Hello and welcome to my blog! I have the opportunity today to share with you a teaser extract from Elisabeth De Mariaffi ‘s new novel I Remember You, published by Titan Books. Please read on…
Heike came up through the garden and along the drive to the front steps, relieved to find everything normal, in its place. The rain had come and gone here with the same ardour, and she stopped, listening for a moment. There was a knocking at the back of the house. Repeated, but not patterned. She put down her armful of wet clothes and walked around to the yard. The back door to the garage swayed a few inches in the last of the rain and sank softly against its frame, then swayed out again.
This gave her an odd turn: she watched the heavy air drawing at it like breath, then reached out and shut the door. She found her housecoat where she’d left it that morning in the laundry room and stripped off her wet clothes and leaned over the wide sink to wring out her hair. She straightened, pulling her fingers through the damp curls a few times, and glanced up at the clock. She’d been gone almost two hours. There was no sound of playtime from either the white room or anywhere else in the house, and Heike padded up the stairs to see if Daniel was still sleeping.
The blinds were still down, and she opened them, one after the other, to let the afternoon light into the room. She turned, expecting to see him still asleep within a mess of blanket, but he wasn’t there.
She said his name softly, not wanting to bother Eric if he was working or wake him if he was asleep. The closet was standing open, but she peered inside anyway, and then under the bed, in case he’d heard her come in and decided to play hide-and-seek. Heike called out to him again, louder this time. She shook out the blanket and folded it before leaving the room, patting it down as though to make sure he was not somehow stretched and tangled inside.
She went back down the stairs and walked a fast circuit, calling louder now, but no one answered. At Eric’s office she drew herself up and took a breath before knocking.
She eased the door open. There was a lowball glass on the desk with a trace of water at the bottom of it, and the window was open just enough for the breeze to make a flickering noise in the blinds. No one was in the room.
— Eric! Daniel!
Heike twisted in the doorway. The car was still in the garage; she’d seen it when she went around back to shut the door before coming into the house. She ran back upstairs, frantic now, everything lying still and neat, even the towels folded and resting on the counter at the edge of the bathroom sink.
She grabbed the handle to her own bedroom door to push through, but her shoulder slammed against it instead. Locked. The knob rattled in her hand.
— Dani! Are you in there?
The handle refused to turn properly. It was not a room they ever locked, although there was a copper key, missing now, that normally sat in the latch on the outside of the door. A decorative feature. Heike got down on her knees and called through the keyhole.
— Dani, are you in there? Are you in Mami’s room?
She cranked at the knob again, pushing hard against the door. The action felt no different from the way she’d hacked at the reeds with her paddle to free herself, and she again felt trapped by the dark water, the current pulling her in.
The room was dropping out; her vision crowded with tiny pinpricks of light. The back of her hand touched her cheek, and she realized she was in tears. She lay the hand on the doorknob again and pressed and this time it gave way, Eric pulling it open from the other side and now crouching to meet her, help her up, quizzical.
— Heike. Heike, whatever’s happened?
He reached out for one of her hands and the elbow of the same arm, lifting her properly to her feet and holding her there. Heike shook her head.
— Why didn’t you open the door? I was crying to get in.
Eric’s brow furrowed as though she were telling a story he couldn’t quite understand. Daniel was sitting up against her pillows on the bed. He had something, a toy of some kind, but he looked up as soon as she came into the room.
— Mami! Mami’s home! He dropped his plaything and crawled forward along the bed. Heike rushed toward him and grabbed him up, then sat with him on the bed, with her lips in his hair, rocking.
— Why didn’t you answer me, Dani? Why didn’t you say something when you heard me calling?
Eric stepped closer, following her in.
— We played hide-and-seek with you, Daniel said.
— Yes, I see that, Heike said.
— Me and Daddy hided in here.
Heike looked at Eric. He was somewhat neater than earlier in the day, as though he’d spent the afternoon on his own care. If it hadn’t been so late, she’d think he was on his way to the clinic. His shoes were on and polished. There was something curious, gentle, in the way he looked at her.
— The bedroom door has no lock, Heike, he said.
— It was locked, she said. You heard me!
— Heike. Eric crossed over to where she sat on the bed. Do you need something to calm you down? You’re soaking wet. He touched her forehead. You’re raving, Heike. Let me give you something.
She stood up suddenly, leaving Daniel behind.
— You already gave me something: you gave me a heart attack. You locked the door! How could you be so cruel?
He raised a hand and let it fall against his own hip.
— I just told you, that door doesn’t lock. Calm down now, Heike. Or I could drive you over to the hospital. Would you like that better?
Heike turned back to Daniel on the bed. He’d picked up his toy again, and now that she looked closer, she saw what it was: the little shepherdess, the Meissen figurine she’d hidden in her drawer. He tilted his hand, left to right to left, walking her along the coverlet.
Heike dropped onto the bed beside him and reached out to touch the doll.
— Where did you get this?
— I finded it, Daniel said. Daddy helped. When we were hiding.
If this has peaked your interest you can grab I Remember You now from all good bookstores. Thank you for popping by!