In A Dark, Dark Wood Part 32
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'How are you getting back to London?'
'I don't know.'
'I do,' says a voice from the door. I turn and there is Nina, lounging in the door frame, an unlit cigarette between her lips. She speaks around it, like a dime-store detective. 'She's coming with me.'
HOME. SUCH A small word, and yet, when I close the door of my tiny flat behind me and lock the door, I feel a spreading flood of relief that seems too huge to be encompassed by those four letters.
I am home. I am home.
Jess drove us back. She came all the way up from London to pick up me and Nina, and take us home. When they got to my road they offered to come in, help me carry my case up the three flights of stairs, but I said no.
'I'm looking forward to being alone,' I said, and it was true. And I knew that they were looking forward to being alone too alone together. I'd seen the quiet affectionate gestures on the long drive, Nina's hand resting in Jess's lap, Jess rubbing Nina's knee as she changed gear. But I didn't feel excluded it wasn't that.
I just never knew how much I loved my own space until now.
Flo died a few hours after I saw Tom three days after she'd taken the overdose. Nina was right about that. And right, too, that she'd changed her mind by the end. I never saw her, but Nina visited her, and listened while she cried, and talked, and planned for the future and what she'd do when she left hospital. Her parents were with her when she died. I don't know if it was peaceful Nina wouldn't tell me, which makes me think not.
I sigh and let my case fall to the floor. I am tired, and parched, and stiff from the long drive.
I open up the coffee maker, pour in the water, and fold the filter paper just so. Then I open up my glass coffee jar and sniff the grounds. They're a week old, but still fresh enough to make the inside of my nose sing.
The sound the machine makes as it percolates is the sound of home, and the scent of the steaming grounds is the smell of home, and then at last I curl my battered body on the bed, my still-packed case on the rug, and I take a long, slow sip. The winter sun is filtering through the rattan blinds, and the traffic below makes a soft roar, too far away to disturb, more like the sound of the sea on a shore.
I think of that glass house, far away, in the stillness of the forest, with the birds swooping past and the woodland animals padding quietly through the garden. I think of its blank glass walls, reflecting the dark shapes of the trees, and the moonlight filtering through.
Flo's aunt is selling, apparently. Flo's parents told Nina. Too much blood spilt, too many memories. And she said she was planning to burn the planchette, when the police released it.
That's the one part I don't understand. The seance.
Everything else was necessary. Everything else was part of the plan. But the ouija board, and that creepy, creepy message?
I can still see it now, looping and scrolling across the page.
M m mmmmuurderrrrrrrrrrrrrer Lamarr thought it was deliberate, all part of the plan to unnerve everyone, get them sufficiently on edge so that when the back door swung open, we'd be more inclined to panic, and react to a suggestion to get out the gun.
But I'm not so sure. I think again about what Tom said, about the messages that float up from the subconscious ... was it Clare's unwilling hand, spelling out what she was so desperately trying to suppress?
I shut my eyes, trying to block the memory of that night. But there is no way of shutting it out completely. Flo is gone, but the rest of us, Tom, Nina and I, we'll have to live with what happened, with what Clare did, with what we all did, for the rest of our lives.
My case is on the floor, and I open it up and pull out my laptop. The police still have my phone, but at least I can check my emails. It's more than a week since I left London, and as I fire it up, a message flickers: 'Downloading 1 of 187 emails'.
I sit and watch as they drop, one by one, into my inbox.
There's an email from my editor. And another. Two from my agent. One from my mum, headed 'R U OK?' Then, last of all, come the emails from my website address: 'Hot Thai Babes' ... 'One weird tip to melt belly fat!' ... 'You have three comments waiting for approval.'
And in amongst the spam ... 'From: Matt Ridout. Subject: Coffee'
I feel in my pocket for the curling piece of cardboard, torn off a paper cup. It's nearly unreadable now, his number. The biro is blurring into nothing, and there's a crease across the middle two digits, but I think I can make out that they're both sevens, or possibly ones.
I was going to let fate decide. If I got my phone back from the police before the number disappeared ...
And now this.
I remember the way he buried his face in his hands as he cried over James.
I remember his smile.
I remember the expression in his eyes as he said goodbye.
I'm not sure I can do this. I'm not sure I can let go of everything that happened, start again. For a minute my finger hovers irrationally over the delete button.
And then I click.
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Epub ISBN: 9781473512344.
In A Dark, Dark Wood Part 32
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In A Dark, Dark Wood Part 32 summary
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