By Julie Myerson
Published by Little Brown & Co.
October 2003; 0316779849; 336 pages
PEOPLE THINK WHEN SOMEONE IS STABBED THEY JUST fall down on the ground and die. Well they don’t. When Lennie is found on that morning in the car park on Pier Avenue, they can tell from the mess that she dragged herself around for some time before she gave up.
Quite some time, in fact. Maybe even as much as a quarter of an hour. Crawling like a baby on her hands and knees, grabbing and swiping at door handles and bumpers, fingers tacky with her own blood. Then at some point slipping down and losing consciousness there in the nettles by the Pay & Display machine. They say they can't be certain about when it was, the precise moment that her heart stopped--but they can assure us that it was immaterial. She wouldn't have seen, wouldn't have known.
The one good thing, Mawhinney says, is that her brain would've shut down as her lungs filled up.
But I don't want the details. One moment or several? A curdled sigh, a spattered red breath, brown saliva clotting in her mouth? All I care about is that they're right, that it was quick. All I need to know is that her heart was not still beating when her attacker moved back in and cut it out.
Early October and four in the morning and no wind at all, just the blackest darkness, so dead and dark and black that if you stopped to think about it, you might find you couldn't breathe. All the lights out. And then all of them on, one by one--pop, pop, pop--the world reviving, turning large and transparent.
He rings me at the deadest time, sleep holding me down. Since the baby that's how I've been, a dead person, trying to surface. Still I grab the phone the second its ringing hits my dreams.
Tess, he goes, Tess--and straightaway I can tell his voice is all wrong.
What? I say, struggling to sit up and focus. What is it? What's going on?
The silence crackles.
I'm sorry, he says.
What do you mean, sorry? Why?
Oh Tess, he says and he sounds like he's going to cry.
Al, I go, for fuck's sake--what?
She's not here.
You were right. She hasn't come home.
Shes justI dont know where she isshes not here.
Outside, a dark whoosh of wind in the poplars. If it was light you would see them bending. You get that by the sea sudden changes, things getting crushed and flattened. I used to like it. It used not to scare me at all.
Next to me in the bed meanwhile Livvy is lying on her back in her white sleeper, snaps done up to the chin, mouth softly open and arms flung back. A swirl of blackish hair on her head. Mick funnily enough is lying in a similar babyish way but on his frontblack matted hair pushed up, hands bunched into two hot fists. Dreaming of a fight is what it looks like.
Tess, he says, what am I going to do?
Call the police.
Ive done that.
You want me to come?
He says nothing. Liv snorts. When did I feed her? I slide my fingers under to feel her nappy. Damply heavy with pee. I must have fed her in the night, in my sleep.
Ill come, I tell him. Wait for me.
I get out of bed, change the baby, get dressed.
In one way it is not a surprise. In the beach hut that night, the feeling is cold and hard, painful and unsettling. I shouldnt have let him come. It shouldnt have to be complicated.
I take the tumbler of wine from his hands. Take a sip. Put it down on the wooden floor which is slippy with the years of sand falling off our bare feet.
You should get back, I say. But he doesnt move. He just looks at me.
Shell be in bed. Shell have gone to sleep.
No, I say. Its not that.
He reaches forward, half grinning, tries to take his drink back. I stop him.
The truth is, hes lazy. Whatever he gets from me, he imagines he cant get from anyone else.
Its not that, I say again. Batting him away.
He settles back in the old deckchair and looks at me. His old jeans, his big feet in their salt-stained boots. A bleached tidemark where he has walked in the edge of the sea. He looks at the joint in his handshis rough, furniture-makers handstips off the ash.
For Gods sake, Tess, he says at last, I wish youd calm down.
Youre even making me jumpy, he says. What the fuck is it? Whyre you in such a state?
I say nothing.
He shrugs, smiles. He likes to think Im this uptight person. He thinks hes won.
Im scared, I tell him and he leans forward.
What are you scared of, Tess?
I dont know.
Its not true though. I think I do know, even then.
The thing is, she is not the type to have something happen. She has everything going for her. Beauty, talent, kindness. She even sometimes goes to church.
Its the one thing she and Alex argue about, the only thing. Its not God, she says, just something bigger, greater than her. She needs to feel there is a larger Good out there.
You might think shes this good and pliable person but actually shes not, shes dogged and fixed. Shes the strong one. She does exactly as she pleases. When we first came here, she was the one who said it would all be fine, who believed most certainly in the dream we had.
