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 peeled her sleep-glued eyes open a crack. Her mobile phone jigged about on her bedside table. Sam, registered the display, and in the bar at the top of the screen: 10.05. 10.05 on a Saturday, ugh.
Artie pushed herself up in bed and reached for the phone. The buzzing stopped. She sucked her upper lip, staring at the phone. The return phone call could wait until she was more awake. The unfurled acorn laying beside the phone pricked at her memory. Her laptop skulked under the bed where she had left it. Artie dragged it out and kicked it out of hibernate. She drummed her fingers while she waited for the old machine to creak to life. She’d been hoping for a Mac. Unrealistic, but there had been a glimmer of hope. This refurbed machine served her needs. Eventually.
The laptop woke up enough to connect to the internet. Artie browsed to her webmail account. The inbox was empty: no reply from Gorth. Her phone buzzed again.
“Hi hon.” Sam’s bright voice jangled out of the speaker. It softened into the required careful tone to ask the question: “How are you doing?”
Artie shrugged before realising that more was needed from her over the phone. “Better. It’s… hard.”
Silence settled like a heavy blanket. Artie cast about for something to say; Sam saved her the trouble.
“So the reason I’m calling is… well… the party, the pre-exam party that I organised, is, was, tonight.”
Artie’s browser refreshed. An unread email flickered to the top of her inbox. “Mmm hmm, OK,” she murmured, staring at the email. It was from Gorth. The subject line read ‘How can I help?’
She realised that an expectant silence was hanging on the line. Sam was waiting for her to speak. Artie blinked. “What?”
“So is that OK?” Sam said.
“Yeah, it’s fine. I mean, I had forgotten about it what with…” The unspoken words were like a punch to the heart. “…everything. But I’ll still come.”
“Um, good. It’ll do you good to get out.” Sam paused. “I guess what I meant is whether it’s OK to have the party so soon after Alex’s death. I mean, it’s only been a week.”
Nine days, thought Artie. She said, “He wouldn’t have wanted everyone else’s life to stop.” It wasn’t a lie. Alex had been the heart of their parties. Laughing and joking, making up stupid drinking games, a new one every time, for everyone to play. “In fact it would be more disrespectful to his memory not to have it.” Artie smiled: a tight, fleeting movement of her mouth.
“That’s what I thought.” Artie heard the tension unwind from Sam’s voice. “So, see you tonight?”
“Yeah.” Artie stared at the email at the top of her inbox. “Look I have to go now. See you later, OK?”
Artie dropped the phone on the duvet and clicked the email open.
Sorry to hear about your brother. What do you need? Potions of forgetting? Something to dull the grief?
What do I need? Artie hit reply. Deliberately she typed in the words.
Vengeance. March dead.
The reply came almost instantly.
That might be more difficult. Let me look into it and get back to you. G.
Artie clicked the lid of the laptop closed and slumped back on the bed. She stared at the ceiling and listened to the swift beating of her heart.