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MUM'S

THE WORD

How far would you go to get what you want?

S.E. MORGAN











To Winifred,

Who would be proud to see her granddaughter accomplish her own crime thriller novel.

You will always be in my heart.







This book is entirely a work of fiction.

The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

The author's opinions are not representative of those the publisher.

Copyright © S.E. Morgan 2017

S.E. Morgan identifies the right to be identified as the author of this work.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the publishers.







CONTENTS



CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

CHAPTER THIRTY

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

CHAPTER FORTY

CHAPTER FORTY-ONE

CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

CHAPTER FORTY-THREE

CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR

CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS















CHAPTER ONE

LATER

Peering out from behind a bush, he wasn't where he should have been. He was gone. Running from him had made her legs start to cramp and the fear that was swelling through her body was also making them feel like jelly. That was too close. Kneeing him in the balls was all she could think of to get him to release his grip of her. And to her surprise it had worked. Crouching on the floor, she panted. She was gaining back her breath slowly, but he was out there and soon the running would have to start again. He was still out there lurking in the darkness. He was still on the hunt to kill her.

Her eyes were wide with panic as she searched for her attacker. She licked her lips and swallowed. A soundless breeze swept through the woods that was just a little more than a whisper. It was quiet. All except for her breathing which was loud in her ears. There was no controlling the sound or the heavy panting; she had been running for her life and her lungs were working hard to pump fresh blood through to her muscles.

She gripped tightly onto the bush, completely unaware that it was pressing so painfully into her palms. She looked down and saw the blood dripping down her hand, tainting the orangey leaves below in a rich red instead. A dull pain crept over her, nagging away at her hand. Moving her hands off the bush, she quickly learnt how tender they were. She clenched her fist tight and moved her head closer into the bush as she crouched lower. The smell of the leaves reminded her of a freshly sharpened pencil and it gave her a touch of comfort.

She continued to look around, her eyes glancing around the darkness in fright, fearful that she might actually see her perpetrator. Fear dripped from her tears as they poured down her face. It was a black inky night. The clouds had disappeared and all that remained was the darkness that blasted throughout the sky. Her mouth was dry as if sand paper had found its way onto her tongue and she dreamed of guzzling down a gallon of water.

There. She spotted the back of him looking across the park in the distance. Trembling, she ducked back down. He didn't know where she was hiding. How could she have been so wrong about him?

Her muscles tightened, striking every inch of her body as if the grim reaper himself already had a hold of it. She wished more than anything she was back at home. Where she was safe. Where she was protected. Instead she was alone in the dark. It was so dark. The fear of death was too overwhelming for her to take.

Leaves rustled behind her. It followed by a loud scream in the distance, like a woman was being attacked. She jumped. Hurdling back down a slope, she hit her head onto a tree that was placed a few metres behind, hidden in the darkness. Sitting up, she rubbed her head, as she tried to overcome the dizziness. Leaning forward, the wind pushed against her face. Scrambling to get back to her hiding place, she dusted her bum. Mud and grass stains clung to her sore knees. All of a sudden, she realised she had heard that sound before. It was a fox. They were not alone in the park. No doubt there were hundreds of creatures lurking about in the darkness.

Pain shot into her stomach and it began to tighten again. Bending over, she gripped her stomach in an attempt to make it stop. She heaved uncontrollably and sweat burned onto her face. Nausea was infecting her body. Tears continued to run down her face and the sobbing came with no control on her part. A shiver went down her spine and her body started to quiver. She clenched herself tightly using her arms, rocking back and forth in an attempt to soothe herself from the misery that surrounded her. Maybe it would be better if he just ended it? How long could she keep up this running? What he would do to her when he finally caught her was too much for her to bare.

She exhaled deeply. Get a bloody grip girl. You can make it. She decided her only chance for survival was to run. Preparing for her next dash across the park, she pushed off her muddy stilettoes and tossed them on the ground. Still shaking, she pushed herself off the ground and grasping her head, she looked straight towards the trees in front of her. She attempted to hold it steady, but struggled to focus and stumbled slightly. She could make it. She had to make it. She gulped, attempting to swallow the overpowering horror that consumed her. She needed to move and it needed to be now. Then, before she knew it, she was running barefoot as fast as her legs would carry her. Her tight dress made it hard to run but she kept going. Her feet stung on the brambles beneath her. Run, she told herself. Just Run.

Looking back over her shoulder, there was only a deep darkness. The park looked so different, so alien-like. What had once been so familiar to her, so friendly, was now replaced with despair. Nothing left but grimness flooding itself throughout the park, chasing her in every direction. Her chest was sore and she gasped for air as she ran. She was desperate to escape, but her legs were screaming for her to stop. How long could she run for?

She cried out as she tripped over a branch on the ground. Jumping up onto her knees, she spun around in every direction, searching. Fuck. Where is he? She could not see anything. Where the hell was he? Had he gone? She clambered to her feet, clutching the cold dirt as she got up. Convolutions penetrated straight through to her core. Had she escaped? Sweat was dripping from her face and with a tremoring hand she wiped it away from her eyes.

Leaning on a tree, she tried to take a breather. Her legs were like jelly and wanted to crash to the ground, but she managed to hold them up. Her body was screaming for her to give up. Her muscles were tight and each breath caused her bones to ache. She vomited. Cocktails from earlier that night surged its way out of her stomach. Her body went limp with weakness. She looked down at her Blue Lagoon drink she had previously consumed. Her mouth was so dry. Screw the water, she would give anything to have an ice cold can of coke, her mouth started to drool, thinking the impossible would never happen.

