Writers Abroad Magazine 6 May 2017 - Page 27

WRITERS ABROAD MAGAZINE: THE THIRD SPACE VOICE FROM THE PAST BY VANESSA COUCHMAN A beep announces a new email. Hi Jane, I’ve just read your latest book and love it! I have a holiday place near you and I’m here to work on my own novel. It’s always great to meet other writers and I wondered if you’d like to have a coffee sometime. But I do understand if you’re too busy. Liz Rees. I don’t know the name. I’m wary of strangers, but she doesn’t sound like a prospective rapist. I spend too much time on the computer and ought to get out more. Hi, Liz, great idea. Can you suggest a time and place? My finger hovers over the mouse. I click on ‘send’. Five minutes later, a new email pings into the inbox. How about the Café de la Halle on Friday morning. Liz x. I get there early and shop at the market, but I linger too long and I’m now five minutes late. My over-filled basket bumps against my legs as I hurry to the square. A woman turns her head. The way she pushes back her hair is familiar. I pull up with a jolt: Liz Goddard, my classmate and torturer. Rees must be her married name. The whispers and giggles behind hands flood back. The taunts and acid comments ring in my ears as I recall the times I walked home stalked by Liz and her cronies. It stopped when she went to a new school, but the scars remained raw. My gut writhes. Dry-mouthed, I want to run away, but she comes to greet me, smiling: tall, slim and blonde. The sludge-coloured school uniform is replaced by a dove-grey dress that offsets her golden tan. She plants a kiss on both cheeks. I am paralysed. ‘It’s lovely to see you,’ she says. ‘I was amazed when I saw how close we live. What a coincidence! There’s so much to catch up on.’ ‘Do you really think so?’ She is already dragging me towards the table. ‘What would you like?’ she says, pulling out her purse. I stare. The words won’t come. Her smile falters. ‘Look, I know what you think. I’d feel the same in your shoes. I was horrid to you at school and I’m really sorry.’ ‘But why did you do it?’ The words erupt from my dry throat. ‘Why did you treat me like that?’ She bites her lip. ‘I wanted to be top of the class, but you always beat me in the exams. Afterwards I realised we could have been friends. Now I’d like to make up for it.’ I waver. I could empty the carafe of water over her head and walk away. Or I could forgive her and banish the memories. The seconds tick by. ‘You’re an experienced writer,’ she continues. ‘So I wondered if you could help me with my first novel. Perhaps you could read it and advise on finding an agent?’ A third option comes to me. ‘Of course. I’ll even edit it for you.’ I smile at the vision of what I could do to her book. ‘How about a bottle of champagne to celebrate?’ 26 | MAY 2017