So I posted a little something over on Facebook the other day. It was a quote from a story that had been stuck in my mind for a while. It was supposed to be a short story. Around 5000 words. Just a little glimpse into the past. But I couldn’t stop typing and it’s turned into a novella . . .
If you’ve read the Thornton Brothers, you will know that there was an event that occurred two years before the start of book one. It was a major and devastating event for the Thornton Family, especially for Gabe.
Well, that’s the story I’ve written.
But here’s the problem. I’ve been told that people might not be interested in the story as it isn’t exactly a happy one nor does it have the typical elements of romance. Told from the perspective of the girl involved, each chapter flicks back and forth between BEFORE and AFTER.
So what I need to know, is would you be interested in reading this story?
I’ve completed the first draft but before I send it to an editor, I’d love to know your reaction to the first two chapters.
*Please note that this is an unedited first draft and may contain errors.
THORNTON BROTHERS PREQUEL
I stepped through the door and held my head high despite the tightness at the back of my throat and the tears in my eyes. I was certain everyone would turn to look at me. I was expecting hushed whispers, awkwardly cleared throats, elbows jabbed into sides and heads jerked in my direction.
But there was none. Most of them didn’t know who I was. What I had done. Gossip spread like wildfire but I guess the family didn’t want their dirty laundry aired for the world to see.
For that I could be grateful.
But it still didn’t lessen the guilt.
Wishing I had kept my hair long and free so I could use it as a shield to hide from curious eyes, I started walking down the narrow aisle. I had a single red rose in my hand. It was wilted. One of the petals dropped and fell to the floor like a tear.
His family were sitting in the front row. I had arrived late and I planned on slipping out early so I wouldn’t have to face them but their gaze turned my way. My steps faltered. Hatred burned through the air as though they could see into my soul. And then I caught his eye, the only one showing any kindness.
Please don’t look at me.
But he did. And he smiled. Despite everything that was going on, the corners of his mouth tipped upwards in a way that was meant as reassuring, comforting, but did nothing but fill me with guilt.
The tightness in the back of my throat intensified, making it hard to breathe. I wanted to turn and run, leave this place and never look back. Hide. From them. From myself. From what I’d done. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t be the coward who hid from their own actions, from their guilt, even if everything inside screamed for me to.
I tipped my chin a little higher and prayed that it wouldn’t be perceived as arrogance or indifference. That it would be perceived as what it was. A desperate effort to stay in one piece and not crumble to the floor.
His photo was before me. Large as life. Smiling. Hair neatly parted and swept to one side. Shirt pressed. Collar in place. Perfect.
The lump in my throat threatened to come out as a sob but I held it together. Only six more steps and I would be there. Only six more and I could lay down my rose, kiss his cheek one last time and then hide, alone at the back of the church.
The coffin was black, trimmed in gold. My rose looked pathetic next to the display of flowers that covered the casket. No expense had been spared. He would have hated it. Even though he was only young, it had been something he’d talked about. He liked to think about everything, talk about everything. His mind was busy, never quiet. He wanted a cardboard casket that became part of the earth, not this ostentatious display they had him in. But he was no longer here to tell them that.
And I was the last person they would have listened to, had they asked.
I could feel Gabe’s eyes on me as I lay the rose on his brother’s coffin. They seared my skin with shame. I had managed to keep my tears at bay but as I leaned down to kiss his cold cheek, the cheek that had pressed against mine with such warmth only days earlier, a tear fell and splattered to his chin.
And then it just sat there, unmoving, magnifying my guilt.
“I love you,” I whispered to the body in the coffin. “Please forgive me.” Those were the words I wanted him to hear.
But Clark was no longer there.
His body was cold and stiff.
His eyes no longer burned with passion for life.
And it was all my fault.
THORNTON BROTHERS PREQUEL
It was only days before the funeral that I had sat in his car, arms crossed over my chest, staring grumpily out the window.
“You promised,” I said, not looking at him.
“I never promised—” He started to say, but I cut him off, finally turning to look at him as though widening my eyes and glaring would somehow make him remember.
“You did! You said that we would go back together. That I would meet your family and you would meet mine. We would spend our days off together.”
“And that’s still going to happen.” Clark looked at me out of the corner of his eye. He was as annoyed as I was but for an entirely different reason.
Clark wanted to save the world.
I wanted Clark.
We had been together almost eight months. Eight months and I had never met his family, never spent much time together, just the two of us, and I was aching for it. Call me selfish, I didn’t care. I wanted Clark to myself. I was sick of sharing him with everyone else, no matter how much he insisted they needed him.
I re-crossed my arms and sighed heavily.
“I won’t be too far behind you, only a couple of days.” He reached over and rubbed my thigh. “Hey,” he jiggled it, trying to get my attention, “look at me.”
