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Rebecca Bowyer

Story Addict Publishing


First published 2021 by Story Addict Publishing.

P.O. Box 11, Croydon, Victoria 3136 Australia


Copyright © 2021 by Rebecca Bowyer.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication maybe reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by anymeans, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic ormechanical methods, without the prior written permission of thepublisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied incritical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted bycopyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher,addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the addressabove.

Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names,characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’simagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used foratmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living ordead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or localesis completely coincidental.

Book cover design by RockingBookCovers.com

Stealing Time/Rebecca Bowyer -- 1st ed.

ISBN 978-0-6485323-3-0 (pbk)

ISBN 978-0-6485323-4-7 (ebook)

A catalogue record for this book is available fromthe National Library of Australia.

To all those who’d desperately like a few more hoursto magically appear in their day.

Chapter one


Varya looked up from the stove and smiled as herfriend deposited her handbag on the hall stand and shrugged off herjacket.

“Long day?” she asked.

“You could say that.” Zoe slumped onto a barstool beside Daniel and peered over his shoulder. “History?”

Daniel frowned and rounded his shoulder,blocking his device from his mother’s view.

“Just a novel. With Greek gods,” he mumbled.Without taking his eyes off the screen, he pushed the stool backfrom the counter, stood up, and wandered out of the kitchen.

Zoe smiled and watched him leave, perfectlynavigating around furniture and through the doorway to his bedroom,without even needing to lift his eyes.

“His peripheral vision must be extremelywell developed.” She turned back to Varya. “So, honey, what’s fordinner?”

Varya threw a tea towel at her. “Nothing, ifyou keep that up.”

“Well, it smells good. Thanks for lookingafter Daniel. Need me to do anything?”

“No, it’s fine.” Varya turned to thestove.

Zoe studied her back. “How was your day?Everything okay at work?”

“Work’s fine.”

“They found a cure yet?”

Varya smiled faintly. “Not yet. Gettingcloser.”

It was Zoe’s standard attempt to penetrateher friend’s thought bubble. Somehow, it always worked, always gother attention.

One day there would be a cure for thedisease that had taken Varya’s four-year-old son. Varya hoped shewould be a part of the discovery; it was what she’d spenttwelve-hour days working towards. But some days, cleaning benches,noting observations and laying out instruments didn’t feel muchlike contributing. The process of medical research was so damnedslow.

“How about you? Save any lives today?”

Zoe’s face clouded. “We lost a kid today.Five-year-old little girl. Cancer.”

“I’m sorry.” Varya wanted to hug her butknew better than to try to offer physical comfort. Zoe needed herspace, to be able to maintain her composure in the face of tragedy.It was the only way she managed to continue working as a palliativecare paediatrician at the Gillard Memorial Hospital.

“She was ready to go. We were having troublemanaging her pain in the end. She was tired.” Zoe paused andswallowed. “It’s the parents, afterwards, that’s the hardest partto deal with. It’s a relief for the child, when death comes, butthe parents... they’re the ones who get left behind. Theirsuffering never really ends.”

Varya gripped the bench to stop the worldfrom spinning and slow her own breathing.

“But you know all this, I don’t need to tellyou.” Zoe met Varya’s eyes and they exchanged a moment of raw painbefore Zoe shook her head.

“But that’s all far too morbid for a Mondayevening. When can we eat? I’m starving.”

“Lemongrass and chilli stir fry tonight,”Varya announced, a little too loudly. She turned away from Zoe tostir the sizzling contents of the pan.

“Smells wonderful. Chicken?”

She shrugged. “They were out of beef again.Maybe next month, they reckon. I get lectured every time I ask forit, you know. Bad for the environment, plant-based beef substitutetastes practically the same…”

“Chicken is good. Or tofu, even. So long aswe can still get a steak every now and then. A girl needs hersteak, you know, no matter the emissions.” She went to the fridgeand pulled out a half-empty bottle of white wine. Varya shook herhead as Zoe held it up to her, eyebrows raised.

“Might help you relax a little. A glass aday won’t harm you.”

“Vineyards are better for the environmentthan beef, at least,” said Varya, ignoring her friend’s offer asshe pulled bowls out from the cupboards.

“How are you sleeping these days?” Zoe satat the counter and poured herself a small glass, taking a small sipand studying Varya.

“Fine,” said Varya, without meeting hereye.

“You seem tired, is all.”

“Well, alcohol won’t help that. It’ll justmake me more tired.” Varya turned back and started to serve therice, two scoops per bowl. Then she moved them to the pan andscooped the meagre rations of chicken on, drizzling extra sauceover the top before placing the three bowls in a row on thecounter.

“Daniel! Dinner!” she called out, beforemaking her way around the counter and taking her place two seatsaway from Zoe.

The two women watched as Daniel came lopingout, his impossibly long, skinny limbs flailing around in alarmingproximity to the door frame. He slumped down in the chair betweenthem and shovelled food into his mouth with alarming speed.

Zoe smiled and shook her head. They ate insilence for a few minutes. She took her opportunity to pounce asDaniel paused in his shovelling to take a drink of water.

“So, anything interesting happen at schooltoday?”

Daniel looked up at her in mild surprise, asthough he’d forgotten she was there.

“A kid’s gone missing, one of the kids inthe other class. Ben Williams.”

Varya put her fork down and tried to swallowher mouthful but her throat had already started to clench.

“Missing?” Zoe pushed her hair back. “Youmean he’s away, sick? Or he’s moved schools?”

Daniel shook his head. “Nope. Never camehome last night. Police are out looking for him. His mum was at theschool this morning, crying.”

Zoe and Varya exchanged an anxiousglance.

“That poor woman,” murmured Zoe.

“Do they have any idea where he might havegone?” asked Varya.

Daniel shook his head. “Nope. They’ve triedeveryone. CCTV footage, all of it. He’s vanished somewhere

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