Prologue

Sebastian

21 April, 1943

His dark shadow looming above, she teeters at the top of the stairs, scrabbling  to regain her balance. Blindly she clutches at the curled edge of the worn lino, gets a grip.  She tries to stay calm. ‘It’s all right, I’m not going to fall. .. He loves me, he wouldn’t do anything to hurt me. Me and the baby.’

I want to grab her, hold her steady. Alas, an impotent witness, I am helpless to take action.

‘Help me, please.’ His response a roar of fury, he moves towards her, head banging into the bare bulb, the shadow of his frenzied fist bouncing about the walls. In slow motion it bears down upon her… growing huge in its descent.  She flinches away…..loses her hold.  Hands instinctively clasped to her abdomen, she’s lost…plummeting ..down.

Now she’s here, at the bottom, huddled in foetal position, fighting for breath.. Waves of pain pierce her body. Robbed of an earthly form, I am unable to lift her, to summon a doctor. Thankful for my medical training, I carry out an examination. Nothing serious - some sprained ribs…bruising to the base of the spine….. But the infant? I am aware of a faint fluttering, a distant light before it flickers, then dies.

The woman groans. Her husband has rushed to her side. He gathers her up, buries his face between her breasts, begs forgiveness. In absolution, her hands find his hair. She tastes the salt of his tears, unaware of the blood pooling beneath her. She will survive. I can do nothing for the child. It is ordained.

If word of this tragedy becomes known, they will say it proves the unsuitability of this union. Her family didn’t even attend the wedding. But what gives them the  right to condemn? As the only soul with access to all the evidence, I am aware of more than one inappropriate association within the family fold. There is little I can do to intervene. But I do possess the unique ability to tune in to the thoughts of others. Thus, I feel compelled to act as conspirator. To give each of the main protagonists the chance to put their case.  To leave you to be their judge.

I shall begin with the woman, Grace, daughter of my host.  As she lies here, longing for her family, she wishes she could turn back the clock, now certain she’s made a dreadful mistake. Her thoughts return to the circumstances that brought her and her husband together.  It all started one fine spring day…… 

 

...Chapter 1