<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <p>Tod a y<br> The bedroom is strange. Unfamiliar. I don’t know where <br> I am, how I came to be here. I don’t know how I’m going to <br> get home.<br> I have spent the night here. I was woken by a woman’s voice—<br> at first I thought she was in bed with me, but then realized she was <br> reading the news and I was hearing a radio alarm—and when I <br> opened my eyes found myself here. In this room I do not</p> <p> <p>recognize.<br> My eyes adjust and I look around in the near-dark. A dressing <br> gown hangs off the back of the closet door—suitable for a woman, <br> but for one much older than I am—and some dark-colored</p> <p> <p>trousers are folded neatly over the back of a chair at the dressing table, <br> but I can make out little else. The alarm clock looks complicated, <br> but I find a button and manage to silence it.<br> It is then that I hear a juddering intake of breath behind me <br> and realize I am not alone. I turn around. I see an expanse of skin <br> and dark hair, flecked with white. A man. He has his left arm</p> <p> <p>outside the covers and there is a gold band on the third finger of the <br> hand. I suppress a groan. So this one is not only old and gray, I think,<br> but also married. Not only have I screwed a married man, but I have done so <br> in what I am guessing is his home, in the bed he must usually share with his <br> wife. I lie back to gather myself. I ought to be ashamed.<br> I wonder where the wife is. Do I need to worry about her arriving<br> back at any moment? I imagine her standing at the other side <br> of the room, screaming, calling me a slut. A Medusa. A mass of <br> snakes. I wonder how I will defend myself, if she does appear. The <br> guy in the bed does not seem concerned, though. He has turned <br> over and snores on.<br> I lie as still as possible. Usually I can remember how I get into <br> situations like this, but not today. There must have been a party, <br> or a trip to a bar or a club. I must have been pretty wasted. Wasted <br> enough that I don’t remember anything at all. Wasted enough to <br> have gone home with a man with a wedding ring and hairs on his <br> back.<br> I fold back the covers as gently as I can and sit on the edge of <br> the bed. First, I need to use the bathroom. I ignore the slippers at <br> my feet—after all, fucking the husband is one thing, but I could <br> never wear another woman’s shoes—and creep barefoot onto <br> the landing. I am aware of my nakedness, fearful of choosing the <br> wrong door, of stumbling in on a lodger, a teenage son. Relieved, I <br> see the bathroom door is ajar and go in, locking it behind me.<br> I sit, use the toilet, then flush it and turn to wash my hands. I <br> reach for the soap, but something is wrong. At first I can’t work out <br> what it is, but then I see it. The hand gripping the soap does not <br> look like mine. Its skin is wrinkled, the nails are unpolished and <br> bitten to the quick and, like that of the man in the bed I have just <br> left, the third finger wears a plain gold wedding ring.<br> I stare for a moment, then wriggle my fingers. The fingers of <br> the hand holding the soap move also. I gasp, and the soap thuds <br> into the sink. I look up at the mirror.<br> The face I see looking back at me is not my own. The hair has <br> no volume and is cut much shorter than I wear it; the skin on the <br> cheeks and under the chin sags; the lips are thin; the mouth turned <br> down. I cry out, a wordless gasp that would turn into a shriek of <br> shock were I to let it, and then notice the eyes. The skin around <br> them is lined, yes, but despite everything else, I can see that they <br> are mine. The person in the mirror is me, but I am twenty years <br> too old. Twenty-five. More.<br> This isn’t possible. I begin to shake and grip the edge of the <br> sink. Another scream begins to rise in my chest and this one <br> erupts as a strangled gasp. I step back, away from the mirror, and <br> it is then that I see them. Photographs. Taped to the wall, to the <br> mirror itself. Pictures, interspersed with yellow pieces of gummed <br> paper, felt-tipped notes, damp and curling.