Apple of My Eye
‘All she ever wanted was a child…’
I am so delighted today to bring you all an Exclusive Reveal of the first chapter of the upcoming new release from Claire Allan, Apple of My Eye, due for publication on the 24th January 2019 with Avon Books.
This is Claire’s second psychological thriller following on from the very successful and sinister Her Name Was Rose(Read my review HERE)
Do let me know what you think? Are you tempted?
About the Book
Just how far is a mother willing to go?
When a mysterious note arrives for six months pregnant Dr Eliana Hughes, she begins to doubt every aspect of her life – from her mixed feelings about motherhood to her marriage to Martin, who has become distant in recent months.
As the person behind the note escalates their campaign to out Eli’s husband as a cheat, she finds herself unable to trust even her own instincts, and as pressure builds, she makes a mistake that jeopardises her entire future.
Elsewhere, someone is watching. Someone who desperately wants a baby to call their own and will go to any lengths to become a mother – and stay a mother…
EXCLUSIVE CHAPTER REVEAL ~ Apple of My Eye
The crisp white envelope sticks out from where it’s been stuffed into my pigeonhole. I lift it, along with the rest of my post, and make my way to the staffroom.
It’s probably a note from one of my families. I both love and hate receiving them. A note or thank-you card of course means I’ve done my job well, but it also usually follows a death. One of my patients will have gone, and a thank-you note will mark part of the admin for a poor family to complete while they’re still shaken from grief.
My name’s printed neatly on the cover. Almost as if it’s been typed, but there’s a small smudge of ink that betrays its hand– written status.
Eli Hughes Senior Staff Nurse
I don’t think much of it at first. I’m focusing on getting fifteen minutes to compose myself. To try to eat something before my hunger turns to nausea. Drink some coffee before
my fatigue overwhelms me. Put my feet up before my ankles swell further.Yes, I’m at the retaining-water stage of pregnancy
seven and a half months – and still waiting for the sickness to pass. I’ve long ago given up on the notion that it’s just morning sickness. Hyperemesis is beyond morning sickness. They should call it pregnancy poisoning. I’m only able to function because of anti-sickness medication, and even then . . .
There’s a plain ham sandwich – white bread, thin layer of real butter – wrapped in tinfoil in the fridge. My stomach turns at the thought. I’ll try a coffee, even though I shouldn’t. Even though the smell makes me feel woozy and I’ve had my one daily cup already. I need caffeine.
I make a cup and sit down, a plain Rich Tea biscuit in front of me. Lunch. Once this baby’s born, I’ll never, ever eat plain biscuits again.
I turn my attention to the post, the neatly handwritten envelope first. It contains just one sheet of paper: small, blue, lined – the kind on which I’d have written pages and pages of letters to my pen pals when I was a teen. Unfolding it, I see just two lines of text, written in the same neat print:
YOU SHOULDN’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING HE TELLS YOU
I look at the words and read them again. I turn the page around to see if I’m missing anything on the back page to put these words in context. I even check inside the envelope, peering in, shaking it out. A strange feeling washes over me. Is this some silly joke, or meant for someone else, or a clever marketing scheme for something? I hadn’t the first notion what that could be, but wasn’t that the whole point with clever marketing schemes these days? Get everyone talking. Then bam! The big reveal . . .
I shouldn’t believe whom? What? I put the note down, then
gingerly bite on my biscuit, which crumbles into sawdust in my mouth. I know I won’t finish it.
I don’t have the patience for silly games or puzzles. But I can’t deny my inner nosiness.
Rachel arrives, walks to the fridge, mutters about it being a long day and stares at the wilted salad she’s brought in with her, closing the fridge door in disgust.
‘I think I might run out and grab something from the shop. A sandwich or something. Can I tempt you?’
Rachel does this a lot. Brings in a healthy lunch and forsakes it for something laden with mayonnaise and cheese when push comes to shove. Still maintains an enviable figure – one I envy even more now that I’m expanding at an exponential rate.
