Ruth Mancini is the author of In the Blood, The Lies You Tell and His Perfect Lies. Her latest nove, One Dark, Two Light was published by Head of Zeus on 5 March 2020.
Today I have an extract from the book to share with you.
The rain has eased off, thankfully. I open the gate to my front yard and manoeuvre the buggy through before unstrapping Ben and standing him upright on the narrow path. I hold him steady with one hand while I try to unclip the folding mechanism of the buggy with the other, simultaneously trying not to collide with the handles of several bicycles which are protruding over the wall from the neighbour’s front yard. Ben wriggles impatiently and I give up and slide the buggy off the path with one foot. It rolls across the tiny patch of grass and into the spindly branches of my overgrown rosebush. I’m too tired to fight with it this evening. I’ll come back for it later, once I’ve settled Ben.
Inside, I slip a Teletubbies DVD into the Panasonic and sit Ben on the floor with his sippy cup. I tip some crisps onto a plate and place them on the rug beside him. Ben’s fist darts out onto the plate and immediately upends it, the crisps flying out and landing in a heap on the rug. I instinctively leap down onto my hands and knees and, with both hands and in one swift movement, scoop the crisps up off the rug and back onto the plate again. Five second rule, I tell myself. If I threw away every item of food that Ben dropped on the floor we’d run out pretty quickly. I’d be visiting food banks. I’d probably go bankrupt within a year.
But there are limits. An uncomfortable image comes into my mind: me and Will in a restaurant (the one and only meal we’ve ever had in a restaurant together, while Anna babysat); me knocking a basket of bread to the floor as I brushed past the table on my way back from the loo. Me dropping to the ground and cheerfully declaring, ‘Five second rule!’ whilst scooping the bread up and back into the basket again. Will’s face as he said, ‘I think perhaps we’ll just order some more.’ I can feel the heat creeping its way across my forehead as I think about it now. I wouldn’t have eaten that bread! Of course I wouldn’t – I acted on instinct, that’s all. But lord knows what he thought of me. No wonder he hasn’t called. He’s probably found himself someone with a little more class.
Seeing me still sitting back on my heels beside him, Ben picks up and passes me his sippy cup, even though it’s still full. Ben likes to find me things to do. I hand it straight back to him. ‘You’ve got juice,’ I tell him. He takes a sip and then drops the cup on the floor. Some juice spills out of the spout onto the rug. As I push myself to my feet to get a cloth, there’s a knock at the door and it nearly makes me jump out of my skin. Logic tells me it’s not going to be Will; why would he turn up without calling first? Although, maybe he’s lost his phone, I wonder suddenly. Maybe that was him who tried calling earlier, from his chambers, perhaps? But more likely it’s just a neighbour with a parcel that’s been delivered to the wrong house.
I grab my bag and blot the puddle of juice with one of the half-used tissues before jumping up and heading out into the hallway. I pull the catch on the door and it swings open. I feel my knees go weak as I step back in surprise.
For a moment I’m speechless. I haven’t heard from Andy for… ages. I thought he was in Australia. How can he suddenly be here, on my doorstep?
‘Hey, Sarah.’ Andy – my ex – smiles a straight-mouthed, hesitant smile which lets me know that he’s nervous.
I shake my head. ‘What are you doing here?’
As I wait for him to reply I take in his appearance. He looks really well. He’s lean and tanned. He’s wearing a navy-blue polo top and light brown jeans. He’s shorter than I remember – but not too short – and stocky, still, like a rugby player. He’s had his hair cut, his lovely, long, wavy, fair hair, but it suits him and the overall impression is now much more ‘established man’ than ‘surfer dude’.
He shifts from one foot to the other as his big blue eyes seek out mine. As I meet his gaze, my heart leaps: I can see Ben’s face staring right back at me. It’s unmistakable; he’s the image of Ben – or Ben of him.
He shrugs. ‘I’m back.’ He smiles a little and his left cheek twitches slightly – a very mild nervous tic he has, which I’d always loved and had forgotten about. It transports me back in time, as does his accent. ‘I mean… I’m back in the UK,’ he qualifies his statement and laughs, nervously.
About the book
New Year’s Eve, London.
Outside the Hope & Glory pub, a man has been left to die. A victim of extraordinary violence, he will never walk or speak again. He remains in hospital for months, until criminal defence lawyer Sarah Kellerman walks onto his ward.
Sarah barely recognises the man she once worked with – he was honourable and kind – what was he involved in? Who wanted him dead? But in her race to uncover the truth, Sarah comes to realise there are two men in her life that she never really knew at all…
From one of crime fiction’s most compelling voices, One Dark, Two Light is where the personal and criminal collide, as Sarah works to bring dark secrets into the light.
About the author
Ruth Mancini is a criminal defence lawyer, author and freelance writer. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and two children.