Hi, hello, howdy. It has come to my attention that I’ve accrued some new followers in the past few months of my blog hiatus. Welcome! I originally started this blog as a way to encourage myself to write as well as to get some of my writing read. As I made friends through WordPress, I came to appreciate the interaction between writer and reader that can occur here. So please, if you have something to say, drop me a line in the comments. In the meantime, here is the intro to one of my current WIPs, with the working title Tell No Tales.
Clara’s life is not what one would call luxurious, but it suits her. After escaping the clutches of her power-hungry family at thirteen and living with her maternal grandfather, Clara is content to live out her life in anonymity—with no one the wiser that she is part of the powerful Lacey family. A “chance” meeting at a cemetery disrupts the plans Clara had for her life and she finds herself thrust headfirst into the intrigue and secrecy she fought so hard to escape.
Tell No Tales | Chapter One Excerpt
Clara stood across from the wrought iron gates of Highgate Cemetery finishing a cigarette and wondered if a single smoke really took fifteen minutes off her life. It was sunny enough that her dark sunglasses weren’t out of place and she had the collar of her leather jacket flipped up to help hide her face. She’d watched the exit gates for over half an hour, waiting for the crowd of men and women with cameras and press badges to disperse. There was little chance of being recognized—the last photo most of the tabloids had featured showed her in a sensible tweed suit with dark hair past her shoulders. She had cut it off and bleached it blonde the year before. Between that and the sunglasses, she was fairly confident they wouldn’t recognize her. She was about to brave the expanse when a long, dark car pulled up and slowed. She squinted at it, but couldn’t see the driver’s face through the tinted windows. The paparazzi noticed as well and started towards it. The momentary distraction was enough. Clara stubbed out her cigarette and ducked her face deeper into her collar, trying to keep her pace casual.
At the gate, she showed her owner’s pass to the guard. He glanced at it and waved her past the queue of tourists waiting at the ticket booth with their cameras and sensible walking shoes and senseless chatter. She followed a group of Americans—two round women and a red-faced man with an assortment of school children–through the entrance. The man clutched a guidebook in one hand and his camera in the other, the three of them engaged in deciphering a map of the famous deceased. Clara skirted them when they paused to take photos of gravestones charmingly draped with ivy and topped with age-softened faces of angels. She had visited on Grandfather’s birthday and the first anniversary of his death the year before, but the twisting pathways threatened to disorient her. It was something of a surprise when she reached the right plot, in a quiet curve of one of the many labyrinth trails. Squatting down, she brushed some fallen leaves from the top of the stone; its edges were still harsh, not yet weathered. The name–Peter Randolph–was still sharply etched in the granite.
It had rained the day they buried him. Clara remembered the sound of water drumming on the tarp that the gravediggers had hastily thrown over the mound of fresh dirt, and how it turned each footprint into a miniature lake. She had stood to one side with her grandfather’s house staff with the cold and damp seeping through her too-tight best shoes. Icy water had dripped down her neck despite the umbrella. Her parents and brothers had arrived just before the priest, black coats flapping in the wind. Their pace was hampered by Cassandra’s heels and the chauffeur that held an umbrella over her, looking miserable as the rain flattened his hair against his bare head. It was the first time she had seen them since the day Grandfather died. A week prior, she and Cassandra had stared at each other across Grandfather’s motionless body, as the doctors unhooked the life-sustaining IVs he no longer needed. The room had been eerily silent, devoid of the beeping machines that had become so familiar. She remembered feeling like the world had narrowed to the hospital bed, that nothing else existed besides the all too still form.
Grandfather had been the most permanent fixture in her life after she began attending a boarding school outside London near his home. She was thirteen and glad to escape the Kensington flat with its stringent code of conduct and icy formality. He had earned his years of quiet but he welcomed her. He would put away whatever he was reading or writing, listening to her school stories and woes as though they were every bit as interesting as his travels in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
It was strange to think that today was just another set of digits on the calendar to anyone else. Despite knowing that the box beneath the ground held nothing but his shell, Clara felt close to her grandfather here beneath the open sky, breathing in the smell of damp earth and mossy growth. It brought to mind the wide green lawn at the back of his house that stretched down to a bubbling stream and the comforting, woolen forms of sheep in the fields across the narrow road. A world away from the aggressive aromas of silver polish and freshly waxed floors in her childhood home. Clara wrapped her arms around herself as she crouched by the headstone. She heard footsteps behind her. When she turned, expecting to see a photographer or reporter who’d managed to slip past the gates, there was only sun-dappled shade. But she felt suddenly exposed, alone next to the grave of a man two years dead. She noticed a splash of colour behind the headstone and stood to get a better look.
There were pink peonies splayed across the loamy earth. Clara realized she was holding her breath as she stared down at the flowers and reached out to grip the top of the stone. She closed her eyes and counted slowly to twenty, carefully regulating her breath. When she opened her eyes, the flowers were still there. Several had burst as they hit the ground, laying in the ruin of their own rosy petals. She thought she felt eyes on the back of her neck and turned, but the only witnesses were a few birds, flitting in and out of the greenery. He gave her peonies on her birthday each year until he died; they were the only flower she really liked. The air felt oppressive, and the cool, earthy aroma smelled suddenly like rot and decay.