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.
Artie blinked eyes that were gritted with sleep. She dug her nails into her palms in the hope that the jolt of pain and adrenaline would wake her up. It didn’t really work. There was too much existing pain to compete with. Her upper arms were ringed in black and purple where March had gripped her into bruising. The lurching ache in her stomach was still there, but thankfully had eased throughout a day spent home from college watching daytime telly and hugging a hot water bottle. Her right ankle had hit the ground awkwardly when Alex pushed her down. It had swelled and chosen its own palette of lurid colours to turn.
Artie’s head drooped; her heavy eyelids drifted downwards. She shook her head and crawled off the bed to stand, swinging her arms to get her blood flowing. Through the open door she could see Alex’s closed one.
On the other nights he had wandered off much earlier than this. Artie began to dare to hope that the faeries would leave him alone tonight. Tomorrow was Alex’s sleep doctor appointment. If they could give him something to keep him asleep, then maybe it would be OK. Tomorrow it would be OK. She just had to stay… awake.
Artie jolted, she was almost asleep on her feet. A yawn broke out of her and engulfed her face. Coffee time.
She hobbled to the kitchen. In the silence of the early hours the kettle sounded like a steam engine. Three heaped teaspoons of instant coffee made an unpleasantly bitter drink. Artie puckered her face; she gulped half. She wrapped her hands around the mug and shuffled back up the stairs.
Alex’s door was still closed. Artie lingered on the landing and listened to the regular sound of breathing. Alex had avoided her all day, except for a muttered ‘sorry for pushing you over’ thrown at her over breakfast before he left for the bus.
Artie knew that he remembered the faeries – Lady March at least. He knew something of what had been happening to him. But, what? He didn’t want to believe it? Or he believed it and didn’t want it to end?
She went back to her room. The coffee she set on her bedside table, then eased herself onto the bed. With her back propped against the wall she reached for her pencils and sketchbook.
Lady March was easier to capture on paper than her husband. The elegant lines and delicate shades flowed from Artie’s pencil. Then faded into the background, eclipsed by the eyes that glowed from within the paper. Lit from within by a pure sadness that Artie had not consciously included.
Artie shivered and wormed her feet deeper under the duvet. She yawned and reached for the colours to fill Lady March’s hair: maroon, cardinal, burgundy. Carmine for the highlights.
Instead she found black as sleep swamped her.