Group Novel by CG Buswell
Tartan Noir Writer

Nine grieving families, one dark secret. Can love triumph? Monica is slowly rebuilding her life after her daughter took her life in the family home five years ago. She has found solace and companionship in a local survivors of suicide support group. But one of these friends is not all they seem.

Group Novel by CG Buswell
Can she keep the group together after a devastating revelation is revealed?

Can Monica trust and love once more?

Group is the new emotionally raw psychological character-driven suspense romance by 5-star rated author C.G. Buswell

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Free First Chapter:

'I hate you for taking your own life,' whispered Monica across the empty room. She was sitting on her sofa, hands worrying over a duster. A can of polish was on the low table beside her. 'And so violently too.' She looked up, turned on her seat, and stared at the alcove, 'How could you let me find you that way?' She stood up and jutted out her chin defiantly, 'I was your mother, no mum should see their child like that,' she shouted as she walked across the room. She reached for the photo frame that was laid on its front, glass side down. A layer of dust had settled over the back of the frame. Several spider webs were criss-crossed across the shelf and upon the edges of the neglected gilt edge. Her hands hovered over the frame, one set to grasp it, the other poised to wipe the years of dust away. 'Not today, I'm sorry, Josephine. I still love you, but I can't look at you, it's just too painful.' Several tears fell from Monica's face. Some landed on the duster and were absorbed; others fell on the neglected shelf, causing some of the fragile web network to crumble.

After a few minutes, she composed herself, wiped away her tears with the fingers of her left hand, and absently dried them on the duster. She then walked across the room, picked up the spray can, and began her cleaning.

The room was tastefully decorated with soothing pastel coloured paintwork and adorned with pictures of the local area; several were watercolours by a local artist who specialised in capturing the wild ruggedness of the Scottish coast. Monica had opted to purchase the gentler scenes, hoping to bring some peace to her rented cottage. She had moved here a year after losing her daughter to suicide. She had tried to live in the family house, but it was a constant reminder of her loss. She experienced flashbacks to finding her daughter's body in the bath every time she walked into the bathroom. The images would overwhelm her each time, though she tried to keep them hidden from her husband, to lessen his pain. They had tried to work on their marriage, but their grief and guilt caused too many arguments and they had amicably split. They sold their house, neither wanting to live on, alone in a house where their daughter had violently taken her own life; and went their separate ways. She never heard from him again until his solicitor informed her of his death and private funeral. His ashes had been scattered at the grave of his daughter, and his estate, most of the money from the sale of his share of their home, had been bequeathed to Monica, along with a letter expressing his sorrow at the loss of their daughter and the breakdown of their marriage. He too had taken his own life, alone in a forest, hanging in a tree for an early morning jogger to find.

This semi-detached cottage, in the oldest part of the city, was rented from her closest friend, who lived next door. It had proven to be a healing blessing. Their friendship had grown even closer and Robyn had been and continued to be a superb listener. Monica fell in love with the low-beamed ceilings and roughly plastered walls. She loved that she could look out of her windows and see the North-East sandy beach. She liked to watch the deep-sea trawlers and container ships navigate their way into the narrow harbour to offload their cargo. She delighted in hearing the gulls and catching occasional glimpses of seals and dolphins swimming around the harbour, looking for easy catches. She called it her mindfulness moments. Best of all, she loved that Robyn would leave her with Judy, her playful Yorkshire Terrier.

Monica continued to spray and polish the few ornaments that were in the opposite alcove to where she had been crying. The shelves here were dust free and looked gleaming when compared to the opposite area. Like everything else in this room, and every room in the cottage, the objects and furniture were all brand new when she had moved in four years ago. She couldn't bear to have any reminders of what she had lost, except for the neglected photo frame. She looked back at it, 'One day, I promise, sweetheart. I'll be able to look at you and smile and remember all the fun we had. Well, until your heart was broken, and you felt you couldn't go on without your first girlfriend.' She sighed. 'I see her now and again, you know. I don't say hello. I don't trust myself, not yet. I think I'd lose my temper with her. I know I shouldn't blame her. You were both so young. She has a child of her own, I know that I should have told you this before, but I found that painful. I think he's about two. I couldn't see a wedding ring.' She smiled, 'Yes, I know, I'm old-fashioned. You'd probably tell me to get with the times if you were still,' she broke off the sentence, unable to finish it as her thoughts went down a dark path. She picked up another ornament and furiously rubbed at some invisible dust.

