The Missing Chapter: Islington I

Here’s something extra for those who have read What Was Lost. This chapter was removed from one of the final edits because it was impossible to insert it in the retrospective third-person sequence without giving away too much and therefore reducing the suspense. It’s a shame because it was the only chapter that properly revealed the long-standing relationship between Sarah and Annabelle. It’s an inevitable dilemma you experience when drip-feeding reader information in non-linear parallel plots.

Islington I

Mindful of her recently-fashioned nails, Sarah struggled to secure the tape around the thick bunch of de-thorned stems she’d been edging into place for the last twenty minutes.  She glanced up. ‘Annabelle, would you please stop messing around with that camera. I’ve set it up ready. You’ll fuck it up. And pass me that ribbon. Next to the toaster.’

Annabelle set the camera down on the work surface, stretched over and handed Sarah the reel of white satin ribbon. ‘Very virginal. Nobody would ever guess the true depravity.’

‘Do you have to be quite so horrible about this? You offered to do the photography. You didn’t have to. I could have got someone else. You didn’t even have to come if you didn’t want to.’

‘Don’t be daft. I can’t not go to my best friend’s wedding.’ She watched Sarah winding the satin, slowly, tightly, almost venomously, took out her tobacco tin and prised it open. ‘Anyway, I have to be there. To witness you making the biggest mistake of your life.’

Sarah sighed. ‘It’s just a formality. We do weddings. It doesn’t look good if we appear to be rejecting marriage at the same time as encouraging other people to spend all their savings on it. Do you have to smoke that crap in front of me? You know it makes me feel sick.’

Sarah,’ Annabelle clicked the lid back into place and threw the tin into her bag. ‘he’s a womaniser and he doesn’t even try and conceal it.’

‘And you’ve taken this particular moment to have this conversation with me, have you? And, anyway, I don’t care. He makes loads of money, we live in this house which is better than anything I’d ever be able to afford on my own and … and he wants to marry me.’

Annabelle rolled her eyes.

Sarah bristled. ‘Has it occurred to you that nobody has ever wanted to be with me before this … on any kind of permanent basis?’

‘Sarah, you know that’s not true. You’ve spurned loads of guys. That poor sod from Birmingham was broken-hearted. What was his name? Gary. And then there was that love-smitten computer geek … Jack, no, Zak.’

‘Mack! Annabelle, none of them felt right.’

‘So, now, after all that choice, you think that a morally-degenerate wolf … cad … paramour does feel right? You don’t love him.’

I don’t want to love him. I don’t want to love anyone. Loving people means they go away.’ Sarah fastened the ribbon into place, reached for the sprayer and applied a fine mist to the pink and white roses. ‘I’ll add the other ribbons later. Fancy a glass of wine?’

Annabelle glanced at the kitchen clock. ‘Eight fifteen in the morning. Why not? A bit of Dutch courage never hurt anyone. It’ll brace us for fitting you into your giant, white frock. I’ll fetch the tumblers.’

‘It’s not white, it’s ivory! And I don’t need Dutch courage. You know, you are so annoying, I don’t know how I put up with you.’ She propped her bouquet into a vase. ‘Anyway, nothing’s going to change. I just get rid of my absent father’s name in exchange for someone else’s name. What’s in a name?’

‘Depends whose name. You know he tried it on with me, do you?’

A brief flash of surprise furrowed Sarah’s brow. ‘Did you take him up on his offer?’

‘Of course, I didn’t. You’re my best …’

‘Oh, don’t mind me. You shouldn’t let any loyalty to me deprive you of a good shag.’ She pulled open the fridge door and wrenched out a bottle of Chardonnay. Turned and sighed. ‘I’m sorry, that was ungrateful and hurtful and … and I’m a bit scared.’

‘About what?’

‘About my sister having a psycho-moment when they say that thing about anybody having any reason why these two people shouldn’t be joined in marriage.’ She unscrewed the Chardonnay. ‘Or Jeff sloping off with a low-cut guest.’

Annabelle held out a glass. ‘Sarah, if you ask me, both of those things are likely to happen. At least your mother won’t be there. Come on, let’s get slaughtered.’

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