THE OTHER TIME
Life has been wonderful for Chrissie since marrying the love of her life, Dan Breen, and having two daughters. Her unhappy past is well and truly buried.
However, Chrissie is shocked when she receives a letter from a woman called Joan claiming to be her sister. After meeting Joan, Chrissie’s life spirals out of control; her family deserts her and her company begins to fail. The claustrophobia and panic attacks that once blighted her life return with a vengeance.
Will Chrissie be able to accept that her daughter Karen time travels, as she did years ago?
The Other Time is a story of supernatural happenings, time travel and fractured relationships.
The Other Time is a story of supernatural happenings, time travel and fractured relationships.
The Other Time, is the sequel to my best-selling novel, The Other Place.
The Other Place, is available fee if you subscribe to KU, it is also available from Amazon Kindle, and in paperback.
If you would like to read, The Other Place, before the sequel is published here is a link to the UK site. It is also available from .com and other Amazon sites. goo.gl/s913As
The Other Place, is available fee if you subscribe to KU, it is also available from Amazon Kindle, and in paperback.
If you would like to read, The Other Place, before the sequel is published here is a link to the UK site. It is also available from .com and other Amazon sites. goo.gl/s913As
‘Where are you going, Mom?’ Karen asked, watching as her mother, Chrissie, zipped up her dark-blue anorak and picked up her black shoulder bag.
‘I’m going shopping in town and then I’m popping into work. Okay, darling?’ Chrissie replied, heading towards the kitchen door.
‘Will you be going back to Ella’s time? You remember, you lived as her in a past life,’ Karen asked innocently, taking a bite of her slice of toast at the kitchen table. Her words froze Chrissie in her tracks. Gasping in astonishment, she turned around giving her daughter a hard stare. ‘What did you say?’ she snapped.
Karen slapped her hand across her mouth, her face scarlet with embarrassment, and said, ‘Nothing, Mom, the words popped into my head and jumped straight out of my mouth. I don’t know why I said it. Honest, I don’t. Really and truly I don’t. I’m so sorry. You know this happens to me sometimes. I can’t help it.’ Tears glazed her eyes.
‘Don’t be so daft, Karen,’ Cassie, her sister, hissed, rolling her eyes, a scowl spreading across her pretty face. ‘Honest to goodness, you come out with some ridiculous things. I do wish you would think before you speak and get a life!’
Chrissie took a deep breath and repeated her daughter’s words. ‘Ella, who I knew in another life? Indeed! I don’t know who or what you are talking about. I think you must have been dreaming last night, to come out with something like that.’
‘You’re right, Mom, I do feel tired, and was more than likely dreaming. I’m probably only half awake,’ Karen muttered, twisting the slice of toast around in her hands and watching as crumbs scattered across the blue-and-white tea plate and onto the table.
Running her fingers through her long honey-blonde hair, Chrissie said, ‘Okay, I’ll forget what you said, Karen. But don’t say it again.’
‘I’ll try, Mom, I really will,’ Karen said, sniffing and wiping her eyes.
‘I must go, girls, or I’ll be late going into the office. I said I’d be there for ten thirty at the latest. See you later.’ Chrissie headed out.
A few minutes later, driving along the road of elegant detached houses where she lived with Dan, her husband, and daughters, turning right at the top of the road she was soon driving along the busy A51. Chrissie’s thoughts drifted back to her daughter’s words. She wondered what had made Karen say what she had. It had been so unexpected and taken her completely by surprise. She hadn’t liked snapping at her youngest daughter but there was no way that she would ever discuss what had happened to her with her children, or anyone else for that matter. How Karen knew about her life as Ellen was a complete puzzle to her. Chrissie had told Dan when they first met about the abuse she had suffered and how she had time travelled, but she had made him promise never to tell anyone else about it. He had agreed. What had happened to Chrissie was not up for discussion with anyone, and she hoped that Karen would never mention it again.
Overtaking the local town bus, Chrissie’s thoughts travelled back to the day seven years ago when, completely out of the blue, Karen had started to tell Katy her invisible friend about Chrissie’s past life.
Karen had been sitting opposite Chrissie at the kitchen table. She paid no attention to her mother at all; it was almost as if her mother was not there. It seemed to Chrissie that Karen had drifted into a light trance.
‘Mom’s family were very poor,’ Karen had said sadly, looking at the empty chair next to her just as if she could see Katy sitting there. ‘My grandma brought Mom and her sister, Babs, up cus Grandad ran off during the war and married someone else. It was very hard for her to manage on her own.’ She paused for a minute, picked up her glass of orange juice, took a sip, and then carried on telling Chrissie’s story. ‘Then Grandma divorced Grandad and married another man who was very wicked to my mommy when she was a little girl.’
Why Karen had this morning brought up the subject again after all these years Chrissie had no idea.
Stopping at the pedestrian crossing, Chrissie watched as a group of teenagers laughed and joked their way across the road. They looked so young, happy and carefree; she hoped her two girls would enjoy a truly happy youth. Pushing a stray strand of her hair from her eyes, she continued her drive to the shops. As more memories of her abusive childhood began breaking down the locked door that she had erected in her mind, Chrissie said aloud, ‘No, the past is the past and that’s where it will stay forever.’ Taking a deep breath she pulled into a parking space in the supermarket car park.
And the past would stay dead and buried if Karen would only stop saying that she also time travelled! Chrissie just could not accept that her daughter visited a past life. Or perhaps, if Chrissie were honest with herself, she simply did not want to accept it as it brought back awful memories of her own experience.
‘Hi, Chrissie, I’ve not seen you in years,’ a voice called behind her as she locked her car door.
Chrissie’s morning took a nose dive when she saw it was Sue, the town gossip, who was calling her. Wasn’t it just her luck to run into her on today of all days? Well, come to think of it, it was unpleasant meeting her any day. Plastering a smile on her face, she turned and said to her one-time neighbour, ‘Hello, Sue, fancy seeing you. I thought that you worked Saturday mornings.’
Susan spread gossip about anything, everything and everyone. If she didn’t know something she would make it up. She worked a few hours a week in a charity shop. One of the women she worked with was another troublemaker. Between them you would think every woman in the local area was having an affair or had already had one. Susan and her mate at the charity shop were two of the nastiest women in town. Most people avoided them if they saw either of them walking down the High Street!
Chrissie determined to take her down a peg or two if she started talking about anyone this morning. She was not in the mood to listen to her. Walking towards the supermarket entrance they collected their shopping trolleys and then Sue started, ‘Do you know what I heard the other day, Chrissie?’ She paused, momentarily, and then went on, ‘Although I don’t know whether to tell you or not.’ Chrissie hesitated, not wanting to hear gossip; she was about to say that she was in a rush when Susan said, ‘It’s not nice news, but I thought I’d better tell you. I heard that your husband has been having an affair. And they say it’s because he heard that you were a yes woman.’
‘I beg your pardon?’ Chrissie said, her hand itching to smack the woman’s face. ‘How dare you say such things to me.’ Greatly disturbed she stormed away, but suddenly, spinning on her heel, she marched back, and pushing her face into the woman’s grinning countenance, she hissed, ‘If I ever hear that you have mentioned this to another living soul, so help me your feet won’t touch the ground. Because you and your nasty friend will both be in court. You’re both scumbags, do you hear me? You drag innocent people’s reputations through the mud, and what do you do? You pick up dirty clothes all day, that’s all you do; you deal in dirt and spread dirt. Now, have you got that?’
