Alice knew quite a lot about angels …

 

Cover: The Eighteenth of November

Extract from Chapter 2 - The Eighteenth of November

Alice thought she heard the alarm clock shrill, but turned over and decided she’d dreamed it. Then she dreamed that she heard something scratching at the door. It was only when Lucy jumped on her back that she realised the sounds had been real. ‘Get off cat!’ She turned over and burrowed under the covers but Lucy just came further up the bed and sat on her head. Alice shook the duvet to dislodge the animal, but she clung on with all four sets of claws. ‘Get off Lucy, you daft thing. Go on, bugger off.’

‘Lucy!’ Matt had exclaimed. ‘What sort of name is that for a cat.’

‘It’s really Lucifer,’ she’d said sulkily. ‘But we found out it’s a girl. So now she’s Lucy.’

‘Why not Beelzebub? Much nicer.’

‘I told you, she’s a girl.’

‘Lilith then.’

‘Lilith wasn’t an angel,’ she’d said, taking the mewing kitten from him and placing it in its basket.

Alice knew quite a lot about angels. She’d always liked the fallen angels best and thought that chasing them out of Heaven seemed hardly Christian. She’d continued to hold a torch for Lucifer and his brothers, even when mocked by Matt and his friends. She’d been little then, and perhaps more resilient. Now, at twenty-two, she wasn’t as sure as she had been. Matt said she let people push her around. That was just great, coming from him. When she did stand up for herself people made a big deal about it. ‘Oh look. Alice is being assertive.’

A wail from the box room announced that Zoë too was being assertive. But by the time Alice had shuffled into her slippers and padded across the corridor the child was fast asleep again. Alice sat on the corner of the upright chair and watched her baby through the bars, her breathing automatically adjusting to Zoë’s so that soon their chests rose and fell together. Zoë’s little puckered mouth made rubbing, goldfishy movements from which tiny sounds escaped. It was a bit like the sound waves might make sucking in and out of a miniature cave.

The door creaked; a ginger shape slid into the room and made for the chair. The child’s eyelashes fluttered. Alice felt the warm tickle of Lucy’s fur on her bare legs. She should get up and feed the cat, and she needed to get dressed and wake Zoë and feed and dress her too. She didn’t stir. Just sat there savouring the sight and sound of her baby, the smell of her, all warm and milky like fresh custard. Alice put her hand through the bars of the cot and smoothed back the damp dark curls plastered on Zoë’s forehead. Was she running a temperature? Should she ring Martha and cancel? Call in sick at work?

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