It’s my stop on the blog tour for Sarah Simpson’s Who Am I today and I’m delighted to share an extract with you all.
First, here’s the blurb …
Aria (6 Nov. 2018)
I know everything about you
And you know everything about me… except
WHO I AM.
Andi met Camilla at university. Instantly best friends, they shared everything together. Until their long-planned graduation celebration ends in tragedy…
Years later, Andi is living a seemingly perfect life on the rugged Cornish Coast with her loving husband, happy children and dream home. Yet Andi is haunted by a secret she thought only she knew.
Someone out there is bringing Andi’s deepest fears to life. And she knows there’s no escaping the past that has come back to haunt her…
You trusted me with your secrets, you told me everything, you thought I was your best friend… but you have no idea WHO I AM.
Gripping, unputdownable and packed with twists and turns from the first page to the very last, this stunning psychological thriller will make you question whether we can ever really trust the ones we love.
Here’s the extract …
‘Right.’ She replaces her sunglasses then slaps at her ankle. ‘Ant’s, bloody everywhere aren’t they, I hate ants.’ I nod, thinking of last night’s gigantic trail of them next to the outdoor shower attacking a half-eaten caramel bar. ‘Then there’s the buggers that fly.’ I find myself scratching a psychosomatic itch. ‘Anyway, sorry to be such a bore, only it grates, you know, his work, it’s what he lives for I’m sure.’ I attempt to disagree but Carol beats me to it, ‘Waddling off at the crack of dawn. I work and have to run a home, look after the kids. I mean, he’s a great dad but he doesn’t do the underground stuff, does he.’ She nods at me. ‘You know what I’m referring to. The stuff that keeps everything ticking.’
I smile, I do understand, ‘The bits that keep the cogs turning, food on the table et cetera.’ I’m having to work extra hard to keep on top of these tasks at the moment.
‘Exactly. Serious multi-tasking, not ever being able to focus entirely on the task in hand, proper does my head in sometimes. Still mustn’t grumble. Life’s pretty good I guess, in comparison to some. It could be worse, he could be like my father.’ She sighs heavily. ‘God, how self-indulgent of me, sorry, Andi,’ she grabs my arm across the table making me start. ‘What?’ I say, looking round, ‘What’s happened?’
‘Crikey, jumpy aren’t you.’ She laughs. ‘I meant, sorry for being tactless. You’re in the same boat, aren’t you? Have to do it all alone. Don’t know how you cope. I wasn’t thinking, love, sorry. Thoughtless fool, I am sometimes. You don’t even know where Kyle is, what he’s up to half the time.’ She laughs. ‘Only kidding you,’ she quickly adds.
I wave off her apology, laughing with her, as a fist twists my stomach further. Was she only kidding? I’ve never not trusted Kyle, does this make me a fool? I used to love our arrangement, me always grateful for my own space, when did this change? Because of last night? No, this uneasiness, flipping between butterflies and a dark gloom began some time ago. Months? Or has it always been there since I arrived in Cornwall, and I’ve grown to accept it? Waiting for something to happen, for something to catch up with me? Find me out? But Kyle’s loyalty, I’ve never questioned. Before. Carol was laughing but was she trying to tell me something?
Carol slurps from her cup. ‘Don’t you get tired of being on your own with everything?’
I don’t like the way Carol is regarding me, knowingly, as if she understands something about me? ‘I’m used to Kyle working away, I’ve my routines to keep me busy, we’re both fine with it.’ I shrug her question off and turn away, feeling my cheeks begin to blush.
An off-white yacht with oiled teak decks catches my eye, gliding effortlessly by. All hands are on deck preparing to leave the estuary for the English Channel, pulling up fenders, releasing the main sail sheet. Hoping for wind. Hope, is this what’s missing these days? I’m momentarily hypnotised, ignoring Carol’s eyes still on me. ‘Wonder where they’re off to?’ I say. ‘Somewhere nice, I bet. Mediterranean turquoise waters.’ My thoughts float down the estuary with her as she gently sways further out to the horizon. When I first moved to Cornwall I lost hours gazing into the horizon, how small and vulnerable I felt in comparison. Wondering how everything would work out, only hope, independence and ambition propelling me forward. A most difficult time in my life, starting again, alone. The sapping feeling of loss. Regrets. What ifs? So many long, dark, troubled days. But in the end, my dreams, my hopes billowed my sails and I kind of moved on. But now my sails are empty, merely flapping at the mercy of the offshore winds.
But after last night, my resolve has sunk to a different level.
Eventually, Carol follows my gaze, ‘Flying a French Jack, so yep, probably off to somewhere exotic away from daily routines. Saint Tropez? Cannes? Nice maybe? Anywhere really, let’s face it.’ She nudges me across the table, ‘Perhaps we should flag them down, offer our hands as crew. Can you imagine? God, perfect bliss wouldn’t it be?’
