FICTION FRIDAY | 'Two Months' by Gail Schimmel
From the best-selling author of The Park and The Accident comes a new domestic thriller that will keep you turning the pages until the very end.
When Erica wakes up to discover that she can't remember two months of her life, she wants to know what she’s missed. She soon realises that she’s lost more than two months. She’s lost her job and her friends. And her husband won’t tell her why.
As Erica starts to put together the clues and pieces, a picture emerges of what has happened.
A picture that is fatally flawed.
Tuesday, 3 April
After her meeting with Mr Richardson, Erica is not sure how she gets through the rest of the day. She cannot process what she’s been accused of. She cannot comprehend why someone would do something so malicious to her.
She recognises that she must be on autopilot, because she appears to teach the boys and respond to the usual variety of parental enquiries at pick-up time. She even manages to change into her tennis clothes, and make small talk with the other teachers, and coach the tennis.
Her façade only cracks when she leaves school, and walks past the window to Palesa’s office. Palesa meets her eyes and then quickly looks away. As Mr Richardson’s PA, she’s obviously seen the incriminating email, and been privy to the various steps Mr Richardson has taken. And while Mr Richardson might be willing to believe in Erica, from the way Palesa is acting, it seems she isn’t.
All Erica can hope is that Palesa has kept this to herself, because it’s rumours like this that can destroy teachers. There will always be those who think, ‘No smoke without a fire’. And parents – who can blame them – would rather not have a teacher with a blurry question on their record.
Mr Richardson might be handling this, but it could still ruin her career.
When Erica finally closes the door of her car, she feels like she can breathe for the first time all day. She tries to phone Kenneth – having been unable to speak to him at school, where every wall has little ears. But his number goes straight to voicemail.
‘Something awful has happened,’ she messages him. ‘Please come home as early as you can.’
Her phone pings almost immediately, and she hopes it’s him.
But it’s Caitlin.
‘Hi hun,’ says the message. ‘How are u? U been on my mind today coffee?’
For a moment, Erica considers agreeing – meeting Caitlin and telling her the whole story about Steph and what’s happened today and her fears about it. She can’t worry her mom with this, so maybe speaking to Caitlin would help. But more than she wants to talk, Erica just wants to get home.
‘Bad day. Sorry, let’s rain check,’ she answers.
‘Anything I can do? Be a shoulder?’ replies Caitlin.
‘Thanks,’ says Erica. ‘I’ll be okay. Chat soon.’
She waits a few moments, but Caitlin doesn’t respond, so she drives home.
Kenneth is reassuring when he gets in. He’s more worried about the pattern of things happening to Erica than the actual accusation.
‘Richardson knows you, Erica,’ he says. ‘He knows this is crap. If he was even slightly worried, he would have suspended you. They don’t mess around with this sort of thing.’
This is true, and Erica allows Kenneth to soothe her.
‘They’ll trace the email,’ he says. ‘And then we’ll know exactly who sent it. Maybe this is actually the best thing that could have happened, because now people with more resources are involved. Whoever did this is the same person who messed with your Facebook and who sent the message to Steph. The school will find them.’
- Extract provided by Pan Macmillan