Roots and Wings: Being Human

Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.

From the second book in the not*the*same*river series. When you find out you’re powerful and have a real-life nemesis, and all you want is to be normal, to be human. Violet goes out with neighbourhood bad boy, Jed, earning herself a hangover.

The series features angels, demons, vampires, vaewolves and a mesmerising nipple ring.

This isn’t one scene, but snippets of a few.

***

I didn’t remember much of what came next. We spilled out of a kebab shop, throwing salad at the gutter, leaving just greasy meat and pitta bread behind in the paper. I couldn’t even eat mine, because, a) who the hell thought greasy meat was good drunk food? And, b) I was assaulted with brain pictures of Leia’s will-somebody-think-of-the-animals face. Jordan’s Scottish friend, who was called Shelley, even though he was at least six-four, and built like Archer, kindly offered to take the unwanted kebab off my hands.

I fell over a hedge into someone’s garden, then insisted Jed count all the scratches on my arms while the rest of us tried to make him lose count. I sang an Elvis song that I knew almost none of the words to, from a horizontal position in the middle of a grassy roundabout. I told a knock-knock joke using Ollie’s nipple ring as a door-knocker. Then I listened to him waffle on about job opportunities in London, and watched him get dragged into an alley by Jordan’s enormous Scottish friend, where they kissed the life out of each other. And I got pissed on. Violently and inadvertently—when I leant against a wall that wasn’t there and landed on my butt in a shop doorway—but pissed on nonetheless. I would like to claim the urinator wasn’t human. I can’t claim that. Me and alcohol are not friends. The less said about it, the better.

***

Eden and Daniel looked at me in a way I should’ve recognised but didn’t. At least I didn’t smell like I’d slept in a skip anymore. I tried to remember the night before, but my head was a noisy room. My ears buzzed, some synapses died, the backs of my eyeballs got pins and needles. My stomach felt like it had been taken out and rolled in salt and vinegar. It shrivelled and spat and itched.

I was vaguely aware of shouting voices when Jed carried me into the house, but I didn’t remember the drive home. I only had snatches of memory—Jed arguing with Daniel, Jed sticking up for me, Daniel asking why the hell I smelled like piss, and did Jed know that I was only sixteen, Eden and Glenda making clucking sounds, and threatening Daniel and Jed with something unrepeatable if they didn’t keep the noise down. Not unrepeatable because it was too rude to repeat, though it could’ve been—Eden did a fine line in Shakespearian put-downs—but because I couldn’t remember the actual words. It may have involved genitals. I was pretty sure something unsavoury was peeled off my face at one point.

Maybe this was my second shot at being ordinary. I got drunk and stayed out late when I shouldn’t have gone out at all. Shouldn’t I get grounded for that? Or have my cracked phone taken away? Or my laptop? I shuffled in my chair. Apparently neither of them planned to say anything.

“I’m sorry. I drank shots. I stayed out late. I came home reeking of unholiness.”

***

Jed: How are you feeling?

I dragged my scaly tongue around my rancid, dry mouth, wishing I’d brushed my teeth before leaving the house. Magnus’ hangover cure was grim with a furry residue.

Me: Like I licked my way home.

Jed: Shit! I should’ve stopped you. I thought you just liked the taste of pavement.

Me: Funny boy. Hope Daniel didn’t give you too much grief.

Jed: Not really. Eden called me a vexatious skank-maggot. I felt kinda proud to be worthy of one of her insults.

Me: She’s Queen Shakespeare.

Jed: Grandad writes them down. What are you up to?

Me: Right now? Multi-tasking. Dying, hating myself, praying for clarity, wondering if birds have always been this loud, and exploring the feasibility of a brightness slider for the sky.

Jed: You’re not dying. Please don’t hate yourself. Clarity might just be wishful thinking. That’s what earplugs are for. And sunglasses.

Me: You can’t see me right now. Let me wallow. Clarity will be mine. Nobody likes a smartarse x2.

