What She Left by TR Richmond is a crime where Alice Salmon drowned last year. But who was she? Professor Jeremy Cooke finds him trying to piece it together via her diaries, her texts, the "Alice" she put online. But everyone has a secret to hide, even our professor. And we all know what happens with secrets... They have a habit of coming out...
As part of the tour, I have been given an extract of Alice's diary, written when she was 17. Does this hold clues to who she was? Does her Facebook hold any clues? Does the Professor's tumblr or his twitter? Go check them out at facebook.com/alice.salmon.52, professorcooke.tumblr.com & twitter.com/ProfessorJCooke.
And now, to the diary...
Extract from Alice Salmon’s diary, 22 July 2003, age 17
BEST. DAY. EVER.
Met Josh in Starbucks then went to the park after going to his mum’s to collect Waggy who barks at everything but is dead soft. The three of us lay under the trees in the park at the top of East Hill and I told him I was pretty confident with English and History but German was a bummer and I needed it to get to uni. As well as being buff, Josh is a right brainiac, he’s doing Maths, Physics and Geography.
We kissed a bit but mostly we just chilled, me with my head on his chest and Waggy with his head on my leg. Josh said he really liked me and he really emphasised the really. Underlined and in italics, that’s how much, although he probably wouldn’t have underlined and italicised it, because that’s how my brain works – his operates more in terms of equations and numbers so I might have been something multiplied by something else or to the power of it (hot, hopefully, but I very much doubt it!)
Josh is going to build bridges to get rich, but he’s also gonna run a music business – not be some cynical producer who rinses artists, he’s going to work WITH new talent, even when he’s like 30.
He said I could easily get an A* in German, it’s merely a case of applying myself and that he’d help me, all we need to do is break revision down into manageable bits, and even though we’ve only been dating six weeks that shows he’s deffo intending us to stay together because exams are ages off and he’s planning that far ahead.
‘Bite-size chunks,’ he said, rolling over and pretending to bite me and growling and that set Waggy off who raced after a squirrel and the sound of that crazy dog barking, us rolling around, the faint taste of ice cream and Josh pressing against me made me think: Is this love?
If I’d been 14, I’d probably be writing a poem now about the lack of need for words, full of cheesy metaphors and similes (smilies, Andrea Kirkpatrick called them once!) about Josh and I facing the sun and our futures together. It would have probably ended with a cliché about how far we could see from East Hill, but you can see for miles from there so I’m confused what the difference is between a fact and a cliché.
I read an interview with Rose Tremain and she said she first knew she had to write one summer’s day when she was a kid and walking through a hay field and realised she had to make the memory permanent. Mum said she wrote a book years ago (Rose Tremain did, not mum, she wouldn’t have time!) which was about a woman who wanted to be a man in East Anglia which must feel awful (being the wrong sex, not being in East Anglia, haha). If I’d been Rose Tremain, I wouldn’t have written the hay stuff, I’d have written about Waggy and my head on Josh’s chest, my thumb crooked in the gap between him and his jeans and the way he smells because it isn’t like boys. Certainly not like Robbie the skankaroo who always used to stink of sweat and food and noise.
‘Alice, how on earth can you smell like noise – you sound like a noise,’ my English teacher would have replied if I’d said that to him. ‘Deconstruct it,’ he’d tell me. ‘How do the words help you visualise it?’
‘Dry cracked clay,’ I’d say. ‘That’s what the bark of the tree in East Hill reminded me of.’
I suppose Josh and I are in a book of our own – this diary. Squillions of people have written diaries, but no one has done this one before, even if I haven’t put anything in it for about 100 years. I’d die if he ever read it, but there’s no point keeping a diary if you’re going to leave the juicy stuff out. Not being honest is lying and if you’re going to lie you might as well write Harry Potter, which is fantastic but not real. Keeping a diary and not writing the truth is like telling someone you love them if you don’t and why would you do that?
When I asked mum if she’d ever kept a diary she said she had once but binned it, which struck me as well OTT, and then she said ‘Angel, I remember every tiny detail of every single thing you’ve ever done’.
