|pic used under creative commons from mynameisharsha|
(If you've stumbled on this and are wondering what the hell I'm talking about, well you're in luck! You can recap all the previous parts of the story below without having to wait!)
Written Fireside - 'For Clara' is a travelling blog-hop story written in instalments by a fabbo group of writers, all of whom have their own vision for it but have had to succumb and let the story take on a life of its own. The experience has been great fun for us! The story so far can be accessed here:
PART 1 - Lori Connelly
PART 2 - Teresa Morgan
PART 3 - Carmel Harrington
PART 4 - Romy Sommer
PART 5 - A J Nuest
PART 6 - Me again!
PART 7 - Lori Connelly
PART 8 - Teresa Morgan
PART 9 - Carmel Harrington
PART 10 - Romy Sommer
PART 11 - A J Nuest
And without further ado...
'FOR CLARA' - PART 12
Mark laced his fingers through hers, her hand encased tightly in his, and she raised her eyes and met his gaze. She saw nothing there but love and support.‘How do you know Derek killed Barbara?’ she asked. She had to know everything now, although the thought of what her friend had been through made her eyes fill with tears and her throat tighten.
‘I found out at the Lucky Number Café. He took great pleasure in telling me,’ Mark said tightly.
‘How did it happen?’
He shook his head but she tugged at his hand.
‘Please, Mark. I need to know.’
‘She’d been ill for a long time. I don’t think any of us realised how ill until we heard at the funeral. For the last few months she had a full time nurse to take care of her. Derek showed up and blagged his way in there, probably bigged himself up as her long-lost foster brother making a concerned visit.’ Mark’s eyes were hard chips of steel. ‘When she wouldn’t tell him what he wanted to know, he put a pillow over her face.’
Her breath caught in her throat. Poor Barbara. How frightened she must have been. Guilt twisted in Clara’s stomach. She should have been there to protect her friend.
‘He knew we were stronger together, that’s why he did it,’ she said. ‘We’d always supported each other, stood up to him together. He must have thought by taking Barbara out that I would weaken. That’s why he came after me next.’
‘How did you come to buy back the bracelet?’ Mark said.Clara looked down at her hands.
‘After Etienne was killed, it reverted to the Duval Estate. Next in line was some distant relative who wanted the whole estate liquidated. That was when Barbara stepped in and made an offer on the bracelet. She knew how much it had meant to Mrs Duval. And to Etienne too. Of course that was what tipped Derek’s jealousy over the edge – he’d always hated the Duval’s foster kids. He couldn’t understand why his parents needed any other children in their lives when they had him, could never see it as an unselfish desire to help on the part of his mother. He had to make it all about him.’
Mark pulled his mobile phone from his pocket.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Calling the police,’ he said, punching in numbers. ‘Now I know you’re safe it’s time we handed the situation over to them.’
She clutched at his arm with her hand.
‘What if the charges don’t stick,’ she said, panicking. ‘He’ll get out on bail and come back to find me.’‘He’s a double murderer, RaRa,’ he said patiently. ‘They’ll throw away the key.’
‘Are you sure?’
She thought of the questions, the nightmare, facing Derek again across a crowded courtroom. The hell that she and Barbara had been through when they testified against him all those years ago. Could she really face that a second time? And she had no Barbara beside her this time.
Mark covered her hand with his own, tilted her chin with his hand until she met his steady gaze.‘How long have you been running from this, RaRa?’ he said gently.
She managed a small smile.
‘Too long.’‘You don’t need to worry anymore,’ he said, as if he could read her thoughts. ‘We’ll get through this together. I’m staying right here. And you’ll never need to be afraid again.’
Maybe she didn’t have Barbara’s support this time. But still she had Mark. Long forgotten hope began to slip back into her heart like slanting rays of sunshine banishing the dark lonely past. A hope she’d once had of a family of her own. A hope that had disappeared in the ensuing years after she’d turned Mark away from her life.
She waited quietly as he spoke into the phone, explaining the situation and handing over brief details of their location and a description of Derek’s truck. And then he tossed the phone onto the dashboard and turned back to her.
As he pulled her into his arms and tilted her face to meet his, she lifted a hand to touch his cheek, let her fingers sink into his hair as if confirming to herself he was real. She let her eyes flutter shut as he touched her lips with his own, making the lost years melt away. She finally allowed herself to believe it could be over. Everything really would be alright...
The roar of gravel under spinning wheels and the screech of brakes made them leap apart. And more fool her. It would never be over.
Derek’s truck blocked their path out of the woods and his murderous face stared at them through the mud-flecked windscreen.
How will it end??
Will Derek get his just desserts? Will Mark and Clara survive? Even I don't know! So join me on 30th September over at Lori Connelly's blog for the final part. Last one there gets the lumpy sleeping bag!