فصل 13

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فصل 13

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Hot water

For the next two weeks, I only returned to my flat once to fetch some clothes. The three of us went out on the boat on fine days, which was nearly every day. And in the evenings, Pete and I talked, cooked each other meals and kissed.

In the middle of the second week Cathy came to collect Ben, to take him to stay with her for a few days. I kept upstairs out of the way while Cathy was there. It seemed the least complicated option, somehow. And as I lay on the bed with the bedroom door open, I listened to Cathy talking to Pete.

‘Nobody knows where my friend Carla’s gone,’ Cathy said. ‘She’s just disappeared. It isn’t like her to go off like that, not without telling anybody. And Gemma’s going half crazy trying to organise a funeral and a wedding. It’s taken the police a while to release her husband’s body, and they still haven’t got a clue who killed him. And Diane’s had to go to Cuba to sort everything out over there. Carla was the only one of us who hadn’t had anything dramatic happen to her, and now she’s gone and disappeared -‘

‘Look, Cathy,’ I heard Pete interrupt her. ‘I’m going to have to ask you to go. I’ve got an appointment to get to.’ I noticed that Pete sounded different talking to Cathy. When he spoke to me, his voice was soft and unhurried, as if he had all the time in the world. But when he spoke to Cathy, there was a distinct edge of impatience to his voice.

Cathy was clearly annoyed at being cut off in full flow. ‘Well, pardon me for wasting your valuable time!’ she said angrily.

‘Don’t be like that, Cathy,’ Pete said, obviously doing his best to be more patient. ‘It’s just that I’m really busy today.’

‘Too busy to speak to the mother of your child, I suppose!’ Cathy went on. ‘Too busy to discuss how I’m going to afford to buy food when you cut off your payments!’

‘I’ll see what I can do about the payments,’ I heard Pete say tiredly, and Cathy’s voice immediately changed.

‘You’ll carry on with them?’ she said excitedly. ‘Really? Do you promise?’

‘I’ll try,’ Pete replied. ‘That’s all I can say. Now, I really must get ready.’

Their voices became more distant and I guessed they were heading towards the front door.

‘You’ve got an interview, haven’t you?’ I heard Cathy guess wrongly. ‘You’ve got an interview and you’ve given up the idea of going to university!’

After he’d finally got rid of her, Pete came upstairs and collapsed onto the bed beside me. ‘Don’t say anything!’ He warned me, half joking. ‘I know I’m weak, but I just couldn’t stand another one of her moods, that’s all.’

I put my arms around him and we lay together in comfortable silence for a while. Then, after he’d calmed down, he looked at me. ‘Your friends lead dramatic lives, don’t they?’ he observed. ‘Two murders in the space of two weeks.’

‘And one unexplained disappearance!’ I joked, hoping to change the subject.

Pete laughed. ‘Would you like to disappear with me forever?’ he asked, kissing the side of my neck, and the thing is, I wanted to say yes. I was so happy being around Pete. He made me feel totally safe and loved, in a way you never did.

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Let’s do it!’

He seemed astonished, pulling back to look at me. ‘Do what?’ he asked.

‘Disappear,’ I said. ‘Make a new start somewhere else. Somewhere where nobody knows us!’ I think I probably sounded a bit too eager, even perhaps a little desperate, because he looked at me strangely.

‘Well,’ he said after a while, ‘I can’t, can I? There’s Ben to consider. And Cathy. She might be a bit of a pain, but she is his mother. I can’t deny him his mother. Besides, there’s my university course… ‘

I did my best to smile, recovering as quickly as possible. I could tell from his reaction that my voice had probably sounded dangerously similar to Cathy’s. ‘Of course there is,’ I said. ‘You’re right. It was just a silly idea.’

‘Are you sure?’ he asked, sounding concerned. ‘You seemed… Is everything all right, Carla?’

I laughed, and to my relief the laugh sounded quite normal. ‘I’m fine!’ I assured him. ‘Fine. As I said, it was just a silly idea. Now, are you going to lie there talking all afternoon or are you going to make love to me?’

He smiled at that and started to kiss me, but although I responded, for the first time since we’d been together I didn’t really experience much pleasure from our passion. I was filled with too much regret.

And I thought about you, for the first time in days. With hatred. Because it was your fault that I had secrets I needed to keep from the man I loved. Your fault that I was a murderer.

Life carried on as normal for the next few days. Pete’s holidays were over and he had to go back to work. I knew I should look for a new job myself; my savings weren’t going to last forever. But somehow I didn’t feel motivated to buy a newspaper or visit the Job Centre. I don’t think I realised it at the time, but looking back now I think I was feeling very uncertain about what the future might bring. And quite rightly so.

Because one afternoon I came back from a peaceful walk around the lake at Whitlingham to find that Pete was already home. And the first thing I saw when I let myself in through the back door, was… this notebook, lying open on the kitchen table.

I think my heart stopped. I know I couldn’t breathe properly and I had to grab hold of the kitchen table to stop myself from falling. I stood there for a long time, staring at the open book and holding on to the table, my body frozen by horror. I didn’t leave it there like that. Did I? I know I was sitting there writing, but I put it back in my bag. Surely I did. He wouldn’t have taken it out of my bag. Would he? The words crashed around inside my head, over and over again. And suddenly I remembered our conversation about reading when we’d been sitting on the river bank, the first time we’d gone out in the boat. ‘The times I’ve got into trouble for reading when I shouldn’t be reading!’ Pete had said. ‘At work, even on my honeymoon! I can’t seem to help it. If I see an interesting piece of writing, I’ve started reading before I know it.’

Eventually my limbs must have unlocked, I suppose, because I managed to move over to the book to look down at the open pages, trying to see what he’d been reading. I kept having to blink because my eyes wouldn’t focus properly. Maybe I was crying, I don’t know. I only know that at first my hand-written words in the notebook swam around in front of my eyes, making no sense to me.

But when, at last, the words became steady enough to make sense, I could see that the book wasn’t open at the page I had been writing on. And one word, in particular, leapt straight out from the page at me.


I’m not sure what I would have done if Pete hadn’t chosen that exact moment to call down to me from upstairs. Maybe I would just have grabbed my book and run away. Disappeared out of Pete’s life forever. Moved abroad. Had plastic surgery to change my identity.

But he did call down to me.

‘Carla? I’m up here, in the bath! Come and join me; I’ve got something I want to talk to you about!’

I didn’t stop to analyse the sound of his voice; I was totally convinced he was going to ask me about the notebook. To accuse me of murder.

As I made my way slowly up the stairs, listening to the sound of Pete in the bath, I had no idea of what I was going to do. I didn’t go up there with the intention of killing him, I really didn’t. To be honest, I didn’t even feel I was inhabiting my body properly. It was as if I was floating somewhere above myself, watching with curiosity as I reached the top of the stairs.

There was a small electric fire on the landing with a long cable. I bent to plug it in and picked it up carefully, walking with it towards the open door of the bathroom. Then I threw it into the bathwater with Pete.

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