Victoria Gemmell

Victoria Gemmell lives in Renfrewshire, Scotland. Her debut Young Adult mystery thriller novel Follow Me was published by Strident Publishing Ltd. in 2015, with her second (stand-alone) Young Adult mystery Promise Me independently published in October 2021.  Victoria also writes contemporary flash fiction and short stories and has been published in a range of journals such as The Bohemyth Literary journal, The Grind and a Words with Jam anthology. Her contemporary short story collection, Exposure, was released in 2019.

Passionate about inspiring and motivating teenagers, Victoria has worked as a careers adviser for nearly fifteen years working in schools, college and community settings. Since the release of her debut novel Victoria has enjoyed ‘putting on her author hat’, delivering creative writing workshops across a range of settings to enable teenagers to discover the power of their imagination and explore the fun side of creativity.

Award Category
Screenplay Award Category
An obsession with a true crime is about to get real when new girl, Darcy, befriends local convicted teen murderer, Christian, unraveling the secrets and lies which led to his imprisonment. When threats begin, Darcy realises someone might be prepared to do anything to hide the truth
Promise Me
My Submission

The Party: Scene One

It was Halloween and she was a ghost, dressed in a Victorian style nightdress, her bare feet peeking out from below the hem as she walked. Charcoal grey circled her eyes, her lips blood red.

“You’d make a beautiful corpse,” Patrick whispered in her ear.

Louise shuddered. “Morbid. I’m a ghost; post corpse.”

He poured more punch into her glass. “Would you come back to haunt me?”

“Maybe.” Her lips formed a teasing smile.

Patrick wrapped an arm around her waist and nuzzled her neck. His grip was strong, almost possessive.

A camera flashed in their faces and they blinked, caught off guard.

“Beautiful!” shouted a magician, his rabbit waving beside him.

“Take one of us.” The rabbit thrust the camera in their direction.

Patrick released Louise from his grip and reached for the camera. He tucked the Polaroid photo of them into his belt before turning to the magician. Louise slipped away, side-stepping hanging skeletons and watched as her classmates danced and laughed. Her eyes were drawn to a boy standing alone in the corner of the room. A pirate; scarf tied around his head and beard drawn on, Captain Sparrow style. He looked uncomfortable, lost.

After a few minutes his gaze met hers, eyes a familiar blue. Christian had come to her party? She smirked, but didn’t look away. His arms were folded and even beneath the wig and scarf she could tell he was frowning. Always looking angry and disinterested; what was his problem?

He headed for the door and Louise moved forward, ignoring calls from a friend to come and dance. Determination and curiosity sparked inside. From a young age, boys had always fawned around her; she never had to work hard. But with him...he always looked less than impressed. It bothered her.

Out in the hall she caught a glimpse of him at the top of the staircase. She followed silently, nightdress flowing out behind her, blonde curls tumbling down her back.

It was an image which haunted many, forming their last memory of her. A ghost climbing the stairs, walking to her death.

Chapter One

Mum crunched the gears all the way up the hill, the car almost rolling backwards on more than one occasion.

“Nearly there!” She shot me a manic grin and I turned my music up another notch.

As we stuttered past his old house, distinctive with its blue window frames, a familiar Nirvana riff filled my ears. Goosebumps darted up my arms. I’d read he was a fan of nineties grunge and he looked a bit like Kurt Cobain. The numerous images from online forums were imprinted in my mind; messy dirty blonde hair and startling blue eyes. Thanks to Mum I was also a fan of nineties grunge. It made me feel an affinity with him when I had read about his trial.

“What’re you staring at?” Mum pulled out one of my ear buds and I jumped, realising I had my nose pressed up against the glass.

“Christian Henderson’s house.” It felt strange speaking his name, like I knew him.

Mum pursed her lips. “Yeah well, the family don’t live there anymore.”

I remembered reading he lived with his mum. People made a lot of the fact his father had left when Christian was young. Now I had something else in common with him.

I was conscious Mum kept shooting me sidelong glances.

“You remember what we talked about?” she said.

I sighed, wishing I hadn’t pointed out his house or brought up his name. Mum hadn't reacted well when she'd stumbled across the clippings I'd collected about Christian's trial. She found them during our pre-move clear-out. She'd misinterpreted my interest in his case as an unhealthy obsession.

The day I really took notice of Christian Henderson coincided with the week from hell. Before that, his name was background noise; I barely registered the newspapers spread across the breakfast table at weekends, my head too full of my own carefree life to really notice or care about some boy from a well-to-do Scottish village accused of murdering a local girl at a party.

Then things started to fall apart at home. Mum and Dad sat me down, trying to explain what they didn’t fully understand at the time; that their marriage was over. Dad moved out temporarily to give us all ‘breathing space’. Ironically, it felt like I stopped breathing during that ‘in-between time’ of waiting for answers, waiting for Dad to come home. I was sleep-walking through classes in school, not talking to anyone, not eating.

Until one afternoon in Mr Bailey’s English class, a photograph of Christian flashed up on the whiteboard, the headline, Troubled teen, from a broken home, convicted of murder jumping out at me.