Robyn whistled and a small dog, dark brown, with lighter patches, padded boldly through from her basket in the kitchen. In a well-rehearsed ritual, it jumped onto a low stool set by the sofa and then leapt up onto her blanket, placed in the centre seat. Robyn laughed and sat beside her, 'We'll have a quick cuddle before seeing your best friend forever.'

Judy's ear pricked up at the mention of her friend next door. Her small face seemed to light up, and she looked from her owner and then across to the wooden front door. She looked back to Robyn and yielded to the strokes across her back. She laid down and turned over, exposing her belly as she received tummy rubs. She kicked up her feet playfully in the air. She was in dog heaven as Robyn ruffled her stomach several times and then gave a firm pat to show that she should now sit up.

Robyn placed the tartan jacket over Judy's back, covering her lighter patches, which almost looked saddle shaped. She clipped it on securely, ruffled Judy's face and stroked down her moustache and beard-like area and ended on an ear tickle. 'You do a magnificent job of looking after our friend, don't you girl.'

Judy waggled her small tail several times in agreement. It tapped gently against a lilac cushion.

'You be good for her and I'll be home after my shift at the supermarket. I've a busy day today, lots of interviews. I just hope there is a wee gem amongst them who will join our happy team. I wish I could take you with me, but we can't have you running around the food aisles, can we?'

Judy, impatient, jumped back down to her stool, waited for her back legs to catch up, and then bounced off and onto the oak flooring and trotted off to the front door. She waited patiently by the coat rack and looked up longingly at her leash.

Robyn laughed, 'Well, I guess you won't be yearning after me at all, will you? I can't compete with Monica, can I?'

Judy marked her agreement by turning around on the spot and jumping into the air, snout just missing the dangling ornate leash.

'Okay, okay, I can take a hint, let's get you on your best leash for Aunty Monica.' She reached for a dark green leash that was interspersed with varying shades of yellow, a Christmas present from her friend. She then knelt and attached her canine chum, gave her another ear tickle, and clicked her tongue for their 'Let's go!' command and the pair left their front door, locked up, and walked the few yards to the adjoining cottage.

Judy trotted obediently at heel and then stopped whilst Robyn took a few minutes to embrace the unexpected sunshine from the early September morning. The seagulls were already shrieking, and several had settled on the taller house roof to the left of their home. This was an old warehouse that had been tastefully converted into an executive style spacious home, well beyond the purses of the two friends. There were parking restrictions in this neighbourhood, and it was rumoured that the Porsche parked in the residents' bay at the end of the cobbled streets belonged to the man who lived in the big house. Neither of the friends had met him. Robyn worked too many shifts to help pay her mortgages for the two buildings to have any spare time to devote to snooping, and her friend, who worked part-time for one of the oil companies, had no inclination to pry on others' concerns. She was still too deep in her grief to worry about anyone else. Judy sighed as she wondered if her pal would ever find happiness again. She replaced her frown with a false smile, wanting to convey warmth into her chum's life. She knocked gently on the lavender door.

Monica opened the door after a few seconds, 'Och, you shouldn't be knocking on your own door, I've told you before,' she gently berated her pal as she hugged her good morning. She felt a frantic clawing at her legs, broke off the greeting and bent over to ruffle Judy's beard, 'Hello gorgeous, yes I know I should make a fuss of you first, but I'll have you all day and your mummy will go in a few minutes.' She took possession of the leash.

'Thanks for looking after her, I should be home at six tonight, all being well.'

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