they all pretend they understand: sneak peek

My second novel, Lavender Rose, will be available for purchase September 2021. I’ll be posting updates and the occasional sneak peek for those who are subscribed to my site:

The boy in the mirror looks nothing like me. He has the same thick, ugly round glasses, the same black and white hair, but that’s all I recognize about him. I hate my braces. I’ve had them since I was thirteen, metal and uncomfortable. I’m supposed to wear them for two more years. If I thought I looked like a nerd before, it’s nothing compared to how I feel now. These days, everywhere I look, I see a stranger. Everybody says being a teenager is easy. My mother says it most of all. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I think it’s the hardest part of my life so far. I don’t know what I’m feeling half the time, or why I’m feeling that way. I have no idea what I want to do with my life, although everyone else seems to have their whole futures figured out.

            “How are you feeling?” I poke my head into my brother’s hospital room. It’s cold, but hospitals always are. “Mom said you had your first treatment today.”

            He smiles, bundled up underneath a thin hospital blanket. “Yeah, I’m not feeling great, but it is what it is.” No one else is here. I expected my mother would be. If it were me in that bed, I’d want to be alone. “What about you? How are things?”

            Ever since Fletcher moved back home, we’ve been spending quite a lot of time together. Even if it’s under bad circumstances, I like having him home. When he isn’t napping, we have fun. I sit on the end of the bed. “I don’t know… same as usual, I guess.” He has an IV in his hand, a pillow fluffed up underneath his head. I’ve never been in the hospital, as a patient. ‘How long do you have to stay here?”

            Nurses are bustling by outside the door. “Only a couple hours, but I have to come back tomorrow. I’m just waiting for my doctor.”  He looks tired, and sounds it, too. “Mom’s coming to pick me up later.” I wish I could drive. A long time ago, my father said he would teach me. I want to own a motorcycle, one day.

            According to Eloise, college football started today. Fletcher says he’s probably not going to be able to play this season. I glance at the IV needle. “Does chemo hurt?”

            “Not really.” Settling back into the pillows, Fletcher seems to get comfortable. A doctor enters the room. I remember Doctor Hart from years ago. He’s a short, bald man, a man serious about his job and patients. Fletcher grins. “Hey, Doc! What’s up?” When they converse, I sneak out of the room. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always felt awkward about listening in on other people’s conversations.

            Haven always loved dressing up. Her closet was filled with dresses, skirts, sparkles, glitter. Her ballet tutu is still hanging from the back of our door, pink and frilly. Haven was a ballerina, and she was pretty good at it too. Unlike the rest of my siblings, I’ve never been very athletic.

            I take the bus home. When I open the door, I realize nobody else is here. On Haven’s nightstand, there’s still the journal she used to write in every day. It’s pink, covered in glitter and sequins, shut loosely with a silver lock. I never knew where she kept the key. Instead of minding my business, I break into it.

            About six years ago, Eloise told me humans only have five layers of skin, and the last one is purple. I’m ashamed to say I believed that up until a couple years ago. I used to be so afraid of cutting or scraping myself, and I’d never dare pick a scab, just in case I ran out of skin. When I was younger, it was a legitimate fear. It sounds ridiculous, now.

            “Jax?” Larkin stands in the doorway of my room, chewing her fingernails. She does that when she’s scared. “Is Fletcher sick? Daddy says he’s in the hospital.”

            It’s hard to explain things like this to her. I told her about Haven, and she understood, even though my mom said she wouldn’t. “Yeah.” I go to her, and hug her, and spin her through the air. She smiles, and then falls solemn again. “He’s sick.”

            Larkin chews her fingernails again. “Why?”

            “I don’t know.” I’m the only one who will answer her questions. I’m only fourteen. It’s not like I know the answer to everything. “Sometimes people just get sick.”

            “Oh.” She wants to know a lot. Maybe I did too, when I was five. She sits on my bed, her feet dangling off the floor. “When will he get better?”

            Haven’s journal is scratchy in my hands. Her bed is suspended in the air, held up by screws and adorned with blankets and stuffed animals. “I don’t know, Larkin.”

            She falls silent. Tugging on the sleeve of her purple dress, she watches me.

Published by featherquills

i am a misfit and a wanderer, captivated by the mysteries of the universe and the secrets of humanity.

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