Authors: Keeley Smith
This edition published in the UK 2012
in this book, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 Keeley Smith
The right of Keeley Smith to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the author. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
This book is dedicated to my
husband, Adam. I can't imagine sharing this mom
ent with anyone else. I love you
To the best parents a girl could ask for, Sue
and Steve. This dedication doesn’t come close to the thanks you both deserve. F
rom the bottom of my heart I really do thank you for everything.
To the book club girlies
– I told you my first book would be dedicated to you! So, here goes, and in no particular order –
Bethany “Mouth” Cunningham
Emma “Bert” Long
Ashleigh “Braids” Waring
Kerri “Cherry” Hughes
Jenna “Monster” Wright,
Kimberly “Maninizer” Durant
Thank you for five
years of fun, reading, gossi
p and parties. It was without a doubt the best book club, ever!
With special thanks to my editor Emma, you gave me the perfect amount of constructive feedback and encouragement. Thank you!
A terrifying thud of feet struck the hard ground behind her. The sharp crack of frozen branches echoed, she knew they were gaining ground. She couldn’t run any quicker. Each snap sent her heart into overdrive, it jack hammered as it fought against her crushing fear.
She feared that her lungs would give out and she would stop running, she feared who she would meet when her legs finally crumbled beneath her. Her biggest fear ripped the little breath that her lungs had managed to grasp. That fear, would it hurt when she died?
Her lungs struggled to inhale the oxygen she needed, they begged her to stop running. She hissed as a sharp pain tightened in her ribs. She wasn't fit, she never exercised. It was ironic
that the only time she ever runs in her life is when it makes the difference between life and death.
The night was silent other than the pounding of their feet and her harsh, panicked breath. She tried, unsuccessfully, to wheeze in enough oxygen to keep going. She pushed past the burning frenzy that was alight in her chest and her legs, and dug her feet into the ground. Dragging the back of her hand across her forehead she flicked away the sweat that was building there. She surged forward praying for some distance from her attacker.
Why were they being so silent? She had expected curses or name calling. She could feed off their taunts, knew that they would push her further, faster. This silence made it more daunting, more terrifying, if that was at all possible when someone was hunting you with only one thing on their mind. To kill.
She gasped, sucking cold air into her stalling lungs and realised that the somewhat blurred line that separated life and death was, at this precise moment, nonexistent. It felt like one great big wallop up the side of her head. One minute you lived, the next, eternal blackness. Was there something after this life? Would she see the ones she loved again or was this it? Why had she never given this much thought before? She knew the
seventeen year olds didn’t usually give death much thought. With a full life ahead of them, why should they worry about death?
Regret, a huge ball of it formed and tightened in the pit of her stomach. She desperately hoped she would see them again. She didn’t want eternal blackness. She couldn’t handle the possibility that the last time she’d seen the ones she loved was actually the
Her fate was laid out in front of her, one never had the opportunity to see this fate. It wasn’t exactly sat on a pretty silver platter; but it was here, banging on the door whilst grinning menacingly at her meek attempt to escape. Was her name on some list along with the method of her death? Or was it like a sick sort of lucky dip; run over by a bus, stabbed or shot. Did the boss of fate make sure there was a set date, a set time for you to die? If her name was on some sort of stupid death list what could she do other than tell it to take a good long jump off a cliff because she wasn't ready? A person could change their fate, right? Well, she hoped so, otherwise what would be the point of all of this? They would all die and it wouldn’t change anything, it would add nothing. That was the worst kind of death in her opinion, one that lacked a reason, a purpose. Not that death as a whole was acceptable. It wasn’t.
She could only guess from
the louder punch of feet in the hard ground that it would be seconds before this stranger reached her and pulled her back into their death embrace. Her heart tightened making her breath hitch and stall in her lungs. She couldn't do this, she couldn't handle the loss of a life she would never live. Who could? She felt overwhelming bouts of grief and sickness when she thought about the people she would leave behind.
Shaking her head, she concentrated on the task at hand, how much time did she have tonight before death took her? Would she scream? Fight back? She knew what they had come to do, she could only pray they did it quickly.
So, they’d committed a big crime, it wasn’t the biggest crime
but it was big enough for them.
