Friday Fiction – The Outsider, by Emily Organ
Welcome to Friday Fiction. I’m excited to have guest author, Emily Organ taking over this post today with an extract of her new book, The Outsider. I hope you enjoy reading it. Don’t forget the link is open as usual, so it would be lovely to read and share your own fiction pieces.
After the death of her mother, Yasmin Clark gets a job travelling across the US. In New York she falls for Daniel Ward and sacrifices her career to return with him to the UK.
Daniel’s wife, Lisa, died in an accident a few months previously. Richard Cohen, the village gardener, believes her death is suspicious. Having nurtured an unrequited love for Lisa, he wants to discover how she died. Not all of Daniel’s friends welcome Yasmin, and few of them are happy about Richard’s amateur detective work. Haunted by Lisa’s death and convinced someone is keeping a secret, Yasmin and Richard form an ill-fated friendship.
Torn between her love for Daniel and her desire to uncover the truth about his dead wife, Yasmin faces a challenge which has defeated a police investigation. Can she pursue it, or is the personal cost too great?
This extract is taken from chapter 18: The Roof Terrace.
Yasmin started climbing the stairs with one hand on the shiny black balustrade, each step lit by a tiny spotlight built into the side. The landing carpet felt thick and soft through her socks. The handrail continued around a void in the middle of the landing and Yasmin looked down onto the hallway below.
There were several doors along the landing, leading to the master bedroom and the various guest rooms. Another curved staircase led to the floor above. Daniel hadn’t shown her the top floor yet. She crept up the second curved staircase as if she were an intruder. When she reached the top, two doors led off the landing.
Yasmin finished her biscuits and wiped her crumby hands on her jeans as she thought about snooping further. She tried the handles of the doors, both of which opened into bedrooms. The rooms looked alike, with their large double beds, cream bedspreads, white built-in wardrobes and a simple dressing table and mirror. With plain white walls and no personal furnishings or belongings in them, they could have been hotel rooms.
Both bedrooms had double doors that led out onto a terrace. She walked up to one set of doors and looked out. There was a steel table on the terrace with four chairs around it. Potted shrubs and plants lined the cream stone balustrade that ran around the perimeter. Beyond it was a view across the woodland.
The doors were locked, which made her more determined to get out onto the terrace. She tried the doors in the other room, but they were also locked. Perhaps this was a sign that she should return downstairs and get on with her writing. But maybe there was a key in one of the rooms.
She checked the surfaces to see if a key just happened to be lying around. When she couldn’t find one, she started opening drawers. They were all empty apart from a drawer in one of the bedside tables. There she found a key.
Yasmin’s hands shook slightly as she tried the key in the lock. She felt as though she was doing something wrong. Surely Daniel would be angry if he found her prying about up here? But her curiosity was too strong for her to worry about that. This was only going to be a quick look on the terrace; he didn’t need to know about that.
The lock clicked and she pushed the handle down to make the door swing open. A breeze met her as she stepped outside. The terrace was exposed to the wind and she realised she still hadn’t put a top on over her T-shirt. In just her socks, the paving slabs were cold and hard under her feet.
She tiptoed the length of the terrace and peered through the doors of the neighbouring room. There was no sound apart from the wind, which made a ghostly moaning sound through a gap somewhere in the guttering. The terrace ended in a corner, tucked around the side of the second bedroom. She looked over at the balustrade. Was she brave enough to walk to the edge?
Already wary about heights, Yasmin crept carefully to the edge of the terrace. The balustrade was as high as her chest; high enough for her to feel that she wouldn’t accidentally fall. Her hair kept blowing into her face, so she held it back with her hands.
The view was breathtaking: treetops and rolling fields that merged into various shades of green. There was a smudge of grey on the horizon alongside faint outlines of tall buildings. As she looked from left to right she realised the grey smudge was a reasonable size. In fact, it was huge.
With a twinge of warmth in her chest, she realised she was looking at London. Home wasn’t far away after all. What would her mum make of her now? From a council flat in East London to the rooftop of a mansion in the home counties. Her mum would have found it funny. But it was hardly a rags to riches story. This outcome felt as random as the roll of a die. Yasmin felt like a fraud. This wasn’t her home; she hadn’t earned any of this. She had just happened to bump into a millionaire in New York who had taken a shine to her.
She made the mistake of looking down. Several metres below her, the garden and the terrace spun slightly, making her feel nauseous. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled and she took a sharp breath. She imagined a body plummeting down there, arms and legs flailing; hopelessly trying to grab onto something before the inevitable crushing fall onto the hard stone below.
Yasmin yelped and reeled backwards. She remembered why she had stepped out onto the terrace. She had been driven by morbid curiosity and now she felt ashamed. This was the last place Lisa had been; the place she had been shortly before she died. Which room had she accessed the roof terrace from that night? Which part of the balustrade had she fallen from? And how? There was a heavy, sick feeling in Yasmin’s stomach. She shouldn’t have come here.
She shivered as she retraced her steps, hurriedly locking the door and returning the key to the drawer. Had it been satisfying coming here? No, it hadn’t. She now felt worse and the spinning nausea remained with her.
She descended the stairs back to the comfort of biscuits and dogs. She had brought herself closer to something she didn’t want to encounter. It felt like a veil of blackness had brushed lightly across her face. She wanted to phone Jessica again. But what could she say? This is too much for me. I’ve got myself into something I can’t handle.
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