I hope you all have a nice slow Internet connection so that the cover reveal was slow and meaningful and not all just in-your-face thereness. After all, I
wasted spent hours designing that for your viewing pleasure.
You'll be please to know that this cover comes to you absolutely free with the purchase of Breathe and Release, due for release on 31st August 2015.
(Unless I finish all the little fiddly bits early, whereupon it may be sooner. It can't be later or Amazon will take away pre-order privileges from me, and I have so few privileges these days that the loss of any of the few I have would leave be bereft.)
In order to convince you to buy it, below you'll find an excerpt of the first chapter. This is sometimes called a 'reveal,' as was the cover above. I call it 'I couldn't think of anything to blog about tonight because my life is empty of interest.'
Please note, that this excerpt (and indeed the rest of the book) is currently undergoing an intense proofread and therefore any mistakes I couldn't possibly count as my own, as they truly belong to the person who hasn't yet found them and pointed them out to me.
Point them out to me here at your own peril. Or, you know, for a quick and easy, 'Thank you, that saved me having to fix it later.'
Elisabet woke for the first time one morning. An odd occurrence as she was an adult woman, but although she knew that she didn’t know much else.
She had no memories. There was a lot of knowledge in her head, untethered, but there were no memories to accompany it except for those she’d formed since waking.
They’d been uniformly bad.
Her head hurt. Her legs hurt. Her back ached, and she couldn’t rotate her right shoulder at all.
She insisted that the pretty blond nurse who was tending to her bring a mirror so she could waylay her first horrified thought, that she was old. She wasn’t, but that was the end of the good news.
She was in a hospital, and judging by the sour looks on some faces and the harried expressions on others, she didn’t think it was a good one. A public hospital for sure.
At least in ICU it was one patient, one nurse, and Elisabet liked hers. The nurse’s hair gleamed and was cut in a short bob. It curled under her chin in a way that made Elisabet shiver with delight. She was pretty, but not in a way that time would treat well. Her chin was weak, and her cheeks were shaped from fat not bone.
At the moment no one would notice because of her plump lips, and the rose flush of her skin. Her gleaming white teeth were so perfect an orthodontist would shrink from them as they contained no hope for paying to send kids through university.
Machines beeped and churned around Elisabet. Those she was hooked to weren’t too bad, she had to tolerate them. She didn’t see why she should put up with those attached to other patients. Their sounds were far more annoying, and she wished they’d all fall silent.
Bet that would keep the nurses busy.
A doctor popped in to see her. He flashed a bright light into Elisabet’s eyes by way of welcome, then helped himself to the seat next to her bed so her pretty attendee had to stand.
‘How’re you feeling?’
‘I’m in pain.’
He seemed surprised at that and gestured to the nurse who shook her head.
‘I asked to have my morphine reduced,’ Elisabet said. ‘I was having far too much fun.’
‘Can’t complain then.’
As though one followed the other. There were billions of people in the world right now, most of them not in pain and not taking morphine. If Elisabet wanted to complain about not being one of them, she felt she had every right.
‘Can you tell me your full name?’
She shook her head. Perhaps her lower lip pouted a tad too much, as he further inquired, ‘Is that because you can’t, or because you don’t want to?’
‘I don’t know my full name. What is it?’
He held up a long finger. Patience.
‘What about the year? Do you know what year it is?’
Elisabet shook her head, and a memory flashed into her brain. A contestant on Mastermind who’d picked a subject he didn’t know as well as he’d thought. Pass. Pass. Pass.
‘Who’s Prime Minister?’
‘David Lange,’ she said without even having to think about it. His frown told her that perhaps she should’ve given it a bit more time, but when she paused nothing else came. Her headache started to grow worse.
She didn’t like to lose, especially when the game should be so easy.
The doctor gave up and handed her a journal after a while. ‘To help your memory.’
Elisabet wasn’t sure what he thought a notebook that cost downwards of two dollars in any halfway decent stationery store would do, but when she asked him he just got excited.
‘You can calculate money then,’ he said, and handed her some loose change to count out to show him.
That was when he told her that she had a memory problem.
Elisabet personally thought that her memory was working just fine, thank you very much. She could remember every detail of everything she’d done since she woke up that morning.
Her doctor seemed to think there was another thirty-eight years’ worth of memories prior to that which would come in handy. Honestly, the way her head was pounding she didn’t know where they were going to fit in. Trying to squeeze fourteen thousand days in on top of the memories she’d formed that day was just asking for trouble.
* * *
There was an annoying man in the rehabilitation area. He kept crying and saying, ‘I can’t do it, I can’t do it,’ then made a series of grunts as he tried anyway.
He swung his legs forward, placing his feet carefully on the ground, then moved his arms along the parallel bars that kept him upright.
Honestly, you’d think his parents were zombies the way he shambled along. Zombies who didn’t instil the right measure of manhood in their son, the cry baby, thought Elisabet.
