Something Might Happen
By Julie Myerson
Published by Little Brown & Co. 
October 2003; 0316779849; 336 pages

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Something Might Happen by Julie MyersonChapter 1

PEOPLE THINK WHEN SOMEONE IS STABBED THEY JUST fall down on the ground and die. Well they don’t. When Lennie is found on that morning in the car park on Pier Avenue, they can tell from the mess that she dragged herself around for some time before she gave up.

Quite some time, in fact. Maybe even as much as a quarter of an hour. Crawling like a baby on her hands and knees, grabbing and swiping at door handles and bumpers, fingers tacky with her own blood. Then at some point slipping down and losing consciousness there in the nettles by the Pay & Display machine. They say they can't be certain about when it was, the precise moment that her heart stopped--but they can assure us that it was immaterial. She wouldn't have seen, wouldn't have known.

The one good thing, Mawhinney says, is that her brain would've shut down as her lungs filled up.

But I don't want the details. One moment or several? A curdled sigh, a spattered red breath, brown saliva clotting in her mouth? All I care about is that they're right, that it was quick. All I need to know is that her heart was not still beating when her attacker moved back in and cut it out.

 

 

Early October and four in the morning and no wind at all, just the blackest darkness, so dead and dark and black that if you stopped to think about it, you might find you couldn't breathe. All the lights out. And then all of them on, one by one--pop, pop, pop--the world reviving, turning large and transparent.

Something's happened.

He rings me at the deadest time, sleep holding me down. Since the baby that's how I've been, a dead person, trying to surface. Still I grab the phone the second its ringing hits my dreams.

Tess, he goes, Tess--and straightaway I can tell his voice is all wrong.

What? I say, struggling to sit up and focus. What is it? What's going on?

I'm--

The silence crackles.

I'm sorry, he says.

What do you mean, sorry? Why?

Oh Tess, he says and he sounds like he's going to cry.

Al, I go, for fuck's sake--what?

She's not here.

What?

You were right. She hasn't come home.

She hasn't?

She’s just—I don’t know where she is—she’s not here.

Outside, a dark whoosh of wind in the poplars. If it was light you would see them bending. You get that by the sea —sudden changes, things getting crushed and flattened. I used to like it. It used not to scare me at all.

Next to me in the bed meanwhile Livvy is lying on her back in her white sleeper, snaps done up to the chin, mouth softly open and arms flung back. A swirl of blackish hair on her head. Mick funnily enough is lying in a similar babyish way but on his front—black matted hair pushed up, hands bunched into two hot fists. Dreaming of a fight is what it looks like.

Tess, he says, what am I going to do?

Call the police.

I’ve done that.

You want me to come?

He says nothing. Liv snorts. When did I feed her? I slide my fingers under to feel her nappy. Damply heavy with pee. I must have fed her in the night, in my sleep.

I’ll come, I tell him. Wait for me.

I get out of bed, change the baby, get dressed.

In one way it is not a surprise. In the beach hut that night, the feeling is cold and hard, painful and unsettling. I shouldn’t have let him come. It shouldn’t have to be complicated.

I take the tumbler of wine from his hands. Take a sip. Put it down on the wooden floor which is slippy with the years of sand falling off our bare feet.

You should get back, I say. But he doesn’t move. He just looks at me.

She’ll be in bed. She’ll have gone to sleep.

No, I say. It’s not that.

What, then?

He reaches forward, half grinning, tries to take his drink back. I stop him.

The truth is, he’s lazy. Whatever he gets from me, he imagines he can’t get from anyone else.

It’s not that, I say again. Batting him away.

He settles back in the old deckchair and looks at me. His old jeans, his big feet in their salt-stained boots. A bleached tidemark where he has walked in the edge of the sea. He looks at the joint in his hands—his rough, furniture-maker’s hands—tips off the ash.

For God’s sake, Tess, he says at last, I wish you’d calm down.

I sigh.

You’re even making me jumpy, he says. What the fuck is it? Why’re you in such a state?

I say nothing.

He shrugs, smiles. He likes to think I’m this uptight person. He thinks he’s won.

I’m scared, I tell him and he leans forward.

What are you scared of, Tess?

I don’t know.

It’s not true though. I think I do know, even then.

 

The thing is, she is not the type to have something happen. She has everything going for her. Beauty, talent, kindness. She even sometimes goes to church.

It’s the one thing she and Alex argue about, the only thing. It’s not God, she says, just something bigger, greater than her. She needs to feel there is a larger Good out there.

You might think she’s this good and pliable person but actually she’s not, she’s dogged and fixed. She’s the strong one. She does exactly as she pleases. When we first came here, she was the one who said it would all be fine, who believed most certainly in the dream we had.

