Three couples. Three rock-solid marriages. Six friends. One tight-knit group. But even the closest bonds can be blown apart – all it takes is the detonation of a large enough grenade…
Cocky, sexually incontinent Ben unwittingly pulls the first pin after a row with wife Zoe. It’s small beer by his low standards, yet this time the transgression will have fatal consequences.
Donna is responsible for the second explosion. With her body clock ticking and doting husband Zbiggy unable to give her the child she craves, Donna makes a decision that rebounds on her in ways she
could never have foreseen.
Rob and Andrea are caught up in the blast, one that exposes the hidden fissures in their own
When actions involve deceit, betrayal, blackmail and revenge, it pays to know who’s watching
and who’s being watched…
She wonders if this will be the last time she’ll pass through these double doors; wonders on how many more occasions will she catch June’s eye, or Margaret’s or Alison’s and be buzzed in. She’s become pally with them over the past two months, but it’s a friendship born of circumstance, one that won’t endure once the establishment’s mission statement to make every moment count is fulfilled.
How does she feel about it if this is the time? Ambivalent, it must be said. Does that sound cold and uncaring? It’s not meant to, it really isn’t. She loves her grandad, and once he’s gone she’ll have no immediate family left. But that isn’t him in there. Stretched out on a bed, oxygen mask clamped over his face, barely moving, eking out what remained of his time on earth. Bed-bathed. Incontinent. Stripped of dignity. A husk. When he slept, which was most of the time, he looked as if he were laid out on a mortuary slab already. The slight rise and fall of the chest, the odd guttural retch, the occasional lucid snatch of conversation; this was all that separated Graham Price from curtained-off incineration and an RIP notice in the local paper.
“I’m so sorry, Emily, he’s gone. Slipped away not half an hour ago. It was all very peaceful.”
Margaret, whose last name she doesn’t know, squeezes her arm. Emily nods appreciatively at a gesture the woman must have made countless times yet still made it seem a crushing personal blow. Empathy both practised and heartfelt.
Emily is quite calm. The tears have all been shed. She is ready and willing to usher her grandad’s cancer-riddled, organ-failing shell on the final leg of its journey. Seventy-six years meant he’d passed the old three-score-years- and-ten rule, yet in 2018 it felt like being short-changed. Still, he was the longest lived of her immediate family. What would her own span be? Had she inherited a genetic time bomb on the maternal side? On the other hand, her mother and sister hadn’t died in a way that had implications for her. Or had they? It was difficult to know.
“Can I see him?” “Of course.” There was no icy chill when she clasped his hand. And the lack of response when she poured out her tender valediction was no different to any number of one-way conversations she’d had with him in recent weeks. Had she not been told he’d gone, it could almost have been like any other visit.
She kissed his cheek, passing her palm up across his forehead, taking in the familiar contours of his skull one final time. She’d done the same when her mother went, glad then, as now, that she’d had the courage to capture that final skin-on-skin imprint. There had been no such goodbye with Chloe, though. She’d been judged too young to cope with seeing her sister’s lifeless body. She bore no grudge about the decision. Her mum had lost one treasured daughter, and it was understandable that she should go into protective overdrive with the other.
Emily’s eyes wandered. A few cards on the bedside table, a child’s drawing Blu Tacked onto the wall. It was the work of Oliver age 4, no doubt dragooned by his dad – her cousin Richard – to provide some spiky-sun cheer for his poorly great-grandfather. There wasn’t much to clear. Once the body had been removed, it wouldn’t take long for the room to be made ready for its next doomed occupant.
She was making ready to leave when she saw it. A thick envelope bearing her name, written in her grandad’s unmistakable hand. She’d have recognised it just by the letter y alone, for he always turned the downstroke into an underscore flourish of all five letters. It hadn’t been there the day before, had it? Surely she would have noticed? But then, she’d been almost out of the door when she spotted it this time.
Emily waited until she was in her car before opening it. Oddly, she felt more apprehensive pulling open the gummed flap than she’d been when stroking his lifeless hand. She’d been steeling herself for the corporal leave- taking. But to receive a message from – well, not quite beyond the grave – was somehow disconcerting. She thought they’d said all that needed to be said, both on the personal and practical front, long ago. They’d articulated their love for each other. She’d been directed towards a whole sheaf of paperwork relating to the house: deeds, insurance policies, bank accounts, utilities – all the usual paraphernalia. And now this, a curve-ball missive to disturb her equilibrium.
It did that, all right. For this was no addendum to the bulging file already in her possession, no late-order emoting in keepsake cursive.
It was the work of a different dead hand.
About the author
Tim Hill is the bestselling author of numerous historical reference works and biographies. His
books include: Victoria Cross Heroes of World War One (Atlantic, 2015); The Great War:
Unseen Archives (2014); The Story of the Unsinkable Titanic (Atlantic, 2012); JFK and Jackie
(2003); Ancient Egypt (2006) and Letters and News from the Trenches and the Home Front (2014). Tim has also written books on sport and popular culture, most notably The Beatles,
Then There Was Music (John, Paul, George and Ringo, Barnes & Noble, 2007). He lives in
Paignton. Watch How You Go is his debut novel