She’s in one of her moods at the moment, grouchy and flat, and Robbie’s up in Durham so I cop the brunt of it. I told her the other day that I couldn’t wait to move out and I mentioned what a good rep Southampton has and how Meg was interested in going there too and she went all weird. ‘We’ll support you wherever you go, Alice, but don’t focus solely on that place, please,’ she said, and the please was definitely underlined and in italics and bold too.
She likes Josh, but she did say he wouldn’t be the only man I like. Well I think I know my mind own mind, thank you very much. Just been looking at the photos of him on my phone and OMG he’s SO cute and SO mature. He looks like the sort of person you’d ask directions from, or if a double glazing salesman knocked at the door and he opened it they’d say ‘Can I interest you in double glazing, sir?’ rather than ‘Is your mum or dad in?’
His mum and dad are out on Friday night so I’m going over to his place. Am BRICKING myself, but am determined to write about you-know-what when it does happen. Maybe we’ll go back to East Hill on Saturday after we’ve done it, and it will be our place then – like, part of us, the smell of grass and the pink ice-cream van with STOP: Children on the back, and the way the bench feels cold and hard when you sit on it but after a while you don’t notice.
Better stop thinking about Friday or it’ll become such a big deal I’ll say something dumb or make myself sick on cider. It’s not like it’ll be Josh’s first time – not that he’s said as much but it’s so not because he went out with Sophie Sallis for, like, five years and even dated Emma Brown and she’s a right slag, but I reckon that’s good because if it was the first time for both of us we might get it wrong although they say it’s like how even if you’ve never been taught to swim and you fall in water, you swim.
I know it’s a posh word, but I had this kind of epiphany in the park. We were laying there staring up at the sky and even though I’m like one of those weird baby birds on Springwatch Josh told me I was beautiful and I had this zing of connectivity (that’s my word of this diary entry) with him and it struck me that this one thing, my life, was entirely mine, and I could do with it whatever I wanted. And realising that gave me a rush of happiness, a feeling of being more in control than I’d ever been, knowing that I didn’t have to take orders, go with the flow, pull myself together, calm down, cheer up, do my homework, stop complaining because there were a lot of girls who’d love my life, I could do whatever I liked, whatever I decided, and I put my hand in Josh’s pocket.
There were loads of them aeroplane trails zig-zagging across the sky and one that was amazingly clear, seriously that’s not just how I’m choosing to remember it, and we were totes transfixed and Josh went all poetic and said That’s for us.
‘I love it when we’re together,’ I replied.
He didn’t answer even though I’d deliberately said it was us being together I loved, not that I loved him. But the way he was, all cute and embarrassed and rubbing Waggy’s back, made me feel funny and I know I jabber when I’m nervous but then I did say I love you and he rubbed the dog a bit more, except the wrong way so its fur stood up and you could actually see the dog bit rather than the fur.
‘I’d kill myself if you ever dumped me,’ I said and I was joking, I didn’t even plan to say it, I only did it for effect because I’d been reading Virginia Woolf, but he looked all emo.
‘Don’t do that,’ he said after a pause, and I wasn’t sure whether he was referring to what I’d said or where my hand was, but then he said ‘I’d hate a world without you’ and I realised it was the first one, which made me want to keep my hand where it was longer even though it felt weird and I was a bit scared and Waggy knew something was going on because he was whimpering.
Maybe us on East Hill was a tiddly bit like Rose Tremain in the hay field. I wish you could read this, Ms Tremain – maybe I’ll send it to you, haha, and you’ll write back and say I’m clearly going to be the best journalist ever and I bet you’ve met loads because they all hang around together, the arty sorts, drinking in trendy clubs and eating in glam restaurants.
Then Waggy stole a scotch egg from a couple who were having a picnic so we headed off and had another snog outside my house even though was Dad was probably tutting behind the curtains like some prison guard and Josh said he couldn’t wait until Friday.
His exact words. I. CAN’T. WAIT.
I can’t, too.
My life is finally beginning.