Broken home. I looked into Christian’s eyes, detecting an echo of pain which resonated deep inside. It was what I feared most; having my sense of home ripped apart and having my security taken away. Mr Bailey wanted us to study Christian’s case, to look at the rhetoric surrounding the reports, and in particular the online coverage.

The online forums debating Christian’s case were more personal than the newspapers, with anonymous postings from locals speculating about what had really happened. Mr Bailey wanted us to consider if it was possible these could have contributed to his guilt. Would a judge really be able to determine if a jury had been completely immune to any coverage prior to the trial?

The deeper I had delved into Christian’s troubled life, the more I forgot about my own. And the more I read about him, the stronger my belief had grown that something had gone wrong here; things didn’t seem to add up and it bothered me. It made me wonder if he could be innocent.


Mum’s voice brought me back to reality. I realised she was waiting for some reassurance.

“Don’t worry. I remember my promise,” I mumbled, clicking my music back on.

By the time Mum had made the connection that the murder had taken place in Rowantree, she had already fallen in love with our new flat. I managed to convince her she was over-reacting, with the promise that I would stop reading about Christian Henderson and forget about a horrible incident which happened long ago.

The car rolled to a stop. “We’re here.” Mum turned to me, looking for approval.

I pulled out my ear buds and looked up at the flat complex. It was as swish as I remembered from the brief tour. Like something from Hollywood, minus the communal pool and sunshine. My shoulder offered a half shrug.

“This is going to be a good thing, Darcy. A fresh start.”

“Whatever.” I sighed, leaning down to slip my Converse back on.

“We’re going to like it here. I’m sure of it.” As I looked up I caught the plead in her eyes: This is difficult enough for me, please don’t make it any harder. A pang of guilt numbed my resentment.

“It’ll be great.” I squeezed her hand quickly and opened the car door before she started to cry. Or worse, before I did. The air smelled different here, away from the pollution of inner-city Glasgow. This was what being rich must smell like.

Mum pulled out the kettle from the boot and a box of herbal tea. “Come to Mama!”

The big move had officially taken place last week. Dad insisted on flying up, taking time out from his new life in London to help. I chose to stay at gran’s and go to my old school, to hand in overdue library books and say my goodbyes as everyone started their sixth year without me. Basking in the celebrity status that a last day incurred was much more attractive than making small talk with a man I no longer had any respect for.

“Race you!” Mum sped off up the path to our building, her auburn hair flowing out behind her.

“How old are you?” I shouted after her, running to catch up.

“Twenty-five,” she yelled back.

“You wish!”

A girl opened the door to the building just as Mum reached the top step. Mum nearly fell over, panting in her face. The girl recoiled, a look of disgust barely concealed.

Great. My face burned. Fantastic first impression.

The girl was beautiful in an intimidating way. Tall, curvaceous in the right places, masses of curly blonde hair. Every skinny red-haired girl’s nightmare.

“Hi, I’m Lily and this is my daughter, Darcy.” Mum slung an arm around my shoulders. “Your new neighbours.”

A smirk played on the girl’s lips. “Welcome...Darcy.”

My cheeks burned as I mumbled a thanks.

“What’s your name?” Mum prompted.

The girl looked taken aback by Mum’s forwardness. “Kara.” She looked me up and down and I edged further up the stairs, uncomfortable with her scrutiny.

“Well, great to meet you Kara. Have a lovely day.”

Kara nodded in response and hurried down the stairs. As I watched her retreating mane of blonde curls, recognition dawned. Kara Stephenson.

“D’you know who that was?” I hissed as I followed Mum into the building. We started up the stone steps.

“A girl who got flippin’ lucky when the puberty queen came to visit.”

I smiled. “That was the dead girl’s cousin.”

Mum’s shoulders visibly tensed, and I braced myself, waiting for her to bring up my promise again. “At least use her name, instead of referring to her as the dead girl.”

Louise’s name started to form on my lips just as Mum interrupted with, “Anyway, I thought she lived with Louise’s family in the big house, does she not?”

I was surprised Mum knew that. She always shut down any conversation when I tried to read her bits about the trial from social media over breakfast. “I think they all had to move out for a bit...due to forensic analysis. And press intrusion. Maybe Kara didn’t want to move back in with them.”

“Don’t blame the poor girl.” We reached the top floor and Mum lunged at our door. “Check it, check it.” She framed our new name plaque with her hands.

“Lily and Darcy.” I read the plaque with a frown. “Mum, you don’t put our first names on it. The postie has to know our surname...” My voice trailed off as I realised we no longer had the same surname – Mum was choosing to take back her maiden name, and I was staying a Thomas. “But I’m sure they’ll figure it out.”

She was fumbling with the lock, thankfully not paying much attention.

The door creaked open, the smell of new carpets and IKEA furniture a depressing hello. I wandered into the living room and was relieved that it already started to look like home, with our favourite books lined up along wooden shelves and familiar paintings dotted around. Some new trinkets and throws on the sofas marked just enough change.

