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Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Hippo Hands Over . . . to Marie Campbell

Today it's my pleasure to hand over to the delightful Marie Campbell. Marie's debut psychological thriller, Baby, was released on kindle a few weeks ago and it's already getting five star reviews.

When I first spoke to Marie after asking for author guest posts for this new feature, I saw on her website that she'd written short stories so I tentatively asked her if she would be happy to share one and I was thrilled when she agreed. So here is one of Marie's favourites titled Mine.


It feels like the whole world is sleeping. It is calming, this sense of being alone in the world, with no one knowing where I am. If I were to go missing, they wouldn’t know where to start. I always walk, even if it’s still early enough for buses. I don’t want to speak, not even about fares and tickets. And buses always have CCTV these days, don’t they? I know there are cameras on the streets as well, but I am anonymous in my loose navy tracksuit and trainers, with my hair tucked up inside an old Nike cap. I am nobody.
It’s cold tonight, the white vapour of my breath leading the way. I know these streets just as they know me; an invisible hand on my shoulder steers me.
There are many routes to where I am headed, and this time, I walk away from home and down the back street. A skinny tabby runs across my path then stops to stare, but I don’t slow my pace.
He could wake up at any time and realise I am gone. I have been slipping something I picked up at work into his drink on the nights I go out.  Still, something could rouse him.  It’s a chance I’m willing to take.
I hear a rustle by the garage ahead of me. Likely the cat, but I can’t be sure. I edge around the corner. A man lies asleep surrounded by bulging plastic bags, his bulky form dressed in what is probably his entire wardrobe.
Almost an hour has passed by the time I reach my destination. As usual, the houses are in darkness. No windows glowing with lamplight, no flickering from a wide-screen TV showing a late movie. I have spent a lot of time looking out for night-shift workers and insomniacs. Of course, one of them could change their habits at any time, but that’s another thing I have to risk.
Her car is parked on the driveway. The small, silver two-seater I would have guessed she’d drive. I slip the string of keys out from under my sweatshirt and over my head. They are warm from my skin. My hand shakes slightly as I take hold of one of them and scrape the point slowly along the passenger side, from the back to the front. It’s too dark to get a good look but I’m satisfied that the scratch is long and deep. I turn to leave.
This should be enough, but I want more. Instead of putting the string back around my neck, I walk up to the house and unlock the door. I tense, sure that an alarm will ring out at any second, but the house remains silent. The floor in the hallway is a spotless, gleaming oak. A huge mirror framed in dull pewter dominates the wall above a side table with a neat pile of post, and a selection of pens in a pot by the phone. I shake my head at the lack of coats, shoes and debris and rummage through the pens. One of them is a black Sharpie marker. I uncap it and press my finger against the glossy wet nib. Not like the dried up ones that litter my desk at home. A large canvas hangs further down the hall. It is one of those nondescript muted scenes. I take the pen and scrawl across it, then gather up the post and stuff it into my waistband.  I put the pen in my pocket, then notice that she has left her keys in a glazed ceramic bowl on the other end of the table. I pick them up and leave the house. I’ll drop them into a drain on the way home.
I make it home in forty-five minutes – a personal best. By the time I take off my clothes and stash the post in my bedside drawer, it’s after 4.00am.  He’s snoring softly beside me, and, just as I am nodding off to sleep, I momentarily think how grating that noise is.
When the alarm goes off the next morning at 8.00am and I drag myself from the bed, I find I am alone in the house. The half-empty cup of coffee he has left on the worktop is lukewarm. I take a swig from it as I prepare for the day ahead.
He is quieter than usual. There is a furrow on his brow and his eyes are dull and heavy. His face seems thinner, and the faint flecks of silver in his hair are more noticeable. He has to go away at the weekend, he says. A work thing. I nod and leave the room without a word. There’s nothing else to be said.
I keep busy all day Saturday. Cleaning out cupboards, washing floors, tidying drawers. I go to the charity shop and drop off bags. All the while, my skin itches with impatience. I go through her mail and shred bills and statements. I fill in a loan application on her behalf and walk to the post box to send it off, along with a couple of letters on which I have scrawled ‘Not at this address’. I watch nonsense on TV and heat up pasta that I have no inclination to eat.
