In a small, seaside town called Littleton, four people are suddenly confronted by their own secrets. Whilst fighting for sanity in a world gone half-mad with prejudice, they discover life is not what they expected it to be, and so each of them are forced to deal with their own problems in a different way . . . but some loose ends, especially those frayed beyond repair, are better left untied.
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It was only when she came out of the shower, her skin turned ugly, wrinkled and pink by the hot water, that she heard the voices and realized what had happened while she had spent her time trying to drown herself in the heat.
If she wouldnâ€™t go to Doctor Powell . . .
Doctor Powell would come to her.
Her heart felt heavy, and for a moment, she thought she could feel it dropâ€”not sink, as many people saidâ€”until it balanced in her toes, ready to be crushed like vermin. Cockroaches, insect sprays, acid burning. . . .
â€œCatherine?â€ the familiar, neutral voice said. Inside, Cathy scoffedâ€”the doctor sounded as if she was pleased to see her . . . while she knew perfectly well that every time she met with the psychologist, the latter was about just as happy as she was. They didnâ€™t exactly make each other feel even remotely comfortable.
The girlâ€™s pointed face peeped around the corner. Her eyesâ€”a dead, minty greenâ€”took in who was standing there, and knew she had lost when the grown womanâ€™s sharp gaze met hers. â€œHello, Catherine.â€
Cathy slipped around the corner, her empty eyes lighting up with something not unlike cunning. For a moment, her dyed hair brushed into her face as she walked stealthily towards her shrink, nearly slinking into the shadows. â€œHello,â€ she said quietly.
Doctor Powell sucked in a sharp breath and turned her gaze to the ground: Catherine Hughes reminded her of her own daughter, despite the large difference in their appearances. She manned up quickly and glanced at her client again, surprised by how quickly the light had dimmed. Now, there was only caution in those eyes.
â€œWhy donâ€™t you sit down?â€ Josephine Powell suggested, giving Catherine an easy, welcoming smileâ€”pretending, all the while, that this was her office, not the girlâ€™s own territory. She would have refrained from coming, but Mrs. And Mr. Hughes had insistedâ€”even offered to increase her salary.
Her patient gave her a look that said everything she didnâ€™tâ€”couldnâ€™tâ€”say, but then turned her gaze to the coffee-colored tiles below her and sat down by the window, the light creating a strong contrast on her face. Her lashes fluttered against her cheek like a butterflyâ€™s wings.
Catherine Hughes was quite a good-looking girlâ€”which had been what made her well-liked in the first place, Josephine thought, examining the girl silently. Yet. Yet there was something about herâ€”the hunched shoulders, the discolored hair that she used to cover her face, her whole posture, reallyâ€”that suggested how vulnerable she truly was, Powell realized.
The worst part?
This could happen to her little girl, too.
An uncomfortable look from Catherine reminded Doctor Powell that she was still standing. She drew a chair towards her, sitting on it quickly. In a movement that was more a reflex than anything, she clasped her fingers together and leant forward. â€œHow are you today, Catherine?â€
She glanced up, a child-like expression on her face. â€œYou know, my mother always calls me Cathy.â€
â€œWell, if you want me to, I couldâ€”â€œ
â€œI prefer Catherine, actually,â€ the girl interrupted.
The psychologist nodded, silently wondering what had brought on this moment. â€œSo, Catherine, how are you feeling?â€ she asked again. She knew it was pointlessâ€”Catherine would probably be silent for the rest of the dayâ€”but it was her job, wasnâ€™t it? Thatâ€™s what Mrs. and Mr. Hughes paid her for. Asking their daughter how she felt each day, because they couldnâ€™t cough up the courage to do it herself.
Donâ€™t forget your place, Josephine Powell warned herself.
After twenty minutes of silence, during which Catherine fidgeted in her large woolen sweater and looked out of the window, Doctor Powell glanced at her watch. â€œWell, I probably shouldâ€”â€œ
â€œIâ€™d like to talk now,â€ Catherine Hughes whispered for the first time.