She didn’t cry out, and there was a furious bolt of pain ripping through her body with every step, too. Not to mention that her left arm wasn’t any too steady or reliable at the moment. Something to do with the side of her head that was caved in. She’d send a polite request out to the muscle ‘need a little help here’ and sometimes it was as obliging as a niece coddling up in hopes of an inheritance cheque, and sometimes it just sulked in its room with its headphones on.
She wasn’t very impressed with any of the other people who were here, actually. There just wasn’t a very high class of injured body at the hospital. They just didn’t take any pride in themselves. It was as though they didn’t think it was important to look their best at every moment.
Since Elisabet was judging everybody based on their personal appearance she presumed everyone else did, too. Therefore, she tried to maintain an immaculate facade. She was let down at that moment by the large patches of hair that were shaved off her head and the yellowing lumps down the left side of her face, but she was doing the best with what she had.
Anyway, hair would grow and lumps would flatten. Her face was fairly good looking aside from those immediate concerns. Smooth and unblemished, then lumpy, then smooth and unblemished again.
Not like the man who’d come in to visit her that day. Elisabet’s husband. Well, she’ll be the judge of that. His face looked like someone took a picture of a handsome man, then screwed it up and flattened it out. Creases everywhere.
She’d been a bit concerned there were so many lines on his face that it may actually have been due to injury, but when she mentioned that to him he’d screwed his face up and created even more, so whatever’d gone on was obviously self-inflicted.
That was an awkward meeting.
‘Elisabet. This is Graeme, your husband.’
It was the pretty young nurse that introduced him. Elisabet had been moved out of ICU into a separate room, but the nurse followed along. Elisabet no longer had her undivided attention, but she had enough to be getting on with.
She nodded and held out her hand because that was what you do, wasn’t it? He’d launched himself at her instead and started crying. Crying, and clutching at her back, her waist, her head. Elisabet waved her arms until the nurse tapped him on the shoulder and suggested he lay off for a while. Or, ‘I think you should take it slowly for a while,’ as she put it. ‘She’s had a nasty accident, and her memory is playing up.’
‘This is Kristen. Your daughter,’ he said.
‘Step-daughter,’ the girl corrected immediately. She glared at her with such resentment that Elisabet gave her a smile of appreciation in return. Nice attitude.
‘That’s not true, honey,’ her husband said. Elisabet scowled at him in unison with Kristen. ‘She’s your adoptive mother, remember?’
There was a muttered sentence, which may’ve translated into ‘When it suits,’ but Elisabet couldn’t be sure.
Kristen stood by the window. She was so tall that she reached the top of the old wooden mouldings. If her mouse brown hair wasn’t so lank she could’ve eclipsed them.
‘I’ll leave you alone to get reacquainted,’ the nurse said as she walked out of the room. Elisabet looked about for the call button in case she needed to fetch her back, sharpish.
‘I was so worried about you,’ her husband said as he sat on the side of the bed. It was too narrow for him to do it comfortably, and it knocked her off balance, but he didn’t seem to notice. She levered the sheets up so she could move farther away and sat with her back against the metal headboard.
‘Mmmmmm,’ Elisabet responded when it seemed he needed something from her. ‘Were you?’
‘Oh yes. I know we’ve been separated for a while now, but you know I still care for you.’ He reached out and tapped her nose with the knuckle of his forefinger.
‘Oh thank God,’ she said, as his words registered. She’d been wondering what on earth she was doing with the idiot, but a separation explained a few things.
‘I know you’re having a bit of trouble remembering things at the moment,’ he said and stretched out his hand to brush at Elisabet’s fringe. She jerked back even though the movement caused her headache to worsen. ‘But don’t worry. I’ll be here if you need to know anything.’
‘We’re not meant to tell her, Dad. The doctor said to let her remember on her own.’
He shot her a look and Kristen moved farther down the wall, away from him. Elisabet raised her eyebrows and studied the two of them. Kristen was scared of him, or nervous at any rate. Elisabet wondered if she should be nervous, too. There was no harm in being careful.
Kristen pulled her phone out and started playing with it.
‘You can’t use that in here,’ Graeme said. ‘It mucks up the machines.’
‘That’s a load of rubbish,’ she responded. ‘They only leave those signs up because they want to control their patients. Anyway, she’s not even hooked up to anything,’ she said, the disappointment clear in her voice.
‘She’s the cat’s mother,’ Elisabet chimed in as the old phrase entered her head.
They both stared at her. She had nothing more to add.
‘Take it outside if you’re going to use it,’ Graeme continued. ‘We don’t need to get kicked out; we just arrived.’
‘Whatever,’ Kristen said, but left the room. Elisabet could hear her clomp down the hallway. The linoleum did nothing to disguise any sounds of movement. It was chosen for ease of cleaning, not for sound dilution.
‘So,’ Graeme said as he turned and stretched his legs out on the bed beside Elisabet. ‘Just the two of us.’
She didn’t know why that phrase should send a shiver of fear down her spine, but it did.