In a previous post, I mentioned the gothic novel I was working on. In a record for me, I finished the first draft in exactly two weeks!
the first chapter was already posted, and I had some positive feedback, as well as requests to publish more chapters.
So, here’s chapter 2! And if you missed it, here’s chapter 1!
I tell mom I found a job as a tutor for a family with a daughter. I don’t know why I lie, only that the lie is out of my mouth before I’ve even thought of it.
She tilts her head to one side, then shrugs and says, “It’s your life. Mess it up if you want. At least June’s doing something with hers.”
I swallow the now-familiar scream lodged in the back of my throat at mom’s comparison to Juniper. Tall, blonde, and pretty, June’s always been everyone’s favorite. But I look like dad, with my dark curls, olive skin, and my eyes so dark, you have to shine a flashlight in them to see the pupils. I was dad’s favorite, while June was always mom’s.
“It’s only for six months,” I say.
“Six months?” my mother says, almost choking on her words. “You said you were taking one, one semester off. Six months is right into a second semester.” She throws her hand in the air. “You know what, do what you want,” she says, slicing open mail with dad’s bronze letter opener. The one he said he got from Germany when he went there on a whim as a college student. “You’re paying rent, starting today. You’re going to pay your own groceries, for your own utilities, everything. That’s it. It’s like that Dr. whatever-his-name-is on TV says, ‘If you don’t pay your way, idleness will stay.’ And no daughter of mine is going to waste her life on some minimum wage job working with little brats and with no degree. You’re either going to start being responsible, going back to college, or you’re going to pay your way from now on.”
“But mom, I have $37 to my name. I can’t–” I start.
“No. No ‘but.’ No. I told you, I was giving you one semester to get yourself together. One. Not one year, one semester. And now you’re telling me some job is going to take six months? Where is this place anyway?”
“It’s at–” but the phone rings, interrupting me.
Mom ignores me, but as soon as she picks up the phone, her voice goes cheery and happy.
I go to my room to start packing, dumping books, notebooks, pens, socks, underwear, jeans, sneakers, boots, and of course, sweaters. I have to sit on my suitcase to zip it up, shifting my weight as I get the zipper around the corners. But it’s done, everything packed, contract signed.
I go back to dad’s office and find the train station’s number in the phone book.
There’s a 7am ride up to Sovereign Hill tomorrow, and I make up my mind on the phone to take it. Tomorrow I’ll be gone from this place, and six months from now, I’ll maybe know what I want to do with my life. Six months away from everyone and everything, away from my mother with her self-help quotes, away from this town where everyone and no one knows you, away from my sister’s empty bed in our shared room, away from dad’s office that’ll always be empty.
Six months to breathe and to think. A whole half-year to myself.
I turn back to the computer, open email, and send a response to RoderickSeverly@aol.com.
Dear Ms. Seymour,
Thank you for your email. I signed the contract and I’ll bring it to you tomorrow. I’ll be on the 7 am train.
I type in the station details, the train, and the estimated ETA, and then click “Send.”
“All done,” I say to myself. “Less than a day before I’m out of here.”
The computer lets out a ding sound and a chat window pops up.
Misscleosandra: how r u?
Jadeeyreish: ok u? I got a job
Misscleosandra: job? Finally quitting daycare?
Jadeeyreish: fired. Not enough enrollment to pay me. its kinda weird. Like the job is over up in sovereign
Misscleosandra: wait, what? Sovereign, like creepy eerie stay-away-from-there sovereign???!!
Misscleosandra: uh….tell me more???
Jadeeyreish: it’s for s storyteller job? Im not sure actually
Jadeeyreish: yeah…it pays well though, like well enough more than daycare
Misscleosandra: but enough to be worth the ghosts??
Jadeeyreish: there’s no such thing…
Misscleosandra: every legend has its origins. The vampires were probably people buried alive. Werewolves were those people who have hirsutism. And ghosts…
Jadeeyreish: …are people wishing they had a connection to the afterlife
Misscleosandra: if you say so…but, tell me more about storyteller, what does that even mean
Jadeeyreish: i dont rly know, you know…they said i have to tell stories to the MASTER when he wants me to? or , they said galas, so
Misscleosandra: the MASTER? Whos that?
Jadeeyreish: the master of the house? The manor. its called sever house
Misscleosandra: like sever heads? Thats creepy
Jadeeyreish: i guess. But it gets me out of here
Misscleosandra: things still bad with your mom?
Jadeeyreish: she spends more time ignoring me now than anything else
Misscleosandra: well, you did drop out…
Jadeeyreish: for one semester!
Misscleosandra: you know how she is. She likes plans and sticking to them
Jadeeyreish: yeah well its my life
Misscleosandra: ok bon jovi. When do you leave
Jadeeyreish: 7 am train
Misscleosandra: so soon?? For how long
Jadeeyreish: 6 mo
Misscleosandra: wait, 6? But thats like 2 semesters
Jadeeyreish: ill be out for a yr
Misscleosandra: your moms gonna kill you
Jadeeyreish: yeah, well
Misscleosandra: its your life…
Jadeeyreish: i dont know what i want
Misscleosandra: and going off to creepy guillotine manor will help you figure that out?
Jadeeyreish: i dont know! Maybe. I need time alone. And guillotine?
Misscleosandra: yes, time alone with the MASTER! Guillotine, like sever. Sever heads…
Jadeeyreish: not funny
Misscleosandra: ok ok. wait so i just looked up sever house
Misscleosandra: so originally severely house the name shortened to sever at some point. its belonged to the severely family for like 200 yrs and they sell rare manuscripts
Jadeeyreish: might explain storyteller thing
Misscleosandra: maybe. But, theres been lots of death there, like, six wives, four daughters, two nannies, and a gardener, all dead under mysterious circumstances
Jadeeyreish: mysterious how?
Misscleosandra: well, gardener drowned in the pond near the house. The wives all died of different things, they all got sick. One was found hanging. Daughters all complained of strange noises in the house before they all died. One was found strangled with her bedsheets. Another fell out of her window. Both nannies disappeared, bodies never found.
Misscleosandra: sorry but thats what i found
Jadeeyreish: maybe theres a mold and it makes everyone crazy
Misscleosandra: and you want to go there?
Misscleosandra: i have a quiz tomorrow i need to study for
Misscleosandra: message me when you get there
Jadeeyreish: will do
I close out of the chat box and turn off the computer, not bothering to wait until it told me, “It’s now safe to turn off your computer.”
“Jade?” my mom calls out, just as the lights flicker again. “Phone line’s dead.”
The lights flicker once more, then everything goes dark.
“Must be the storm,” I call out.
We find each other in the hall, my mom’s hands bumping into my shoulder as she feels her way down the hall.
“Get the flashlights out of the drawer,” she says as she bumps into the door to her bedroom. “There’s pizza in the kitchen.”
I head downstairs, holding on to the railing so I don’t trip down the steps, and pull out two flashlights out of the kitchen drawer. One turns on fine, but the other blinks once, twice, and then stays dark.
“Damn batteries,” I say, knocking my hand against the flashlight. But it stays dead.
I find the pizza box and take two slices, peeling off the cheese and then sprinkling oregano on the bread. I hate cheese, even on pizza, and dump the thick solid slice in the garbage.
With the one flashlight I head back upstairs and lie in my bed, waiting for morning.