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A word can change a mind. A sentence can change a life. A book can change the world

image from the book The Brittle Sea

A Box of Tricks.

For Maggie, life was hard enough being pregnant. But being a pregnant woman who is also an amnesiac, unmarried and living in someone else’s home was becoming intolerable. Not that she was ungrateful to Mary James for taking her in. She knew she had a true friend in Mary and that she would have done anything in return. Maggie’s problem was the unknown and the more she thought about it, the more she found that life living on the edge of the unknown was hard to bear. She lived life on assumptions and she could assume Richard would come back in a few weeks and marry her. She could assume she would forever be Maggie and never know who she really was. And she could assume that her pregnancy would run smoothly and that at the end she would be a happily married woman with a loving husband and a healthy child. But in reality, she didn’t know if any of it would come to fruition. Life was currently one big unknown and it was that which she found intolerable.

“I can see you’re feeling down again, Maggie.”

Mary’s simple statement brought Maggie out of her reverie. The pair were sat at a small table taking afternoon tea in Mary’s kitchen, close to a small back-yard that was beginning to see the first evidence of spring blooms. It wasn’t hot, but Maggie felt warm and flustered and her thoughts were elsewhere. She sighed as she picked up the lukewarm tea Mary had poured a few minutes before. “It’s hard to put into words, this feeling I have of doom and gloom. It’s almost as if my life was doomed to disaster. I don’t know if I felt that way the minute I boarded the Titanic, but…”

“You remember that? You remember boarding the Titanic?”

Maggie shook her head in denial. “I wish I did. All I have is the odd snippet of disjointed memories that mean very little. My dreams are more real.” Every time she tried to make her memories come back, some sort of barrier prevented it. Maggie could only liken it to braking down a wall with a hammer the size of a tooth-pick, an impossible task.

“Maybe your dreams are real events, jumbled up memories trying to escape.”

“Maybe,” Maggie said, unconvinced. She loved Mary James, but her continued desire to keep prodding away at Maggie, in the hope that talking about her experiences will dislodge some memory, was also taking its toll on Maggie’s mental well-being. Mary obviously hoped her ‘prodding’ would eventually lead to a flood of memories. Maggie found it galling sometimes.

The ringing of the door-bell made Maggie jump, and at that moment a fleeting memory of a ship’s bell jumped into her mind but was gone as quickly as it arrived.

Mary patted Maggie’s hand. “You’re on edge, my dear. Try to calm down. I’ll make some Camomile tea after I answer the door.”

As Mary left the room, Maggie cringed at the thought of yet more Camomile tea. She didn’t give much credence to those who thought it was good for the nerves, Maggie hated the taste and it only ensured to put her on edge even more.

“It’s a delivery for you Maggie.”

Maggie turned in her chair and looked quizzically at Mary James. “For me? Surely nobody knows I’m here?”

“Maybe it’s from Dr. Henderson?”

Maggie slowly rose from her chair, her back aching as usual, and walked to Mary’s front door. The house wasn’t old, but the floorboards seemed ill-fitting and creaked at every step Maggie took.

A short but well-built man, stood at the door, cap in one hand and small box wrapped in brown paper in the other. He smiled as Maggie walked up to him.

“Begging your pardon ma’am, but this is for someone called Maggie, that rightly fits your description. The man that gave it to me said you were a beauty and he was right. Can you sign my delivery paper?” With a small flourish the man produced a piece of typed paper, handed it and a pencil to Maggie and then turned his back so that she could straighten the paper on his back and write her name.

That task completed the man turned back to Maggie, took the paper, handed the small box to her with a small delivery note which he tucked under the string wrapped around the box. Then he put his cap on, smiled and semi-bowed. “Thank you, Ma’am, much obliged.” And with that he was gone, leaving Maggie and Mary to stand in the doorway, pondering on the contents of the box.

“Well, it won’t get opened by staring at it. I’ll get a knife.”

Minutes later Maggie and Mary were seated at the small table, their still untouched tea cold and uninviting, and now joined by a small box wrapped in brown paper. Maggie cut the string that held the brown paper in place, removed it and then proceeded to unfold the brown paper. Inside was a box with a lid neatly tucked into one of the box sides. Maggie pulled at the lid and peered inside. “It’s empty,” she said, looking up at Mary with a frown.

“Empty?” Mary leaned forward and peered inside. “So, it is! Now that’s very odd. What does the delivery paper say?” Mary picked up the paper from the table. “It has a date, and the name typed on it, your name and today’s date.”

“Perhaps Dr. Henderson forgot to put something inside.”

“Perhaps,” Mary said in an unconvinced voice. “We’ll soon find out, I’ll telephone him.”

“You have a telephone?”

Mary smiled at Maggie as she stood up. “I’m a 20th century woman, Maggie. Remind me to show you how to use it, in case of an emergency and I’m not here.”

Minutes later, Mary returned, and her previous puzzled frown was a lot deeper. “Dr. Henderson says he hasn’t sent anything to you.”

The two women sat opposite each other, a small table between them, with the detritus of afternoon tea scattered across the table top, surrounding one small and empty box.


William Harker sat in the hansom-cab, being jostled from side to side due to the uneven road and, at that moment, he was smiling to himself. A tune came into his head and he started to whistle it. It was a tune he had heard someone once sing in a musical hall, a tune from a long time ago, when he was younger, and the world had seemed a more promising and happier place to live in. He looked once more at the paper Maggie had obligingly signed and smiled. “Thank you, Maggie. You have just made my day.”

Copyright Tom Kane © 2018

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MARCH 15, 1931

APRIL 15, 1912



















This is a first draft, so please forgive spelling & grammatical errors. Context and characters may change between now and the final publication date.

When published as an eBook and paperback at the end of 2018, this book will be the first in a trilogy: The Brittle Sea, The Brittle Land and The Brittle Sky.

As a English expat author living in Cyprus, you may think my life revolves around cocktails by the pool. You would be wrong. In ten years on the island I’ve had my fair share of adventures and interesting experiences.

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Living in Cyprus: 2015 here

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