I rolled onto my back, feeling a bit less on the verge of death. Someone had turned the brightness down, or maybe the sun had taken pity on me.

I marvelled at the size of the sky. It felt different here. When I lived in London, there were buildings crammed in everywhere, making the sky smaller and further away. Even the parks had trees shielding the sky. People who planned cities made it that way to hole us in. There was too much freedom in the sky. It made us think of escape. But lying on my back in the north field, arms stretched out in the grass above my head, the sky reached from the tips of my fingers to the toes of my boots. I stretched my body, butt and shoulder-blades connected to the earth, to its heat, and all around me, sky. Thick, rolling waves of it. Tickling, whispering puffs of it.

Jed: I kind of want to see you right now. I want us to be proper friends. Are you busy?

Me: Yeah, picking Leia up from Heathrow. I should go actually. But I can’t get a signal indoors, so don’t think I’m ignoring you.

Jed: OK, some other time then.

Me: Sure. And thanks for being there last night.

Jed: No probs.

Me: I don’t hate you.

Jed: I know.

Big-headed arse. I hate you.

***

Picture by Prawny on Pixabay.

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Moonstruck Consent: Costumes and Cascade

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Excerpt from book four of the not*the*same*river series. After Violet escapes her captors, she strives to get back to normal. Note: Leia is Violet’s best friend. Seth (and the other boys spoken about—Ezra, Ben & Archer) are her brothers. Amethyst is Violet’s twin. Sean is the man who brought her up. Cascade is an un/holy organisation protecting humanity from those seeking to destroy it. Asgaut Scarth is a two hundred year-old vaewolf.

***

“Leia, I need your help,” I said, staring at the horrific costume that Seth was currently assembling on my body.

“She’s exaggerating,” Seth bellowed.

Leia huffed. “I’ve only been back home for two days.”

“I know, and I’m sorry, but I need a costume for the party. Even if I wanted to wear this, which I don’t,” I added for Seth’s benefit, “my dad would freak out.”

“Not as much as Mum did when she found Ezra going through her underwear looking for a corset,” said Seth.

Leia laughed. “What does he want a corset for?”

“Frank … N … Furter,” said Seth.

She snorted down the phone and kept crying out, “oh god.”

Ezra put on his fiercest pout yet when Eden declared her wardrobe off-limits. He threatened to buy a corset of his own, and there was a massive argument about how going through your parents’ clothes was a rite of passage, and how Magnus’ wardrobe was too pedestrian—if pedestrians were giants—and that she wouldn’t have any objection if he was a girl, and she said he was too young regardless of gender to prance about in sexy underwear, and he accused her of not seeing how fitting it was for him to go to the party as a cross-dressing scientist. The whole thing fizzled out with lipstick bribery and Ben using diplomatic skills I didn’t know he had.

Then there’d been an argument about my hair and, for once, Amethyst was completely on my side. Seth was sitting in his empty bath while Kite perched on the edge, buzzing his hair off at the back, when Seth suggested I try to straighten mine, and my mouth was so full of what-the-hell that Amethyst jumped in on my behalf. She told us how she tried to straighten her hair a few years ago, and how everyone told her not to—like she was going to listen to a bunch of old white people. She said it looked like shredded wheat afterwards, and Sean bought her some hair clips with little birds on to put in her nest. And apparently Boxer had laughed so hard he fell off a ladder into a rain barrel and killed it. Then Sean had spent thirty-six hours trying to fix Amethyst’s hair but ended up taking her to one of Tabby’s friends to sort it out because it still looked twiglety. Nobody mentioned straightening my hair again.

“So, what do you need?” said Leia.

“Something that covers my whole butt,” I said, glaring at Seth, “and that won’t give my dad a coronary.”

“The jacket covers your whole butt,” said Seth.

