Arriving at work to find she’s lost more than five-and-a-half days (133 hours), Briony Chaplin, has no recollection of where she’d been or what had happened to her. She is distraught. Has she been ill, or had a breakdown, or could she have been drugged and abducted?
Doubting her own sanity, Briony is fearful of what she’ll find. Yet she’s driven to discover the truth. When she trawls her memories, she’s terrified by visions, believing she may have been abused and raped.
Assisted by her friends Alesha and Jenny, and supported by a retired detective, she’s determined to learn where she’s been and why.
Targeted Age Group:: adult, young adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I awoke one morning with the idea of a girl finding out she had a gap in her memory, not knowing where she'd been or what had happened to her for an extended period of time.
I knew immediately that it would make an ideal premise for a book. Not then wanting to go through the trauma and obsession of severeal weeks being absorbed writing another novel (at that time I had five already published). However teh idea persisted and I couldn't think about anything else. I had no option. I had to go ahead and carry out my research and then immerse myself in writing
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My main character, Briony, came to me in a dream. When I started writing, I imagined being her and wrote about what she was experiencing and thinking. The other characters fell into place when I started writing. I didn't consciously try to invent them. Instead it was as if Briony introduced them to me.
Introduction and context.
Briony Chaplin has no recollection of the last five days. Her mind is cloudy and she has aches and pains all over her body. Fearing she could have been drugged and abducted, she files a report with the police. After taking her statement, they send her to their specialist clinic for a physical examination. The following excerpt is her experience as the examination commences:
I’m determined to stay dispassionate. When I remove my shoes and my dress, the technician places them in evidence bags. I unclip my bra and hand it over, too, but I stop, frozen, as I go to remove my briefs. This isn’t right.
“Is something wrong?” she asks.
I stare at her and then back at my underwear and my jaw drops, initially lost for words.
“What’s wrong?” she asks.
“These undies, they aren’t mine,” I say.
Her look is quizzical.
“I never buy this type. I always either wear designer underwear or else Marks and Spencer’s. When I dressed last Friday, the last day I remember, I’m sure I was wearing a Victoria’s Secret thong. These are plain white briefs.” I tug the elastic waistband at the back to look at the label. It confirms my suspicions. The briefs are labelled George; they’re from Asda. I’ve never bought my underwear from Asda.
I feel a wave of panic. I don’t know why it should make such big a difference to me when I’m already contemplating that I’ve probably been drugged and raped. However, the thought of a person unknown removing my undergarments and dressing me in different ones, ones I wouldn’t ever normally wear, feels an intrusion too far. I try to think why. Could my thong have been ripped off? Or perhaps it became soiled in some way. Then again, it might have been kept as a trophy. Try as I might, I find no conceivable innocent explanation. My hands are shaking as I carefully remove the briefs and hand them to the technician. I’m completely unclothed. She gives me one of the health board’s disposable paper gowns to wear. The room isn’t cold – if anything, it’s warm and stuffy – but I’m standing there shivering.
Despite the gown, I feel naked. I feel even more vulnerable and exposed as the examination is carried out. Although the nurse is friendly and chatty, I can’t absorb anything she’s saying. I try to numb my brain as the examination progresses. I imagine I’m detached, someone else, somewhere else, watching what’s going on. She starts by taking me to a booth to give a blood sample, one prick in my arm, then she attaches a tube. Afterwards, she guides me back to the main room where I’m asked to lie on an examination table and to twist and turn on request, to enable the study to proceed effectively. The doctor makes a detailed appraisal of my body and every so often she takes photographs. If only I could have been watching this as an observer and not as the victim, I’d find it fascinating; the professionalism and attention to detail.
She’s narrating a commentary on what she’s doing, together with her findings, onto a recorder. It’s like I’ve seen on thrillers or documentaries on TV when a medical examiner is carrying out a post-mortem. The two key differences are, one, it’s happening to me, not some random corpse and two, I’m still alive. She checks for bruises, abrasions and scratches and for any traces of DNA or fabric traces left by an abductor, or from clothing or furnishings. I hear her record seeing marks on my wrists which may suggest a ligature. There’s some bruising to my neck and thighs but apparently nothing significant.
She asks me to lean my head over a table and brushes my hair to collect any particles that fall out onto a piece of sterile paper. Then she apologises about causing any pain before pulling a few hairs complete with follicles from my head and then some pubic hairs. She takes a skin sample from me and then scrapes the underside of each of my fingernails and toenails, as well as taking clippings, looking for skin fragments left by someone I may have held onto or scratched. On frequent occasions, she places items in evidence bags and scribbles notes against them. She takes my fingerprints and I’m asked to provide a sample each of urine and saliva. I hear from her narration that she’s looking for evidence of restraints or puncture marks from needles. She takes swabs to detect any evidence or DNA residue in the form of hair, skin, sperm or saliva from an assailant. I’m asked to stand while I’m meticulously sponged over. I have to stifle my screams and my desire to run as there’s an all too familiar feeling of unknown hands touching and stroking me everywhere. I pretend it’s not real, not me, trying to avoid the feeling of violation as I’m examined inside and out, but it isn’t working. Tears are streaming down my face.
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