After We Fall: A Novel

After We Fall: A Novel

by Emma Kavanagh

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492609209
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 06/02/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 435,757
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Emma Kavanagh was born and raised in South Wales. After graduating with a PhD in Psychology from Cardiff University, she spent many years working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff and military personnel throughout the UK and Europe. She started her business as a psychology consultant, specializing in human performance in extreme situations. She lives in South Wales with her husband and young son.

Read an Excerpt

After We Fall

A Novel

By Emma Kavanagh

Sourcebooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 Emma Kavanagh
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4926-0920-9


Cecilia: Thursday, March 15, 6:08 p.m.

A shrieking of wind, screeching of metal as the plane ripped apart, the wicked cold tearing at her throat. Cecilia Williams gripped the seat, fingers burning with pain. She tried to close her mouth, but the sound pried it open, stealing her breath. A giant's hand pinned her to the bulkhead. Tumbling, tumbling ... she couldn't determine the floor from the ceiling.

She couldn't see the people. Just black night air where there should have been a plane, space where there should have been seats. She squeezed her eyes shut. If she leaned this way, she could pretend she was sleeping.

The plane almost hadn't taken off at all. It had been touch and go. The air had thickened days ago, gray clouds massing as temperatures plummeted far below the March average. Then the snow, thick and bulbous. A blizzard, wrapping around Cardiff Airport, climbing into mountainous drifts. Flights canceled one after the other. Cecilia had no reason to believe that this flight would be any different. Except that it would be, because it had to be. Cecilia had sat in the crew room, sipping harsh black coffee, beads of sweat breaking out beneath her blunt-cut bangs as a potted ficus continued to wilt and die in the fierce heat charging from the radiators. She had pulled at her turquoise polyester jacket, letting it drop to the floor beside her. She hated that uniform. Saw the other flight attendants looking at the crumpled pile. Drank her coffee. She wouldn't wear that uniform again.

"Gonna cancel it, you think?" The copilot looked at her, running knuckled fingers through his curtained hair. Rope thin, all teeth and nostrils. He was new, coming in as she was going out. Cecilia didn't know his name, didn't really see the point in learning it, not now. She had handed in her notice. This would be her final flight. She stared out the window, watched the falling snow. She didn't answer.

"They'll cancel," the copilot mumbled, almost like he was whispering a prayer. "They'll cancel."

The pilot, Oliver Blake, glanced up at him, then back down. Staring at the ground. Jaw tight.

Made everyone tetchy, a night like this.

The plane kept tumbling, over, over. Seemed to be no end to it. There were things she should be doing as the wind whipped past her, the ground rushing closer. Her arms wanted to fold themselves over her head, mouth to scream, "Brace!" But she couldn't move her arms and she couldn't move her mouth, and the rest of her just didn't care. It would be over soon, anyway.

They had waited in the crew room, roll-on cases lining the wall in a chain gang. Cecilia's at the end, bigger than the rest. She blew on her coffee and thought about her diploma. She'd left it in a frame, displayed in the study that they used to hang laundry. She should have brought it. But then the interview wasn't for another month. Ground crew. She would be based out of London again, if she got the job. There would be a lot of applicants, would always be a lot of applicants for a job like that. But she had worked there before, and she knew people, and hopefully that would be enough. It didn't really matter about the diploma; she would have to speak to Tom again. Eventually.

"We'll never fly tonight. No chance." The copilot was working his jaw, teeth grinding against the hum of the radiators.

Cecilia had never thought she would want to go back to the chaos and the London smog and the phone-booth-red uniforms. Never thought that at thirty years old she would pack up her life, walk out on her husband and her almost three-year-old son. Something stuck in her throat, almost choking her. She had looked out the window at the snow and tried not to think about that.

She wondered if Tom knew that she had left, if he had found the closet door hanging open, all of her most prized belongings gone. She should have left a note. Should have done that at least.

The crew room phone rang, and they all looked up. Oliver pushed himself to his feet, trudging to the phone as though walking through a snowdrift.

Watching. Waiting.

He hung up the phone, turning back.

"We're on."

She hadn't kissed her son good-bye. She should have kissed him good-bye.