“But I’m melting, and I’ve only been wearing it for five minutes. There’s no way I can keep this on all night.” I sort of liked the tattooed t-shirt and the purple glove, but … “All these chains are heavy. I feel like Mr Harvey.”

“Who’s Mr Harvey?” said Leia.

“Just … you know, never mind. Point is, I feel horrible in this, and I really need you to make me something nice, and not something that makes me look like an extra in GTA.”

“The party’s in three days, Vi, and I haven’t finished my costume yet.” She was silent for a few seconds, then said, “But I’ve still got—”

“What? Still got what?”

“You remember when I made my phoenix costume,” she said, and I could practically feel the heat of her blushes bouncing off the satellite. “And remember I was going to make you one, but you told me not to because you’d look like a black pudding in a catsuit?”

“Yeah,” I said slowly.

“Well, I ignored you and made it anyway,” she said.

“A catsuit?” said Seth, bouncing around my room. “Yes. Yes. That’s perfect.”

“I’m not going to the party dressed as a black pudding.”

“No, I have the goggles already,” he said. “They’re purple, it’s perfect. All we’ll need is the headpiece. And best of all, we’ll still match.”

I huffed. “Now say it again in words I can understand.”

“Catwoman,” he said.

“I’ll be even hotter in a catsuit,” I said.

“Yeah, you will,” said Leia, “but not in the way you mean.”

“Your man will love it,” said Seth.

I bit my lip, then against my better judgement, I said, “Sold.”

“I’ll only need to make minor adjustments, I never got around to putting the V on it anyway, and the headpiece shouldn’t take long at all. I’ll make it so you can still wear a ponytail.”

“Thanks, hobbit. You’re the best.”

“Do you know who Archer’s going as?” she said. “He won’t tell me, wouldn’t let me help with the costume, nothing.”

“Not a clue,” I said.

“He won’t tell me either,” said Seth, raising his voice so Leia could hear him from across the room. “He hinted that Violet was his primary motivation though.” He looked at me in an Alberty-x-ray way. “He wants to make you laugh. Someone with a beard, that’s all I know.” He ran his hand across his own chin. “Time to get rid of mine. It’s not really having the intended effect anyway.”

“What intended effect?” I said.

“If we’re done, I need to go,” said Leia.

“Okay, we’ll see you on Saturday.” I hung up and turned to Seth. “What intended effect?”

He chewed his nail until I batted his hand away from his mouth. “I thought it might put off a certain person.”

“The postman?” I said excitedly.

“No, not the postman,” said Seth, frowning at me like I was an idiot. “Though Archer was right about that.”

“You found out who sent the scarf?” I said, trying to pull the chains off without getting any caught in my hair.

He went red, then gathered up the chains so I had two hands to hold my hair out of the way while he slipped them off me. “Yeah, but there’s nothing to tell there, and I’d rather spare them the embarrassment, especially since they’ll probably be at the party, and I’d rather you didn’t flap your mouth.”

“Oh, oh, is it one of the Blackmores? Oh god, is it a woman like you thought? It’s not Sarah Tully, is it?”

“Please drop it,” he said. “I know you want to get back to normal, but this isn’t something I want people gossiping about, okay?”

I nodded. “Sorry. Just … yeah, you’re right. I’m trying too hard to find normal things to get excited about.”

“You’re not excited about the party on its own?”

“I’m not feeling too into people right now,” I said, shrugging off the thick purple coat. “I … haven’t told anyone this yet, but I have to make a drawing of Asgaut Scarth for Cascade.”

If he’d been drinking tea, he would’ve spat it. “Cascade came to you? And Dad let them in the house?”

“No, we were at Tabby’s, and they were subtle. I met Daniel’s sister and one of Uriel’s line and one of Lucifer’s line. They said they were there to check her security, but they didn’t all need to be there for that. And apparently, nobody has ever seen his face. Not even Albert, and he tried to kill him once.”

“Albert tried to kill him?”

