Hope you enjoy chapter one of my YA paranormal romance.
It was the cold war of words a floor below my bedroom that completed the transition from dream to reality. The briefest of shadows flitted before me. A dark creepy shadow sent a chill ricocheting up and down my spine. I opened my eyes quickly. My life had become far too hectic for me. Perhaps my mind was dysfunctional due to the recent turmoil in my family life.
I woke up, showered and escaped to school where I would find some semblance of sanity. At least school was normal. Everything here was still the same. Ancient black berry trees stood tall and proud at the entrance, their mushy inky blue fruit were scattered on the earth below. Single storied classrooms that had once been part of a Grande fully functional sugar mill awaited the presence of pubescent students no doubt ill prepared for today’s lessons. I escaped to the battered remains of the old boiler room at the back of the school during my breaks and stared into the distance.
I had always assumed that my life would always be infused with the uncontrollable dysfunctionalities of modern times and that despite the imperfections my life would be surrounded with insurmountable happiness. Sixteen years of family outings, home cooked dinners, play squabbles with my baby sister, anxiousness while we waited the outcome of some minor travesty or the other and general activities of middle class families that just managed to pay the bills and live had given no indication of the cracks that threatened to destroy the only joy I had ever known..
The blissful tranquillity of the life we once led in the small seaside on the North coast of Kwa Zulu Natal, affectionately known as the Dolphin Coast seemed like a distant memory in comparison to the events of the recent weeks. We were fortunate to be blessed with nearly three hundred days of sunshine, picturesque blue skies with fluffy white cotton ball clouds, clean blue flag beaches and cheery weather. Life on the coast was laid back and relaxing even during exams. Salt Rock was my home. Although today I dreaded the walk home. My home was no longer the sunshiny cheerful place that it had once been. The dark shadow flitted by me once more as if it had been following me and had now overtaken me. I shook my head. I was probably succumbing to my recently acquired stress. My school day was over far too quickly. I deliberately chose to walk home. I did not feel like chatting to anyone, not even my best friend Priyanka.
At sixteen years and eleven months I had envisioned an idyllic existence– balancing a gorgeous boyfriend, household chores for a happy yet acceptable dysfunctional family and homework. (Sadly my unusual plain looks had failed to attract the attention of any boy.) A broken family didn’t fit into that daydream. My behaviour was far from dreamy. Instead my shoulders were heavy with apprehension. I sensed the presence of something dark and menacing in my life. My tummy was constantly in knots and I was sure that my recent irregular eating habits had helped develop an ulcer. The stillness in our average sized family duplex, badly in need of a fresh coat of homely peach paint was unnerving. Fine hairlines cracks in the walls were ironically reminiscent of the cracks in our recent relationship as a family.
This was the inevitable calm before the storm. The metaphorical hurricane would hit any minute now while outside the grey sky and rumbling thunder provided a background for the newfound drama in my family. The customary sunshine had been replaced by flash storms and invariable showers of rain. I quietly moved out of the tiled kitchen, which my Dad had once referred to as Mom’s culinary laboratory, where we had shared so many lively family breakfasts together. Hope, my waif like seven year old little sister was in the untidy living room watching Sponge Bob Square Pants, her favourite cartoon. “Who lives in a pine apple under the sea?” Hope sang. “Sponge bob Square …” I switched off the hazy television set which was covered in dust and badly in need of repair and scooped Hope in my arms in a single fluid movement. I was not a psychically strong teenager. I was rather fragile and bruised easily. Hope was underweight and a poor eater.
“Sarah!” She whined in her annoying little baby voice and tugged at a few strands of red brown hair that had come loose from my ponytail. “I was watching that!” Too large baby blue eyes burned into my face. I tucked loose strands of angelic blonde curls behind her ears and patted her face gently.
I winced at the sudden sharp pain but I did not scold her. “Sshh!” I ordered with the authority of the older sister which usually never worked on Hope. “Dad’s home.” I adjusted my thick rimless glasses before sprinting upstairs.
We heard the engine of his SUV die down. Hope fell silent instantaneously. She stared into my wide hazel eyes for some comfort. I struggled to disguise my own confusion and panic. It saddened me to realise that Hope’s childhood would always bear this excruciating blemish. The tension between Mom and Dad had been brewing for a while now. Actually it had simmered and it was now at boiling point. Hope clung to my thin shoulders desperately in need of a little love. “You can play games on my computer.” Hope brightened up instantly. If only it were that easy for me to lighten up, I thought. Hope loved my pink princess themed bedroom. I had outgrown the fairy tale princess theme years ago. She bounced a few times on my soft double bed and hugged the soft fluffy pillows before she moved to the old desk top that Dad had bought for me in a second hand store as a birthday present two years ago. My bedroom was my sanctuary. I was grateful for my own personal space amidst this newfound tension within my family. It did not matter to me that the brown peel and stick tiles were badly in need of a replacement. It did not matter that the matching bedding and curtains had faded over the years and were now more white than pink. All that mattered was that this was my private space that nobody dared invade.