The woman had gone pale; she nodded, and, fuming, Chrissie, went on, ‘I mean it, if I hear that you ever spread any gossip about me or mine I will do as I said.’ She hurried into the supermarket, and almost ran up and down the aisles collecting her shopping items. Soon to her relief she was heading to work.
Chrissie was so angry at herself for allowing the woman to rile her and plant suspicious thoughts in her mind; she thought that if she wasn’t careful her head would burst open with everything that had been said.
Somehow she had to distract herself, and her thoughts turned to her girls. She smiled as she pictured petite, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, seventeen-year-old Cassie, who was always vibrant and full of life. Karen, her fifteen-year-old daughter, sprang into her mind; she was opposite in every way to Cassie. Quiet and reserved, Karen was nearly five foot five inches, with honey-blonde hair and green eyes. She looked similar to Chrissie. How lucky she was to have them, and they got on well together.
Karen is such a caring, sensitive soul, she is different to other girls, Chrissie thought; in fact, she knew that her daughter was psychic but had difficulty in admitting it to herself. Years ago she had overheard her daughter talking about Chrissie’s past life as Ella. How her daughter could possibly have known about it had puzzled her, but it had brought many disturbing memories back to her before she closed the door on her past. This was when Chrissie had first suspected that her daughter was psychic.
Karen had always been a serious child. She was not impetuous like her sister, she always thought things through. Since hearing Karen talking to Katy, her imaginary friend, there had been a few other disturbing stories that her daughter had spoken about over the years. One such occasion occurred when they were on the way home from school when suddenly, as if from nowhere, Karen had said, ‘When I lived with my other mom my name was Lucy, and I had two older sisters and three younger brothers.’ That was all she had said on that occasion. Chrissie had been far too shocked to say anything other than, ‘Really, darling,’ and then promptly said, ‘Look, there’s Linda’s mommy, I need to ask her something.’
But after that episode Chrissie had worried constantly about her daughter. She had tried convincing herself that Karen’s childish imagination was at play. But memories of her own experience intruded into her reasoning. In the end she thought she would wait and see if her daughter talked about it again. She did!
The next time Karen mentioned ‘her other life’, Chrissie had tucked her into bed and said, ‘Night night, sweetheart.’
‘Night, Mommy, I’m going to see my other family tonight,’ she said turning over and snuggling under the duvet, where she immediately closed her eyes.
Shocked beyond words Chrissie had whispered, ‘Night, pet,’ and gently closed the door. Hurrying downstairs she had debated whether to tell Dan but decided not to. After all, he would shrug it off as childish imaginings. Chrissie knew differently but had trouble accepting the fact that her youngest child was very different to other youngsters of her own age. Karen did not time travel, she told herself repeatedly. She couldn’t, she simply couldn’t, and she left it at that. She never mentioned it to her daughter again. Neither did Karen.
Life had been happy for the family and Chrissie felt blessed. To her the past had to always remain a closed book. Her day had got off to a bad start with Karen spouting off and then meeting the nasty Sue. She hoped that things would improve fast. With all her heart she wished that she had someone to talk with, when a voice intruded into her thoughts:
‘Don’t worry, ducks. I’m always with you.’
Startled, Chrissie pulled in to the side of the road and parked. That was Kitty’s voice, wasn’t it? Kitty was the medium who had helped her through her teen years.
‘Yes, it’s me, girl. I have to tell you something but it’s very difficult to say,’ Kitty said.
‘What do you mean? Please tell me, Kitty,’ she begged.
‘Sorry, lover, I’m not allowed to say; all I can tell you that you will have a lot to endure in the future. I’ll try to help you because there are going to be three events that will shake your world. I’m so sorry, lover, I can’t say any more, other than I know that you will cope.’ Her tired voice faded away as if everything was too much for her.
Oh my goodness, what was that all about? Chrissie felt confused and bewildered and did not know whether to believe that she had actually heard her old friend or imagined it. She drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. Kitty’s voice had broken through her thoughts; what could she have possibly meant when she mentioned that she was going to be overwhelmed by bad luck? The bad times had passed never to return as far as she was concerned. Dan was a little down and out but this happened to everyone from time to time. Chrissie determined to get him to open up to her. He was a typical man; keeping his own council, thinking that he should cope without her help. She would manage, but for now, realising that she was running late, as with the other events of the morning she had to shut them away. Work called for now and she drove to off – she needed to speak to Dawn.
Chrissie knew that she was fortunate having Dawn as her company manager; she managed the company professionally and knew her job inside out. Chrissie’s daughters adored her, even calling her aunty. Dawn was a warm, loving woman and the right person for Chrissie’s company. Thank goodness. At least employing Dawn had given her the freedom to be able to spend time at home with the girls before they started school. Yes, Dawn was an asset.
‘Morning, all,’ Chrissie called out cheerfully as she walked through the general office, smiling at her staff. Her still-long honey-blonde hair caught the morning sunlight streaming through the windows; slim and beautiful, Chrissie radiated happiness as she headed to her office. ‘Morning,’ the girls called back. She was popular with her staff; they all enjoyed working with the company.
Chrissie always wore her professional face when in work. Once she had crossed the threshold, she rarely let personal issues intrude into her workaday life. With her counselling work she remained focused at all times.
Sitting at her desk glancing through the morning post, a light tap on the door heralded Dawn’s arrival. ‘Morning, Chris. Are you okay, you look a bit tired?’
‘I’m fine, thanks. Is there anything desperate you need help with?’
‘No. We have bookings for weeks ahead and beyond. Everything is running smoothly. I keep meaning to ask, will we be opening the training school later this year? Only you’ve not mentioned it lately.’
‘I hope so but I need to check through my proposals first. Hopefully I’ll have it all settled later this year. It all takes time, and other matters can get in the way at times.’
Dawn nodded understandingly. ‘Anything I can help you with, Chris, just ask.’
‘Thank you.’ Chrissie felt tempted to confide her own worries but something held her back. No, it wouldn’t be right. Dawn was a lovely person but she was on the payroll, after all. It simply would not be right. She had to sort out her own personal issues. Business and home were best kept separate.
‘Okay, if everything’s ticking over I won’t stop this morning. I’ve just remembered I meant to buy a couple of birthday presents when I was in town, I’d better go back. Bye for now.’ Muttering to herself that she was an idiot for forgetting (probably because of meeting Sue), she returned to town. The good thing was her girls would have lunch ready for her.
Back at home Cassie watched as her sister sat running toast crumbs through her fingers.
‘Just make yourself another slice of toast, will you! You’ll feel better when you have something inside you. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.’
Raising mournful eyes towards her beautiful sister, Karen said, ‘I’m not feeling sorry for myself. Mom knows perfectly well what I mean. Although I do know, and completely understand, why she doesn’t want to talk about it.’
Cassie jumped up and placed two slices of bread in the toaster. ‘I can understand why she doesn’t want to talk about it, too; I mean, for goodness sake, who is going to accept that she time travelled? That is, other than you! And it’s even more ridiculous when you say that you time travel as well. I do hope you never talk about it to anyone else. I would just die of embarrassment.’ Buttering the toast, she hurried back to her younger sister (who she adored). ‘Now eat that and let’s hear no more about this.’
‘Why won’t you talk about it to me? I know everything that happened to Mom from when she was a youngster. It’s not nice at all but if she talked about it to me she could help me understand what happens to me when I go back to my past life when I lived as Lucy.’ Her voice was rising and her face expressed her anxiety. Cassie went and wrapped her arms round her.
