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18+ Language

Foxglove Road - Chapter 2.2

by Panikos


Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.

I don’t mean to go back to the house, but that’s where my feet take me. By the time I emerge from the not-quite-woods, the sun is half-risen, throwing buttery light over the roof tiles and the trellises. The front door is shut.

But not locked, so I go back inside. I check every room, heart thumping wildly in my chest, clinging to some hope that Violet will be returned – perched on the sofa, sipping coffee at the breakfast table, dozing in bed. But each room is empty, and the bells trill from time to time. That’s not unusual, given how close the house is to the Road, but it makes my guts seize.

I pour myself a glass of water and drink, slowly, watching a beetle track across the kitchen window. The glass bumps against my teeth. In the garden, the fronds of the willow-tree hang curtain-like in front of Mum’s grave.

A note. She left a note. I had to.

I plonk the glass down on the worktop, and then I’m in the hall, on the stairs, and the floorboards are creaking, and I’m pushing open the door to mum’s room. Violet hasn’t kept it the same, because she’s moved a lot of the dressmaking stuff downstairs, but the forget-me-not walls and tasselled rugs stir an ache in my chest. The bed hasn’t moved in ten years, and I don’t know if the sheets have been washed either. In the weeks after the funeral, Violet spent most of her nights between them, because the pillows still smelt of mum’s rose shampoo.

I dozed in here once, but the scent kept waking me up. I felt like an intruder.

I feel like an intruder now. My fingers trace the chipped wood of the doorframe. A memory: stumbling towards the bed, probably a few months before the meningitis, to pluck at the mattress and mum’s hand. I’d had a nightmare.

Can I come in your bed? I’d asked, or something along those lines.

Mum didn’t open her eyes. It was just a bad dream. Go back to your room.

I didn’t. I went to Violet’s. Her bed was barely bigger than mine, but she gave me most of the pillow and performed an ‘enchantment’ to keep the nightmares out. I remember her pinching my nose and making me shut my eyes one by one, then putting her hands over my ears and mouth so the bad dreams couldn’t sneak into my head from any entrance. Then she tickled me under my chin until I shook the bed, because ‘giggles’, she said, ‘are the ultimate nightmare Kryptonite.’

My throat tightens. I dig my nail too hard into the wood. It’s not that painful, but I swear anyway, and keep swearing – fuck fuck fuck fuck—

I shamble towards the dresser, combing through the drawers to distract myself. Old jewellery and perfume bottles and Russian dolls that Violet didn’t have the heart to throw away. I find mum’s work notebook in the second drawer and leaf through that. Quick sketches of dresses, notes about seams and measurements, fabric samples stuck in with Pritt. Her handwriting slopes likes mine. She’s stuck photos in too – there’s one of me and Violet either side of a chiffon dress, holding the sleeves out so you can see how the fabric drapes and pools to the floor. I must be about seven, squinty and unsmiling. Violet’s shouldering her way into the mid-teens, with her big grin and acne.

We don’t look like siblings. I’m scrawny, freckled, white as milk, with a shock of ginger hair. Violet is tall and dark-skinned and nearly beautiful, with her charcoal curls. At school, people didn’t always realise that she was mum’s child too.

But the shot is angled towards her. I’m cut off at the left shoulder, out of focus.

My hands find the top of the page, and then I’m tearing, ripping, tearing, scattering flakes of paper, hurling them onto the floor. The bells on the curtain rail begin to chime, but I don’t get up to look – I pull my hearing aids out and toss them aside, and then turn straight back to the book, not stopping until all of the pages are gone.

-

I can smell leaves.

I don’t remember falling asleep. Don’t remember clambering onto mum’s bed, pressing my face into the duvet. The cover is wet – was I crying? - and daylight burns on the top of my scalp, streaming in from the window. Can’t hear anything, other than the usual keening tinge of tinnitus.

I open my eyes.