“So what d’you think, kid?” Mum hooked her arm around my waist, pulling me close.

I leaned my head against her shoulder. “I think we’re going to be a-okay.

Chapter Two

School was already a few weeks into the new term. Finlay Academy. “Best reputation in the West of Scotland,” Dad had said. Such a great reputation that it had taken months of negotiation with the Council to let me in, particularly because my old High School was technically still within our catchment area.

Mum had been less than enthusiastic. “She’s moving into her last year – it’s a stupid time to change school...”

“She’s never had an easy time in that jungle of a school. There’s nothing to challenge her there and she’s always saying no one ‘gets’ her.”

I stopped to listen out in the hall, surprised that Dad had actually picked up on my unhappiness at school.

“She’s seventeen, Jim. No one is supposed to get her.”

“Most of the young people from the village go to Finlay Academy. It’ll be easier for her.”

“It’s the fact that most of the young people from the village go there that worries me. You know I found folders full of clippings about that boy, about the murder. She collected them for months. I’m worried if Darcy goes to his school she’ll get distracted again with it.”

I held my breath, waiting for Dad’s reaction. I knew how impressed he’d been when I showed him Finlay Academy’s latest HMI inspection report online.

“The fact she got so involved in that English class debate about the case shows she needs stimulation,” Dad said. “Isn’t it a good thing she feels passionate about social justice?”

When Mum didn’t react, Dad continued, “I just think going to the main catchment school will make it easier for her to settle in Rowantree.”

“None of this is easy for either of us. Don’t you think we’ve encountered enough change?” Mum’s voice was getting shrill and I knew that signalled the start of a proper argument, or tears.

I pushed the door open. “I want to go. Please.” They looked over at me in surprise.

Dad nodded. “I’ll make it happen.”

So, a few months of Dad’s best persuasive talk and an offer to pay for a new computer lab and here I was.

A mix of anticipation and fear flashed up and down my legs as I climbed the stairs to reception. This is an opportunity, Darcy, to impress. To live up to your name and be a freaking cool rocker with attitude. I could leave the old boring Darcy behind at my other school and carve out a new life of excitement. The thought calmed my nerves.

“Watch it.” A boy shoved past me through the doors, his bag clipping the side of my head.

I mumbled an apology, catching the door before it hit me in the face.

A mass of purple blazers and noise sent the fear in my legs into overdrive. No one glanced in my direction as I searched out the office, all too busy catching up on the weekend’s gossip. Shiny haired girls laughed and huddled close. Not so much orange fake tan here; more of a subtle-tinted moisturiser. Good news for a freckled pale face.

The office staff shoved a timetable at me, a harassed-looking woman mumbling something about my pastoral care teacher dealing with some crisis so he’d meet with me another time. The bell rang and the noise levels peaked, a sea of bodies darting off in all directions.

I read my timetable. “Where’s the English department?”

“Turn left down the corridor. Advanced Higher class last on the right.” The woman looked over my shoulder, turning her attention to the next person.

I stood to one side, waiting for the crowds to disperse then set off down the corridor. English was a good start to the day; better than Maths, for instance, which had the potential to induce panic and stupid answers. Words, and subjectivity, I could handle.

Through the open door I could see the class was mainly seated and the teacher was handing out papers. She looked up at me and curious eyes followed her gaze.

“Yes?” She pushed her glasses up on top of her head.

“I’m Darcy. I’m new.” My voice sounded too loud in the silence.

“Why don’t you give us a pirouette, Darcy.”

I looked to the back of the class, where Kara smirked, a couple of girls sniggering beside her.

“Zip it, Kara.” The teacher motioned to a desk at the front of the class. “Take a seat, Darcy.”

I sank into the chair, avoiding eye contact with the boy beside me. As I laid my notebook on the desk a name carved in the wood caught my eye. I traced a finger over the letters; Christian. He’d sat in this seat, or at least at this desk.

“Are you named after the ballet dancer?” the boy beside me asked, without looking up. He’d written his name at the top of his paper: Daniel.

“No. The bass player from the Smashing Pumpkins.”

“Cool.” He nodded and I waited for him to say something else. He didn’t.

A copy of To Kill A Mockingbird was placed on my desk and I started to relax into the lesson, though couldn’t shake off the sensation that Kara was watching me from behind, analysing my every move.

The door swung open and heads darted up.

“Morning.” A tall, arrogant-looking boy sauntered in, giving the teacher a wave. Patrick Barrington.

“Twenty minutes late, Patrick. I am not impressed.”

“Sorry, Mrs C. I’ll try harder tomorrow.” He flashed her a grin. A few of the girls giggled.

“Asshole,” Daniel muttered under his breath.

Patrick stopped at my desk and at first I thought he’d heard Daniel. But his attention was on me, a teasing smile playing on his lips.

“Well, hello, new girl.”

Disarming, more than capable of deception. It was the picture I had built of him when I’d read some stories about him during the trial. Looking into his eyes sent a shiver down my spine.

And then I heard a little voice whisper somewhere deep inside: This boy should not be trusted.


A letter with a burnt out heart at the centre is in flames