Extract

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

Nicola Moriarty's contemporary story of female friendships and the secrets and issues which lie beneath. Read on for the first chapter.

 

 

‘What’s that thing you’re supposed to say at the beginning?’

‘Ah, what do you mean, love?’

‘You know. The thing you’re supposed to say first, before you launch into your whole . . . speech?’

‘Oh. You mean, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned’?’

‘Yes! That’s the one. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned, it’s been – oh, I don’t know, years and years since my last confession . . . Although, can I just say . . . I was expecting you to sound different.'

‘How do you mean?’

‘Well, you know, with a name like O’Reilly. I thought you might have a sweet Irish accent. I just didn’t think you’d sound so . . . Aussie.’

‘Ri-i-ight.’

Joni readjusted her bottom on the flat wooden seat and leaned forward to press her face up against the mesh window.

‘Are you sure you’re really Father O’Reilly?’ she asked, her voice coming out a bit muffled due to her mouth being smooshed against the window. God, imagine if she were just about to spill her guts to some complete random who’d taken up residence in the priest’s compartment for a laugh?

‘Yes,’ came the steady reply. ‘Quite confident.’

She leaned back and rested her head against the paneled wall behind her, breathed in the dusty darkness of the small enclosed cubicle. ‘What happens if a claustrophobic person wants to confess?’ she mused quietly.

‘Pardon?’

‘Nothing. Never mind.’

Three bars of sunlight filtered through the gaps in the wall to Joni’s left, picking up the flecks of dust in the air. She gazed at the gently floating sparkles and felt her body start to relax.

‘I suppose I should really get started,’ she said. ‘If you’re ready.’

‘I wasn’t planning on coming here to talk to you, by the way. I haven’t been to church since I was twelve. That was the age Mum and Dad let us all make our own decisions about religion. We were allowed to say we didn’t want to come to evening mass on the week- ends, just as long as we were doing something worthwhile instead – like homework or a load of washing for Mum, or whatever. So as soon as each one of us hit twelve, one by one, we all stopped, until it was just Mum and Dad, driving down the street in the fading light all by themselves.
 

 

I’ve betrayed my friends, I’ve judged my friends, I’ve pushed my friends to breaking point


‘Sometimes I felt a bit guilty about that. Like, I wondered if they were lonely. Or if they regretted giving us the choice. I mean, as much as I was starting to doubt the whole ‘existence-of-God thing’ – no offense – I did sometimes miss getting all dressed up and the whole family piling into the car together at twilight and the church would be warm and glowing and there would be those families that you only sort-of knew, because you only ever saw them once a week and if you ran into them anywhere else, they’d be completely out of context. And sometimes, Mum and Dad would take us to Pizza Hut for dinner afterward – and the best part of that was the all-you-can-eat dessert bar with the giant vat of chocolate mousse.

‘Sorry, I’ve gone off on a tangent. Anyway, the point is, I was going to talk to a psychologist. Or a psychiatrist. I never know what the difference is. But then I started ringing around, and they were all either booked out for weeks and weeks, or else they wanted me to go to my GP first and get a referral and get put on a mental health plan or whatever. And I couldn’t really waste that kind of time. Besides, you don’t cost anything, so that’s a bonus.’

‘Um, thank you?’

‘You’re welcome.’

‘Not to rush you, love, but did you have something you wanted to confess?’

Joni hesitated, thinking. How was she supposed to do this? Just come right out and start listing off her transgressions like a sinful shopping list?

I almost cheated on my husband.

I’ve compromised my own morals in my work.

I’ve betrayed my friends, I’ve judged my friends, I’ve pushed my friends to breaking point.

And now I don’t even recognize one of my friends anymore. I don’t even know who she is.

And if I’m honest, I guess I’ve been lying to myself as well.

‘Sort of. Well, yes, a few things, actually. It’s just hard to know exactly where to start, you know?’

‘I understand. Start at the beginning. My mother always said it’s a very good place to start.’

Joni snorted. ‘Did you seriously just say that?’ ‘Yeah, fair call. But come on, work with me here.’ ‘Okay, okay. The beginning. Well, I could start with

the girls’ holiday. But you sort of need to know the girls first – the dynamic. Otherwise, you won’t be able to help me figure it out.’

‘Figure what out?’

‘Figure out who wrote the fifth letter. The point is, Father . . . I’m not the only one who’s sinned.’

Find out more about the author

The Fifth Letter

Nicola Moriarty

Four friends. Five Letters. One Secret.

The scandalous breakthrough novel from Nicola Moriarty that will leave you asking, how well do I really know my friends?

Joni, Trina, Deb and Eden.

Best friends since the first day of school. Best friends, they liked to say, forever.

But now they are in their thirties and real life - husbands, children, work - has got in the way. So, resurrecting their annual trip away, Joni has an idea, something to help them reconnect.

Each woman will write an anonymous letter, sharing with their friends the things that are really going on in their lives.

But as the confessions come tumbling out, Joni starts to feel the certainty of their decades-long friendships slip from her fingers.

Anger. Accusations. Desires. Deceit.

And then she finds another letter. One that was never supposed to be read. A fifth letter. Containing a secret so big that its writer had tried to destroy it. And now Joni is starting to wonder, did she ever really know her friends at all?


'With secrets and intrigue, this is a compulsive read' Sun on Sunday

'Intrigue, hatred and accusations - phew, it kept me guessing to the end' The Sun

'Entertaining and easy to read' Sunday Mirror

'A darkly humorous story about friendship' Best

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