My insides jump. I scramble off the bed, dragging the cover with me, and press my back against the doorframe. My heart stutters in my chest.

The bed is covered in foxgloves.

No, not covered – it's sprouting with them, spearheads of pink and purple and cream pushing up through the mattress around where I was sleeping. Some aren torn from where I rolled off the bed, bell-petals scattered across the floor like confetti. The smell of vegetation presses over my nose like a damp towel.

Where faers go, foxgloves grow. Gran always said that, and the teachers, and everyone in the damn village. I can remember a few mornings where I found them blooming out of the sink or in the corner of my room, and I’d shiver with the realisation that a faer had passed through the house, silently, unknowably, when none of us were awake to see it.

But this – this is a neighbour’s horror story. It’s waking to find the baby gone and a riot of flowers in the cradle. It’s a stranger taking an axe to a hawthorn.

I was mad to sleep here.

I crouch down to grapple for my hearing aids – one beneath the bed, the other knocked all the way over to the dresser. My hands shake. As I scoop them up, I notice something else.

The pages from mum’s workbook are in pieces, just as I left them. For the most part, it’s a wild, senseless drift of yellowed paper and strips of glossy photograph, scattered across the carpet like dead leaves.

But a space has been cleared in the centre. And inside it sits four scraps of paper, each bearing a single word.

come

and  find

me


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Mon Nov 11, 2019 6:22 pm
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Elinor wrote a review...



Hi Panikos! :D

The plot thickens! I loved the twist that you ended us on, and I'm definitely invested in this story you want to tell. I don't have too much constructive criticism to give you. The one thing I will say is while the plot has started to get going, I these first few chapters could definitely be compressed.

I obviously haven't read anything past this and am unaware of where you intend to take this story. However, reading this, I get the impression that this is the set up to the actual story rather than the story itself. I'm getting overeager for things to really kick into gear. I like how you take it slow in a way, but maybe the first time the narrator shows up in the beginning, Violet is already gone. Something like that, and then their relationship can be hinted at through flashbacks. Just something that popped into my mind.

Still, I'm excited to continue. Let me know if I can answer any other questions. Keep writing!

Cheers,
Ellie




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1125 Reviews


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Mon Nov 11, 2019 6:22 pm
Elinor says...



Ignore!




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Thu Oct 24, 2019 9:11 pm
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Ventomology wrote a review...



!!!!!!

Okay I am spooked. I am very spooked.

1. Maybe it's just been a while. Maybe I'm not paying enough attention. I feel like there could have been buildup to the foxgloves in the bed. Like, I think 1.1-2.1 make a good, complete build-up/horror-event/aftermath, but we didn't get as much of that in this one.

And it doesn't have to be as complete either, since you've established the language of the perpetrators already, but I think you could get back into the build-up earlier, with some language that gives a connotation of other presences or being watched or something. The way it is, I didn't see it coming until the line with the bells and the hearing aids.

Also 'leaves' may not be specific enough for that first sentence after the cut. Is there a way that foxgloves smell?

2. The flow of this writing is so incredible. In the moment when MC goes into his mother's bedroom, you manage to go from something really slow to really fast at the drop of a hat, and I'm looking at it and trying to decide if it's like a sentence length/structure thing or what. I feel like I try that sometimes and just totally fail at a good tone and speed change. But regardless of how you did it, that moment is really fantastic.

3. I love the purposeful use of passive voice in this work. It's so spooky.

Anyways, that's it for this one! I have one midterm left, so it might take me a bit to get to 3.1.

Until next time!
-Vento





Why should Caesar just get to stomp around like a giant while the rest of us try not to get smushed under his big feet? Brutus is just as cute as Caesar, right? Brutus is just as smart as Caesar, people totally like Brutus just as much as they like Caesar, and when did it become okay for one person to be the boss of everybody because that's not what Rome is about! We should totally just stab Caesar!
— Gretchen Wieners