by H.A. Leuschel
Genre: Psychological Fiction
‘Realistic, heart-breaking and utterly gripping!’ - Bookneeders
'A brilliant and important book ... I could barely put it down'- Nerdish Mum Book Blog
‘You NEED to read this. Your family needs to read this, your friends need to read this, your children … NEED to read this’ - JenacideByBibliophile
Five fictional, compelling true-to-life stories about how people can be manipulated by others.
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual.
First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.
To her dismay, Tess seemed to have nodded off, her face looking pale and slightly ashen. That was when she could not bear it any longer and silently crept over
to where Tess was sitting and already emitting small snoring sounds, while the music was still accompanying the next enthusiastic dancing couple on screen. She whispered Tess’s name a few times and then, without any further thought, raised her friend’s sleeve to the top of her arm.
She was speechless at what she discovered. Tess’s arm was surrounded by a row of interlocked shackles. They were thick and black and she was taken aback by the courage of this old lady for choosing such a strong design. At the front of the arm though, the link was broken and instead of the metal chain, small detached pieces were progressively floating up her upper armwhere they took on the shape
of a group of birds flying off towards the top of her shoulder. Sandra sat back with a great sigh, pulled the sleeve back down and reached for the cover that laid by her side. While she covered Tess’s legs and ever so gently placed another cushion behind her head, she could sense her friend’s hand, the skin dry and cool, reaching for hers. She was startled by the unexpected gesture, her thoughts racing with amixture of guilt and embarrassment. She knelt close to her, holding her hand for a while, when she heard a small whisper coming from Tess’s mouth and she lowered her ear, asking her to repeat what she had just said.
‘Thank you so much... I’m sorry for leaving you so soon, my love.’ Sandra’s eyes widened in disbelief. What on earth was Tess talking about? Before she could set her forehead into a deep frown, she sensed her heart drop into the centre of the stomach. It is too late, she told herself.
The room suddenly felt oppressive and stuffy and the air was still with foreboding. Sandra got up and frantically opened one of the dining room windows, knowing the feeling all too well, even though it had been a while since she last experienced it. The fresh gust of air blowing into her face was rejuvenating and refreshing but she was frightened to turn round. In the nearby trees she could hear the birds
singing and twittering as if it were just another normal autumn afternoon.
She took another deep breath, her eyes streaming now with tears of frustration, and resolutely walked back to where Tess was now slumped awkwardly in her chair. The meaning of the tattoo was staring her straight in the face. Tess had lost her imaginary wings before she had ever learned to fly.
And she had not seen it coming.
‘Are you playing hard to get then?’ He was right there, slumped in one of the chairs in the far corner of the café, watching her walk through the door.Theaccusation was written all over his face and she instantly felt guilty. She had not been able to see him through the café window but, rather than completely give up on the possibility that he had turned up, she decided to enter and give the place a quick scan.
He added one of his irresistible winks to his reproach and lifted his hand to indicate the empty chair next to him. His legs were confidently spread open and for a brief moment she thought that he looked like a younger version of Theo James.He had the same brown eyes and full lips, thick blond hair that seemed to style easily and a lean body which looked good in any clothes. Added to his appearance, he knew how to disarm a girl with an assertive, deep gaze and a
smile that conveyed cocky self-confidence.
Her knees felt like jelly and her heart was racing so fast now that it felt as if it was on the brink of bursting through her chest. She grabbed the handle of her bag to settle her shaking hand. She wondered what her friends would have to say about all of this. She had never exchanged a single hello with this guy ever since he joined the school last year, yet a brief chat in the morning had now meant they
were looking into each other’s eyes as if they’d always wanted to be together. This was what falling in love at first sight must feel like, she thought. The only thing was though, she told herself in an attempt to sober her excitement, that this was not first sight. Next, she felt his hand reach out to hers, patting it gently. It made her feel like an inexperienced little girl, which she knew she was.
Don’t spoil this Holly, pull yourself together, her voice muttered in her head.
‘What would you like to drink?’
Holly sat down on the empty seat he had kept for her, placing her bag at her feet and shrugged her shoulders, suggesting a 7 Up.
He returned to the table with a glass and a can and she was amazed about how confident he was at starting a conversation, talking about himself and how soon they were engaged in general chitchat. It was when her mobile beeped with a new message that she realised the time and that her mum would wonder where she was. It was her job to look out for her two brothers until her parents arrived
home for dinner.
She gathered her bag, giggling with him now, already more at ease and relaxed.
‘Sorry, I’ve got to go,’ Holly said, but before she was able to get up and say good-bye, he was by her side, leaning towards her ear and whispering.
‘Don’t ever make me wait again, babe.’ She looked up in shock, and then sighed with relief when she saw him smiling and blowing her an air kiss and reaching his right hand to her cheek to stroke it with his index finger. ‘Wow, I’ve never met a girl with such perfect skin.’ Her cheeks prickled just hearing his words. Compliments did seem to come easy to him but they felt wonderful, even though he was clearly quite full of himself. Don’t make me wait again, he’d said, as if he was some kind of VIP.
‘Oh, and best not tell anyone we’re seeing each other. They’ll just make fun of us. OK? See you tomorrow.’ She nodded and before she could say anything else, he winked one more time and was out of the door.
She was almost out on the pavement herself when she heard a gruff voice coming from the counter.
‘Oi, you’ve not paid for your drink, young lady.’
‘Oh, I’m sorry, I thought my friend paid for me.’ She ruffled through her bag and fished out a few coins, handing them over the counter to the lady’s outstretched palm.
‘A right friend that is then, eh?’
‘Ah, he must have forgotten.He was in a real rush. I’m really sorry.’
Her cheeks were crimson, this time with embarrassment.
‘That’s alright, pet. You watch who you go out with.’ The lady shook her head slightly and her forehead was still set in a frown as Holly left.
She was fuming with anger.How could he have forgotten to pay? He seemed to have made it so clear that he’d invited her for a drink. Or had he? Maybe she had been assuming too much. He was just a student too, and it had been their first date.
Helene Andrea Leuschel gained a BA in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She later acquired a Master in Philosophy, specializing in the study of the mind.
Helene has a particular interest in emotional, psychological and social well-being and this led her to write her first novel, Manipulated Lives, a fictional collection of five novellas, each highlighting the dangers of interacting with narcissists.
She lives with her husband and two children in Portugal.
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