Monday 9 November 2015

Blog Tour: Forget Me Not by Luana Lewis

Title: Forget Me Not
Author: Luana Lewis
Published: 3th November 2015
Publisher: Corgi

Today is my stop on the tour for what is set to be a gripping story that when I saw had been recommended to fans of The Lie by Cally Taylor, I knew I HAD to read it. Today I bring you an extract and hope it makes you want to read it as much as I do.

The day she died

She lies crumpled at my feet.
Her right arm is flung out to the side, as though she’s
trying to reach out to me, as though she might still grab hold of me with those cherry-red fingernails.
She is naked beneath her dressing gown. I kneel down and try to pull the edges of her robe closer together, to cover her, to give her some dignity, at least. I run my fingers through the soft black strands of her hair. My hand comes away sticky with her blood.
‘I’m so sorry,’ I say.
I kiss her, one last time. Her sweet, fresh smell mingles with the metallic odour of death.
After years of practice, I am able to split myself in two: the part of me that acts spliced clean apart from the part that feels. In this way, I stay quite calm while I inflict pain. And the woman that lies destroyed on the floor is not a mother, or a wife, or a daughter.

I stand up and take a last look around this room where she died. Grey veins tear through the marble floor and slither up the walls. The taps glitter a too-bright gold. The surfaces are hard, the edges sharp.
I turn my back on her and I leave her all alone. I am not really here. I never was.

Chapter 1 
Two weeks later

The strange thing about DS Cole’s questions is that I have answered most of them before. Not here, though; not at a police station, in a cramped and windowless interview room with scuffed walls.
I reach up to rub my right temple.
‘Are you all right, Rose?’
‘Another headache,’ I say.
DS Cole nods, as though she understands, as though
she sympathizes with my pain. ‘Would you like a glass of water?’
‘No, thank you.’ I brace my hands against the old wooden table between us and I cross my legs, tight. The tension helps me focus. ‘Please go on. I won’t pass out on you, I promise.’
It’s strange also, how the tables have turned. I’m supposed to be the one on the other side of this table. The one who delivers bad news – the worst possible

news – to devastated parents. But now here I sit and my side of this conversation is a dark place from which there is no escape.
DS Cole speaks clearly and slowly. ‘I’d like you to tell me about any contact you had with Vivien in the days before she died.’
She waits, patiently, for me to begin.
‘The last time I saw her was on the Sunday,’ I say. ‘It was my granddaughter’s eighth birthday that weekend and Vivien had a few people over to the house, four or five of Lexi’s friends from school, and their parents. There was a young woman painting the children’s faces, butterflies and tigers and so on, and a bouncy castle in the garden. I was at the house for around an hour and a half, I suppose.’
DS Cole is young, somewhere in her late twenties. Younger than my daughter was when she died. Sometimes, as I look at her, she reminds me of one of those figure-ground pictures they used to show us in school, the ones that don’t settle, that change depending on how you’re looking at them. She’s an attractive young woman, with large, deep-set eyes and a peroxide-blonde fringe draped low over her eyebrows; but when I look again, she’s almost boyish with razor-short back and sides and a strong, sharp-angled jaw. Her body, too, won’t be pinned down one way or another. She’s slim and flat-chested inside her tailored shirt, her coat-hanger shoulders narrowing down to small hips.
‘When you think back to that day,’ she goes on, ‘did 
you notice anything unusual, anything that might have pointed to the fact that Vivien was unhappy or distressed?’
‘There is one thing that stays with me,’ I say. ‘Vivien asked if she could speak to me in private, upstairs. She told me she wasn’t happy with the advice she’d been given by her fertility specialist, and that she wanted a second opinion. She asked if I could recommend someone.’
‘And what did you say?’
‘I said I would make some enquiries. I work with several consultants at the neonatal unit. But I also told her I wasn’t convinced it was a good idea to change. In my opinion, the person she’d been seeing – Mrs Murad – is superb.’
‘Did Vivien say why she was unhappy with the advice she’d been given?’
‘We only spoke briefly, and she didn’t go into detail. Afterwards, she was busy, distracted, running around and sorting out the children, the cake, the entertainers. My attention was really on my granddaughter.’
DS Cole nods. Apparently she’s satisfied.
‘How would you describe Vivien’s mood that day?’ she says.
‘In hindsight, maybe the fact that she mentioned the issue with Mrs Murad was some sort of clue, but I really didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. She and Ben had been trying for a second baby for years, and she wasn’t obviously upset when we spoke. Not that I picked up, anyway. But then it was her daughter’s birthday party, and she had guests, and it was important to her to keep up appearances.’
DS Cole has a clipboard in front of her and she lifts it, consulting her notes, formulating her next question.
‘And that was the last time you saw her?’ she says. ‘Yes.’
I remain very still. My legs are crossed, my hands
folded one on top of the other on my lap.
‘You had no contact during that week? After the
birthday party?’ ‘No.’
‘Was that unusual?’
DS Cole really does have a way of asking the same
thing, over and over again. It’s disconcerting, the way she behaves as though we’ve never had this con- versation. She lays her clipboard down and pushes her chair out, further away from the table. As she crosses her legs, I notice her shoes: tan brogues with pointy toes.
‘If we can focus on the Friday,’ she says. She pauses, watching my reaction. ‘Are you sure I can’t offer you a glass of water?’
Though my mouth is dry, I don’t want to delay. I want this over with. ‘I’m fine,’ I say. ‘Please, go on.’
‘I’d like to take you through what we know. There might be something else you remember, or something you remember differently.’

