On the eve of the release of Forget Me Not, here is an exclusive deleted chapter which is originally how the book opened in Draft 1.
“Now, Clare,” he screams in my face. Black eyes. Anger. His face transforms in the lamplight into something horrific. Something of nightmares. Then my hair is bunched in his fist. He hauls me down the stairs - doesn’t stop as I fall. I scramble to get back on my feet - my arm most likely broken. I’m sure I heard a crack. I can feel the pain roar through me.
My hair is being ripped from my scalp, burning. I’m so scared, afraid he will pull my hair out, scalp and all. There is a knee to my lower back. An order to “straighten up”. My neck is pulled backwards, more force on my hair. My scalp is on fire. My now useless arm is hanging limply, heavy, pulling at my shoulder. I’m asking him why, but he doesn’t answer me. I’m telling him he doesn’t have to do this. I have a life. Friends. Family, for God’s sake.
He spits words in my ear. Orders to get in the car. My whole body screams to pull away from him but his grip is too tight. I’m so, so scared. It’s too dark and we are too far from anywhere for me to run for it and stand even half a chance.
He pushes me into the passenger seat, my head colliding with the roof of the car. Searing pain across my forehead. I cry out. I’m trying not to, afraid it will enrage him more, but I can’t help it, the sound leaves my mouth before I can hold it in. I feel a trickle run down my face. Warm, wet, blood. I don’t know if it was from my forehead or my scalp. Not that it matters.
He is in my face again. Leaning over me. His breath sickly, warm, scented with wine and whisky. He releases the grip on my hair, caressing the side of my face , drawing his hand downwards until it is around my neck, his thumb pressing firmly into my windpipe.
“I could kill you now,” he says. “It would be easy.”
I try to move, but he is pressing harder, firmer, until my head starts to swim. A fuzzing, static feeling washing over me, taking away the pain. I’m sure I’m going to black out. I don’t care any more. I need the pain to stop. But just as I feel myself start to slip away, he releases his grip forcing me to suck in a lungful of air which brings me back full consciousness and all the pain he has inflicted on me. I’m sure I’ve cracked a rib. I felt a something give when he had kicked me as I lay on the bedroom floor. The involuntary deep breaths hurt and I start to cry.
I’m so scared now. I know I’m not getting away.
“Oh don’t be sad, Clare,” he says, brushing away a tear with the same thumb he had almost crushed my windpipe with. “It’ll be over soon.” He pushes his thumb into my mouth, backwards, making me gag. I can taste the saltiness of my tears, the metallic tang of my blood. The acidic rise of vomit in my throat.
Then he is pulling back. Dragging the seatbelt across my chest and buckling me in. It’s still so warm, despite the late hour. My blood mingles with my sweat, with droplets of his spit from where he has shouted at me. And yet, the seatbelt? It seems so strange. An act with my safety at the heart of it. As he clicks the belt in place, he forces his mouth on mine. It’s not a kiss. I won’t call it a kiss. It is a violation. Everything about it wrong. I gag. Try to push him away. This isn’t right. None of this is right and none of this makes sense.
He pulls away, he laughs as I swallow down my own vomit, before slamming the car door and walking around to the driver’s side.
“Where are you taking me?” I ask him.
“Exactly where you deserve to go,” he says with a wink.
The car is swiftly put into first gear, then second, then third, then fourth as he speeds along the country roads. I pray we meet another car. Someone coming in the opposite direction so he has to slow down, or stop - the roads so narrow that only one car could drive them at a time. If we meet another car I could maybe, just maybe, have a chance. If I was quick.
But the only things we meet on our drive, further into the countryside, are foxes and rabbits - their eyes flashing wide in the headlights. They scamper. They get away. I envy them.
We speed on until we reach a bend in the road - sharp, too sharp to take in a high gear. He slows and though the car is still moving, I grab the chance while I can. I unbuckle my seat belt, reach across and open my door, throwing myself to the mercy of the road. Curled in a ball. Foetal position. I scream as my broken arm lands under me, as my bare arms and feet scrape across tarmac, grit and stones as I roll into the jagged edges of the thick hedge row. I try to scrabble to my feet, but my legs give way, pain rips through me.
My ankle is twisted at an horrific angle. My t-shirt catches in the hedges. They won’t let me go. I hear the screech of brakes, the rev of an engine. A car reversing. Still I scramble, clawing at the parched earth trying to gain some purchase to stand. Everything slows, even though I’m still moving, fighting faster than I ever have. Working against the pain in my body and the broken bones which won’t co-operate. There is the sound of the car door opening. Footsteps. Breathing. That breath again. Heavy and horrific and I can feel his presence, his heat, over me.
“You stupid girl,” he says. “It didn’t have to be like this, Clare. It didn’t have to be this hard on you. It was always going to end, but it could have been more… pleasant.” He speaks calmly.
There is no shouting. No rage in his face as there had been earlier. That’s what scares me most. That’s what will stay with me the longest. How calm he is. He remains just as calm as he lifts a knife...