‘Sorry, Sis, please don’t get upset. I realise I sound horrid to you but I don’t want people to ridicule you. If it will make you feel better, of course you can tell me everything and then I will give you my honest opinion.’ Pushing her blonde hair away from her eyes, she sat on the chair next to her sister. Taking a slice of the toast off the plate, she added, ‘I’ll only listen if you eat that other piece of toast! Bargain?’
Wiping tears from her eyes, Lucy nodded. ‘Okay,’ she said, taking a bite and chewing it. She mumbled, ‘It’s horrid being different to everyone else you know. I never asked to be told about Mom’s past life, or to be transported to another life. I just want to be the same as you and other girls. But I’m not, am I, Cas?’ Again she wiped tears from her eyes.
Cassie stared at her. ‘You’re different in that you have had these experiences, I agree. But if you never mention them no one will ever know. Will they?’
‘But I am different, I know I am. And what if the words jump out of my mouth when I’m in company? Like they did this morning? How embarrassing that would be. I would die of humiliation, I truly would. I mean, Cas, you’re beautiful, Mom always says you look like Aunty Babs who died within days of Grandma Lily. You have gorgeous blonde hair and blue eyes. In fact you’re stunningly beautiful.’
‘Get away with you,’ her sister laughed, ‘I’m far from good looking. I’m so tiny, if people blinked when I walked past them they wouldn’t see me. I wish I was as tall as you and Mom, you’re both fabulous to look at, and you turn heads in the street when you’re out and about. So, less of the feeling sorry for yourself, do you hear me?’ Karen nodded.
‘Right, now I’ll make us a cup of coffee and then we can talk about whatever you want to before Mom comes home.’ Cassie walked across the kitchen to make the coffee.
Karen gave a shudder. ‘Oh, we mustn’t let Mom hear us talking about it, she’ll go spare.’ She glanced at the clock. ‘She normally gets home between twelve and one, so we have a couple of hours.’
‘Here’s your coffee.’ Cassie placed a mug with the name Karen Ann emblazoned in pink on its white surface. ‘I always think it’s a shame your name got shortened to Karen. I loved calling you Karen Ann when we were younger. Don’t ask me why!’
‘I don’t mind at all. I mean, we call you Cas most of the time, not Cassie, and Mom’s called Chris by lots of people and even by her maiden name, Chrissie James! I suppose most people play about with names.’
‘Come on, Karen, now tell me your story, or even Mom’s story, I don’t mind which. I can’t guarantee that I’ll believe you but I promise that I won’t rubbish you. Well, you know that’s a given, anyway.’
‘I don’t really know where to begin. Mom would hate to think that I had been talking about her, but I can tell you that when I was six I told my imaginary friend, Katy, about Mom having lived another life as someone called Ella.’
‘Oh, I remember Katy,’ Cas, interrupted, pointing a jewelled painted fingernail across the table at Karen. ‘You were always talking to her and telling her stories; did you really see her?’
‘Why, yes, she was very real to me; when I first met her she was a little older than me but she never talked down to me. She was always there for me throughout my childhood. She seemed to sense when I needed her and would suddenly put in an appearance, and then she stayed to talk to me. Katy was always my best friend. I don’t know how I would have coped without her friendship and advice,’ she said seriously.
‘Gosh,’ Cassie said in amazement, ‘You really must be psychic. Sorry, I interrupted you, carry on.’
‘Mom led an unhappy life when she was young and I’d rather she told you what happened to her.’ Taking a deep breath she continued, ‘Please listen and please don’t laugh at me when I tell you about my life as Lucy.’
‘I won’t laugh, don’t worry.’ A gleam came into Cassie’s eyes; listening to Karen she had suddenly realised that if Karen’s story was as good as she thought, she would be able to sell it on to magazines, newspapers and maybe even film-makers. It would make her name and she knew opportunities would come her way from radio and television companies. Cassie had often longed to be famous but had no idea how to spin herself into the limelight. Now she was being given a golden opportunity. But first she needed to get Karen and her mother’s story written up. She knew not to pressurise Karen. No way did she want to make her suspicious and think that she was being extra nice to her because she had an ulterior motive. Which she accepted that she was, but what the heck, she knew an opportunity when it was being handed to her. What a scoop this would be if she managed to get her sister to tell all. It would be brilliant. She just wished Karen would hurry up and start – their mother would be home soon and they had a few jobs to do and lunch to make before she arrived!
‘I mentioned it to Mom a few times – you know, about how I time travelled – but she ignored me and always changed the subject. In the end I simply stopped telling her. I’ve been time travelling to Lucy’s life on and off since I was a youngster and I’ve managed to remember most of it.’
‘Well, you can tell me all about it, I’ll listen; and who knows, when you have told me everything you may well feel better about your life and not feel any different to other people.’ Cassie crossed her fingers as she said this, hoping that Karen would accept her words.
Looking thoughtful for a minute, Karen said, ‘Do you know, you’re probably right, and if I get it out of my system perhaps it will stop words popping out of my mouth before I have a chance to stop them. It’s so embarrassing!’
Cassie nodded in agreement. ‘I can well imagine how you must feel.’ Thinking, please get on with it!
Taking a deep breath, Karen said, ‘I actually did not time travel to start with.’
Cassie raised her eyebrows. ‘What do you mean? If you didn’t time travel, what happened?’
‘You see, from ever since I can remember I remembered my life as Lucy, and where I lived in the back streets of Birmingham. I tried telling Mom and you but you both shrugged me off as if I was daft. At first Mom always told me I was imagining it. As I grew older I kept on trying to tell her but she thought that I was making it all up. But I wasn’t, I remembered everything about living Lucy’s life. I knew my mother, my dad, and my brothers and sisters. I knew the house were we lived. It’s disappeared now, of course, they demolished them all in the slum clearance in the 1960s.’
Cassie was having a job taking all this astonishing information in. It was simply amazing but she never doubted her sister’s words for a minute.
‘The house we lived in was tiny, and looking back on our lives we lived in a real slum. Of course I was little and knew no different. To me home was where my family lived and that’s all that mattered to me.’ She hesitated for a moment and a sad expression stole across her face.
‘What is it, Karen? Cassie asked her.
‘Elsie, my mom in that time, didn’t like me very much. Still, it was all a long time ago so it doesn’t matter now. I’ll tell you a little of the story before we have to tidy the house.
‘I remember the first time I truly knew that I had lived before. I was in bed one night when suddenly I felt as if I was floating. It was a lovely feeling, and then everything went dark as if someone had switched the light off, and I found myself in another time. But the strangest thing was I wasn’t frightened at all, I simply just accepted it. I know it sounds really stupid now but I knew that I was meant to be there and that I was Lucy Manners, and that I lived with my parents Elsie and Ben Manners and my family in a suburb of Birmingham.’
1952 - Birmingham
‘Lucy, go to the corner shop and fetch me a couple of fags,’ Elsie Manners said to her ten-year-old daughter pressing a couple of pennies into her hand. ‘Don’t be long either as I need you to black lead the grate, do the polishing, and there’s the spuds to peel as well. You’d better get a move on girl cus I forgot to mention there’s a pile ironing for you to do as well.’
‘All right, Mom,’ Lucy said, darting out of the door and skipping down the uneven bricks that passed for a path that separated the houses along the terrace. Gazing around in the hope of seeing one of her friends, Lucy’s eyes took in the where she lived along with her parents, Elsie and Ben, her two older sisters and three younger brothers. They lived at the top of the terrace in crowded conditions. Although, as far as Lucy was concerned, all families had lots of children and every family in the terrace lived in crowded conditions. The houses all had two bedrooms, a living room and a tiny kitchen.
