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Legend Press Ltd, 51 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6HJ

info@legend-paperbooks.co.uk | www.legendpress.co.uk

Contents © Maria Goodin 2020

The right of the above author to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data available.

Print ISBN 978-1-78955-9-453

Ebook ISBN 978-1-78955-9-446

Set in Times. Printing Managed by Jellyfish Solutions Ltd

Cover design by Kari Brownlie | www.karibrownlie.co.uk

All characters, other than those clearly in the public domain, and place names, other than those well-established such as towns and cities, are fictitious and any resemblance is purely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. Any person who commits any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

Maria Goodin studied English Literature and French at university before going to train as an English teacher, massage therapist and counsellor. Her writing is influenced by her experience working in the field of mental health, and by an interest in how people process traumatic events.

Her debut novel Nutmeg was published by Legend Press in 2012 and The End is Where We Begin is her second novel.

Maria lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and sons.

Follow Maria on Instagram


For my boys.

“Whether it’s them, me, whoever… just make sure you don’t hold everything in.”

Chapter 1


“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear J-o-sh…”

In the semi-darkness, the room around me seems to fade away as I watch the candles, mesmerised. Fifteen individual orange flames seem to blur into one, melding into the memory of a burning bonfire licking the night sky, bright sparks ascending. The sickly scent of icing gives way to the smell of smouldering wood, and the kids’ singing is drowned out by distant voices in my mind; the voices of other kids from long ago…

… What was that noise…?

… Are you scared…?

… Shit! He’s bleeding…

I close my eyes, feeling my chest tightening, my throat constricting. Not again, please. Not after all this time.


We need to get help…

Slow down there, son…

“Dad!” snaps Josh.

My eyes flit open.

“The knife?”

I stare at him. The knife? I glance down at the silvery scar that runs across my right palm.

“For the cake?” he elaborates, eyeing me quizzically.

“Oh, right.” I quickly fumble in the drawer behind me. One of the kids pulls the blind back up, allowing early-evening light to flood the kitchen once more.

I hand the knife to Josh and head out of the room.

“Don’t you want any?” he calls, but I’m already in the lounge next door, pacing, trying to catch my breath, trying to recall the tricks that used to help.

“… so weird…” I hear Josh mumble.

One of the girls says something back that I only half catch. “… not weird… he’s totally…”

“Ugh, shut up, that’s my dad!” I hear Josh retort, and the girls burst into giggles.

I try to take a deep lungful of air, but it won’t come. My throat emits a faint rasping sound. I want them all out of here, urgently.

All of them apart from my son, that is. I want him to stay and never leave the confines of this flat. Here I can keep watch over him. Here he’ll be safe.

I hear them talking with their mouths full, laughing at Alex’s ability to polish off an entire slice of cake in three mouthfuls. At first they all sound disgusted, but then the boys seem to take it as a challenge to see who can manage it in two. The girls call them gross while egging them on. One of the girls – the skinny one probably, Jasinda, is it? – claims she’s on a diet and everyone groans. The girls then start lamenting their ugliest body parts while the boys turn their talk to trainers.

I want to go to my room and shut my door, but I know I can’t. It will look too strange and Josh will be concerned. I just pray they eat quickly and go.

Over the din of them talking and laughing, I hear Josh’s ringtone.

“Hi,” he answers. “Yeah… yeah… yep. Thank you very much for the money. Yeah. No, that’s great, I really appreciate it. I don’t know yet, I might just put it in my account. I wanna get a new guitar so… yeah. We’re heading out soon. Just bowling, then some food. Uhh, yeah, he’s here somewhere, hold on.”

No, no, no, I inwardly groan. Not now, please.

I quickly turn my back to the doorway, knowing Josh is about to appear, and busy myself with examining the remote control. I know I don’t look right. I feel clammy and my chest is starting to heave. Josh has never seen me have an attack, doesn’t even know I have them. It certainly isn’t something he needs to find out about, especially not tonight. I always need to seem strong for him, even when I’m not, because when you only have one parent, they need to be your rock.

“Dad, she wants a quick word,” Josh says, swinging round the doorway. I try to take his phone without looking at him, but he grabs my forearm and gestures for me to hurry up because he wants to go out. I take the phone quickly and turn away, trying to conceal my increasingly laboured breathing. Fortunately, teenage boys can be remarkably unobservant when it comes to other people’s suffering, and Josh swings back out the door without another word.

“Is that your mum?” I hear one of the girls ask.

“My mum? Fuck no,” Josh mumbles, clearly assuming I’m already in another conversation, “like she’d even remember my birthday.”

A jolt of pain and surprise pierces through me. It’s not like him, that kind of bitterness. Or is it, deep down? From the

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