Friday Night Book Club: Read an excerpt from Your Truth or Mine? – the dark and original debut thriller by Trisha Sakhlecha
More about the book!
The Friday Night Book Club: Exclusive excerpts from Pan Macmillan every weekend!
Staying in this evening? Get comfortable with a glass of wine and Your Truth or Mine?, the debut psychological suspense novel by Trisha Sakhlecha about the dark secrets couples keep from one another and how a marriage unravels.
Sakhlecha grew up in New Delhi and now lives in London, UK. She works in fashion and is a graduate of the acclaimed Faber Academy writing course. In the past, Trisha has worked as a designer, trend forecaster and lecturer.
About the book
At their wedding Mia and Roy Kapoor promised to love and cherish each other.
While not perfect, their marriage is sacred and their commitment absolute.
But a knock at the door changes everything when Roy is questioned over the disappearance of a young woman.
As Roy and Mia’s life unravels, they must question everything they know about each other if their marriage is to survive.
But what if the real truth is not what they, or you, think?
Read the excerpt:
Sunday, 6th December
Nothing has changed but everything is different.
I am standing here, in my beautiful kitchen, watching my beautiful wife cook what smells like an incredible breakfast, and I know nothing has changed. I watch her move, measuring, stirring, distractedly dipping her little finger in the batter to taste it, then wincing and snatching it back when she realises she miscalculated the temperature. She’s lost in her thoughts, earphones plugged in, moving to a soundless beat, pausing every couple of minutes to sip her coffee. I wonder what she’s listening to. It must be something upbeat, peppy, I decide. I lean forward to try and decipher the hum that escapes her earphones and it surprises me how long I take to recognise the song. ‘Way Back Into Love’. Our song. I remember listening to this years ago, both of us still innocent and desperately in love, cramped together on the narrow bed in her room, each with one earphone plugged in, the one on the right hearing the vocals and the one on the left hearing the beats, singing along, trusting that love alone would be enough to hold it all together. We were so naive, so stupid.
Despite the warmth of the kitchen, I shiver. I force myself back to the present and gear myself up for what is to follow. Mia looks happy. Relaxed. I walk up to her and wrap my arms around her, burying my face in her neck, smelling her hair, letting her blissful oblivion envelop me, a momentary shield against the storm that is about to rip through my life.
‘Roy,’ Mia calls out from the kitchen. ‘Who is it? Roy?’
I hear the scramble of footsteps as Mia rushes into the hallway to investigate. Her meddling buys me some time to compose myself and, just this once, I’m truly grateful for her interference in anything and everything that goes on in my life. She cranes her neck to look past me into the front porch and I realise I’ve only opened the door a fraction. I relax my grip on it, turning to look at Mia as I take a small step back.
She looks terrified.
‘What – what’s happened? Is it Mummy? Addi? What’s wrong?’
She’s panicking. Of course. She’s done this before, I think, and I am hit with a sudden urge to protect her.
The woman speaks first. She’s small, slight, perhaps five foot four, with tied-back brown hair, a round face and sympathetic, deep-set eyes. She looks out of place in her skirt suit, standing next to the uniformed officer. She reminds me of Mrs Sen, my primary school English teacher. Her voice is hesitant as she addresses Mia. ‘Mrs Kapoor?’ Mia nods slightly, quickly, and she carries on, her voice more confident this time. ‘Everything is all right, Mrs Kapoor. We’re from the Metropolitan Police. We just have a few questions for your husband. May we come in?’ she says, her gaze fixed on Mia. Another nod and I realise I can no longer refuse without looking like I have something to hide. I let go of the door and step back, giving them a proper glimpse of the hallway for the first time.
The woman introduces herself and the other policeman, but I don’t register their names. We go straight into the dining room. They look around, taking in the high ceilings, the large windows, the newly installed open-plan kitchen. They glance at the array of pictures and knick-knacks on the mantelpiece, souvenirs from Mia’s travels and mine over the years, shimmering under the unexpected winter sun. I can see the envy in their eyes. At thirty-one, I’ve already achieved more than they ever will. In other circumstances I might have let them look through the pictures, I might have even enjoyed showing off a little bit, but right now, right now I want them out.
