Close My Eyes: The Emotional and Intriguing Psychological Suspense Thriller

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9781250058553: Close My Eyes: The Emotional and Intriguing Psychological Suspense Thriller

Everything she knows about her life is a lie.
When Geniver gave birth to a stillborn daughter, her whole world came crashing down. Eight years later, she and her husband, Art, have slipped into the kind of rut that seems inescapable. But then a stranger shows up at their home, telling Gen the very thing she's always wanted to hear...
How far will she go to learn the truth?
It's insane, unbelievable: Who could have taken her baby away―and why? Soon a fissure opens up in Gen's carefully reconstructed life, letting in a flood of even more unanswerable questions: Why is Art so reluctant to help―to save his wife from further hurt, or is he involved in something more sinister? In her desperate search for Beth, who may or may not be alive, Gen must delve into the deepest, darkest corners of her own past...and what she finds there could destroy everything she holds close. Even her own life...
From Sophie McKenzie, author of Girl, Missing, Close My Eyes is a deeply chilling and addictively compelling page-turner that grabs onto you and doesn't let go.

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About the Author:

SOPHIE MCKENZIE is also the bestselling author of more than fifteen novels for children and teens in the UK, including the award winning Girl, Missing and Blood Ties. She has won numerous awards, was one of the first Richard and Judy children's book club winners, and has twice been longlisted for the prestigious Carnegie Medal. She lives in London and writes full-time.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER ONE
 
