- N. N. Light
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Author: Lynette Sofras
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Ghosts
Chichester Court should be a safe place, a refuge for lone mothers and their children. But for five women and their offspring it becomes a house of terror. Strange and disturbing dreams; voices urging unspeakable acts and bizarre and alarming events affect them all.
The strange happenings at the Georgian mansion are not confined solely to the women. The children are also at the mercy of the forces in the house - watched over by a woman in grey who is not one of the residents.
There is an atmosphere of old evil in Chichester Court and it is not a safe place to be. Not safe at all.
Anne stood in Oliver's small room, wondering for the twentieth time whether redecorating and rearranging it would rid it of its unpleasant associations, its ghosts or ghouls, and make it habitable again for Oliver, or herself, when she heard the knock on the door. Oliver had continued to sleep in her bed and, although he seemed perfectly happy to play in his room in daylight, or when his friends were there, he wouldn't enter it alone after dark and refused to contemplate sleeping there. Anne stood inside it many times, in still and silent contemplation, trying to put herself inside Oliver's skin almost, to feel the way he did, see what he saw, to wheedle out of the cracks and crevices the evil that had targeted her son. She nursed a curious, childlike belief that she might take this thing unawares by just popping in, unannounced as it were and catching it off-guard, but she never succeeded. It was an innocent child's room with a faint smell of chocolate, clean linen and something synthetic, like plastic. It was Oliver's room and she could sense no malice in it.
Yet something in it clearly terrified Oliver, warning him of something terrible that would happen if he didn't… what? Move away from a shadow? She shook her head. She didn't believe in ghosts, particularly ghosts with shadows. That made no sense at all.
Anne turned to answer the gentle tap at her door. Paige stood on the threshold holding a wriggling Courtney in her arms. Courtney was getting too big to be carried, or perhaps Paige had become too small. She looked frail, pale and listless.
"Can I come in for a minute?" Paige asked, even as Anne held the door wider in welcome. "I've been thinking— tell me if I'm being stupid—but I've been thinking about..." Paige broke off as Courtney wriggled and shuffled herself free, obliging Paige to bend and release her. Courtney waddled straight to Oliver's door. "No, Courtney, you're not allowed in there," Paige told her, hurrying after.
"It's all right by me," Anne said. "I've just been in there myself trying to decide whether I should redecorate. I expect she remembers playing with some of Oliver's toys in there. We'll go too." They found Courtney sitting on the fluffy dinosaur rug chattering away to an assortment of small toys as she bumped them up and down on the carpet beside her. With a practised eye, Anne scanned the room at floor level, satisfying herself that there were no sharp edges, no dangerous threats to the child's safety. She reminded herself that Oliver was never fearful of the room during the day before drawing Paige by the arm into the sitting room. "What were you thinking?"
Paige looked embarrassed. "It sounds really stupid, but I've been thinking about this a lot. I want to get my flat... exorcised."
"Exorcised?" Anne echoed in surprise. "And have you considered how?"
"Yes, well, no, not really. I hoped you might be able to help."
"I'm not sure how…"
"I went to this church," Paige blurted out, her eyes tearing up. "The old one down the road with the big spire. I'd been thinking about it for a few days, trying to pluck up courage, but I felt really scared and embarrassed so I didn't want to tell anyone. I haven't been in a church before, well, not since I was a baby. Kell got married in the registry office. It said outside that it was a family… something… service, so I went last Sunday. I thought I could talk to somebody there and find out what you've got to do."
"And did you?"
"No! No… it was awful. I had Courtney with me, see. I didn't know you couldn't take babies into church and the priest—the vicar I mean—stopped talking and looked straight at me and said, "Would you mind taking that baby to the crèche?" and everybody else turned and looked at me. It was awful. She wasn't being naughty. She wasn't making much noise, just gurgling a little bit when she heard the singing, but he looked at me straight and said that."
Paige sniffed wetly. "Yeah, I know. So I didn't go to the crèche, I just came home."
"Oh Paige, that shouldn't have happened," Anne said. "I'm not a churchgoer myself but I've never heard of anyone being treated like that. It's a wonder anyone goes to his church at all. But it's clear he isn't the sort of man to whom you could go for help."
Paige sniffed again and dabbed her nose with the back of her hand while Anne went to fetch a bundle of tissues. "So you don't think I'm stupid? You agree it's a good idea?"
Anne gave the question due consideration before replying. "If you think it would help you to live peacefully in your flat, then yes, I agree it's a good idea and no, I don't think you are stupid. There is something strange about this place. Whether it's haunted, whether someone from the church can clear it of its problems, is not for me to say. I suppose anything is worth a try though."
Paige sighed and smiled in relief and it occurred to Anne, as she looked at her, what a great shame it was that this young girl had so little to smile about at such a tender age.
"I'll tell you what," Anne said, but a loud screech from Courtney prevented her from disclosing her idea.
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
It’s a story for all women everywhere, and especially mothers. Putting the ghostly aspects aside, I hope every woman who reads it will believe in and identify with one or other of the five female characters, and I hope they’ll remain friends with that character after the story ends. As one reviewer said “I know these women's lives will go on. They'll continue to learn, hopefully, but they haven't learned everything yet. And they'll always wonder about the strange things that brought them together and cemented their friendship, for a little while, in this strange old house.”
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A former Head of English in a London high school, Lynette gave up teaching to focus full time on writing and editing several years ago and has since published eight full length novels and a short story, occasionally dabbling into different genres. ‘Unworkers’ played out in her head for many years before making its debut in print and is partly based on real events, making it her personal favourite.
When not writing, reading or editing, Lynette enjoys nothing more than catching up with her friends, going to the cinema or theatre, dabbling with exotic cuisines, or trying to make her Victorian cottage garden and the family’s eccentric cat both behave nicely.
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