<br> I choose one at random. Christine, it says, and an arrow points <br> to a photograph of me—this new me, this old me—in which I am <br> sitting on a bench on the side of a quay, next to a man. The name <br> seems familiar, but only distantly so, as if I am having to make <br> an effort to believe that it is mine. In the photograph we are both <br> smiling at the camera, holding hands. He is handsome, attractive, <br> and when I look closely, I can see that it is the same man I slept <br> with, the one I left in the bed. The word Ben is written beneath it, <br> and next to it, Your husband.<br> I gasp, and rip it off the wall. No, I think. No! It cannot be . . . I<br> scan the rest of the pictures. They are all of me, and him. In one <br> I am wearing an ugly dress and unwrapping a present, in another <br> both of us wear matching weatherproof jackets and stand in front <br> of a waterfall as a small dog sniffs at our feet. Next to it is a picture <br> of me sitting beside him, sipping a glass of orange juice, wearing <br> the dressing gown I have seen in the bedroom next door.<br> I step back farther, until I feel cold tiles against my back. It is <br> then I get the glimmer that I associate with memory. As my mind <br> tries to settle on it, it flutters away, like ashes caught in a breeze, <br> and I realize that in my life there is a then, a before, though before <br> what I cannot say, and there is a now, and there is nothing between<br> the two but a long, silent emptiness that has led me here, to <br> me and him, in this house.<br> <br> I go back into the bedroom. I still have the picture in my <br> hand—the one of me and the man I had woken up with—and I <br> hold it in front of me. <br> “What’s going on?” I say. I am screaming; tears run down my <br> face. The man is sitting up in bed, his eyes half-closed. “Who are <br> you?”<br> “I’m your husband,” he says. His face is sleepy, without a trace <br> of annoyance. He does not look at my naked body. “We’ve been <br> married for years.”<br> “What do you mean?” I say. I want to run, but there is</p> <p> <p>nowhere to go. “ ‘Married for years’? What do you mean?”<br> He stands up. “Here,” he says, and passes me the dressing gown, <br> waiting while I put it on. He is wearing pajama trousers that are too <br> big for him, a white T-shirt. He reminds me of my father. <br> “We got married in 1985,” he says. “Twenty-two years ago. <br> You—”<br> “What—?” I feel the blood drain from my face, the room begin <br> to spin. A clock ticks somewhere in the house, and it sounds as loud <br> as a hammer. “But—?” He takes a step toward me. “How—?”<br> “Christine, you’re forty-seven now,” he says. I look at him, this <br> stranger who is smiling at me. I don’t want to believe him, don’t <br> want to even hear what he is saying, but he carries on. “You had <br> an accident,” he says. “A bad accident. You suffered head injuries. <br> You have problems remembering things.”<br> “What things?” I say, meaning, surely not the last twenty-five years?<br> “What things?”<br> He steps toward me again, approaching me as if I am a</p> <p> <p>frightened animal. “Everything,” he says. “Sometimes starting from <br> your early twenties. Sometimes even earlier than that.”<br> My mind spins, whirring with dates and ages. I don’t want to <br> ask, but know that I must. “When . . . when was my accident?”<br> He looks at me, and his face is a mixture of compassion and <br> fear. <br> “When you were twenty-nine . . .”<br> I close my eyes. Even as my mind tries to reject this information<br> I know, somewhere, that it is true. I hear myself start to cry <br> again, and as I do so this man, this Ben, comes over to where I <br> stand in the doorway. I feel his presence next to me, do not move <br> as he puts his arms around my waist, do not resist as he pulls me <br> into him. He holds me. Together we rock gently, and I realize the <br> motion feels familiar somehow. It makes me feel better. <br> “I love you, Christine,” he says, and though I know I am</p> <p> <p>supposed to say that I love him too, I don’t. I say nothing. How can I <br> love him? He is a stranger. Nothing makes sense. I want to know <br> so many things. How I got here, how I manage to survive. But I <br> don’t know how to ask.<br> “I’m scared,” I say.<br> “I know,” he replies. “I know. But don’t worry, Chris. I’ll look <br> after you. I’ll always look after you. You’ll be fine. Trust me.”<br> . . .