Published by Bloodhound Books on October 10, 2018
What if someone set you limits?
Claudia and Heather have been friends and neighbours for many years and both women decide it is the right time for them to leave their husbands. Together they get a flat but their peace is short lived when Claudia is diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Being a good friend, Heather takes on caring for Claudia but a lethal meeting with James, Claudia’s ex-husband, results in someone dying.
As life for Claudia and Heather begins to unravel, the answer to their problems becomes clear… it’s murder.
Due to my blinking migraines, (GOD I am bored of moaning about them!) I did not read this in time, but I can’t wait to do so!! Instead
1 April 2017
Claudia Bell was unsettled, at odds with herself, feeling not quite right. She didn’t truly know why she felt as she did; she had a job she enjoyed as office manager at a large haulage company, her social life was as okay as she needed it to be, she didn’t look anywhere near forty-four, and her kids were well and happily residing with partners of their own.
And yet she felt out of sorts, a little adrift. She eased her legs out of bed and stretched. Glancing at her bedside clock, Claudia registered that it said 08:10 and she ran to the bathroom. Maybe she shouldn’t have given in to the enticing snooze button on her alarm.
Claudia hated having to rush to get to work, and while in the shower reflected that it might have been better if she’d got up when James had, at seven. She was just grateful that she worked in the same area of Sheffield that she lived in and didn’t have to do the manic cross-city rush hour thing every morning and evening.
She dried her short dark hair and frowned at her image in the mirror. The hair looked a bit wispy, the make-up a bit sparse. Running repairs would have to be done at work, and not for the first time.
Jumping in the car, carrying a travel mug of coffee and a slice of toast, Claudia arrived with two minutes to spare, breathing a sigh of relief.
‘Morning,’ she said, and received a chorus of mornings back.
Her small office was in the corner of the main large open-plan space, and she was taking her coat off as she went through the doorway. She winced as the sleeve
dragged against a sore spot at the back of her shoulder, and once again vowed to ask James to have a look and see if he could see anything.
She switched on her computer and settled down to work.
As the day wore on, she began to unwind. It was an easy day; there had been no breakdowns, no late loads, and no arguments between colleagues Fiona and Sara. Sara going out with Fiona’s ex, one of their drivers, hadn’t helped with harmony in the workplace, but it had been a good day. Claudia’s equilibrium had gone some way towards being restored.
She gave Sara a lift home, and not a word was mentioned about the magnificent Baz; Claudia thought it best not to say his name, hoping the super-stud would quickly tire of Sara, just as he had tired of Fiona. Peace would then be brokered; Baz could return to being a footloose and fancy-free driver with a girl in every port and loading bay, and his two paramours could renew their lost friendship.
Lights were on at home, and Claudia pulled her car in behind James’s Sportage, smiling as she always did at the sight of her Fiesta parked near the back of his much larger vehicle. To her, it looked as though the Sportage had given birth to her little car; both sharing the same colour, a deep navy, created the illusion.
She swung her bag onto her shoulder and winced again as the strap rubbed across the sore spot. She really needed to remember it hurt when touched by anything, she grumbled to herself.
James opened the front door before she got to it. ‘I need to go out.’
She sighed. She could do without arguments. ‘Okay. I’ll move it.’
She put her bag on the doorstep and walked back to her car. Putting it in reverse, she guided it carefully back down the drive, mindful of him probably watching her and preparing his sarcastic comments, and steered the car out onto the road. She parked it by the kerbside, locked it up and headed back to the house.
The door was closed but her bag was still on the doorstep. Again, she sighed. She hoped he was going out soon, and she could settle on the sofa with a book and anything grossly fattening she could find.
She opened the door, and the smell of bacon permeated the house. She took off her coat, careful to avoid the sore spot, and hung it in the cloakroom, then headed for the kitchen.
‘Yes, just grabbed the first thing I found really,’ James said, not bothering to look at her. ‘I’ve got to be in Leeds by seven. If the meeting goes on late, and there’s alcohol involved, I’ll probably stay over. If not, I’ll be home later. I’ll let you know.’
‘What’s the meeting about?’