She looked down at her hands. They were covered in blood and they throbbed. Her fingers had turned blue. She just wanted to give up. But she had to keep moving. She looked up and could see the road up ahead. She could see light. If she could only get out onto the main road then maybe someone would see her. A faint glimmer of hope came over her. She could make it.

Suddenly, she felt something grab her from behind, forcing a hand across her mouth. She spun around screaming but no sound came out. She was facing her killer. Her pulse raced faster than ever, bracing herself for what was about to come next.



CHAPTER TWO

NOW



Lily



Lily closed her front door behind her. The sun was bright and she squinted as she stepped out. Oh God! The sun is bright today, thought Lily. Still, it was nice to have some warmth in the air for early September. The cardigan, she wore today, was a good choice. There was no need to dig the winter coat out yet, although there were still some leaves starting to turn from their leafy Summer green to a hint of orange, ready for the Autumn weather ahead.

‘Fresh air,’ Lily said out loud as she inhaled a lung full. She was grateful to be out of the house, released from the same four walls, as if she was being held there against her will.

‘The wheels on the bus go round and round....round and rounddddd!!’ Meghan sang loudly.

‘Not this morning, please Meghan,’ irritation dripping from every word Lily spoke. But she almost immediately regretted snapping at her. Was she being too harsh?

Lily just couldn't help it though. She was so miserable lately. But Meghan didn't deserve anger being thrown her way, she was only four. Anxiety shifted through Lily like a wave had flooded over her entire body. Her heart rate doubled and sweat seeped through her pours all over her face. For a moment, it felt like excitement until her stomach began to flip. Meghan was growing up and there wasn't a damn thing she could do about it. Lily's mother had reminded her of this earlier that morning, right before she took a picture of Meghan on her first day at school.

Taking a deep breath, she tried to slow down her thumping heart. Her mother was right of course, Meghan looked really grown up in her new uniform for her first day at school. As Lily smiled at Meghan, her anxiety subsided. When Lily's mum had raised her phone to take the picture, Meghan had blushed. Meghan always blushed when the attention was on her. Lily was the same. It was such a weird feeling seeing a part of you in someone else, yet there was also some pleasure in it too.

Wouldn't it be great if she could keep Meghan four forever? If only she could keep Meghan with her always, she could keep her safe and protect her from getting hurt. The world could be so cruel, Lily knew that better than anyone else. Lily's heart began to race again. The anxiety was back. The blood pooled down her face. She was about to raise Meghan on her own, as a single mum.

The anxiety surged over her as if a bolt of lightning was hitting her repeatedly, causing her heart to beat faster and more sweat poured from her face. How had she got here? There had never been a baby or single motherhood in her life plan. But then her life plan had never banked on meeting a boy called Chris, who would be responsible for stealing her heart. Stupid Fucking Chris. He was the reason she was living back at home with her mother and sister. Along with their four year old daughter. With no degree. And with no bloody job. All thanks to Chris.

Her anxiety turned to anger. This was certainly not how she had imagined her life to be at twenty-two. Shame stuck to Lily, as if tattooed across her body. She hadn't achieved any of her aspirations. But Lily, at the same time, felt guilty for feeling so angry that her life and the plans she’d made for her future were gone. Because if it wasn't for Chris she wouldn't have had Meghan, who she loved more than anything in the world.

‘Sorry mummy,’ said Meghan interrupting Lily's thoughts.  

‘That's ok darling, Mummy’s sorry too. I shouldn't have snapped at you.’

‘What do you think my friends will be like, Mummy?’

‘I think they will all be lovely Meg,’ rubbing her daughters shoulder trying to reassure her.

Meghan continued to natter and her babbling soothed Lily into a daydream. Thoughts trailed back to five years earlier, when she was an excited eighteen year old full of hopes and dreams, with not a care in the world, and nothing to hold her back. Lily had been accepted at the University of Surrey to study law. She'd wanted to be near her home in Kent and was over the moon when she got the acceptance letter. Ever since she was little, Lilly had a passion for Law. She loved a good mystery to solve and used to love watching "Midsummer Murders" with her nan, where someone would die in every episode and the local detective would solve the case. That was one village she didn't fancy living in! Surely there was no one left to kill in such a small and quaint English village!

As they turned the corner and came onto the school's road, Lily was taken aback by all the posh houses. It was like going from Old Kent road to Mayfair. There were huge detached houses, elegantly placed side by side. It looked like something out of Wysteria Lane. Except it was called Forest Lane. At the end of the street stood the gates to the school.  One house in particular caught her eye. It was painted in a shade of white, not a bright white but was in no way dreary. In the middle of the house stood a beautiful elegant archway and big porch to sit out on, surrounded by an impeccable white picketed fence. In front of the house lay a perfectly neat cut lawn. It was the quintessential dream house. It reminded her of the doll house she had many years ago.

Lily admired the house, and spied intently through the window. Wonder who lives there? Inside, she could see the perfect doll family too. A woman was kissing her husband goodbye for work. Lucky cow, living in the perfect dream house with the perfect husband. The man then turned to his two daughters and wrapped his arms around them before swinging them in the air. They were all laughing. They looked so happy. There was even a Labrador in there playing with his rope.

The husband walked out the front door and headed over to his car parked in the driveway. Lily crouched down behind a car. She looked up and saw Meghan was still singing up ahead of the street. Lily knew she should have caught up with her, but this man intrigued her somehow. Just one minute, Lily thought. Lily continued to hide as she turned back to the man and simpering to herself, she wished she had a husband like that. He was dressed in a smart grey suit with a white shirt and tie. It looked expensive. He looked handsome. He was your very own Ken doll. Every inch of him was dressed and styled to perfection. Lily bet he was probably the man in charge at work and was probably the kind of boss everybody in the office adored. Lily couldn't help but continue to stare at the guy, almost in awe of him. Lily had a thing for a man in a suit. They were hot.

