But she seems to be tormented and we can't get to the bottom of it.' She paused. 'I was reading her notes, trying to find out about her. It's strange, but I felt a sort of bond with her, even though she doesn't seem to like me being around her. Then I started wondering about her family and why she was in there in the first place.'
Karen stopped, realising that she shouldn't have said so much. They'd told her not to get involved with the patients, and here she was, in the home of one of them.
'Go on,' Mrs Chapman said.
'I shouldn't be here,' Karen said. 'I've said too much. I'm sorry.'
'It's alright,' Mrs. Chapman reassured her. 'You want to know why she was sent there? It's all a long time ago now.' She got up and took up the teapot. 'You try to forget,' she said. But you never really can, you know. Not when it's your own daughter in trouble. We'll have some tea, and I'll try and tell you about it.'
'Are you sure,' Karen still felt uncomfortable. 'You don't even know me.'
'I've held it in for too long,' Mrs. Chapman said. 'And you seem to care about Evelyn. No one else has ever been in contact with me from the hospital. It'll be a relief.'