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Posted on 11 Sep 2020 in Extracts, Fiction |

ROSE CARLYLE The Girl in the Mirror: extract

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This week we’re delighted to bring you an extract from Rose Carlyle’s edge-of-the-seat thriller The Girl in the Mirror. Summer and Iris are identical twins, but Iris has always envied beautiful, easy-going Summer and her perfect husband, Adam.

When the novel opens, Summer, Adam, and Adam’s young son Tarquin have sailed from their home in Queensland to Thailand on the Bathsheba. But Tarquin has had to be rushed to hospital, jeopardising their plans to sail the next leg of the voyage to Africa. Could Iris come to Thailand and help Adam sail the yacht?

Being an experienced sailor, Iris readily agrees — especially when the offer is sweetened with the prospect of being alone with Adam on the voyage.

But nothing goes as Iris imagines, and when she finds herself alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean, she is presented with the chance to grasp what she’s always wanted. How far will she go to get it?

In this extract, Iris has just arrived in Thailand.

Extract courtesy of Allen and Unwin

From Chapter 3: The Switch

As we head south, I try to update my mental map of Phuket after nearly ten years away. I’m looking forward to checking out my old haunts and dredging up some Thai phrases. But everything has changed. Narrow alleys of tuk-tuks and pedestrians have become multi-lane highways crammed with cars. My memories have been paved over. Even the smells are different. I remember night jasmine, not traffic fumes and sewage.

Adam has a lot to tell me, but his words are a jumble of hospital jargon and sentimentality. Unlike Summer, he skirts around any description of the infected body part that has brought me here. Through the haze of parental obsession, I glean a few useful facts. Bathsheba is in good shape, ready for sea and loaded with food and spare parts. Summer has stocked the yacht with enough provisions for at least two months. The SSB radio has broken down and the emergency beacon is obsolete, but Adam’s bought a handheld satellite phone, which can download emails and weather forecasts, and make and receive voice calls. That’s all we’ll need for a safe passage.

‘It’s hard to schedule a convenient time to call, and the rate for live phone calls is outrageous,’ says Adam, ‘so we’ll use email unless there’s an emergency, if that’s all right with you.’ He actually seems to care whether I’m happy with his arrangements. As if there’s anybody I need to talk to during the next few weeks. Or ever.

Adam seems to have come to grips with the essentials of yacht maintenance, and I soon feel comforted that Bathsheba’s not going to spring a catastrophic leak or lose her mast between here and Africa. I figure I can handle anything else that happens at sea.

‘I gather it’s all over with Noah?’ Adam asks, leaning close.

I nod.

‘The man’s insane,’ says Adam, ‘but his loss is some other lucky guy’s gain. I guarantee you won’t be the one looking back with regrets, Iris. Summer agrees with me. You’re far too good for him.’

‘Well, you have to think I’m pretty.’

I cringe at my flat joke, but Adam grins as though it’s an everyday observation. ‘Don’t let my wife hear you say that,’ he says. ‘Pretty is faint praise. I know you two are beauty queens.’

Beauty queens? Has Summer told Adam about the beauty pageant? Adam’s open gaze reassures me that he can’t know he’s hitting a sore spot. Yet the compliment does seem to be an allusion to that day.

We pull up to a clean, modern building. Adam leads me through quiet, well-lit corridors to Tarquin’s room, while I mentally rehearse my concerned-auntie routine.

It turns out I don’t have to fake my reaction. The sight of my puny little—what is he—step-nephew, lying hooked up to machines, jolts me. Tarquin doesn’t look any bigger than when I last saw him, at Summer’s wedding, dressed in a ridiculous midget tuxedo. Back then he looked blooming and boisterous, barely a baby anymore, except that he still couldn’t walk. He crawled all over the place, getting into everything and rolling on the ground until his white shirt was covered with grass stains. Now he lies sickly still. His reddish hair hangs limp against his forehead, and his little limbs look cold and vulnerable.

This is serious. Tarquin might be a brat, but my sister loves him. He’s Adam’s son. And here they are stuck in a foreign country, with an extravagant yacht at risk too. I’m glad I’m here to help. What if Tarquin dies while Adam and I are at sea? He’ll be inconsolable.

I must look upset, because Adam gives my shoulder a brotherly squeeze. ‘I know,’ he says. ‘It’s a shock. This has been so hard for Summer.’

But where is Summer? Tarquin is alone in the stark room. He’s asleep or unconscious, but if he had woken up, no one would have been here for him.

