Sneak Peeks

Sneak Peek!

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Alright, here is the first Sneak Peek posted on my website. 🙂

This is a YA Fiction I’ve been working on for the past year and I’m very excited about completing it and getting it out to my readers. 🙂

The title is tentative at the moment, but the story centers around a brother and sister whose father went missing just before the start of WWII.

Following the mystery they hope will reveal clues about their father, Rett and Vivian find themselves split up and trapped, Rett in a town run by a beautiful but dangerous woman named Charlotte and Vivian in a deadly forest forced to collect rare stones in exchange for her next meal.

This story is fast-paced and gripping as it shifts from Rett’s attempt at escape and Vivian’s fight to stay alive long enough for the two of them to return home.

Enjoy!

I hear him before I see him. I knew he would come. He always comes. Sitting down beside me on the wide, brick ledge, he dangles his feet over the empty expanse and leans over for an uneasy look.

“It would really hurt if we fell,” he says.

I pick up a pebble and rub my thumb across it’s smooth surface. “You say that every time we’re up here.”

“It’s true every time.” My brother smiles that dimpled smile that usually disarms me. Not today, though.

I toss the pebble over the side and listen to it clink against the fire escape of the neighboring building. It makes the same sound all the way down before landing in a heap of garbage in the alley. I don’t need to see where it stops, there’s probably hundreds just like it, sitting in a mound somewhere between stacks of broken crates and sludge from the runoff of yesterday’s rain.

“Need more pebbles?”

“I still have some.”

It’s quiet for a length of time. I’m not ready to talk and he’s biding his time until I am. I toss another pebble.

“Weren’t you going downtown?” I ask, eyeing Rett’s rolled jeans and button-down shirt.

“Just got back.”

“Didn’t waste any time changing.”

“You know I hate suits.” His face adapts the same grimace mine makes whenever forced into my Sunday best. He adds a shoulder roll for emphasis, as if the offensive garb is still on his body.

Rubbing the next stone between my finger and thumb, I ask him what he thought of his excursion.

“Eh,” he shrugs, “the papers are calling it a historical event. I guess I can see why. I mean, it was obvious Mayor Ed is proud of the subway. I think the fervor of the people added to the enthusiasm, but I wouldn’t say it was spectacular. There was a parade and all; pretty boring up until the cowboys and Indians made an entrance.”

“I take it you didn’t ride?” I’m not sure why I’m so interested. When asked to tag along, I opted out on the grounds I don’t like crowds. Not that a new subway in the big city doesn’t bring with it its own flair, but my sudden interest more than likely stems from trying to avoid talking about something else.

“I wanted to, not going to lie, but I have a better use for my dime.” Rett leans close as if we aren’t the only two up here. “Mom has been eyeing a pair of shoes in one of the windows we pass every day on our way to the factory. Have you noticed?”

I know he’s referring to our mother’s longing gazes whenever we pass the shoe shop window, but I look at my worn Oxfords, instead. They used to be hers. When I outgrew my last pair, she gave me the only other ones she owned. They were in good repair then and fit perfectly, but the leather is wearing and I’m already on my second set of soles.

“You know she wouldn’t want you spending your money on her, especially for that frivolous pair Mr. Marks set out. Surely, he knows how impractical they are.”

“Her birthday is next week, Viv.” My brother drops his eyes to study his hands or to contemplate his next words, probably both. “It’s almost the anniversary of dad’s leaving. You know how hard this is on her.”

I tighten my grip on the pebble before chucking it over the building directly in front of us instead of hitting the side and letting it ricochet down to the alley below. Words and phrases and hurtful questions cloud my thinking. So, I don’t say anything. No good ever comes from my speaking my mind.

Everett, younger by a year, knows my thoughts before I say them. He also knows how to jumpstart my rational thinking which is the only reason I ever let him join me on my ledge. He reaches towards the pile between us, chooses a pebble and tosses it at the building in front of us. It soars high enough to clear the brick wall before coming to land somewhere on the roof, out of sight of our watchful eyes. I lower mine to Rett’s and he grins. Scooping the remaining pebbles, I relocate them to the other side of my perch where he can’t reach them. I don’t select another.

Rett sighs, clasping his hands together across his lap. And I know he is tired of waiting for me to offer an explanation on my own.

“Mother is downstairs staring out the kitchen window, Viv.” When Rett decides to get to the point, he gets to the point.

I avert my eyes to watch two dirty pigeons peck for food on the ledge a few feet over, wishing for not the first time, I had a pair of wings of my own.

“I hurt her pretty bad.” I finally admit.

Rett is silent but he doesn’t have to say anything. He’s been my sole confidant since dad disappeared and I know him like the back of my hand. But he doesn’t state the obvious.

“Tell me what you said,” he coaxes.