“Other way round.”

“How come you saw his face?”

“You can’t tell anyone.”

When he nodded, I told him everything. With each memory revealed, he held me tighter. I let him have my tears, crying until I ran dry, and letting myself believe they’d be the last. Just like I let myself believe the nightmare was over every morning when I woke up soaked in my own sweat with leeches and needles and wolves disintegrating in the light.

***

Source image above is from James_Jester on Pixabay.

No Good Comes: scene nine

 

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No Good Comes is a spin-off of the not*the*same*river series, set five years after the events of the last book. It centres around Cascade, an organisation that, among other things, helps new vampires settle into their new lives.

What follows is the first draft of what is currently scene nine.

Context: The new vampire has chosen a new name. Stephen King is no more. But he is hungry; he just doesn’t recognise the signs yet.

POV: first person, Theo’s POV.

***

“You hungry?” said Erin.

Was I? My stomach didn’t feel empty at all. I should’ve been hungry after lying in a grave for forty nights, but all I really felt like was some Tixylix. I felt like I’d swallowed a candy floss cloud of fibreglass.

“Not really. My throat hurts. Can I have ice cream?”

“Not yet,” said Erin. “No cold food or drink for at least seventy-two hours.”

I made a growly ugh noise, then flopped onto the bed. “My throat is literally closing up.”

“Yeah, I can tell by the way you’re completely incapable of speech,” she said. “I can get you some warm milk.”

“Milk is gross, warm or otherwise,” I said.

She checked her watch, seemingly surprised at the time. She rooted around in the wardrobe, pulled out a pair of snow boots, then threw them at me. They bounced off me like they were ping pong balls.

“Put them on,” she said.

“Is it snowing outside,” I said, pulling them onto my feet.

“We’re not going outside.” She sighed. “And haven’t I just finished telling you that we need to keep you in the warm? Why would I be taking you into the snow?”

She had a point.

I’d tried some things in the bathroom. I unravelled a whole loo roll with one spin, but that was probably just momentum rather than super-strength. I wish I’d tried it in real life to give myself something to compare to. I tried to fly. I don’t know why I believed her when she told me I’d be able to fly. That had always sounded like bullshit, but I was still disappointed. I did manage to crank the heat up in the shower, bit by bit, until it was eight degrees higher than I could usually stand it. And I did almost break the door handle on my way out, but that was just because it was already a bit broken. It must’ve been.

“So where are we going?” I said.

“Just waiting on a text from Callie,” she said. “War’s niece.”

“Is this a family business or something?”

“You could say that.”

“It’s just that … I mean, can you do that? Are you allowed to … make your family vampires so you never have to leave each other?”

“No, we’re not allowed to do that,” she said, her voice cracking a little, making me wonder who she missed, who she wasn’t allowed to make a vampire.

“But what about War?”

“War’s not a vampire,” she said. “He’s an angel.” Her phone pinged. “Come on, Callie’s waiting.”

“An angel? What, so why are we going to see Callie?”

“To deal with your throat.”

“Can’t someone just bring me some cough syrup or something.”

She laughed, pulling me to my feet. “For god’s sake, Teddy. You don’t need cough syrup, you need blood. And a surname.”

It disturbed me that choosing a surname was a bigger problem than the prospect of drinking blood. I followed her to the door, and she pushed me into the hallway, closing the door behind us. It all looked different after a shower and a bit of perspective. The walls had just looked blue earlier, now I saw the subtle stripes and textural details of the Tardis blue wallpaper. The carpet had looked like a squiggly mess, now I saw the pattern was full of lines and junctions, like the tube map, in Bauhaus colours. I felt like Arthur Dent, wandering around in my pyjamas.

“You’re my Ford Prefect,” I said, following her into a lift.

She hit B1, and the doors closed. “You might want to get all the stupid things out of your mouth right now,” she said, leaning against the lift wall with her arms folded. “These people will take literally anything from your mouth and turn it into a nickname to plague you with for the rest of your life.”

