The Old You
Today I am pleased to be able to participate in the blog tour for The Old You by Louise Voss. My thanks go to Orenda Books and Anne Cater. 📚
About the Book
Lynn Naismith gave up the job she loved when she married Ed, the love of her life, but it was worth it for the happy years they enjoyed together. Now, ten years on, Ed has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, and things start to happen; things more sinister than lost keys and missing words. As some memories are forgotten, others, long buried, begin to surface … and Lynn’s perfect world begins to crumble. But is it Ed’s mind playing tricks, or hers…?
It was horrible leaving the house the following Monday morning to start work. I’d come into the kitchen to say goodbye and found Ed slowly banging his head against the fridge door, fists bunched by his sides.
‘Ed! What’s the matter?’ I rushed over and hugged him from behind, trying to tug him away from the refrigerator.
‘I. Just. Can’t. Bear. It,’ he said, punctuating each word with another bang. When he turned around and I saw the tears in his eyes, I felt my heart breaking.
I couldn’t dwell on it, though, once I arrived at Fairhurst House and took my place at the spare desk in the music school office. Not with the brain-overload that accompanied the deluge of new information I was required to retain.
The other administrator, Margaret, was helpful and polite, in a slightly distracted way. She was a tall, slender woman with a short crop of bleached hair, who seemed to glide from filing cabinet to Xerox machine as she filled me with a stream of facts I had to scribble down in order to have the faintest chance of remembering.
I called home once, ringing Ed on my mobile from the toilet, trying to pee silently when he answered. He was fine, he said. Round at Suzan’s doing a painting of some tulips with her.
‘Nice one, Pablo Naismith,’ I said, relieved that he sounded better than he had earlier.
My new boss Alvin appeared just as my stomach was rumbling and I was asking Margaret what refreshment options there were.
‘Come on then, I’ll show you the staff canteen,’ he announced. ‘In fact, I’ll give you a tour of the campus, shall I?’
I scrutinized him surreptitiously as we walked along together. He must have been at least six foot six, with a shiny-bald tonsure, but a mass of thick, curly auburn hair and matching beard. He was ridiculously skinny, one of those people who seem entirely composed of angles and knobbles, but strangely, he somehow managed not to look like a nerd, despite the silly hair and pipe-cleaner limbs.
After a soggy panini and a tepid latte, he gave me the grand tour, ending up back at Fairhurst House, where we had a look at the computer lab, the equipment hire office and the seminar rooms. In the final corridor, Alvin showed me into a damp room full of random bits of percussion, half a drum kit, and some scuffed amps. A stepladder and tools lay around, along with a digital radio that someone had left on, and a pile of crumbled bits of plaster on the floor.
‘This is one of the band practice rooms,’ he said. ‘We’ve had a work order in for months to get the damp removed. Right – that’s everywhere, I think. Next stop Asda – we need to buy booze and crisps for the Freshers’ party tomorrow.’
‘Oh! We don’t have caterers then?’
Alvin snorted. ‘You must be joking. No, we do it ourselves. There’s a kitchenette outside the gamelan room. Always thought it was risky, having a drawerful of sharp knives with a load of hormonal teenagers around – but how else are we supposed to cut up the cheese to have with our wine?’
We were just leaving the room when a voice from the radio stopped me in my tracks. I gasped and Alvin turned. ‘Everything OK?’ I made a ‘hang on’ gesture and peered at the digital read-out on top of the radio. It was tuned to 5 Live – not a station that we ever listened to at home.
So what was Ed doing on 5 Live talking about cuts to the NHS?
‘Sorry,’ I said, not wanting to sound like a maniac, but needing to explain. ‘That sounds just like my husband!’
The Ed-soundalike was spouting off about zero-hours contracts, exactly the sort of topic that he used to get very aerated about – except that Ed had shown no interest whatsoever in current affairs for several months now. He no longer read the paper or watched the news. He talked aimlessly over the top of all the radio news bulletins. It was one of the things that first alerted me to the changes in his personality. I felt a stab of overwhelming sadness that I’d never again hear him doing anything like this.
‘Is it him?’ Alvin enquired. I could see he was keen to get on, but I couldn’t leave. It felt like I would be walking away from the man my husband used to be. The caller did sound exactly like him – if Ed had a cold; the voice was deeper and croakier than his usual one, but it had the same timbre. He was talking in an articulate, concise way, using all the cadences and expressions that Ed used to, before he began to forget how to construct sentences properly. I realised how much I already missed him.
Just as he was saying something about erosion of civil rights, the DJ cut him off: ‘Well, I’m afraid we’re coming up to the news now so we’ll have to leave it there. Thanks very much for your input, Steve from Cheam…’
‘My husband’s called Ed. But he sounded so like him,’ I said slowly.
Alvin looked at me. ‘Been married long?’
The question seemed loaded.
‘Eight years now. No kids, just a grown-up stepson.’ I always preempted the inevitable next question about children. It just seemed better to get it out of the way, on my own terms. ‘Ed’s a bit older than me – he’s been round the block once already.’
I didn’t know why I’d said that. Perhaps deep down I knew I’d have to admit to Alvin about Ed’s diagnosis sooner or later and I was subconsciously preparing for it.
‘Ed? Ed Naismith?’
Alvin had that amused ‘small world’ look on his face.
‘Yes … do you know him?’
‘Only vaguely. Was his nickname Edna? Many moons ago, before I married Sheryl, I dabbled in a bit of am-dram with the Molesey group. Fancied myself playing Hamlet, truth be told, but they never recognised my obvious talent and the sort of parts I got were more along the lines of “second spear-carrier on the right” so I didn’t last long. I’m sure Ed was the director of whatever the play was that I ended up almost doing, before I decided it wasn’t for me.’
I laughed, relieved. ‘Yes. Edna I. Smith, that’s what they called him in MADS. That’s where he and I met, actually. I joined MADS when I first moved to the area and didn’t know anybody, as a way to meet people. So you know him? What are the chances of that?’
A slightly hooded expression crossed Alvin’s features and he looked suddenly reticent.
‘What indeed?’ he asked. ‘Come on then, let’s go and buy some cheap wine and E numbers.’
Well that sounds like a brillant extract and makes me want to read more of the book. Hopefully I can add this to be TBR list soon and fulfill that. 😊📚
About the Author
Over her eighteen-year writing career, Louise Voss has had eleven novels published – five solo and six co-written with Mark Edwards: a combination of psychological thrillers, police procedurals and contemporary fiction – and sold over 350,000 books. Louise has an MA (Dist) in Creative Writing and also works as a literary consultant and mentor for writers at www.thewritingcoach.co.uk. She lives in South-West London and is a proud member of two female crimewriting collectives, The Slice Girls and Killer Women.
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My thanks to Louise Voss ThingsTours for my spot on the blog tour.