With a deep breath I abandon the pigeons and stare ahead at the brick wall. Anywhere, but Rett’s knowing gaze. “I told her she was the reason dad left. I accused her of pushing him away.”

The anticipation of a reaction is painful when it comes to Rett. I hate his silence more than the words he should be saying to me. Finally, I look at him—he’s watching me with soft, hazel eyes that see right through me. Just like dad’s used to. I read volumes in them, but he still doesn’t speak.

Fingers curling into fists, the tips of my nails press painfully into my dusty palms, but the sharp sensation doesn’t distract from the mounting frustration inside me.

“Just say it, Rett.” I finally mutter.

With one smooth motion, my brother runs long fingers through his wavy hair and leans forward, resting his arms on his legs and sighs the deep sigh reserved only for these moments of mediation. I can’t help but think of all the practice I’m giving him for his future children. The wind pushing through the alley ruffles his tousled hair making him appear older than his sixteen years.

“Looks like mom is definitely going to need those new shoes.” He chuckles slightly, just a sliver above reproach but hovering more closely towards a sympathy I’m not ready to accept.

“I couldn’t help it!” I blurt, the pressure of bottled emotions releasing like steam from a tea kettle now that Rett finally has me talking. “It just builds in me! I know what people are saying; all this talk of dad being a draft dodger, of leaving his family, of—”

“Vivian, there isn’t anything anyone can say that will make any of that true.” Rett says the words with conviction, the kind I usually use on him when he has his rare moments of doubt. “You know it, I know it and mom knows it. Just because we don’t understand what happened that night does not mean we get to imagine the worst.”

“I know he didn’t leave us.” I say this quietly, knowing full well I accused our own mother of running him off not minutes ago. But I didn’t mean those words. And Rett knows this.

“Then don’t let these things get to you,” he presses.

“I wish I can take life in stride like you.” I take up another stone and grip it tightly in my hand.

Rett shoots me a look. “Viv, you’ve already taken this out on mom. Do you really want to do it with me?”

I recognize the warning and back down. “I’m sorry, it’s just, sometimes, I feel you and mom have moved on and I can’t understand that.”

“Moving on and living are two totally different things.” Rett shifts his body until he’s straddling the brick ledge and facing me. “What do you think would happen to us if mom curled up in a ball and refused to live because she didn’t want to be accused of moving on? Think, Viv, really think on that for a moment.”

My brother isn’t being metaphorical, he wants his words to sink in and settle in my hardened heart. Glancing back towards the door leading to the dark stairwell that takes occupants from one worn-out floor to the next, I picture our apartment two stories down and imagine our mother staring out the four-paned window to the street below, oblivious to the trio of passing women or the sisters skipping rope or the neighbor posting another notice for the weekly paper drive. I can even see the despondent look in her eyes because I’ve seen it a thousand times in the past two years.

Our beautiful mother has aged a decade in that short amount of time. The war, losing father and now working in a factory to make a living has wreaked havoc on her once fair skin and lively eyes. Then I go and have my usual row with her and when I leave to throw pebbles off the side of the building, she sits at her window and stares.

My brother’s last remark finally breaks past the hardened façade I too often hide behind, and I’m suddenly stricken with clarity. Why have I never worried about my mother’s fragile state of mind before? All this time, why have I only ever seen myself?

“I’ve played the fool, Rett.” I whisper, completely humbled.

“I’m not going to tell you otherwise, Viv.” My brother says gently. Blunt, but gentle.

I smirk at his honesty. “How did you get to be so wise? It’s like, you got the best of both parents and I got the worst.”

“I didn’t get all the goods, you got some looks—wait, no, I got those, too. So, yeah, I guess you’re right.”

I punch him in the shoulder, a “thank you” for his pep talk and for making me smile.

“Hey, what did I say about falling?” he cries, grabbing the ledge with both hands for added safety.

“Come on, we better get downstairs if we’re going to have any dinner.” I say, eager to see mom and make amends.

Rett releases his hold on the brick and stands beside me, stretching. He’s a good head taller than me, a fact he’s never let me live down. He’s going to be tall, like dad, and just as handsome.

Taking the lead, Rett kicks a couple stray pebbles on his way to the door where he pauses, hand on the round doorknob and throws a tentative glance towards the building on our right. Instead of following his gaze, I watch him, confused at his action. There’s an odd expression on his face, like he’s never noticed the building before today.

“Later, do you think I can talk to you about something?” Rett asks quietly, still looking at the brick wall facing us. I now follow his gaze but see nothing.

“Everything ok?” I place a hand on my brother’s shoulder and feel a shiver run through him.

“Yeah.” He turns and flashes a smile that I’m not convinced is genuine. “I just wanted to run something by you.”

“Sure,” I nod, “just come to my room whenever.” As if nothing just made my carefree brother uneasy, Rett pulls on the door, holding it open for me and together, we start our way down the winding steps.

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