LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS
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‘The minute I’m gone you’ll sneak into your workshop and start whittling that Deadhead away.’
Simon remained speechless for a moment. It had been months since he’d done any work on the wooden bust he’d started years and years ago. After the Old Mill murder, while he was recovering from concussion, he finished off the hair, the chin and the neckline. Muttering promises all the time, with each scrape of the blade. Promises to himself, to Pippa, to Chloe. To Adam and Eve and to Rudi. To the face emerging slowly and painfully from the yellowish, dry wood. To Emma. Even to Phil. Promises and resolutions. Big thoughts about honesty, love, guilt and absolution. Redemption. Salvation.
Soon, however, life took over. Life always takes over death.
But, spookily, on his way home he’d been trying to figure out how to go about the eyes. The few pictures he had of the original, all of them old newspaper cuttings, left the eyes in deep shade.
‘No,’ he said, ‘no,’ with a small pain in his stomach and pointed vaguely at the stack of paperwork.
* * *
He made himself a cup of coffee, turned the TV on in the sitting room, locked the patio door and pulled the curtains together, then went to the cloakroom because he thought he could hear the tap running.
Gingerly, furtively, and only because he was passing, he opened the door to his workroom and switched on the light.
Why did Pippa mention the unfinished bust tonight of all nights?
Because she’d always believed it to be a portrait of a former girlfriend, a love of his life, someone he’d never talked about. Well, she was right about the last one. He’d never talked about Nicola Finsbury. Not a word. Not a whisper. Not to anyone.
He was going to tell Emma about her, of course. Tell her everything, just as it happened, nothing left out, nothing embellished. That done, he was going to ask her to forgive, to understand, to leave Philip and marry him before the baby was born. If she would still have him.