Book Extract: The Girl Who Died

Chapter 1

Her eyes are staring at me, but there’s no life in them anymore. Her skin is already starting to change colour. All that blood escaping from the side of her head is ruining her hair. She looks like she’s trying to out-stare me.

‘First one to blink loses.’

The sound of my voice surprises me. I don’t know how long I’ve been sat here.  The quarry we’re in is empty, apart from a black and white horse in the overgrown field nearby. I look up at how far the drop was. Then back at my best friend, who I’ve killed. She’s still looking at me. Her expression doesn’t change but her eyes seem to be looking right through me now, like I’m not here. They’re not as blue as they were earlier today. I’m not sure how to pass the time until I wake up. Surely this is where the dream will end? I must be too hot in bed; that always gives me nightmares. Maybe I fell asleep with my dressing gown on. Katie will freak out when I tell her about this one!

I look back at her familiar round face; my partner in crime. The blood has spread to the front of her head now so that her cheek is pressed into it. She looks like she put on way too much blusher this morning. Her lips are going blue. I can’t stop myself from reaching out to touch her blood. Surely this is what will wake me up? It’s warm. Katie’s blood is warm. I shouldn’t be able to feel that in a dream.

‘Katie, wake up! I’m so sorry! Please Katie, wake up!’

My screams wake the birds who were sleeping in the trees above us. I barely feel my bladder letting go. Even though the July sun is hot, I’m freezing cold. My bones are shivering and my breathing comes in small gulps, like hiccups. I can’t handle this. It’s not real. It can’t be. My arms and legs go numb and I collapse next to Katie. Hopefully we’ll wake up together.

 

Mum’s not back from work yet. Thank God. It feels weird being home. Was that really the same me who left home this morning, completely oblivious to how bad life can get? I stumble up the stairs towards the bathroom. I need to get out of these disgusting, damp jeans. I fill the bath and sink in. The hot water tries to trick me into believing I’m not evil. No bubble bath today; not for a murderer.

The tears start again. Katie’s in that abandoned quarry, completely alone, while I’m in this safe, hot bath. The heat of the water feels like it’s burning someone else’s skin, not mine. I can’t tell her family what I’ve done, they will literally kill me. I wonder if mum would help me out if I told her. But she’ll be so disgusted with me. Shame works its way up my face, heating my cheeks. If she tells the police, they’ll arrest me. Oh God, what do I do? My whole body is trembling again.

 

Time disappears. When I next move, I notice the bath water’s gone cold. Not as cold as Katie will feel if she stays in that ditch all night. Every time I think of it I get a stabbing pain in my chest. This is so bad. I wonder what time Katie’s parents will start worrying about her and realise she’s not coming home. She told me they agreed she can stay out until eleven tonight because it’s the start of the school summer holidays.

My eyes are squeezed shut so tightly that I can see a million tiny lights in the blackness. I can hear my heart beating through my brain. I’ve got to sort my face out; it feels like crumpled sandpaper. I pull myself out of the bath and rub steam off the mirror. My reflection shows how sorry I am. My eyes and nose are bright red. The mascara Katie put on me earlier is smeared all down my cheeks. It’s supposed to be waterproof. I attempt to clean my face.  Seeing my reflection makes it all real. I look tired and sad. Mum will know something’s up the minute she looks at me. Then again, maybe looking this awful could work for me? Maybe I could close my curtains, get into bed and leave a note for mum telling her I’m not feeling very well? Then she won’t see I’ve been crying. And then, when they realise Katie’s not coming home, I could say that I wasn’t with her so I don’t know where she is. My mind goes into overdrive. Surely anything that gets me off the hook is worth a try?

This tiny speck of hope moves my body into action. I pull my pyjamas on, push the wet jeans under my bed and run downstairs to put a note on the fridge: Got another migraine so came home early. Gone to bed.  No dinner thanks.

I have to fight the urge to write how Katie is dead in a ditch, how desperately I need my mum to protect me, and how I’m going to need counselling to block out Katie’s dead face from my mind. I fight back yet more tears as I use a ‘We love Cornwall’ magnet to pin the note on the fridge. I hear mum’s car pulling up in the driveway. As quick as I can I use my last bit of energy to climb the mountainous stairs. I close my curtains and jump into bed, pulling the blanket up over my head.

 

Katie’s about to fall head first onto glass, so I grab her arm and pull her towards me as hard as I can, away from danger. She falls on me so hard that I’m winded. Her long, hi-lighted hair and numerous necklaces cover my face.

‘I always knew you fancied me!’ She laughs as she struggles to get off me. ‘Any excuse to get me on top of you!’

The relief of hearing my best friend’s voice again makes me cry. I grab hold of her hand, ‘Katie, let’s get out of here.’

