I’ve been working on The Tower of Souls, both actively tapping away and passively thinking, perusing and dreaming about it. It’s funny when you start a new novel and it gets under your skin; it’s almost all you can think about it.
Today I’ve been working on a chapter with Susan and Martha and thought I’d do something that I never did with Inside Evil; post a short except. Bear in mind that this is a first draft and only cobbled together today, but I thought I’d share this brief passage that involves one of my favourite double acts.
The Tower of Souls; Except
Christmas had come and gone in Ridgewood. As Susan stood at the window of Martha’s kitchen, she looked out upon the grey scene. Though snow had brightened up the quiet little town in the weeks preceding December 25th, rain had arrived on Christmas Eve to wash away the crisp white sheet that blanketed her surroundings. Within hours, the beauty of the white landscape had been washed away to slush, and though evening temperatures continued to plummet, there was no new snow to provide fresh beauty to the town.
Susan sighed as she plunged her hands into the hot water and continued to clean dishes. The past few days had been extremely difficult; the first Christmas without Vanessa had been as bad as she thought it might be. Much to her husband Bernard’s displeasure, Martha had been invited for food, drinks and more drinks. They had sat in almost complete and uncomfortable silence around the table, with Martha occasionally attempting to make light conversation with Bernard.
“Why can’t you just leave us in peace?” he said finally, the words spilling from his lips with tired anger.
“Bernard, I’m so sor-“
“You have nothing to be sorry about,” Susan interrupted, before turning her eyes on her husband. “How dare you-”
“How dare I?” Bernard shouted with indignation, “That’s a bloody joke! This woman, this interfering manipulative woman ruined our marriage the day she stepped into OUR bookstore.”
“What marriage?” Susan said, almost rolling her eyes, “We’ve been pretending to love each other for years. We only stayed together for Vanessa’s sake.”
“Well, how lucky for you, dear,” Bernard replied with sarcasm, “She’s dead, you can leave me now.” And, with that he pushed his plate away and stormed out of the room.
Susan had not needed any heeding, and despite Martha offering to leave whilst advising her friend to let matters simmer down, Susan knew that there wasn’t any going back. She’d known for a long time that her marriage was over, and since her daughter’s death she and Bernard had only been growing further apart. With Bernard glowering in the front room, Susan had filled a suitcase with clothes and left with the promise of a bed at Martha’s. Little did she know that as soon as the door to her family home had slammed, Bernard, teary eyed and regretful, had wandered the house looking for his wife, not believing that she’d actually gone. No, Christmas had not been pleasant.
As Susan heard the front door open and the rustle of an umbrella being shaken, she looked up from the foamy suds that filled the washing up bowl. A small movement caught her eye, and she noticed a small purple spider was spindling on a small length of silk attached to the top of the window frame, gently descending to the countertop below. Reaching out with soapy hands, Susan squashed the tiny creature with her index finger, before wiping the oozy innards from the paintwork with a sponge and turning to smile as Martha bustled in.
“I got it,” Martha beamed as she held aloft the large tome that she’d received from Sam Carter. “It’s exactly as she said it would be.”
A curious thing had occurred the previous night. Susan, though going to bed early, had been suffering from her usual early morning insomnia, and around 1am had finally given up the attempt to sleep and had instead crept down to the living room for a late night tipple. She thought, for a few seconds, that Martha had beaten her to it when she saw her friend standing at the drinks cabinet, before realising that Martha was actually staring into the large mirror mounted on the wall above. Drawing closer, Susan had seen the animated image of an older woman shimmering away, before the reflection in the glass was replaced with Martha’s familiar face. Martha pushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear as if nothing untoward had occurred, saw that Susan had entered the living room and immediately pulled out a bottle of whisky.
Now, standing in the kitchen on the following morning, Martha pulled Susan across to the table as she pushed up the sleeves of her mauve cardigan and dropped the large and old looking book onto a small breakfast bar.
“How was Sam?” Susan asked, realising that she hadn’t actually seen him since the night that Roberta fell from the cliff.
“Dishevelled,” Martha responded as she flipped open the thick leather cover to reveal the first page. “I’m afraid I was too keen on getting my hands on this to spend any time with him.”
Upon the first page of the faded pink paper was a list of names and dates pertaining to the previous owners of the tome.
“Mrs Peacock. She must’ve been the woman in the mirror,” Martha said as she drew her index finger down the list.
Susan peered over her shoulder and saw the inscription below, letting out a small gasp as she did so. “Martha Wittle.”
Martha grinned with excitement. She seemed unfazed by the fact that a woman had appeared in her mirror in the middle of the night with instructions to pick up this book; a book which was obviously predestined to make it into Martha’s hands.
Leaving the table momentarily, Martha disappeared into the living room. Susan flipped the page and found that it was blank, the pale and slightly water marked pink paper feeling fragile under her fingers. Page after page was blank, with the only slight marks being those of age related trauma.
“Martha, it’s empty!” Susan called out.
“It’s blank!” Susan shouted again, raising her voice as she did so.
“Bring it here would you?” Martha said, popping her head around the doorframe before once again disappearing. “I think I have a little trick to solve that.”
For those of you who’ve read Inside Evil there may be a few titbits of Martha’s future in this except. For those who haven’t, I hope I haven’t given anything too much away!