“Maybe you should’ve let me get dressed properly then,” I said, staring at my lush beard in the mirrored doors.

“All the guests wear peejays, don’t worry about it.”

“Choudhury,” I said. “I like the way it’s spelt.”

“I’m not sure you can pull that off,” she said, giving me the what’s-the-matter-with-you side-eye.

“I could have a Bangladeshi dad or something. I mean, nobody would know, would they? But yeah, that’s a bit too appropriationy. What about Theo Doppleganger? Because I look like someone else. Someone who I used to be. Yeah, that’s a bit … no. How did you choose yours? What even is it?”

“Nixon,” she said.

“And what was it before?”

B1 was black and glossy with strips of stained glass light. It was like the Catholic wing of the Death Star.

“Johnson,” she said.

I laughed and the shards in my throat revolted. “Really?”

“Yeah, I was really into international politics when I was at uni. Nixon was president the year I was born and he did come after Johnson, so ….”

“As good a reason as any,” I said. “But what comes after a King?”

“A spy? An assassin. The ghost of a king. A better king.” She laughed, wiggled her eyebrows, then said, “A queen?”

“Eidolon,” I said, turning back to Erin. I was about to explain, when she beat me to it.

“A phantom you. A re-realised, idealised you. I like it.”

Erin opened a door by sticking her arm in a hole again. There was a lab on the other side with two people eating Pot Noodles at a table covered in cereal bars and rice cakes.
The woman didn’t look like she could be related to War. I looked more like I could be related to War than she did. I even had his bushy hair. Callie had sleek, black hair and light brown skin. The man had blonde hipster hair and a pink face.

Callie waved us over with a smile. “Sorry, the munchies grabbed me.”

“No worries,” said Erin. “This is Callie Hazard and Tintin Blaine. Guys, this is Theodore Eidolon.”

Tintin stood and reached across the table, “Jim Blaine.”

I shook his hand. “Why do they call you Tintin?”

“Because I had a quiff for ten minutes in 1987.”

“See?” said Erin.

I nodded, then looked back at Jim, then Callie. “You can call me Theo.”

Callie stood and shook my hand. “So, how are you feeling, Theo?”

“Sore throat,” I said. “Still a bit cold, kind of achy all over, but mostly I feel like I slept for six weeks.”

I stared at the snacks on the table, trying to remember if I would like any of them now that I was a vampire. Would my taste buds change? I still wasn’t really hungry. I focused on my stomach, wondering why I wasn’t rampaging for food like a yeti coming out of hibernation.

“You have something against rice cakes?” said Callie.

“They’re not food,” I said automatically. “They’re polystyrene coasters.”

Callie’s mouth fell open.

Erin laughed. “I’m always telling her that.” She held up a cereal bar and looked at me. “What about these?”

“Polystyrene and gravel glued together with sugar,” I said. “Grim.”

“Callie’s a nutritionist,” said Erin, barely stopping herself from laughing, and unable to keep the smirk off her face.

Callie rolled her eyes then got up to rinse out and recycle her pot. “Has Erin told you why you’re down here?”

“Yeah, for blood.”

“Come on then,” she said, leading me to an examination chair and patting the dark vinyl. “We’re not sure what the effects of your bite will be so we need to be cautious at first. No live donors.”

I grimaced. “God, will I need to suck blood out of actual people?”

“Not if you don’t want to, but you’ll need to find somewhere that can accommodate you. Most of the blood clubs are only set up for medical emergencies, not for medical feeding.”

“Is a blood club what it sounds like?”

“It’s exactly what it sounds like,” said Callie.

“Can’t I just come back here when I need blood?”

“Only for the first couple of months,” said Callie. “Jumper off.”

I pulled my jumper over my head, inciting a static riot, and handed it to Erin.

“You want to start with two?” said Jim, holding up a scrubs-blue pouch.

