Coincidences, p.1
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       Coincidences, p.1

           Maria Savva
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Coincidences


  Coincidences

  by Maria Savva

  First Edition published in hardback by: The Book Guild Limited (2001) ISBN: 1 85776 566 4

  Second Edition

  Copyright © Maria Savva 2012

  Cover design © by Maria Savva 2012

  The moral rights of Maria Savva as author have been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

  All rights reserved: No part of this ebook may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on a subsequent purchaser

  All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real people, alive or dead, is purely coincidental

  Author’s note & acknowledgements:

  I would like to thank everyone who has read the original version of Coincidences, especially my friends, Sheri Wilkinson, Calum McDonald, Carol Perry, Jerry Travis, Julie Elizabeth Aldridge, Benjamin Jones, Katherine Marple, and Shenaka Singarayer. It is thanks to all the positive feedback and reviews from all of you, and seeing other readers’ comments and ratings on various websites, that I decided to make this second edition available as a paperback and e-book so that it could be more widely read.

  Thank you to everyone who has ever proof read any of my books for me, helped me to edit them, or written constructive reviews. I am indebted to you all. You have all contributed in some way to making me a better writer. When I first started writing Coincidences I had no idea about what it takes to write a novel. Over the years, I have learnt so much about editing and grammar from fellow authors, and friends, and just through the process of writing and editing on an almost daily basis. One thing I have learnt over the years is that all art remains a work-in-progress in the mind of the artist who creates it. For me, at least, no novel or short story is ever really finished; we just have to stop editing at some stage to avoid going completely mad. Most of us are already slightly mad which is why we write ;).

  I first started writing Coincidences towards the end of 1997, and it was published in hardback in 2001. It is now out of print, but continues to be quite popular in UK libraries. I wanted to make the book more widely available and decided to publish a paperback and e-book version. When I looked for an electronic copy of the book on my computer, I could not find one. I contacted The Book Guild who had originally published the book, but they didn’t have a copy. I then decided to start typing the book up from scratch. Whilst doing that, I noticed that there were things I would have done differently, and I also had the idea of adding more scenes and background to the story without changing it. This second edition of Coincidences stays true to the original, but has extras, and I have used the editing skills I have developed over the years to tighten up the prose and hopefully make it a smoother read. I still love the story, after all these years, and hope that you will too.

  It was interesting for me as a writer to see how my writing style has developed over the years. Perhaps readers of the original edition will also find it interesting to see how my writing has changed over the years.

  I would like to thank the following people without whom I would not have finished this edition:

  Darcia Helle. Thank you so much for proof reading the final draft. Thanks for reading the book so thoroughly and for giving me such constructive feedback. Your comments and suggestions helped me to make the book more realistic, and prevented Alice eating too much food before her big date LOL. Thanks also for spotting so many annoying typos. You are the best.

  J. Michael Radcliffe. Thank you so much for proof reading the book and finding lots of typos. Thanks also for spotting the chapter heading mix-up with the Monday that was supposed to be Wednesday LOL, and Alice’s cup that kept changing into a glass as if by magic :) I’m sure that must have escaped from one of your fantasy novels!

  Can I also thank all my fans, friends, and readers, who tell me they enjoy my books, and write such wonderful reviews (you know who you are. There are too many to mention and I don’t want to leave anyone out!). You are the reason I carry on writing. I love you all.

  For Evita, Brenna and Tadhg

  Follow your dreams

  Chapter One

  Monday 11th August 1997

  Alice Turnbull lay in bed shaking, too scared to move, perspiration cold on the back of her neck. A lock of her hair fell onto her face, covering her eyes. Alice jumped. Her heart began to palpitate. As she caught her breath, and moved the hair away from her face, she noticed something red from the corner of her eye. Instinctively, she turned towards it, and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the luminous red numbers on her radio alarm clock. It was 12.15 a.m. She seemed to be strangely drawn to stare at the clock. As she did so, she felt that the clock was almost staring back at her in the pitch black, as if it had taken on an existence of its own. Panic gripped her.

