Where The Story Starts by Imogen Clark Read Online (FREE)
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‘The body of a woman has been found on the beach in Whitley Bay,’ the newsreader announced in a suitably sombre tone.
Grace Montgomery Smith was straightening the very many tasselled cushions that had been scattered across her drawing room floor like so much confetti. It was the housekeeper’s day off and as her children seemed incapable of tidying up as they went along, the task had fallen to her. They were going to have to learn, Grace thought as she plumped the feather innards back into shape, that most people had to clear up their own mess rather than rely on the staff to do it for them.
It took a couple of seconds for the words to cut through her endless internal monologue, but when they did Grace stopped short and focused her entire attention on the television screen, seemingly frozen in time.
‘The body has been identified as Mrs Melissa Allen, a long-standing resident of the town,’ the solemn newsreader continued. ‘She was found shortly after dawn by a dog walker. Mrs Allen worked in the King’s Head Hotel, not far from the beach. Police are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident. Her family has been informed.’
Grace sat down heavily, all the air escaping from her lungs just as she needed it most, and squeezed the cushion she’d been holding so that there wasn’t a hair’s breadth between its rich, velvety nap and her twinset. Staring at the screen, she willed more details to come spilling out, but it seemed that that was all there was and the newsreader had moved on.
So Melissa was dead. After all these years. Grace could barely take it in. It seemed so unlikely, so random that she was struggling to make sense of it. She grappled with all the potential consequences, but she couldn’t get her thoughts to lie straight. For a moment she wondered if she might have misheard the name, or if there could be a second Melissa Allen in Whitley Bay. She hadn’t misheard, though. Just like one twin feels the misfortune of the other or a mother senses a danger that threatens her child, Grace knew that something had shifted.
And if it was true and Melissa really was dead, then that would change everything.
LEAH – NOW
The Allen family was running late. Again.
I had what felt like two minutes to get the kids dressed and out of the house, and tempers, mainly mine, were getting frayed. It really didn’t matter how early we got up on a Saturday. This always happened. Noah, my four-year-old, had his swimming lesson and Poppy had a netball match at school, but to look at them you’d think we had all the time in the world. Noah was still in his pyjamas but as he had his swimming goggles on he seemed to think he was more or less ready. There was no sign of Poppy.