Then it was all hurry, hurry, hurry. She had grabbed her bags, a quick slick of lipstick even though her fingers were shaking, pulled her skirt straight, then click, clack, click, out into the terminal. Passengers' heads bobbed up like meerkats, the whisper running through the terminal in a bow wave behind them. Cecilia raised her chin and looked straight ahead.

Suddenly there was no time. It was a narrow window. There was more snow coming in. We go now or we don't go. And Cecilia very much wanted to go.

"Hello, hi, welcome, straight to the back, please." With a pasted smile, Cecilia gestured with French-tipped nails along the line of the plane. She bit her lip as they shuffled their way in, buffeting one against the other with their thick anoraks, all clumsy in heavy gloves. "If you could move out of the aisle, please." Smiling, smiling. "Let me help you with that." She moved alongside the Jude Law look-alike with his Armani shirt, open at the collar, and reached up to angle the carry-on into the overhead bin, not looking at the thin-lipped, flat-eyed woman who stood beside him.

Then the doors were shut and they were moving, and all eyes were on her as she pirouetted through the safety briefing. Smiling. Always smiling.

Trying not to smell the smoke rising from the bridges that she had burned behind her.

They were taxiing, building pressure pinning her to her seat. Cecilia turned her head, watching pinprick lights skittering against the dark night sky. She sighed. She had straightened her hair three times today, teasing the bangs that curled from the damp of the snow, pulling at it with fingers that trembled, ever so slightly, knowing that it would do no good. But doing it anyway, because it was better than thinking. Anything was better than that. Then the lift. Flickering lights giving way to black sea. A turn, climbing, climbing.

Cecilia leaned back in her seat. Was staring off into space when she realized someone was staring at her. The little girl was three, four maybe. Chocolate streaked across the tip of her nose, solemn jaw moving up and down. She was twisted around in her chair watching the flight attendant. She was beautiful. Dark eyes. Like Ben's.

Cecilia looked away.

They were climbing through the clouds. The plane shimmied, but she was looking at her reflection again, where the mascara had smudged. She was thinking about Ben's smell, his velvet skin, the way he slept with his mouth ever so slightly open, snoring a little boy's snore. She felt sick.

A murmur rippled through the cabin, and Cecilia glanced up, waiting for something, anything, so that she didn't have to think about the little boy she had left behind. The little girl had turned around, curling into her mother as they leafed through the pages of a book. But there were others glancing back at her. Cecilia tugged her shirt straight. An attractive girl, maybe twenty, maybe a little more, her oversized hoop earrings swinging, looked at Cecilia. It was like she wanted to say something, but she didn't, and, biting her lip, she lowered her eyes to look down into her lap where her hands twisted one inside the other.

Then the plane bucked. The murmur replaced with a "whoa" of riders on a roller coaster. Cecilia flung out her hand, bracing herself against the window.

"It's only crosswinds. Nothing to worry about." Her words were lost in the groaning of engines. But she said them again, whispering to herself.

The engines whirred, singing in an unfamiliar key. The girl with the hoop earrings was looking at her again, eyes wide, willing her to say something. Another buck. A high-pitched whining she hadn't heard before. There was nothing beyond the windows. A sea of gray cotton breaking into darkness.

The engine was straining, a dog pulling at its leash; they seemed to be tilting, not climbing, but pointing upward, steep, steeper than she had ever seen it. A solitary bottle of Dr Pepper had shaken itself loose from somewhere. It rolled down the aisle, rattling, bouncing, all eyes watching as it drifted to a stop at her feet. Then the chaos of noise vanished into a deafening silence.

And she knew.

She hadn't said good-bye to her son. She had stood on the threshold, where the murky blue glow of Ben's ToyStory night-light met the darkness of the hallway, and watched him sleep with his arms thrown up over his head, the way he had slept ever since he was a baby. And she had turned and walked away.

Someone screamed. Then they were falling.


Tom: Thursday, March 15, 6:16 p.m.

Tom's feet skated on black ice, and for a moment he hung in the air, shoes scrabbling for purchase on the steep incline. He slid, past gluttonous Dumpsters, through the puddle of yellow light that spilled from the street lamp, back into the darkness of the alleyway, a narrow artery littered with used syringes and disco balls of silver foil, air choked with the spiky scent of urine and rot. Then ice gave way to glistening tarmac, feet settling onto solid ground again.

