Publication: 6th November 2018 – Aria
I know everything about you
And you know everything about me… except
WHO I AM.
Andi met Camilla at university. Instantly best friends, they shared everything together. Until their long-planned graduation celebration ends in tragedy…
Years later, Andi is living a seemingly perfect life on the rugged Cornish Coast with her loving husband, happy children and dream home. Yet Andi is haunted by a secret she thought only she knew. Someone out there is bringing Andi’s deepest fears to life. And she knows there’s no escaping the past that has come back to haunt her…
You trusted me with your secrets, you told me everything, you thought I was your best friend… but you have no idea WHO I AM.
Gripping, unputdownable and packed with twists and turns from the first page to the very last, this stunning psychological thriller will make you question whether we can ever really trust the ones we love.
Glancing up from the noisy babble of our table, I see her gliding across the floor, a rabbit caught in headlamps, observing the surroundings with a look of utter wonder. Perhaps this isn’t her usual setting; I stand, waving to catch her attention. But why is she alone? This isn’t the kind of place you come, alone. Such an unbelievable coincidence to see her here, we only met for the first time yesterday, purely by chance, her caught up in a personal dilemma. I felt so sorry for her, all in a flap, she was unnecessarily apologetic about the whole affair. Something almost fragile and vulnerable about her. Pulling heavy baggage behind each unsure step, not dissimilar to how she appears now.
She hasn’t noticed me in the crowd, so I stand, stretching myself as tall as I can, beside the table. It’s so rowdy in here and with the dimmed lighting, although she’s looking directly at me, she still hasn’t seen me. At the very least, I’d like to ask her how she’s managing with her horrible predicament. Even if she only sits with us while she waits for whoever it is she’s arranged to meet. Finally, she sees me, her face lights up smiling, a definite cautiousness behind those eyes though. I step forward to greet her as she makes her way through the bar clingers, looking stunning. As I lean in to kiss her cheek, I’m submerged in a warm aroma of winterberries and florals but she discreetly braces herself, maybe she has strong personal boundaries. Subtly pulling back, she folds her arms across her stomach, gently, I tap them. ‘Oh my God, amazing, such a small world, fancy seeing you again so soon.’
Hesitant nude lips smile back, ‘I know,’ she says, ‘couldn’t believe it either when I saw you waving from over here. What a surprise,’ her eyes flit from me to my friends, chatting at the table, to the floor, then back to me.
Taking her hand, I guide her closer to the table. ‘Sorry, let me introduce you. This is – Jo and Clara, Anna, Meg, Sally and Tam,’ I point to my friends individually. ‘Girls, this is Camilla.’ Lots of hi’s and smiley faces fly across the table. ‘Can you join us,’ I ask her, ‘or have you plans, meeting someone?’
Camilla regards the worn tan leather watch on her slender wrist. ‘Well, I thought I was… meeting someone, but she should have been here by now.’ A slight frown flashes across her perfectly shaped eyebrows, ‘unless I’ve the wrong night,’ she shrugs. She leans closer into me, away from table earshot, ‘what with everything going on, my head isn’t in the best place at the moment, so it wouldn’t surprise me if I’ve got it all wrong.’ She shrugs. ‘No worries, I’ll leave, I really don’t want to intrude on your night. It’s my own silly fault. No big deal.’
I shake my head, smiling, wandering over to a nearby table to steal a lone chair, she steps back as I slide it in next to where I was sitting. ‘Don’t be silly, you’re very welcome to join us, isn’t she, girls,’ they all nod, Clara less enthusiastically but that’s Clara, always wary of change, and especially people, adds. ‘Have you tried calling your friend? Just in case she’s actually here somewhere, it’s so manic, you could easily miss each other.’
Camilla nods. ‘Hmm, switches straight to voicemail. It’s not like her to be late, it’s usually me who’s late everywhere.’
