Authors: M. J. Lawless
© M. J. Lawless 2012
The right of M. J. Lawless to be identified as the author of this book has been asserted in accordance the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Copying of this manuscript, in whole or in part, without the written permission of the author and her publisher is strictly prohibited.
All sexually active characters in this work are 18 years of age or older.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Published by Black Orion Press, 2012.
Cover design by Arkangel Media.
All rights reserved.
To Sam, the commander of my soul.
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
S. T. Coleridge,
She did not know that this would be the day that her life would change forever. The first moments were so inauspicious that she could never have foreseen them. Yet the change would be profound
She was annoyed, frustrated, somewh
at lost when she first met him,
although, like so many things in her life at that time, she was only barely aware of her anger, frustration and dispossession. She sensed that she was travelling over increasingly fragile glass that would tumble her into despair should she look down, so her answer
was simply to never look down.
Her annoyance she put down to the fact that, despite her desire to have escaped somewhere hot and sunny, all she could manage was a dour and
so she suspected
rather miserable fortnight in this small Scottish village some thirty miles north of Oban and lying on the mainland between the Isle of Mull and Fort William. What she had really wanted was Portugal, Lisbon rather than the Algarve, the birthplace of her paternal grandmother (and the thought of her dear gran brought the more ambivalent memories of her father, which always made her a little anxious).
Instead she had to make do with a small cottage in what would have been a quaint location a dozen miles or so from Shiel Bridge, with the mountains of the highlands rearing up majestically across the mainland, and the grey-scoured skies of the Atlantic rushing dramatically to the west. Among the many causes of her frustration was the sense of her own ingratitude: she had needed to escape London, and deep down she was
that a friend had given her the keys to a personal getaway
wished that instead of complaining about the distance of getting to this undoubtedly beautiful location (including the fact that the final part of her journey had to be made by boat)
she could have simply enjoyed the experience for what it was.
But then this lack of joy was part of her dispossessed spirit. What else caused her loss? This was where the glass became particularly thin, where the mirrored surface started to give way to clear, dark crystal that felt as though it would shatter were she to place a single foot upon it. Best simply to concentrate on her most recent
and, in many respects, most trivial cause: another failed affair, with some loser and user who brought out the user and loser in her and made her hate herself.
Not that it was a particularly good idea to consider your boss a loser, even if he was
had been the final catalyst for Kris Avelar to make a break from her life, to run away from her problems, not for the first time. Only twenty-eight, she felt a hundred years old as she finally drove up from the ferry along the narrow B road, through lush green countryside, passing at one point beside a beautiful loch opening into a wider bay.
Even in her current mood
particularly when she was so tired from the travel that her thick dark hair (a legacy from her mother, like her blue eyes) was beginning to fray and large bags were forming beneath those eyes
even in this state of almost exhaustion Kris could not help but respond to the beauty of this landscape. Perhaps this was what she needed after all, she thought to herself, with a glimmer of brighter hope than she had felt for a long time. She had, after all, packed up a few drawing pads and materials in the hope that at the very least she would doodle a little.
That was another dream that had diminished. She wasn’t particularly surprised by the disappearance of her aspiration to be an artist
after all, wasn’t this what that “real life” that everyone had always held against her was all about? What
surprised her was how quickly the dream had vanished. Was it really only seven years previously that she had graduated from Central Saint Martins with a decent enough degree and all the ambitions of a young hopeful? Okay, perhaps she could have worked a little harder
but that was the folly of youth, a minor sin from which thousands of men and women in a similar position had recovered. Perhaps she had missed a few chances, been unlucky once or twice, but what had happened to remove her possibility of joy so thoroughly, so completely?
Despite herself, some of these thoughts came unbidden to her as she drove along the lonely road towards Dalrigh Cottage. The young woman who had moved into a squat with friends during her final year of study, who had perhaps started to drift earlier than she had realised, knew precisely what had caused her crash. Yes, she had a string of small failures, but these were nothing
not really. Each one was inconsequential
as inconsequential as the inability to stop becoming involved with men who were creeps and, when all was said and done, meant nothing to her.
No: there had been one man, and it was the loss of him that had pushed her over the edge.
Kris’s mother had died when she was young, and she had been raised by her father. When the rest of the world had told her about “real life” he
was the only one who
had believed in her
. Not surprising really: he had been something of a sculptor in his day, and when everyone else doubted her
even friends and relatives who pretended to understand her dreams of being a painter but deep down, she suspected, had been envious of her promise of freedom
even when these people had doubted her he had kept faith in her.
Of course, part of it was him living vicariously through her. He had shown promise but, ultimately, failed, and so he pushed her not to be a failure. She had loved him
even at the end she had loved him
but there was no denying that Edward Avelar had been a difficult man. It had been easy when she was young, when after the death of her mother, his beloved wife, he had poured all of his love into her as his little girl and then his
. But, as she soon began to realise, his taste for booze made him a sometimes dangerous man, and his charismatic, restless philandering had induced a tendency to rootlessness in her own life. She had a string of meaningless “aunts”, all passing through with graceless ease. Was it so surprising that she sought to escape him as soon as she could?
Not that it had been as easy as all that, not at first. The daughter was as wilful and as stubborn as the father, and when in his darkest moods he had striven to tame her waywardness she had resisted with all her might, failed to understand that in his lashing out he was trying to prevent her following the path that he so blindly stumbled along.
It didn’t matter: where once he had offered kindness and love, now there was his belt and abusive words when she came home drunk (or, increasingly, did not come home at all, sleeping around with all and sundry although barely fifteen). And there had been that day when, to prevent her running away he had tied her to her bed and thrashed her soundly, his fit of anger finally giving way to tears of choking desperation. And she... her body tensed as that scene flashed in front of her as it did all too often. For a second, she almost lost control of the car and had to breathe deeply, a familiar prickliness and armour descending across her skin, a thousand defensive pin pricks along her body.
Anyway, she had left him as soon as she could, had run away to college. They kept in touch for a while, but she was glad to be rid of him, even while she felt that he was the one who had passed to her his damaged dream of freedom. And then, through neglect, she had allowed whatever final love existed between them to wither.
By the time he died
she had not spoken to him for over a year, not even by phone. He had written, once, and tried to call her a couple of other times, but she had never responded. And when the chance came it was too late. Edward Avelar had drunk himself to death before the age of forty-five, and his daughter never again had the chance to tell him that, despite everything, she loved him.
That was when the emptiness had begun to solidify about her. For a time, the glass had become so thin that she could see clearly the abyss that lay the other side. If she simply pushed her hand through the dark crystal surface, like a nether Alice through the looking glass, she would enter the topsy-turvy world as surely as her father. It had taken him nearly twenty years to drink himself into an early grave: Kris thought she could top his achievement in less than three with other delights, packages inscribed with the words “eat me” or “drink me”, and that made her feel a giant in her skin while her soul shrunk down into that of the smallest girl in the world.
She had looked at the abyss, and the abyss had looked back at her. Finally, however, and with the greatest effort of will, she had drawn away from it, allowed the mirror to cloud and obscure anything that promised clear vision. It was necessary, she realised now, a defensive mechanism that had, quite literally, saved her life. But the clouding of vision was a disaster for a woman who dreamed of being an artist.