Welcome to the last in this mini-series of Till You Die posts. We’ve reached the final part of the story. Is Joanna going to get her happy ending after all? I’ve said before that I really enjoyed creating the character of Joanna. Do you think she would find a place in the Darker Minds series – maybe in an alternative and novelised version of this story? Let me know if you do!
Darker Minds: Dark minds are at work. Sometimes it takes a darker one to stop them…
Anyway, on to the last part of story, and a quick mention that you can still get the full e-book as the welcome gift when you join my Readers’ Club – at the moment. More of that later.
Enjoy the last part of Till You Die.
Happy reading! 😊
Till You Die (Final Part)
That first few weeks at home together whisked by in a haze of happiness for Joanna. Whenever Joseph fell asleep, Craig held her and kissed her, and he made her plates of food. She struggled to move around for the first couple of weeks, and hated that Craig had to do everything for all of them. She hated most of all that she found it too difficult to change Joseph, and it upset her. But she did manage to feed him, and she used this as her way of bonding with her baby. The scar would heal, the pain would subside, and she would be off the iron tablets before long, she hoped. She had everything she’d ever wanted: her own family, a beautiful house, and plenty of money so that they never had to worry about anything, ever.
One day, about three weeks after they’d bought Joseph home, they were eating lunch, and Joanna was just finishing feeding a hiccupy baby, when Craig’s mobile rang. It was lying on the table, and he snatched it up like lightning. Joanna looked up at Craig’s face but he had already turned himself to face the window.
‘Oh, hi…wait a mo.’
That feeling of billowing sickness Joanna had had before returned with a vengeance. She heard the door of the utility room close behind Craig. It had always clunked when Gran had lived there, and it was freezing in that tiny cubby hole. No one went in it unnecessarily. What was necessary now? Who was so necessary now?
Joanna knew she shouldn’t listen to his mobile calls. Everyone has a right to their privacy, she thought. But in the midst of all her new-found happiness, that little man with the walnut head that glowed green in the reflection of the glass appeared at the back of her eyes. And he wouldn’t go away, even as she held tiny Joseph tightly to her.
She took the baby into the bedroom and laid him down in his Moses basket. Then she took off her slippers and, in bare feet, crept noiselessly back down the stairs, clinging to the handrail with one hand, to her scar with the other. She eyed each step warily – they had so nearly been her undoing.
The utility room door was closed but there was a gap near the middle hinge where at the door had bowed once, when it had been taken off, painted, and left to dry at an angle against a wall. Craig’s voice muffled its way through this crack. Putting her ear right to the opening, she could hear the words.
‘No, OK, so it didn’t quite go according to plan. But it’ll all work out, I promise… She’s very weak… Yes, of course I want us to be together…’
Joanna’s heart began to pound in her chest. She knew that if she was capable of running upstairs to Joseph’s room and looked at the watch ball, that it would be glowing as it had been that night – that night Craig had tried to kill her. There! She had finally admitted it out loud to her own mind. It couldn’t have been any other way. She’d thought it would be all over, as soon as Craig knew that everything was all right – with the baby. She had thought they would get back to normal, be a happy family, and she could forget her silliness and her paranoia and put it down to the pregnancy.
The fuzziness that had been with her throughout the last nine months had gone now, and she was seeing things as clearly as she used to, before Craig had got his hooks into her heart, and her money. That little man – he had known.
She reared herself up. Weak, was she? Not as weak as Craig seemed to think. She laid one hand against her caesarean scar and shut her eyes as she placed the other against the door. The time had come to confront him, once and for all. If he didn’t want her, then he could leave her and Joseph, but she would ensure that he got nothing from her. None of her money. He wouldn’t get the chance to hurt her again. Her head whirred with what she would do and tears welled up across her eyelashes.
Craig’s voice filled her ears. That soft, soothing voice he had when they first met, in that solicitor’s office, when she’d been with Gran who wanted to leave Joanna the house and half her money.