The only thing I have more of than her is kids. Double the amount. People ask me how I do it, as if there’s some kind of trick to having four. But it’s easy. I do it for myself. I can’t help it. There’s nothing to beat walking down the street on a sunny day with them all clean and happy and no one crying or fighting behind you and knowing just how it all looks. A perfect mother with her perfect life.

 

These are the facts. That she dies on a Monday night in October, some time between eleven and midnight, following a PTA meeting at the school on Marlborough Road. That she gets to that meeting around seven and it ends around twenty to eleven—later than usual, but then it is Lucy Dorry’s first time as Chair and most people who can, stay on for a drink after.

That they reckon, anyway, that she reaches her car around 10.45, but that she never manages to get into it. She never even makes it around to the driver’s side. Her keys are found lying on the ground just beneath the passenger door. All the paintwork around the lock is scratched furiously and the nails on her right hand are ripped and bloody and broken.

 

Both of us, with our perfect lives. She can’t believe it when I tell her I’m expecting Liv. At thirty-eight!

You’re saying I’m past it?

No, she replies and I notice the flicker of a frown in her eyes. Just the thought—and she shudders—of going through it all again.

I can’t wait, I tell her as boisterously as I can. And it’s the truth, I can’t.

And work?

I can do that too, I say. Because I’ve already decided that I’ll have to.

She turns and looks at me with eyes full of something, but what exactly I can’t tell.

I wish I had your guts, she says. And your energy.

Which makes me laugh because, in my book, it takes guts and energy to deny yourself these things. And Mick and I have never been good at limiting ourselves, at sitting down and planning. In fact, none of our kids were planned exactly—or that’s what we always tell people, laughing at ourselves. Just one big happy haphazard family. That’s the story we tell ourselves.

And I am over the moon about Liv—from that first mysterious morning when the simple act of stirring the hot milk into Rosa’s instant oat cereal makes me turn and hold myself, perspiring, over the sink.

When I tell Mick, he does nothing. He doesn’t move. He is sitting there at the table and I bend and whisper it in his ear and maybe I expect that he will pull me to him, but he doesn’t move a single muscle.

You’re not pleased?

He looks at me.

I don’t know. I’m not ‘not’ pleased.

Oh great.

I fold my arms and feel the buzz of my blood, my heart.

It’s a shock, that’s all.

We haven’t been using anything.

I know, he says, I know, but I thought —

You thought what?

That we were being careful.

I laugh.

I suppose I thought it was very unlikely, he says.

His voice is small and tight. He sounds like a little boy who’s been jumping again and again out of the highest tree and then the very last time has forgotten to bend his knees when he lands and has got himself hurt. Cross with the tree, cross with himself.

I’ve just chucked in my job, he reminds me, as if I didn’t know.

Well, I tell him, this is good. You can be the nanny. You can do some writing.

He doesn’t laugh.

With a new baby? I hope that’s a joke.

But when he sees me looking at him and half laughing and half about to cry, he does get up and come and put his arms around me, bends his head to mine. I smell the blackness of his hair, the familiar day-old smell of beard, of husband.

So, he says.

So—what?

So we’d better get on with it then.

And that’s it, that’s all. That’s the beginning of our daughter Olivia.

Copyright 2003 Julie Myerson
Reprinted with permission.
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Synopsis

On a cold night in autumn, an unspeakable crime shatters the quiet calm in a small seaside village. Tess wills her best friend, Lennie, to be injured or even trapped somewhere, but on some level she can already feel her absence. When she hears that Lennie has been found murdered, the pain is impossible to bear.

Ted Lacey comes to town to help the police better understand the crime, to get to know the families involved, and to comfort the community. His skill is to fade into the background in order to see everything with clarity, and he sees Tess etched in full relief: a woman on her own terms, outside the boundaries of wife, mother, or friend. In the shock that follows Lennie's death, Tess finds herself drawn to Ted Lacey in ways she can't explain. At a time when she should pull her husband and four children in close, she finds herself stepping away, powerless in the face of her attraction to Ted Lacey's steady presence. In a world where grief has suspended all rules, Tess uncovers emotions long buried, and she unravels the extraordinary skein of secrets, evasions, and repressed passion her life has become.

With palpable, explosive tension, Julie Myerson intimately examines the lives of two families whose happiness has been ravaged by the unthinkable. Written in an astonishingly original voice, Something Might Happen is a powerful exploration of grief fused with desire, and an unforgettable portrait of tangled lives in a small town.

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Author

Julie MyersonJulie Myerson was born in Nottingham in 1960, read English at Bristol University and worked for the National Theatre and Walker Books before becoming a full-time writer. She is a well-known journalist and critic and since 1994 has had her own column in The London Independent and regularly reviews films and books in newspapers and for radio, as well as writing for most of Britain's glossy magazines. Sleepwalking was shortlisted for the prestigious John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and her novels have been translated into many languages. She lives in Clapham with her partner, John Myserson, and their three children.

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