Dad stormed in through the front door. I had been watching him through my bedroom window. A few seconds ago his disposition had been content, pleasant. He had laughed while he had chatted to someone on his mobile less than two minutes ago. He used to smile at Mom like that, I realised with a sharp pain in my chest. I felt the blood rush so fast to my head that I clutched the window sill for support. Was it possible? Was Dad the reason for this sudden deterioration in our family life? I had chosen to blame Mom. Her need to feel independent after Hope had started Pre School had thrown the family into a limbo. I guess we had grown used to having Mom around to cater to our every need. She cooked, she cleaned the house, she soothed our wounds…she took care of us. She was the glue that kept us together. Now that she had resumed her career as an emergency room nurse at a nearby private hospital and worked longer hours than Dad, it was a little difficult to adapt to independence. The happy colours of my life had transformed to a duller version of what it used to be.
I was used to waking up to bright cheery mornings bathed in yellow sunshine. The smell of fried eggs, the whites and yokes perfectly preserved until I made it to the table, or fluffy home cooked porridge tinged with the glorious golden brown oats, not the instant type that you poured out of a packet always awoke me. My midnight blue checked pinafore school uniform was always neatly pressed just waiting for me to step into it. I had always awoken to a clean house that sparkled and smelled of summer all year long. I loved Mom’s disorderly garden. Her crimson rose bushes were my favourite. They provided a splash of colour in the centre of the tiny garden amongst evergreen hedges and yellow and white daisies. The garden and the front lawn were now overgrown with evil looking weeds and stubborn grass. It reminded me of the way doubt and insecurity had invaded our happiness.
I had always been closer to my Dad. Mom was always there…I expected her to be there for us. It was her duty to be a Mom, a comforter, a chef and a homemaker. Where had this desire for a career woman metamorphosis come from? The house was empty when Mom wasn’t here. She stayed over at the hospital sometimes. I didn’t blame her. Dad’s temper flared up just by looking at Mom. He criticised everything she did. Her cooking wasn’t good enough. The house was never neat and tidy enough anymore. As for the personal criticism Mom bore – it hurt me to even think about some of the insults Dad had hurled at Mom. The worst was when he accused Mom of deliberately falling pregnant with Hope to save their marriage when the cracks had first shown. I had always assumed that Mom’s newly found career had placed this newfound strain on their marriage…I wasn’t so sure anymore. My head throbbed from thinking. Trying to make sense of the situation was not helping me at all. Reruns and flashes of the happy times we had shared were not helping me at all. Nausea overwhelmed me. I closed my eyes, inhaled and exhaled deeply while I counted to ten and the feeling passed.
Adele Sandra Parker nee Dalton, otherwise known as my mom, was home today. I sensed that something immensely foreboding was going to happen. One of my parents was going to make an announcement…my heart clenched like someone had tightened their fist around it. Eric Parker, my dad, had once been a star rugby player. He had played professionally right until university until a back and knee injury forced him to pursue his second choice career as an accountant. Dad was tall and muscular but he walked with a limp courtesy of his professional rugby playing days. His shaggy blonde hair always flopped over his forehead no matter how much gel he used to keep it away from his face. His blue eyes used to have a regular sparkle in them. I was now accustomed to seeing them overcast with frustration. They reminded me of a perfect blue sky covered in angry storm clouds. His once lean frame showed signs of unnatural body fat, a consequence of eating to much take away foods. The recent turn of events had added years to my father’s youthful features. He looked much older than his forty years. Deep bags beneath his once merry eyes suggested that he was losing as much sleep as me.
Hope was absorbed in a game of solitaire. I snuck out of my bedroom and hid behind the railing and watched Dad. His rugged handsome face was unfamiliarly stony. Dad’s lips were set in a stubborn thin line. He seemed like a stranger to me. Even his voice lacked the familiarity I was habituated to.
“Adele!” He bellowed as if he were a king summoning his hand maiden.
Mom appeared after a few moments. She was still dressed in her white work uniform. She stared at her husband but said nothing.
His rigid posture was disturbed by a violent gesture when he flung something on the small glass coffee table that stood in the living room. His facial expression was undoubtedly irascible.
“I want a divorce!” He stated in a gruff voice without even greeting Mom. With that he turned and walked out of the house and out of our lives in what appeared to be a single bound. All it had taken for him to walk out of our lives was an envelope and a few measly meaningless seconds.