And now cool, soft arms envelop me, and the hospital smell gives way to the mingled aroma of apples and the beach.

Summer is here.

Rose Carlyle
Photo: Jane Ussher

‘Twinnie! I’ve missed you so much. How can I ever thank you for coming?’ Her voice tinkles like silver. I turn and meet my sister’s gaze. Her aqua eyes are steady and warm. She doesn’t examine me—my haircut and eyebrows go unnoticed—she just stares into my soul. I wonder, not for the first time, whether there’s anything I could ever do that wouldn’t meet with her instant, free-flowing forgiveness. She’s so trusting it kills me.

‘I feel so bad,’ she says. ‘I swore not to leave Tarky alone for a second, but you guys took so long. I was busting for a pee, and I thought you would never get here!’

Adam looms towards us, and I step back before I get caught in the spousal embrace. He kisses Summer on the lips, a soulful, ardent kiss. Is that tongue, while his son’s lying here in a coma? I can hardly bear to look. Then he lets go and gazes at his wife as though he’s seeing her for the first time.

Summer truly is a thing of beauty. She’s put on a kilo or two since I saw her in New Zealand a couple of months ago, but it’s gone on in the right places. She’s as curvy and golden as a peach and, as always, unconscious of her charm. She wears faded denim shorts and a cotton shirt that shows a glimpse of bronze midriff. Even in casual clothes, she looks like a girl in a catalogue; I feel overdressed in my red miniskirt and heels. Summer’s legs are muscled, tanned, flawless. Mine might be skinnier, but they must look wobbly and pale.

Actually, there’s one flaw. Summer leans over Tarquin’s still body, and I glimpse the long red ‘S’ that snakes up her right inner thigh, disappearing into her shorts. I can never see my sister’s scar without a guilty pang.

Adam picks up Tarquin’s medical chart and settles into the bedside chair to read it. Uh-oh. Looks like we’re here for the night. In fact, it’s hard to imagine that the doting father will be able to tear himself away and set off across an ocean while his son-and-heir languishes at death’s door.

Why have I come here? They didn’t feed me enough on the plane, and hunger is putting an edge on everything. Is it gauche to ask for a bite of hot food and a comfortable place to lie down? Summer and Adam are whispering now, and all I can hear is Tarq, Tarky, Tarquin. Even if it weren’t the world’s most annoying name, you would hate it after you’d been in a room with this pair for five minutes. At least right now they have something real to worry about, instead of whether these organic rusks contain sugar or whether the moron needs yet another slathering of sunscreen.

It’s hard to say which is more disgusting, their simmering chemistry or their shared obsession with the little tyke. Summer has entirely forgotten that Tarquin’s not her own kid, although you would think the fact that he didn’t come with a hundred-million-dollar sweetener would be a constant reminder. Then there is the fact that he doesn’t look a bit like her. He takes after Adam, although his copper-coloured hair apparently comes from Helen, a mark of her Aboriginal heritage.

Summer never had a chance to get to know Helen, who was busy dying of something or other while Tarquin fought for his little life in neonatal intensive care. Adam wouldn’t leave Helen’s side, so the first glimpse he had of his baby was a photo of Tarquin in a nurse’s arms that someone brought to Helen’s ward. Months later, Adam had that photo blown up and hung on his living room wall.

Because the nurse in the photo is Summer. That’s how she met Adam. She was nursing his baby while he watched his wife die. Afterwards, she was so sweet on the motherless little rat that Adam asked her to be Tarquin’s godmother. They kept in touch after Tarquin was discharged from the neonatal unit, and then they started dating.

I don’t know what I was hoping to find in Thailand. I thought we would be partying as the adults did back in the day. But reality has bitten. Summer’s wrapped up in her own family. I slink towards the door. Maybe I can find a restaurant somewhere near the hospital. Or a bar.

‘Sorry, Iris, we’ve kept you here far too long,’ Summer says. ‘I’ve got a meal and your bed ready on Bathsheba. Let’s go.’

After one last lecherous kiss between her and Adam, she hefts my suitcase up, and we’re out of there.

From Rose Carlyle The Girl in the Mirror Allen & Unwin 2020 PB 368pp $29.99

Like to keep reading? You can buy The Girl in the Mirror from Abbey’s at a 10% discount by quoting the promotion code NEWTOWNREVIEW here or you can buy it from Booktopia here.

To see if it is available from Newtown Library, click here.