Authors: Sonia Paige
This is Sonia Paige's first novel. From childhood she loved and wrote stories, but it was always a private affair, like dyeing her hair blond and dancing in the kitchen. Following Pasolini, she believes that âthe truth lies not in one but in many dreams', and she now invites you to share some of hers, both good and bad.
For help and advice towards turning those dreams into a readable text, she thanks AD and all the members of her writing group; also friends DS, IC, SJ, JG, MW and TW who read earlier versions of the whole text and gave valuable feedback. For tutoring in the mysteries of fiction-writing (many still mysterious) she is very grateful to engaging teacher YG and dear friend SP; also to SF and RWC for years of patiently listening to fragments, giving encouragement and wise suggestions. For steadfastly re-reading versions and generously giving very frank responses she is deeply indebted to her friend HJA. Finally, she thanks her beloved family who will never read it but who put up with it all; they know who they are.
Tales of Sin & Fury
Part 1: The Beach
Copyright Â© 2013 Sonia Paige
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any forms or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the publishers. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publisher.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.
A catalogue record for this book is available
from the British Library.
Page design and typesetting by Catherine Weld
To the people whose lives inspired these stories
âThe cuckoo is calling, so perhaps it is still May out in the Wessex hills? And who cares what year it is? Who cares if one century has melted into the next while we were swathed in each other's bodies?
âThis is the first time I've had a chance to write in my diary since I got down to the cottage. Hayden is outside chopping some wood. That
sound is reassuring, telling me he is near. Which is the only thing that matters. I don't know who or where I am, only that I am with him. I am not just Corinne any more â I am a melting, a fusion. For the first time in my life I belong.
âAfter the accident it took a few days hanging around London before I realized there was no point staying there. Nothing useful I could do at work. They wouldn't let me on the play site with my arm in the bandage: “Corinne, you're a liability, go home and look after yourself!”
âI took the decision to make the journey on the off chance. I didn't tell Mum, she would have disapproved. I didn't have Hayden's address but I remembered how we got here the first time. After that one night together, and the cryptic communications over the past few weeks, I didn't know if he would welcome me. If he wasn't there â and I hardly dared believe he would be â I would just travel back again. There was nothing else in my life I wanted to do.
âThe train travelled so slowly, it seemed to take days to arrive. Full of men in suits heading out of the city at the end of the week. Grey faces, grey lives.
âThen I hitched a lift from the station. The first time hitchhiking on my own. A white van stopped, Wilton Wallpapers. At the wheel was a young man with brown shoulder length hair, happy-go-lucky. He was taking his time, and making a virtue of it: “I've got a dozen rolls in the back for a lady who's redecorating her dining room. âUrgent,' she says, âToday, not tomorrow'”. He turned up “Knock Three Times” on the radio and whistled along. He flicked his cigarette out the window and said, “I ask you, how can wallpaper be urgent?”
âI thought about his point with the luminous clarity that seems to come with being in love for the first time. To me it carried a cosmic wisdom. He was right, how could wallpaper ever be urgent?
âBut how could I tell him that my journey to see my lover was more urgent than wallpaper?
âHe slowed down to show me a prehistoric stone circle beside the road. The big grey rocks twisted and leaned together as if caught in the middle of some ancient and secret conversation. “They call it the Nine Stones,” he told me. “People leave money on them and such. Some people come and do ceremonies. Like witchcraft.”
âI asked if he'd ever done it and he waved the question aside. “I don't hold with that stuff. Man of science, me. There's another stone circle up on top, beyond this hill, but they're all lying down. Must've got tired standing around for thousands of years, decided to take it easy instead.” He laughed aloud at his own joke.
âIt turned out that from where he was doing his delivery I could cut across the fields to the cottage. When he dropped me it was at that moment when the afternoon has ended and the sky is waiting for evening to begin. A heavy, pregnant waiting. There was a touch of damp in the air as I raced down the hill towards Hayden. I forgot about being careful of my arm and didn't notice the scratches 'till later. I scrambled through thickets and hedges and jumped a stream until at last the cottages came in sight. One of the chimneys was smoking, was it his?
âThen I got closer and saw the light in the back window. I slowed down coming up from the stream through the long thin garden. The foxgloves along the hedge were just coming into flower. When I got to the back yard I slipped through the gate without making a sound and looked in at the window.
âThere was the fire flickering in the big black hearth with all its oven doors shining. He'd been cleaning the place. And there, sunk deep in the armchair with its frayed chintz cover, was Hayden holding a book in his lap. He was wearing that old black velvet jacket which was the only thing I'd ever seen him in. His face in profile. His pointed nose. A small frown of concentration. The curtain of long dark hair hiding the rest of his face. A joint gathering ash in his stained fingers. I savoured the sight of him for a moment before I knocked on the window. He turned his head. I reached for the door, lifted the latch and went in.
