Don't Close Your Eyes

A Novel

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A juicy, powerful read featuring twin sisters who have drifted apart, and the shocking family secrets that bind them—for readers of The Woman in Cabin 10 and I Let You Go

When the past knocks, someone must answer.

In a bustling suburban neighborhood in Manchester, England, sits an unassuming house. There is no sign of life behind the unwashed windows, but Robin Marshall is inside. Driven by fears and obsessions, racked by anxiety, Robin is frantically pushing her body through punishing workouts, eating little, haunted by what happened to her family when she was a girl. Robin’s only connection to the outside world is through her rear windows and the lives she spies upon in the apartment house across the way. Then a stranger starts pounding on her door.

Sarah Marshall is Robin’s twin, estranged from her sister after their parents’ betrayal and a violation at the hands of a man she should have been able to trust. Sarah has recently lost custody of the child she loves more than anything and has set off on her own, hoping that somewhere in England she can find Robin, the braver twin, the rock star, the survivor, the savior.

These two young women, polar opposites, cannot go on unless they reckon with the past. While Sarah, slowly unraveling, searches for her sister’s hiding place, Robin sees another life hanging in the balance in the lighted windows across the street. It is a life only Robin can save—as long as she never looks away.

In a novel that is stunning in its twists, shocks, and gripping psychological suspense, two sisters find themselves on the razor’s edge of sanity. Untold secrets, a ghastly lie, and suffocating guilt hold them back. Only one astounding act can set them free. And one last revelation will leave readers gasping in surprise.

Advance praise for Don’t Close Your Eyes

“[A] smartly plotted psychological thriller . . . [Holly] Seddon skillfully pieces together the now-estranged twins’ lives. . . . Plenty of last-minute bombshells await.”Publishers Weekly

Praise for Holly Seddon’s Try Not to Breathe

“A razor-sharp, fast-paced plot and wonderfully complex characters . . . Not since The Girl on the Train have I been so captivated by a work of suspense.”—Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of I Know a Secret

“Delivers the high-quality thrills and intriguing characters that readers demand in the best of psychological thrillers.”—Associated Press

“A fast-paced debut about long-buried secrets and tangled truths.”—Kimberly McCreight, New York Times bestselling author of Where They Found Her

“Try not to breathe, try not to make plans, try not to commit to anything in fact till you have finished [Holly Seddon’s] debut novel, because we must warn you now—you’ll be fully hooked from page one.”Glamour (U.K.)

“Fascinating . . . Seddon’s storytelling skills are strong and the book is engrossing.”Kirkus Reviews

“A brilliant, beautifully written thriller.”—Augusten Burroughs, New York Times bestselling author of Running with Scissors

“This gripping thriller about family and redemption will keep readers engaged to the very end.”—Publishers Weekly

Under the Cover

An excerpt from Don't Close Your Eyes

ONE

ROBIN | PRESENT DAY

Robin drags in thin breaths of stuffy air before puffing it out quickly. Dust dances in the foot of a sunbeam. Robin tries not to imagine those tiny specks filling her lungs, weighing her down.

Outside, the Manchester pavement is gray and wet but the air carries a tang of freshness, a flirtation with spring. Robin won’t feel this. She won’t let the dampness tingle against her skin. It won’t slowly sink into the cotton of her faded black T-­shirt.

A bus rushes past the window, spraying the front of her house and its nearest neighbors with a burst of puddle water temporarily turned into surf. But Robin doesn’t see this. She only hears the gush of water and the irritation of the woman whose jeans got “fucking soaked.”

Robin did not go out yesterday and she will not leave her house today. Bar fire or flood, she’ll still be inside tomorrow. Just as she has been inside for nearly three years. Until a few weeks ago, everything in Robin’s world was fine and safe. A cozy shell. She still spends her days pacing her three-­bedroom prison, watching television, lifting weights and aimlessly searching the Internet. But now a new fear sits on her shoulder throughout.

Robin is careful and controlled. She answers her door only by prior appointment. Deliveries that arrive outside of designated time slots get lugged back to the depot by frustrated drivers. Unexpected parcels are left unclaimed. There is an election soon, but Robin is not interested in debating with an earnest enthusiast in a bad suit, shuffling on her doorstep.

Someone is knocking on her door right now. They were polite at first but now they’re building to a crescendo of desperation. Or rage. Robin stares forward at the television in grim determination, jaw jutting ahead. The screen is filled with bright colors and mild voices. Television for toddlers. The minutes are filled with stories of triumph in simple tasks, of helping friends or learning a cheerful new skill. There is no baddie; there is no guilt or fear. Everyone is happy.

As the knocks grow more frantic, Robin deliberately takes a deep breath. She focuses on her chest filling and expanding and the slow seeping of air back out between her teeth. Still she stares doggedly at the screen. People have been angry with her before. When she couldn’t fight them anymore, she ran. This time, she ran herself into a corner.

SARAH | PRESENT DAY

My child has been torn from me and there’s nothing I can do. Four days ago she walked off, happily holding her uncle’s hand, and that’s almost the last I’ve seen of her golden hair, doe eyes and tiny pink nose. Violet was smiling and oblivious as she left me; she waved while I was firmly seated at my dining table and confronted with accusation after accusation, with no right of reply.

Jim was flanked by his parents. We’d just eaten a “family lunch” that I’d spent all morning cooking. Instead of letting me clear the plates, as I usually would, Jim had cleared his throat, nodded to his brother to take Violet away and started reading out his list. Line after line, like bullets.

For a moment afterward we all sat in stunned silence until Jim looked at his mum and, on seeing her nod of encouragement, said, “Let’s not drag this out. You need to pack your things and get out of here. We’ve found you somewhere to stay until you get on your feet.”

