For those of you who are following the writing journey, this is chapter one of the YA title I have been working on. I almost posted the Prologue, but it is too... good and I don't want it to get accidentally stolen. Regardless, here is the teaser of the one I am querying now, Blood and Bones, now that Odd Stuff is in edits with the publiser. Without further preamble, Blood and Bones:
At the end of the day we are all just blood and bones. Lying in the dirt road while rain splattered my upturned face and turned the dirt to mud, I have to admit my greatest complaint was the rock that was wedged near my spine. It was a minor irritation, but given the circumstances, I was happy to lie there, rock and all, in the wet and not dying at the moment. I felt like little more than a bag of blood and bones, lying there, hoping that she was not coming to kill me, and hating that stupid rock.
Perhaps I should begin a bit further back in the story. It all began when my mother got sick. The doctors in the hospital worked over her and I stood in the hushed halls and listened to them whisper over me almost as if they thought I was not a person. I saw in their eyes what they did not have the courage to say to my face. They looked at me and thought to themselves, poor little girl. And then with their eyes they would toss the responsibility between themselves as to who would tell me she was dying. I knew without the words. I knew from their sad eyes. I knew from her limp hands. I knew because instead of her skin smelling of warm lilacs it smelled cold. Cold like the medicine that dripped into her skin through the IV’s.
I was supposed to go straight to my aunts’ house after school. Instead, though, I usually walked up to the hospital and sat next to my mother. She was usually tired. She was always tired these days, which seemed unfair as she spent her days in bed dying. You would think that if you had to lie in bed and die, at least you could be awake enough to see it coming. Or maybe it was for the best that she was out of it most of the time. It probably made it easier on her. Anyway, I would sit with her, and talk to her of what ever banal things had happened at school. High school, especially senior year, is supposed to be a big deal. Somehow it wasn’t, at least not when you had all this. But I could pretend. Or lie. I was a fantastic liar.
After visiting mom, I would walk home. I wasn’t supposed to go home, not with no one there now that mom was in the hospital all the time. I guess this was because it wasn’t considered safe because of the neighborhood, but I had grown up here, so this never really stopped me. Everyone in Witch’s Bellows knew that our neighborhood had few humans. On our street, I think we were the only all human family left. It seemed stupid to me in our supposedly modern and all accepting era that segregation was this prevalent, but that was the way it had been as long as I knew.
As I walked I shuffled my feet. In government today we had just gone over the great novel flu’s, which had wiped out huge portions of humanity and allowed all that was other to finally come forth and admit to being Other. Witches, goblins and monsters, oh my, I thought with a glance at the windows on my street, which looked just like any other street. But we lived in a neighborhood that had been bought out over the years by the supposed boogiemen, and the humans had slowly moved out. Except us.. Our family had always lived on ..
564 Oak Street..; as a matter of fact my great-grandfather had built this house. Mom had said that we always would too, but if she died and it was just me left, I wondered if some other family would move in. And then there would be no humans left here at all.
I rubbed at my eyes. I never cried, hadn’t through all of this, but sometimes when I thought too hard about all that was going on I got an itchy feeling behind my eyes and a bit of a headache. I was beginning to think that there was something wrong with me because of it.
I came at last to our house, painted in cheerful blues and burgundy. It had shutters and a porch swing and sometimes just looking at it made me sigh and feel better. Today wasn’t going to be one of those days. I slogged up the steps, listening to the thud, thud, thud, of my dragging backpack and unlocked the door. I dropped my bag and listened to the silence that greeted me. Had things been normal, Mom would have greeted me, both vocally and with the scent of whatever she was burning for dinner. I sighed. She wasn’t dying. There had to be a way around this. I kicked the coffee table.
She had been worse today. I could tell she was worse today. Human medicine was not curing her. They had months now that they had poked, prodded, tested and nothing they had done had made my mother any better. Maybe it was because I had grown up knowing that there were witches and fairies and monsters out there. Maybe it was because she was my mother and the last member of my immediate family and if she left me I would be alone and I couldn’t bear the thought of a world without her laugh. Whatever the reason, lately I had been wondering if the witches had answers that might make her better.
There were rumors about my neighbors. Some of them were made up tales from fear and stupidity, I was adult enough to realize. But I was also child enough to know that from even the most made up stories there is usually a grain of truth. And down the road lived an old woman and her son. In their yard was a plum tree. No one was supposed to touch Mrs. Fitzsimons plums.
I shuffled into the kitchen and sat at the kitchen table and began to draw circles on the table cloth with my fingers as I plotted.
Mrs. Fitzsimons lived two doors down and her plum tree bloomed nearly year round. The plums on that tree grew to look so good that you had this driving need to pluck one and eat it. I don’t really care for plums and yet ever since I was a kid, I had wanted one. The story went, though, that they had strange powers. The stories around town said that they had magic powers like granting wishes, making sick people well, eternal life, whatever powers the storyteller chose to grant them. Of course since everyone knew now that Mrs. Fitzsimons is a witch, chances were pretty darn good that they were imbibed with some sort of magic, the question was what kind.
So, what I would do is steal one of the plums and bring it to my mother and see if it helped. The worst thing that could happen would be that it wouldn’t help. Which since nothing else was helping anyway, didn’t seem to be a big negative. And at least I would be doing something rather than just helplessly watching her die.
This decided; I crept out the back door. If I snuck across back yards, I figured I had a better shot. Most people tried to get to the tree, which was in her side yard, from the front. If I went in from the back, maybe I could get one and get out before I would get caught. And besides, she was old. What are the chances she could catch me anyway?
I later regretted that particular thought.
I crept through the trees and past a bird bath. I jumped my neighbors’ chain-link fence and dodged a Pekinese. The small dog in question did not bark at me as it might have an outsider intruder. Again, I had grown up here; this was my home. The dog knew me. And, also, I had always had a way with animals. Animals weren’t like people. People believed all my lies. Animals looked at you; saw the truth, even if it was ugly. Animals, I often thought, were smarter than their owners.
I was now in the witch’s back yard. It had a small kitchen garden, which seemed to be mostly herbs and vegetables, and a white mulberry tree. I glanced up at the windows, but the angle of the sun threw my reflection back at me and did not allow me to see inside. Her house was a two story, and even older than our own. Her house was also far more expensive than our own, and one could use grand adjectives like stately and majestic when describing her house. Our house could be described as homey and comfortable.
I thought to myself, on a quick, slightly panicky breath, that perhaps a real estate agent might use just those words if I failed and mom died. This helped my failing courage a little. I had never stolen so much as an eraser in my life and, to be honest, I was a bit terrified. I guess if you are going to take a first attempt at burglary at almost eighteen, picking a witch as a target isn’t terribly clever.
I cowered behind the mulberry tree, using it for cover, and looked at the plum tree. It stood, its limbs hanging twisted toward the sky in an almost grotesque way, hanging heavy with purple fruit. I only needed one. I decided my best bet was a grab and dash and ran full tilt back for the tree. Then to try to dash back across the yards and to try to casually walk back the way I had come to the hospital.
I held my breath, closed my eyes, and dashed.
I was stopped and the wind gushed out of me, when I hit a large, very male, chest.