The Lost Sister: A gripping emotional page turner with a breathtaking twist
But Becky doesn’t need to rush. Instead, she takes a moment to stop, breathing in the warm air infused with the scent of flowers and grass. It’s one of the many luxuries of not having to rush home to people like others have to, she thinks. She’ll always be able to take the time to enjoy the simple things, like breathing in the beauty of a hot summer evening.
After a few moments, she heads across the fields and down a path created from grass well-trodden by dog walkers. Kay lives near the cobbled high street five minutes in the opposite direction, but Becky lives out of the way, in one of four cottages that sit in a row and overlook the field. Each of the cottages are tiny but their gardens are huge with gates that lead onto the field, ideal for the dogs. She still remembers her dad driving them through this very village on the way to their new home in Busby-on-Sea after her mum left. That was over twenty-five years ago now. ‘This is a pretty village,’ Becky remembers saying to him.
‘Too small,’ he’d replied. ‘Busby-on-Sea is much better, you’ll see. It even has a leisure centre! Plus, your grandparents are there.’
One shop and no leisure centre sounded perfect to her, even then. But she knew her dad needed to be around family. She remembers asking her dad when her mum would be joining them. She knew she wouldn’t be, they’d had ‘the talk’ just a few weeks beforehand. But she still had to ask, just to be sure.
‘Mummy’s not coming with us, remember?’ her dad had replied, a confusing mixture of sadness and anger on his face. ‘But she’ll visit. I think you’ll be happy in Busby-in-Sea, I really do, Becks.’
As Becky thinks of that, she gets another flash of memory. The sound of waves. Sand in between her toes. Her mum smiling down at her, nose freckled from the sun, blue eyes sparkling.
‘I think you’ll be happy here, Becks, I really do.’
And then beyond her, the mouth of a cave.
‘Becky!’ The memory trickles away as a couple in their seventies walk towards her, their golden Labrador bounding over to greet her, one of her many patients.
She stops and leans down, pressing her nose against the dog’s wet one. ‘Hello, Sandy!’ she says. ‘How’s his ear today?’
‘Better thanks to you, Becky,’ the woman says, but she seems to already be walking away with her husband. They obviously have somewhere to be, and Sandy follows. Becky wonders where. Maybe dinner out with friends. Cinema. Or just a date with a film indoors. They had each other, whatever they had waiting for them. She feels a pang of loneliness, thinking of what Kay had said earlier.
No, Kay’s wrong, she doesn’t get lonely. If she ever wants company, she just needs to head out here into the fields, knowing there will always be one villager or another walking their dogs. There’s such a sense of community here. Her dad hadn’t seen it that way when she’d told him she’d be moving out of Busby-on-Sea four years ago, the place that had been her home since she was eight years old. But she needed the independence of living in a different town, even if it was only a twenty-minute drive away … and so had he. In fact, it was after she left that he got back in touch with his old friend, Cynthia. And now they were married!
Becky reaches the end of the field, stopping at the fence lining the four long gardens belonging to the cottages. Her cottage sits at the end, and looks just the same as the others with its white-washed walls and thatched roof.
In the garden next to hers, David is sitting on a chair reading a book. His Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Bronte, is lying at his feet, and Becky’s three lurchers are stretched out in the evening sun on the lawn. Summer has a short chestnut coat, and big brown eyes with long lashes. Danny is as black as the night, long-haired and handsome. Womble is the longest and tallest of the three – grey, inquisitive and the fastest dog she’s ever seen. Each of them had been brought into the practice for treatment after being found as strays, and each was rescued by Becky who had a soft spot for ‘skinnies’ as she called them. Poor Summer was the worst, brought in by the police after it was reported she had been dragged behind a car, tied to the bumper with a rope to make her run faster. She was still terrified of strangers, hiding behind Becky’s legs whenever anyone but David approached her.
Summer is the first to see Becky as she opens the fence into David’s garden. The dog gingerly stands up, does a quick stretch, then limps over to Becky, her leg still bound from the surgery Becky had carried out to fix a broken bone. She nudges her nose into Becky’s tummy, and Becky strokes her.
‘Hello, darling,’ Becky says, leaning down to kiss her head as the other dogs’ ears prick at the sound of her voice. They too jump up, padding over.
‘Summer’s been a terror today,’ David says with a smile that gives away just how much he enjoyed her being a terror. He’s in his sixties, and is tall with short, grey hair and a wicked smile. He moved to the area just a few months after Becky did four years ago, and they’d clicked straight away as they discussed their love of animals. They mainly talked about dogs, but David did mention once that he and his wife had split up many years before, and they had a daughter who lived abroad.
‘Thanks for looking after them,’ she says to him now with a smile.
‘Always a pleasure.’
She occasionally took the dogs into the practice with her, but it was hard keeping three large dogs entertained in such a small space. David looked after them most days, bringing them over to see her during her breaks.
She leans down and pats Bronte on the head. She gives a soft thump of her feathery white tail then puts her little chin back on her paws. She was another rescue dog, brought in to the practice two years ago, an ex-breeding dog dumped by a local puppy farm after getting an infection. David had taken an instant liking to her after his last cocker spaniel had passed away, so he’d ended up adopting her.
‘Right, let’s get you all back,’ Becky says, patting her thigh and heading towards the fence that divides their gardens.
‘Not staying for a cuppa?’ David calls out to her.
‘Tomorrow,’ she calls back. ‘I’m so exhausted, I think I might go to bed straight after dinner.’
He laughs. ‘You work too hard.’
Becky steps over the fence, the dogs leaping over with her, and lets herself into her cottage. All three dogs dart to the back of the house as soon as they get in, standing by their bowls and looking up at her with impatient eyes, ready for their dinner.
‘Okay, okay, give me a minute!’ Becky calls out.
She chucks her keys onto the stairs and walks down the small hallway and into the kitchen, which is surprisingly large considering the size of the rest of the cottage, and has enough room for a decent-sized pine table in the middle.
Becky feeds the dogs then sets about making her own dinner, a quick stir fry. Once she’s finished cooking, she plates up and heads out onto the patio to sit down with her dinner and a book – another romance. David has gone in now. Becky leans back in her chair and blinks up at the sun. She loves this time of day; warm enough to sit outside, cool enough that she doesn’t have to worry about it burning her pale skin. A bird soars above, heading east … maybe towards Kent, where she once lived.
The phone rings, puncturing her thoughts. She sighs. Why does this always happen when she’s settling down to eat? She places her plate on a table as she stands up, then walks inside quickly to grab the phone.
The voice is weak, barely audible. It’s a voice she hasn’t heard in many years and yet she knows it in an instant. It’s seared into her heart.
Chapter Four (#ulink_6184939a-4bb5-5c3a-afb9-937cfdcbd703)
19 July 1991
I nibbled on my pen while looking out towards the sea, playing over what had happened the evening before again. I’d dreamt about the man all night, hot feverish dreams, as I’m sure half the town had too.
I looked at Becky. ‘Sorry, darling, I was a million miles away.’
‘Did the man really walk on water, like everyone was saying?’
‘Of course he didn’t!’ Mike exclaimed over his shoulder from the kitchen. ‘It’s just bored people imagining things.’
I smiled to myself, snapping my notepad shut. ‘Yes, Daddy’s right of course, very bored people making stuff up.’
Becky looked disappointed. ‘Still hungry, Daddy,’ she chirped, pushing her half-eaten cereal to the side.
‘You’ve hardly eaten your cereal,’ I said.
Becky shrugged. ‘Don’t like it.’
‘You can have some strawberries then,’ Mike said.
Becky frowned, crossing her arms. ‘No, I want chocolate.’