The signing is on 26th September at 10.00am to 12.00 noon. Please support me if you can, and pass the word to others.
Just to whet your appetites before you come along to see me, here is the next chapter of CAUGHT IN THE WEB.
Karen leaned against the examination couch in the clinic room, watching Mike unload the pharmacy box and put away new bottles of medication into the metal cupboard.
'What's the matter?' The bottles rattled together on the metal shelf. Mike turned to face Karen.
Karen took a breath. 'ECT,' she began, then paused.
'Shocking?' Mike laughed. 'You get used to it.'
The tap over the wash basin was dripping. Karen jumped from the couch and turned off the tap. The dripping persisted.
'I'll never get used to seeing people being put through that,' she said. 'It's barbaric. This tap drips,' she turned to Mike accusingly.
'If it works you have to try it,' Mike gripped the tap and turned it forcefully. It groaned in protest until the dripping stopped.
'Like putting people in canvas topped baths?' Karen snorted. 'Water therapy. Supposed to relax them.'
'Well, it sounds awful - but it worked for some. Here pass me those bottles.'
'They were probably terrified, locked in a bath for hours, struggling to get out.' Karen passed two of the large bottles of brown liquid to Mike. He took them from her and laughed again.
'Worse than these?' he asked. 'It was just another way of calming down the madness.'
'I suppose,' Karen passed him the remaining bottles from the crate, reading the names on the labels: Largactil, Mellerill, Diazepam, Sodium Amytal.
'Yes, these are all sedatives of one kind or other,' Mike said. 'I know we have anti-depressants now, but sometimes even they don’t work. ECT can help when nothing else has.'
'But Millie and Annie seem worse since this morning,' Karen argued.
'They'll be alright later, you'll see,' he said. 'Just watch and wait. In another couple of weeks, after about six treatments, they'll be much better.'
'Six treatments!' Karen couldn't imagine having to go through that all again.
'It works.' Mike locked the cupboard, now fully replenished.
'It doesn't feel right,' Karen said.
'Not everyone agrees with it, that's true,' Mike said. 'But it's one of the main treatments for severe depression, and it's not going to go away.' He smiled. 'You'll have to get used to it if you want to make a career of this.' He opened the clinic door and ushered her out, locking it behind them.
Karen sighed. She passed the rest of the shift feeling troubled by the thought of her part in taking the patients to the treatment room, and holding them down whilst they were electrocuted. It didn't rest well in her heart.
'You coming to the Social Club?' Linda asked as they gathered their bags to leave the ward a short while later. 'You look like you could do with a drink.'
'Not today,' Karen replied. 'I just need to be on my own for a while, to think things through. It's been a weird morning.'
'Just come for one,' Linda insisted.
'No. Really. I'm going straight home to have a long soak in the bath.' She remembered the patients in the canvas baths and shuddered. 'I promised Peter we'd have a nice meal together. I think it's time I made some decisions about building bridges with my husband before it's too late.’
'Well, good luck to you then,' said Linda. 'If you're sure that's what you want. What about John.'
'I'm not sure.' They walked to the ward door and let themselves out into the stair well. 'I'm confused - I don't know what I want really.' They reached the bottom of the stairs and made their way towards the entrance of the hospital. 'I only know that I feel really guilty about what happened between John and me. I owe it to Peter to try and make our marriage work.'
'You're probably making the right decision,' said Linda. 'But I'm not convinced you really know what you want yet.' They reached the end of the corridor and walked into the courtyard.
'That's why I need some time on my own.' Karen felt the sun on her face.
'Will he be there when you get home? It's Saturday, remember.'
'He goes shopping on Saturdays, so I doubt that he'll be in,' Karen laughed. 'Don't worry, I haven't lost my memory. I do know what day it is.'
'See you on Monday then.' Linda turned towards the nurses’ home.
Karen watched her retreating back until she'd turned the corner.
The bath water was soothing.
Karen tried to relax into the bubbles foaming around her shoulders, but her mind was in a mess. Whenever she thought about John, a mixture of emotions flooded over her. It was like a wave of sunlight after a long dull winter, welcoming and warm but edged with guilt and uneasiness as the black clouds of reality scudded across her sunny sky.
Peter had been her saviour when she was lonely and confused as a teenager. He'd taken care of her at first but when she thought of him lately her feelings were of rising resentment and frustration. He couldn't seem to understand her need to make a life of her own. It wasn't that she didn't love him any more. She just needed the same space that he demanded as his right.
What had once been exciting was now demeaning. His constant need for her to perform in bed whenever he wanted her only made her feel used. At first she'd believed that this was how relationships worked, that it was the woman's place to please her husband. But she was beginning to understand that it didn't have to be like that. Complete submission felt unnatural as she began to question herself, wondering if there was more to life than this.
She'd been afraid to make Peter angry and as she’d swallowed down the chance to voice her feelings time and again, the tightness in her throat grew into something more tangible.
The front door banged. She jumped.
'Karen, are you in?' Peter was calling up the stairs.
'I'm in the bath.' She felt herself tense as she heard his feet on the stairs and then Peter was standing in the doorway, smiling at her.
'Hello darling,' he said. 'How was your day?'
'Fine. Are you alright?'
'Of course I am,' he sat on the edge of the bath, patting the bubbles at her face. She tried not to flinch.
'I'm sorry about this morning,' he said. 'I didn't mean to worry you, staying out so late.' He paused. 'But, you know, Karen, I've been worrying about you too. I've had a lot on my mind lately.'
'You don't have to worry about me. I'm absolutely alright. I just think we need to spend a bit of time together relaxing, that's all.' She looked up at him.
'I was thinking exactly the same.' Peter stood up. 'So, I've booked us a table at that Chinese Restaurant in the precinct for tonight. We can have a nice quiet meal together, just the two of us. O.K.?'
'Oh, alright,' Karen hesitated.
'What's the matter with that?' Peter bristled.
'Nothing. It'll be lovely.'
'I can tell when you're lying,' Peter insisted. 'There's something wrong.'
'It's just that I bought some steak and was going to cook us a meal tonight, that's all. Chinese will be great though.'
'We can have the steak tomorrow,' Peter said. 'We need to be there by seven, so we'll leave here early, say six. We can have a drink somewhere on the way.'
Karen's feelings were mixed as she got out of the bath and dried herself. She felt an excitement that maybe things were going to be better, but there was still a faint niggle that this new mood was false somehow. She shook it away, telling herself that she was imagining things.
'You've been with too many mad people,' she told herself. 'Peter's alright. He's just been through a difficult time.'
'I just need to try harder,' she told herself.
If you are curious about how the story ends, please buy a copy. It's available from Amazon, both in Kindle and paperback form; Completelynovel.com.; Waterstones Commercial Road, Portsmouth, The Hayling Island Bookshop; The Bookshop, Lee-on-Solent; Southwick Village Stores; The Red Lion in Southwick; Cafe Flo in Castle Road Southsea. Also available from all good bookstores who can order in a copy.