At last, it’s after midnight. The streets are never as quiet on a weekend but I know the best way to go. When I get there, I go straight to the door and let myself in. More post lies in the usual place, and next to it is a vase of velvety yellow roses. I head for the stairs, where the shiny floor gives way to thick, creamy carpet, then along the landing. All of the doors – and I count eight of them – are closed.  I head to the one furthest away and find the room inside lined with glossy white wardrobes. A vast chest of drawers sits between them, and in front of the window, a dressing table with neatly arranged pots and jars. I picture her, in her muted creams and beiges, the sharp black suits, the skinny jeans and loose tops. This is where they are housed, no doubt in perfectly ordered rows. I leave the room and find the bathroom next door. Even in the dark, it gleams. Towels as thick as sheepskin are folded on a rack. A tall bottle of bath oil sits on the side of the tub, and the air is lemon-scented. I open the mirrored cabinet, hoping to find nail scissors, but instead, there is a pleasant surprise. A pair of long, pointed hairdressing scissors. I wouldn’t have had her down as someone who cut her own fringe. But these are perfect.
Back in the dressing room, I click on a lamp. I am sure the pale light won’t penetrate the heavy drapes, and I need to see what I am doing. I open the wardrobe nearest to me and finger a long, delicate blouse, almost transparent and clearly expensive. The fabric rips easily as I shove the pointed blades through its front. It’s almost a shame to spoil something so beautiful.  
She has a few similar items, so I pierce each of them. I work quickly, and in silence.  In the top drawer are a selection of neatly folded sweaters and cardigans. She keeps her scissors sharp, and it’s easy to slice off a few arms. I refold them and put them carefully back in place. She has four suits – two black, two navy. The scissors are becoming blunt now but I persist and manage to ruin the trousers. 
There is so much more I could do here, but it’s time I left. A noise stops me as I head for the door. It is a toilet flushing; not in the room next door where I found the scissors but somewhere, behind one of the closed doors. But that’s impossible. She can’t be here. She should be at The Royal Oak Hotel, in a luxury room, celebrating her birthday. I’ve seen the email confirming it.
My heart drums in my chest, loud and fast. I close my eyes and hold my breath for what seems like hours, then creep from the room and down the hall. I pause by the door which must surely be the master bedroom.  Before I can stop myself, I’ve eased the handle down and opened it, just a crack.  I can’t help but look in. They lie there, sleeping. My lover and his wife. The pain in my heart is almost too much to bear. My face feels damp and clammy and I clamp my lips together until I taste blood, fearful that I won’t be able to stop myself from crying out.  I hurry down the stairs and out of the door. I rub my hands across my face and pull up my hood as I begin the journey home
This can’t go on. He will leave her soon, I know it. When she becomes so needy, clingy and panicky that he can’t bear to be near her. And then, at last, he will be mine. 

Well I don't know about you but after reading that I can't wait to read more from Marie so I'm going to be adding Baby to my TBR pile!

Photo courtesy of Marie Campbell

About Marie Campbell 

I was born in Hetton-le-Hole, in the north-east of England, in 1972. Growing up, I spent many hours reading and writing stories and can still recall the pride when, aged eight, my story was chosen by the primary school teacher to be backed in cardboard and put on display.

Fast-forward several years, via an abandoned teaching degree, many years as a civil servant and a new baby; driven by a lifelong passion for words, I embarked on an online writing course. I wrote many, many short stories, and then I decided to write a book.

Over the years, I've written everything from reports to magazine articles, blogs to short stories. I write mostly at the kitchen table, picking up a pen, thinking, 'What if...' and seeing where the story takes me. 
When I'm not writing or looking after my son, I run a freelance proofreading business 
Marie Campbell - Proofreading. I also love to read and do so wherever and whenever I can.

If you'd like to connect with Marie or just find out more about her you can find her at the places below:


I'd like to say a huge thank you to Marie for sharing her fantastic short story with us today and I'd like to wish her lots of success with her novel Baby. Here's to many more five star reviews!🍸

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