The man leaned his brief case on to the ledge of the boot. The man turned around sharply and Lily jumped from the car to a tree behind her on the pavement. He didn’t see her. Lily leaned closer, intent on seeing what he was doing. He flicked around with the combination lock of the case. What was that inside? It couldn't be, could it? As he opened it, there were knives. A lot of knives. All difference shapes and sizes. Some looked like hunting knives, others like common kitchen knives. Next to them was a thick, cream coloured rope, some gaffer tape and what she imagined was cable ties. He started taking out the knives, rope and tape then scrambled them into his boot.

What was he doing with all this stuff in his car? Especially as he clearly didn't look like he was getting his hands dirty at work today. He looked more business-like, as if he was off to the office in that kind of suit. Lily pondered for a moment. Well he is probably the man around the house too and needs that sort of stuff, Lily reasoned to herself. She knew there would likely be a reasonable explanation. She needed to stop watching so many crime dramas and get out of the house more often. Maybe get a hobby?

Lily glanced back in the direction of school, Meghan had well and truly trotted on up ahead and was still chatting to herself. Oh crap! Lily jogged so she could catch up with her. Lily's mind travelled back to her daydream, thinking back to her first week at university. She had met Chris at a fresher’s party. They hit it off straight away and she had been excited when she found out he was living in the flat opposite her in the halls she was staying at. Lily remembered that feeling of being totally and completely consumed by Chris, and it had been love at first sight. If such a thing exists. Such a stupid notion.

After dating for two months, things became more complicated when she'd found out she was pregnant. Her initial reaction had been to run for the hills as there had been no plan to have a baby at eighteen. Especially during her first term at university. Lily's dream was to become a lawyer and conquer the world fighting crime. But being the trusting girl she was at the time, she had believed the man she was madly in love with, when he'd said they would be a family and he'd take care of them both. That was her downfall and he knew it, the word "family". Ever since she was a little girl, Lily had craved for the perfect family. When Lily was nine, her dad was done with the marriage and left her mum. He also left Lily with a big empty hole in her heart. Her mum had done a good job raising Lily and her baby sister Jasmin, but she never really got over it. Well she would not be making the same mistake with another man in a hurry.

MUM!!’ shouted Meghan, at the top of her voice.

With her heart nearly jumping out of her skin at Meghan's urgent cry, a young boy, around the same age as Meghan stood where no one had been before.

Having nowhere to go, the boy stared up at Lily with fear in his eyes. One minute she was standing upright as she was meant to be and then the next, Lily had spun around before falling hard. She landed with a thud on the cold hard pavement below, as their bodies collided. Her thong shot right up her arse crack.

What the hell just happened? If there was ever a time to look ungainly, this was it. Remarkably however the boy landed on her lap without a scratch.

But all was not lost. As Lily looked up bewildered, she saw a handsome man running across the road to save her. Surely, she must be dreaming.

JACK,’ he shouted at the boy. ‘What have I told you about running off without me?’

The man was a little out of breath and had clearly been running to catch up with the boy she now knew to be Jack. Oh right, yes. He was running over to save Jack. Not her. How stupid of her. Lily blushed. She assumed the man must be Jack's father.

All of sudden, Jack jumped up from her lap and appeared to be fine as he stood on his feet. A look of relief quickly came over the man’s face, Lily on the other hand could feel the bruise on her arse already starting to blossom.

Jack's dad turned from his son to look upon Lily. The concern he once had for Jack was now squarely all on her. And in an instant, her thoughts of hating men were disappearing from Lily’s mind as she became entranced by this beauty before her.

Are you ok?’ he asked, bending over and lending his hand to help her up. 

Yes, I'm fine,’ Lily lied through her teeth, as her arse throbbed from the unexpected fall.

As Lily took his hand, she could feel the softness as it touched her own.  

Hi, I'm Tom,’ he said, his eyes glistened in the sunlight. He pulled her softly upwards, but as he did that she could feel the intensity of the pain increase as gravity pulled at her bruised body. He had more strength than she expected. He was not a skinny man but nor was he a big guy. He looked into her eyes. Wow, they were intense. He was actually quite mesmerising. His emerald green eyes locked her into a trance and her heart pounded hard as he continued to stare at her. 

Lily,’ she said, finally finding her voice.

Sorry about Jack, he can be a little boisterous. Plus, it's his first day of school and he is full of energy this morning,’ he said, as he flashed a smile at her full of subtle charm. A cold chill swept down her body and through her arms leaving her with goosebumps. There was something mysterious about this man that Lily couldn't quite put her finger on. Tom had an aura around him, as if there was a darkness inside him. She could feel it. This intrigued Lily, this intrigued her a lot, even though her brain was screaming at her to proceed with caution.

No, I'm so sorry. I wasn't looking where I was going, is he ok?’ Lily finally broke the gaze they had between them.  

Lily couldn’t take her eyes off him though; taking quick glances, making sure he didn't notice her staring. As Tom faced his son to wipe down some dirt off his trousers from the fall, Lily looked at him once more, drunk with curiosity. He was quite smartly dressed for a school run. He had a Ralph Lauren polo shirt on, with expensive looking trouser bottoms.

Yeah, he's fine,’ Tom said, whilst brushing down the last of the dirt Jack had on his trousers. ‘Aren't you, buddy?’ 

Yeah, fine dad,’ he said, not even looking up at his dad.  

