The Lost Sister: A gripping emotional page turner with a breathtaking twist
The wind picked strands of my dark hair up, the sound of laughter carried along with it. I stood and looked over towards the bay of caves. It was usually quiet at this time of the morning, with children at school, but there was a group of teenagers crowding around the entrance to the larger cave at the end of the bay. Four of them were girls, long hair trailing down their backs, the waistbands of their school skirts rolled up. I remembered doing the same at the struggling comprehensive I went to in Margate all those years ago. The two boys with them looked bored, their shirts hanging out, hair spiky. But the girls were enraptured as they peered into the cave at something that was out of my eye line.
I took another step forward until the focus of their attention came into view.
It was the man who’d rescued the boy the evening before.
He was sitting on a white chalk rock just inside the entrance to the cave, painting something on the cliff wall in swirling blue. His hair was up in a bun this time, exposing his long, tanned neck, the golden stubble on his cheeks. As he painted, his lean muscles flexed, the morning sun picking up the contours of his shapely arms and bare back.
‘That’s so cool,’ I heard one of the girls say in a hushed voice.
‘Totally,’ another agreed.
‘We should go now,’ one of the boys said, looking at his watch. ‘Mrs Botley will go mental if we’re late.’
The blonde girl looked at the boy. ‘You go,’ she said, sinking to the sand and crossing her long legs beneath her. ‘I’m staying.’
‘Me too,’ one of her friends said, joining her.
The boys rolled their eyes at each other. ‘Not our issue if you get a rollocking,’ one of them said before the rest of the group walked off.
I watched the two girls for a while, looking at the way they observed the man. There was clear attraction in their eyes, a calm attentiveness too.
I quickly got my notepad out, writing what I saw.
He moved his arm gracefully, slowly, like how he’d appeared to walk on water the night before. The girls watched in rapture, as though they were seeing something for the first time. Beyond them, the sea—
‘The next bestselling novel?’ a voice asked from behind me.
I snapped my notepad shut and looked up to see Greg smiling down at me.
A quick look at my cleavage, quelle surprise, then back up to my face. ‘We’ll have to keep an eye on him,’ he said, jutting his chin towards the man painting in the cave.
I raised an eyebrow. ‘And why might that be?’
‘Hanging around with teenagers. Looks like we have a resident paedophile on our hands.’
I rolled my eyes. ‘Honestly, Greg, talk about jumping to conclusions.’
‘Really? So you’d let Becky near him? He’s clearly slept in that cave overnight,’ he added, pointing to a sleeping bag I hadn’t noticed before, lying at the side of the cave.
‘Just because he’s sleeping in a cave, that doesn’t make him a paedophile. There are a lot of people out of jobs thanks to this recession. Haven’t you been reading the papers?’ I walked past Greg and headed to the wooden path. I really wasn’t in the mood for him, especially after he interrupted my rare moment of inspiration.
‘Mind if I join you?’ Greg asked as he fell into step beside me.
I couldn’t help but sigh. ‘Aren’t you working today?’
‘Day off. Told Julie I’m getting nappies.’
‘And you’re not?’
‘Not now,’ he said, pushing his Ray-Bans onto the top of his head and smiling at me. ‘Needed to get out. All she talks about is babies, babies, babies.’
‘She has just had one.’ I peered at him sideways. ‘As have you.’
‘Yeah but it’s different for men.’
‘You know,’ he said, openly staring at my breasts.
‘No, I don’t actually.’ I stopped, crossing my arms. ‘How is it different?’
He gave me a sly grin. ‘You going to make me say it?’
Here it comes …
‘Fine,’ he said with an exaggerated sigh. ‘Breasts. Babies need breasts and we can’t provide that, can we?’
‘Ah, breasts,’ I said. ‘Breasts, breasts, breasts, that’s all men talk about.’
‘Can you blame us?’ he asked playfully.
‘Yes, yes I can. They are mounds of flesh, their primary function being to feed babies.’
He laughed. ‘This is why I like you, fire in your belly. What do you say to a cheeky vino at the café?’
‘At this time of the morning?’
‘Why not?’ He grabbed my shoulders in excitement. ‘Seize the day! Let’s do something crazy! I know you’re like me, Selma, I can tell.’
I felt an overwhelming desire to slap him. But instead I pulled away from him, making my face cold. ‘I’m nothing like you. And if you think drinking wine at nine in the morning is seizing the day, then you really need to get a life.’
His face dropped, his dark eyes flashing with anger. ‘Clearly I was wrong about you. I thought you were the adventurous type.’
‘I have a call with a producer who’s interested in turning my book into a film,’ I lied. ‘I think that’s a tad more adventurous than sharing a bottle of wine with a married man, don’t you?’ Then I stalked off.
That run-in with Greg hung over my head like a dark cloud all weekend, making me tetchy with Mike and Becky. I’d like to say it was because I felt bad for his wife, but mainly it was because he’d stopped me from writing. I hadn’t felt so inspired in ages and now that sudden fizz was gone again. It wasn’t much better when I walked into the office on Monday morning to get on with my copywriting day job. I only had to endure the place three days a week: Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. But it was still painful.
I walked to my desk, feeling more of a black cloud than usual hovering over my head, my lack of word count still playing on my mind. Something needed to change and quick, otherwise I’d be back to working five days a week, even if Mike wasn’t made redundant. It had been hard enough convincing him I needed to go down to three days a week so I could write another novel. The problem was, I wasn’t writing it! How could I when I was forced to have all the creativity drained out of me three days a week by this soul-destroying job?
I ignored the voice inside that told me past soul-destroying jobs hadn’t stopped me from writing. The same voice that told me there had to be another reason.
I peered at my notepad in my bag, a sense of resolve filling me. I was going to write this novel. I had to.
I looked up to see Monica waving at me from across the room, people gathered around her desk. ‘Selma was there,’ Monica explained to the colleagues gathered around her. ‘She saw everything. Come over and tell them!’