I know you've probably read the title of this post and gone 'what even?' Reading it back, it does sound a bit wild. But let me explain. If you've read the other two blog posts I've done on extracts from my unfinished novels, you may be starting to put together different themes that I tend to gravitate towards when writing, the most prominent being family relationships and friendships. The truth is I'm a bit of a secret psychologist, and although I never studied psychology in any shape or form (I wanted to at A Level but I didn't have the right science grades unfortunately) I'm so fascinated by humans and our behaviours as well as how we come together and do things as groups, communities and societies. Another thing I seem to incorporate into my writing is what I like to call 'a hint of the fantastical'. I love realism but I also love adding a touch of magic or the uncanny to my writing. This novel was meant to be very gritty and sad. It focuses on a single mum, Freya, who has twins. The chapters alternate between the present and the events leading up to her giving birth to her twins. She notices that something weird is going on in her house, and it transpires that the twins both seem to posess some kind of weird superpowers triggered by the elements. Tyler responds to water and Roseanne, heat. To sum things up, Tyler ends up accidentally killing his babysitter whilst Freya is out. Freya calls her brother, who has recently been released from prison, and he covers up the killing. Eventually Freya's rather twisted brother ends up involved in a kidnapping, there is a fire, more death and that's basically...the novel. I know. Some weird shizz. I think this has the potential for a really gripping story, just saying, haha. I feel like the writing definitely needs some polishing as it doesn't feel very full of life. I think I wanted to portray Freya as quite a deadpan, depressed kind of character. Would definitely rewrite a lot of it if I ever went back to it. Extract 1 PROLOGUE The tap drips.I look around, somehow exhausted. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because their very presence wears me out. My heavy breathing. The tap dripping. Tyler sits by the side of the bath, oblivious to the reality of what has just happened. He’s a gorgeous baby. I say it all the time. Soft brown hair, big brown eyes like his Dad’s, and perfect creamy skin. Soft. He is still wearing just his nappy. Roseanne starts crying in the other room. Tyler watches me. I stare at him. We sit opposite each other: me leaning against the door; him leaning against the bathtub. My breathing gets louder, Roseanne’s cries increase and the tap drips more frequently. Urgently. I know I have to get up. I can’t stay sitting here forever. I have to do something. The man in my bathtub is dead. Drowned. Still wearing his jeans, his shirt, his socks, his Calvin Klein underpants. A tear forms and rolls down my cheek, tickling my skin. It’s a familiar feeling but not a comforting one. Tyler touches his own cheek as if to point it out. “Yes.” I murmur. I get up slowly. My heart races. I glance at the water and am surprised to see that he looks calm. As if he never panicked in the first place. More tears start to fall. The tap finally stops dripping, as if my silent crying has replaced the action. I remember my Nan telling me that tears are used to wash our eyes so that we can see life in a clearer light again. I was only about five at the time and she was cooking pasta. I had walked into the kitchen, sobbing over some toy that my brother had completely broken and demanding that he be dealt with immediately. She gave me this look. It was a look saying that I had everything in the world to learn. I was just a hopeless child, crying over something so insignificant. She wanted me to realise that I was supposed to look at life in an alternative way. See the goodness in most things, not the bad. But all I did was stamp my foot and begin to hurl insults at Cade as he walked into the kitchen. Nan comforted me of course, but it was too late for me to learn. It’s too late now. I feel like a murderer, I feel responsible for the death. I am responsible for the death. How could I be so stupid? Why did it have to turn out like this? Tyler suddenly lets out a gurgle. I look down at him, at his moon face and his chubby fingers. Why did Tyler have to do this to me? Extract 2 Baby Moods: Daytime (GMT) Tyler: Grouchy, refusing most things. Roseanne: Something obviously bothering her…can’t quite place the source of the irritation yet… I wake up early the next morning