And this is Jack,’ Tom shook his head in amusement as he looked up at her, giving her that mind blowing grin once more. A surge of electricity ran through Lily's body and she let out a small giggle like she was a little girl. She was completely under his spell. Lily swallowed and took a deep breath in, struggling to bring herself back to reality.

‘Meghan,’ Lily called over to her daughter whilst looking around to get her bearing and saw Meghan running back to her.

Lily started to walk in the direction of the school with Tom by her side.

So, I assume by the uniform you are going to Kitterton?’ Tom said to her.

Yes, first day.’

Mind if we walk with you?’ asked Tom, as Meghan grabbed Lily’s hand. They were surprisingly cold. How they could be cold on such a warm morning. Maybe she should have packed gloves in Meghan's bag? A bit late now though. She should be ok, she would be mostly inside anyway.

Lily brushed a strand of hair behind her ear, ‘Of course! This is Meghan,’ She tried to sound cool, although Lily wasn't sure if she was pulling it off.

Hi, Meghan,’ Tom gave Meghan a wave. Meghan moved behind Lily and buried her face into Lily's coat shyly. 

Wow he smelt so good, he was killing her with his mix of aftershave and good looks. Falling for this man was a big mistake, he had to be married. Right? Lily looked down, searching his hand for a ring. But she was walking to the right of him and she was sure the left hand wore a wedding ring. Yes, there must definitely be a ring there.

As they approached the gates of the school, Lily instantly became overwhelmed as she watched the other parents drop their children off. They were all pulling up in their flash cars, Mercedes, Range Rovers, SUVs, you name it. The green-eyed monster almost immediately lurked into her as if it were smacking her in the face. Such arseholes. With their flash cars. What twats! Lily didn't even have a car, never mind a hot car!

As Lily walked through the school gates irritated by what she'd seen, she noticed a group of women in their late 30s nattering together.

Well I told them....I won't be back at your spa anytime soon, with that attitude!.....I mean who do they think they are, making me wait?’ Lily heard one of them say.

I'm telling you Val, use Julian. He does wonders. He charged me £800 and worth every penny,’ her friend replied. Oh My God £800! Were they for real? That would pay for Lily's first term at uni.

They looked masterfully sporty as if they were ready for the gym. Yet they were plastered in the most ridiculous amount of gorgeous make-up. They were disgustingly glamorous. Stupid perfect mums.

Lily jolted back in time to high school and saw them as the popular girls who were idealised. Could she be a part of this mummy group? Although Lily had a feeling she was not their cup of tea. None the less an impassioned sense of curiosity towards them invaded her. They had the life. "The" life. What would that be like? Amazing, of course.

Lily looked down at her clothes, she was far from glamorous. She looked like a tramp compared to them. As if she had just rolled out of bed that morning and chucking on the first thing she saw. Which was actually not far from the truth. Lily had grabbed a plain white top from her drawer before wearing her favourite pair of pale blue jeans that she had owned for the past three years. It had an old ink stain near the crotch but it didn’t bother her much. She paired it along with her favourite black and brown cardigan that she always wore. She hated wearing heels and felt much more comfortable in her black flat pumps, although they were now starting to wear on the sides due to their everyday use. Yeah, she was no Grace Kelly.

Lily thought back to that morning when she had picked up a hair bobble that was lying on the mantelpiece in the living room and had simply just scrunched up her long thick brown hair into a ponytail. She was now regretting the decision to not put on any make-up that morning and was now dragging herself through the playground looking like one of the ugly step-sisters. If only she knew. Damn it!

Seeing the mums in their perfect clothes made Lily want to run to the nearest Karen Millen shop, then pop to Debenhams for a full make-over in a bid to feel half presentable around them. Not that she had that kind of cash, they would probably laugh her out of the store like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

What was the point? She was an unemployed, young single mother, living with her mother. All her friends had recently graduated university and were now off travelling. The only excitement she had to look forward to was X Factor on Saturday Night. Woohoo. Not.

One woman joined their group and Lily immediately recognised her as the one from the perfect doll house they had passed on their way to school, kissing her husband goodbye. The woman was tall and slim, a lot slimmer than Lily was. Probably a good size 8, if she were to guess. Did this woman ever eat? Lily wasn't particularly overweight, but suddenly felt terribly conscious of her size 12 pear shaped figure. Maybe she should add a gym membership to that list too? Lily had never quite lost all her baby weight after having Meghan, but nor did she make that much of an effort either. She was too busy scoffing down a Chinese every Saturday to care. A takeaway was all she had to look forward to.

Now which way should they go? Lily stopped and asked an older woman standing on her own.

Excuse me, do you know which way the reception is, please?’ Lily asked her.

It's that door there. They usually line up outside until Miss Norton blows the whistle ready for them to go in.’

Ok great, thanks,’ Lily said. She was grateful for the help. Lily and Meghan walked towards the reception door area, closely followed by Tom and Jack.

As they stood and waited, Lily took her phone from her back pocket and automatically opened up Facebook. As she flicked through, she came across a picture of Chris and some of his friends. "LOCATION: Malia, Greece", she read. Uhhh....what a dick! A sensation of jealously went through her, along with utter disgust of his betrayal. How dare he live it up while she's looking after their daughter. Why had she opened up Facebook? Lily shook the thought out of her mind and pushed the phone back into her pocket.  