‘Look, you can come over and stay any time you like, Mum. I just thought it would be better for Joanna if she felt more up to it first. I know I’ve been an idiot recently, but I’m just trying to look after my family.’
She pushed open the door. There was Craig, leant with his back against the radiator, mobile dangling from one hand, the other running through his beautiful dark crop of hair, just like his son’s.
‘I think I’ve upset Mum.’ Craig blew a huge sigh over Joanna’s shoulder as she rushed to him, burying her guilty, relieved face in his chest. ‘You know what she’s like – she reckons we don’t want her to help, so she’s being all funny.’
She smiled up at him. ‘Thanks, love. I’d like us to get to grips with our baby before anyone else starts telling us what to do. I’ve got enough with the midwife coming round all the time.’ She sighed. ‘I’ll make you a cuppa in a few minutes.’
Then she padded back upstairs and leant forward into the Moses basket. Joseph – their beautiful, perfect baby – dribbled as he noticed her. She wiped his mouth and put out her finger. He clutched it, staring at her with those stunning emerald eyes he had inherited from his father. She knew she had everything she wanted here, in this house. The paranoia, the worrying, started by that little man in that weird little shop – was over. Her imagination had done its bit to try and destroy her life, just like her Gran’s has done to hers. They were a family. And nothing – not even Craig’s mother with her constant phone calls – would prevent it now.
Almost instinctively, she reached for the watch ball, sitting so patiently on guard near the window. She thought, just for a split second, about staring into its depths. Instead, sighing, she wriggled her captured finger free from little Joseph’s tiny, strong grasp. And, without the sick feeling or the raised heartbeat or the stinging eyes, she opened the bottom drawer where she kept the baby towels, and placed it underneath the bottom-most of the mound.
‘Time to live,’ she said. Then she made soft circles on the forehead of her green-eyed baby until he fell asleep. ‘Magic eyes,’ she said softly to herself as she stroked the black fluff of Joseph’s hair. ‘Magic all round.’
Joanna heard the vicious rumblings of the kettle downstairs as it boiled a full body of water.
‘He must have got tired of waiting,’ she smiled to herself.
Did the old man know? From behind his counter in that quirky little shop, could he tell that Joanna had pulled through, almost unscathed? How strong were his senses? Did he know that she stared at the last little piece of her family jigsaw while the kettle boiled downstairs, drowning out all other noises? Did he know that, as the kettle boiled, Craig spoke softly into his mobile, and his voice came through, soft and sweet, to the one on the other end who was waiting for magic to happen?
‘I’ll make a new plan. There’s the kid now, but Mum will deal with him. He takes after me, she’ll see that. I’ll have the money. And you’ve got all yours, too, now that husband of yours has finally been declared legally dead. And soon, I promise, I’ll have you. I love you, more than I’ve loved anyone. I’ll love you until you die…’
And the old man – could he sense that, under those pure white baby towels, the glass bauble, once known as a watch ball, glowed with all its might, in the hope that Joanna would see?
Thank you for staying with me until the end. I hope you enjoyed the story.
If you’d like the FREE e-book of Till You Die, you can get it as a welcome gift when you join my Readers’ Club. But things are changing! At the end of November, there will be a new welcome gift instead – Beneath the Flesh, a novella from my Darker Minds series.
But if you’re a member before the end of November, you’ll have been able to download the e-book of Till You Die as your welcome gift AND be given the opportunity to get Beneath the Flesh for FREE, as a thank you for being a part of my Readers’ Club.
As a Readers’ Club member, you’ll get all the early and exclusive news on my upcoming books and new releases, exclusive behind the scenes insights, offers I may have from time to time, and exclusive members’ only stuff, as well as the chance to join my Advance Reader Team. I only recruit these from my Readers’ Club.
Ready to join? Click the button below to go to the signup page. See you on the other side! 😁
Take a look at Show Me Dead, the first novel in the Darker Minds series, here.