 
I’m late.
I hate being late.
I’m supposed to meet Art at 5 P.M. and it’s already quarter to. I race down the corridor to the staff room. I can’t remember the new code for the door, so have to wait outside until another teacher lets me through. I shove my spare photocopies in my pigeonhole then deposit my attendance sheet in the box. As I reach the exit, Sami, the head of Humanities, reminds me that tomorrow morning’s class is canceled due to building repairs. I make a mental note then fly out of the Institute doors and half run, half jog along Great Queen Street to Kingsway. It’s gray and gloomy, the clouds swollen with rain. There are no cabs. I should get the tube to Oxford Circus, but since the 7/7 attacks I avoid using the underground when possible. Anyway, I’ve always preferred the bus. Art hates buses. Too slow.
I charge round the corner to the bus stop, negotiating several uneven pavements and a swarm of Italian teenagers as I run. Good, I can see a number 8 trundling toward me along High Holborn. That’ll take me to John Lewis. I can race up to Harley Street from there.
Inside the bus I scan my pass against the pad and lean with relief against a post. The woman next to me—young, straggly haired—is wrestling with a baby in a buggy.
“Sit down, for fuck’s sake,” she hisses under her breath. There’s so much anger in her voice I have to turn away and move up the bus.
I arrive at the clinic at quarter past five. Art is waiting by the door. I see him seconds before he sees me—smart and suave in his suit. It’s dark gray, Paul Smith—his favorite. Stylish and simple, he wears it, as usual, with a plain open-necked shirt and no tie. Art looks good in those kind of clothes. He always has. He turns and sees me. He’s tired. And irritated. I can see it in the way he raises an eyebrow as I walk up.
“Sorry I’m late.” I raise my face and he kisses me. A light, swift brush of the lips.
“It’s fine,” Art says.
Of course the truth is that I’m not really sorry and he isn’t really fine. The truth is that I don’t want to be here and Art knows it.
I follow Art inside. He shrugs off his jacket as we cross the entrance hall. The shirt he’s wearing has a tiny nick on the inside of the collar. You can’t see it but I know it’s there, just as I know Art is pissed off with me from the way his arms hang stiffly at his sides. I should feel guilty. After all, I’m late and Art’s time is precious. And I’m aware that this is hard for him as well as for me.
Art stops as we reach the waiting-room door. He turns to me with a smile, clearly making a huge effort to overcome his mood.
“Mr. Tamansini was here a minute ago. He’s very pleased we’re back.”
“You’ve spoken to him?” I’m surprised; the consultants rarely leave their rooms during appointments.
“He just happened to be in reception when I arrived.” Art takes my hand and leads me into the waiting room. It’s classic Harley Street: a row of stiff chintz armchairs and a matching couch. A fireplace with dried flowers on the mantelpiece and a terrible piece of modern art above. Certificates, licenses and awards are positioned in glass frames all around the walls. I catch sight of my reflection in the mirror in the corner. My sweater is wrinkled and my hair looks like it hasn’t been brushed for a week. It really needs cutting: the bangs are in my eyes and the ends are split and dry and curling shapelessly onto my shoulders. Before Beth, I had highlights and a trim every couple of months. I straighten my sweater and smooth out my hair. My eyes shine bright blue against the pink of my cheeks, flushed from running up the road. I used to go to classes at the gym as well. Now I never seem to have the energy.
“He’s on time, but they sent the next couple in ahead of us as you weren’t here.” Art’s tone is only faintly accusatory.
I nod again. Art runs his hand up my arm.
“Are you okay? How was your class?”
I look at him properly. His face is still so boyish, despite the fact he turned forty last week. I don’t know whether it’s the soft curve of his jaw or the dimple in his chin or the fact that his eyes are so big and eager. I stroke his cheek. The skin is rough under my fingertips. Art has to shave twice a day but I have always liked the shadow on his face. It gives him a rougher, sexier edge.
“The class was fine.” My throat tightens. I so don’t want to be here. “I’m really sorry I was late. It’s just … being here again.”
“I know.” Art puts his arm around me and pulls me against his chest. I bury my face against his neck, squeezing my eyes tight against the tears I don’t want to let out.
“It’s going to work this time, I know it is. It’s our turn, Gen.”
Art checks his watch. He’s had it years and the face is scratched and worn. It’s the watch I gave him—my first present to him on his birthday, three months after we met. That evening Art let me buy him dinner for the first time; I’d insisted, seeing as it was his birthday. It was a mild, spring evening—the first warm night after what felt like months of winter and, after dinner, we’d walked along the Embankment and across Waterloo Bridge to the South Bank. Art told me about his plans for Loxley Benson … how all his life he’d been searching for something to believe in, something worthwhile to put his energies into, something to drive toward.
“And your business means all that?” I’d asked.
Art had taken my hand and told me “no,” that I was what he’d been looking for, that our relationship was what he wanted more than anything.
That evening was the first time he told me he loved me.
I pull away now and wipe under my eyes as discreetly as possible. Quite apart from Art, there are three other couples in the waiting room and I don’t want them to see. I sit down and close my eyes, my hands folded in my lap. I focus on my breathing, trying to take my mind away from the turmoil raging through my head.
Art still loves me. I know he does. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have stayed with me through the long, terrible year after Beth. Not to mention the six failed IVF attempts since.
But sometimes I wonder if he really listens to me. I’ve tried to explain how tired I get of these visits to the clinic. The highs and lows of IVF. It’s been nearly a year since our last attempt. Back then I insisted on a break and Mr. Tam—as he’s known on the online infertility forums—supported me. Art agreed—we both hoped I’d get pregnant naturally. There’s really no reason why I shouldn’t—at least not one that anyone’s found. Just as there’s no reason to explain why every single attempt at IVF has failed to produce a pregnancy.
Art’s been angling for me to undergo more treatment for the past few months. He even made this appointment for us. But I can’t bear the thought of another round, and the physical side effects and psychological battering it will bring. I’ve been there too many times: starting a cycle, wasting an opportunity to start one because you’re away, going to the clinic every day to be tested, taking the drugs at specific times on specific days—all only to find your follicles aren’t big enough or plentiful enough, or else that the embryos don’t survive. Then resting a cycle or two, obsessed with when you ovulate, when you menstruate, before you start again. And on and on. And none of it, none of any of it, can ever bring her back.
Beth. My baby who was born dead.
I want to tell Art all this, but that means talking about Beth and she’s shut up in my head in a safe place along with the pain and the grief and I don’t want to go in there and start raking it all up again.
“Mr. and Mrs. Loxley?”