It was nearly always noisy along the row; the children would congregate to play in the tiny gardens after school, or out in the street. The boys would climb the lamp posts, and play football or cricket in the summer. A piece of wood would pass for a bat. The bat would more than likely disappear on someone’s fire within a day or so. The girls would play skipping or hopscotch. That’s if their mothers didn’t want shopping or the current new addition to the family feeding!
Just then a door opened in one of the houses and a girl’s voice shouted, ‘You going out to play, Lucy?’
‘Don’t be daft,’ Lucy called back, a grin splitting her face, ‘I’m fetching some ciggies for me ma and then I’ve got to help her with the cleaning. Where you off to, Julie?’
The young girl ran down the path to her. ‘I’m off to fetch some fags for me mother as well. She’s in a bad temper, I think she’s having another babby and ’er’s all upset about it. She’s swearing her head off and calling me dad all the names under the sun,’ she said tugging at her much-patched flower-printed dress trying to make it longer. ‘This frock is so short I’ll be showing me knickers soon. I told ma a few weeks ago to get me a new frock off the second-hand stall in the Rag Market up town and she forgot.’ The girls linked arms and, heads together, chatted on as they wended their way to the corner shop. Both wore down-at-heel lace-up shoes and socks that slipped down inside their shoes as they walked along, completely oblivious to the fact that they lived in one of the worst slums in the city. Julie had a huge rusty nappy pin holding her old pink cardigan together, the buttons having long disappeared. She didn’t actually own a coat, or any clothes of her own; she just grabbed whatever was lying in the pile of rags in the corner of one of the rooms in her house. If her mother went up the Rag Market on a Saturday she would pick up a few old cheap items and add them to the pile of clothes (they weren’t clothes, really, just rags) in the corner.
Lucy gulped, saying, ‘Oh dear, I hope our mom don’t have any more babbies, cus it’s a job fitting us all in to our house as it is. If she does have any more the boys will have to sleep in the old air-raid shelter down the bottom of our garden. I bet they’d have some fun.’ Lucy laughed as pictures of her brothers sleeping in the shelter flashed through her mind. ‘They’d be up to so much mischief I bet they’d never get any sleep, or us, or the neighbours!’ Laughing and chuckling the girls headed into the shop.
‘Took your time, d’aint you, girl?’ Elsie grumbled, snatching the cigarettes from her daughter’s hand. Undoing the twist of paper and taking a cigarette from it, she struck a match and inhaled the smoke deep into her lungs. Coughing, she pointed into the kitchen. ‘Go and peel the spuds for dinner before you start the cleaning,’ she rasped, still coughing and wheezing, the cigarette hanging out of her mouth.
Obediently Lucy trotted into the kitchen, where she pulled an old box from under the sink and stood on it so that she could reach the sink.
‘And no daydreaming, either,’ Elsie’s voice sounded behind her, ‘Do you hear me?’
‘Yes.’ Lucy swallowed hard; the cigarette smoke was tickling in her throat and she was trying her hardest not to cough. Elsie got furious if she heard her coughing, and often smacked her one across the head. It hurt. Lucy often wanted to ask her mother why some days she had it in for her and other days she treated her well.
If she had asked her, Elsie would have been hard put to answer. Elsie genuinely loved her kids, all of them, but there was something about Lucy that really got to her. Perhaps it was because she was such a happy, beautiful child who was always willing to help her with the kids and around the house. But it wasn’t just her she would help; she always ran errands for her neighbours and a few of the elderly folk who lived down the street. Why, on Sundays after Sunday School finished she would stay over and help tidy the Church. Lucy was everyone’s favourite. Except hers; some days a rage would take over Elsie and her temper would fizz inside her until it boiled over, and then poor Lucy got it. Of course, this more or less coincided with when her husband, Ben, had been nice to Lucy. Seeing him admiring Lucy’s auburn curls, or even giving her a hug, would have Elsie rushing into the tiny kitchen where she would stamp her feet in anger and light the inevitable fag for comfort.
Elsie left her to peel the potatoes, and tears smarted behind Lucy’s eyes. She bit her lip hard; why Mom hated her so much she doubted if she would ever know. Lucy always did as she was asked, all she wanted was to please her mother, but this just seemed to increase the vindictiveness that Elsie piled on her. She wouldn’t cry, though, she wouldn’t. Finishing the potatoes she drained the water from the peelings, but before she could take them to the dustbin Elsie came to inspect them.
‘Good job you peeled them thinly and not wasted any or you’d be for it,’ she growled. ‘Get and throw them away and clean the sink, then start the cleaning.’ Elsie rarely if ever said please or thank you to anyone. The words were not part of her vocabulary.
‘Yes, Mom,’ she said docilely. She couldn’t wait for Dad to come home cus the funny part was Mom never got at her when he was around. She left her alone, and even said, ‘Night, bab,’ when she went to bed. She only kissed the air by Lucy’s cheek, though, whereas she gave all the other kids proper kisses. Lucy often wondered if she smelled and that’s why Elsie didn’t like coming near her. She would spend as long as she could in the tin bath soaping herself all over on a Saturday night, until Elsie yelled at her to ‘move your backside fast or you’ll be for it.’ Lucy tried hard to keep herself spotlessly clean but it was difficult to have a proper wash in the week because there wasn’t any privacy anywhere.
‘’Ave you finished, bab?’ her mother asked kindly as she was washing the rags out that she had used for cleaning and black leading the grate. Her nails were filthy; they worried her and she would have to use the big scrubbing brush on them. No way could she be dirty, her mom wouldn’t love her.
Lucy flashed her mom a worried look, shocked that her voice held a rare kindness. ‘Nearly, Mom, sorry it took me so long.’ Her face like her voice was full of fear. Despite Elsie’s friendlier tone she still felt nervous all the time because of her mother’s mercurial moods. Lucy couldn’t wait until she left school and found a job. At least she would be out of the house for a good while, and she would be able to save some of her earnings. When she had enough money saved she would share a flat with a friend. The thought of this kept Lucy happy on the bad days when Elsie’s temper boiled over.
‘Lucy, come down here at once,’ Elsie yelled upstairs. ‘I want to talk to you, now!’
‘Oh blimey, I’m in for it now,’ Lucy muttered to Joyce, her eighteen-year-old sister.
‘Go on down, kid, or she’ll have a fit and start screaming fit to bust. You know what she’s like when she gets into one her moods.’
‘Are you coming down, Lucy, or do I have to come and get you?’ Elsie’s voice sounded evil.
‘Coming, Mom.’ Lucy rushed down stairs and faced her angry mother.
Elsie stood, thin arms on hips. ‘Now, you tell me what the hell you think you were doing walking up the road with a bloke. You’re fifteen years old and should show a bit of respect for your parents and family.’ She raised her hand as if she was about to slap Lucy but stopped short, obviously remembering her daughter was past the age of slapping. Instead she shoved her clenched fists into the pockets of her scruffy pinafore. The pinafore must have been bought from the Rag Market; it was so faded the roses that had once decorated it had almost faded away. Elsie’s hair was clipped into tight metal curlers with an old headscarf wrapped turban-style around it. She smelt strongly of the inevitable cigarettes.
Stepping back, Lucy took a deep breath. ‘Mom, for goodness sake, that bloke as you call him is Ken and he lives two doors away from us, we know him and all his family! I never even saw him when I got off the bus; he caught me up along the road!’
