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What If... - Chapter 1

by saint1y


Under the arches of the trees that lined the streets of Edinburgh, a white Range Rover sport sped along the almost empty road. Loud music blared from the speakers of the car, sending birds and squirrels flying from their newly made homes in the trees.

Inside the car, Jaiden Staveley drummed his fingers against the wheel to the beat of the music. He was free now; he'd been dismissed from his job as a bodyguard as the man he was guarding sadly, not sadly to Jaiden, had passed away. Jaiden didn't care, he did his job, and he got his money, now he could go home and look after his family.

His car turned into a small looking drive, which looked like it could barely fit a VW Polo, never mind his large Range Rover. He reached over and switched his music off before sitting back against the seat and turning the engine off.

What would he see when he stepped inside the house? He hadn't seen his mother for 3 years. His little brother Finn would be 6 now. Had his mum taken up her old drinking habits? Did she do something good with the money that he and Logan sent her monthly? Was Finn doing well in school? Does he even go to school?

The whirlwind in his head wouldn't seem to die down, as much as Jaiden tried to dampen it out, it just kept getting bigger until he saw the lounge light switch on in the corner of his eye. He unfastened his seat-belt before opening the door and sliding out of the car. After driving for 4 hours it felt amazing to stretch his long legs. Going to the back of the car, he opened the trunk and pulled his bag out, swinging it over his shoulder before locking his car and stepping across the overgrown yard. As he stood outside the door, he waited. He wasn't ready for this; he didn't know what he was expecting.

Eventually, he raised his hand and knocked on the door 3 times. His heart rate sped up a little as he saw the light flicker on and heard footsteps approach. As the door swung open, his heart stopped. His mother was stood in front of him, dressed in nothing but a dressing gown. She had changed so much in 4 years and he was scared it was for the worse.

“Don’t just stand there, come inside JJ.” She mumbled, stepping back so he could enter his old home. As soon as the door shut behind him, he was hit by the overpowering smell of alcohol and cigarettes. She never offered him a hug or told him how happy she was to see him. He turned around to look at her, a hint of disappointment in his eyes. Her empty, grey eyes met his; he couldn’t see any emotion in them. As she turned away and entered the lounge, he noticed the hunch in her shoulders as she walked, as if she’d given up on trying. Her brown hair was greasy and left hanging loose over her small shoulders. Jaiden knew at this moment that his fear was reality.

His mother, Eleanor, slumped onto the couch, beckoning Jaiden into the room. He stepped inside and immediately regretted it, there were empty glass bottles strewn over the floor and on almost every shelf there were the remains of a cigarette. A pile of mail looked as if it had just been thrown into the corner of the room. Almost as if she could sense his disgust, she glared at him as she lit another cigarette. Jaiden’s head turned towards her and as he watched her, his heart sank.

“Mum...” He whispered, running his large hand through his thick blonde hair. She took a long drag of her cigarette before blowing it out of her mouth, as she stared blankly at him.

“What is it, son? You don’t like the house? Too low for you?” she sneered, he knew what she meant. He’d been living in a rich house as part of his job, to help her pay for the roof over her head.

“That’s not what I meant and you know it isn’t.” He replied, shaking his head and sitting on the couch opposite her.

“What did you mean then, son?” she asked, sitting forward in her seat, holding the cigarette a few inches from her face. It was almost as if she was daring him to tell her how disappointed he was. He looked around him and gestured towards it with his hand.

“This.” He replied firmly. He wasn’t scared of her, no matter how scary she looked, she wasn’t scary to him. He knew she was just a woman stricken with grief, looking for someone to take her anger out on.

“What? Oh... you mean this.” She chuckled, leaning back in her chair, “The mess that you made.”

Jaiden furrowed his eyebrows, “I don’t drink so th-”

Eleanor cut him off. “You left me here by myself!” she shouted, “You made me do this! Logan comes home. He gives me money; he makes sure I’m okay.” She took another drag of her cigarette before throwing it down onto the floor. “Whereas you... you took the easy life. You don’t have to see what your mother has become because you’re too busy living your rich boy life.” She scoffed as she said this.

Jaiden felt his heart break in that moment, he had done everything humanely possible for his mother. When his father left them, his elder bother Logan and Jaiden had to get jobs, just to make sure that their mother was safe. When she gave birth to Finn, Jaiden was the one that looked after him, when his mother was drinking herself to death. Before Jaiden turned 18 and went off to work in England, she swore to him that she was changing and she would look after Finn.

“Where’s Finn?” Jaiden mumbled, picking himself up off the couch and grabbing his bag,

“Running away like you always do?” she taunted, standing up to grab another bottle of booze.