  Continuing to lie in bed, as her eyes adjusted to the dark, she became more aware of her surroundings. Everything was shrouded in shadows, and she had a hazy feeling as though she were trapped in a nightmare and could not wake up. Alice felt frightened as she recalled the noise that had shaken her from her sleep. It had sounded like an explosion of some kind. Had someone broken into the flat? She lay frozen, unable to move, straining her ears to detect any sound. But she could hear nothing. Feeling restless and uneasy, she knew that she would not be able to get back to sleep until she checked her flat to make sure she was alone—but she still felt too scared to move.

  After a few moments, she somehow managed to summon up the courage to reach out of her bed and switch on the bedside table lamp. Her arms continued to shake. The soft lighting of the lamp, with its familiar orange glow, brought with it a warmth that comforted her. Sitting up, she continued to listen for any noise. She noticed the time again: it was 12.38 a.m. Slowly, she forced herself to get out of bed.

  Putting on her slippers, she hesitantly walked towards her bedroom door. It had been almost half an hour since she had woken, but she still felt strangely scared and anxious. Taking hold of the knob on her bedroom door, she nervously pulled it open. For a few moments, she stood at the door, on constant alert for any sound, but all she could hear was the beating of her heart in her ears and the ticking of the kitchen clock. The clock had been a moving-in present from her mother when Alice had left the family home six months ago. Each tick of the clock in the darkness now reminded Alice of the countless times her mother had begged her to come back home. ‘You shouldn’t be living alone, a girl of your age. I worry about you’. The clock seemed to tick more loudly as Alice’s fears grew. Tick, tock, tick, tock... Taking a few steps towards the kitchen, she switched on the light, hoping that it would somehow detract from the sound.

  Finding courage in the light, she proceeded to switch on all the lights she could find. Once she had checked every corner of the flat, and assured herself there was no one else in there, she could breathe easier. She returned to her bedroom, and although she had now switched off all the other lights in the flat, she could not quite bring herself to switch off her bedside table lamp. Her unusual awakening had disturbed her inner peace, and she still felt an unnerving fear deep inside her mind.

  She could not forget the loud, banging sound that had echoed in her head when she had awoken. She recalled fragments of her dream: she had dreamt of a fire, she had heard screaming, there had been lots of water... a sea. Eventually, Alice drifted back to sleep.

  When her alarm clock sounded at 7.30 a.m. that morning, she woke up feeling refreshed. She had managed to sleep well, despite the incident in the early hours. She remembered the fear she had felt, but it had lost its hold on her; it was like
an old memory, as distant as a dream. If her bedside table lamp had not still been on, she would have thought that she had dreamt last night’s disturbance. Alice shrugged, turned over in bed and reached over to the lamp to switch it off.

  ***

  At twenty-one years old, Alice Turnbull was a Law student, due to start her final year of studies in October. During the summer break, she worked part-time at a local bookstore; Bairns’ Books. On the morning of the 11th of August, she was sitting in the kitchen of her flat, eating her breakfast. It was 8 a.m. when she looked at the kitchen clock. The round, bright yellow clock, which was framed with a hand-carved wooden hen, hung benevolently from the blue, painted wall. The ticking of the clock, which had been so loud in the darkness, was hardly audible now above the daytime sounds of people rushing off to work. Turning away from the clock, she almost laughed at herself for being afraid of the ticking during the night. Casually, she reached over and switched on her portable radio. Yawning, she continued to eat her corn flakes. The news on the radio told of a plane crash into the Atlantic Ocean. Alice was only half-listening to the radio as she thought about what she would be doing that day, and was at the same time thinking that there always seemed to be chat or news on the radio; she would have preferred a bit of music to start her day. But the following announcement caught her attention:

  ‘The plane crash, which happened at a quarter-past twelve this morning, claimed the lives of at least thirty people. Air-Sea Rescue operations are still continuing in an attempt to locate survivors...’