She looks at me to ask why but then we both hear a phone ring. It’s not one of our ringtones. Suddenly, I feel like I’m going to puke. I sit up in bed, trying to figure out what was real and what was a dream. My hands are clammy and my pyjamas are drenched with sweat. My brain won’t work quickly enough. Slowly, the awful truth hits me and my stomach lurches with dread. As I reach for the bedside light and check under my bed for the damp jeans, I realise that I didn’t manage to save her after all. I killed her. The phone we heard was the landline. Mum’s running up the stairs. I look at my clock; almost midnight. Her parents must really be starting to worry. Oh God, I’m about to be found out!

Mum gently knocks at my door.

‘Hannah? Are you awake?’

I’m not fast enough to get under the covers and pretend to be asleep. She flicks the big light on and approaches me, looking worried.

‘How are you feeling, love?’

‘A bit weird.’ Even my voice is shaking. ‘The phone woke me.’

‘That was Katie’s mum.’

Shit! How do I not scream?

‘Katie isn’t home yet. Do you know where she is? Have you had any texts from her?’

I slowly reach for my mobile to pretend to check it. If I do have a text from Katie it will be one telling me to burn in hell for leaving her there. My pink phone case seems so childish now.

‘No. I was only with her for an hour before I had to come home.’

‘Okay, I’ll tell Elaine. She’s probably just late. You kids are nothing but trouble!’

I pretend to smile but my hands are clenched under the blanket and my forehead is covered in sweat.

‘You look awful. Has your migraine gone yet?’

‘I think so.’

‘Okay. Well, I’m going to bed in a minute. There’s a quiche in the fridge you can warm up if you’re hungry.’

‘No thanks.’

‘Alright. Goodnight.’

Thank God she’s leaving, I can stop pretending now. I hate lying to her. I’m sure she can tell. When she’s gone, something makes me want to ring Katie’s mobile. It’ll be in her jeans pocket. Maybe she’s woken up and needs help but can’t move enough to walk. If I ring her she might be able to answer and tell me she’s alive. As I ring her number my heart’s beating so loud that I can hear every vein in my head pumping blood. My phone rings out. As I wait, I feel like I’m close to her. Her phone will be in her jeans pocket and I’m making it light up and ring. It’s like I’m touching her.

Warm tears accumulate at my chin and drip onto my blanket. I wish I’d stayed with her. I can’t believe I left her alone out there.

‘Katie speaking.’

OH MY GOD! My stomach jumps into my lungs.

‘Katie?!’

‘Hah! Fooled you! Only leave a message if you’re good looking! Bye!’

I switch my mobile off and collapse back onto my pillows. She scared the shit out of me. I close my eyes and try to slow my breathing down. She really is gone. I can’t believe this is happening to me. The pillow’s softness on my face is deceiving.

 

My severely dry mouth wakes me up. I’ve managed to sleep until nine o’clock. I force myself out of bed, put on my dressing gown and slowly walk down to the kitchen where mum is stood at the sink. I skipped dinner last night so my stomach is begging for breakfast, even though I have no appetite, and my mouth is begging for water. The mirror above the kitchen table reflects a ghost. I look old. Mum turns to look at me with a really awful expression on her face.

‘Come here love.’

I walk over to her. She’s sat on one of the dining room chairs with an untouched cup of tea in front of her. I don’t know how to look innocent or what to do with my hands.         ‘Katie didn’t go home last night,’ she pauses and looks down at her tea. ‘And, well, a girl’s body has been found this morning at that abandoned quarry, by someone walking their dog.’ Her voice cracks, ‘It might be her.’

I burst into tears and only just make it onto the dining room chair before I collapse. Mum mistakes my tears for grief. I suppose they are a bit, but they’re definitely more guilt and fear of what will happen to me if anyone finds out I left her there.

‘Try not to worry love. Her mum and dad are on their way to, well, you know. I just hope it’s not her.’

Mum starts to cry. She knows how close me and Katie are. Or do I have to say ‘were’ now? I hate myself so much. But please don’t let me get caught.

 

It’s been two long, empty hours. We’re waiting for that call confirming the body is Katie. I can’t bear to be sat with mum while she waits. I need to think. She’s reluctant to leave me alone but I manage to leave her downstairs while I stare at Google in my room. My fingers take over and type ‘leaving the scene of a crime’. There are thousands of links on the subject. Hopefully that means I’m not alone. It’s mostly forum comments though, and they’re all nasty and judgemental or quoting the bible. Reading all this is making me shake again. I want to be checking all my social media, not searching for laws on murder. I can’t think about this now. I lie back on my bed and stare through the ceiling until I don’t see it anymore.

‘Why didn’t you help me?’

‘What?!’

Shit! That was Katie’s voice right next to my ear! She’s here in my room! If I see her I’ll die!

‘No!’

I cover my face with my hands while every hair on my body stands up. This is my worst nightmare! My breathing won’t slow down. Oh God, now I’m panicking and I can’t breathe at all.

‘Mum!’ It comes out croaky. I can’t even shout loud enough, ‘MUM!’ I hear her running up the stairs.