for two reasons. Firstly, I’m hot. Not toasty, not warm, but actually steaming. I feel like my duvet is literally trying to hold me prisoner in my own bed. I fling it aside and stare up at the ceiling, waiting for the cool air to descend on my body. The temperature of my flat is always chopping and changing. Secondly, Roseanne is crying. Screaming like a banshee. I get up slowly, wincing, and walk over to the cot. Roseanne is sitting up and bright pink. Tears stream down her tender cheeks and I pick her up. I rock her for a few minutes but nothing happens. I walk around the room, talking to her softly but the crying doesn’t subside. She buries her face in my chest and lets it all out. My ears are going to explode at any moment. I take a second to look at Tyler. He’s lying on his side, whimpering. The heat is obviously affecting my babies, too. We go to the kitchen; I put both twins into each highchair. Roseanne is unnaturally pink. It’s starting to scare me. It’s not just her cheeks that have turned such a vibrant colour, but also the rest of the skin on her small, chubby body. Tyler slumps down in his highchair, looking slightly flushed himself. I turn on the radio while I prepare the twins’ breakfast. “Finally, roadworks on the A4 will mean that Hammersmith Flyover is closed until further notice. Long delays expected in both directions.” Says the radio presenter.
I raise my eyebrows, pretending to care about traffic. “Now onto the weather with Ian.” “Well, it is an incredibly hot day here in London, with temperatures said to be reaching up to at least twenty-eight degrees.” Ian says. My eyebrows stay raised. I suddenly think of my Dad, braving this kind of weather everyday out there in Spain. He’ll be used to it by now, though. I feel a rush of affection for him but Roseanne suddenly lets out a yell and knocks me out of my daydream. She’s getting really agitated and so will I if she carries on like that. “…heatwave is said be continuing over the weekend and throughout most of next week.” I set Tyler’s bowl of porridge down next to him but he refuses it. Roseanne seems keen, though. Hopefully the breakfast will keep her quiet. “…expecting highs of thirty and maybe even thirty two by Thursday.” Ian’s voice wafts around the kitchen as I spoon porridge into Roseanne’s mouth. I think we’ll be staying at home today; there’s not much point going outside if the kids are just going to be irritated by the heat. I know I will. I’ve got a few things to do anyway. I’ve got to return a missed call from the probation officer at Cade’s prison. I’ve got to arrange a doctor’s appointment for the twins. I’ve got to clear out my seriously messy wardrobe and do some ironing. I get the twins dressed before I do any of this and then put them down on the foam floor mat in the living room. I put on the CD that I bought yesterday and then retrieve my mobile phone from my handbag. I dial the probation officer’s number and stand in the hallway, waiting. Roseanne’s started to grizzle again. “Hello, Probation service.” “Hi, may I please speak to Mr. Coombs?” I say. “Yep, if you’d just like to hold on for a minute…” I hear a toy squeak from the living-room. Roseanne makes a loud noise; I sigh with irritation. “Mr. Coombs speaking, how may I help you?” “Oh, hi, this is Freya Crawford,” I say, “I missed your call last night…is everything ok with my brother, Cade Crawford?” “Ah, yes. Cade has been given his release date.” Replies Mr. Coombs. “Really?” “Yes. He’s due to be released on the seventh of August.” The seventh! That’s in three weeks. I smile and walk back into the living-room, giving Tyler and Roseanne a big thumbs up, despite the fact that they are showing no interest whatsoever. Roseanne is grizzling in a corner and Tyler miserably toys with his teddy bear. “That’s fantastic,” I say to Mr. Coombs, “Is there any chance I could arrange a visit for next week?” “Certainly. The Visitors Centre isn’t open on Wednesdays, as I’m sure you probably know, but on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays it’s open from twelve to four-thirty. On Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays it’s open from eight in the morning to eleven and then from twelve till four-fifteen.” “Ok…Tuesday sounds ideal to me,” I tell him, even though everyday is practically a free day, “Would I be able to visit from one?” “Yes, that should be fine. I just need to take down a few details including whether or not you are bringing children along with you.” After I have supplied him with my name, date of birth and address, I thank Mr. Coombs