Willow’s memories of her parents are sun-drenched and full of smiles, love and laughter. But a mysterious invitation to a photographic exhibition exposes a secret that’s been buried since a tragic accident years ago.
Willow is forced to question everything she knew about Charity, her late mother, and Hope, the aunt she’s lived with since she was a child.
How was the enigmatic photographer connected to Willow’s parents? Why will Hope not break her silence?
Willow cannot move forward in her life without answers. But who can she really trust? Because no one has been telling the truth for a very long time.
ADDICTIVE, GRIPPING and EMOTIONALLY POWERFUL, this is the perfect read for your summer holiday escape.
Shock registers on his face. ‘No way.’
The rest of the crew are quiet as they watch me. I’ve been wanting this for such a long time, campaigning the Greek authorities to let me dive it as soon as I got my first set of qualifications when I was eighteen.
And now here I am.
I turn back to contemplate the sea. It’s gentle and aqua-coloured, tempting me in. I know how deceiving it can be, how in one moment it can turn into a death trap, like it did for my parents.
‘Ready?’ Ajay says, standing beside me as the rest of the crew line up.
I take a deep breath, channelling that queen of the Amazons, then put my snorkel into my mouth.
This is it.
I jump in before I can stop myself, the warm salty water splashing on to my face. My inflated jacket makes me bounce up and down for a few moments, then I start deflating the stab jacket and the weights around my waist pull me under. The sound of the boat’s engine, birds squawking above, the rippling sea all disappear as I descend. There’s just the deep quiet, that special quality of silence that only comes with being underwater.
The colour of the water around me changes the further down I get, from aqua to green to deep blue then misty black. The warmth dissipates a little and everything seems to slow down.
Is this how Mum and Dad felt before they were eaten up by the sea? I try to picture them. The last time I saw my mum, I was so tired, I barely took it in. Why had I been so bloody tired? If only I’d held on to wakefulness just a few moments longer, there would have been more than just fragments of memory to grasp at: the red of Mum’s lipstick, that crooked tooth of hers. If I’d been more awake, I could have held tight to her, told her not to go away, cried and begged.
Then Dad. I still remember the feel of his soft fingers against my forehead as he brushed my fringe away from my eyes a few days before, the smell of his citrus aftershave as he leant down to kiss me, green eyes like the sea. Maybe he would have delayed the launch if I’d begged him to? Aunt Hope said he was like putty in my hands, one of the country’s richest businessmen and his daughter had him wrapped around her little finger. Would it have been enough, my desperate plea for him to stay? How different things would have been if he had.
Ahead of me, I see the yellow of the other divers’ fins. The mist disperses and Ajay swivels around, his long legs like reeds. He shoots me a thumbs up and I do the same. At first I can’t see the ship, it’s so murky down here. But then it comes into view. I grab the torch attached to my wrist and shine it ahead of me. The ship is vast, stretched across the ocean floor like a white beached whale. Half its upper deck is smashed into the ocean floor’s surface, the side of the ship with its name – Haven Deluxe – emblazoned across it is tilted towards me. What was once floating is now submerged, wood and metal as one with the
seabed as it rests on its side in the foggy sea.
My aunt Hope says the ship’s dead, an underwater coffin. But it still feels alive to me, as though any moment it might pounce into life and spill out all the memories from my parents’ last night alive.
I stare at it, feeling an unbearable sadness. The first time I saw it was on the front of the brochure. Even at just seven, I could sense my dad’s excitement. Finally the cruise ship he’d dreamt of building was ready for its maiden voyage. He used to read the brochure to me like it was a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Tracy Buchanan is a web journalist and producer who lives in Milton Keynes with her husband, their little girl and their one-eyed Jack Russell. Tracy travelled extensively while working as a travel magazine editor, sating the wanderlust she developed while listening to her Sri Lankan grandparents’ childhood stories – the same wanderlust that now inspires her writing.