‘The official line is bringing more young people into the party, but as soon as Jeremy became leader, that happened anyway. I think the idea now is to educate the youngsters, let them see what a political career can offer them.’
James worked for the Labour party and took his job seriously. Much more seriously than he took his relationship with his wife, she thought, moving to stand by his side.
‘Before you go, can you just have a look at my shoulder, please?’
‘Because I’d like you to look at it. It’s sore. Is it a rash?’
She heard him tut, and thought he was going to refuse, but he stood, and she peeled back the neckline of her sweater, exposing her upper right arm and shoulder area.
He cast a quick glance. ‘Can’t see anything.’
He had a closer look, and hesitated. ‘Yes, there’s a sort of blister. It looks like a small grape. A really small grape. It’s a bit inflamed around it, but I assume that’s your sweater rubbing on it. You want me to put a plaster over it?’
She shook her head. ‘No, it’s been bothering me for a couple of weeks. I’ll make an appointment with the doctor. It probably needs removing.’
He made no further comment, left the kitchen and headed upstairs. Claudia watched him go, then turned and opened the fridge.
It seemed pointless cooking a meal for one, and she too brought out the bacon, with little enthusiasm. The bread bin proved to be empty; James had used the last two breadcakes. She put the bacon back in the fridge, took out a yoghurt, and wandered into the lounge.
She heard him come downstairs, open the front door, and then close it. The next sound was the car engine and she knew that really, their marriage was one huge sham. For years she had ignored the coldness for the sake of the children, but now both Harry and Zoe had left home, Harry to live with his partner Emma, and Zoe to share her life with husband David.
So, what was keeping Claudia here? Not loyalty. She felt she owed him nothing. The bruises were testament to that. Security? She could have security on her own. And it certainly wasn’t for conversation; he couldn’t even say goodbye as he left the house any more.
Fear. That was keeping her rooted to this house. Fear of his anger, his quickness to raise his hand, whether threatening or hitting her. She shook her head. She would be happy later; she knew he wasn’t coming home. There would be alcohol, so he would stay in Leeds; he wouldn’t risk his driving licence. To him, his job was too important.
She glanced at the clock, then picked up the telephone handset.
The doctor’s receptionist answered quickly, taking Claudia by surprise.
‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I half expected the answer machine.’
‘We’re here until six now,’ she said, her frosty tone indicating she didn’t really approve of having to stay an extra half hour.
‘Oh, good,’ Claudia said. ‘Can I have an appointment as soon as possible, please? Preferably with Dr Walker.’ She liked Dr Walker; he listened when she needed to talk.
There was a moment of hesitation. ’Friday, 29th April. 9am.’
‘What? But it’s the first today. I have to wait four weeks?’
‘Yes. That’s Dr Walker’s first available appointment. You can come to the emergency session any day, by ringing at eight, but you won’t necessarily get to see him, it could be any of our six doctors.’
Claudia sighed yet again. It seemed to be an evening for sighing. ‘So, if I ring Monday morning, I’ll be able to see a doctor?’
‘If there are any slots left, yes. And if it’s an emergency.’
‘Thank you.’ Claudia put down the phone and stared at it. And she’d thought April Fool’s Day had finished at lunchtime. This was no joke. Now she would have to wait until Monday and hope she could get in then.
She wandered back into the lounge, put on some music and picked up her book. She finished off the yoghurt, put her head comfortably on a cushion and began to read. The sore spot was irritating her, and she changed ends so that she wasn’t touching anything with her shoulder.
Eventually she gave up and went to find a mirror. She slipped off her sweater and stood with her back to the cheval mirror in the bedroom. She couldn’t see anything. Every time she screwed her head round, her body moved as well. She went to find her phone.
The resulting photograph was a waste of time. In the end, she ran a bath, had a soak for an hour, then slipped on a silky nightie, figuring that wouldn’t irritate the sore part of her shoulder any more than it already was.
James didn’t ring to tell her what he was doing, so she went to bed early, read a couple of chapters, and slept restlessly all night. Every time she turned over she caught the spot, until in the end she got up, had a bowl of cornflakes and mentally prepared herself for the weekend.