“Mum, please don’t...” Jaiden pleaded, touching her shoulder as she was about to take a swig of her new drink. She shoved him away, as if his touch burnt her.

“You don’t get to tell me what to do. You’re not my son anymore, you lost that title the minute you walked out of that door to go to London!” she spat. Jaiden’s eyes lined with tears as she took a swig of her beer.

What had happened to her? This wasn’t the mother that used to take him and Logan to the beach. This wasn’t the mother that took them on holiday and taught them how to swim. He was beginning to wonder if this was his mother at all.

Jaiden turned away, stepping out of the lounge and making his way up the stairs. As he reached the top step, his eyes caught sight of a small boy peering out from an open door.

“Finn?” he asked, wiping the tears away from his eyes with the back of his hand. He progressed forwards until he reached the door that Finn had swung open. Finn jumped forward, latching himself onto Jaiden. Jaiden wrapped his arms around the boys small, thin body as he sobbed into Jaiden’s neck.

“I m-missed you Jay, I missed you so much.” He stuttered through his tears. Jaiden carried him into his bedroom and laid him down on the bed. He lay down next to him, holding him as he sobbed against his chest. After what seemed like forever, Finn had fallen asleep. His small arms wrapped around Jaiden as if he was stopping him from going anywhere ever again. Jaiden watched his little brother’s chest rise and fall as he slept; his brown hair had fallen over his face. Jaiden lightly swept it away from his face, smiling to himself.

He was still as adorable as ever.


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Mon Sep 02, 2019 1:58 am
Carlito wrote a review...



Hello again!!

Intriguing again. I thought it was interesting that as of right now there is no discernible connection to the prologue and it has it own set of characters and complications.

With the no discernible connection to the prologue, that is not in and of itself a bad thing! I'm sure there is a connection that we will be made aware of in due time. As much as I want to know how that whole prologue scene plays out and more info about that, I'm also glad that you're making us wait for that. Now, some readers may be put off or confused that chapter 1 is so different from the prologue. One small thing you could do is put some kind of tag at the beginning of the prologue and one at the beginning of this chapter. It could be a location tag like "Prologue - Place1" "ch. 1 - Place2" or it could be a time tag like the year that each scene is taking place, just to orient the reader that we're somewhere different or in a different time now. You wouldn't have to do that for every chapter.

The characters were intriguing here again and I have a lot of questions about the dynamics and whys that I'm sure will become clear as the story goes on. I think the biggest thing that confused me about this scene was why the mom was so mad to see her son. He's been working and giving her money, right? So why is she so mad? I get that she's upset that he's been gone for so long, but he's been trying to help the family.

I'm definitely still intrigued and I'm curious to see how all of the pieces will come together! I'll move along to the next chapter, but let me know if you have any questions or if you'd like feedback about something I didn't mention! :D




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Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:40 am
Tuckster wrote a review...



Hey there saint1y! Tuck stopping by for a short review :)

he'd been dismissed from his job as a bodyguard as the man he was guarding sadly, not sadly to Jaiden, had passed away.
I feel like parentheses would be more appropriate here rather than commas, since this is information irrelevant to the sentence but important to developing the character of Jaiden. Just my thoughts, though.

The whirlwind in his head wouldn't seem to die down, as much as Jaiden tried to dampen it out, it just kept getting bigger until he saw the lounge light switch on in the corner of his eye.
This should be split up into two sentences.

Jaiden felt his heart break in that moment, he had done everything humanely possible for his mother.
Again, this should be two separate sentences.

When his father left them, his elder bother Logan and Jaiden had to get jobs, just to make sure that their mother was safe


Overall, this was an incredibly well-written and touching story. I loved that you didn't beat around the bush; you established necessary details and gave us just the right amount of information so that we knew what was going on, but we weren't overwhelmed with information.

My first critique is that I felt that one specific line you included had a profound impact on the story and made me question the main character. It also happened to be the first nitpick—where you mentioned that Jaiden didn't care that the person he had been bodyguarding had died. It made him seem as if he lacked empathy, and while that was disproven in the next several paragraphs, that was a jarring first impression and an inconsistency in his character.

I also think you could have slipped in some line about why Jaiden hadn't been home in 3 years. He certainly seems like the kind of person who would visit fairly frequently to check up on everyone, as evidenced by his love for his mother even though she treats him terribly and his love for his adorable younger brother, Finn. (You did an amazing job writing their reunion scene, by the way! You have an excellent grasp of writing younger children and it shows). Perhaps it was too far away, or the job was so demanding he couldn't spare a visit? That would establish both Jaiden's dedication to protecting his family and ensure that the reader doesn't doubt the reason that Jaiden wasn't able to visit.