‘How can I help?’ I ask, putting on my most convincing concerned-citizen smile and motioning for them to sit down as I pull out a chair for myself.
They sit down directly across from me, the dining table between us. I get a waft of something sweet and cinnamony from the kitchen and I realise I’m hungry.
I look around and see that Mia has occupied herself with the business of tea. She might like to think of herself as Indian but she has all those telltale idiosyncrasies that come with being English, albeit half. Tea first. Always. Like that will solve anything.
It’s the woman speaking again. I decide to call her Sen, the association with my harmless English teacher some-what comforting. I presume her partner is a junior officer or constable. He isn’t armed. His only job seems to be to make notes. He pulls out a biro and starts chewing on its end, his face contorting as he sinks his teeth into the unyielding plastic. He’s tall but his shoulders are slightly hunched. He looks bored.
‘Mr Kapoor, are you familiar with Emily Barnett?’ she asks.
‘Yes, we’ve worked together a few times.’
‘Oh?’ she says, waiting to see if I will elaborate. I don’t.
‘When was the last time you saw her?’
‘A couple of days ago … Wednesday, I think.’ I look at the calendar on my iPhone. ‘Yes, Wednesday. I met her for a drink at the Swan near Archway station.’
‘Ah, I see. Were you meeting for business purposes or socially?’
‘Socially, I suppose,’ I say, willing myself to stay calm. They don’t know. They can’t.
‘And you haven’t seen her since?’
Stay calm. They don’t know. I repeat it to myself like a mantra but my heart is beating fast. I wonder if they can tell.
‘No,’ I say.
Mia’s standing next to me now, the tea forgotten. I can see the cogs in her brain turning, working out that I lied to her about the press dinner at the Shard. I feel myself con-tract and shrink. That’s the effect my wife has on me these days.
Sen leans forward, forearms resting on the table, hands clasped. ‘When you met her, did Miss Barnett seem worried about anything? What did you talk about?’
There’s a strange tightness in my chest. I can’t focus. I can barely breathe. While I try to compose my answer, it hits me that I haven’t yet asked why Sen’s questioning me about all this and that in itself might be construed as suspicious.
‘No, she was fine. Look, Ems – I mean Emily – is a journalism student. We’ve worked together on a couple of projects. We met because she wanted some tips on looking for paid freelance work. I haven’t seen her or spoken to her since,’ I blurt out. ‘What’s going on? Is she okay?’
Sen exchanges a quick glance with her partner and he jots something down.
‘Miss Barnett was reported missing on Friday,’ she says. Her voice is even, her face blank. ‘We’ve been going door to door asking people if they remember anything that might help us and your name came up.’
I don’t know what to say. I barely manage a squeak before Sen speaks again.
‘What time did you leave the pub? Did Emily leave with you?’
‘Yes … no … I mean, yes, we left at the same time, around nine p.m., but then we went our separate ways. I walked her to the end of the road. She lives nearby.’
‘Did she mention any plans for the next few days?’
‘No, no she didn’t.’
‘Right. And you said you’ve had no contact with her since then?’
I shake my head, not trusting myself to speak.
‘Well, as you will understand, we are very concerned for her safety.’ She glances up at Mia as she says this and places a flyer on the table. MISSING, it says in bold red letters.
‘My details are on this. Please call me if you think of anything,’ Sen says, circling a name and number on the flyer. Detective Inspector Brooke Robins. CID. Not Sen. Definitely not Sen.
‘Of course,’ I say, getting up to see them out. I bolt the door behind them.
Mia’s sitting at the table when I return to the room. She looks up as I walk in. Her piercing green eyes are dark and muddled. The moment builds. I wait for her gaze to settle on me and when it does, I know that I’m done. I have to tell her.
It’s starting to unravel, my love.