‘What’s wrong?’

My tears and gulping must give it away because she flings her arms around me and sits next to me on the bed.

‘Slow your breathing down. Take deeper breaths.’

It’s too late. Everything is disappearing.

 

The room is spinning. I feel like I’m going to fall over. This lasts a few seconds while I try to work out what I’m doing. Maybe I’ve already fallen, because I’m on my back. Eventually, mum comes into view.

‘It’s okay. You passed out for a minute there but you’ll be fine.’

I stare at her but I can’t form any words because I feel so dizzy and weird. Then I remember Katie’s voice and try to sit up too fast.

‘No, stay flat to get some blood back into your head. How do you feel now?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘You might’ve had a panic attack. Just try to relax your breathing.’

I think I just hallucinated Katie. The landline starts ringing. We both hesitate before mum slowly helps me sit up. She runs to her bedroom to pick up the phone. My body feels slow and heavy as it takes me forever to reach her doorway. I don’t hear what she says but then she puts the phone down. She won’t look at me at first. When she does turn around she looks devastated. Her whole face is turned strangely downwards.

‘I’m so sorry, love. It’s her.’

She breaks down, as if it was me they’d identified. It’s weird but, although I’m still shaking and I feel really light headed, I’m so relieved that Katie’s been found and her parents know where she is now, without me having to tell them.

‘How did she die?’

‘She has a head injury.’

‘How did Katie’s mum sound?’

‘That wasn’t her I spoke to, it was Katie’s uncle who’s at the hospital with them. But I could hear Elaine howling in the background.’

Mum’s tears get worse. She hugs me really tight.

‘I shouldn’t say this, but I’m so glad you came home early.’

Hearing this makes me feel even more guilty and then the tears start again. It’s such a relief to cry with mum, instead of on my own. I just hope she stands by me if I get found out. Then she drops a bombshell.

‘Her uncle said the police are on their way now to speak to you.’

My heart almost explodes right out of my chest. I hear a loud clang in my head.

‘They’ll want to see if you know anything about why she was there I expect.’

My mind starts racing for things I might’ve missed. Did anyone see us together yesterday? Was there anyone watching us climb over the gates to get into the quarry? Shit, did anyone come and feed that horse while we were there? My shaking gets worse as I realise I might have to admit what I did. But I’ve left it so late now that it’ll look so much worse. I can’t believe I’m going to prison! Then I remember; my hair! I was wearing it in a ponytail while I was out, but it was already down when I got in the bath. My hair bobble must’ve fallen out somewhere! Can’t they trace DNA by just one strand of hair? I’m sure that was on CSI last week. Shit! I did lie down next to her. It could’ve come out then!

The doorbell rings. We move dreamlike to the front door, almost like we’re being pushed. As mum opens it, my eyes meet the unfriendly gaze of two policewomen. My knees cave in as I lower myself onto the stairs.

‘Mrs Walker?’

‘Ms, I’m divorced.’

‘I’m Inspector Foster and this is PC Williams. We’re here to have a chat with your daughter, Hannah.’

‘Come in. That’s Hannah.’

Why can’t I faint now so that they have to leave me alone? What’s that in her hand? Oh God, what if it’s my hair bobble? What if she asks me if it’s mine, what do I say? If they show mum she’ll know everything. They walk passed me towards the living room and ask me to follow. All this stress really can’t be good for me. I can barely walk on my legs. I sit down next to mum. Only the Inspector talks to me.

‘I’m so sorry about your friend and for having to question you. But the fresher things are in your memory, the better for everyone.’ She pauses, then she leans forward. Hannah, your friend died of a puncture wound to her head. She either fell, or she was pushed-,’

Shit!

‘-off a high rock face into a ditch which was filled with discarded builder’s waste. Unfortunately, her head landed on a lot of broken glass.’

My eyes are streaming with warm, salty tears but I’m not making any sound.

‘The attending Doctor thinks it would’ve taken quite a while for Katie to bleed to death. That means there was a window of opportunity for whoever was there with her, assuming there was someone there, to get help.’

‘What?’

My chest caves in as I expel every last bit of oxygen in my lungs. She was dead. She was dead straightaway, I was sure of it. Or was that why her eyes were staring at me? Was she trying to tell me something? My heartbeat is so loud in my head, surely that means it’s going to explode soon. Then I realise what she’s saying. I killed my friend twice; first by pushing her off the cliff and then by not phoning for help.

‘Don’t you think that’s too much detail for her?’

My poor mum. She has no idea I sat and watched the blood leaking from Katie’s head and then continued to watch as her body went from pink to blue. She wraps her arms around me for support, but I have to push her away. I shouldn’t be comforted; it’s not right. The Inspector then makes me look directly at her.

‘Hannah? Do you know who Katie was out with yesterday?’

I can’t maintain her gaze. I look away. As my mouth opens, I honestly don’t know what’s going to come out.

 

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