Lily had thought Chris was different but after they moved in together, it seemed like he used his money far more on partying than he did on buying nappies or paying for bills. The tears welled up again in Lily's eyes and then came an overpowering perception of not being able to breathe. But this was quickly replaced with rage as Lily focused her energy on the father of her child. Lily wished she hadn't promised to stay friends with Chris. She found it so hard every time she saw him. Although Lily didn't really have a choice, she couldn't stop Meghan from seeing her father. They won’t be hearing from him soon, though. Too busy living it up in Greece by the looks of things. Damn him and damn bloody Greece!

Lily pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind as she bent down to face Meghan. She took a deep breath to stop the blood from boiling over inside her.

Ready?’ Lily said to Meghan calmly.

Ready, Mum,’ Meghan replied. She was such a brave girl.

I love you so much,’ Lily crouched down to Meghan's height.  

I love you too,’ Meghan repeated back and threw her arms around Lily’s neck tightly. Lily took the full brunt of intensity from her daughter’s squeeze, as if Meghan were trying to crack Lily's ribs. Despite this, Lily was pleased to feel the overwhelming amount of unconditional love they had between them. Meghan always had the power to make her feel better. Meghan was her world and Lily's heart would not beat without her. That prick Chris had at least done one thing right in their short relationship.

Right, come on you, go and line up,’ Lily told Meghan, still feeling the warmth between them.  

Lily watched Meghan walk into the classroom, waving intently goodbye. After she watched Meghan disappear, Lily spun around and caught Tom rubbing his face. She was oblivious at first to what she was looking at, but then it registered, Tom's wedding ring was placed so tactfully on his finger. On his left hand. Great! Of course, he's married. Just her luck.

As Lily walked away from the reception, she looked around the school at the crowd of parents in front of her, fascinated by what their world was like. She looked back at Tom who smiled back at her. Although Lily didn't know it at the time, this school was about to give her more drama than she could ever imagine.









CHAPTER THREE

Tom



Shit. Tom was going to be late. He ran across the road towards the school. He didn't want to be late picking Jack up from his first day at school. Time keeping really wasn't his strong point. His recent ex-employer had told him that. He probably had a point.

Except Tom was a perfectionist. What's wrong with wanting things done right? Sweat poured down his face. He looked down at his watch. 3:15. He slowed from his jog to a brisk walk. He inhaled deeply, trying to catch hold of his breath and wiped the sweat from his forehead with his hand. The kids didn't get let out until 3:20 so he still had plenty of time.

He was now on the corner of Forest Lane that led to Kitterton Academy. He really needed to start leaving earlier. But Tom found it tough being organised. It came so much more naturally to women. Approaching the gates of the school, there were plenty of parents strolling in like they had all the time in the world. Not dripping in sweat like they had just run a marathon like him. Tom watched one mum as she pulled out about six kids from her mini bus. Fuck that! That was absolutely crazy. How did she cope with them? She must be like super mum. Tom couldn't imagine anything worse. One was enough for him.

Tom walked through the playground of the school. Now which way was it again? He looked around the school, but he was clueless. This morning he had just followed Lily. The school wasn’t that big but all the doors looked the same. Was it this way? Tom walked to his right, walking through the playground and around the side of the building. Yup, he had no idea. Maybe one of the other mums could help him.

Excuse me,’ Tom tapped a blonde lady on the shoulder.

She spun around to face him. ‘Hi,’ she said, her eyes lighting up as she looked at him. Wow! She was pretty for an older woman. Well not old, but older than him. Maybe late 30s.

I'm looking for the reception class?’ said Tom, giving the woman his best charming smile. God, what he'd love to do with her right now. Tom bet she had some stuffy accountant for a husband who didn’t know what to do with her. Bet she had not had an orgasm since her early twenties. Or most likely ever.

I did drop my son off his morning, but now I can't remember which door he comes out of,’ he blushed, a little embarrassed. It sounded stupid saying the words out loud. Tom's pulse raced as he looked her over; he was starting to feel horny and the bulge was growing in his pants.

First day?’ she asked, smirking devilishly at him.

Fuck, her smile. She's hot. She was smoking hot.

Yeah,’ Tom replied, in his coolest voice. Was there a connection between them? Or was it just him with his wishful thinking?

I'm Katherine,’ she said, as she touched his shoulder ever so slowly, ‘My daughter is in reception too. I'll walk with you.’

Katherine's touch made Tom shiver.

I'm Tom,’ waving at her.

Nice to meet you, Tom,’ She gave him a wicked smile, as if she was flirting with him.

Tom followed Katherine's lead towards the door of reception. ‘They're not out yet.’

Tom couldn’t make eye contact with her. His heart was racing like the clappers. He looked around instead, pretending to be interested in the reception door.

So, what's your daughter's name?’ Tom asked her, accidentally meeting her eyes. His heart leapt and the lust consumed his body. Those eyes! They were absolutely lush. Bright blue which sparkled like crystals.

Sophie,’ she replied, meeting his gaze intently. There was definitely a spark.

I have a son named Jack,’ Tom said to Katherine, before she could ask. He wanted the conversation to just end. He was at school, picking up his son for God's sake. Maybe she would leave in a minute.

Is he in Miss Norton's class?’

Yes, I think so,’ replied Tom, nodding at her.

The door opened to the reception class and a young geeky woman with glasses started to call out their names.

That's Miss Norton's class,’ Katherine whispered, as she leaned towards his ear. What was this woman doing to him?

Beth....Daniel.....Dylan,’ Miss Norton called each child one-by-one. Different mums and dads stepped forward to collect their child as their name was called. ‘Sophie’ Katherine stepped forward waving her hand at Sophie.

See you again,’ she said, smiling coyly at him. ‘I have to go and pick up my eldest, Ellie.’

Tom watched Katherine walk off and out of sight. Fuck me, Tom thought. Has it been that long since he’d had sex or was she just having some sort of effect on him?