My head tightens, that feeling again, something gripping my temples, squeezing. Could I run again? Start over? No, I’ve family now. Trapped. ‘Of course, they could just be moving on to Brixham,’ I say, throwing water over the fire, ‘nowhere exotic at all.’ Though escaping to the south of France sounds completely perfect. Before I came back to Cornwall it was always my intention to travel, see the world. But the chance was literally washed away, life had other ideas. Now look at me. Kyle was the reason I stayed in Cornwall. Having children was imperative for Kyle, I’d never wish to be without them but I was always frightened by the thought, what if I can’t love them? What if? What if something stands in the way of me creating that maternal bond? As it turns out, I was right to be concerned, I did struggle. And now, what if they knew the truth about their mother?
‘You okay?’ Carol taps my hand.
‘Me?’ Who else would she be asking? I don’t wait for Carol to answer my stupid question, I’m looking somewhat haggard this morning, and she’s noticed. Did I even brush my hair? ‘I’m fine, a little tired,’ I smile, ‘didn’t sleep at all last night.’ Damn mobile, Kyle’s right, I shouldn’t leave it on at night. But then I was already awake, thinking, worrying over the usual stuff that initiates the brain’s alarm in the midst of the night. But, if it had been switched off – I wouldn’t have seen the alert at a time when my mind is at its most irrational.
‘What’s up? Why didn’t you sleep?’ Carol asks.
I shake my head. ‘Nothing. Other than the usual daily niggles.’ I don’t miss the oh yes, tell me more, face. I wish she’d stick to her own problems. ‘You know, the usual, children’s schooling. Work deadlines. Nothing new.’ I’m lying but should I confide? No, definitely not. ‘The muggy warm nights, they don’t help.’
I nod. ‘Really. All’s good.’ Carol’s doubting expression irritates me, she can be one of those impassive people, communicating so much via facial expressions and glib comments. I’m not divulging anything, anyway, where would I ever begin? It was sweltering hot last night, slowly smothering me further. I tossed and turned, memories of old spilling into my dreams. Then I made the disastrous mistake of stretching for my mobile to check the time, 03:04 it told me. Foolishly, I decided to investigate the reasoning behind the white indicator, flash, flashing into the night. It was then I noticed the little white bird sitting in a circle, pecking at my mind. I tapped on it, seconds later I’m bouncing the mobile off the floor before diving under the protection of silky sheets, listening to my heart hammering against the fabric. Thoughts, images and more thoughts fighting for pole position, behind tightly shut eyes.
Could it really be? How? Not quite trusting groggy eyes. I needed to take another look. I reached back for the mobile, elongating my arms, trying not to leave the safety of the bed. In my hand, it flashed once more then shut down entirely, the battery fizzled out. On precarious legs, I clambered from the bed for my laptop. Silence all around, except for the throbbing in my chest. A high pitched screech outside the window, a fox or something? Back in bed, I booted up the laptop and there it was in its full glory. In that moment, everything froze, my breathing, my heart rate, the rabid animal outside, everything apart from the sharp buzzing in my ears, my eyes hypnotised by the overly bright screen. Was this some kind of sick joke? How could it be? Why? I lay in disbelief for the remainder of the night. Eyes and mind wide open.
‘You know, I wasn’t going to say anything but, you haven’t seemed yourself for a while now,’ Carol says.
How is it even possible to receive a tweet from her? For one thing, I backtrack through time, it’s been at least seventeen years. I haven’t really muttered her actuality since, though she’s rummaged through my mind more times than I care to consider. I’ve missed her terribly, a constant dull ache.
‘Hello? Andi? Earth to Andi?’
‘Sorry, Carol, I’ll have to go, terrible migraine coming on.’
‘What’s going on with you, Andi?’
Pushing back my chair, I lean into kiss her on her cheek. ‘I’ll call you later.’
‘Shall I come with you? You’re positively green,’ she calls after me.
‘I’m fine, just need a lie down. Speak later.’
It has to be one of two things, either someone has an extremely perverse sense of humour or it’s simply some kind of unfortunate coincidence. But even so, it’s now re-opened a door to the past I slammed shut, for good reason.
Huge thanks to the team at Aria for my stop on the tour! Make sure you keep up with the rest of it:
About the author …
Sarah Simpson has a first-class honours degree in Psychology and has experienced working at a Brain Rehabilitation Hospital. She has spent time as a family consultant for Warwickshire and Oxfordshire solicitors and gained knowledge of the Family Court System. She now lives in Cornwall with her husband, three children and animals.