Dear Reader: a letter from Heidi Perks
It’s not always easy to pinpoint where ideas come from but with Now You See Her I can remember clearly. As a friend and I watched our small children playing in the park, she told me a true story of a tragic accident involving a child who was in someone else’s care. It was terrifying – my heart tore and went out to both sets of parents. Someone had lost their child, but at the same time another couple was dealing with the guilt and the blame that came with that responsibility. No one came out unscathed. How could any of them possibly move on from it?
Among the too many sad stories we hear this was one that wouldn’t leave me. I couldn’t get out of my head how the friend responsible must have felt. Conversations with friends led onto the subject of losing children. Have you ever lost another child? we asked. Would it be worse to lose your own or someone else’s?
It was this question that became integral to Harriet and Charlotte’s story, and, I believe, what has given it a unique angle. There’s something utterly terrifying about the thought of a child disappearing. But what if the child is your best friend’s? What if she’d never left her child with anyone before, but today she’s trusted you to look after her?
Missing child stories continue to be compelling – possibly because it can happen so easily. One minute the child is in your sight, the next they’re not. I’m sure many parents have experienced it, even for a brief time, and can relate to the dread – that sickening feeling where you’ve looked everywhere but you still can’t see them.
I lost my own once, for an agonising ten minutes at a very busy theme park, and to be honest I don’t think I’ve ever got over it. I can easily recall the sheer terror I felt until the moment I saw him again. It was the not knowing where he’d gone – what had happened, had he just wandered off? Had he, God forbid, been abducted?
Thankfully he had just walked off and was oblivious to the worry he’d caused, but sharing my encounter with other people I realised how many have had this same nightmare.
But I never intended for my book to be solely about a missing child, and it hasn’t ended up as one. Now You See Her is so much more about the relationship between Charlotte and Harriet – the two mothers involved – and the depth of their friendship and trust. It’s about the impact of social media and the mothers at the school gate, and how quickly blame can escalate. It’s a situation that can easily happen to anyone, but one I hope never will!