Authors: Dorothy Koomson
âDo you ever wonder if you've lived the life you were meant to?' I ask her.
She sighs, and dips her head. âEven if I do, what difference will it make?'
In 1988, two girls with identical names and the same love of ballet meet for the first time. They seem destined to be best friends forever and to become professional dancers. Years later, however, they have both been dealt so many cruel and unexpected blows that they walk away from each other into very different futures â one enters a convent, the other becomes a minor celebrity. Will these new, âinvisible' lives be the ones they were meant to live, or will they only find that kind of salvation when they are reunited twenty years later?
Sounds like Dorothy Koomson â¦
Dorothy Koomson is the author of eleven novels including
That Girl From Nowhere, The Chocolate Run
The Woman He Loved Before
The Flavours of Love
. She's been making up stories since she was thirteen when she used to share her stories with her convent school friends.
Dorothy's first novel,
The Cupid Effect
, was published in 2003 (when she was quite a bit older than thirteen). Her third book,
My Best Friend's Girl
, was selected for the Richard & Judy Summer Reads of 2006, and her novels
The Ice Cream Girls
The Rose Petal Beach
were both shortlisted for the popular-fiction category of the British Book Awards in 2010 and 2013, respectively.
Dorothy's novels have been translated into over 30 languages, and a TV adaptation loosely based on
The Ice Cream Girls
was first shown on ITV1 in 2013. After briefly living in Australia, Dorothy now lives in Brighton. Well, Hove, actually.
When I Was Invisible
, Dorothy rediscovered her love for music â especially 80s tunes â and has been asking everyone she sees nowadays, âWhat's the one song you're embarrassed about loving?' So, what's yours?
For more information on Dorothy Koomson and her novels, including
When I Was Invisible
(and to answer that burning question)
everyone who has helped me to create a place called âhome'.
to my gorgeous family and friends;
to Ant and James, my amazing agents;
to all the brilliant people at my publishers, Cornerstone (especially Susan, Jenny G, Jen D, Emma, Kate, Charlotte, Rose, Rebecca & Aslan);
to Emma D, Hayley and Sophie, my fabulous publicists.
A special thank you goes to those who were kind enough to help me with my research for this book.
And to M, E & G thank you for always being who you are. I love you.
As always, I would also like to say thank you to you, the reader, for buying this book.
Please note: This book contains a storyline
that some may find triggering.
âClass, we have a new girl joining us today.' Everyone was sitting in rows, at their wooden desks, in their blue school uniforms. They were probably looking at me, but I was looking at my teacher. She had one ear bigger than the other (I wondered if she knew that) and her hair was so long it reached her chest. âClass, meet Veronica Harper.'
Lots of the children gasped, others said âWow' really loudly. I looked at the other children then. Why was my name so strange to them that they were behaving like that? Some of them were turning round in their seats to look at a girl who was staring right at me with her eyes really wide.
âThat's right,' my new teacher said, âthis is the second Veronica Harper we have in this class. Except they are spelt differently. Our Veronika Harper has a k instead of a c, new Veronica Harper has a c instead of a k. Isn't that fascinating? Two names that sound exactly the same but are spelt differently and two girls who are both eight years old, called the same thing but who look very different.'
I grinned at Veronika Harper with a k. I thought she was the prettiest girl I had ever seen.
âFascinating as this is, though, it's going to become very confusing very quickly,' my new teacher said. âDo they call you anything else, Veronica with a c?'
I nodded. âThey call me Roni,' I said very quietly.
âBrilliant. They call Veronika with a k Nika, so that's settled. Now, if you'd like to take your seat next to Nika, we can begin the class.' My legs were wobbly as I walked towards the other Veronica Harper and everyone stared at me. âNika, I take it you won't mind showing our new pupil around?' the teacher said. Nika didn't even have a chance to say anything or nod and the teacher said: âGood, good.' She stood up and went to the blackboard.
âNice to meet you, Veronica Harper,' Nika whispered when I sat down at the free desk next to her.
