100% of all royalties from The C Word will be donated to NHS Together Charities.
So, what do writers do during Lockdown? They create murder, mystery, death and destruction of course! The C Word is a collection of short stories collated during the COVID-19 pandemic to raise money for NHS Charities Together. A plethora of wonderful stories created by a wide variety of writers, each with their own unique style. Some you will know already and some we’ve yet to introduce you to. However, we’re sure you’ll want to hear from each & every one of them again as we leave 2020 behind us.
With contributions from Steve Mosby , Sophie Hannah , Elly Griffiths , Sarah Hilary , Rob Scragg , Trevor Wood and many more
The Tennis Church – Sophie Hannah
“I haven’t disappeared,” said the voice on the other end of the line. No hello, no introduction, nothing.
“Pardon?” said Charlie Zailer. She never normally answered the home phone. Surely nobody below the age of 70 bothered with their landline these days? Charlie had given up doing so as soon as she’d realised that it was always one of those vacuous recorded voices saying something about insurance. Also, the cord had become progressively more tangled, which meant – after about two years, during which it had come to resemble a knotted plastic cyst – that you had to lay your cheek against the gungey white plastic on the side of the phone if you wanted to be able to put the receiver to your ear.
“I haven’t disappeared,” the woman said again. The strange thing was, Charlie recognised her voice, though she could not have said from where. Maybe she was imagining it.
“This is Charlie Zailer. Did you mean to ring me, or someone else?”
“Then you’d better tell me who you are and what you’re on about. I was hoping to be told I could get some free, no-obligation legal advice if I’ve slipped a disc on a wet pavement – no win, no fee.”
“Have you hurt your back?”
“No. That was a joke. Actually, I was hoping it would be my mother-in-law ringing to pull out of midnight mass tonight and Christmas dinner tomorrow. But enough about me!” Charlie said pointedly. If the woman didn’t identify herself now, there was something very wrong with her.
“I don’t suppose you remember me: Tasha Sisley.”
“Tasha? No way! Is it really you?”
“I don’t know,” the woman said doubtfully. “I don’t think so.”
“Actually, now that I know it’s you, I recognise your voice.”
“I’ve been Natasha Knowles for the past 15 years – a whole different person.”
From this Charlie deduced that Natasha Knowles did not die her hair black and wear too much black eyeliner, long tasseled skirts, ripped fishnet tights and Mötley Crüe T-shirts; that she did not violently rotate her head to a soundtrack of AC/DC and Faster Pussycat and Hanoi Rocks in a way that somehow made every girl at school wish they could do it as
stylishly as Tasha; that she would not lie on a dirty floor beneath the chip hatch of a nightclub, snogging a boy she’d met half an hour before and would never see again, and then go home and cry all night and write ridiculous song lyrics about him that referred to “all that we’ve been through” but did not include his name, because she didn’t know it.
Charlie wished she hadn’t picked up the phone. Tasha Sisley was a pain but she was never boring. Natasha Knowles sounded as if she could manage both quite easily.
“Look, I can’t really talk now – as I said, parents-in-law on the way, God help me – but was there something you wanted?”
“I just rang to tell you that I haven’t disappeared. That’s all.”
The line went dead.
Charlie hung up the phone. She sat and stared at it for a while, half expecting it to ring again straight away. “What the hell was that about?” she said out loud. Nobody answered.
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