Present Day

FEN CAUGHT THE last train from London Paddington to Hungerford. Swindon station would have been much closer, but there was a bus replacement service yet again for part of the journey and she did not relish walking through the center of Reading at midnight for the privilege of being stuck on a coach for another hour.

She took a window seat in the first of the two carriages, only realizing when a businessman in a striped shirt wheezed into the seat beside her that she was trapped. She felt a moment of panic, the old feeling of sickness in the pit of her stomach, her pulse racing. Then the man settled back on to the seat with a waft of stale sweat and a contented sigh, and she almost laughed aloud. The train was packed, and she was safer with this bulwark between her and the crowds.

She could feel the tide of friendship and laughter starting to wear off now, like champagne left open. Perhaps it was because she hadn’t actually had any champagne—knowing she was driving later had been her excuse, but the truth was she did not trust herself after a few glasses.

The Woman in the Lake