This is the beta version of my novel. If you are a new reader – welcome. You can read from the start here.
New sections are released every Tuesday and Friday. Please let me know your opinion in the comments section. Thank you for reading.
Artemisia Jacobs opened her eyes and stared at her bedroom ceiling. A silver edged, not-quite-morning light crept through the gaps in her curtains. The dream that she had been stolen from had left a complex taste behind, laced with bitterness. She wondered what the dream had been about.
A thread of music stretched from her dream into reality. The plaintive violin melody dipped and looped around her. It nagged at the back of her consciousness.
She stretched and spun her feet out of the bed. The back of her heel knocked the edge of the sketchbook that had dropped from her sleeping fingers. It skidded along the laminate floor and vanished beneath the bed.
Reeling her further and further into wakefulness the violin played on: the same few phrases round and round again. Unmodulating. Unrelenting. And real.
It was coming from somewhere just past the double glazing. Outside, but close.
Artie’s bare feet slap-slapped against the cool floor. She crossed her room and slipped out onto the landing. Her head tipped towards the other doors, she paused and stopped breathing. She listened. Two sets of breath sounds came from her parent’s room: her dad’s slow, grumbling deflations and her mum’s syncopated snorts. She turned towards Alex’s door. Nothing.
By slow degrees Artie turned the handle of the door. She peered into her twin brother’s room. The tangled and dishevelled sheets of the empty bed provided a glaring contrast to the tidiness of the rest of the room. Artie swung the door all the way open.
Alex was gone. So was his violin. The case lay open on the floor. It no longer sat beside his chest of drawers gathering metaphorical dust. The dust would always be metaphorical. Her brother was fanatically fastidious. It was unnerving. But then again, he though the same thing about her studied chaos. Just another example of their chalk and cheese characters. Fraternal twins didn’t have to look alike, but surely they should share some aspects of personality.
The violin gnawed to get her attention. Artie gritted her teeth. What was the bloody idiot doing? Practising in the garden? And wasn’t it driving him crazy playing that same song around and around. It was certainly getting on her nerves.
She grabbed a pair of combat trousers, hems splattered with paint and the distinctive shape of a wiped hand on one hip, from the floor. She wrenched them on underneath the oversized T-shirt that she slept in.
The back door gaped, keys dangling from the lock. Artie slipped her feet into a pair of her mum’s gardening shoes and stepped out into the still morning. The predawn air chilled her skin to goosebumps. Alex was not in the back garden. The sound of her brother’s violin came from beyond the far gate.
Artie tramped across the dew-edged lawn. Her footsteps left a darker wake in the pastel shades where she knocked the fine droplets of water off the grass blades. Beyond the gate, which Alex had unbolted and left ajar, was a daisy-studded expanse of common land hemmed by a wide road that separated it from the woods.
Her brother was in the middle of the grass wearing only his boxers. The violin was snugged beneath his chin and his right hand bowed furiously. As he played, his feet wove in a precise pattern on the grass. Three steps, turn, twist, swoop with the upper body, swoop with the bow, step back, pivot, step some more. Repeat and repeat again. Every movement tied to the same part of the music. Not a note missed.
Artie twitched, surprised by the loudness of her own voice. Alex paid no heed. His relentless motions uninterrupted. She wrapped her hands around her upper arms and scuffed through the grass to her brother’s side.
As she got closer she hesitated, staring up into her brother’s face. Alex’s eyes were closed. His face was so still in counterpoint to the the fluidly frenetic motion of his body and hands. His features were frozen in an expression of sickly transcendence. A shiver passed through Artie that wasn’t totally due to the cool morning.
She reached her hand out and brushed the hairs of his forearm as it twisted by. The motion and the music scraped to a halt. A hot breath juddered through Artie’s chest. The silence felt so raw and at odds with the sounds still echoing around her head.
A bird chirped and was answered – this broke the spell. Alex stood, the violin and bow dangling at his sides. His head swayed back and forth drawing a symbol in the air, the pattern his feet had been sketching but in miniature. Like it hadn’t got the message to stop yet.
Artie slipped her right arm through Alex’s left. The last head motion wound down. She guided him into a walk.
“Let’s go back inside.” She pitched her voice low and soothing. You shouldn’t wake sleepwalkers, everyone knew that. “You know you’re the older sibling here.” The words trickled from Artie’s lips. She didn’t want to stop talking, in case the music came back.
“12 whole minutes.”
She left the gate and back door open behind them. Once Alex was in bed she would sort them out.
“So how come I’m always taking care of you, huh?”
Alex let her steer him to his bed. He sat down on the edge the violin held in his lap. Artie crouched in front of him and gently took the instrument. She nestled the violin in its case and then slid the case back into its proper position beside the drawers.
She stood and looked down at her brother. His head had begun weaving and dancing again. His feet were dark with grass stains and sodden with dew. She went to grab an old towel from the airing cupboard. With it she was able to wipe the worst off. Alex’s feet were still a little stained, but it would have to do.
Artie rubbed her hand through her short, dark hair and yawned.
“Um. Why don’t get back into bed, Alex?”
The head stopped, then nodded once. Alex obediently tucked himself back under the covers. He let out a long sigh and turned over to face into the wall, showing Artie his curled back.
Artie watched the smooth rise and fall of his breathing for a few seconds, then she padded downstairs to lock up the house.
Continue reading here.