Today, I am delighted to share with you an extract from Caroline England’s debut novel. I have the book on my kindle and hope to read very soon.
About the Book
Antonia, Antonia. My name is Antonia.’
It’s been her name for many years. But sometimes, like tonight, she forgets.
Antonia has a secret. A secret so dark and so deep that she can barely admit it to herself. Instead, she treats herself to Friday night sessions of self-harm while her husband David is at the pub, and her best friend Sophie is drinking too much wine a few doors down.
Nobody close to her knows the truth about what the teenage Antonia saw all those years ago. No-one, that is, except her mother. But Candy is in a care home now, her mind too addled to remember the truth. Antonia is safe. Isn’t she?
The lies start small. They always do. But when the tightly woven story you’ve told yourself begins to unravel, the truth threatens to come to the surface. And then what’s going to happen?
‘Fine, she’s fine,’ David answers, glancing towards the bar, the sparkle back in his bright blue eyes. ‘At home with a DVD and guacamole. Jennifer Aniston’s my bet. Actually Mikey, I wanted to ask you. Her birthday’s coming up and I want to buy her something special, maybe something different for a change. Got any ideas? What would you buy Olivia?’
Mike scratches his chin, still smooth from its second shave of the day. He laughs. ‘You mean, what do you buy the woman who has everything?’
‘He treats her like a bloody doll,’ his wife Olivia often remarks, spot on as ever. The statement reminds him of a cardboard dolly set his sister was given one Christmas. She asked him to play, and despite his desire to try out his new bicycle in the biting Irish winter outside, he knelt beside her and joined in the game at the warm kitchen table, detaching the paper outfits from the booklet, the dresses, the hats, the scarves and the shoes, then dressing the doll in different designs for each season of the year.
‘I’m serious, Mikey.’ David interrupts his thoughts. ‘What would you buy Olivia?’
Mike takes a swig of his beer, then wipes the rim of the glass with his thumb. David’s assumption that their respective wives fall into any remotely similar category makes him smile to himself.
‘Vain and vacant. The sort of woman I can’t stand,’ Olivia said of Antonia after meeting her for the first time at one of David and Antonia’s dinner parties. ‘But as it happens, she’s nice and I like her, which is really annoying.’
So what would he buy Olivia? What had he bought her last time? Mike can’t remember, probably something she’d asked for, but then they don’t make a fuss of their own birthdays, preferring to concentrate on their two lovely girls.
And there it is: like Winston Churchill’s dog, his own black dog of despair, bounding back into the pub and sitting by him. Close, comfortable and devastating. He hears his own voice not long after it happened, trying for rationality: ‘I didn’t even know him. It could have been so much worse.’
There are times when Mike wonders if he’s spoken aloud, made his words to the dog public. For a moment he’s forgotten the question, but he’s saved from an answer; David has turned towards the door.
‘What bloody time do you call this?’ he bellows, standing up and gesticulating towards the bar. Mike looks at his watch. It’s getting on for last orders but Sami Richards grins and shrugs, holding out his palms in a dismissively apologetic gesture. Elegant and handsome, he strolls past the Friday regulars clustered at the bar, the turned-up collar of his black leather jacket matching the sheen of his skin.
‘Why does he always look as though he’s walked off the page of a fucking magazine?’ David says, a little too aggressively, as he turns back towards Mike. He knocks back his pint, ready to get in more drinks.