“The mind is its own place and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven”
I stumble into the bathroom because my bladder is telling me to. Beyond the window, a lark (or whatever the f**k it is) is welcoming the day with a piercing call. I realise it must be morning.
I gawp in the mirror. My tongue looks like it should be bottled and put on a shelf in a laboratory. I don’t look much like morning. I don’t feel much like it either. One more hour of sleep then I have to get my brain in gear because this is the day when the fake ransom demand will be made. One million dollars. That should solve a few problems.
In the middle of the night I received a visit from Aleksandr, the contraband smuggler with the gypsy eyes. I desperately needed my sleep but he wouldn’t let me alone. He was confused and, bless him, afraid that he would lose his sense of gritty determination to fight the invading Moldovan forces.
He has a world of problems to contend with, he said, but now all he could think of was Beth’s dimpled smile, her long brown neck, her silky skin, and her contagious spirit that everything will come right in the end. All he wants is to kiss her, to feel her lips under his…just for a moment.
I don’t know what to tell him. Now, more than ever, he needs his steely resolve. But now won’t last forever and he needs a path through to his own salvation; and someone who can save him from himself. The war will end one day. His desperate desire for Beth will not. I tell him to bugger off and that I’ll get back to him after my bowl of Weetabix.
I doze fitfully. I can see the Kazka in isolated splendour bobbing on the blue Mediterranean Sea. I can see Beth on her sun-lounger on deck, a fish well out of water yet seeming to breathe effortlessly in this strange environment. She has a megaphone to her scarlet lips issuing orders to the uniformed stewards.
For the first time in her life, Beth is in control. She deserves to be, after her loveless marriage to the over-bearing bully she’s been tied to all these years. She’s wearing a tiara, a silver bikini and sunglasses the size of saucers – but they can’t hide her exotic beauty.
She doesn’t want to go back to her old life. Just like Aleksandr, she needs escape. She needs Aleksandr. They need each other. They depend on me to make it happen.
But can’t they see the gulf widening between them: a civil war, family duty, disease and poverty?
Can they really expect to be together?
I stumble back to bed and am just dozing when Faustine bursts in, red hair flying, filling the room with her personality. She has leaves in her hair from sleeping in a tree. To look at her you’d never believe she’s Lady Faustine from a solid English aristocratic family. She thinks she owns me. It’s a strange relationship because I thought I owned her.
Entering the kitchen, I am faced with a sink of washing up and a couple of fur balls the cat is busy regurgitating. Suddenly, a young dishevelled boy enters the kitchen. What fucking book is he from? I find myself thinking, when it hits me – this is a real-life son, mine. He grunts. I grunt and slug back my coffee when another dishevelled boy wanders into my line of sight.
“Why can’t I have a proper mum and dad like everyone else?’ he asks. I explain to him that he’s in the care of social services but I am doing my level best to write him into a happy home if only I can resolve the hostility between McPherson and his arch enemy, Faustine, the sumptuous lingerie model who would rather shoot the property developer with a paintball gun than talk to him.
My kitchen is chaos. Yellow post-it notes chequer the walls. The table is piled high with notebooks laptop, kindle, pens, yesterday’s (yesterday’s?) half eaten pizza, old coffee mugs and characters, plotlines, issues and resolutions in abundance. I need to sort them out today.
I need to plunge into the world of my novels and keep momentum going. I sigh. I realise my novels have plunged into my world. I face another day of delicious confusion and creation with a house full of people clamouring for me to love them.
So, I do.
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A huge thank you to Alison and to Aimee for having me on board the blog tour for The Double.