The heroin-thin figure was just ahead, plunging through banked-up snow, skin blue on drug-tracked arms. Callum Alun Jones had been out of prison for a little over a month. The iced wind pulled at his breath, throwing it back toward Tom, dousing him in sweet alcohol, the musk of cigarettes. This time Callum's victim had been eighty-seven years old — a survivor of the Normandy campaign, an English teacher. A tremulously thin man with a shock of white hair who had buried his wife and his youngest daughter within a year of one another and who had spent the last six months clinging grimly to a life that had all but defeated him. He'd been sleeping when Callum had broken into his tiny terraced house, had woken suddenly, roused by something that he couldn't identify. Had found the drug addict in his kitchen, seen Callum's rat-tail fingers closing around his dead wife's wedding ring, and then the fists that rained down on him until everything turned red. The man had woken in the hospital two days later, face gray and eyes empty, finally defeated.

Tom had held the old man's hand as he wept and had thought that there were days when this was the worst job in the world. He had been on the force for fifteen years. Eight in uniform, pounding pavement in the lashing rain, drainpipe drizzles plopping from the rim of his helmet onto his fluorescent jacket. Then the Criminal Investigation Department. CID. A detective, just like his father. He tried not to think about that. His mother said that was why he had never gone for promotion, why staying a detective constable was enough for him. Not because he didn't think he was capable of reaching the dizzying heights of detective chief inspector, but because if he did, then he would truly be his father's son. And anything was better than that.

Fifteen years. Fifteen years in which Tom had seen more than a dozen dead bodies, smelled death more times than he would have thought possible. He remembered the last time he had arrested Callum Jones, spared a moment as he danced through patches of ice to wonder how long it would be until he was arresting him again. A never-ending carousel.

Tom breathed in the bitter cold air, skidding on the ice-rink tarmac. Thought of his son that morning, eyes still heavy with sleep. No idea that his mother had gone.

"You're going to go to Grandma's today. Okay, Ben?" His son had studied him, the light from the rising sun throwing shadows onto a face creased into a little-boy frown. Then a smile that could break your heart. "'Kay, Daddy." Baby-fat fingers reaching up carefully, hovering over the slick aubergine skin. "Show Gaga my owie." Clumsy, the fingers brushed the bruise, and his rosebud lips pulled down, face creased. "Ow, Daddy."

"I know, bud. You're okay. Gaga will kiss it better." And he'd tucked the toddler's windmilling arms into thick, padded sleeves and tried not to think about what would come next. Watching his son's chubby fingers spreading themselves wide, the frown as he examined them, like he'd never seen them before. Suddenly fascinating. Tried to ignore the words that circled his head, vultures above a carcass. Your mother leftus. She's not coming back.

Callum was inches ahead, running ragged on the steep incline. Tom dug his feet hard into the slush, gritting his teeth, the cold whipping at his lungs as he ran. He could see Callum's arms, pumping back and forth beneath his T-shirt. Callum's girlfriend stood there on the doorstep of their public housing unit, biting her lower lip as she cradled her track-covered arms and tried to disappear into the wallpaper. She had watched as her boyfriend — the one who loved her and who had beaten her hard enough to kill the drug-addled baby growing inside her — pushed past the arresting officers and into the snowbound night.

They were plunging down the hill, the cold catching at Tom's throat, running so fast it seemed that they were falling. Sound of cars, getting louder, and then the alleyway opened up, spitting them onto the curve of a main road, traffic thin and moving slowly in the slush. Past the skeleton of a pay phone, all jagged glass edges, glittering in orange street lighting. The snow was thinner here, mounds thinning into furrows of slush. Callum raced onward, not glancing left or right, past the wide-eyed shop windows where late shoppers peered over displays, out into the road, an almost terminal slip in the car-tracked snow, then regaining his balance and diving on past the co-op. Tom veered around slush, breathing easy, compact body primed by years of running.

A beam of light and the slam of a car door.

Tom glanced sideways at his partner, Dan. "Took your time."

"Got fucking lost. Ended up in a bastard funeral procession."