The only thing I have more of than her is kids. Double the amount. People ask me how I do it, as if theres some kind of trick to having four. But its easy. I do it for myself. I cant help it. Theres nothing to beat walking down the street on a sunny day with them all clean and happy and no one crying or fighting behind you and knowing just how it all looks. A perfect mother with her perfect life.
These are the facts. That she dies on a Monday night in October, some time between eleven and midnight, following a PTA meeting at the school on Marlborough Road. That she gets to that meeting around seven and it ends around twenty to elevenlater than usual, but then it is Lucy Dorrys first time as Chair and most people who can, stay on for a drink after.
That they reckon, anyway, that she reaches her car around 10.45, but that she never manages to get into it. She never even makes it around to the drivers side. Her keys are found lying on the ground just beneath the passenger door. All the paintwork around the lock is scratched furiously and the nails on her right hand are ripped and bloody and broken.
Both of us, with our perfect lives. She cant believe it when I tell her Im expecting Liv. At thirty-eight!
Youre saying Im past it?
No, she replies and I notice the flicker of a frown in her eyes. Just the thoughtand she shuddersof going through it all again.
I cant wait, I tell her as boisterously as I can. And its the truth, I cant.
I can do that too, I say. Because Ive already decided that Ill have to.
She turns and looks at me with eyes full of something, but what exactly I cant tell.
I wish I had your guts, she says. And your energy.
Which makes me laugh because, in my book, it takes guts and energy to deny yourself these things. And Mick and I have never been good at limiting ourselves, at sitting down and planning. In fact, none of our kids were planned exactlyor thats what we always tell people, laughing at ourselves. Just one big happy haphazard family. Thats the story we tell ourselves.
And I am over the moon about Livfrom that first mysterious morning when the simple act of stirring the hot milk into Rosas instant oat cereal makes me turn and hold myself, perspiring, over the sink.
When I tell Mick, he does nothing. He doesnt move. He is sitting there at the table and I bend and whisper it in his ear and maybe I expect that he will pull me to him, but he doesnt move a single muscle.
Youre not pleased?
He looks at me.
I dont know. Im not not pleased.
I fold my arms and feel the buzz of my blood, my heart.
Its a shock, thats all.
We havent been using anything.
I know, he says, I know, but I thought
You thought what?
That we were being careful.
I suppose I thought it was very unlikely, he says.
His voice is small and tight. He sounds like a little boy whos been jumping again and again out of the highest tree and then the very last time has forgotten to bend his knees when he lands and has got himself hurt. Cross with the tree, cross with himself.
Ive just chucked in my job, he reminds me, as if I didnt know.
Well, I tell him, this is good. You can be the nanny. You can do some writing.
He doesnt laugh.
With a new baby? I hope thats a joke.
But when he sees me looking at him and half laughing and half about to cry, he does get up and come and put his arms around me, bends his head to mine. I smell the blackness of his hair, the familiar day-old smell of beard, of husband.
So, he says.
So wed better get on with it then.
And thats it, thats all. Thats the beginning of our daughter Olivia.Copyright © 2003 Julie Myerson
Reprinted with permission.
On a cold night in autumn, an unspeakable crime shatters the quiet calm in a small seaside village. Tess wills her best friend, Lennie, to be injured or even trapped somewhere, but on some level she can already feel her absence. When she hears that Lennie has been found murdered, the pain is impossible to bear.
Ted Lacey comes to town to help the police better understand the crime, to get to know the families involved, and to comfort the community. His skill is to fade into the background in order to see everything with clarity, and he sees Tess etched in full relief: a woman on her own terms, outside the boundaries of wife, mother, or friend. In the shock that follows Lennie's death, Tess finds herself drawn to Ted Lacey in ways she can't explain. At a time when she should pull her husband and four children in close, she finds herself stepping away, powerless in the face of her attraction to Ted Lacey's steady presence. In a world where grief has suspended all rules, Tess uncovers emotions long buried, and she unravels the extraordinary skein of secrets, evasions, and repressed passion her life has become.
With palpable, explosive tension, Julie Myerson intimately examines the lives of two families whose happiness has been ravaged by the unthinkable. Written in an astonishingly original voice, Something Might Happen is a powerful exploration of grief fused with desire, and an unforgettable portrait of tangled lives in a small town.(back to top)
Julie Myerson was born in Nottingham in 1960, read English at Bristol University and worked for the National Theatre and Walker Books before becoming a full-time writer. She is a well-known journalist and critic and since 1994 has had her own column in The London Independent and regularly reviews films and books in newspapers and for radio, as well as writing for most of Britain's glossy magazines. Sleepwalking was shortlisted for the prestigious John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and her novels have been translated into many languages. She lives in Clapham with her partner, John Myserson, and their three children.