It’s been much too long since Lana last visited the Scribbler. Since her previous posting in 2016, a lot of exciting moments have taken place. She’s writing terrific stories, to much acclaim. Positive reviews keep piling up.
If you want to take a peek at her last visit, please go HERE and read an Excerpt from an earlier work – Savaged Lands.
I recently finished her earlier novel – Sisters of War and it was a fantastic read. Find out more about it HERE.
This week she is sharing an Excerpt from her newest novel – Her Perfect Lies. Make sure you pick up a copy. I know I am.
Lana Newton grew up in two opposite corners of the Soviet Union – the snow-white Siberian town of Tomsk and the golden-domed Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. At the age of sixteen, she moved to Australia with her mother. Lana and her family live on the Central Coast of NSW, where it never snows and is always summer-warm.
Lana studied IT at university and, as a student, wrote poetry in Russian that she hid from everyone. For over a decade after graduating, she worked as a computer programmer. When she returned to university to complete her history degree, her favourite lecturer encouraged her to write fiction. She hasn’t looked back, and never goes anywhere without her favourite pen because you never know when the inspiration might strike.
Lana’s short stories appeared in many magazines and anthologies, and she was the winner of the Historical Novel Society Autumn 2012 Short Fiction competition. Her novels are published by HQ Digital, an imprint of Harper Collins UK.
Lana also writes historical fiction under the pen name of Lana Kortchik. Her first novel, Sisters of War, is the USA Today bestseller published by Harper Collins.
To find out more, please visit http://www.lanakortchik.com.
Her Perfect Lies
A stranger watched her from the mirror. Grey eyes, pale lips, blonde – almost white – hair, as if bleached by the sun, a face she felt she had never seen before. The only thing she knew about this stranger was her name.
Claire. They said her name was Claire.
They told her other things, of course – things she found hard to believe. She was famous, touring around the world with the largest ballet company in the country. The nurses talked about her as if they knew her. One had even seen her perform, in faraway Australia of all places.
Through mindless hours in her hospital bed, she imagined herself on stage in front of thousands. Impossible, she would whisper, the stranger in the mirror nodding in agreement. Yet, there were pictures and videos to prove it. She peered at herself in the photographs, as Odette, Sugar Plum Fairy, Cinderella. Dazzling costumes, elegant posture, long limbs. Was it really her? She looked at the twirling doll on the screen of her phone until her eyes hurt. Impossible, impossible, impossible.
Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, like a clap of thunder, filled the room. Unfamiliar, and yet, she felt she ought to know it, as if she had heard it a thousand times before. Every time she willed her body to move, her feet would slide into a ballet position like it was the most natural thing in the world. What her mind had forgotten, her body remembered. Pirouettes, jetés, and pliés came to her in time to Tchaikovsky’s eternal creation, each as perfect as a summer rain.
Today was a special day. The nurses seemed excited for her. She felt she should be excited, too. Staring in the mirror, right into the stranger’s eyes, she forced her face into a smile and widened her eyes, but instead of happy she looked scared. She was exhausted, as if she had lived a thousand lifetimes, none of which she could remember. Splashing her face with cold water, she brushed her hair and tied it in a high ponytail. Reaching for her bag, she applied some makeup. Black for her eyelashes, pink for her cheeks, red for her lips. The last thing she wanted was to look like she was part of this grey hospital room.
The London sky outside wasn’t grey but a vivid purple. She watched the last traces of sunlight disappear, and then, out of nowhere, the rain came. It battered the lone oak tree outside, and the leaves thrashed in the wind. Over the music she could hear their rustle. This sky, this oak tree, the room she was in, the cafeteria down the hall – these were the boundaries of her world. Beyond them, she knew nothing.
The music stopped and she turned sharply away from the window. She could sense his gaze. The man standing in the doorway was tall, and she felt dwarfed by him. They stared at each other in silence for a few seconds too long – Claire, her cheeks flush with rouge, eyes filled with fear, and her husband, impeccably dressed, unsmiling, unfamiliar.
‘Hi, Claire.’ The man took a few steps in her direction.
‘Hi, Paul.’ In two weeks she had seen him twice. Now he had finally come to take her home.
‘Feeling better today?’
She didn’t know how to answer his question. Better than two weeks ago? Yes. But better in general? She couldn’t remember what that felt like. ‘I still get headaches. But my back is almost healed.’ She peered into his face. There were wrinkles around his eyes and dark stubble on his chin. She didn’t have it in her heart to tell him he was a stranger to her. But he was looking at her as if she was a stranger, too. His eyes remained cold.
