On a summer night in London, art teacher Eve Chapman finds herself in a hospital emergency room. She watches surgeons desperately operate on a young woman with a terrible head injury. But when the bandages are removed, Eve is horrified to find her own body on the operating table.
Trapped in a coma, Eve struggles to cope with the fact that no matter how hard she tries, her family and friends cannot see or hear her. But then she meets Luca Diaz, a handsome and comatose lawyer who can see her. He takes Eve under his wing and teaches her how to use her new abilities to help the living.
As the weeks pass, Eve struggles to find a way back to her body and to Nathan, the man she loves. But the more time she spends with Luca, the more she wonders if her old life is worth going back to at all.
Eve and Nathan had drunk a lot of wine the night before the accident—way too much for a school night—and then she’d slept badly, as she often did after a boozy evening. When her alarm went off and she’d hit the snooze button a second time, she finally dragged herself out of bed.
As she stood under the shower, even the warm cascade couldn’t blast away the strange sensation she had woken up with. She couldn’t remember having any dreams, but she woke up unnerved, as though she’d had one which had felt a little too real.
Taking a towel from the rail, she’d rubbed at her hair, dressing and returning quickly to the bathroom to put on her makeup. As she picked up her mascara wand and widened her eyes in the mirror, a sudden movement in the corner of the room caught her attention. The wand slipped and stabbed her in the eye.
‘Damn,’ she said, putting one hand over her eye, which began to leak black tears in protest.
She spun round to see what it was, but other than her own reflection, she was alone in the bathroom. Shrugging, she turned back to the mirror and grabbed a wipe to remove the smudges from her cheek. Her eye was so sore that she couldn’t possibly reapply it now.
Deciding to take the mascara with her for later, she reached to put it into her back pocket. As she did, she felt something brush her arm. It was the most delicate of touches, but it made the hairs on the back of her neck prickle. She rubbed her arm furiously, believing it to be some kind of winged insect that must have come in through the open bathroom window. Eve didn’t much care for small, fluttery things, particularly moths. She couldn’t bear the rustling of tiny wings and the panic these creatures endured when they knew they were trapped. She reached for the catch and snapped the window quickly shut.
‘Eve, don’t go.’
The man’s voice was crystal clear, as though it had come from inside the room. She spun round, dropping her mascara, which rolled away beneath the vanity unit.
‘Nathan?’ she called, as she knelt down and grappled on the floor for the tube. Hearing footsteps in the bedroom, she pulled herself up and followed in, one eye still closed. ‘Did you say something, love?’
The bedroom was empty. Eve jolted to a halt.
‘Nathan?’ she called again, louder this time.
‘Yep, down here,’ came the voice from the kitchen. ‘What’s up?’
‘Oh, nothing,’ she called. ‘It’s fine. Must be Buster up to his usual tricks.’
A shiver ran down Eve’s spine as she examined her eye in the bedroom mirror, grimacing when she saw how red it still was. Choosing some earrings from her jewellery box, she wandered across to the bedroom window as she fixed them into place. Buster was sitting on the fence of her tiny garden, one back foot in the air, his toes pointed like a furry ballet dancer while he carried out his morning ablutions.
‘You daft cat,’ she said. ‘One of these days you’ll fall off that fence.’
As Eve reached for the window catch to pull it closed, a long white feather, as light as gossamer, fluttered to the floor and landed beside her foot. Buster had recently become quite the hunter; she often found stray feathers around the house. But this one was different, far more exquisite. She picked it up and turned it over in the palm of her hand before throwing it into the bin and heading downstairs.
Eve pulled out a chair and sat down beside Nathan, pushing his pile of papers to one side.
‘You OK?’ he asked.
‘Yeah,’ said Eve, frowning. ‘Bad night’s sleep.’
While Nathan crossed his legs and swiped onto the next news article on his iPad, she drank a gulp of the coffee he had poured for her. She thought better of mentioning the voice she had heard and the strange feeling that overcame her in the bathroom. It was probably nothing. She must have still been half-asleep.
‘More coffee?’ said Nathan, returning to the news.
‘No, I’m fine thanks. I’d better get going,’ she said, putting her mug into the dishwasher and planting a kiss on Nathan’s lips. He seemed to be making no move to pack up his papers and follow suit. ‘You coming? I can wait a minute or two if you want to walk to the Tube with me?’
‘No, I’m not quite ready yet,’ he said. ‘Just need to read this lot for later. I’ll be another half-hour or so.’
‘Oh,’ said Eve flatly.
‘Sorry, love, I should have said earlier.’ He pushed back his chair to look up at her. ‘Your eye looks a bit sore.’
‘Yeah, I nearly poked it out with my mascara just now. Looks awful, doesn’t it?’
‘You look beautiful to me,’ said Nathan, putting his arm around her waist and pulling her close. ‘You always do. Don’t worry, it’ll be fine by tonight. You excited?’
‘I can’t wait.’
‘It’s going to be great. And you’ll look gorgeous in that new dress. But hey, don’t go getting on the Tube in it. Book a cab. I can put it on expenses. Now go, or you’ll be late for school.’
He slapped her on the bottom as she left the kitchen, and she let out a little squeal.
‘Bye, then,’ Eve called as she opened the front door, half hoping he would change his mind and come with her.
‘Love you,’ he called back.
And then she heard the voice again.
‘Eve, don’t go,’ it said, quite clearly. A sudden chill made her spine tingle. She sensed someone’s closeness, an intrusion on her personal space, but again she was completely alone.
‘What did you say?’ she called out, all the while knowing the voice hadn’t come from Nathan. By now he was wholly engrossed in his meeting notes.
‘I said I love you, babe,’,’ he replied.
‘Love you, too,’ said Eve.. ‘See you later.’
Just as unexpectedly as it had arrived, the strange feeling was gone, and Eve closed the front door behind her. Her shoes clicked on the cobbled path to the little garden gate, which squeaked in protest as she opened it. But no more voices spoke to her.
Eve was still a bit flustered as she walked to the Tube station, hurrying even though she was only a few minutes later than normal. She could feel the sun’s early heat prickling her bare arms.
In all the confusion she had forgotten to make her lunch, so she popped into a café beside the station and ordered a sandwich and her usual skinny latte with an extra shot, regretting having turned down Nathan’s earlier offer of a top-up. Sipping it on the way into the station she felt herself beginning to regain some of her normal calm.
It was just your imagination, she said to herself again as she waited on the platform.
The train pulled in and Eve hopped on. She sat down, putting her laptop bag on her knees. Rummaging inside, she realised she had left her Kindle on the kitchen counter. Now with nothing to read, she glanced up at the advertising boards over the heads of the passengers across from her. As she did, she caught the eye of the man sitting opposite her and he smiled—a rare event in London, so she smiled back, tucking her hair behind one ear.
Eve could tell that the man was trying not to be caught staring at her, though he wasn’t doing a very good job. She didn’t really mind; it was flattering, and he was far from unpleasant to look at, with blond hair which was slightly too long and piercing blue eyes. She was surprised to find herself a little disappointed when the carriage doors opened at the next stop and standing passengers blocked her view.
When the crowds parted again a few moments later, he was nowhere to be found.
Excerpt from I Let You Fall by Sara Downing.
Copyright © 2022 by Claudia Gray. Published by Quilla Books, A Division of TCK Publishing. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.
Sara lives in rural Worcestershire with her husband, three almost grown-up children, a Labrador, and a cat. Before children she was a Chartered Accountant, but always knew her dream career lay elsewhere. She started writing in 2009 and hasn’t since yearned to return to the world of accountancy.