On Saturday 13th October between 11.00am and 1.00pm I will be signing copies of Caught in the Web in the amazing Book Shop in Lee-on-Solent. It's 142 High Street and well worth a visit at any time. I am hoping that loads of people will come along and meet me for a chat and to buy the book, of course. I am truly grateful to Rick of The Book Shop for giving me this chance to reach out to more readers. This novel just has to be read. Here is another taster for those who can't get there.....
The Red Lion was busy. A hundred yards away from Gosport harbour, on the High Street, it was a favourite Saturday night drinking place for sailors and civvies alike, before they crossed the ferry to the nightclubs of Portsmouth. Even though it was early, the room was smoke-filled and noisy.
Peter jostled at the bar between several young men smartly dressed in suits, ready for the evening ahead.
'A Pint of lager and a vodka and lime,' he shouted to the barmaid.
There were no seats free and he'd left Karen standing near the door whilst he purchased the drinks. He was feeling good about this evening, hoping he could make her finally see sense. He just wanted the old Karen back again. He pushed his way through the crowd to where she was waiting.
'Thanks,' she smiled at him as he passed her the drink. 'This is nice,' she shouted above the noise, and sipped the vodka, rattling the ice in the tall glass.
Peter leaned against the wall, his eyes cast around the room for a table. He hadn't bargained at it being so busy in here this early.
'Sorry there's nowhere to sit,' he shouted to Karen.
'Don't worry,' she said. 'We won't be here for long, will we?'
Peter had already drank most of his pint. 'I'm getting another,' he said. 'It'll take a while to get served with this lot in here. Do you want one?'
'No thanks,' Karen replied.
Peter pushed his way back to the bar, waving his empty glass at the barmaid. 'Over here,' he called.
Karen nursed her drink. She gently shook the glass, watching the ice melt into the spirit, the lime juice swirling with the vodka. She drank it slowly, enjoying its warmth seeping through her body. She looked about at the young people crowded together, feeling strangely apart from them, detached from the boisterous laughter and conversations.
'I live in another world,' she thought. She’d never been a part of a group of young, single people. All of her friends were Peter's and were married and older than her by at least five years. She felt old and out of place. Except that now she had friends at work. People she could relate to. She smiled inwardly to herself.
'We'd better get going.' Peter was back. He swilled down his lager and ushered her out of the door into the street. He took her hand and they walked briskly towards the precinct and into the Chinese Restaurant.
'That was great.' Peter leaned back into his chair, having pushed his plate away. 'Sweet and sour pork. You can't beat it.'
'Lovely,' Karen agreed. 'But far too much for me. The portions are massive, and I like to leave room for pudding.'
'You and your sweet tooth,' Peter laughed indulgently. 'Are you going to have an ice-cream?'
'Yes please,' Karen said. 'See if they've got chocolate.'
The waiter took away their plates and soon Karen was tucking into a bowl of ice-cream. She glanced up and noticed that Peter was watching her. He smiled quickly as their eyes met and she smiled back.
'What?' Karen asked.
'Nothing,' Peter said. 'I was just looking at you, that's all.'
Karen turned her attention back to her ice-cream. Peter took out a cigarette and lit it with a flick of his lighter. He took a drag and let the smoke out slowly into the air above her head.
'Karen,' he said. 'I've been thinking about you.'
'Oh, dear,' Karen laughed. 'That sounds serious.'
'You mustn't keep thinking that I'm trying to do anything to hurt you.'
'I don't.' Karen smiled. 'Why do you say that?'
'You've been saying some weird things lately,' Peter said.
'Like what?' She stared at her reflection in the plate glass window behind his head.
'That stuff about patients being connected to you for a start. Then there's that time when you were talking to yourself.'
'What?' Karen was shocked. 'Talking to myself? I don't.'
'You probably don't remember,' he said. 'But you've been doing it a lot lately.' He smiled. 'It's OK, really.'
'It's not OK. I know I haven't been talking to myself.'
'And there's those times when you've been up at night, and crying all the time.' He paused. 'There's no need to deny it. It's nothing to be ashamed about.'
'I'm not ashamed. But it's not true - I don't stay up all night, and I haven't been crying all the time either.'
Peter smiled and reached across the table. He took Karen's hand and squeezed it, then leaned back in his chair.
'Listen Karen,' he said. 'I knew you'd be like this. I've been talking to Doctor Wright about you.'
'What?' Karen looked down and realised that she was gripping the spoon like a lifeline. She threw it down as though it had burned her hand.
'I was worried,' he reasoned. 'I am your husband, Karen, and Doctor Wright is worried about you too. You know that after your operation they said you might have a reaction.' He paused then went on, 'Doctor Wright thinks that you may be suffering from the after-effects of your illness. He wants to see you.'
'I don't need to see a doctor.'
'I knew you'd say that. But I've made the appointment now, and I've promised the doctor that you'd go to the surgery on Monday.'
'I'm not going,' Karen hissed. 'I can't believe you've done this behind my back.'
'It's for your own good. If there's nothing wrong, then going to see him won't do any harm, will it?' He stubbed out his cigarette.
Karen stood up, her chair crashing against a pillar. 'I'm not going.' She was almost shouting now. 'You can't make me go.' She looked around the room in embarrassment. 'I'm going to the ladies,' she announced, and marched towards the rear of the restaurant.
Standing in the small wash room, she tried to stop herself from shaking. She looked in the mirror at herself through the smudges on the glass.
'Why did I think things were getting better?' The whole conversation with Peter had seemed unreal. 'How can he do this to me?' she thought.
Her face gazed back in anger.
She made her mind up. 'So, he wants me to see the doctor, does he? Well, I'll make sure the doctor will see that I'm perfectly sane.'
Wiping the tears from her eyes, Karen turned from the mirror and gritting her teeth, walked back into the restaurant to tell Peter of her decision.
'I knew you'd see what's best for you,' he smiled.