‘That’s a likely story, to say the least,’ Elsie sneered. ‘Now listen here, don’t you ever let me hear of you going out with a lad, not without mine or your dad’s permission. Are you listening?’
‘Of course I am, Mom, and I’m not interested in boys.’
‘What do ya mean? You’re not interested in boys? You ain’t one of them there funny people as I read about in the Sunday papers, are ya?’
‘Oh, Mom, they’re not funny people at all, they’re different from us in that they prefer to walk out with people like themselves. I mean people of their own sex. But I know they can get into serious trouble so they avoid drawing attention to themselves at all costs. No, I’m not like them. I just want to do something with my life first before I marry and settle down.’
‘I don’t understand you at all. And don’t forget, when you get your birthday pay rise I want all of it.’
‘Yes, Mom,’ she said meekly, thinking, it’s not fair, I work hard all the week in the grocery shop stock room and I still help with the jobs when I get home, and Mom hardly gives me any of my wages back. How could she save up so that she could move out and live a life of her own? It seemed impossible. Lucy did not know how long she could stand this situation. Her only freedom was when she went to a local cafe for a coffee with one of the girls from work on Saturday afternoon, and that was it. Her mother would have had a fit if she had known.
Lucy had never been deceitful but as it stood this was her only outing. Friends were not allowed in their house, ever, Elsie kept her too busy. Trapped and feeling depressed, she did her jobs and went to bed. Every day and every night were exactly the same. Life had become monotonous. What was the point of it all? When she went to bed at night she escaped to a different world, The Other Time, where she lived as Karen Ann, known to one and all as Karen. Everything seemed better there. Girls had far more freedom than in this time. They had nicer clothes and homes. Karen’s mother loved her and her sister, Cassie. Elsie didn’t love her, Elsie only loved her wages on a Friday night. In fact she would wait for her daughter to come home with her hand held out. She would snatch the packet from her and count each coin! Her mother was mean, selfish and downright nasty at times. If only she loved her as much as she loved her brothers and sisters life would be more bearable. But she didn’t and one way or another Lucy was determined to make a new start in life.
In bed that night she went to Karen’s time.
Suddenly, Karen stopped speaking and glanced at the clock. ‘I think I’d better get lunch ready cus Mom will be back soon.’ Fearing derision she looked nervously across the table at her sister. Cassie was looking at her awestruck.
‘That has really happened to you? Are you sure you didn’t dream it?’
‘How could I dream it, I see and speak to the people I live with. I smell and see everything in detail. I don’t think any dreams can possibly be that real.’
Cassie couldn’t wait to hear the rest of the story. ‘You will tell me more about what happened to you, won’t you?’
‘Yes, later on, unless you’re going out.’
‘No, I’m not going out until tonight. Mom will be busy in her office doing her accounts in her office this afternoon.’
‘All right, we’ll go in the lounge, she’ll think we’re watching the tele. Dad will be working until about five o’clock. I know it all sounds a bit cloak and dagger, but like I said, I don’t want to upset Mom.’
‘I’m just popping upstairs. You get lunch on and I’ll do the washing up,’ Cassie said, hoping her sister did not suspect why she had suddenly become interested in her story.
‘Okay, it’s a deal,’ Karen said, relieved that her sister hadn’t belittled what had happened to her. ‘I feel so much better for sharing it with you.’
‘I’m so glad,’ Cassie said, thinking, yippee, she doesn’t suspect a thing. ‘Back soon,’ she called over her shoulder; she had to be quick as she needed to make notes about her sister’s story before she forgot anything. This was some story and she did not want to forget a word of it. Plus, once she had Karen’s story she was determined to get her to tell her their mother’s story. I’ll be famous; she daydreamed of all the television programmes that she would be invited on to tell her ‘extraordinary story’. How lucky I am, she thought as she scribbled down every word she could remember of Karen’s life as Lucy. She tried to remember every tiny detail to add credence to her upcoming book. The trouble was she had to write the story fast as her mother would soon be home.
Looking at Dan later that evening as they watched the news, Chrissie noted the dark shadows under his eyes and his general air of fatigue. She felt guilty at not paying him more attention over recent months. His black hair showed a lot of grey for a forty-two-year-old. Her hair had touches of grey amongst the honey-blonde strands but nothing to the amount Dan’s now had. A few months ago there had been just a sprinkling. Again guilt smote her at not noticing his stress; how could she be so neglectful? He looked haggard, you could say completely exhausted. How could she, who ran a counselling service, not notice how the effects of overwork were affecting him? She felt like kicking herself.
‘Dan?’ He jumped; obviously his mind had been miles away – he had more than likely been worrying about work.
‘I wondered how you felt about us taking a long holiday this year when the girls finish for their summer holidays.’
For a second his handsome face lit up with pleasure, and then he looked away, running his fingers through his hair. He said, ‘I really can’t spare the time, I’m having staffing problems. At the rate this is going, I will be doing all the cleaning jobs on my books if things don’t improve. Adding to my problems, I can’t seem to get anyone in to do the odd jobs that people ring in about. I’m so sorry if I’ve been a little distant of late but it’s been getting to me.’
‘I’m sorry, love, but why didn’t you tell me? You know it helps to share problems. We’ve always been here for each other in the past.’
‘I didn’t want to worry you. After all, the cleaning company is my business and I shouldn’t be experiencing these problems. We pay a decent wage and look after the employees. I get a bit paranoid at times and get the feeling someone is spreading nasty rumours about the company.’
Chrissie went and snuggled up beside him on the sofa. It felt good to feel the warmth of his body spreading through hers. He put his arm around her and held her close. Dropping a kiss on her cheek, he nuzzled her neck. ‘This feels good, Chris,’ he whispered. She snuggled closer. How she had missed him.
‘I can help you, Dan. All companies go through awkward times. I know people who will be only too pleased to find a job. My staff often say they have friends with youngsters who would like a part-time job. Yes, even cleaning! They don’t look on it as being at the bottom end of the job market. Let’s face it, everyone has to clean their own home at some time or other. As for the odd jobs, I’ll advertise – I’m certain someone out there will want the job.’
‘I agree, but who could dislike me so much as to spread nasty rumours about the company?’
‘I don’t know,’ she said, ‘but we’re not certain that anyone is. Someone could be jealous of us and spreading gossip. It happens in business, as you well know. But there again it could be no one is out to get us. We’ll wait and see if things turn around once we’re fully staffed. Who knows, one or two people may not have received our full service due to the staffing problems. They could well have talked to acquaintances in passing that our business is slipping.’
‘Of course, you’re probably right. As I said, I’m probably being paranoid.’ He laughed, running his hands through his dark hair. His laughter was such a welcome sound after weeks of uncertainty that she took his face in her hands and kissed him passionately. He picked her up and, chuckling, carried her up the stairs. Together again, Chrissie thought as they made love. How she loved her gorgeous, handsome, sexy husband.
Dan’s arms enfolded her to him. How he loved his slim, beautiful, talented wife. The last few months had not been easy for him and increasingly he had begun feeling a failure. Seeing his wife’s business prospering, he had become depressed about his work difficulties and had let things slide. He knew he should have confided in Chrissie but felt that he should settle the problem himself. Now he realised he had been an idiot and that he should have talked it through with her.
Stroking her hair he felt lucky to have met her when he had. He cast his mind back to their first meeting when their eyes had met across Chrissie’s office. He was sitting behind her desk at her company where he had been working as interim manager. Chrissie had taken temporary leave at the time after tragically losing her mother and sister. When he had looked into her wonderful sea-green eyes, he had fallen in love with her. Despite it being an extremely bad time for him, he had difficulty in controlling the urge to take her in his arms and kiss her hurt away.
