Ceruleans story: A Question of Faith

In Devil and the Deep and Darkly, Deeply, Beautifully, Luke is deeply afraid of Scarlett getting drawn into a dark need for vengeance. There wasn’t scope in the books to explore exactly why that so frightened him. Here, I give you a glimpse of Luke’s own journey on that path. The story is set two years before Luke met Scarlett.

faithSeventeen-year-old Luke Cavendish and his sister Cara had visited the city of Plymouth more times than they could remember. Until recently, it had been a family tradition to head into town on a Saturday afternoon, to shop or see a movie or wander about the historic Barbican quarter among the tourists. The bench they were slumped on now, by the harbour, had once been their favourite spot for sitting with an ice-cream and daydreaming.

But there was no ice-cream today. And no dreaming.

‘Two years,’ growled Luke again. ‘Two bloody years.’ He leaned forward suddenly, as if he were going to retch, but he didn’t. He remained hunched over, staring blindly at the dusty paving and gripping the edge of the seat so hard his knuckles were white.

Beside him, sitting awkwardly between her crutches, Cara was uncharacteristically quiet. Not because she was furious like her brother, though she had every right to be. Because she was busy trying to work out a way to reach him in the dark place he’d inhabited for months.

‘I can’t stand it!’ Luke erupted to his feet. ‘I can’t just sit here and do nothing while he gets away with it!’

‘But he’s not getting away with it,’ said Cara, eyes tracking her brother as he paced back and forth. ‘Terry Ingham is going to jail. Right now. In a police van. He’s being shut away from his wife and his little girl for two years.’

‘Don’t you dare!’ Luke roared, pointing an accusing finger. ‘Don’t you dare feel sorry for him, Cara.’

‘I don’t,’ she said. ‘I don’t feel anything much for him. He made a mistake. He worked too many long shifts back to back and fell asleep at the wheel. It was stupid of him. Now he’s being punished for that stupidity.’

‘For two lousy years! He killed our parents. He killed them. He ploughed his truck into us and he destroyed our whole family. Look at you.’ He gestured to her legs, jutting out awkwardly from the bench. ‘Two bloody years!’

‘You heard the judge,’ said Cara. ‘It’s not far off the maximum sentence. And it was reduced from three for a good reason.’

‘Oh yes, let’s not forget Ingham’s sorry,’ Luke sneered. ‘Poor little murderer. Let’s all feel sorry for him.’

He was making a scene: all around heads were turned their way. Cara didn’t give a stuff about the onlookers – let them gawp. All she cared about was her brother, this lad burning with hatred and vengeance who was so much a stranger to her right now it terrified her.

‘Luke,’ she said, reaching for his hand and tugging on it. ‘Sit down.’

He tried to shake her off, but she clung on.

‘Sit!’ she said. ‘Because I can’t stand up on these legs and I want to have this conversation on the level.’

That got him: he sat at once, apologies on his lips. She almost felt bad for guilt-tripping him; she knew she shouldn’t use her disability to manipulate him. But right now, she would use any means necessary to get through to him.

‘Listen,’ she said, ‘we’ve got a half hour, tops, before Grannie and Gramps finish at the court and come find us. We have to make that time count. Something has to change, right here, right now. I will not go home today and carry on like we have been.’

‘Like I have been, you mean,’ he retorted. ‘I’m the one who’s falling apart. But you – you’re keeping it together. You’re fine.’

She gave him her signature eye roll. His frown deepened.

‘Hey,’ she said, serious now. ‘You must know that I’m not fine. Don’t you think I know how you feel under all that anger you wear like a cloak? I hurt all the time. All the time. I miss Mum and Dad so much I can hardly breathe for aching sometimes. I’m really, really sad. But worst of all, I’m lonely, since my brother’s gone lone wolf on me.’

Luke let out a low, guttural sound and buried his head in his hands. Cara reached out a hand and laid it on his trembling shoulder. They sat like that for some time, until all the voyeurs had drifted away.

