Really happy to offer you an extract from the brilliant “This Little Dark Place” today – a tense and unnerving psychological drama which I will be reviewing very soon. Don’t miss out!
About the Book
How well do you know your girlfriend?
How well do you know your lover?
How well do you know yourself?
Daniel and Victoria are together. They’re trying for a baby. Ruby is in prison, convicted of assault on an abusive partner.
But when Daniel joins a pen pal program for prisoners, he and Ruby make contact. At first the messages are polite, neutral – but soon they find themselves revealing more and more about themselves. Their deepest fears, their darkest desires.
And then, one day, Ruby comes to find Daniel. And now he must decide who to choose – and who to trust.
When I got home Victoria was upstairs having a
bath. She’d left her iPad on the couch. I unlocked it, the
passcode was her birthday, and opened Safari. Evidently,
she was a very active member on the pregnancy forums.
There were various other hare-brained schemes for conceiving
that she hadn’t tried. Eating only seafood and
spinach. Climbing into an ice bath immediately after
sex. Sitting upside-down after sex. The colour orange.
The list went on. And then I read something that made
my stomach twist inside my body.
A thread entitled: ‘IF YOU’RE TRYING TO GET
PREGNANT – READ THIS!!! By Katrina, a mother of two
beautiful boys.’ Katrina used to work in an old persons’
home. She’d been trying to get pregnant for years.
She was on the brink of giving up. But then ‘MDH
got promoted’ (I discovered MDH meant ‘my darling
husband’), meaning she didn’t have to work any more.
So she quit and after that she got pregnant straight
away. Twins. What a miracle, et cetera. One day, admiring
the two babies, it hit her. She knew why she had
finally become pregnant. It was because she had taken
herself away from death. She was no longer surrounded
every day by dying people. That was the only explanation
and she urged the women on the forum to ‘avoid
death, and places where death lurks at all costs!!!!’ (this
included: doctor’s practices, nursing homes, funerals
and graveyards), before adding: ‘If someone you know
is sick or dying, you mustn’t see them any more. You
mustn’t allow their death to block the new life fighting
to blossom within you.’ The post had received hundreds
of replies and thousands of likes. Scores of women, all
using the same pseudo-religious language and shorthand,
thanking her, referring to her as some sort of
prophet. For the first time I felt resentful of the whole
process, the whole matter. I wanted to barge in on Victoria’s
bath and to rage at her stupidity, at her callous,
blind stupidity. Instead I went out to the workshop and
spent the evening polishing an ash dining table until I
was sure she’d gone to bed.
The following Sunday she said her father was in
Ireland on a golf weekend and her mother had asked her
to stay over, to keep her company. So on the Saturday I
drove her to her parents’ house, but before she got out
I stopped her. I told her I knew about Katrina on the
forum and why she was avoiding my mother. She said
nothing. She just clenched the handles of her overnight
bag tightly and pursed her lips. I had begun to feel like I
knew her less and less. We sat in silence. Cars whooshed
by. Seagulls twitched on the roofs of the houses. In that
moment I think I experienced the first desperate pang
of regret. Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut,
allowed this phase to pass, just carried on trying to get
her pregnant. But I felt her changing. A shell of cynicism
and hardness was forming around her. I reached
out to her with my hand but she avoided my touch like
Victoria announced one night that if by January we
hadn’t conceived she would contact the fertility clinic.
We were still having sex. Mostly, perfunctory. Occasionally,
aggressive. When I climbed into bed with her
without a kiss or caress I did so out of love for her. I
sensed her love for me was still there too, simply trapped
beneath a layer of ice. Sometimes I tried melting it.
Sometimes I took a pneumatic drill to it.
Christmas Day was hard. I sensed it would be my
mother’s last. Ivy was now living full-time in the Jerusalem
Full-Time Residential Care Home. Scrawny strings
of tinsel hung from each corner of the visiting room.
The nurses wore elf costumes. Some residents were
arranged in a semicircle around the telly watching It’s a
Wonderful Life. Ivy didn’t register me when I kissed her
forehead and I knew it wasn’t one of her ‘good days’.
I wished her a happy Christmas. I told her I loved her.
I told her I was thankful for everything she’d done for
me. I looked up and saw that her brow was furrowed
and I thought for a moment that my words had got
through, that I had stirred something deep within her.
‘Do you remember too?’ I said. ‘It wasn’t so long
ago.’ I squeezed her hand. I felt I had reached her. But
she continued to stare straight ahead, right through me.
And then I realised her expression hadn’t altered at all
in the time I’d been there. I followed her gaze to the
window and realised she hadn’t heard a single word I’d
said. Her expression, which I had interpreted as recognition,
was simply confusion. For it was dark and the
nurses had put the lights on in the visiting room and
instead of the sea, all Ivy saw was a reflection of herself
in the window. Ghostly and see-through. Half there,