Remembering everything about the early days of their relationship made him smile. After Chrissie had returned to work, thus making him redundant, she had invited him to live with her while he looked for employment. Not only had he lost his job, his marriage had broken down, and his home had been repossessed. All in all he had been through a shocking time. He often told Chrissie that ‘how and when we met was meant to be, my darling.’
Living together had been everything Dan had thought it would be. He had proposed to her at ‘The Other Place’ as he had christened an area where he had previously walked before meeting Chrissie.
When he failed to find work of any kind, she had suggested starting a business in his name. The business was a little different to normal cleaning work; his company would help women with small maintenance tasks that they could not cope with as well as cleaning their home. The jobs included maintaining garden equipment, household repairs, even hanging pictures. In fact any small household task the client could not manage, they would help where possible. The business had been successful.
Chrissie stirred, and, as if sensing that he was still awake, she opened her eyes, whispering, ‘I love you, Dan.’
‘And I love you, my beautiful Chrissie James that was. I think it’s great how we kept your single name for business purposes. It saved a lot of time and money altering office stationary.’
‘What’s in a name? We know we’re married and that’s all that matters,’ she giggled. ‘It’s time we slept, it will be morning before we know it.’
‘I agree,’ he said. ‘But first!’ They made love again, slowly and lovingly, and slept wrapped in each other’s arms. Nothing could ever separate them. Could it?
Karen had always said that she did not want to go to college, and to everyone’s surprise had started a short part-time course in a local care home, where she helped children with learning difficulties. She worked weekends and part-time in her holidays.
‘But Karen,’ Chrissie had said when her daughter had mentioned her new job, ‘it’s hard work, and it could be heartbreaking.’ Karen was quite strong, physically and emotionally, so she would no doubt cope well. She possessed a lot of inner strength – so much, in fact, that once her mind was made up she rarely changed it.
‘I want to work with these youngsters, Mom. I know many girls my age take up jobs at nursery schools but I’m drawn to this work and that’s why applied for the course. I’m not going to say that I have a calling or anything soppy like that. I’m not a do-gooder! It’s just something I want to try to help me gain an understanding of these special people. I should imagine, say for instance, it’s the same as when you decided to open your counselling business – you felt drawn to it and had to start it up. As I said, it’s something I want to do.’
‘Yes, but I had troubles which led me to open my company.’
‘I know you were in a very dark place as a child, Ma.’ Seeing the surprised look on her mother’s face, she added, totally flustered, ‘I don’t know why I said that. I’m guessing, honest. I don’t know anything about your life. You have never discussed it with us. But I have told you all about my experiences.’
‘Yes, you’re right, but as you already know I don’t want to discuss my past with anyone. Ever. I hope you can respect that. You tried to share your past life with me and I recall the first time that you mentioned Lucy to me, but I never pursued it. Perhaps it was wrong of me but I honestly could not accept it. And as I have said, I don’t want to discuss it.’ In fact Chrissie doubted that her daughter time travelled but had no wish to pursue her story.
‘No, Mom, you didn’t accept what I often tried telling you, and I knew that you weren’t interested. I tried to say things about it but you always changed the subject. So eventually I gave up and confided in someone called Ethel – she’s an older lady I met in the market down town one day. She was such a good listener. She told me what I had experienced happens to lots of young girls and boys but most of them forget about it as they grow older. I didn’t forget, but Ethel listening to what happened to me as Lucy really helped me understand that I wasn’t imagining it.’
Chrissie smiled, thinking, I wish that I could talk about my story, but I can’t, my memories are so terrible it would probably destroy me. She took a deep breath, pulling the door to the past even more tightly closed, and listened to her daughter.
Karen chatted on. ‘Yes, it was good talking about Lucy to Ethel; it made me realise how different life was lived back then but how by being resilient things can eventually turn around for you.’
Chrissie refused to listen to another word and interrupted her daughter. ‘That’s so right, love, but we’ll have to catch up on this another day as I have to go and check a few things at work. You can come with me if you want to and we can carry on chatting?’ Praying that Karen would refuse her offer. She did.
‘No thanks, Mom, I have some things I need to catch up on. See you later.’ She blew a kiss back to Chrissie as she ran up the stairs.
Driving up the short lane that led to her company premises, Chrissie’s hands started trembling, her heart started racing. Oh, God, what was happening to her? Quickly she pulled in to her work parking space. She suddenly found herself caught up in the darkness of claustrophobia. She felt completely helpless, trapped and breathless. Chrissie felt numb, almost paralysed, unable to move or even cry out. She did not know what to do. She was back in the cupboard under the stairs, unable to get out. Alf Brown, her stepfather, had locked her in there after doing terrible things to her. Darkness held her fiercely within its grip. She was going to die, she knew she was. No one apart from Alf Brown knew where she was, he would leave her in this cupboard space forever. Struggling against the darkness she thought that she heard Kitty’s voice saying, ‘Come on, Chrissie, take some deep breaths, you know you can. Come on, girl.’ She struggled but managed to take a few deep breaths, and then dissolved into floods of tears; she was back in time and could not leave the awful darkness of the cupboard under the stairs behind. She was shaking, knowing not to scream because when she did he would open the cupboard and say, ‘Take that, you filthy little slut,’ and hit her hard, and if she cried he would hit her again, grinning all over his evil, ugly face and shut her back in. Alf was a monster and she hated him.
Chrissie had been terrified of his presence in their home. There was no way that she could escape from him or the darkness that repeatedly made her life so unbearable as a child and young adult. For many years, even after the abuse had stopped, she suffered panic attacks as memories of the awful time would suddenly overwhelm her, the blackness trapping her, unexpectedly making her life a misery. At times she had felt locked inside her mind completely and unable to function at all. It had been terrifying. Why now, why after all this time, had it returned? She had never had a flashback since marrying Dan. With Dan her life was full of love and happiness, and she was thankful to have put the past behind her.
Feeling calmer, she took another deep breath to steady herself. First things first; she had to get out of the car before the awful feeling returned. Chrissie felt concerned that someone would see her and tell everyone in work how distressed she looked; no way did she want to have attention drawn to her.
‘Get a grip, Chrissie James,’ she muttered, wiping her eyes. What if one of her employees saw her having a panic attack should they walk past the car? Or someone spotted her through a window from her works building? This was dreadful. Chrissie felt ashamed of her weakness. ‘Get on with your life,’ she muttered, trying to be positive. But past events told her that it was not as easy as that because the panic seemingly came out of nowhere and at times it was uncontrollable.
Eventually Chrissie managed to control her breathing so that her pulse rate steadied and she finally managed to stop shaking. Feeling almost in control again she decided not to walk through the front office and made her way to the back entrance of her workplace where she hurried through the postal section and from there into her office. Strange – as she had gone through the back entrance she could have sworn she sensed someone watching her. No, she was being silly, there had been no one about when she got out of her car. She had checked as she wanted to settle into her office before seeing anyone. The panic attack had left her feeling oversensitive, that’s what it was.
But someone had been watching her. Chrissie had not noticed the highly polished black car driven by a woman that had been following her on and off for a couple of months. The woman watched her enviously, jealousy written across her face.
She muttered, ‘I’m biding my time, Chrissie James, and then you will wonder what’s hit you. I know you’re married and your name is Breen but to me you will always be James.’ Anyone who happened to spot the woman’s face at that moment would have turned on their heel and run as fast as they could at the look of sheer malevolence on it. The woman’s face was evil personified.