and hang up. I don’t think I’ll bring the twins with me to see Cade. Roseanne now has the teddy bear that Tyler had been playing with. I roll Tyler a bouncy ball and he catches it, making me smile. I realise I still need to ring the doctor to make that appointment for the check-up. I book the appointment for Thursday. After the call, I pour myself a glass of water and down it in one go. Maybe it would be a good idea to go to the park after all. Then again, the heat wave is said to be lasting until next week so I guess there isn’t really too big of a rush. If Roseanne would just stop being so miserable… I walk back into the living-room only to find that my wish has been granted. Roseanne is sitting there with a big smile plastered on her face but, to my disbelief, the teddy bear is no longer in her hands. He’s on the floor…and it’s evident that he has somehow been ripped to shreds. “What on Earth…?” I walk over to the baby mat and crouch down. Ok, I’m exaggerating a little. The teddy bear hasn’t been ripped to shreds but it’s certainly been ripped apart. The head has come off, leaving a trail of stuffing oozing out of its body. One leg has also been torn off and the stitching is all over the place. Both eyes are completely detached. “Rosie, how did this happen? Did you do this to the poor teddy bear?” I say. Wait, what am I talking about? Roseanne couldn’t have pulled the teddy bear apart. Sure, it wasn’t exactly made of the strongest material, but it was designed to last. I would have had to set it on fire or use a saw in order to destroy it. If I couldn’t use my bare hands then a nine-month-old baby definitely wouldn’t have been able to. I pick up the remains of the teddy bear and carry it into the kitchen, feeling a little sad. That was the first toy I ever bought when I was pregnant. It was back when I didn’t know I was having twins. I pour myself another glass of water, trying to clear my head a little bit. Maybe the heat is getting to me. Extract 3 I remember being at Leah’s a week or two later. We were playing on the Nintendo Wii and I was beating her at tennis by a long shot. She told me to pause the game while she went to the toilet and I did. I waited for her but she returned to the room minutes later, looking pissed off. “My period’s early,” She muttered, “It was totally unexpected.” I froze. Leah usually started her period each month on the twenty-first. I knew because mine usually started exactly two weeks before hers. Which meant that Leah was only four days early, but I was ten days late. Leah must have noticed that I was now rooted to the floor. She walked over and picked up her Wii remote. “What’s wrong with you?” “I’m…late.” I replied, sitting down on her bed. It took a minute or two for my words to register with Leah. The silence made me gulp. “Fuck.” She said. She stared at me. My heart started pumping and thoughts began to flit through my head. Why hadn’t I noticed? This was absolutely ridiculous. “Freya,” She whispered, sitting down beside me, “Weren’t you and Max…careful?” I had told her about it, obviously. Leah was my best friend; there was literally nothing I hid from her. Then again, I hadn’t told her about the malfunction. About that tiny detail. I explained it to her and she closed her eyes, probably trying to block me out for a few seconds. She probably thought I was the biggest fool of them all. “How late exactly?” She asked, eyes still shut. “Ten days.” Leah swore in English, French, German, Japanese and Arabic. Normally I would have laughed at her showing off but this time I said nothing. Leah started pacing around the room. I didn’t know what to do, what to say. I was totally speechless. My mind had gone blank by this point. The Wii remotes were left on Leah’s bed, totally forgotten. “We have to get a test.” She said finally. I just stared. She left me there, left me on her bed and ran downstairs. I heard the front door slam and then I leant back on Leah’s bed. I was utterly dumbfounded. I was utterly petrified. My fingers and toes were numb; I felt bile in my stomach. No, I kept thinking. No, no, no. This couldn’t be happening. This sort of thing didn’t happen to girls like me, girls who were sensible and hard-working at school and shy and scared of the big, bad world. Leah didn’t take very long. She returned to the room and dropped the test on her bed next to me. I was lying in exactly the same position, too scared to even touch my stomach. “Go on then.” She whispered. I rose slowly from the bed and took the test in my hands. I looked at her, got up and then headed for the