Excerpt of Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
(Page 1 of 2)
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The bedroom is strange. Unfamiliar. I don't know where I
am, how I came to be here. I don't know how I'm going to
I have spent the night here. I was woken by a woman's
voice - at first I thought she was in bed with me, but then
realized she was reading the news and I was hearing a radio
alarm - and when I opened my eyes I found myself here. In
this room I don't recognize.
My eyes adjust and I look around in the near dark. A
dressing gown hangs off the back of the wardrobe door -
suitable for a woman, but someone much older than I am
- and some dark-coloured trousers are folded neatly over the
back of a chair at the dressing table, but I can make out little
else. The alarm clock looks complicated, but I find a button
and manage to silence it.
It is then that I hear a juddering intake of breath behind me
and realize I am not alone. I turn round. I see an expanse of
skin and dark hair, flecked with white. A man. He has his left
arm outside the covers and there is a gold band on the third
finger of the hand. I suppress a groan. So this one is not only
old and grey, I think, but also married. Not only have I
screwed a married man, but I have done so in what I am
guessing is his home, in the bed he must usually share with
his wife. I lie back to gather myself. I ought to be ashamed
I wonder where the wife is. Do I need to worry about her
arriving back at any moment? I imagine her standing on the
other side of the room, screaming, calling me a slut. A
medusa. A mass of snakes. I wonder how I will defend
myself, if she does appear. The guy in the bed doesn't seem
concerned, though. He has turned over and snores on.
I lie as still as possible. Usually I can remember how I get
into situations like this, but not today. There must have been
a party, or a trip to a bar or a club. I must have been pretty
wasted. Wasted enough that I don't remember anything at
all. Wasted enough to have gone home with a man with a
wedding ring and hairs on his back.
I fold back the covers as gently as I can and sit on the edge
of the bed. First, I need to use the bathroom. I ignore the
slippers at my feet - after all, fucking the husband is one
thing, but I could never wear another woman's shoes - and
creep barefoot on to the landing. I am aware of my nakedness,
fearful of choosing the wrong door, of stumbling on a
lodger, a teenage son. Relieved, I see the bathroom door is
ajar and go in, locking it behind me.
I sit, use the toilet, then flush it and turn to wash my
hands. I reach for the soap, but something is wrong. At first
I can't work out what it is, but then I see it. The hand
gripping the soap does not look like mine. The skin is
wrinkled, the nails are unpolished and bitten to the quick
and, like the man in the bed I have just left, the third finger
wears a plain, gold wedding ring.
I stare for a moment, then wiggle my fingers. The fingers
of the hand holding the soap move also. I gasp, and the soap
thuds into the sink. I look up at the mirror.
The face I see looking back at me is not my own. The hair
has no volume and is cut much shorter than I wear it, the
skin on the cheeks and under the chin sags, the lips are thin,
the mouth turned down. I cry out, a wordless gasp that
would turn into a shriek of shock were I to let it, and then
notice the eyes. The skin around them is lined, yes, but
despite everything else I can see that they are mine. The
person in the mirror is me, but I am twenty years too old.
This isn't possible. Beginning to shake, I grip the edge of
the sink. Another scream starts to rise in my chest and this
one erupts as a strangled gasp. I step back, away from the
mirror, and it is then that I see them. Photographs. Taped to
the wall, to the mirror itself. Pictures, interspersed with yellow
pieces of gummed paper, felt-tip notes, damp and curling.
I choose one at random. Christine, it says, and an arrow
points to a photograph of me - this new me, this old me - in
which I am sitting on a bench on a quayside, next to a man.
Excerpted from Before I Go To Sleep
by S.J. Watson. Copyright © 2011 by S.J. Watson.
Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.