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The Breakdown
Author:B. A. Paris

The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

Dedication to follow

Title: The Breakdown ARC, Format: 126x198, v1, Output date:08/11/16


The thunder starts as we’re saying goodbye, leaving each

other for the summer holidays ahead. A loud crack echoes off the ground, making Connie jump. John laughs, the hot air dense around us.

‘You need to hurry!’ he shouts.

With a quick wave I run to my car. As I reach it, my

mobile starts ringing, its sound muffled by my bag. From

the ringtone I know that it’s Matthew.

‘I’m on my way,’ I tell him, fumbling for the door

handle in the dark. ‘I’m just getting in the car.’

‘Already?’ His voice comes down the line. ‘I thought

you were going back to Connie’s.’

‘I was, but the thought of you waiting for me was too

tempting,’ I tease. The flat tone to his voice registers. ‘Is everything all right?’ I ask.

Title: The Breakdown ARC, Format: 126x198, v1, Output date:08/11/16


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‘Yes, it’s just that I’ve got an awful migraine. It started about an hour ago and it’s getting steadily worse. That’s why I’m phoning. Do you mind if I go up to bed?’

I feel the air heavy on my skin and think of the storm

looming; no rain has arrived yet but instinct knows it

won’t be far behind. ‘Of course not. Have you taken

anything for it?’

‘Yes, but it doesn’t seem to be shifting. I thought I’d

go and lie down in the spare room, that way if I do fall

asleep you won’t disturb me when you come in.’

‘Good idea.’

‘I don’t really like going to bed without knowing

you’re back safely.’

I smile at this. ‘I’ll be fine, it’ll only take me forty

minutes. Unless I come back through the woods, by

Blackwater Lane.’

‘Don’t you dare!’ I can almost sense a shaft of pain

rocketing through his head at his raised tone. ‘Ouch,

that hurt,’ he says, and I wince in sympathy. He lowers

his voice to a more bearable level. ‘Cass, promise you

won’t come back that way. First of all, I don’t want you

driving through the woods on your own at night and

secondly, there’s a storm coming.’

‘OK, I won’t,’ I say hastily, folding myself onto the

driver’s seat and dropping my bag onto the seat next

to me.


‘Promise.’ I turn the key in the ignition and shift the car into gear, the phone now hot between my shoulder and ear.

The Breakdown


‘Drive carefully,’ he cautions.

‘I will. Love you.’

‘Love you more.’

I put my phone in my bag, smiling at his insistence.

As I manoeuvre out of the parking space, fat drops of

rain splatter onto my windscreen. Here it comes, I think.

By the time I get to the dual carriageway the rain

is coming down hard. Stuck behind a huge lorry, my

wipers are no match for the spray thrown up by its

wheels. As I move out to pass it, lightning streaks across the sky, and falling back into a childhood habit I begin a slow count in my head. The answering rumble of thunder comes when I get to four. Maybe I should have

gone back to Connie’s with the others after all. I could

have waited out the storm there, while John amused us

with his jokes and stories. I feel a sudden stab of guilt at the look in his eyes when I’d said I wouldn’t be joining them. It had been clumsy of me to mention Matthew.

What I should have said was that I was tired, like Mary,

our Head, had.

The rain becomes a torrent and the cars in the fast

lane drop their speed accordingly. They converge around

my little Mini and the sudden oppression makes me

pull back into the slow lane. I lean forward in my seat,

peering through the windscreen, wishing my wipers

would work a little faster. A lorry thunders past, then

another and when it cuts back into my lane without

warning, causing me to brake sharply, it suddenly feels

too dangerous to stay on this road. More lightning forks


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the sky and in its wake the sign for Nook’s Corner, the

little hamlet where I live, looms into view. The black

letters on the white background, caught in the headlights and glowing like a beacon in the dark, seem so inviting that suddenly, at the very last minute, when it’s almost too late, I veer off to the left, taking the short cut that Matthew didn’t want me to take. A horn blares angrily behind me and, as the sound chases me down the pitch— black lane into the woods, it feels like an omen.

Even with my headlights full on I can barely see

where I’m going and I instantly regret the brightly lit

road I left behind. Although this road is beautiful by

day – it cuts through bluebell woods – its hidden dips

and bends will make it treacherous on a night like this.

A knot of anxiety balls in my stomach at the thought of

the journey ahead. But the house is only fifteen minutes

away. If I keep my nerve, and not do anything rash, I’ll