The teacher continued to call out names but none of them were Jack. ‘Come on mate,’ Tom said under his breath. He could picture Jack now, at the back of the queue in a daydream.

Parents continued to collect children and now there were just a few left, standing in the crowd. As Tom looked at the parents, he noticed someone. Lily. She was the girl he had met that morning. Thank God Jack hadn't done serious damage to her when he went crashing into Lily. She was standing there looking like a lost soul. Poor girl. I know how you feel love.

Hi, again,’ Tom smiled at her.

Oh...Hi,’ Lily responded. ‘Sorry I was in my own world.’

How are you after your fall this morning?’

Oh, I'm fine,’ Lily replied, looking at the floor. She seemed a little shy. Either that or she didn't want to talk to him.

Sorry about Jack, he can be a little boisterous sometimes,’ Tom tried to pull a conversation out of her.

No, it's fine honestly, I wasn't looking where I was going,’ Lily looked back at the school door. She certainly came across like she was uninterested in him.

Jack,’ Miss Norton called, finally. Followed by, ‘Meghan.’

Jack ran out towards Tom. About time.

Dad, I met a friend called Dylan and we played tag....and there was a drawing.....and we had cake.’ Jack couldn't quite get the words out fast enough, he was jumping about the place like he was really excited.

Looks like you had a nice day then,’ Tom said to him smiling.

Oh yes Dad, can I come back tomorrow?’ Tom looked around but Lily had disappeared.

Yes of course, you will be here all week.’ Tom grabbed Jack's hand and started to head off to the playground. He continued to search the area. Where the fuck did she go? She was like Houdini. One minute she was there and the next, gone. Jack suddenly broke free of his grip.

I want to run,’ Jack called, as he ran in front of Tom.

Don't run. Stay where I can see you, Jack,’ Tom called after him. Fucking kids. They have so much energy. Jack had been in school all day and yet he wasn't even knackered.

OK,’ Jack shouted as he ran flat out across the playground.

How do the teachers cope with him? They must think he is a handful; Tom had never met a kid that was so energetic. His brother's girl would just sit there and colour when he used to visit him. She made parenting look easy. Why couldn't Jack just be like that? It would be so much fucking easier.

As Tom managed to move around the other parents, he noticed Lily was walking up ahead of him. Jack was running full speed down the street towards them. God help that kid if he knocks Lily over again. But luckily, he passed them without bumping into either Lily or Meghan. Tom picked up his pace so he could catch up with Jack. He was really getting fed up of running to and from school. Jack then abruptly stopped and started to talk to Meghan.

Which way are you heading?’ asked Tom, joining Lily's side, he was trying his best not to pant.

Oh Hi.’ Lily was probably starting to think Tom was stalking her. She clearly didn't want to talk to him. ‘I’m heading towards Caroline's Street,’ she said, hesitantly.

You're not far from me. I live in Maiden Court, just behind you.’

Those posh new houses?’ she marvelled.

Tom chuckled. ‘Well I guess so, we just moved in.’

Was he posh? Him? It somehow made him feel important. He tried hard not to smile at her complement. They were nice five bedroom detached houses. But they were by no means mansions. The truth was, his wife Carol was to thank for their house. Not him. She had recently been promoted to a speciality surgical registrar (StR), she was on route to becoming a surgeon. This meant she could now boss around all the junior doctors in her team as she trained to become a consultant. She extended this courtesy to Tom too when Carol was home. The new job also meant they were able to afford the new house. Since she had taken the job, she was working crazy hours and seeing Carol was a rarity for both, Tom and Jack. He sighed. Disappointment oozed through him as he thought of it.

As they all walked down Maiden Court and around the corner towards their houses, there was not much conversation from Lily. Tom studied her and couldn't work out if she was just shy or really didn’t want to speak to him. Maybe she didn't like him? Well, that would be the first. Tom could normally charm most girls to bend to his liking.

Ok, so I’m down here,’ Lily said to Tom, reluctantly. ‘Come on Meghan,’ Lily started to rush off towards her house.

Ok bye,’ Tom called after her. ‘Say bye, Jack.’

Bye,’ Jack waved, before bouncing along the street to their own road. Tom guessed he will see her tomorrow. Tom shook his head. She was one strange woman.

As they approached their house, he noticed Carol's car was not in the drive. Not home again. His heart sank and an unpleasant weight of disappointment imploded over him. Carol should have been home by now. She said she would be. Tom put his key in the door and looked down at the floor, taking in a deep disappointed breath as he walked in. He was initially glad she got the job. It meant they could afford this house and be in the catchment area for the school they wanted Jack to attend. After all, Kitterton Academy was one of the best schools in the area. As Jack ran to his room to change, Tom walked into the kitchen and clicked the kettle on. Coffee, that's what was needed. Leaning on the kitchen counter, his head sagged down to his chest as he sat thinking, waiting for the kettle to boil. A wealth of shame filled him. He was such a loser letting his wife take care of him. This hadn't been the plan. Tiny streams of frustration circled its way through him. He was the one who was meant to be taking care of his family. A sob caught in Tom's throat and he gulped it down.

He took a cup from the cupboard above, grabbing the coffee jar from the counter in front of him and put the spoon in. A large scoop was definitely needed. He was so tired. He hadn't slept properly the night before. Mainly due to the fact he was tossing and turning all night, thinking about his lack of career success and what's more, it was becoming apparent he was failing miserably at being a husband too. He and Carol hadn’t had sex in a while. Sex was one thing that they succeeded in, but the sheer lack of it was getting to him. There were only so many jerkings off he could take. The kettle clicked. He filled up his cup and chugged down a mouthful of coffee. He burnt his throat on the hot liquid and he put it down to cool.

