I am delighted to share the second part of The Girl in his Eyes by Jennie Ensor exctract on Blog Blitz today. You check out the first part on Bibliomaniac Blog
Her father abused her when she was a child. For years she was too afraid to speak out. But now she suspects he’s found another victim…
Laura, a young woman struggling to deal with what her father did to her a decade ago, is horrified to realise that the girl he takes swimming might be his next victim. Emma is twelve – the age Laura was when her father took away her innocence.
Intimidated by her father’s rages, Laura has never told anyone the truth about her childhood. Now she must decide whether she has the courage to expose him and face the consequences.
Can Laura overcome her fear and save Emma before the worst happens?
29 December 2010
After lunch, Laura helped her mother to clear up in the kitchen while the others sat in the living room. Every so often she could hear her father’s robust laugh from down the hall.
‘Jane heard from Neil yesterday,’ her mother said, feeding a plate to the dishwasher.
Jane? Oh yes, Jane was a friend of her mother’s. Neil, Jane’s husband, had left her for a woman of twenty-eight he’d met in an Argentine tango class.
‘Is he still with that girl? What was her name?’
‘Yes, they’re living in a flat in Luxembourg. Neil rang Jane to wish them all a happy Christmas and she told him to get stuffed.’ Her mother’s voice got louder. ‘She’s not going to forgive him for running off like that. It’s been a huge struggle for her, working full-time and coping with the kids – and now Emma’s playing up.’
‘Answering back, refusing to do anything round the house. Jane’s really worried about her.’ Her mother slammed the dishwasher door. ‘Did your father tell you he’s going to take Emma swimming?’
‘No – how come?’
‘Jane asked him if he’d mind taking Emma to the pool with him on Saturdays. To give her a break, partly – the kids are such a handful. But it’ll be good for Emma too. Jane says she’s always stuck in her room playing computer games and messing about on her iPhone.’
‘Dad doesn’t mind?’
‘No, he’s happy to help out. He likes the idea of teaching again, he misses working with kids. I think it’ll be good for him, a chance for him to feel valued outside the office.’
It sounded sensible, on the surface. Her father had been a hotshot swimmer. He’d coached children at his swimming club in Canada, she remembered him saying – they all looked up to him because he’d won a big swimming competition, the state 100m freestyle title, or something. But a fuzzy sense of unease filled her.
‘Suzanne, are you two still in there?’ Her father’s head appeared around the door. ‘I thought we were going to have coffee?’
‘We’re just finishing, Paul. Give me a minute, will you?’
Her mother reached up into a cupboard then shrieked as a cup hurtled out and broke into small pieces that scattered across the floor.
‘Jesus.’ The veins bulged in her father’s forehead. ‘I’ve never in my life known anyone as clumsy as you!’
‘For God’s sake, Paul, I didn’t do it on purpose.’ Despite its attempted firmness, a tremor caught her mother’s voice. ‘Leave us alone, won’t you?’
His footsteps thumped away down the hall.
‘Are you okay, Mum?’
The colour had gone from her mother’s cheeks. As she stared down at the floor in dismay, she looked as if she might break too.
‘Sit down, let me clean up.’ She went to the cupboard and took out a dustpan and brush. I’ll make us more coffee.’
It had happened again, as it had so many times in her childhood. She had always been in a constant state of waiting for her father to let rip over some inconsequential thing. She or her brother hadn’t tidied their bedrooms properly, or her mother had burnt the toast – anything would set him off. His rages would end with her mother dosing herself with pills and retreating to a darkened bedroom.
Daniel and Karen appeared in the kitchen and announced they were leaving – they were worried about driving on dark roads.
‘Bye, sis.’ Daniel gave her a quick squeeze. ‘Look after Mum.’
‘See you, Dan. Give me a call if you’re ever in London.’ Even as she said this, she knew he wouldn’t. He was always busy with something. They got on well enough but their lives were mostly separate now.
Her mother put her hand on her arm.
‘You’ll stay on for a bit, won’t you, dear? I’m going upstairs to lie down for half an hour.’
Laura made the coffee as slowly as she could then took the two cups into the living room. The thought of being alone with her father made her skin prickle, as though she were a child again. But she told herself she ought to make an effort. She was an adult now – trying to avoid him the whole time was ridiculous. Anyway, she wasn’t going to let him get the better of her. Not anymore.
Her father was slumped in his armchair, his eyes shut and his legs, crossed at the ankles, stretched out in front of him. She put his cup quietly on the coffee table, which was temporarily unburdened of her mother’s Healthy Living magazines.
‘It’s all right, I’m not asleep.’ His tone was friendly. He pushed himself upright. ‘It’s good to see you again, Laura.’
She backed away. ‘I know I haven’t been over much lately. I’m sorry.’
He nodded, picking up his cup. ‘I expect you’re busy, these days.’
Reluctantly, she lowered herself onto the sofa. It would be rude to leave the room now. But what to say to him? A minefield lay between them, un-crossable. How could he talk like this, as if everything was perfectly alright? As if the past had never happened?
‘Mum says you’re going to take Emma to the pool with you.’
‘That’s the plan.’ Carefully, he replaced the cup in the saucer. ‘I’ll help her with her swimming.’
‘What about your own swimming? Won’t Emma get in the way?’
He smiled, a generous smile that showed off his perfectly crowned teeth. ‘I won’t mind. It’ll be fun.’
His tone was light, anodyne. But something was out of alignment. The door would not quite fit the jamb.
Jennie Ensor lives in London and has Irish roots. During a long trip overseas she obtained a Masters in Journalism and began her writing career as a journalist, covering topics from forced marriages to accidents in the mining industry. Her debut novel BLIND SIDE was published by Unbound in 2016. In January 2018 her short story ‘The Gift’ was placed in the Top 40 of the Words and Women national prose competition. Her poetry has appeared in many UK and overseas publications, most recently Ink Sweat and Tears. She sings in a chamber choir.