bathroom. I didn’t look back at Leah. The test seemed pretty simple. Pee. Use the plastic cup to collect urine. Dip the test into urine. Wait to see what your fate is. Peeing was easy; I was just so nervous. I followed the instructions and then I waited. I held the test away from me and shut my eyes. I really didn’t need this…it would ruin practically everything. My Mum would be so disappointed. Cade would, too. I’d lose focus on all my exams and…what would Max say? I guess I’d have to find out. The test was positive. Extract 4 Picking up Tyler and Roseanne, I head upstairs to Amber’s house. Loud noises are coming from inside. This should be interesting; Amber’s house is usually crowded as it is. Zara Maclean is a single Mum, like me, but she’s in her thirties and has six children. I can’t really compare myself to her. A little kid opens the door. One of Amber’s brothers. “Yeah?” He says. “Hi, Amber invited me round. Are you…Sam?” “No. I’m Oliver.” “Oh.” I reply, feeling a bit foolish. I won’t be doing the guessing game again in the future – odds are against me. “Can I come in?” I prompt. He opens the door a bit wider for me and then hurries back inside. Probably wondering what on Earth a seventeen-year-old girl was doing with two babies. I step inside and walk through the hallway into the living-room. Zara is sitting down on the sofa with another woman, presumably her sister. Amber is lying on the rug with her baby sister, alongside two other little girls. I don’t know where Sam and Oliver are but I can hear loud yells coming from the kitchen. Zara stands up when she sees me, almost knocking her plate of cake over. “Hi Freya!” She says. “Hi Zara. Happy Birthday.” I say, kissing her on the cheek. It’s the best I can do with a baby on each arm. “Aww, thanks so much. By the way, this is Georgia. She’s my younger sister.” We say hello and then Zara helps me out by taking Tyler from my aching arm. “They’re absolutely gorgeous.” Georgia says, smiling broadly at Roseanne. “Yeah…bit of a handful, though.” I reply. “I’m sure! What are their names?” “Roseanne and Tyler.” “Oh,” Says Zara, “I haven’t even introduced you to most of my children!” She laughs. It’s a high, tinkly laugh. “I’m sorry if they come across a little intimidating.” “Not at all!” I say enthusiastically, “Amber’s great.” “Well, the baby is Tommy, Amber’s two sisters are Angel and Josie, and Sam and Oliver are in the kitchen…doing God knows what.” She rolls her eyes and I smile. Amber gets up and offers to take Roseanne from me. “Yes, you let her play with Tommy while I get Freya some cake.” Amber’s mum says, and she motions for me to follow her. Zara cuts me a very generous slice of chocolate cake and then offers me a glass of wine. “Special treat for you, Freya.” She says, although I’m only taking the alcohol to be polite. Oliver and Sam are fencing with the kitchen utensils. Sam is using a colander as a helmet and Oliver has a chopping board as his shield. “Put the stuff back now!” Says Zara. “But Mum-” “Now!”Sam miserably removes the colander from his head and stares at it as if he is parting with it forever. Oliver looks at Tyler with interest. “Can we play with him?” He asks me. “Er-” “As long as you’re not being stupid, I don’t mind what you do.” Zara says, answering for me. “Ok.” I answer, a little hesitantly. I take Tyler from Zara’s arms and set him down on the floor so that he is standing upright. “Sam, hold his hands like this.” I say. Sam gently takes my baby’s hands in his. Tyler looks up at me and grins. “I expect to see him walking around when I come back in here!” I say jokingly. Sam nods, looking dead serious. I sit in the living-room for about twenty minutes, watching and smiling as the girls play with Roseanne and Tommy. Thankfully the temperature has dropped a little. I don’t think I could ever get used to living in this house; there’s just so many people. The Macleans really need to get a bigger living space. I can understand how Amber feels, having so many siblings to look after. Zara, Georgia and I chat until I feel like it’s time to check on the boys. I can hear giggling coming from the kitchen. “What the…” My words fail me. Tyler is sitting on the kitchen table with cake smeared all over him. He looks like he’s fallen into a pond of chocolate. It isn’t long before Zara appears, and she’s furious. “GET OUT OF HERE NOW, BOTH OF YOU!” Sam whimpers and follows his brother out of the kitchen. Zara looks angry but at the same time, humiliated. “I’m so sorry, Freya.” She tells me. “No, no, it’s fine.” I say, although it’s a rather