So, back to Karen's world again. Hope you are enjoying reading these chapters. If you like what you read, please buy the book. It's on Kindle at www.amazon.com; www.amazon.co.uk. Also in paper back form from Amazon. You can buy it directly from www.completelynovel.com as well as in Waterstones and all good bookstores included The Book Shop, Lee-on-the-Solent, The Hayling Island Bookshop, The One Tree Bookshop in Petersfield and Earl's Coffee Shop in Titchfield. Even if you can't afford to buy the book, it would be great if you could write a review on Amazon for me. Every one helps!
I am trying hard at the moment to get some more bookings for signings. My last one was in Fareham Waterstones and it was a great success. Trying to get into Southampton now....
The house was quiet when Karen let herself in and wandered into the kitchen to put the kettle on. She heard Peter's key in the front door as she reached for the coffee jar and glanced at herself in the small mirror above the kitchen sink. Her face was bruised, her left eye swollen like puff pastry. Her heart was in her throat.
Peter called from the hall to her as he came in. 'Is that you Karen? I wasn't expecting you to be home yet.'
'I'm in the kitchen. Do you want coffee?' She took up the kettle.
'Please.' He sounded happy. 'How did you get on at the doctor's this morning? Did he sign you off?'
Karen heard the hall door slam shut and waited for his reaction with gritted teeth. He'd reached the kitchen door.
'What the hell have you done to yourself now?' He glared at her.
Karen felt tears filling her eyes. She shook them away as she replied. 'I got hit at work,' she said. 'I'm alright. It looks worse than it is.'
'You got hit?' Peter's face was white. 'I told you that place was bad for you. I don't know why you went back there after this morning.'
'What do you mean by that?' Karen asked. 'What were you expecting the doctor to say?'
'I just thought he'd sign you off for a rest, that's all.'
'Why the hell should the doctor think I need a rest?' Karen snapped. 'You've been telling him lies about me.'
'Don't be ridiculous. Why would I want to do that?' He was shouting now. He snatched the kettle from Karen. 'Are you putting this on or not?
He filled the kettle, plugged it in and turned to face her. 'Just look at yourself. Are you sure one of your patients did this? It looks like you did it to yourself.'
'Why would I want to hurt myself?' Karen was indignant. 'If you don't believe me you can ask the Charge Nurse.'
'Oh, yes, you lot all stick together don't you?' he returned. 'Anyway, did he see what happened?'
'No,' Karen hesitated. 'I don't think any of the staff saw what happened, but they pulled Kathy off me. She was sitting on me.'
'So you probably goaded her into it. You're just not cut out for that work you know. You're too soft.'
'It's the first time anything like this has happened to me. Everyone says that Kathy's unpredictable. It could have happened to anyone, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.' She walked through to the sitting room and sat at the small dining table, looking out of the window. 'Why can't he just try to understand,' she thought. She could hear Peter clattering in the kitchen and soon he had entered the room carrying his coffee. Karen glanced at him.
'What are you glaring at me for?' he shouted across the room, then went and sat on the sofa, kicked his shoes off and stretched his legs out on the cushions. He leaned back and closed his eyes, shutting her out.
'Sorry,' Karen whispered as she got up and went back into the kitchen to make her own coffee.
'For God's sake! I didn't know you wanted a cup,' he shouted. 'I'd have made you one if you'd asked.'
'Forget it.' Karen was sick of the shouting and just wanted things to calm down between them. She sat at the window again and placed her cup on the table. A robin and two blackbirds were hopping in the garden. She watched them fight over their territory, as she leaned her head against the cool glass. A few minutes passed before Peter started talking again.
'Anyway,' he said. 'You haven't told me what the doctor said this morning.'
'You've been telling him that I was crying all the time, staying up all night, and saying weird things. What were you thinking?' Karen spoke quietly, trying to stay calm.
Peter looked uncomfortable for a split second. 'I only told him the truth. You don't know your own mind these days.'
'Well, I told him I was fine.' She sipped her coffee. 'In fact, I feel better than I have in ages. I'm just annoyed that you even spoke to my doctor about me. What exactly are you trying to do?'
'I'm not trying to do anything. Just listen to yourself. You sound paranoid. I only told the doctor the truth.'
'I have not been crying all the time, or any of those other things you said.' She was adamant that he would not have the last word on this.
'What about that patient you think you're related to?' he sneered.
'It could be true,' Karen said. 'You don't know anything about her, and I don't know who my real mother is, so anything is possible. It was only a thought. I am not obsessed by it.'
'I think you are,' he insisted. 'You've no idea how stupid you sound, talking about her, and then going on about having a career in a job that's so poorly paid, working with a load of nutters!'
'It's a waste of time talking about this to you.' Karen stared at her coffee.
'Why can't you listen to what I'm telling you?' Peter said. 'I just want you to be how you used to be, before you had that operation.'
Karen looked at him aghast. 'You want me to be like that again? I was really ill then. I couldn't do anything for myself. I just slept a lot of the time. If anything, that's when I didn't know my own mind.'
'You were good to me then.' Peter was quieter now.
'I was only half a woman then, Peter,' she said. 'After the operation I felt like I had a new lease in life. I just want a chance to do something more important.'
'We had a good life before,' he insisted.
'You had a good life,' Karen corrected him. 'Oh, I know it was alright, what we had at the time. But I was frustrated, and didn't have the energy to do anything for myself. When I had that operation, I nearly died. They told me when I came round that it was touch and go - I’d lost a lot of blood. Something happened to me then, like I was waking from a deep sleep. It was as though I was being given another chance to make my life better.'
'Who told you that you nearly died? No-one said anything to me.'
'The surgeon told me,' Karen said. 'There was no need for you to know because I was alright by the time you came to see me. It was just a passing remark from the surgeon, but I think I knew anyway, deep down.'
'You're off your head!' he snorted. 'You're living in a complete fantasy world.'
'Peter, stop this, please.'
'Stop what?' His lip curled in a sneer.
'Please, can't we start again,' Karen pleaded. 'I don't like this arguing all the time.'
'That's up to you. You know what you need to do.' He finished his coffee, placed his mug on the floor and got up from the sofa. He turned to face her. 'When you're ready to start being a proper wife again, maybe we'll have something to talk about.'
'I'm never going back to how I was. I'm not that person any more. I've grown up.'
Peter walked across the room and stood over her. 'We'll see about that.' He took hold of her arm, gripping her wrists tightly.
'You're hurting me.' Karen looked into his eyes.
'You don't know what hurt means,' he spat into her face.
'Let me go, please,' Karen whimpered.
Peter twisted her arm cruelly then flicked her wrist away. He touched the bruise on her cheek, his fingers gently stroking down towards her neck. He tilted her chin and brushed her lips with his before Karen could take a breath, then he turned and left the room. She swallowed and looked down at her wrist. The skin was broken where he'd dug in his nails, a thin line of bright red blood trickled across the back of her hand. She tried to blink back the tears, but it was too late. A tear dropped from her eye and mingled with the blood.
Karen watched the tiny river as it dripped onto the table.