I looked at the passport, and then back up at the woman standing in front of me.

"Are you serious?" I asked, a puzzled look on my face.

She looked sad.

"What is to be funny?" she said, her broken English somehow endearing.

"I don't know how they do things in..." I turned her passport over, and looked at the country name listed. It took up three lines, and many of the letters just looked like squiggles to me. "...your home country, but over here we do things differently."

"Is me!" she smiled, and I felt my tough exterior melting...

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Water, water, everywhere...

Betty woke up on the cracked desert ground, lips parted, straining to take in every bit of moisture from the air. Her tongue clung to the roof of her mouth, coated with she knew not what.

Her dream had held water, more than she could imagine. She'd sailed on blue waves, dived in billowing surf, lain on her back and watched the pillowy clouds float on currents of air through azure skies.

Yet all the boards did shrink...

Her feet had burned from the heat of the wooden planks keeping her small skiff together. The ocean itself...

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Vanquished.

I was confused. This isn't how I expected the novel to end. Who committed the crime? Where was the last chapter with the explanation, the satisfying ending the reader could ponder on when the final lines had been read?

This book looked identical to the others in the bookshop the next day but twenty pages were missing at the back. I was waiting in line to exchange the book when I had a strong mysterious feeling not to.

Returning home I sat on the battered red leather sofa and opened the last page again.

More words than I expected....

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I will always remember my 10th birthday. It was the funniest day ever. everything was fine and amazing with the princess posteres over the garage walls and the tabel and my cake with disney written on it and all the colours of the rainbow. 'smile honey' my mum said moving closer towards me.
Then she fell, Forward and face first into the cake. The Party around me erupted into laughter and yelling at me 'hey liz, your mums a clutz.' they laughed even harder at that comment. I walked around the table to sea what she tripped on and guess...

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My grandma had this incredible house. Like one of the ones you see in movies. Like, this is going to be a really crazy example, but did you ever see "The Tigger Movie"? Like Winnie the Pooh. There's this part where they're in the attic and I always remember wishing we had an attic with all that cool old stuff to explore in our house. Then I found Grandma's attic and I knew I'd hit something special! There was actually a stand-up mirror covered in a sheet and a few large trunks full of old clothes! So great.

I think...

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"Wait, so he hit you?"
"Yes, but it's not what it seems. He's been really stressed at work. He swore it would never happen again."
I could tell she wasn't convinced. Cheryl, self proclaimed leader of our little girl's coven. Tea and cake Tuesdays. I'd always felt like I was a token member really. The others had more in common than me. Mousy little me.

"He's a brute. You should leave him." Amy blurted out over Death By Chocolate, then snorted her Assam.

"Or kick him out!" another chorused. Kate? Earl Grey. Victoria Sponge. As usual. Very bland girl. No...

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The voiceless aberration toiled within his thoughts. Where was he? What purpose? Why? The words seemed to jumble within his mind as he gazed out of the tank his eyes out upon people that seemed blurred. He could hear them speak but could not understand as a young girl walked towards the tank her small frilled white gown running to the marble floor. She seemed to smile at the aberration and lifted her small hand up to the glass and smiled even wider seeing it turn to face her. "Da what is that?" The young girl asked innocently staring at...

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I always imagined that I'd feel nothing. Instead, I feel everything. Every paper cut, every broken heart, everything. It's like a million voices echoing in my head, vying for attention. I tip my head back, letting the wind rip through my hair. It's calming. I feel the knots in my shoulders relax, the pounding behind my eyes ease. This is it. It will soon be over. The pain, the misery, this life. It is almost over. I glance down at the crashing waves. It's a long way down. Noone will ever recover it. Its time to say goodbye. Time to...

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Once, in Beijing, a young girl in a red gown huddled in a doorway.

My lost daughter. Well, actually that isn't who she was, but as soon as I first saw her I convinced myself it was. I always do.

So far there had been sixty five possibilities.

John, my second husband was a patient man. Had to be. He was rich so indulged me. Paid for our trips round the world whenever there was a possible sighting. Gave me hope when everyone tried to convince me it was time to grieve, not continue searching.

Suzie would be fifteen now....

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The children were not at school. Not today with a masked gunman roaming the streets. Everyone was indoors with the doors bolted, probably hiding in closets, attics or basements.

Jess was outside in the sunshine, on the swing. Whooshing high in the air and back down, laughing aloud, breaking the silence, wondering where the helicopters were, the swat cars, armed police.

She felt as though she was the only person left on earth.

Perhaps she was.

That's what the gunman thought when he spotted her long dark hair through the gap in the fence.

He was tired by now, wanted...

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