The Aresan Clan is published four times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun). You can see what's been written so far collected here. All posts will be posted under the Aresan Clan label. For summaries of the events so far, visit here. See my previous serial Vampire Wares collected here.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Selection from The Secret History

Here is a sample of my novel, The Secret History,

That night I wasn’t the only person at the party who didn’t quite belong. There was a girl there named Briar who I was only tangentially familiar with. No one really knew how she’d ended up coming to the party. She’d pressured someone or bribed or cheated or blackmailed or begged someone, or perhaps she was just there by accident, and here she was. But no one seemed to really want her there.

I didn’t know enough about Briar to like or dislike her, but it was evident the rest of the people disliked her. People were clumping into groups of twos or threes for conversation and I would try to sit in on their conversations. The topic of Briar came up a few times. When I was listening in on a conversation between Kelly, Jill and Mike, they talked about how arrogant and bossy she was and related relevant stories, such as being on a group project with her and her bossing everyone around, or of her ordering someone to grab her pencil or calculator while in class. Mike said he didn’t like that Briar always acted like she was better than everyone else.

I began to notice what they were talking about. Briar moved and spoke haughtily. Though she didn’t fit in, and she was being overtly ostracized, she made quite a scene of herself, loudly complaining about things, and making demands nonetheless. She moved around with great confidence and pretension. Most everyone tried to ignore her, wishing she wasn’t there, but they couldn’t help talking about her ad nauseum.

After a while I noticed Margeaux available and I sidled over to talk with her. The conversation didn’t go very well. She didn’t find me very interesting, though she hid her boredom well. Mike, seeing her in distress, swooped in to save her by suggesting they grab another drink in the kitchen. The two of them walked off laughing while I was left alone again.

I walked around, and noticed Briar sitting in one of the bedrooms alone. She was talking on the phone. She’d called up her older sister and asked her if she could come pick her up from the party. The party was a ways away and her sister was reluctant, but she’d finally talked her into it, and then set down the phone. When Briar noticed me standing at the door, she invited me in and told me to sit down next to her on the bed.

Briar and I began to talk. She was an interesting girl, who’d seen and done many things for a girl her age, traveling to many other countries across the world, learning about the cultures and histories and dabbling in some of their languages. I quickly realized there was something far more to this girl. She was something totally different than what I’d expected. And yet, as fascinated as I was with her, she mostly wanted to hear about me, pressing to know more about my experiences, as I prevaricated and evaded, not thinking there was much of interest about myself to say.

We then started to talk about how our experiences had shaped us, and how we’d changed. She told me that she used to be quite a different girl, and that she couldn’t imagine how she would be without those experiences that she’d had. But soon again she steered the conversation back to me, and asked me about how I’d changed. I was vague and evasive and she pressed. In order to impel me to talk, she said, “Like, for example, what were you like in third grade? What did you look like? What did you wear? What were your friends like?”

I said that my friends were sort of pricks that I didn’t like anymore, at which she blurted out, “Well that’s true,” and then I said that I don’t remember what I looked like. But I remembered that I dressed sort of conservatively, and very plainly. I didn’t quite fit in. She cut in at this point, “You’re too hard on yourself. It wasn’t like that. I remember you dressed better than all the other boys. You didn’t wear the stupid stuff that all the other boys wore. You stuck out not because you couldn’t fit in, but because you were more mature than them.”

“You remember this?” I asked. Briar then sort of blushed, and admitted, “You and I have been going to school together for a long time, even if you don’t remember.” I confessed that I didn’t realize we were in class together for so long.

She said, “You and I have been in the same year since second grade. I remember how in fifth grade you had that ridiculous spiky haircut, and started wearing those stupid t-shirts. Fortunately, you got over that quickly, smoothing yourself out and always wearing polos and jeans and those same tennis shoes every day. And you had new friends, more interesting, more intelligent, like you. I liked them better. You never had friends who were quite your equal, but at least you had more in common with them. Your greatest weakness was that you tried too much to fit in.”

Briar stopped abruptly, when she noticed that I was staring at her. There was a long pause and she waited, and her heart beat heavily. Then she leaned in, touched my cheek with one hand and kissed me on the lips. As she pulled away, she said, “I’ve been wanting to do that for so long.” It was the first time a girl had kissed me. She breathed heavy breaths, so excited and nervous. She leaned in to kiss me again, but this time I backed away. I then leapt from the bed, shouting, “Whoa, whoa! Wait, wait!”

I left the bedroom in a hurry returning to the living room where everyone was turned to look at me. Briar’s distinctive ruddy brown lipstick was visible on my lips. Everyone immediately saw it as quite amusing, cheering me on, applauding, shouting, “Joe and Briar.” I felt immediately compelled to defend myself: “Come on guys, this isn’t what it looks like. She threw herself at me. I don’t even like her. Too stuck up, and way too high and mighty for me,” as I wiped off my lips with my hand.

There was laughter around the room, and I sat down next to Margeaux, who for once had some questions she was curious to ask me, and we talked for a few minutes. I was rolling on a rush of confidence, and it showed.

While I was engaged in this conversation, something caught my eye in the distance. Through the window, through the reflection of the group of us sitting in the living room, a shape moved outside in the distance. A bright light lit up the whole sprawling backyard down to the small lake, and I could see a shape at the edge of the lake stepping onto the ice. I stood up to get a closer look. I could now see that it was Briar in the distance and she moved further out onto the lake.

Now everyone was standing behind me staring with astonishment. She moved slowly across the ice, still staying atop. Then suddenly she fell through, and a collective gasp and shout of fright sounded immediately among us. In an instant, I was through the door and running towards the lake at top speed. I sped across the ice and fell into the icy, black water.

The shock of the cold sapped all of my energy from me, but I was too determined to notice. As I reached under the water, my arms immediately wrapped around Briar and I pulled her towards the shore. I tried to push her up on top of the ice, but it broke. I then pushed further into the shore, smashing the ice with my arm, until I could finally touch the lake bottom, and then was able to pull myself out, dragging her behind me.

I hefted her up in my arms, shivering uncontrollably. She was looking up at me with her pale face and wide eyes as I carried her, coughing and shivering. People had come outside to help me but I ignored them and ran past them. I ran inside and went straight to the bathroom, and turned on the hot water in the shower and stepped beneath it, and I pulled her close against me as the water poured over us. The warm water felt like it burned upon me skin. She stared up at me, with the most pathetic, pleading eyes, which seemed as if they were eternally transfixed by me. She shivered and her lips were blue and her skin was pale. With her body so close to me and her eyes looking up at me so longingly, I couldn’t help but long for her too.

Finally, Mike and Margeaux entered the bathroom, with more of their wits about them and they insisted we needed to get out of our wet clothes. I was dragged out of the bathroom, and Mike helped me out of my clothes, dried me off and gave me fresh clothes. He put me in bed and covered me in blankets and brought me some hot tea.

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