Time To Shine - A Mystery. A Marriage Mender. And A Mary Berry Style Bake Off

Posted at 07:25am on 10th November 2014

First in the Evie Adams series: Page one of my new book

Sometimes, when you're counselling a client and she lobs a direct question at you, protocol requires that you bounce it back to her. A case in point is my two-o'clock this Friday afternoon, a mother of three, early-forties, by the name of Julia Worth. She's booked an appointment as a self-referral, and it's clear that she's desperate for answers.

'What do you think of divorce Mrs Adams?' she asks almost as soon as she's seated herself in the brown leather armchair opposite mine, in my first floor counselling room.
 
To gain time, I brush an imaginary crumb from my black work trousers, and push a stray strand of hair behind my ear. I could answer Julia in any number of ways: factually - it's the legal termination of a marriage; emotively - it's the upsetting and often messy end of an intimate relationship; cynically - it has the legal profession rubbing their hands together all the way to the bank; or experientially - been there, done that.
 
Instead, I ask, 'How do you mean?'
 
Not very original I grant you, but my aim is to get my client to open up.
 
A petite and attractive brunette whose dark eyes and full lips are crumpled with the ravages of distress and uncertainty, Julia looks me full in the face.
 
'Mrs Adams -'
 
'Evie,' I correct her.
 
'Evie,' she repeats. 'What I mean is that I don't believe in it. It's wrong. In my opinion, once you've made a commitment to marriage you should stick at it.'
 
She falls silent, leaning forward as if nursing an inner pain, her eyes welling with tears. I pass her the tissues and wait until she's ready to proceed. Behind her, motes of dust dance in the sunlight that streams through the ill-fitting lattice windows and lights up her face. From The Green below, at the heart of Exeter's city centre, I can hear the murmur of tourists imbibing the architectural and historical delights of the eleventh century St Peter's Cathedral.
 
Julia dabs at a falling tear. Naturally demonstrative, this is the part of my job I find hardest, having to restrain myself from reaching out and giving her a pat or a hug. I content myself by noting that, in stark contrast to my own drab attire, she at least looks well-heeled, if the fuchsia pink jacket and purple suede handbag are anything to go by. Small consolation, but if the marriage does end in divorce, at least she won't be destitute like some of my clients.
 
She straightens up, leans back in her chair.
 
'Trouble is,' she says, at last, 'my husband, Carl, seems to be convinced that I'm being unfaithful. I'm not. Not in that way, at least. But he's behaving abominably.'
 
Intrigued by the concept of multiple methods of unfaithfulness, I refrain from delving further at this stage.
 
'Have you tried to convince him of your fidelity?' I ask. Silly question, but it has to be posed. It never ceases to surprise me how many people shy away from confronting the truth.
 
'Oh, yes!' Julia is weeping properly by now. 'Most of the time he refuses to discuss it and tells me it's all in my head. At other times, he says, 'If you don't like it, you know what you can do.' I think he's trying to force me into leaving him.'
 
I scribble a note in my file. Could this be passive aggressive behaviour, I wonder? A well-known syndrome of manipulation, it takes the form of emotional abuse that is highly destructive, but gives the impression that the perpetrator inhabits the moral high ground.
 
'It all started when I became friendly with Hilary,' Julia continues. 'The new Chairman of the Board of Governors at my daughter's school. Carl hit the roof when the appointment was made. Went completely over the top. And he never misses an opportunity to make some scathing remark. It's bizarre. They obviously have history but, as I say, he refuses to discuss it.'
 
I raise an eyebrow. Could the said Hilary have featured in Julia's husband's life in some way that he would rather not be reminded of, I wonder? Some devious business deal on one side or the other? Or worse, perhaps, some adulterous behaviour one or other of them would rather keep hidden?  I settle back in my chair and prepare to listen for the next three-quarters of an hour or so to Julia's account of the ups and downs of her marriage. Among women of her age, and mine, it's a familiar story.
 

NOW READ A FURTHER EXCERPT

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Your Comments:

10th November 2014
at 8:03am

As a former Grammar School pupil, Mel writes extremely well. The detail in her writing helps paint a perfect picture and one is instantly absorbed.
As a man who enjoys reading and literature in general, I find I can easily lose myself in a book. I am only basing my judgement on the above sample of Mel's writing but when I do get around to reading the whole story I am sure I shall enjoy it immensely.
Well done Mel - another winner for you surely.....
Mel Menzies
10th November 2014
at 8:48am
Thank you, William. I've really enjoyed writing this first book in the Evie Adams series. Doing the research into the history of the location - Exeter cathedral - has been fascinating. And visiting some of the places Evie goes to for recreation has revealed the stunning beauty of the South West coastal paths. I hope, when you read the whole book, that you'll feel I've done them justice in my writing.
14th November 2014
at 8:26am
Sounds like a cracking read -- a proper page turner. I look forward to the summer holidays when I can sit down with it and dive into Evie's world. Thanks for sharing!
14th November 2014
at 8:48am
Thank you Lucy. Who knows, by the summer holidays, the next book in the series, titled CHOSEN? might well be on the bookshelves and available for purchase.
17th November 2014
at 5:28pm
a great first page that draws the reader in immediately. As well as the Big issues raised,
I particularly like the flagging up of the vulnerabilty of both in the room, as well as the noticing of small details in the background. Deserves to sell well.
17th November 2014
at 5:33pm
Uh oh, another book to add to my Amazon wish list.... Seriously Merrilyn, this first page has me hooked and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the book!
Mel Menzies
17th November 2014
at 7:09pm
Thank you, David. Interesting that you picked up on Evie's vulnerability. You were right to do so. Very perceptive :)
Mel Menzies
17th November 2014
at 7:11pm
Oooh, great, Mandy. Hope you continue to enjoy the read. And don't forget, also, that your purchase will help homeless children and the victims and orphans of the Ebola crisis. All profits are for charities: Tearfund and Care for the Family. So thank you.

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