I refused and jutted my chin towards the window. The landscape rushed by in a blur but I didn’t notice it. I was too trapped in my mind. Too annoyed with this man who claimed to be my boyfriend but seemed to do everything he could to avoid spending time with me.
“They need me.” He wiggled my thigh again before putting his hand back on the wheel. So cautious. So careful. Hands in the ten and two position, only leaving the control of the wheel for a second, maybe two.
“Can’t they dish up their own meals?”
Clark frowned. It was an expression I was familiar with. Well, in private anyway. In public he was all smiles and laughter. He was in his element when people looked at him. And look they did. Clark Thornton was classically handsome. The sort of handsome that put butterflies in my stomach and brought a flush to my cheeks from the first time I saw him. But that wasn’t what drew me to him. Well, maybe it was for the first few seconds, but after that, it was his passion for life. His desire to help. His compassion for people in need. All the things that we had fought over lately. In the beginning I believed in his need to help but now it seemed more like a need to be adored.
The first time we met, he stood in front of a group of university students and issued orders. We were there to help. Clean up the street. Clear the gutters. Clark knew what he was doing. He spoke with the voice of authority, a person people looked up to, longed to follow. I was one of those people. I shovelled until dirt was caked under my fingernails, until my boots were covered in mud, the cuffs of my jeans were wet and my teeth were chattering. But I never complained. I was there to help like everyone else.
And I also got the prize so many were after. Clark Thornton.
He was well known on campus. He was going places. He would be someone. In fact, he already was. Praised by teachers and students alike, everyone fell for him in one form or another.
So when he cancelled our first date because a friend needed help moving after being kicked out of his flat, I didn’t complain. When he brought other people to my house for dinner when it was only supposed to be him, I said nothing. And when he left at two in the morning the first time he ever slept over to pick up a group of drunk people that the taxi had refused to drive home, I smiled to myself because he was mine.
He chose me. Or so I thought.
There had been as many tears as there had been smiles during our relationship. I adored Clark Thornton. But I wanted him to adore me too.
“Have you called your parents to let them know you’ll need picked up?” Clark asked.
“I’ll call Gabe. He won’t be doing anything.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll get a taxi.” My answers were clipped and sharp.
“Are you seriously going to hold this against me?” Clark’s voice took on more of a tone of annoyance. One brow lifted to a question.
“Yes,” I replied.
“I set up the kitchen, babe. It would be a little rude if I wasn’t there when it needed me.”
I hated when he called me babe. He only ever did it when he knew I was annoyed.
“What about Michael?”
Clark’s eyes flicked over briefly before returning to the road. “What about him?”
“Why can’t he run the kitchen? He was part of the group that set it up too, wasn’t he?”
Clark sighed. “Because he can’t.”
“Because he can’t,” I mimicked.
“Mature, Isabel. Real mature.” I also hated it when he called me Isabel. When he was happy, when it was just the two of us it was always Issy or Is. Never Isabel.
“Why can’t he?” I tried again.
Clark sighed. He did it a lot. It made me feel like a child. “Because he’s taking Kelsey away.”
“Excuse me?” I blinked rapidly. “Michael can’t man the kitchen because he is taking his girlfriend away?”
“I know what you’re going to say—”
“I really don’t think you do.” By this stage we had pulled into the drop off zone at the airport.
“You were going to ask how is it fair that he gets to go away with Kelsey while I don’t get to go away with you.”
I opened the door and got out of the car, throwing a “nope” over my shoulder.
Clark ran around to open the boot and pull out my bag but I jerked it from his grasp. Narrowing his eyes, he stepped closer to me, taking my shoulders between his hands and forcing me to look at him.
I wanted an apology. I wanted him to say he was coming too. That we would be together. That for a few blissful days, he would be mine. For once he would put me first. But he didn’t say any of those things.
His eyes flicked over to where his bag lay in the boot of the car and he sighed. Again. “What were you going to say then?”
Pressing my teeth together until they hurt, I deliberated all the things I could say to him. I could relent like I always did. I could fold into his arms and beg him to kiss me. But this time I refused to be the one to cave.
“Fuck you, Clark Thornton.” I pulled away from him and started to walk towards the sliding door of the airport, not turning to look at him standing on the pavement. “That’s what I was going to say.”
When I checked in I had to let them know that Clark wasn’t coming. When I put my baggage onto the conveyor belt, I had to confirm that it was just one bag. I had to say to the air steward that yes, I was flying alone.
Just before I switched off my phone, a text appeared on my screen. It was from Clark. Part of me hoped it was to apologise. Part of me hoped it wasn’t. Part of me was enjoying my misery.
Clark: My brother will pick you up from the airport.
And then another.
Clark: Don’t stay angry with me for too long.