I was marched upstairs, hands on my back. They watched me while I packed my bags, then Jim and his father escorted me from my home and into a taxi, where I spent fifteen minutes dumbly staring out of the windscreen, too shocked to even cry.

As the window vibrated against my cheek, the blood drained from my skin. In my mind, I went over and over the list Jim had read out, trying to make sense of it.

1. Jealousy

I thought he was going to say more. But he’d said the word “jealousy” alone, quietly and firmly, without taking his eyes off the piece of paper in his hands.

At that point I still thought the whole thing might be some kind of joke. His mother and father at the dinner table, his normally pally younger brother in another room with Violet.

But no punch line came. Instead, he just carried on reading his list. His parents sat there with their hands in their laps, curled in on themselves while their son made terrible claims about me. About me and our almost-­four-­year-­old.

Jim thinks I was jealous of his affection for Violet. Jealous of their bond, which was apparent from the earliest days. Jealous that he would come in from work and say, “Where’s my girl?” and mean her. Our little baby. And—­even though I had nourished her all day, run ragged trying to do everything in the house single-­handed while my koala baby stuck to me—­as soon as she saw Jim come through the door at 6:15 p.m., up her little arms would shoot and she’d make monkeylike straining noises as she tried to reach him.

I wasn’t jealous of her. If anything, I was jealous of him. I wanted her love all to myself, but I didn’t begrudge their bond. I loved to watch it. Love in action. A hardworking, loving man, our comfortable home, our beautiful little baby.

All lined up in a row, like dominoes.

TWO

ROBIN | 1989

Robin drags the toes of her patent-­leather shoes along the wall. Just because she’s small, that doesn’t mean she should be dressed like a stupid little doll. Sarah’s the one who likes to look shiny and neat. Sarah’s the one who turns herself this way and that in the mirror and admires her golden hair, like Rapunzel. Their mum and dad would love it if Robin acted more like Sarah. The thought of it fills Robin’s mouth with sour spit.

“Robin!”

“What?”

“Don’t spit on the floor; what’s wrong with you?”

Robin scowls up at her mother. “I had a bad taste,” she says, and, without thinking, carries on scuffing her shoes along the wall.

“Robin! What on earth are you doing?”

Whoops.

“Nothing.”

“Those are brand-­new, you naughty girl.”

Her mother stands with her hands on her hips, legs apart. With the sun behind her, her silhouette is sharp, but really her mum is quite soft.

“They’re too shiny,” Robin says sulkily, but she knows she’s already lost the argument.

Sarah stands to the side of her mother, mirroring her look of concerned dismay. Even though they’ve spent the whole day at school, Sarah’s perfect plaits remain intact. Her gingham summer dress is clean and she doesn’t have an ominous line of black muck under her nails. Robin’s own dark brown hair had burst out of its band before the first playtime. There’s so much of it, the curls in a constant state of flux, that no hair bobble stands a chance.

Robin and Sarah are still lumped together as one: the twins. But in reality they could scarcely be more different. Blonde and brunette; tall and tiny; rigid and rowdy.

When they were very little, their mother, Angela—­Angie—­had done the usual twin thing. Matching bonnets, dresses and shoes. But Sarah had been so much longer and acted so much older—­almost from day one—­that the coordinated clothes only highlighted how different they looked. There were even times—­as had gone down in Marshall family folklore—­that perfect strangers had argued that the girls could not possibly be twins.

“I should know,” Angie would say with a pantomime sigh. “I had to squeeze them both out.”

“My little runt,” Robin’s dad, Jack, calls her as she sits by his side on the sofa, swinging her feet, which cannot yet reach the ground. Or when she spends long Sundays contentedly passing him bits of wood, nails or glue in the garage while he fixes household objects that Angie would prefer to just replace. “I’m not made of money, Ang,” he says. “Ain’t that the truth,” she agrees with another of her sighs, for show.

Robin and her sister have just started walking home from their first day of the new school term. Their heads sag on their shoulders, lunch boxes rattling with sandwich crusts. Their talking fades into yawns and complaints. The first day back is always tiring after six weeks of playing and watching TV. They won’t usually be collected by their mum—­they’re big girls now, turning nine next month—­but this is a first day back “treat.” Robin has already been told off twice, so she can’t wait to be left to trudge her own way back tomorrow, albeit with her sister acting as substitute adult. Amazing the difference that sixteen minutes can make. “I’m the oldest,” Sarah says all the time while Robin rolls her eyes. It would be different if I were taller, Robin thinks, frowning.

Up ahead, there’s a shiny black BMW parked partially on the pavement, its hazard lights blinking on and off. The mums who have younger kids in buggies are huffing loudly as they exaggerate how hard it is to negotiate this intrusion to their paths. The driver’s door springs open and a woman glides out. She has bouncy, shiny hair and wears an expensive-­looking coat. “I’m so sorry,” she says in the general direction of other mothers. “I didn’t know where to park.”

As the women ignore her, the shiny, bouncy BMW mum sees someone and waves excitedly. It’s the new boy from Robin and Sarah’s class. As soon as he sees her he runs up to her, his backpack bobbing up and down. His hair must have gel in it, because it doesn’t move. He climbs into the front seat, and the car eases off the pavement and whooshes away almost silently. Robin is unimpressed.

- About the author -

Holly Seddon was born and raised in the southwest of England and now lives in the Kent countryside with her husband and four children. Throughout her fifteen-year career, Seddon has been privileged to work in some of the UK’s most exciting newsrooms. As a freelance writer, she has been published on national newspaper websites, leading consumer websites, and in magazines. Seddon has been writing short stories since childhood. Try Not to Breathe is her first novel.


From the Hardcover edition.

More from Holly Seddon

Don't Close Your Eyes

A Novel

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Don't Close Your Eyes

— Published by Ballantine Books —