Art leaps to his feet. The nurse smiles at him. It’s hard not to smile at Art. Even before he appeared on The Trials on TV people smiled at him. All that boyish charm and energy. I’m sure that’s half the secret of his success with Loxley Benson, that way he looks at you, his eyes blazing, making you feel special, as if nothing matters more than what you’re about to say or do.
The other half’s a different story, of course. Art’s smart. Shrewd. And completely driven. Mum saw it when she met him. Before he’d made his fortune, when he’d just set up his business—an online ethical-investment company—with no money and no security. “That one,” she said. “That one’s going to set the world on fire.” Then she’d given me that wry smile of hers. “Just make sure you don’t get burned while you’re trying to keep up.”
Mr. Tamansini’s desk is as big as a ship—all embossed brown leather with brass studs around the edges. He looks lost behind it—a small, olive-skinned man with a pointy face and delicate hands. He’s pressing his fingertips together, which he always does when he speaks. He gazes at me and Art sitting next to each other on the other side of the desk.
“I’m going to suggest you try ICSI this time,” he says slowly. “That’s where we inject sperm directly into the egg.”
“See?” Art nudges my arm like we’re in the back row of a classroom. “I told you there’d be something new.”
I stare at Mr. Tamansini’s fingers. Weird to think they’ve been inside me. But then the whole idea of being a gynecologist is weird. On the other hand, I like Mr. Tam. I like his stillness. The way he stays calm even when Art is at his most forceful. He was my consultant for four of the six failed IVF attempts. I guess you could say we’ve been through a lot together.
“ICSI’s not new,” I say, looking up at Mr. Tam. “Why that? Why now?”
Mr. Tam clears his throat. “ICSI is often used in cases where the sperm is of poor quality. Of course, that isn’t the case here, but ICSI is equally useful when couples present with low rates of fertilization and a low yield of eggs at egg retrieval, both of which do apply to you.”
“Won’t that cost more than ordinary IVF?” I ask.
At the mention of money Art stiffens. It’s a tiny movement, but I recognize it well. It’s like when an animal pricks up its ears, listening out for warning sounds. I stare back at Mr. Tam’s desk. The brass studs around the edge are gleaming in the light. I wonder, idly, whether somebody actually polishes them.
“It is more expensive,” Mr. Tamansini acknowledges. “But it will undoubtedly increase the chance of a viable pregnancy.”
“So what does ICSI involve?” Art says. His tone is neutral, but I can hear the steel in his voice. He’s not going to let himself—or me—get taken for a ride.
Mr. Tam smiles. “As far as the two of you are concerned, there’s really very little difference from standard IVF.” He starts talking about the procedure. I tune out for a moment. I already know about ICSI; it was one of the options I pored over several years ago.
“… which works like a cleaned-up software platform,” Mr. Tamansini finishes. “All ready to program a new computer.”
Art laughs. He loves Mr. Tam’s metaphors.
“So what do you think?” Mr. Tam asks.
“Absolutely.” Art looks at me. “We should go for it.”
For a second I’m furious that Art is speaking on my behalf. And then I remember that I agreed to come here, that he thinks I’m up for this, that I haven’t talked about how I really feel for ages …
“I don’t know,” I squirm. “I mean … I don’t know about IVF anymore. Let’s face it, in a few months I’ll be forty which…”
“… is not too old.” Art turns to Mr. Tam. “Tell her, please. It’s not too old.”
Mr. Tam takes a deep breath. His face remains calm and professional, but underneath he is surely wondering why I’m here at all if I’ve got such doubts. “Of course, Mrs. Loxley, you are right. There are no guarantees. But you became pregnant once before, which is a positive sign. And forty is not that old in IVF terms. Indeed, one might say it is not as old as it used to be.”
I stare at him, at his soothing, gentle smile.
“I don’t think…” My voice trembles. “I’m not sure I can cope with … with going through it all again…” My voice breaks and I look down at the carpet. There’s a brown stain by the far desk leg in the shape of a kidney bean.
Why is it so hard to say what I want? How I feel?
Art’s voice is low in my ear, as intense as I’ve ever heard it. “Gen, we have to keep trying. Don’t you see? If you like, I’ll do a full risk assessment on the ICSI stats, I promise, and I’ll work out the odds, and if that pans out then we’ll make it work together, just like we always make everything work.”
I look up. Mr. Tam has walked across the room, to the intercom by the curtained-off area. He is talking to someone in a low voice. Giving me and Art a moment to pull ourselves together.
I turn to Art. His eyes are dancing with this new hope. I hate myself for not feeling it too.
“I know that it’s hard for you, all the drugs and the appointments and everything,” Art continues. “And I know we’ve been through it before five times…”
“Six,” I correct.
“… But it would be worth it,” Art presses on. “Don’t you think it would be worth it?”
I shake my head. I thought that once, maybe, the first few times we tried IVF after Beth. But the pain of trying and failing wasn’t worth it.
Art frowns. “I don’t understand why you don’t want to try again,” he says. He’s trying to sound sympathetic but there’s a note of impatience in his voice. “If the percentages pan out, I mean.”
I take a deep breath. “It’s not the percentages and the risk factors and the drugs.” I look into his eyes, hoping I’ll see that he understands. I lower my voice to a whisper. It’s still so hard to say her name out loud. “It’s Beth.”
His eyes express confusion. “You mean it’s being disloyal to her memory to try again?”
“Not exactly…”
“Oh, Gen. This isn’t being disloyal. If anything, it’s a testament to how much we loved her … that we want so much to … to replace her.”
Replace her?
Mr. Tam is back at the desk now, fingertips pressed together.
Art’s words are still ringing in my ears. I stare down at the kidney bean stain again, blood drumming at my temples.
“I guess we need a bit more time to think about all this,” Art is saying. His voice sounds dull and distant.
“Of course.” Mr. Tam is smiling. I can hear it in his voice, but I’m still staring at the carpet stain. “At this stage it’s just a suggestion. I think we should take it one step at a time.”
I look up. “That’s a good idea.”
Art puts his arm around my shoulders. “Absolutely.”
A few minutes later we’re outside the clinic and heading home in a taxi. Art refuses to travel any other way. He could have a driver if he wanted one, now that Loxley Benson is so successful, but he hates any appearance of elitism. I tell him taxis are just as elitist but he says they’re a practical solution—public transport being so slow and Art’s time being money.
We don’t speak. I’m still reeling. Suddenly I realize he’s speaking to me.
“Sorry?”
“I wish you wouldn’t do that.” He takes my hand and holds it between both of his.
I look down. The nail on the first finger of my left hand is bitten right down and the skin around the nail is chewed and red raw. I curl it over, out of sight. I hadn’t even realized my finger had been in my mouth.
Art’s fingers exert a soft pressure. “Why did you let me make the appointment if you were so sure you don’t want any more IVF?”
Through the taxi window, the sun is low above Regent’s Park. A perfect burning orange disc against a clear navy sky with no sign of the earlier clouds. I turn back to Art. His eyes glitter in the soft light and my heart lurches with love for him. For all his ruthlessness in business, Art’s fundamentally the kindest man I know.
“I’m sor...

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