Mom stared at the envelope for a few moments, and then she picked it up and tore open the official seal. She stared at the documents as if it contained unintelligible characters that she could not quite comprehend. I saw on her tired gaunt face the expression of a heartbroken woman who had just lost the most significant relationship in her life. The only love that she had ever known!
I noticed just how much weight Mom had lost after she changed out of her uniform and into her pyjamas. Her pyjama top fell off her emaciated shoulders that jutted in a gauche angle and an untidy fashion that I had never associated with my Mom. She was always poised and graceful. I had never imagined wrinkles on her fine porcelain like features nor shadows beneath her hazel eyes which were a mirror image of mine. She had recently developed into a former shadow of herself. If this was the way love ended, I didn’t want to open my heart to it.
“Sarah! Hope. Supper’s ready.” Her voice threatened to crack.
Mom’ cooking lacked the flavour and pizzazz of her earlier dishes. Her culinary laboratory was more of a hasty fast food outlet these days. The grilled chicken tasted like sawdust and the brown bread rolls like paper. Hope looked at each of us in turn while she picked at her supper.
“Where is Dad today?” Her small innocent voice broke the uncomfortable silence that hung like a damp blanket over us.
Mom’s eyes welled up with tears. “Dad isn’t coming back. Ever!” She told us in a strangled whisper. “He filed for a divorce. He has no intentions of trying to save our family. You girls should get used to that.”
She stood up, scraping the chair against the tiles as she did so and fled to her room. I too stood up, picked Hope up and carried her to her room. She clutched Pooh, her chosen comfort toy and fell off to sleep within minutes. Alone with my thoughts I returned to the kitchen and cleared up the table. Mom loved her kitchen. She had chosen the cream floor tiles herself and had helped to install the matching built in cupboards. Granite counter tops and a hob stove had taken months of saving to buy. I loved the mini bar. Dad used to carry me and sit me on top of the bar stool while Mom served me milk shake in a champagne glass. I was grateful for my memories. Hope would never have them. I heard Mom sob in her bedroom. It must feel strange to suddenly be alone after seventeen years of marriage. I stood outside her bedroom door, feeling helpless while I listened to her. Several times I picked up my hand to knock and then let it fall to my side. What on earth did I say to my Mom? Eventually I made my way upstairs to my bedroom.
The rain beat against the roof in a thunderous crescendo that kept on building and building until it just stopped altogether like an orchestra that had suddenly stopped playing mid piece. I opened the window. The smell of wet earth was refreshing. The storm had caused a short circuit at the local power station. I stared out into the velvety darkness. It seemed so easy to step out into the shroud of darkness. I held my hand out the window and imagined that the night had swallowed it. If only it could swallow the waterfalls of emotion that flooded through my entire being right now. It would be really easy to walk away from all this, I realised. I could just run away and lose myself in the shadows of the night. The thick heavy darkness would never tell anybody what had happened to me. Perhaps some dangerous creature of the night would kidnap me and put an end to this mediocre life I was living. I could not bear the pain in my heart that had resulted when my family fell apart. The centre of my chest ached. It was like an earth quake had ripped my life apart and the epicentre where the most damage had been caused was my family. Tears stung my eyes and I quickly blinked them away.
“Take me away!” I whispered to the darkness. A painful lump formed at the base of my throat. Burning tears blurred my vision. I held out my hands in invitation to the night. The blood rushed to my head leaving me dizzy with a foreign sensation. “I just want to run a million miles away from here!” It would be so easy to run…I could start over in another town…I had no idea how but I would try my best to. Perhaps I could seek comfort in a homeless shelter or a church…I tired to remain optimistic.
I don’t know how long he had been staring at me until I saw him. At first I thought that I had fallen asleep. The icy drops of a fresh shower of rain reminded me that I was still wide awake. His deep dark eyes stared at me. They seemed too dark for the light golden complexion of his face. Still his eyes calmed the tension in my body and stilled the restless in my soul. His hair was brushed away from his aristocratic face. His wide pink lips were curved in small half smile. The thing that I remembered most about this unexpected vision was the warm glow. It soothed away my doubts and insecurities.
“Don’t run,” his eyes seemed to say.
I smiled back at the handsome young angel. His beautiful face filled me with hope and faith. We stared at each other for a few moments. He smiled and disappeared just as abruptly as he had appeared. I stared at the lightning streaks that flashed a warning at me. Had God sent me an angel my age to instil some peace to my already shattered heart? I asked myself. Or had I dreamed up this vision of the handsome angel just to calm my own restless soul?