After the rain of the last week, it is a relief to be able to come out, to let the twins run and play and let off some steam. They make me laugh, Clara and Harry; they are endearing, charming, lovely children. But sometimes their closeness spooks me; I feel they lock me out, that as their mother they understand that I can’t know exactly what one of them feels, not like their twin can. I have learned to hide this jealousy, and I indulge them as any mother of young children does; with a healthy dose of discipline, of course. 

For now, I can let them be happy, fresh as new apples in their innocence. We are throwing sticks into the water, watching as the bridge steals them from sight, then they are through to the other side and the children’s laughter rings like a bell on the May breeze. 

There is only one cloud on my sunny horizon: George. He is suddenly distant from me, and I worry that he is having an affair. Even the thought of it tears at my heart, a physical clenching between my ribs. I have no evidence; but his behaviour has changed so suddenly, so drastically, that I do not know what else to think. I’d thought I would always be “his Sophie”. But now I’m not so sure.  He has been absent for most of the week, vague in his explanations, and I thought I detected a shiftiness in his manner when he left the house this beautiful Sunday morning. 

I shake off my unease, trying to enjoy this time with the children. Who knows how long they will let me play with them like this? How long before they shrug out of my cuddles and no longer accept a kiss on the head? They are my babies; yet they are growing so fast. I have a guilty thought: I wish I could stop time and keep them like this always. I push it away, deep into my mind where it cannot be seen. 

A man in a black coat is approaching the bridge; I see him from the corner of my eye. He is watching us quite keenly, and I suddenly feel afraid for the children. I draw Clara close to me, and shield Harry with my body. The man slows, pauses, then makes to walk past us. As he does so, I feel a tingle tingle across my shoulder-blades, a sharp pain in my head, and I am scared. I wait until he has left the bridge, then release the breath I’ve been holding. Perhaps it is time to go home.


This comprises the second part of a new serialisation of one of the short stories from our “Dark Perfume” collection. You can go back to Part 1 here and forward to Part 3 here.

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