  She didn’t hear the rest of the story. All she could think about was that when she had looked at her alarm clock last night, it had been 12.15 a.m. The same time as the plane crash. Images from her dream coursed through her mind. The fear she had felt now seemed more real. ‘Quarter-past twelve,’ Alice said to herself, as she sat alone at the kitchen table. Her words reverberated in her head, like an echo, and as she closed her eyes she could see the red numbers on her alarm clock staring back at her.

  ***

  Whilst on the bus, on her way to work, Alice could not stop thinking about the night before. Something was nagging her at the back of her mind, but she could not quite understand what it was or why she felt so confused.

  ‘Hi, Alice,’ Charlotte, her colleague, greeted her cheerfully as she arrived at the book shop.

  ‘Oh, hi,’ replied Alice, still in a bit of a daze.

  ‘Well, do you notice anything different about me?’ Charlotte was pointing to her new hairstyle and posing. She’d had most of her once long, tousled, blonde hair cut off, and Alice had hardly noticed.

  ‘Oh, yeah, it looks nice,’ responded Alice, coming back down to earth.

  ‘You’re very observant today,’ giggled Charlotte.

  One or two customers had come into the shop now, so the girls settled themselves behind the counter. It was never very busy in the store on weekdays, so much of their time was spent chatting. Charlotte liked to talk about herself.

  Charlotte Wade was twenty-two years old. She worked part-time at the bookstore, and was also a part-time film extra. She was forever telling Alice about her latest “roles”. Charlotte’s aim was to become a famous actress. She had changed her name a few months ago. ‘Well, no one has ever become famous with a name like “Susan”, have they?’ she’d said to Alice. Alice was tempted to mention Susan Sarandon, but thought she would let it slip as the deed had already been signed and “Charlotte” had a new name.

  Charlotte had an interesting social life, and it seemed that she always had a different boyfriend. She would spend ages telling Alice all about them. Alice didn’t have anyone special in her life. There was a boy at university called Andrew, whom she liked, but she had kept it to herself. Somehow, she didn’t feel she was ready for a relationship and preferred to dream about such things.

  ‘So how was your weekend, Alice?’

  She knew that Charlotte was probably only looking for a reason to talk about her own weekend by asking that question; she always liked to be the centre of attention. Alice replied: ‘Oh, it was fine, how was yours?’

  ‘Oh, mine was great!’ Charlotte began to talk at length about the new film she was going to appear in, which according to her was “sure to become a blockbuster”.

  Alice breathed a sigh of relief that she would not have to talk about her own weekend; all she could remember about it was the nightmare, which seemed to be following her like a black cloud above her head.

  ‘I’m playing a waitress. I’ve actually got some lines! I’m so excited,’ gushed Charlotte. ‘I have to take an order in a really posh restaurant from the two main actors. Can you believe it? Obviously, they saw that I have star potential! I might be discovered and become famous. Imagine, Alice, you’ll be able to say you knew me before I made it!’

  ‘That’s nice,’ said Alice, smiling, not having heard much of what Charlotte had said, her mind being elsewhere.

  ‘You’re not even listening to me, are you?’

  ‘Oh, sorry.’ Alice felt guilty for offending her. ‘I was listening. Er... but I just noticed your dress, it’s really nice, I was a bit distracted.’

  ‘Thanks!’ Charlotte beamed. ‘It is nice, isn’t it? It’s designer.’ She went on to describe how she had chosen her bright red nail varnish to match her dress and lipstick.

  Alice’s concentration drifted once again.

  It wasn’t long before Charlotte realised she didn’t have her full attention. ‘What’s wrong, Alice?’ She clicked her fingers above Alice’s head as if to indicate that she needed to wake up.

  Alice sighed and stood up. ‘Nothing’s wrong.’

  ‘You can tell me. It’s man trouble, isn’t it, honey?’