Callie’s fingers were cold on my chest as she undid the buttons of my pyjama top, exposing the least manly chest ever. It was actually concave. Thankfully, the bottoms were a little bit big, so I’d tied them up over my belly, which made me look a bit Simon Cowell but covered my soft belly which was the only part of me with any fat on it.

“Yeah, if we need a third, get a forty-two,” she said, taking the first pouch. “This is a forty?”

“Yeah, I won’t put a third in until we see how the second goes down,” said Jim. “Don’t want to waste any.”

Behind me, something whined.

“Get him some chocolate, Erin,” said Callie.

She and Jim snorted when Erin snapped off a chunk of chocolate and fed me. I laughed and tried not to dribble when it melted twice as quickly on my tongue as it should. Erin blushed when she realised what she’d done.

“Fuck, have you ever seen her blush?” said Jim.

“Fuck off, Tintin.”

“Right, I’m just putting a collar on you. It’ll give you a teeny tiny shock, but it’ll make you feel good. Keep your mouth closed, and try not to grind your teeth or bite your tongue.”

The collar was warm and leathery, with a little patch of thistle-like needles at the back. I gripped the arm rests when the jolt hit me in the neck. I moaned through closed lips, as electricity swept along my skin, raising every hair, and fired through my veins.

Callie slapped something onto my chest and when I looked down at it, I saw a pouch of blood. It deflated as my body sucked on it. I didn’t have time to be grossed out because I was too busy swallowing a vat of my own saliva. I panted and groaned, trying to catch my breath, but none of it was bad. It was exhilarating, like rollercoasters were exhilarating, but only when I went with Margo because she always screamed like she was gonna die. It was like the explosion of feelings you get when you meet the people who really get you. It was, fuck, it was like an orgasm.

“Oh god,” I blurted, gripping the arm rests harder, fighting the rising feeling in my pyjama bottoms. The last thing I needed was an erection.

Erin handed me a cup of warm water with a straw in. “You need to drink it all slowly while you’re absorbing the next pouch.”

The sight of a second pouch replacing the first flooded my brain with images of bloodied grass, of a bloody halo reflecting the clouds, of blank eyes looking straight through the back of my head, my grandad’s hands gripping my shoulders, pulling me away. Come on, Stephen. We need to get to a phone. There’s no signal out here.

The hands on my shoulders shook me. “Teddy? Teddy?”

My eyes found Erin’s. “Huh?”

“Where did you go?”

“2005,” I said. “Amelia Genevieve Martin. She was murdered, dumped on a wildlife reserve. I found her body.”

***

The source image above is from qimono on Pixabay.

NaNoWriMo: Day 18: Sneaky peeky

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Another first draft extract from book 5. The scene is a long one so I’ve just included a few paragraphs about the experience. Violet finds herself in the Himalayas for what War calls “pinballing” but the local wildlife has to get used to their presence first.

The sun cast its gold over the mountains in the distance, dripping down slowly like yolk from an egg, swallowing the shadows made by the mountain beneath my feet. Part-buried lumps of snow-striped rock leapt from the mountainside like giant, angular zebras. Wispy clouds hung above them like puffs of breath.

*****

I was about to ask who they were when I heard them. Just a few at first, warbling and chittering. Fat little birds, round and speckled, with pale brownish bodies, veering towards a rusty red at their upturned tails. Then more came, chirruping and whistling so fast they vibrated. A wall of puffy little birds, yellow diamond mouths open in chorus, sang to us. In the mountains. Musicals begin this way.

*****

“What are all these other birds?” I said, waving my hand delicately to our left, trying not to offend anything. I turned at movement behind us. “And what the hell is that? Is it a yak?”

A golden, shaggy thing stood on the rock above us, about twenty feet away, all horned and majestic.

“Some kind of goat, I think. Or maybe a sheep. But those over there…” He pointed to our right. “Those are yak.”