large pain in the ass. She fetches a cloth and runs tap water over it, then approaches Tyler with a hasty expression. “You might be better off giving him a quick bath. Look – it’s even under his clothes.” I grimace. Tyler is looking pretty happy with himself right now, which is understandable but it’s definitely not going to last long if he throws up. “I’ll take him home and give him a good scrub.” I say, holding up Tyler gingerly. “No, no, just use the bath in our house. It’ll be easier.” “You sure?” “Yeah.” I don’t waste time. I hold Tyler by his armpits, which I know is uncomfortable (but I’m in no position to care), and carry him to the bathroom. It’s the same size as mine so I don’t understand how the Maclean children go about their daily lives without arguing over space. It’s quite grimy in here. I put Tyler in the bathtub and have a quick look around. I strip Tyler of his clothes, take the shower head and wait for the hot water to come pouring out. Tyler licks his fingers; I nibble my lip at the thought of all that sugar. Once the temperature is right, Tyler gets a good hosing down. Normally he enjoys bath time but today he sits still, an unreadable expression on his face. I scrub at him with body wash until he’s squeaky clean. He looks a bit sad that the chocolate has disappeared. I attempt to scrub the back of his neck – it’s always been a bit of a sensitive area – and he pushes me away. “No, Tyler.” I say, but suddenly I am pushed away with such a strong force that I fly back and hit the wall with a bump. Pain shoots up my back and I gasp, wince. I quickly turn the tap off so that the shower head droops and Tyler reaches his arms up to me, telling me that he wants to get out now, immediately. I pick him up and dry him with a towel, biting my lip at the searing pain. It eases off after a few minutes but I am left puzzled. How did that happen? And why? I sit Tyler down on the bath mat for a second and scan the bathtub with my eyes.There is a deep dent in the side of the bath. A dent in the shape of Tyler’s hand. Extract 5 “Hello Freya.” I look up. I’ve been waiting at Table 11 for ages and am immensely glad to see my brother standing in front of me. I immediately rise to hug him, but the police officer in the corner of the room catches my eye. I slowly sit back down and take a good look at Cade. He looks almost the same, possibly a bit scruffier and with dark rings under his eyes. The prison uniform strips him of his identity and right now, he just looks like an ordinary nineteen-year-old boy with eyes the colour of dark chocolate. They are hollow and without emotion, which I’m used to seeing. He looks at me expectantly. “How…are you?” I say, nervous for some strange reason. I sit on the chair uncomfortably. I haven’t been here for a while and I’m starting to remember why. “The same, I guess.” He replies, looking at me in the eye. He rarely does this. “Well, it was good to hear about your release date.” I say, in an attempt to brighten the mood. It works. “Yeah. I’m glad.” He replies. “I’ve missed you.” Cade laughs and shakes his head. “What?” I say. “Are you being serious?” “Of course I am. You’re my brother. It’s only natural.” I reply. “Yeah, well…I haven’t exactly been the perfect brother. I’m surprised you still want anything to do with me. Mum doesn’t.” “Mum is…disconcerted.” “What, you’ve talked to her?” “No, no. But I know she is.” Cade makes a non-committal noise. “I still haven’t been in contact with her.” I say quietly. Cade studies the table for a minute. I study him. He’s always reserved these days, and talks in a quieter voice than usual. I wish I could see inside his mind sometimes. In fact, I wish it most of the time. Many problems would be solved if it were possible. “Forget about her,” He says, looking back up at me, “You seem to be coping. How are things with the twins?” “Er…ok. They’ve been acting kind of strange lately.” “In what way?” “Just…I don’t know. They’re demanding and fussy and grouchy and-” “They’re babies, Freya.” “What do you know about babies?” “Not a lot, but everyone knows how much hard work they are." I don’t say anything. “You doing ok financially?” Cade asks. “Yeah.” “When I get out I’ll try and help you. I’ll get a job.” “You need to support yourself, Cade.” “I don’t need supporting.” “I thought you said I seemed to be ‘coping’?” “Well, are you?” “I…yes.” I say, nearly in tears. Cade notices my agitation. He slumps down in his chair and glances around the room. I take a minute to compose myself. “I’m going to the toilet, ok?” I say. But I don’t wait for an answer.