Tom was not a child either, and the fact that Carol thought she could boss him around, as if he was a kid like Jack, made the situation even worse. Where had his wife gone? She didn't use to behave this way. They had once been equals, but now everything revolved around her. Carol's job meant bossing people about at work and it had clearly gone to her head. But that didn't mean she had to talk like shit to him.

‘Can I play on my tablet?’ Jack came up to him as Tom sipped some more coffee. ‘Yeah, sure buddy,’ Tom walked into the living room and picked the tablet up from the bookshelf. Tom keyed in the code and passed it to Jack. ‘There you go.’

Thanks’ Jack said, his eyes locked onto the computer screen whilst plonking himself down on the sofa.

Tom's phone suddenly vibrated in his pocket. A text from Carol:

Sorry love, emergency at work. I will be home in time for tea.’

Carol had been gone before Tom had woken up that morning. But she had promised the night before she would be home before Tom had returned home with Jack. Ready to greet Jack on his first day at school. Of course, that was just a joke.

Ok,’ Tom replied to her text. Then chucked the phone with fury onto the sofa. Tom wandered back to the kitchen and looked inside the fridge. Not much. Just sausages.

‘Sausages for tea?’ he called to Jack, who was still sat on the sofa in the living room.

Yeah’ Jack called back, not looking up from his tablet. Jack wasn't really a fussy eater. He was actually quite laid back about most things. Tom shoved the sausages in the oven in and clicked on the timer.

Tom's phone vibrated again. What the fuck is it now? Tom strolled back in to the living room and grabbed his phone from the sofa. It wasn't her. A text from Damian, his brother.

How are things, brother?’ Tom read, sitting down on the sofa.

Yeah ok,’ Tom typed back, He was lying of course. ‘How are you holding up?’ Tom wrote again. He chucked the phone next to him and took out his laptop. Popping the lid open, he looked at his e-mails, his eyes scrolling down the page. Junk, Junk, Junk. Great, no proper leads. Well, that's fucking shit. His phone vibrated.

Not good bro,’ Tom read. It vibrated again. ‘Fancy a drink later? I'm off tomorrow.’

Excitement came over Tom. A drink sounded good, screw that, it sounded fucking amazing. It would get him out of this shit tip. But the truth was, he could never go.

Can't sorry. I have Jack,’ Tom typed into his phone.

His phone vibrated. ‘Can't she babysit?’

Tom laughed. His brother had never really liked Carol. ‘She's a moody bitch,’ Damian always said.

This thought made Tom laugh again. ‘She's not here,’ he typed.

Typical,’ his brother wrote back.

Damian was so right. His brother was having such a shit time lately too.

The oven timer started to beep and Tom headed over to check on the dinner. He looked up at the clock on the kitchen wall. It was a bit early to start serving dinner and Carol had said tea time. He would leave it to simmer a bit longer and then dish up.

Half an hour passed and still no sign of Carol. Fuck it. He was just going to dish up for him and Jack. Why should they starve just because she couldn't keep a promise? He was a mug for thinking she would actually make it on time.

‘Jack, dinner’s ready,’ he called out.

‘Ok, dad!’

Tom put on the peas to boil and took out the Bisto from the cupboard. Jack strolled in just as Tom was pouring the gravy over their plates. Jack glanced up at him.

‘Ok mate?’ Tom asked him.

‘Yup....I'm hungry,’ Jack looked up and around the room. ‘Where's mum?’

‘Still at work, Jack.’

‘Ok.’ He mumbled, sitting down onto his seat, slouching his shoulders down. Jack was not used to her not being there. Carol spent the majority of her time at work and little time at home.

‘How was school?’ Tom asked trying to make conversation.

‘Yeah good....I made friends,’ Jack sat up straighter in his seat and his words filled with enthusiasm. ‘One boy....ummm...can't remember his name. He let me play tag,’ Jack was scoffing down his dinner in between his words. ‘He was my best friend. Remember, I told you earlier Daddy?’

‘Nice!’ Tom laughed. The mind of a child was so simple. Adults were the ones who make things much more complicated than it needed to be. Tom looked up at his son and smiled as he watched Jack eat. At least, Tom had done one thing right, his son.

God, he could really do with a drink right now. He hadn't had a proper drink in ages. Scrap that, he hadn't gone out drinking properly in a long while. What the fuck happened? He used to be such a party boy before they had Jack. Jack wasn’t the reason though. Carol and her job meant she couldn’t go out much. Which meant he couldn’t go out. Loneliness dominated the shell of a man he once was. Where was that fun person he used to be? Who was he these days? A sense of worthlessness invaded his thoughts. Tom was basically just a house husband.

‘Can I be excused, Dad? I've finished.’ Jack interrupted him from his thoughts.

‘Yeah sure mate,’ replied Tom, putting on the fakest smile he could give his son. ‘Take a biscuit from the barrel, if you want.’

‘Can I have two?’

Tom chuckled. ‘Yeah sure, crack on,’ Jack disappeared out of the kitchen.



***



It was almost eight o'clock when the front door slammed shut. Tom looked up at the clock. Where the fuck had she been?

‘Sorry love,’ Carol said, apologetically. She kicked off her shoes in the doorway and came into the living room. Tom was sat on the sofa, looking at his computer. He gripped his beer tightly as she walked towards him. Carol kissed Tom on the cheek, but he flinched away from her.

‘My dinner in the oven?’ asked Carol, ignoring his hesitance and walking automatically into the kitchen. Was she literally going to ignore the fact she was late, again?

