If you’re interested in my new mystery novella, Memories of the Abyss, but wanted to see what it was about before you bought it, here’s a snip! Let me know what you think…
She sat in the warm afternoon sun, her face tilted toward the warmth, eyes closed. It was finally spring, and she cherished the heat against her skin, she had been so very cold all winter. She was trying to wait, to be quiet, and it was hard. She wanted to be up and doing, searching for a way to happiness.
Memories flooded her mind, forcing her back toward the cold. She remembered sitting with her back to the bed, on the floor, knees to her chest. He stood over her with a look of disgust on his face.
“You’re a worthless sack of shit, you know that?”
She flinched, burying her face in her knees.
“Look at me, Violet. You can’t hide behind your rose-colored glasses. Look around you.”
She looked up, not at him, but around her at the cluttered bedroom. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been allowed out, even to the laundromat, so there was a pile of laundry. A few books, but none of them hers. He’d told her hers took up too much space, and she was wasting time reading, anyway, so they had to go.
“I’ll clean it up,” she spoke softly, trying not to trigger the cough.
“You’d better. I have to go to work, this place had better be spotless when I’m home.”
He walked out of the room and she could hear him moving around in the next room. She didn’t move, not yet. When he was gone and she was safe again. The outer door opened and closed, and Violet collapsed to the floor, sobbing and coughing. She couldn’t stop the wrenching coughs, and crawled toward the kitchen, where she vomited on the tiles. Having to clean that out of the carpet would be impossible, she knew.
She lay on her side, feeling the welcome coolness against her fevered body. She knew she had pneumonia. She also knew he’d never let her get treated for it. He’d say they couldn’t afford it. She stared up at his television, game systems, and grimaced. His toys were more important than she, so why wouldn’t he let her go?
Violet opened her eyes and jerked up with a gasp, back into the warm spring sunshine, away from the cold places in her mind. She relaxed again with a sigh. He couldn’t hurt her anymore, she was safe. Her lips curled up in a smile, and she took an experimental deep breath. The good green scent of growing things, and no pain. She took another, knowing that the years had left scars inside her, but today they didn’t hurt, at least.
A hand on her shoulder made her flinch, before she looked up and saw who it was. Violet smiled a little at her friend, and Lori sat down next to her on the step overlooking the green lawn.
“Nice day, isn’t it?” The dark haired woman asked.
Violet nodded, looking at her. She reached a tentative finger out and tucked a lock of Lori’s hair behind her ear. The older woman looked startled, fleetingly. Violet watched the emotion run across her face and disappear.
“Vi, you ok? Having a bad day again?”
Violet let her face relax and her smile go lopsided, conveying her chagrin at transparency. She shrugged slightly.
Lori took one of her hands and rubbed it. “Feeling cold?”
Vi reached her free hand up toward the sun, tipping her head back and letting the light bathe her face.
“It does feel nice and warm, doesn’t it. I’m glad you came outside.”
Lori touched Vi’s shoulder again gently, but Violet was prepared and didn’t flinch.
“Vi, I wanted to get your take on something.”
Violet looked straight at Lori, one eyebrow raised slightly.
“You know that Walter died, right?”
Violet nodded, feeling her brow furrow slightly. Walter had been a sweet old man.
“I don’t think it was natural causes. Something wasn’t right there.”
Violet sat back slightly, sighing a little. She shook her head. Lori might be right, but what could Vi do that her nurse couldn’t? Her past was dead, and she had buried it along with the man who had killed her soul.
Lori stood and squeezed her shoulder. “Think about it. Let me know in the morning, all right? Time to go in, now.”
Violet stood slowly and preceded the nurse with her soft soundless shoes into the big, cold stone building. She paused at the door and looked over her shoulder at the sunlight still flooding the broad veranda. It would be there tomorrow, she reminded herself, and then stepped into the building that smelled of industrial disinfectant. She looked at her feet, shoulders hunched, until they came to her room and she could feel safe again.
Lori came in with her.
“Do you need anything, Vi? All set until morning? Jake has night shift, you know. He’ll come if you need him.”
Violet nodded tiredly and sat on her narrow bed. Lori looked sadly down at her, and Violet smiled at her to show the woman that it was all right, really. It wasn’t the nurse’s fault, and she was a friend when she didn’t have to be. Lori sighed and went out, locking the door when it was shut behind her.
Vi sat on her bed for a long time, staring at the blank wall in front of her. Painted cream to add some warmth to the clinical atmosphere, she wasn’t really seeing it, she was looking into her memories. Walter had been quiet, almost mousy. He’d rarely spoken in group session, although to Vi herself he had come out of his shell and become almost garrulous. She supposed it was so much safer for him to talk to a woman who could not, herself, utter a word.
After a long time of sitting in utter stillness recalling their conversations, she stood up and took a notebook from her desk drawer. This was a rare privilege, for an inmate, but she supposed she was a rare inmate. She sat and began to transcribe some of the more relevant passages of his monologues. It hadn’t been entirely one-sided. Her mind slipped back to their first chat, in the communal room.
“Hi, you’re Violet, right?” he had plunked down next to her on the couch. Violet had just shivered and looked away.
“You can’t talk, they tell me. You used to, but now you can’t.” He fell silent, but didn’t move, and slowly Violet sneaked a peek at him.
He was thin, with profuse wrinkles and feathery silver hair that floated around his skull like a halo. He hadn’t shaved for a couple of days, she estimated from the gray stubble. His eyes were gray, too, sunken in and rimmed with watery pink. He caught her looking and gave her a toothless grin. Violet decided she would stay where she was.
“So I had a cat.” He told her, and Vi blinked at the seeming non-sequitur. “She was so pretty, once I’d fed her a while. But she never did let me touch her, except once. She was half-dead when I found her in the gutter, all broken and I figure some punks had been using her for a football. I scooped her up and took her home. Got her clean and put her in a box with blankets.” He shrugged, his thin shoulders swooped up and down like abbreviated wings. “Couldn’t afford a vet. Splinted her broken leg, and fed her with an eyedropper. Once she could move on her own, which was about a month later, she wouldn’t let me touch her. But she’d come sit on the couch next to me and purr. Purr so loud it was like the world was on vibrate.”
He fell silent and Violet stared at him in astonishment. He knew about her past, she thought, he must. No other way he could have known how she felt. She shivered. Like the broken kitty, she couldn’t let anyone touch her. She got up abruptly, too full of emotion to stay there any longer.
He stayed put, merely looking up at her. She turned deliberately back and faced him squarely, and then nodded. Walter smiled and nodded back. Violet put her head down and hurried from the room, back to her sanctuary.
It had become a challenge, then, she remembered. To see how far she could push herself to let the little man close without running. There had been some bad moments, but he’d never judged her when she simply bolted at his approach. He’d come sit with her and talk to her. Never anything consequential, at first. She’d thought wryly she was his cat, for him to tame, the way he treated her.
After a few weeks she began to wonder why he was here, with her and others like her. He seemed so normal. She began to observe him, using her now-long hair to shield her face while she peeped through the veil of her bangs and watched him move around the common room. He chatted with most people, she realized. The orderlies, the other inmates, but only one on one, never in group. Nor did he speak to anyone if they weren’t alone. Violet, the most alone of them all, he sought out.
She had known him for about six weeks, she thought, when she presented him with a note as he sat beside her. He’d looked startled, then pleased.
“What was the cat’s name?” He read aloud, “well, now. Questions from the quiet girl!”