The Secret Speech

The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith Read Free Book Online

Book: The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tom Rob Smith
Tags: Fiction, thriller
replied:
    —There are plenty of stories we haven’t read, I’m sure I can find one we like
.
    Zoya wouldn’t relent:
    —They’re all the same. Tell us something new. Make something up.
    —I doubt I’d be very good
.
    —You’re not even going to try? My father used to make up all kinds of stories. Set it on a remote farm, a farm in winter, with the ground covered in a layer of snow. The nearby river is frozen. It could start like this. Once upon a time there are two young girls, sisters…
    —Zoya, please.
    —The sisters live with their mother and their father and they’re as happy as can be. Until one day a man, in a uniform, came to arrest them and—
    Leo interrupted:
    —Zoya? Please?
    Zoya glanced at her sister and stopped. Elena was crying. Leo stood up.
    —You’re both tired. I’ll find some better books tomorrow. I promise.
    Leo turned the light off and closed the door. In the hallway, he comforted himself that things would get better, eventually. All Zoya needed was a little more time.

    Z OYA LAY IN BED , listening to the sound of her sister sleeping—her slow, soft intakes of breath. When they’d lived on the farm with their parents, the four of them shared a small room with thick mud walls, warmed by a wood fire. Zoya would sleep beside Elena under their coarse, hand-stitched blankets. The sound of her little sister sleeping meant safety: it meant their parents were nearby. It didn’t belong here, in this apartment, with Leo in the room next door.
    Zoya never fell asleep easily. She’d lie in bed for hours, churning thoughts before exhaustion overcame her. She was the only person who cherished the truth: the only person who refused to forget. She eased herself out of bed. Aside from her little sister’s breathing, the apartment was silent. She crept to the door, her eyes already adjusted to the darkness. She navigated the hallway by keeping her hand on the wall. In the kitchen, street lighting leaked in through the window. Moving nimbly, like a thief, she opened a drawer and took hold of the handle, feeling the weight of the knife.

SAME DAY
    P RESSING THE BLADE FLAT against her leg, Zoya walked toward Leo’s bedroom. Slowly she pushed open the door until there was enough space that she could sidestep inside. She moved silently over the wood floor. The curtains were drawn, the room dark, but she knew the layout, where to tread in order to reach Leo, sleeping on the far side.
    Standing directly over him Zoya raised the knife. Although she couldn’t see him, her imagination mapped the contours of his body. She wouldn’t stab him in the stomach: the blankets might absorb the blade. She’d plunge the blade through his neck, sinking it as far as she could, before he had a chance to overpower her. Knife outstretched, she pressed down with perfect control. Through the blade she felt his arm, his shoulder—she steered upward, making small depressions until the knife tip touched directly onto his skin. In position, all she had to do was grip the handle with both hands and push down.
    Zoya performed this ritual at irregular intervals, sometimes once a week, sometimes not for a month. The first time had been three years ago, shortly after she and her sister had moved into this apartment from the orphanage. On that occasion she’d had every intention of killing him. That same day he’d taken them to the zoo. Neither she nor Elena had been to a zoo and, confronted with exotic animals, creatures that she’d never seen before, she’d forgotten herself. For perhaps no more than five or ten minutes, she’d enjoyed the visit. She’d smiled. He hadn’t seen her smile, she was sure of that, but it didn’t matter. Watching him together with Raisa, a happy couple, imitating a family, pretending, lying, she understood that they were trying to steal the place of her parents. And she’d let them. On her way home, on the tramcar, her guilt had been so intense she’d thrown up. Leo and Raisa had blamed the

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