Welcome to The Nurse Diaries – The Life and Times of a Brighton Serial Killer, the second volume of my black comedy series of novels. It is very sweary, so if you’re offended by swearing, don’t read on. Otherwise, enjoy the ride 😉
Prologue – En Fucking France
Five years after she left the UK The Nurse – ‘Katrine’ as she calls herself these days – still shivers when she realises how close she came to death. She has frequent, vivid nightmares about her long, terrifying swim to safety and salvation. At the same time she appreciates the new start she’s been given. Thank fuck for that. Talk about a close call.
Life at the patisserie isn’t bad. Since washing up on the beach at Dieppe she has discovered a considerable talent for pastries, and while she never eats the fucking things herself she can understand the attraction. They’re so pretty and delicate, so fragrant and flavoursome, each one a miniature masterpiece in the fine art of bakery.
If The Nurse looks tired all the time, it’s no wonder. The French like to speculate that she fled her homeland to escape a tragic love affair. They have absolutely no idea about her past life as the world’s worst ever serial killer, her pursuit by the rozzers, and her best friend Phil’s horrid death. They’re clueless about the way she ended up washed up on the beach a few miles away, thin and scabby and bald with sodden, flayed skin, literally at death’s door.
Nightmare after nightmare ruins her sleep, which means night time is the right time for being mightily fucked off. Years of vivid night terrors, waking up so sweaty she sticks to the sheets. Months of daily panic attacks and flashbacks so real they hurl The Nurse violently back in time, emotions battered, teeth grinding in existential agony. Some nights she is washed to and fro’ by a horrendous dream-tide, a powerful surge that sucks her out to sea no matter how many times she fights her way back to shallow water. Other times she battles for oxygen, re-living the horror of being shoved under the surface of the freezing grey sleety waves by the gleaming bow of some posh cunt’s mega-yacht. Now and again, for variety, her dreams see her chased by The Inspector, the man transformed by her unconscious mind into a horror-film-shadow of a pursuer who gets bigger and more menacing as he sails inexorably closer in his sleek, arrow-fast sailboat.
Yup, PTSD is a cunt. The Nurse is fine physically, as strong as an ox, but her mind is not at all well and it is proving tricky to find her way back to her old self. There’s more. It’s good living en France, but Dieppe is not home. The Nurse is aching for Sussex, increasingly desperate to get back to Brighton. They’re kind enough, les grenouilles, but she could live in this town forever and the locals would still treat her like a blow-in, like a newcomer, like a fucking foreigner.
On the surface The Nurse is an ordinary woman, taller and stronger than average but to all intents and purposes fairly meh. Underneath she’s horrific, boiling with PTSD-fuelled rage almost all of the time. It is a fury that isn’t the least bit tempered by the beautiful baked goods she’s becoming so well known for, the few froggy acquaintances she’s made, even her cosy little stone cottage overlooking la mer.
Skilfully rolling out a large sheet of super-fine pastry early one morning, a huge joint dangling from her lower lip, grimacing as she concentrates, The Nurse can’t do a thing about what’s about to happen. Oh fuck. Here she goes again, diving into another flashback. For the millionth time she’s tumbling helplessly head first into the hateful memories that have burned themselves like sizzling branding irons into her psyche. She stands, the tears running down her cheeks and off the end of her strong chin, dampening the pastry.
The flashbacks aren’t getting any better.
Once the fit is over The Nurse sighs gustily, pulls herself together, re-does her make-up, finishes the last of her spliff then rolls up the cream canvas shop blind and lets in the new day. Outside on the street The French are bent double by the wind, hair stiffened to peaks by salty sea spray. Three ladies dive into the patisserie. They scent the air, noses quivering, and smile widely with pleasure. One shakes a broken umbrella, spraying gritty water like a dog before turning to her friends. Madeleine, Helene, what shall we treat ourselves to today? Katrine, what can you recommend?
The Nurse makes a suitable show of actually giving a shit, pointing a long, graceful finger at a tray of delicate but generously filled choux buns scented with almonds – each including a tiny, weeny dose of cyanide. Just enough to make people feel slightly weird for a while, enough to remind them of their own mortality, just for a laugh. It’s the kind of thing she does when she’s bored.
Never one to knowingly under-do things, now rested and recovered from her watery ordeal, The Nurse is getting ready for the next stage in her life. Fuck knows what it’ll be, but she’s more than up for it.
(PS. You can follow The Nurse on Facebook, here)