‘There’s a ham sandwich in there you can have. It’s good ham. I’m not going to eat it. Will save you nipping out.’
‘And take food from a pregnant woman? Do you think I’m some sort of monster?’ She laughs but opens the fridge anyway and lifts out my tinfoil parcel. She points it in my direction. ‘Are you sure you don’t want it?’
My stomach turns in response and the involuntary face I pull answers her question.
‘You poor thing. You know, Eli, maybe you really should think of starting maternity leave early.’
I shake my head. ‘Nonsense.’ Keen to change the conversa- tion, I push the note in her direction. ‘Look at this note I got. Did you get one like it? Have you any idea what it’s about?’
Sitting down, she takes the note and looks at it. I watch for a reaction on her face. Her eyebrows rise just a little but she shakes her head.
‘I’ve no idea,’ she says. ‘But no, I didn’t get one. Ooh! Eliana Hughes, have you got a stalker?’
She laughs but I don’t. I force a smile but feel my chest tighten. She must notice my expression.
‘Eli, I’m kidding. I’m sure it’s nothing. Someone’s idea of a joke or something. Or mistaken identity. Sure, it’s bound to be that. Who would you have to mistrust? You and Martin have the most solid marriage I’ve ever seen.There’s no way he’d play away.’
It didn’t even cross my mind it could be about Martin. Until now. I want to nod and say yes, we’re the most solid couple people know. Because we were . . . but lately . . . There’s a disconnect there that I can’t quite put my finger on.
The coffee I’ve been drinking tastes bitter. Of bile. Just like everything else tastes off that I’ve had to eat or drink over the last seven months. Just like everything in my life feels off.
We’d tried so hard to have this baby. Months of disappoint– ment and finally tests. Then ‘There’s nothing we can find, just give it time,’ and more disappointment until, finally, two lines.
It should be the happiest time of our lives. Certainly the happiest time of my life; nurturing a new human life deep within me, bonding with this kicking, wriggling person made of love about to become our baby.
I expected to love every moment of pregnancy, but I realise now I’d been naïve. This kicking, wriggling person who seems to be made of right angles, jabs and pokes at my stomach muscles, which are permanently aching from the daily retching. It makes me feel sorry for myself. I feel angry that I’ve been robbed of a positive pregnancy experience that most women get. And I feel guilty that I resent this pregnancy not being what I wanted it to be. Sure, won’t the end result be the same? Isn’t that what’s important?
And Martin, try as he might, can’t understand how I feel. I suppose I’ve been taking that anger and frustration out on him a little.
I feel tears prick at my eyes. Swear at myself. I can’t cry again today.
‘Eli.’ Rachel’s voice cuts through my thoughts.
I look up at her, her eyes filled with concern. Her hand reaches across the table and takes mine.
‘Eli, you do know Martin would never, ever cheat on you. This isn’t about Martin. This is somebody’s idea of a stupid joke, or it’s about something else we’ve just not figured out yet. But we will.’
I nod, two fat tears rolling down my cheeks. My nose running, I sniff loudly, grab a tissue from the box on the table and roughly rub at my eyes.
‘You’re right,’ I say. ‘Of course you’re right.’
I look at the letter again. It doesn’t reveal anything new, so in a rage I crumple it up and throw it into the bin beside the fridge.
Rachel smiles. Tells me I’ve done the right thing and gives my hand a rub before her pager calls her back to a patient.
When she’s gone, I take it back out and thrust it deep into the bottom of my handbag.
Pre-order Link ~ Apple of My Eye
Claire Allan is a former journalist from Derry in Northern Ireland, where she still lives with her husband, two children, two cats and a hyperactive puppy.
In her eighteen years as a journalist, she covered a wide range of stories, from attempted murders, to court sessions, to the Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday right down to the loacl parish notes.
She has previously published eight women’s fiction novels. Her first thriller, Her Name Was Rose was published in 2018.
When she is not writing, she’ll more likely be found on Twitter @ClaireAllan