"At least you're clearly not the Grim Reaper. Not got the figure for it."

"Whatever, skinny arse. You going to catch this little shit, or what?"

"Shall we?"

Tom had woken that morning to the sound of the front door. It always stuck in the cold. It had pulled him from a dream into a moment of disorientation, and he lay blinking into the darkness. Then the growl of an engine, settling back into a steady grumble, swaddled in snow. He wondered distantly just where it was that Cecilia was going this early in the morning. She wasn't due to fly until that night. The rhythm of the engine climbed, wheels crunching on the snow. But then did it really matter when you came right down to it? He listened to the car until he could hear it no more, then lay for a while in the silence. He didn't know what made him get up. How it was that he just suddenly knew. He pushed back the covers, bare feet on thick carpet, and padded down the hall to the room that had become known as Cecilia's room. He pushed the door, that feeling in his stomach of treading where he wasn't supposed to go. Snapped on the light. The curtains were closed. The bed was made, comforter pulled tight across the box frame. He stood there for a moment. It looked like a guest room again. The book was gone. The one she had been reading, the one whose title he had never bothered to learn. And the picture of Ben in its knotted silver frame that had sat on the bedside table. That was gone too. He crossed the room, slowly pulled open the closet door. Ran his fingers over the few clothes that remained. They smelled of his wife. He stood there, staring at the gaping hole, the naked metal hangers. And knew. His marriage was over.

He had gone back to bed, footsteps slow. She was supposed to watch Ben today. That was what she had said. But it was probably for the best, after yesterday. He hadn't been able to sleep, though, had stared at the ceiling for an hour, maybe more. The bedroom door had creaked, a little after six, and Tom had listened to the tread of little-boy feet on carpet, hiding a smile as a soft voice whispered, "'Kay, Daddy. Back to sleep. I stay here now." The heart-stopping warmth of his son creeping under the comforter, huddling against him. Tom cuddled him in, painfully aware that it didn't even occur to Ben to wonder where his mother was.


Excerpted from After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh. Copyright © 2015 Emma Kavanagh. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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After We Fall: A Novel 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
SkyeCaitlin More than 1 year ago
This is a beautifully written story about two tragedies; seemingly unrelated yet inextricably bound together by time and setting. This haunting tale is masterfully crafted and lingers long in the mind of the reader; it deals with a plane crash that leaves behind an injured group of survivors and a murder of a young female police officer; told by multiple characters, we see and feel the intensity of pain, sorrow, regret, fear and deceit. Secrets, well kept for years and years are exposed, opening embedded wounds and resulting in dramatic consequences. An excellent read; developed and beautifully written.
BuriedUnderBooks More than 1 year ago
From the opening lines, we're thrust into the overwhelming fear that must come when a plane is about to crash and, almost in the same breath, we begin to learn a bit about four very different people, different and yet not so much so. Why was Cecilia driven to quit her job as a flight attendant but, more importantly, why has she abandoned her husband and her toddler son? How can Tom, a CID detective accustomed to seeing and hearing terrible things,, summon the courage and the right words to tell little Ben that his mom was on that plane and, worse yet, she meant to leave them behind? After thirty years on the force, Jim never thought he'd have to cope with the disappearance of his daughter, Libby. herself a cop on the beat. The signs are all there, though, to a man trained to see them. And Freya, well, this poor girl is about to hear the TV news story that will turn her life upside down. Four people. Four lives that will be irrevocably changed by murder and the freefall of an airplane. Multiple points of view don't always work, in my opinion, but they do in this case. In fact, I don't think any other style would have been nearly as effective, primarily because only two of the four are clearly connected. Ms. Kavanagh has done a really nice job of bringing these diverse and interesting characters into the reader's life and I felt a good deal of empathy with each and every one. Also, while it would have been easy for the horror of a plane crash to overwhelm the murder of one person, Ms. Kavanagh never lets that happen. Part psychological thriller, part character study, After We Fall is well worth a reader's time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Blurbs that tell too much are the bane of readers who thought they might read a thriler left a two year old means i dont care for the heroine at the start if she seriously hurt an abused husband by castration and keft with two year old maybe but leave out plane crashes as lived by end of ohare field ne runway