<br> He says he will show me around the house. I feel calmer. I <br> have put on a pair of panties and an old T-shirt that he gave me, <br> then puts the robe over my shoulders. We go out onto the landing. <br> “You’ve seen the bathroom,” he says, opening the door next to it. <br> “This is the office.”<br> There is a glass desk with what I guess must be a computer, <br> though it looks ridiculously small, almost like a toy. Next to it is <br> a filing cabinet in gunmetal gray, above it a wall planner. All is <br> neat, orderly. “I work in there, now and then,” he says, closing the <br> door. We cross the landing and he opens another door. A bed, a <br> dressing table, more closets. It looks almost identical to the room <br> in which I woke. “Sometimes you sleep in here,” he says, “when <br> you feel like it. But usually you don’t like waking up alone. You get <br> panicked when you can’t work out where you are.” I nod. I feel like <br> a prospective tenant being shown around a new flat. A possible <br> housemate. “Let’s go downstairs.”<br> I follow him down. He shows me a living room—a brown sofa <br> and matching chairs, a flat screen bolted to the wall, which he tells <br> me is a television—and a dining room and kitchen. None of it is <br> familiar. I feel nothing at all, not even when, sitting on a sideboard, <br> I see a framed photograph of the two of us. “There’s a garden out <br> the back,” he says, and I look through the glass door that leads off <br> the kitchen. It is just beginning to get light, the night sky starting to <br> turn an inky blue, and I can make out the silhouette of a large tree, <br> and a shed sitting at the far end of the small garden, but little else. I <br> realize I don’t even know what part of the world we are in.<br> “Where are we?” I say.<br> He stands behind me. I can see us both, reflected in the glass. <br> Me. My husband. Middle-aged.<br> “North London,” he replies. “Crouch End.”<br> I step back. Panic begins to rise. “Jesus,” I say. “I don’t even <br> know where I bloody live . . .”<br> He takes my hand. “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.” I turn around <br> to face him, to wait for him to tell me how, how I will be fine, but <br> he does not. “Shall I make you your coffee?”<br> For a moment I resent him, but then say, “Yes. Yes please.” He <br> fills a kettle. “Black, please,” I say. “No sugar.”<br> “I know,” he says, smiling at me. “Want some toast?”<br> I say yes. He must know so much about me, yet still this feels <br> like the morning after a one-night stand: breakfast with a stranger <br> in his house, plotting how soon it would be acceptable to make an <br> escape, to go back home.<br> But that’s the difference. Apparently this is my home.<br> “I think I need to sit down,” I say. He looks up at me.<br> “Go and sit yourself down in the living room,” he says. “I’ll <br> bring this in a minute.”<br> I leave the kitchen.<br> A few moments later, Ben follows me in. He gives me a book. <br> “This is a scrapbook,” he says. “It might help.” I take it from him. <br> It is bound in plastic that is supposed to look like worn leather but <br> does not, and has a red ribbon tied around it in an untidy bow. <br> “I’ll be back in a minute,” he says, and leaves the room.<br> I sit on the sofa. The scrapbook weighs heavy in my lap. To <br> look at it feels like snooping. I remind myself that whatever is in <br> there is about me, was given to me by my husband.<br> I untie the bow and open it at random. A picture of me and <br> Ben, looking much younger.<br> I slam it closed. I run my hands around the binding, fan the <br> pages. I must have to do this every day.<br> I cannot imagine it. I am certain there has been a terrible</p> <p> <p>mistake, yet there cannot have been. The evidence is there—in the <br> mirror upstairs, in the creases on the hands that caress the book in <br> front of me. I am not the person I thought I was when I woke this <br> morning.<br> But who was that? I think. When was I that person, who woke in <br> a stranger’s bed and thought only of escape? I close my eyes. I feel <br> as though I am floating. Untethered. In danger of being lost.<br> </p> <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Before I Go To Sleep</b> by <b>S.J. Watson</b> Copyright © 2011 by S.J. Watson. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.