âIf he was surprised he didn't show it. He put the book down carefully, stood up and engulfed me.'
Sunday 16th December 1990 2.15 pm
I open my eyes and take a breath. On the wall in front of my face, graffiti are scrawled in black: âI love Tracey,' âCunts are best,' âSweet dreams are made of this.' I can see the edge of the iron bed I'm lying on. Probably the sheets were once white. I can see my right hand dangling down out of the bed as if it didn't belong to me. I see a broad silver ring on the little finger and for a second some sodden place in my brain reacts. That ring has a story. I close my eyes again.
I am stifling. My head is full of concrete. I try to take another breath but I can't find the air. Silk threads tie my tongue.
Nearby I can hear two women talking.
âThat's a deep wound, babe.'
âI did it here.'
I roll slowly on to my back. The right arm is numb from being squashed. I open my eyes and look across. The room is large and bare apart from the other three beds sticking out into it, each of them with a small cupboard beside. The air is hot and stuffy, and it smells of disinfectant. At the end I can make out a close-set row of narrow windows, but I can't see through.
I remember police. This must be a prison.
The two women are talking by the next bed.
One of them is holding up the sleeve of a shiny party blouse to show a fresh scar. I close my eyes and open them again, trying to focus on her wrist. The blur starts to clear. I see that the scar is about two inches long, with raised edges. It is still livid red but has started to heal over, and there are traces of brown iodine staining the skin around it. I look up at her face. It's angular and her hair is in a pony tail. She can't be more than twenty. âI did it here,' she repeats, âlast time.'
âYou shouldn't do that, Debs,' says the other woman. She leans forward to look and her stringy peroxide hair falls over her aged young face. âHurt them, girl, not yourself.'
Debs wrinkles her pointed nose, âYou can say that.' Her features jut angrily under her pale skin. âEasy to say that.'
I try to remember why I am here. Fog where my memory should be. I remember the water everywhere. I remember the uniforms and their voices when they took me, like speaking to a naughty child. Or to a dog that might bite again.
An ocean of tears. My mouth is full of dead flowers. Revenge is meant to taste sweet.
I shiver and shut my eyes again. Then I feel nausea pull at my stomach, and vomit starts scorching up through my gullet. I roll onto my side and retch, but nothing comes out. They notice me.
âLook, it's alive,' says the stringy peroxide blonde. She comes over to investigate. âWhat did they say her name was â Karina?'
âAbout time,' says Debs.
âHow you doing, Karina?' asks the stringy peroxide blonde. She peers into the bedclothes to size me up, curiosity and concern drifting across her face. It looms close to me, round and flat like a full moon. âI'm Mandy,' she says, âWelcome to hell.' She reaches into her jeans pocket and hands me a crumpled paper hanky.
âCorinne,' my voice sounds as if it's coming from somewhere else a long way away.
âWhat kind of name is that anyway?'
âFor my sinsâ¦' I try to move my mouth and push the words out.
âSo you got sins too. Join the club.'
ââ¦it's the name my mother gave me.' My body snatches at me again but when I retch nothing comes out. I rub my mouth with the tissue.
âOoh, “Mother” is it? So you got one of them. I was beginning to wonder. Didn't hear you calling for her when you was moaning last night.'
I heave at the bedclothes and try to lever myself up. I'm not sure where the muscles are to move my body.
âWhy would I?'
She's the last person I'd call for.
âWe all do it sooner or later,' says Mandy. âEven posh ones like you.'
I get a few inches further towards vertical and my body starts juddering, âOh, God.'
âWe try him n'all. Never get much joy there neither.'
I manoeuvre myself up to sitting and try to take a breath. âWhy's it so muggy in here? Like a sauna.' My lungs fill with sickly overheated air. I am suffocating. I cough and it turns into a retch. Nothing comes out. I hold the tissue to my mouth.
âA sauna? Except here you get dirtier.' Mandy cackles as she goes over to the steamed-up curtainless windows. She opens one and lets in some dank December air. Outside I can see the corner of another high brick building opposite, and beyond it a leafless tree.
âI tell you,' she says, âyou'll feel worse before you feel better. As it wears off.' She stares at me. âLook at the state of you. Been through the mill. Bet you was a good-looking woman once. Back when. Blue eyes. Got the bones. Real blond. Now look at it.'
Good-looking. They used to say that. I put a hand up and feel for my head. I haven't seen it for a while, but it seems to be in the usual place. Wispy hair, needs washing.