âNice to meet you, too, Veronika Harper,' I whispered back.
âVeronika and Veronica!' the teacher snapped without turning away from the blackboard. It was like she had super-hearing or something. âI hope you're not talking. I don't want to have to separate you both on Roni's first day.'
âNo, Miss,' Nika said.
âNo, Miss,' I said.
It wasn't possible, anyway. It wasn't possible to separate us now because we were going to be the very best of friends.
I've been here for hours.
It's probably not been
long, but it feels like it. It seems like I've been sitting on this uncomfortable plastic bench with my head on my knees, my arms curled around myself, the sounds of this police station going on around me for long enough for me to feel like my life is draining away. People come and go, the officers behind the bulletproof glass of the reception desk have conversations that are a touch too far out of range for me to understand or hook myself into. Every time the door opens I am treated to a blast of the noise of the outside world, and it, like everything else, is a reminder that I probably shouldn't do this.
If I have to wait to speak to someone, then maybe it's a sign that this is not meant to be. Maybe I need to unfurl myself, stand up, walk out of here. Slip back into the world outside and disappear again â become as faceless and invisible as everyone else out there.
Maybe, because I have to wait â and the second thoughts I didn't have before I walked in here are now arriving, settling in my mind like roosting pigeons on a roof â I should admit to the absolute stupidity of this. Maybe I should be more brutally realistic with myself about what the repercussions will be, how doing this will touch the lives of everyone I know. Maybe I should stop thinking of justice and start thinking of real life and what honestly happens to people like me.
A voice calls out my name.
Too late to run now, too late to change your mind
, I think. Slowly, I raise my head, lower my legs, place my feet on the floor, my gaze seeking out the person who called my name.
I stumble a little when I am upright, but catch myself before I fall, curl my fingers into the palms of my hands, trying to hide the trembling.
No escape, no retreat. I have to go through with this now.
âHow can I help you?' the police officer asks. Plain clothes, some kind of detective, as I requested. He comes closer to me, but not too close. He doesn't want to get too close to someone like me. Despite his slightly bored, uninterested expression, when he continues to speak, he sounds neutral and polite: âThe desk officer said you wanted to talk to a detective, but you were reluctant to say exactly what it was about?'
I take a step closer, try to narrow the distance between us, so I can speak without being overheard. There is no one here now except the person behind the desk, but I still want to be careful. Quiet.
I can't do this
, I realise.
I need to, but I can't. I can't open my mouth and say another word.
The detective's face quickly slides from âslightly bored' and âuninterested' into âperturbed', teetering on the edge of âannoyed'. I am wasting his time and he does not like that.
I take a deep breath, inhale to see if I can shake off the second thoughts and recapture the certainty that brought me here. âI â¦ I â¦' My voice fails.
I really can't do this.
Unbidden, the sound, the one I first heard less than a week ago, streaks through my head, as sudden and loud and clear as the first time I heard it. It ignites every memory cell in my body with horror and I almost slam my hands over my ears again, try to shut it out.
Determined now, I firm up my fists, I strengthen the way I stand and I look the detective straight in the eye as I say: âI â¦ I need to report an attempted murder.'
âSorry to keep you waiting,' the police officer, DS Brennan, says.
I lift my head from the table. I must have dozed off. Everything was so quiet and still, almost peaceful, while I sat in the interview room and waited for him to come back, that I had closed my eyes for just a few seconds, determined simply to rest my tired, red eyes. The eye rest must have segued into a nap. Or â I stretch my back, feel the taste at the back of my throat, the heaviness of my eyes and limbs â into a sleep.
I blink heavily a few times, moisten my lips and stare at him, concentrate on what he's about to say to me.
Before he left the room, I'd talked and talked at him, answered his very few questions, and then spoke some more. With every word I felt lighter, freer. I was reliving it all, sure, but it was liberating, too. When he left to âgo and check on a few things', I'd been able to unclench then. My body had almost melted into my seat.