They looked like horned, black cows that had been over-fed, squashed until their shoulders humped over, then draped with shaggy carpet. They slouched away, unimpressed. The majestic enormo-goat still stood behind us, staring down in silent rebuke.

“So what are the birds?” I said.

“Do I look like David bloody Attenborough to you?”

*****

NaNoWriMo: Day 15: Sneaky peeky

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Another extract from the first part of book 5. It’s still in its first draft, but I’m pretty happy with it. It’s hard to fight an enemy that’s become part of someone you love.

Caleb was in the lounge, sitting beneath the window in a puddle of glass and blood. His black hair was wet with it. Rusty red streaks had dripped and dried on his chest, his arms and his cheeks. His abandoned t-shirt crouched at the edge of the puddle, sucking like an animal.

“Jesus, Caleb,” said Daniel, squatting down in front of him, his boots grinding the glass into dust. “What the fuck are you doing to yourself?”

Caleb didn’t even look up. He drove a shard of glass into his palm, then pulled it out again, letting the blood drip onto the floor. And when the wound healed, he did it again. And again.

Albert and Daniel exchanged a look and I stepped back. They each grabbed one of Caleb’s arms and hauled him upright. His eyes were dead. His mouth flatlined. He crushed the glass in his fist.

“Can you get rid of the glass, Violet?” said Daniel, as he held Caleb against the wall.

I peeled his fingers away and the shard hit the floor. He seemed to notice us then. His head rolled back and his eyes blazed with something wild and untameable. Sobs tore up his throat, shoving past his gritted teeth. He pistoned his shoulders into the wall, trying to shake Daniel and Albert loose. While they struggled to keep him still, he threw his head forward and nutted Albert, knocking him on his butt. I rammed my head under Caleb’s chin, then dug my right shoulder into his chest, and wrapped both my hands around his wrist. He wriggled, but he wasn’t going anywhere. He tried to kick, but I stomped on his foot.

Daniel grabbed my shoulder and the world blinked. The three of us landed in the bath. It felt like an ugly poem. We pushed Caleb down, smearing blood across the tiles. I sat on him, pinning his arms with my knees, while Daniel stepped out and turned on the shower above Caleb’s head. He spluttered beneath the spray, shaking his head from side to side, as his legs cycled furiously behind me. When he tried to buck me off, I grabbed his throat and squeezed. He went still. His face was hopeless. The sadness in his eyes carved its way into my chest, hollowing it out so that every heartbeat felt raw and unloved.

“Pins and needles,” he whispered, wriggling his fingers beneath my shins.

“If you try anything funny, Caleb, I swear I’ll murder you,” said Daniel.

I rocked back a bit, releasing Caleb’s hands. He gave them a shake then ran them through his dripping hair. Together we washed the blood away. I laid down, resting my head next to Caleb’s, letting the water cool me down. It was too damn hot anyway. He wrapped his arms around me, and Daniel sighed. Then he wandered off to perch on the toilet.

“It’s not even lunchtime, Caleb,” I whispered, rubbing the last of the blood from his hair. “What time did you start drinking?”

“Before I got up. It’s the only way.”

His voice was ragged with whiskey burn.

“It’s not the only way. I’ll find you a better one.”

“You can’t fix everything, angel.”

“I can fix you.”

“I’m not broken, I’m dead.”

“That’s the exact opposite of what you are.”

“Do you have to argue?”

“Do you have to ask?”

He chuckled into my hair. “I didn’t drink all that much today.”

“You were unresponsive, Caleb. You were making holes in yourself.”

“I know. I was trying to go somewhere else.”

“Where were you trying to go?”

“I don’t know. Some place where nobody expects me to hold on. Where I can get washed away in peace.”