‘I’m sorry,’ said Luke, when he could speak again, scrubbing at his eyes with his sleeve. ‘I just… I don’t know how to deal with it. Any of it.’

‘I do,’ said Cara.

He looked at her with bloodshot eyes. She saw no hope in them, not even a glimmer.

‘Luke.’ She smiled gently at him. ‘You have to hold on to what I saw that night. That’s what’ll get you through.’

He didn’t smile back; he sighed heavily, and when he spoke his voice was flat with fatigue. ‘We’ve been over this. Many times. You were very badly hurt. You were in shock. The doctor at the hospital explained why you thought you saw –’

‘No!’ she cut in. ‘You’re right, we’ve been over and over this. And every time, you shoot me down with your cold, hard logic. I don’t need to hear your opinion again. It won’t change the facts. I was not dreaming. I was not hallucinating. What I saw was real.’

It was easy to bring the scene to mind now; she did it so often, whenever the grief threatened to engulf her. After the dazzling headlights and the squealing tyres and the shouts and the screams and the apocalyptic bang; after, when all was quiet and still, she’d opened her eyes and seen… light. Brilliant, ethereal, divine light, right there beside her in the car. And through the light, the silhouette of a figure. The memory was vivid, but short – she remembered only that, and a whisper in her ear as she was sucked back into the void: ‘Hush now. Lie still.’

‘It was an angel, Luke. I know it. Here.’ She pressed her hands over her heart. ‘And because I know now that angels exist, I know that heaven exists – and that Mum and Dad are there. Safe. Happy. Waiting for us to join them there someday, and then we’ll all be together, and –’

‘Please,’ said Luke in a strangled voice. ‘Stop.’

‘Stop what? Stop believing? Never. I will never accept that they’re just… gone. I know they’re not. I saw the light – I saw it.’

Luke said nothing, but a little muscle working in his clenched jaw told her he was fighting not to argue with her. In turn, Cara bit her lip. There was so much she wanted to say, but he’d heard it all before and it had made no difference. She’d been trying for so long to instil in him the faith that was her strength and her solace. Perhaps it was time to try a different tack.

‘Right,’ she said, and she grabbed her crutches. As she struggled to her feet Luke automatically rushed to help her, but she pushed him away. ‘No. I can do it myself. Come on. This way.’

She moved painfully along the uneven paving, ignoring Luke hovering anxiously at her side, keeping her eyes fixed on her target. When she reached the little viewing platform jutting out over the harbour it was occupied by a couple locked in an amorous clinch.

‘Excuse me,’ she said loudly. ‘Can you get out the way, please.’

The couple broke apart, and the man spun around, ready to retort rudely. A crutch waggled in his face soon put paid to that idea, and in moments Luke and Cara had the platform to themselves.

Holding on to the metal railing that encircled the space, they both instinctively looked right, to the old stone steps leading from the harbourside down into the water. Nothing special to look at, but their symbolism attracted a steady stream of tourists, for these were the Mayflower Steps.

‘You know,’ said Cara, ‘when the Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower in’ – she check the date on a nearby plaque – ‘sixteen twenty, they had no idea what to expect in the New World. But they believed it would be a better one.’
‘I’m really not in the mood for a history lesson,’ was Luke’s weary response.

‘And I’m not giving you one,’ she snapped, patience waning. ‘This is a question of faith, Luke. Pure and simple. They had it.’ She nodded to the steps. ‘I have it. Grannie and Gramps have it. You – ’

‘I don’t believe in blokes in white frocks with gold halos wandering about among us. And I refuse to agree that’s a problem, Car.’

‘Fine,’ she said. ‘Then don’t. You don’t have to believe in that. You don’t have to believe in a higher power, even. But believe in something, dammit. Have faith in faith itself.’

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘It means believing that someday you’ll feel differently. Right now, you look ahead and the future is black. See a light in that darkness. You don’t need to know the source of the light – just see it.’

‘Cara, I told you: I didn’t see that light, and I don’t – hey!’