‘Do you have everything?’ he asked.
‘I just need to say goodbye. Wait here for me? I won’t be long.’
She made her way down a busy corridor, navigating gurneys, trolleys and people. She had made this trip many times before, could probably do it with her eyes closed – a left turn, twenty uncertain paces, another left, down two flights of stairs and a right. The door she wanted was hidden behind a pillar, tucked away from prying eyes. You could easily walk past and not even know it was there. Today it was wide open, as if inviting her in.
It was quiet in the room, no music playing, no television murmuring in the background, no eager visitors with their chatter and flowers. Only the heartbeat of the machines, like clocks counting down the seconds, and the ventilator puffing, struggling, breathing in and out. If nurses or doctors spoke in here, they did so in hushed voices, as if they were afraid of disturbing the man on the bed. Which was ironic because all they wanted was for him to wake up.
Outside the window was the hospital car park, a noisy anthill of activity, with ambulances screeching and cars vying for spaces. The rumble of engines was a muffled soundtrack to the man’s artificial existence. She felt grateful for the oak tree outside her room, for the peace and quiet. She would have hated having nothing but cars to look at. But the man didn’t care. He was asleep.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, Claire took his hand. After two weeks, this gesture had become a habit. Day after miserable day she would do it on autopilot, looking into the man’s face, studying his lifeless features. Today she could swear his eyelids were moving. She wanted to ask the doctor if it meant anything. Fluttering eyelids – was it a sign? Was he about to wake up? Or was it her imagination showing her what she wanted to see?
‘Your father, is it?’ A nurse crept up behind her silently, like a cat. She looked a little like a cat too, scruffy and ginger, her eyes cagey. She paused next to the man’s bed, removed the chart from its folder and checked the monitors. ‘You look just like him.’
The man’s skin was grey today, more so than usual. His face was gaunt, his body a skeleton on the white sheet.
‘Yes,’ said Claire. ‘I’m waiting for him to wake up, so he can tell me about my life.’
If the nurse was surprised, she didn’t show it. ‘Are you a patient here?’
Claire didn’t answer but turned away from the nurse and towards her father. The woman’s mouth opened as if to repeat her question, but at the last moment she seemed to change her mind. Her eyes darted over Claire’s face as she made a few notes on the chart and placed it back. ‘I hope he pulls through,’ she said finally. ‘I’ll pray for him. And for you.’
She was already out the door when Claire called out, ‘Can he hear me? If I talk to him, can he hear?’
The ginger head reappeared in the doorway. ‘They do believe so. I mean, after all the research they’ve done. Speak to him, tell him you love him. It will help.’ The nurse nodded as she spoke, as if for emphasis. Her eyes filled with compassion.
Claire squeezed the man’s fingers. Ever so slightly she shook him, pushed his shoulder with her tiny fist, willing him to open his eyes. His hand felt cold in hers, a dead weight pulling down. She brought it to her face and saw her tears fall on the calluses of his palm. These hands held me when I was a child, she thought. These lips, now motionless, read bedtime stories and kissed me goodnight. How could she have forgotten all that? It didn’t seem possible. Memories like that were part of one’s DNA, only gone when life itself was gone. She leant over, pressing her lips to his forehead. ‘Wake up, Dad,’ she whispered. ‘I need you.’
She had spent the last two weeks feeling guilty. Guilty that she was awake, while her dad was unconscious. That she could walk, look out the window, enjoy the pale sunlight and the meagre hospital food. And now she felt guilty she was leaving this place, returning to what once had been her normal existence, while he was stuck in this bed, not yet dead, but not quite alive either.
On the way back she walked slowly, delaying the inevitable, not ready to leave the familiar for the unknown.
Paul was waiting in her room. ‘Time to go,’ he said and his lips stretched into a smile. Even to her confused, drug-addled mind, it looked forced. Glancing away, she nodded quickly and reached for her bag. Her whole life, all two weeks of it, packed into a small travel case. Paul walked out without touching her. As she waited for him to talk to the doctors and sign the paperwork, she felt sweat drops on her forehead. Her throat was dry.
Thank you for being our guest this week, Lana. Thank you for your stories. Wishing you continued success with your writing.
To see what else Lana has been up to, please visit her Goodreads Author's Page by going HERE.
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