I lower myself on to the gold dust chair before attempts are made to reclaim it, gesturing for Camilla to join us. ‘Come on, join us, you’re far too dressed up to leave now. We’re off for Tapas later too.’ I pull myself up wondering if I’m being insensitive, finances are clearly a real struggle for her at the moment, ‘but don’t feel obliged if you’ve eaten already. Or, you’re really welcome to share mine, I always order too much anyhow. Eyes being far too big for my tummy.’
‘Thanks,’ she says, ‘I must admit, I’d feel a wee bit miserable leaving so soon. Especially with…’ she slides herself between Clara and me, ‘well, you’ve saved my face, again. It’s becoming a bit of a habit.’
A few casual hours pass by, chatting whilst making our way through the cocktail list, deciding to worry about the outlay tomorrow, sober. It’s Christmas, I’ll be leaving soon for the holidays. Then, as is the norm, we’ll all disperse across the country, me wandering the furthest away, to our holiday home in Fowey, Cornwall. We always assemble there for Christmas, Mummy, Daddy and my older brother, Leo. He’s married now, this last summer he tied the nuptial knot in a gargantuan marquee on our back lawn rolling down towards the estuary. A beautiful day, music, courtesy of a harmonious steel band, complimented by a Caribbean themed barbecue throughout daylight. Then, in the evening, more food, a pop up cocktail bar with Tom Cruise effect servers and shakers and a DJ mixing orchestral tones with dance and modern classics.
No less than two hundred guests united for the celebrations. I was chief bridesmaid clad in taupe silk, finding it all a little overbearing, so lavish and completely gratuitous. In a way I now understand as being stifling. All the extra wrappings and trimmings that come with heaps of expectations, and obligatory smothering traditions. Suffocating me, even embarrassing me at times. Edinburgh has been a breath of fresh air. Leo has flown the nest with his wife to live in Miami, leaving me to take the brunt of it all. He was headhunted for his financial expertise and now leads a head office for a giant media organisation. We frequently email each other, him practically begging me to visit. So many opportunities out here, squirt, he tells me, you’d love the life over here, he urges. But Miami? Seriously? No, I don’t think so. I’ve my own dreams, more about spontaneity and liberal living.
I glance at Camilla, who’s relaxing into her new environment now, delicately supping at cocktails, intermittently apologising profusely for not being able to pay for them. I’m pretty sure she must have noticed Clara eyeballing her, talking over her, contradicting her. As if she wasn’t already feeling bad enough for not having her plastic cards with her. I told her we’ve all done it. She looked horrified when Clara returned to the table with the cocktail menu. My heart sank with her.
‘So, where are we? What’s next on the list?’ Clara shoved the menu over to Camilla and me, Camilla’s eyes darted over the list, the double figure prices, reaching for her delicate clutch bag.
‘That’s such a pretty bag,’ I’d cooed.
‘Hmm,’ she frowned, ‘except. Oh never mind, you know what, I reckon I’ll stick to water. But you all carry on, please.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ I insisted, we’d been so tactless, the cocktails started from ten pounds each, hardly student territory. ‘I’m quite happy to share a bottle of wine with you instead, a house bottle of wine, nothing fancy.’
She tucked dark hair behind her ears. ‘No, the thing is, I’m such an idiot,’ she bit her bottom lip, ‘I’ve left my cards and cash behind, haven’t I. Thought I was meeting my friend,’ she shook her head, ‘well, it’s irrelevant now, but we take turns each time we meet, to pay, tonight was supposed to be her treat.’
I clasped her hand. ‘Sure, no problem, in that case, tonight is my treat.’
‘No, really I couldn’t,’ she attempted, the beginnings of a blush appearing.
‘Yes, you could, it’s Christmas and I’d really like you to stay on. I’ll be leaving tomorrow.’
A worried expression shot across her face. ‘Oh? What leaving Uni? For good?’
Sarah Simpson has a first-class honours degree in Psychology and has experienced working at a Brain Rehabilitation Hospital. She has spent time as a family consultant for Warwickshire and Oxfordshire solicitors and gained knowledge of the Family Court System. She now lives in Cornwall with her husband, three children and animals.
Twitter handle: @sarahrsimpson