Shifting so that the railing took her weight, Cara had freed a hand to reach out, grab a handful of Luke’s jacket and shake him.

‘I’m not talking literally now, dummy!’ she said. ‘I’m talking figuratively! I’m talking about something – or someone – coming into your life and changing how you feel. Something entirely ordinary, completely unmystical, happening that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning and live through the day. That makes you smile like you used to. That makes you want to surf, and cook. That makes you you again.’

Yanking his jacket from her grasp, he grumbled, ‘I can’t just flick a switch and turn it on, you know.’

‘No,’ she fired back. ‘But you can bloody well try, Luke Cavendish, and you know it.’

He made a grumpy hmphf sound and turned his head away, staring over at the steps. Cara smiled. He wasn’t arguing, he was thinking. She was getting somewhere.

She gave him a minute to himself, then said evenly, ‘Two years. Two lousy years – that’s all. Not long, hey? Not long at all.’

Luke turned back, frowning in confusion.

‘So that’s what you focus on,’ she explained. ‘Here’s the plan: you give yourself two years and you try with everything you have to have faith that you’ll feel yourself again.’

Without giving him time to ponder, she gripped the guiderail and forced herself up onto tiptoes so she could look him right in the eye.

‘Because otherwise,’ she continued, ‘you may as well be on your way to prison right now with Terry Ingram. You’ll be just as trapped and miserable as him.’

He flinched, but she wasn’t done yet. There was one final truth he had to hear:

‘And Mum and Dad wouldn’t want that for you. They would want you to live, and make them proud.’

Instinctively, his eyes flicked up – heavenward. And deep down inside, Cara threw her arms wide and danced. She had him. She’d done it. She’d known he was capable of faith – he just didn’t know it himself.

She watched, jiggling with pent-up energy, as he took an infuriatingly long time to make the inevitable decision. When he finally turned to her, she was brick-red with the effort of keeping quiet.

‘Okay,’ he said. ‘I’ll try.’

With a deafening shriek, Cara threw herself at him.

‘Ow!’ he grunted, crushed into the railing. ‘Steady on, will you?’ Gently, he pushed her back.

‘Hallelujah!’ she sang loudly and off-key.

‘I said I’d try, remember,’ he warned. ‘I’m not making any promises.’

Cara beamed at him. ‘Just think what two years might bring, bro! Maybe you’ll win a surf tournament. Maybe you’ll win the Great British Bake-Off. Maybe you’ll meet some gorgeous girl who’ll be your love, your life, your light…’

He snorted. ‘In sleepy little Twycombe? Not likely.’

‘You know,’ she said, ‘I have this friend Sally I think you’d really like.’

‘Sally the wrestling champ? No. Do not start matchmaking me.’

Laughing gleefully, Cara steadied herself on her crutches and then led the way slowly off the platform and through the crowd. A queue of people was in her way, and her eyes naturally traced along the line to their destination. It was an ice-cream van, parked by the waterfront.

Her laugh died in her throat.

She could almost taste it now, the ice-cream she’d had that night. Pomegranate flavour. Dad had taken them to a late-night cafe that specialised in exotic ice-creams and they’d each tried a different flavour. They’d been so happy in that cafe, stealing tastes from each other’s bowls, less than an hour before…

Cara hadn’t touched ice-cream since. Neither had Luke.

Was it a step too far to suggest one now? The change today felt fragile still. She was well aware of her bull-in-a-china-shop tendency. It had served her well so far today. But there was a time to lock that bull up and tread with care.

‘Come on,’ she said to Luke, turning on her crutch and moving away.

Luke didn’t reply. She looked: he wasn’t beside her.

She heard her name called from behind, and turned. From the back of the queue, Luke gave her a little wave.

She stared at him, slack jawed, until he called, ‘Vanilla or chocolate?’

Then she flung a crutch up high and waved it wildly and yelled, ‘Chocolate! Get me chocolate, with a chocolate flake and chocolate sauce and… all the chocolate!’

Across the pavement, Luke nodded – and very nearly smiled.