‘All right.’ The muscles in my face stiffen and it’s an effort to speak.
‘We know Vivien walked her daughter to school on that Friday morning,’ she says. ‘And that after dropping Alexandra off at the school gates, Vivien went for a run. She took her usual route, through Regent’s Park. The waitress in the cafĂ© remembers serving her. She says Vivien was there most mornings and that she stood out, because she was very attractive, and in good shape. But there was heavy fog and visibility was poor, so we don’t have any reported sightings of your daughter on her way back from the park to her house on Blackthorn Road. We assume she went straight home, because that’s what she usually did.’
I look down at my hands, resting in my lap, with their short nails and their chafed skin. Years of rigorous hand- washing have taken their toll. Vivien’s hands were always so soft, her skin like silk, her nails painted a daring red or an elegant beige.
‘Vivien didn’t contact you that morning?’ DS Cole says.
‘No. But I had a phone call, from Mrs Murad’s secretary, to say she hadn’t arrived for her appoint- ment.’
‘And do you know why Mrs Murad’s office would call you, instead of her husband?’
‘I assumed they’d tried Ben’s phone and couldn’t reach him. And Mrs Murad and I know each other well, we work in the same hospital. I manage the neonatal unit,

so we see several babies who are conceived as a result of fertility treatment.’
DS Cole leans forward, pushing her fringe out of her eyes and resting her elbows on her knees. ‘So what did you do, when you got the phone call about the missed appointment?’
‘I told Mrs Murad’s secretary I didn’t know where Vivien was. Then I tried to phone her myself, but her mobile went straight to voicemail.’
‘Had Vivien done that before, not turned up for appointments?’
‘I don’t really know, but I’d say it wasn’t like her. Vivien was an extremely organized person, she liked everything to be planned well in advance. But then we didn’t have that many arrangements and we didn’t see each other that often, so I can’t really be sure.’
DS Cole looks up from her clipboard. I wonder if she judges me. I wonder if she’s close to her own mother, or if she understands how difficult things can be.
‘Did you think about contacting Ben, when you got the phone call about Vivien’s missed appointment?’
‘No. It didn’t occur to me. Ben is always so busy and he often travels for work. I assumed Mrs Murad’s rooms had tried him already and had no luck. I had no reason to think . . .’
There is no point in finishing my sentence.
‘Did you consider popping over to Vivien’s house to check up on her?’
I shake my head. ‘No, I wouldn’t have thought that was a good idea. Vivien didn’t appreciate spur-of-the- moment visits from anyone, least of all me. She hated surprises. I assumed she’d had something important to deal with and that she’d reschedule her appointment when she was ready.’
My right hand creeps over my left. I want to dig my nails in deep, to distract myself from the pain in my head, but DS Cole is watching me so I don’t.
‘I do wonder, if I had gone straight over there, whether she might still be alive.’
‘I’m sorry,’ DS Cole says.
Since my daughter died, I find people apologize to me constantly.
DS Cole looks at me for a few moments and then smiles, a small, sad smile of commiseration. I clear my throat.
‘Do you remember what you did, after the phone call from Mrs Murad’s secretary?’
I’ve been through all of this before, more than once, and it gets easier each time. Each time I repeat this story, I’m that much more removed.
‘I was at home, it was my day off. I cleaned the kitchen, I ran the dishwasher, I did a load of laundry – I remember I washed all of my uniforms for the week. I went out for a walk, to pick up some groceries, and when I got back I tried to call Vivien again, but she still wasn’t picking up. I had an arrangement in the early evening – a friend of mine had bought us tickets to a play. So I took a bus up to Hampstead and walked around a bit before meeting Wendy for an early dinner.