  Trust Charlotte to think that. ‘No, don’t be silly. It’s nothing. I... I didn’t sleep well last night, that’s all.’ She forced a smile. She had been thinking of her nightmare again. It was as if the news of the plane crash this morning had triggered off something in her mind. She noticed that she was able to remember more and more of her nightmare as the day progressed. It bothered Alice that she now knew she had dreamt of a plane crashing to land. The voice from the newsflash resounded in her head.

  At lunchtime, she was glad to get out of the bookstore for some fresh air.

  She’d arranged to meet a university friend, Jenny, in McDonald's. When she arrived at the restaurant, she was waiting for her outside.

  ‘Hi,’ said Jenny, taking off her sunglasses. ‘How are you? You’re looking well.’ She was in a cheerful mood, as usual, which helped to lift Alice’s gloom slightly.

  ‘Thanks, yeah, I’m fine,’ she replied, her eyes unable to meet her friend’s.

  The two girls entered the busy restaurant and ordered their meals. They pushed through the crowds of lunchtime customers and managed to find two empty seats close to the entrance.

  Jenny Callum was Alice’s closest friend at university. They usually studied together. Jenny had just returned from a trip to France. She’d gone to Paris with her boyfriend, Frank, who was also a student at the same university. The girls spent their lunch hour chatting about Jenny’s holiday and looking at snaps, and they talked about university and mutual friends.

  ‘Oh! I almost forgot! Guess what?’ exclaimed Jenny. ‘I found out from Frank that Andrew told one of his friends that he fancies you.’

  ‘You’re kidding,’ said Alice, blushing and trying not to choke on her hamburger. Alice had fancied Andrew for a few months. He was tall, with dark, shoulder length hair, and striking blue eyes. She had told Jenny in confidence that she liked him, not knowing that her boyfriend knew some of Andrew’s friends.

  ‘It’s good news, isn’t it? I swear, I didn’t say anything to Frank about you fancying Andrew.’

  ‘Good,’ said Alice, not really knowing what to say. She felt embarrassed. ‘Don’t say anything to him.’

  Jenny laughed.

  By the end of her lunch hour, Alice had managed to put the plane crash and her nightmare to the back
of her mind. Her disrupted night was once again like a distant memory.

  ***

  Stephanie Turnbull was on her way home from work. At fifty years of age, she was the owner and manager of a hairdressing salon in East London. She had a journey of about forty minutes on the London Underground to her flat in North London. Before getting on the Tube, she bought a copy of the evening paper.

  After standing for fifteen minutes, lodged uncomfortably between a huddle of rush hour passengers, Stephanie managed to get a seat on the train. The heat in the carriage was unbearable and the air was thin; thankfully she had a bit of air space now that she had finally sat down. Her feet were killing her from standing in the salon all day.

  The worst part of the day for her was always the journey to and from work. There was never any space to move in the overcrowded trains. It was especially uncomfortable during the summer months when the temperature inside the carriages would far exceed the temperature on the streets. She stared at the briefcase belonging to a harassed-looking man in a business suit. He was standing just in front of her, trying to avoid hitting her on the head with his briefcase each time the train jolted. On days like this she regretted selling her car and opting for Tube travel to work.

  No sooner had she sat down, she had to get up again to change onto the Northern Line train to continue her journey. Luckily, the next train was not as full and she managed to sit down upon boarding the carriage. She began to read her newspaper. The headline on the front page read: “Air Disaster: Forty Feared Dead.” With interest, she read about the desperate attempts to locate survivors of the crash. The ill-fated jet had plunged into the Atlantic Ocean in the early hours of the morning. Stephanie noticed a picture of a young girl being carried out of the sea to safety, her hair dripping with water. It was a dramatic scene with smoke in the background. Sitting on the Tube train, staring at the picture, Stephanie began to think of her own daughter, Alice, and a tear came to her eye. The girl in the picture looked about the same age as Alice. She prayed the girl would be all right.

 
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