Not only that, they’d accumulated several bullet ridden bodies. Male, female, it didn't make the slightest bit of difference as their features blurred together. The scattered shells lay in front of her, so many she couldn’t keep count. Crimson blood pooled around the lukewarm, yet lifeless victims. Faces held frozen masks of pain and disbelief. Several grey filmed eyes remained wide open staring accusingly up at her.
This had been the reason for running, the reason they'd grabbed all of their belongings for what seemed like the thousandth time, the reason why, yet again, they'd made tracks to some place new.
She wanted to believe that.
Was it slightly demented that she would rather commit a horrendous crime than come live here?
It was demented and sadistic and shocking.
The list could go on and on.
Her life was relatively simple, in other words, it was boring. They’d moved because her mother had wanted to. That had been the end of that. No bank robbery. No murders. No reason to be in this dull village whatsoever.
Cora dropped heavily onto her bed and took a deep breath. Her life was irritating; her mother was irritating, even her stupid bed was irritating. It had crossed her mind once or twice, maybe closer to twenty times, if her mother would sit on the end of her bed until she’d actually got in it to sleep.
Her mother’s delicate hands had been joined together in nervous anticipation expecting Cora to throw a fit because she’d brought her to this dull little village. Cora knew this protest would be a massive waste of energy. Unfortunately, her mother decided where they were going to live and that was that. As her mother liked to say: ‘end of discussion’. They’d never discussed the move, so technically the discussion had never started, but heaven forbid she mention this because, according to her mother, this was sarcasm. Her mother hated sarcasm.
Why had they moved here? She didn't know, hadn't been given a reason, her mother was the boss and she went where she was told. She hated moving. If there was one phrase or question she hated more than most, it was the settling in thing that came with a new house. It really agitated her when people asked,
‘how are you settling in?’
‘have you settled in okay?’
Was there even a right answer to such a question?
Some days she wanted to answer it with a huge grin on her face and sarcasm dripping out of her every pore: 'no, the
in the window boxes are just
the whole settling in process for me'. But then, if such a comment managed to escape her lips, her mother would snap at her for being so sarcastic. Nothing new there then.
Her mother, being her usual all round bubbly excitable self had looked
forward to the move here. For months the topic of conversation had revolved around this move. An in depth plan of a bank robbery would have taken less time
less ear ache. But, on the other hand there would have been more casualties. She wasn’t entirely sure which option was worse.
The excitement, the build up to living in a new home for however short the period of time, wasn't anything Cora hadn't been through before.
So far, in just twelve short months, she'd lived in Carlisle, Manchester, York, Exeter and then finally London. She did find it strange that she could only remember so far back. She coul
d remember as far back as her sixteenth
birthday. Thinking of anything before that point gave her a killer headache. It was one big black hole. Surely, she would have questioned this? Why couldn’t she remember? It wasn’t like she could ask her mother, if she said anything that was slightly negative about moving, she found that protective walls surrounding her mother would shoot up. End of conversation.
Her mother had already been in this place a whole week. She’d been eager to get things ready at this house and in her new school, she was a cover teacher which was convenient. Cora believed that spending too much time in this place was a waste of a perfectly good week, so whilst her mother had done that, Cora had clung to her friend Katie, staying at her house until it was impossible to put the move off any longer. She'd managed to celebrate her seventeenth birthday in London. Cora knew from experience that she and Katie would not stay in touch. She barely made the effort to make friends these
she didn’t see the point in it. If she’d been an insecure person, sometimes she was but she tried to hide it, the lack of correspondence would have affected her. It did. In the great scheme of things, and largely because she'd had to, she’d grown used to her lonely existence.
Her move to London had been the turning point of the year. She’d liked York but her mother had stayed there a mediocre six weeks before they’d moved again. London was busy as cities were but Cora loved the pandemonium, the gridlocked cars and buses, blaring horns, the excited squeal from tourists as they gawked at the many monuments and buildings. She loved the reckless tide of bodies bouncing along the limited paving. There was nothing worth seeing in this place. She really didn't expect to live here long which was one of the reasons, who was she kidding? It was the
reason she was coping with all this in the first place.