In her office Chrissie made herself a strong black coffee and sipped it slowly. Should she add sugar? she wondered; after all, she had heard that it was supposed to be good for shock, and boy, that panic attack had been a nasty shock. She glanced towards her window wondering should she open it. Maybe a little, it would help her feel better knowing that she had another escape route. Still even now trembling slightly, she hurried across to the window and felt utter relief when she pushed it open. It couldn’t happen to her again, could it? The feeling of being trapped in her mind and body was too awful to contemplate. Please, if someone is listening out there, don’t let it happen again. Don’t spoil our happiness.
Chrissie felt dreadful, and looking in her compact mirror her reflection told its own sad story. Her hair looked limp and in need of blow-drying, the grey seemed to have grown overnight. Her skin looked dry and she looked sad, and wrinkles showed around her eyes and mouth. She gasped, ‘I look terrible, I look old!’ Then she muttered, ‘But at least I’m safe in my office. I can repair the damage as soon as I feel completely normal again.’
Sitting back at her desk she worried again about the claustrophobia returning and destroying her life. Why now? she wondered; she didn’t know, she could not think of a reason for it. I won’t let it destroy my life, she vowed fiercely. I’m older and wiser now. I have a husband and a family to support. Our employees rely on me and Dan to support them. I cannot allow my life to be taken over by a phobia. She determined to fight back with everything she had learned from the last time it had happened. Should it occur again Chrissie would win. Wouldn’t she?
Later that evening Dan sat beside Chrissie on the sofa. ‘What’s wrong? Please don’t shrug and say, “Nothing.” I know that something is worrying you; you’re so pale and look so unhappy. Come on, Chris, spit it out.’
‘I said don’t say that. I know something has happened, so come on, tell me!’ he said earnestly. Drawing her to him, he saw tears in her eyes. ‘Come on, luv, please, you’re always saying we should share our concerns with each other.’
‘Oh, Dan, I had a terrible panic attack today. Remember when we met I told you everything about myself from the awful panic attacks, and about how I time travelled to a past life as Ella?’
He nodded; how could he ever forget? But after she had told him she had said never to mention it again and never to tell anyone else. He had respected her wishes, although he would have liked to have asked her much more about time travel – it intrigued him and over the following years he had often been tempted to ask. But not wanting to stir up unpleasant memories of her stepfather he had always decided against it.
‘What happened to you, then?’ he queried, worry etched on his handsome features.
As she explained what had happened to her earlier, and he watched anxious expressions flit across her face, he prayed she would not have to go through anything similar to what she had experienced throughout her younger years.
Hugging her to him, he tried comforting her. ‘It could be a one-off, my darling, and never happen again. After all, since we’ve been together you’ve been fine.’
She nodded, fearing to tell him of more memories beginning to filter through her mind from her distant past. She realised that she had never allowed these memories to enter her consciousness before but now seemed powerless to stop them. They were shocking memories involving not only Alf Brown but also two of his mates from the time they had lived in Fellfeld. If only she had the power to stop the memories resurfacing and wrecking their lives. Inside she was beginning to feel destroyed.
Chrissie realised that she should have told Dan that it wasn’t only Alf Brown that had abused her, but shame that it had happened had prevented her. For a long time she had blamed herself. And she still could not fully accept that her mother had been unaware of what had happened. She had to be strong otherwise not only she but her family and business would be destroyed. But how could she cope with the horror of it all?
Clinging to her husband, she whispered, ‘Hold me, Dan.’ He pulled her into his arms and held her as close as he could. He sensed that she was holding something back. It must be something so evil that she could not bring herself to talk about with him. If only he did not need to work so many hours; he wanted to be there for her. Trying to be positive he hoped everything would turn out right in the end and it would be time well spent so that both of them could enjoy the rewards. Maybe with luck on their side they could retire early and be together forever. How wonderful that would be.
That night curling up together, Dan whispered, ‘Whatever happens I will always be here for you.’
‘Thank you for always being such a comfort to me.’
In the early hours Dan woke to the sound of Chrissie screaming, ‘Let me out, let me out!’ Dazed by sleep he wondered whatever was happening.
‘Chrissie, I’m here for you.’ She was clearly terrified. He could feel her tossing and turning frightened out of her mind. He flicked on the bedside lamp, all the while saying, ‘Chrissie, you’re having a nightmare. Wake up, please.’ He did not dare shake her, thinking that would add to her terror. Dan was worried that Chrissie’s screams would wake the girls and they would be scared. But so far so good, all was quiet; the disturbance did not seem to have penetrated the walls.
As suddenly as she had started screaming, Chrissie stopped, her eyes flickered open and she looked wildly around the room. Aware of what had happened she sat up and started crying. ‘I’m so sorry to wake you, I told you earlier about the panic attack I had today. I told you that I had the most terrifying dreams of being trapped inside my mind and being unable to escape when I was younger. I don’t know how to stop the nightmares when they start. If only it were possible to wake myself when the terror starts. I’m so sorry. I don’t know why they’re recurring.’
‘They stopped before,’ he said quietly, ‘so I should imagine they will again.’
‘They stopped, yes, but it was after I’d time travelled to a previous existence and then unfortunately I returned to further heartache. It was after all those happenings that I met you and my life changed from being desolate to being worth living. In fact the years since I have known you have been wonderful.’
Dan was at a loss what to say to her. The nightmare she had suffered was something he had never experienced before and he hadn’t a clue how to help her. ‘Chris, if I could help and guide you I would, but I haven’t a clue how to. Couldn’t you ask one of your counsellors at work to guide you?’
She shook her head. ‘It’s too personal for me to speak about to anyone I know. In fact I don’t think I can tell anyone exactly what happened. I would be far too ashamed.’ She started sobbing again. ‘I want to shut the memories away and never have to think about them ever again. Dan, dearest Dan, they could destroy us as a couple and a family.’
‘No, Chrissie, nothing will ever come between us. You are the love of my life, always remember that. I only wish that I could help you through this.’ He paused, and went on, ‘I’ve had a thought. Remembering what you told me about your troubled past, didn’t you say you met a medium who also practised hypnotherapy? I remember she helped you.’
Wiping tears from her eyes, she sniffed, and nodded. ‘Yes, that was Kitty, when we lived at Fellfeld. I went shopping to Birmingham, and as I walked along New Street I saw a board outside a building and it was an advert for “Kitty Medley, Hypnotherapist/Clairvoyant”. I went in and she gave me a reading. She immediately saw how troubled I was and amazingly she picked up on what had happened to me.
‘Kitty actually saw everything that I had experienced. She had such a wonderful gift for seeing the past and the future. I actually envied her when she told me that her spirit guides had helped her all through her life. I only wish they could help me.’
Dan was pleased and relieved to see that his wife’s breathing had returned to normal and that, as she reminisced, the panic attack had subsided.
‘Do you fancy a warm drink, Chris,’ he offered.
‘Am I boring you?’ she asked anxiously.
‘Not at all, my luv.’ (Although he had heard the story before, Dan knew that he would find the retelling of it more than interesting.) ‘I wondered if a warm drink of milk or cocoa would help soothe you.’
She reached out and taking his hand whispered, ‘I’m being very selfish. You have to get up early for work in the morning. I can lie in if I want to. We can talk again, simply chatting like this has helped me tremendously.’
