Home > Silent Cry (Gabriella Darin #1)

Silent Cry (Gabriella Darin #1)
Author: Jenny O'Brien

Prologue


Izzy


Five years ago

‘Be careful. It’s the first time you’ve been out with her by yourself.’

‘Give over nagging, Izzy. We’ll be fine, won’t we, gorgeous?’ Charlie said, bending on his haunches and gently running his finger down his daughter’s plump cheek, her dark blue eyes staring back at him. ‘We’re going to let your mammy have some rest while we go to the shops. It’s time we got better acquainted. I can tell you all about football and which team to support.’

‘You will not. Don’t listen, Alys. There’s only one football team worth supporting and it’s not his,’ Izzy teased, feeling redundant now that Charlie had stolen her attention.

This would be the first time she’d be apart from her since the birth and already she could feel the bonds of motherhood straining at the thought of Alys being out of her sight, even if it was only for half an hour. It had only taken a week for her world to shrink to the boundary walls of the house. But she’d never been happier. Her eyes grazed the pair of them, and love filled every corner. But Charlie and Alys needed this time, both of them and a few minutes alone after another interrupted night’s sleep would be like a gift from the gods. Izzy had never felt so bone-achingly weary and, while she dreaded being apart, a rest would make all the difference.

‘Now, what about a goodbye kiss from your pretty mam then?’ Charlie said.

Pushing himself to standing, the car seat in the crook of his arm, he leant in for a kiss reminiscent of the best Hollywood romances.

‘You daft thing,’ she laughed. But secretly she was pleased, more than pleased.

She watched as he reversed the Mini into the road and continued watching until they were out of sight before returning to the warmth of the house. She slipped off her shoes by the front door and, fumbling into her slippers. headed for the kitchen. There was washing and ironing, not to mention food to prepare. There were so many things she knew she should be doing but she felt sick with tiredness. With a mug of tea in her hand, she returned to the sofa and, feet propped up on the end, rested back, allowing the silence envelop her.

There was always noise in the cottage. It wasn’t Charlie’s fault that he was one of those men you could hear long before you could see them: Charlie, her one-night-stand, who seemed to have taken up root in both her house and her heart. He was always clomping around the place with a heavy tread and if it wasn’t him, it was one of his mates he’d invited back for her to feed. The house suddenly felt empty with the pervading sound of silence.

She’d close her eyes, just for five minutes … they’d be back soon.

The fire had died back to nothing, the embers just a pale glow in the grate. She turned her head towards the window, her hand instinctively pulling the woollen blanket around her shoulders, a shiver snaking its way across her spine. The last time she’d looked out, the sun had been streaming in through the pane but all that was visible now was the dense grey of twilight. The phone rang, slicing through her sudden fear. She struggled to sit, her neck stiff from the arm of the sofa. A million excuses chased through her mind.

They’ve been delayed, maybe had a puncture … or knowing Charlie, he’s run out of petrol.

Her hand lifted the receiver to her ear before gently replacing it. She’d learnt the best way to treat cold callers was by doing exactly that. No comment. No words. Nothing.

She pulled the throw tighter over her shoulders, her eyes now on the clock on the mantelpiece, her mind in a tangle.

Two hours? How the hell could she have slept for so long? This was quickly followed by the worst thought of all: He must have had an accident. Even now, he’s in some anonymous hospital bed and as for Alys …

Her stomach clenched when there was no need – she’d just ring his mobile. Reaching out a hand, she quickly tapped in his number.

The person you are trying to reach is currently unavailable. Please leave a message after the tone.

She was scared now, really scared. He never left his phone switched off even if it was only to check on the football scores. They’d been gone hours. She had no idea where the hell he could have taken her. Alys would need a feed and a nappy change. There was nowhere he’d go, not with a newborn.

Izzy heaved a sigh at her foolishness and, for one long moment, relished the feel of wool against skin as she tried to laugh her fears off. She wasn’t his keeper. They’d got held up. Something had happened, something silly that she couldn’t guess at and, in a minute, she’d hear the creak of the gate and the turn of the key.

The moment passed. The minutes continued ticking and her sliver of calm disintegrated.

In a sudden burst of movement, she leapt from the chair and ran up the stairs.

That’s it. They came in earlier, hours earlier and even now they’re both curled up in their beds, not wanting to wake me.

But Alys’s cot was empty, apart from the pale-yellow blanket folded neatly over the end, just the way she’d left it that morning. Their bed was empty too, the duvet flung back any old how, the sheets cold, wrinkled, uninviting.

Outside. Maybe he pulled up and decided to close his eyes. Maybe it’s like the last time when he forgot his keys and, if Alys has fallen asleep in the car, he might have decided not to wake me.

She remembered the last time. His sheepish grin when she shook him back into the land of the living, which developed into their first big row and ended in a swift coupling against the back of the sofa.

There was post on the mat but she just stepped over it. She wasn’t in the mood for bills and flyers. She just needed to know that Alys was safe.

The air was cold, wiping the smile from her face. There was barely a glimmer of light as twilight switched to dusk. They were far enough away from everyone for darkness, when it hit, to mean exactly that. There wasn’t even a visible moon or any stars to light the way. She took a second to drag air into her lungs, the smell from the winter-flowering jasmine around the door filling her senses, but there was no joy to be had from the scent. Her eyes adjusted enough to see the outline of the gate and the telegraph pole next to it. There was no car, no indication that he’d returned. There was nothing apart from the empty track leading up to the house.

Izzy stayed a while. Something was wrong, dreadfully wrong – something that she had no way of putting right.

She finally wandered back into the hall, the post in her hand, the throw trailing in her wake. She was cold down to the bone, but it wasn’t the type of cold that the warmth from wool was going to solve. Her hand stretched towards the phone for a third time, her arm brushing against her breasts, now heavy with milk. She hesitated, her gaze lingering on the mail and the postcard on top. Was she overreacting? Was this the paranoid response of a new mum? Maybe. Possibly. Hopefully.

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