- Helen Dunmore - Orange Prize winner - Novels - With Your Crooked Heart - Extract
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With Your Crooked Heart / Extract
 
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There’s a rap at the door.
‘Room service.’

You turn to Johnnie. ‘Who’s that?’
He’s out of the bunk, fast and silent, stepping soundlessly to the door. He motions you to keep back.

‘ It can’t be room service in the middle of the night.’ You mouth the words more than say them.

Then the rapping comes again.
‘Room service. Room service.’ The voice is flat, loud, bored.
You can hear the chink of china - or is it glasses?
For a second you still don’t know why the words stroke your skin with ice, and then you do.

‘ Johnnie, you whisper. ‘I didn’t order anything, did you?’
The rapping again, even louder. Don’t they know they’re disturbing people? Johnnie stumbles as the boat swings, and catches at the door handle.
‘Room service. Pot of tea ordered for cabin 30.’

Johnnie still has his hand on the handle. To open it you have to press the middle of the handle in, then twist.

You hold his hand still. ‘They’ll go away if you don’t answer. They don’t know you’re here.’

You look behind you at the tight box of your cabin, the round black porthole, the heap of bedclothes. The bunks are bolted to the floor, there’s nothing you can wedge against the handle to stop them coming in.

‘ Don’t, Johnnie. Don’t open it.’
But his hand is on the door handle, and you’re fighting to unpeel his fingers.
‘Keep out of it, Lou. It’s nothing to do with you. I’ll sort it out.’

 
The Lie
The Greatcoat
The Betrayal
Counting the Stars
House of Orphans
Mourning Ruby
The Siege
With Your Crooked Heart
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Your Blue-Eyed Boy
Talking to the Dead
A Spell of Winter
Burning Bright
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