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Callum Ferguson has grown up in the shadow of the sins of his father. The worst moment of his life came not at the age of sixteen, when he threw his father out of the house, but later in life, when he realised he was just like him. With a predilection for alcohol and violence, he sees his destiny every time he looks in the mirror.
Sass Hathaway, hell-raiser and successful musician, thrived in the limelight – until one night she lost it all. Drowning in an ocean of uncertainty, nursing a crippling case of self-loathing, her brother offers her a chance to find herself again.
His idea of salvation is a dilapidated bar. His proposal; she help him and his wife renovate and run it. However, when she and Callum cross paths, they both discover that salvation comes in many forms.
You can’t escape your past, you can only come to terms with it so that you can move on – but accepting your past is only the beginning. Then you must decide whether you’re strong enough to follow your heart.
(This can be read as a stand-alone, but reading ‘Absolution’ is recommended in order to get the most out of this story).
“The sense of loss is such a tricky one, because we always feel like our worth is tied up into stuff that we have, not that our worth can grow with things we are willing to lose.” – Tori Amos
I spent a good part of my life hating my father. I hated the booze, I hated the way he treated my mother, and I hated the way he looked at me. I hated the man he was. I was as scared of him as I was ashamed of him. Then came that day, the day everything changed.
I remember that moment as if it were yesterday. Like all the moments in my life that shaped me into the man I am, they linger. They burn through my veins like neon, lighting me up from within. It doesn’t matter how deeply I try to bury them, I know they’re there. They carve scars deep into my heart and soul. Much like my tongue might caress the gap where a tooth used to be, my brain goes over and over these moments until they finally become part of my history. I don’t realise it at the time, but I will never be the same again.
Life can be stripped down to a few critical moments. We rarely recognise these moments as they’re happening. It’s not until much later, when the storm has passed, and with the benefit of hindsight, that we finally see them for what they are.
I was just like him.
The realisation itself was a dye, tainting everything. It leaked into my actions, my moods, the very essence of who I thought I was, until there was no point fighting it anymore. The situation I now found myself in was simply a culmination of all of that.
Jail cells had a particular smell, and this one was no different. A unique blend of vomit, urine and misery, overlaid with the not-so-delicate scent of bleach.
So far I’d managed to keep the booze down. I should’ve eaten, but that would’ve been counter-productive. My goal, if I’d been thinking clearly enough to have one, was to get rip-snorting, memory-erasing, coma-inducing drunk – drunk enough to forget about everything – but I couldn’t even manage to do that right. I should’ve been disappointed in myself, but I couldn’t even muster up the necessary disgust anymore.
The room seemed to tilt and I leaned forward to keep up with it, my head in my hands. I tried not to think. I didn’t want to think, but even when you don’t want to think, it happens anyway. Just like when your heart hurts so much, you convince yourself that this is it – it can’t get any worse. Then someone twists a knife and you find a new level of pain.
That’s what had happened to me tonight. I’d found a new level of pain, and it was cutting me to ribbons.
I swallowed back a combination of vomit and tears, my nostrils twitching as I fought against the impulse. I was not going to throw up or cry. I just wasn’t. I wished I had my phone. How many calls had I missed? What was going on out there?
I was in the cell with a couple of other guys, one much older, sleeping it off on the bench that ran across the opposite wall. The other guy was younger than me. I looked up at him out of the corner of my eye. He’d barely moved in the hour since I’d been thrown in here, and he hadn’t uttered a word. He was like me – the strong, stupid type. He just sat there, his back to the wall, watching everything. He didn’t look drunk, but then some of us hid it well. Instead, he looked like a simmering volcano. That look in his eye was all too familiar.
Only, my anger was waning. Teetering on the brink for so long, I could feel it burning away, taking with it the soul-destroying sense of betrayal and even the confusion. Now, I was just broken. Broken, and drunk, and too exhausted to search for a way out of this mess.
I sank my fists into my hair and pulled tight. It was pure distraction, like stomping on my foot to take my mind off a sore thumb. Maybe, if I ripped my hair out by the roots, it’d take my mind off the ache in my chest.
Self-preservation kicked in though, and I let go, choking back a sob that sounded more like a gasp. I wanted to sink into a deep ocean of self-pity, allowing the water to swallow me up without a trace, but I didn’t have that luxury.
I was wasting time. I had to get out of there. I had to get the hell out of there and see her, before it was too late.
I lurched to my feet, the floor leaning sideways as I hurled myself at the bars.
“Hey!” I shouted. “I need my phone call!”
“Can anyone hear me?”
“You’re wasting your time.”
I turned, still hanging on to the bars to keep my balance. The younger guy regarded me from across the cell, his eyes narrowing as if I was something he’d just scraped off his shoe.
“I need my phone call,” I said again.
“You have to wait, just like the rest of us. They’ll be back.”
He was right. I should’ve known that. This wasn’t my first rodeo. My heart sank and the despair was instant and absolute, wrapping cold arms around me and squeezing so tight, I had trouble breathing.
While I sat there, suffocating in self-pity, she could be dying.
She could be dying, and I wasn’t there.
Amanda Dick is a night-owl, coffee addict, movie buff and music lover. She loves to do DIY (if it’s not bolted down, she’ll probably paint it, re-cover it or otherwise decorate it) and has tried almost every craft known to man/womankind. She has two sewing machines and an over-locker she can’t remember how to thread. She crochets (but can’t follow a pattern), knits (badly) and refrains from both as a public service.
She believes in love at first sight, in women’s intuition and in following your heart. She is rather partial to dark chocolate and believes in the power of a good vanilla latte.
What lights her fire is writing stories about real people in trying situations. Her passion is finding characters who are forced to test their boundaries. She is insanely curious about how we, as human beings, react when pushed to the edge. Most of all, she enjoys writing about human behaviour – love, loss, joy, grief, friendship and the complexity of relationships in general.
After living in Scotland for five years, she has now settled back home in New Zealand, where she lives with her husband and two children.
Her debut novel, “Absolution”, was released on 29 October 2013 (with the second edition releasing on 6 January 2015). Her second novel, “Between Before and After”, was released in May 2014. Her third novel, “Into the Void”, is scheduled to release in July 2015.
Thank you to
for hosting this event.