‘If you’re certain? I don’t mind listening at all if you want to carry on discussing it. I remember you asking me never to repeat what you told me again to you or anyone. This is why I never mention it. If it helps you to talk about it again at some time, of course I don’t mind. It will help you.’
He snuggled beside her and quickly fell into a deep sleep.
For Chrissie it was difficult to sleep; every time she closed her eyes images of the nightmare would appear as if from nowhere. Memories of her life flickered like a film across her inner eye. How she detested Alf Brown and his friends who had blighted her life. At least Alf Brown was dead so she would never have to see him again.
More than anything she wished that she knew someone who could help her with this massive problem. She would overcome it, she was certain. Little did she know that even more trouble was waiting in the wings to blight her life.
The next morning a ring of the doorbell had Chrissie rushing from the kitchen to open the front door. ‘Chrissie James?’ the man enquired. She nodded, before thinking, actually I’m Chrissie Breen but most people still seem to call me by my maiden name. Glancing over the man’s shoulder she noticed the Interflora van parked outside her drive. ‘Here you are, Missus.’ The man’s voice broke into her thoughts (she was still befuddled by her nightmare of the previous evening) and he passed her a beautiful bouquet of dark-red roses.
‘Thank you,’ she stuttered. How like Dan to send her such a beautiful bouquet. He’s such a thoughtful, kind husband and friend, she thought admiring the flowers. She smiled at the use of her maiden name, James. Typical Dan, she thought.
Sitting at the table she eagerly looked for the message card to see what Dan had written but could not find it. Thinking that for some reason the shop had forgotten to include it she wasn’t concerned. The flowers were a wonderful gift of love from her husband. That was enough for Chrissie. She couldn’t wait to thank him when he came home from work.
Placing the roses in vases, their heady scent quickly drifted around the kitchen. I’ll put them in the lounge later, it’s cooler in there away from the cooking, she decided.
The door swung open and the girls rushed in. ‘Oh, those are nice, Ma.’ Cassie walked over to inspect the flowers. ‘Beautiful,’ murmured Karen, following her sister. ‘Gosh, Dad must have spent a packet on these,’ Cassie remarked. ‘He certainly loves you!’
Chrissie blushed, and wondered, why should she? They were married after all! ‘Yes, they’re a lovely surprise and certainly brightened the morning.’
Cutting her egg on toast into soldiers, Cassie chuckled. ‘I always do this, it takes me back to when I was young and you did it for me, Mom.’
‘Yes, I remember, luv.’
‘We’re going into Birmingham today. If that’s okay with you, Ma?’ Cassie asked, forking her egg toastie into her mouth.
‘Yes, that’s fine; will you be lunching out?’
‘Mmm,’ Cassie said, still chewing.
‘Are you going for anything in particular or just looking round?’
‘We’re not looking for anything special, unless of course something catches our eye,’ Karen said. ‘We both just fancied a trip into the city. I’m not at work, it’s my Saturday off. I only have a few weeks left to work for them and my stint finishes.’
‘You’ve done well working there, and I’m proud of you for taking up the job and seeing it through. Have a good day, girls. I’m off for a shower now you’ve finished up there.’
Descending the stairs in her deserted house, Chrissie wondered whether to make the most of her freedom to clean and polish the house or to go to her office and sort out a few things. What she really wanted to do was sleep as the effects of her disturbed night were making her head feel muzzy. I’ll have an hour in bed, she decided, and went and lay down. Snuggling under the duvet, her thoughts turned to the nightmare of being trapped. ‘Don’t go there,’ she muttered and started thinking how lucky she had been to marry Dan and have her two beautiful girls. Suddenly Kitty’s voice sounded in her mind: ‘Don’t forget how to self-hypnotise yourself.’ Startled at hearing her old friend again after so much time had elapsed and hearing her advice, she wondered if she still had the ability to do this. Could she? Should she? Would it help her with her panic attacks? ‘It will, my lovely,’ Kitty whispered.
Shaking her head Chrissie knew her imagination had gone into overdrive. She had always doubted that she had actually time travelled, despite it all seeming so real at the time. She sighed, turned over and felt herself being drawn down and down as if by an invisible force; she tried hard to control the awful feeling of being forced against her will but nothing she did could stop it. Suddenly it stopped and she felt as if she was floating; it was a good feeling.
Suddenly Chrissie’s breathing became erratic and she started trembling. ‘Take deep breaths, Chrissie, don’t let it get the better of you.’ She couldn’t, she really couldn’t stop the awful panic happening, then everything around her started fading away and she felt herself floating away from time. Suddenly, as quickly as the feeling had started, it stopped and she found herself aware of someone beside her.
Looking at the woman she immediately recognised her. ‘Amy, is it really you?’ Chrissie asked feeling totally confused after what had occurred.
‘Indeed it is. Give me your hand. You see, I am real, you can feel, see and hear me. I always told you I would never be far away if you needed me.’
Chrissie felt so relieved. She thought that she had time travelled back to The Other Time where she had lived a life as Ella. Amy had been her imaginary friend when she had been a youngster. It had been hard at first living Ella’s life but with Amy’s help she had eventually learned how to cope with her troubled past and had brought the knowledge back with her when she returned to the present time.
Now here she was back with Amy, but, ‘Am I living Ella’s life?’ she queried. Her mind was still not functioning clearly; she felt as if she was inside a huge plastic bubble.
‘Ella’s time has passed. You have moved on and are now Isabel Croft and living her life in the The Other Time.’
‘Pardon? That’s impossible.’ She giggled.
‘Come, Chrissie, anything is possible when we enter the spiritual realm, and among other things we are able to time travel. You lived a life as Ella so why can’t you live a life as Isabel?’
‘I wonder where Ella is now?’ Chrissie asked, ‘I’m certain she would have fared better than I. But you say I am now Isabel?’
Amy slipped a slender arm around her. ‘Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine. Things will eventually turn out right for you, I promise. You’ve been through tough times before and fought your way through. So, I have faith that whatever storms lie ahead; you will not be beaten.’
Feeling the warmth of her friend’s slim body seeping into her, Chrissie snuggled closer to her. Chrissie (or was she now Isabel?) desperately needed reassurance from another person.
‘I’m leaving now, Isabel, but I will never be far away,’ Amy told her. ‘You will forget about Ella’s life, but as I mentioned, her time has passed. You have moved on, as we all do,’ Amy said holding her close and kissing her cheek. She then disappeared.
Taking a deep breath Isabel cautiously looked around. It felt as if the huge plastic bubble had shattered all around her. The sound of distant traffic seeped into her consciousness. She could hear people chatting as they walked along the street. She heard the sound of a horse and cart trundling past. Looking down she saw that she was wearing a navy-blue coat, and became aware that a silk scarf covered her hair; she pulled a strand of her hair from under the scarf and was amazed when she saw how long her hair was, and even more shocked to see that it was dark auburn. Glancing down again she saw that she was wearing a long grey skirt that hung below her coat. She wasn’t imagining it! She really had time travelled again. Help!
She took a few deep breaths; now was not the time to panic and draw attention to her predicament. If she told anyone that she had time travelled they would have her committed immediately to a local asylum. She had survived time travel before, she would again. But she was scared witless. Glancing around she saw that she was standing at the end of a street of small terraced houses. A few of the houses had window boxes perched on their front window sill. There were clothes lines strung across the street and props were pushed into some of the lines. It could make walking or negotiating the street quite difficult at times. Others were lying on the ground outside the houses. She noticed that some of the houses had prams parked outside their front doors, as were a few old bicycles. Down the street she could see a coal man lifting sacks of coal off the back of his cart.