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 drifted unnoticed from room to room.. The house rustled and murmured. Efficient aunts shepherded food, mourners and drinks. Only two of them were actually aunts, all the rest were the kind of family friends that when she and Alex were younger, they had called ‘auntie’.
She wandered into the kitchen. There was nothing to do there, the aunties had it under control. Artie backed out silently.
In the lounge, her father was telling a when-Alex-was-little story. His eyes were raw with tears. Artie didn’t stop to listen. She didn’t think that she could bear to watch him cry again. At any time he could stop still and silent tears would pour down his face. Artie saw her mum cry a lot less, but she heard her more. At night, the heartrending sobs wrenched through the house.
Artie slipped upstairs. The door to Alex’s room was ajar.; Artie peered through the gap. Her mother was sitting on the bed. Alex’s football shirt in her hands. Her eyes stared into nothingness, white visible all the way around the irises. Her hands were gripped and wrenched the fabric of the shirt with unconscious violence.
Artie’s hand hesitated above the door handle. She wanted to go in, to put her arms around her mum and tell her that she was sorry, to put her head on her mum’s shoulder and have her mum tell her that it was all going to be OK.
She couldn’t make herself do it. She couldn’t go in there. Instead she turned and ran down the stairs and out of the front door.
The grey clouds had relaxed their hold on the rain and sharp streaks of water cut down. Artie’s coat was inside. She couldn’t face the idea of going back inside: the wash of murmurs, the suffocating sympathy, her own guilt. She hunched her shoulders and trudged through the rain.
The village’s main street glistened like a river in the headlights of cars. Every one of them splashed the inch deep gritty water onto Artie’s legs, until they were numb with cold and she didn’t notice it any more.
Warm light and laughter spilled from the pub. Artie paused at the window. Inside she could see Sam and James, a gaggle of girls from college, the lads from the football team, even a couple of the teachers.
Rob Allinson stood. She watched him push his razor straight hair back from his forehead and raise his pint glass. Artie couldn’t hear the words, but she could see the meaning. The rest of the group toasted along with him. He sat and another person stood. The warm light of the pub and the memories of her brother beckoned her in.
Artie turned away from the window. Her feet scraped along the wet pavement. With her head down she kept walking. One foot after the other. She didn’t know where she was walking to until she got there. The road. The road by the woods. The place where Alex was murdered.
Artie’s knees went loose. She slumped into a sodden pile at the side of the road, her eyes fixed on the place where Alex’s body had landed. A passing car sent up a mist of water and grime. Hot tears scalded Artie’s cheeks.
Darkness crept into the afternoon. The clouds cleared and the stars came out before Artie stood and made her way home.