Tom stood up, walking in the kitchen to join her.

‘Unfortunately, yes,’ replied Tom, rage beginning to eat up his inside.

‘Sorry love, a patient crashed on the table and he needed emergency surgery to save his life,’ Carol stated.

Tom tutted. Ok, that was a good excuse. But there were other doctors at the hospital. Surely one of them could have stepped in?

‘Having a beer, dear?’ Carol said.

‘Yes,’ Tom replied coldly.

‘Make sure you don't have too many. Jack's in bed,’ she lectured.

‘Don't you think I know that? I put him there.’

‘What's the matter?’ she said, surprise ran through her voice.

‘You're never fucking here, is what's the matter,’ Tom blurted out. He took a large gulp of his beer, practically necking it. His hand started to tremble as he tried to hold back the anger that was building up towards his wife.

‘Well, someone's got to pay for this house,’ Carol snapped, venom dribbled from every word she uttered.

Was this woman for real? What a fucking condescending bitch. ‘Yeah, and don't we know it,’ Tom snapped right back at her.

‘It's not my fault you lost your job. You did that all by yourself dear!’

‘You were the one that said it was for the best and I would become a freelance graphic designer. Or was it all a ploy to get me at home where you can keep an eye on me and have a fulltime nanny for Jack?’

‘No! That's not true!’ Carol bellowed.

Tom looked up at the wall and saw the photo of Carol and him on their wedding. ‘Where has the woman I married gone? The fun loving girl I met at university, who would drink any guy I knew under the table? When did you become a fucking manipulator instead?’ Tom pointed to the picture. ‘Two young kids, so happy and in love. Where did it all start going so wrong? You might as well be a guest in our house, popping up here and there. Whenever it suits you.’

Tom’s heart ached. Could they be those people again? Not likely. He could only detect a hollow hole of nothingness between them now. Were they simply just beating around the bush and actually staying together for Jack's sake?

‘That’s not fair! I’m working my fucking arse off. Around the clock shifts! We have responsibilities, Tom. A mortgage. A son,’ Carol stopped for a moment. ‘Plus you know how important my job is, if I want to become a surgeon....’

‘Yes, yes, I know, you need to put in the hours.’

Normally, Tom would go to bed at this point. Tom couldn’t even be bothered to argue with Carol. What was the point? She was oblivious to how he felt. As long as everything suited her. She didn't really care about anything else, or anyone else.

Tom didn't want to be in the same house as her, never mind the same room. Carol made his skin crawl at the very thought of being near her. Fuck it. She could deal with it all, he'd had enough.

Tom downed the last of his beer, stood up and screwed up the can as hard as he could. Taking a deep breath, he walked over to the living room bin and chucked it in. Grabbed his phone from the coffee table and snatched his car keys from the key holder, before taking one last look at the woman who used to be his wife.

‘I'm off,’ Tom called to Carol, as he headed down the hall towards the door.

Adrenaline pumped around his body like a possessed human. He pulled his coat from the coat hanger at the door and swung it around himself.

‘What!’ She ran in front of him, blocking the door. ‘What about Jack?’

‘You deal with him, you're his mother.’ His tone was cold. His eyes were full of steam, they blazed up like a savage fire, full of hatred as he stared at her.

‘Get out of my way!’ Tom shouted at her. His face close to hers. Carol looked up at him, her eyes wide with surprise, fear even. Carol stepped to the side. Pulling the door open, Tom slammed it hard behind him.

Outside, the cold air seeped into his bones and down through his spine. He let out an uncontrollable shiver and began to rub his arms vigorously with both hands. Fuck. Had he really just done that? Tom took a long hard deep breath. What was he going to do now?























































CHAPTER FOUR



Tom



Tom's hand shivered as he scrolled through his contact list. He was still standing outside his house. Shock continued to unfold throughout him over what he had just done. He found the number he was looking for and pressed his bright red finger onto the name "Damian" and clicked dial. Pressing the phone between his ear and shoulder, he rubbed his hands together to bring back its warmth. The night was pretty cold. The sky was a clear black, with an exquisite array of stars glistering into the night. Beautiful, yet cold. The number kept on ringing. ‘Come on, Damo. Please answer,’ Tom prayed. Shit, he wasn't going to answer.

‘Hey Bro, you ok?’ Damian finally answered.

‘Thank God! You picked up,’ Tom replied, ‘Well… I’m not ok.’

‘What happened?’

‘I kinda stormed out of the house.’ Tom heard his brother’s laughter through the phone.

‘You? Mr calm and collective? Stormed out of the house?’ Damian continued to laugh.

‘Yeah, I know. She is just being such a fucking idiot. I had to get out of there, man. You still up for that drink?’ Tom asked.

‘Yeah, of course. Where are you?’

‘I'm still standing outside of the house.’

‘Ok. Get the fuck away from there and wait on the corner of your street. I'll come pick you up. I'll be about 15 minutes.’

‘Ok, do hurry up. It's fucking freezing!’

‘Peace out,’ said Damian and ended the call.

Tom put his hands in his coat pocket. The cold air hit his face as he started to wander down the street. His cheeks were on fire as the cold burrowed into every bit of skin that was on show.

Tom took a deep breath in and composed himself. It had been a while since he had been out after dark; the darkness reminded him that summer was now truly over. Tom liked summer, it reminded him of fishing with his father as a child. His happiest memory, before things turned sour. The street lamps were brightly lit against the dark night. He could see the flicker of tellies as he walked past the houses. He was completely alone outside in the silence. Yet, the silence was peaceful.


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