And then, after the performance, on the bus home, I switched on my phone and I saw I had nine missed calls from my son-in-law.’
I pause.
‘I’m a little confused,’ I say, ‘because I’ve told you all of this before. Has something happened, DS Cole?’
I know there are times when police keep information back – a piece of evidence, perhaps. I wonder if there are things about my daughter’s death that DS Cole knows but does not share with me.
‘Well,’ she says, considering her words carefully, ‘as you know, we’re still not sure about the cause of death. Vivien’s body was found in her bathroom that after- noon, and she’d sustained an injury to her head. While we don’t think this injury was severe enough to have caused her death, we need to understand what happened to her. We have to consider the possibility that Vivien was assaulted.’
DS Cole is doing everything she can to avoid using the word murder, but still, I hear it loud and clear. I see it, written on these grubby, windowless walls in capital letters. As she speaks, my vision blurs around the edges. I seem to be staring at her from far away, as though we’re standing at opposite ends of a long, dark tunnel.
‘Rose, are you sure you’re all right?’
My bones are heavy inside my skin and it takes an effort to nod my head. I look away from her, down at the floor for a few moments, until my vision clears.
‘A pair of diamond earrings is missing from the house, 

though the rest of Vivien’s jewellery, including the engagement ring she was wearing, is all accounted for. There was no sign of forced entry at the property either, but it’s possible someone might have approached your daughter on the street as she came back from her run, and forced her to let them inside.’
When I try to swallow, it feels as though something’s got stuck. I clear my throat.
‘We also have to consider the possibility that your daughter let someone into the house,’ DS Coles says. ‘Someone she knew.’
I nod. A terrible image hovers at the periphery of my vision and I try my best to block it out, but it won’t leave me. The image grows larger and I teeter at the edge of a crater, my thoughts fragmenting.
‘In the weeks before Vivien died,’ DS Cole says, ‘did she mention anything that might have happened to upset or alarm her? Someone behaving strangely? Even some- thing minor that might have seemed unimportant at the time?’
‘I don’t remember anything like that. But as I say, if there was something upsetting her, I’m not the person she would have turned to.’
‘And who would she turn to?’
‘Her husband.’
‘Did you ever suspect your daughter might be seeing
someone else?’ she says.
The question blindsides me. I haven’t been asked this

‘DS Cole, do you know something?’
‘These are standard questions,’ she says. ‘I have to ask.’
‘I see. Well, the truth is I don’t know. But it’s unlikely. I can’t imagine Vivien doing anything to jeopardize her marriage.’
DS Cole gives me a regretful, tight-lipped smile.
‘So you can’t release her body to us?’ I say.
She shakes her head. ‘I’m sorry,’ she says again.
I start as she leans forward and gives my hand a gentle
squeeze. I try not to flinch.
I remember the last time my daughter touched me.
We were standing in the entrance hall of the house on Blackthorn Road. Vivien put her arms around me, she hugged me. I remember my own arms stayed limp at my sides. That was eight years ago.

Forget Me Not by Luana Lewis is out now!

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