NaNoWriMo 2016

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This year I’ll be working on the second part of book five of a young adult series. I’ve been working on this project for two and a half years now, some months productive, others not so much. My girl, Violet, has come a long way from the catalyst of a car accident that happened just weeks before her fifteenth birthday. Two and a half years have gone by in her life too, and her new family continues to grow. The first part of book five introduced us to an “uncle” with a fondness for going topless, his son who makes three times as much noise as he should for one so small, and his grandaughter with her fuse-lit eyes and querulous pout.

I’m thinking of being extra brave and posting a few scenes from the first half of the book here over the course of the month.

In the meantime, here is a little excerpt from the first draft of Book 5.

I pushed my sunglasses onto my face as we stepped back into the sunshine. Amethyst’s building was the second to last one. We glanced between each building, then Albert set off round the back while I took the front. I hit something fast and solid as I rounded the corner. Pain seared through my forehead as I fell backwards. I was so winded, I didn’t even have time to cushion my butt as it hit the ground. An agonising jolt tore its way up my spine.

“I’m so sorry, are you okay?”

I moved my head slowly from side to side, but couldn’t shake it properly. I couldn’t look up either. My neck was too stiff. I couldn’t see much of the man who was talking to me, just his baby-poo-coloured skinny cords and highly polished, battered brown boots. A drop of blood hit the ground between them, then another.

“Shit! Shit!” He made a frantic search of his trouser pockets, then the dripping stopped. “Let’s get you up,” he said.

The first thing I registered as he reached down for me was the slate-blue, cable-knit cardigan. I decided this man must be an imbecile. It was thirty degrees out. He did look a little red-faced, but that could just be the nosebleed that my head had given him. He had thick, messy dark blonde hair and a beard, and he reminded me of a younger Boxer. Except for that cardigan. I stared at him, as he led me to a bench. My back was stiff and my butt protested a bit as it made contact with the wood.

“I waited for forty minutes,” he said.

“What?”

“Forty minutes. You know, it doesn’t have to be so hard.”

“What?”

“Shit! Do you think you have a concussion?”

“No.”

He reached for my sunglasses and I batted his hand away. He sighed, then stared into his blood-stained tissue.

“Has it stopped?” he said, tipping his head back so I could see up his nose.

“Yes.”

I stretched my neck, turning my head in slow circles. It wasn’t stiff anymore, but my head felt a little fuzzy.

“I think your head’s made of concrete,” said the man, prodding gently at his nose. “How bad is it? It doesn’t feel broken. Does it look any different?”

I shrugged. How the hell should I know? It was a nose. What was it supposed to look like other than a nose? The heat was making me sleepy. Or maybe I did have a concussion. I tried to concentrate. The man was saying something. Words. Words were falling out of his mouth. I stared at it. It was very close. I could feel his breath, and his lips. I pulled away and touched my mouth. I think he kissed me. I swayed on the bench.

“I see you’ve met my sister,” said Amethyst.

The sandy building swam past my eyes as I slowly turned my head. I smiled at Amethyst. She was standing with her hands on her hips, glaring at the man sitting next to me. She was gloriously furious. So was Albert. Still, silent and furious.

“This is Violet?” the man said. “This is… this is Violet?”

“You’re repeating yourself, Noah. Yes, this is Violet. The question is why were you kissing her when you haven’t even kissed me yet? And why did you let him?”

She was looking at me. I smiled. I tried to get up but my head wasn’t having it. I fell back onto the bench.

“What did you do to her?” said Albert, as he dropped onto the bench. I slid sideways into his body.

“Nothing,” said the man called Noah. “We bumped into each other on the corner there. She gave me a nosebleed and I… gave her a concussion.”

“And a kiss,” said Amethyst.

“I thought she was you,” he said. “She looked like she wanted me to kiss her, but I think it must’ve just been the concussion.”

“I didn’t want a kiss. I want to go to bed.”

I was shouting. God, why was I shouting?

“I wasn’t going to take her to bed, I swear.”

“Take me to bed,” I wailed.

Good luck NaNoing everyone!