Inside the mind of a writer www.scskillman.co.uk

Beth doesn’t really know why she’s here; she’s edgy, tense, anxious. Is she searching for the healing that Craig promises? And is she prepared to do the mysterious “work” on herself that Craig requires? She doesn’t want to tell Juliet about her past. She hero-worships Craig, but he’s inaccessible. There is one in the group who would love her in the way she longs for… but is she able to respond to him? She is in a spiritual community where all members are supposed to “share love equally” yet Beth feels unloved and unloveable. 

EXTRACT FROM “MYSTICAL CIRCLES”

Juliet exchanged a wave of acknowledgement with Laura, seated opposite the American, before turning her attention to the next diner, beside Laura.

This was a sharp-faced young woman with dark hair pulled tightly back in a French plait, which emphasised the severity of her expression. She gave Juliet a frosty stare. “I’m Beth. Beth Owen,” she snapped. “I prefer not to say anything else about myself.”

Well, thought Juliet, Beth wasn’t very friendly. How had Juliet managed to earn her hostility so soon? Beth continued to look tense and suspicious. Perhaps she misunderstood what Juliet was trying to do. But if she didn’t say anything, Juliet couldn’t put her mind at rest.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Juliet shifted position so she could also observe Beth, who’d so far remained silent. She wanted to see if Beth was reacting to Oleg in any way. But no, her eyes were on Craig. Beth was in love with Craig, Juliet had no doubt about that. Poor girl. What prospects did she have, with Zoe so ahead of the game? Her sister was chatting animatedly to Craig. Sparkling and pretty, Zoe had everything going for her to win first place in Craig’s affections.

Suddenly Beth leaned back as Don became caught up in a conversation with Rory. She faced Juliet in a conspiratorial manner. Her eyes hardened, and she spoke in a low, tight voice. “When you interview us, Juliet, do hold off from asking us about our past won’t you?”

“Why?” asked Juliet.

“Because none of us here are supposed to remember it. Craig teaches us to cut ourselves off from that.”

“But your background’s one of the first things my listeners will want to know about.”

The colour of Beth’s face deepened. Juliet guessed that to be the effect of the wine. She decided to try the direct approach. “How do you feel about Craig, Beth?”

Cold hostility glimmered in the girl’s eye. “What’s that to you?”

“I’ve been invited here to ask questions,” said Juliet gently.

Beth drained her glass of wine and refused to look at her again. Instead she switched her glance to Oleg, who’d left his seat at the end of the table, and come up to speak to her. She gave him full attention for the first time during the meal. He leaned down towards her, and laid his hand on hers. She jumped as if someone had laid hot metal on her bare flesh.

He spoke in a low, urgent voice. “Why so nervous when I touch you, Beth? Relax.”

Instead of having the desired effect, this seemed to destabilise her further. She pushed her chair back and sprang to her feet. “Goodbye, everyone.” With that, she headed round behind Juliet’s chair, whirled past The Lady and the Unicorn, and vanished through the doorway into the sitting room.

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