That's all I have for you today, so I hope you found this helpful, and if you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me! Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors, writing or otherwise!

All my best,
Tuck




saint1y says...


Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou!! I love reading critiques and this will be used thankyou for your time (:



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Fri Aug 16, 2019 6:38 pm
Dreamy wrote a review...



Hey there!

So first of all, I really like how you've written this chapter and how you're moving this story ahead. I'm very invested in this story now than I was when I read the prologue because I like Jaiden. Is it weird? We've only met and I already like him!?! Huh! I just hope he doesn't have anything to do with the murder. Like, please!

I have few suggestions to make, I'm aware that this is not my story but yours. You can consider them if you want. These suggestions are in no way to disrespect you or your creative thinking.

Okay so:

He was free now; he'd been dismissed from his job as a bodyguard as the man he was guarding sadly, not sadly to Jaiden, had passed away. Jaiden didn't care, he did his job, and he got his money, now he could go home and look after his family.


Even though I said that I like Jaiden I was conflicted with how carefreely him getting laid off of the job was described. Especially, since his job is to bodyguard the employer who is now killed. He didn't do his job well, obviously, how can he go home and take care of his family. Also, he has a little brother and he seems to love him a lot, and he's also seems like an emotional person, wouldn't he feel guilty? Or am I speaking way too early?

He hadn't seen his mother for 3 years. His little brother Finn would be 6 now. Had his mum taken up her old drinking habits?


This is something I forgot to mention in my last review, spell the small numbers, it's a rule I believe.

This.” He replied firmly. He wasn’t scared of her, no matter how scary she looked, she wasn’t scary to him. He knew she was just a woman stricken with grief, looking for someone to take her anger out on.


I'd very much suggest you to take away the third sentence; about her mother being a grief stricken woman. For some reason, it didn't work with me here. I'd rather you work that part into a dialogue than as a description, you know?

What had happened to her? This wasn’t the mother that used to take him and Logan to the beach. This wasn’t the mother that took them on holiday and taught them how to swim. He was beginning to wonder if this was his mother at all.


Again, I'm not a big fan of the question pattern. If Jaiden and his brother had to find a job to keep their mother sane and safe, it's already an indication that whatever had happened has changed her for worse and Jaiden has witnessed it. So it's kind of redundant of him to wonder about his mother's sanity and health now, since he knew and saw all of it already. Does it make sense?

What I'm trying to say is, don't reveal details about your characters to inform your readers. Work it up in a dialogue or make the characters wonder in a not so random way. Here, Jaiden must have been so used to his mother being an alcoholic. I mean, he wonders if she's has given up on her antics before even knocking on the door, right? So I don't think he'd be too surprised to see that she has not and be all like, "Oh why? Where's the mother I once knew?"

As I mentioned earlier, the suggestions are only for consideration. _/\_

I can't wait for the next chapter!

Keep up the good work!

Keep writing!

Cheers! :D




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Mon Aug 12, 2019 4:04 pm
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Asith wrote a review...



Haha, the title looked familiar but I didn't even realise that I'd already read the prologue because of how different this is! Regardless, I enjoyed it - perhaps even more than the prologue actually.

Surprisingly enough, Jaiden's drive home at the start is one of my favourite parts (well, there's a part I like more, but we'll get there). The drumming of his fingers on the steering is such a striking action, even though it's so subtle. It's relatable - everyone's seen someone do this - so it makes the scene feel authentic. The scuttering away of birds and squirrels also paints a nice picture.

The comparison of the small driveway to the large size of the car was a brilliant way to imply the difference in wealth. I also liked the thoughts you've put into Jaiden's head, particularly the ones about Finn.
One thing though - you seemed to have mention a light turning on twice - it's a bit confusing :p

The description of the glass bottles and cigarettes is, you guessed it, my favourite scene. It's dark yet believable.

But
BUT
The dialogue between Jaiden and his mother is outstanding!
It is impeccably strong - I don't think I've ever felt the power of an interaction like that so immediately from any other story I've read on this site. Every word is scarring - I'm almost afraid to read it again, I can't begin to imagine how Jaiden must feel!

The ending was adorable, and well written too. I really feel all these characters - which is amazing for an extract that's so short. Aside from the grammar and sentence structure issues littered here and there, I wouldn't change much of this story. Maybe try proofreading it correct those errors though - they distract from the great plot!




saint1y says...


omg thankyouuuu. i love writing this novel so every bit of criticism is welcome. You're feedback means so much to me and obviously i will fix the errors when i edit the story. But again thankyou



Asith says...


:)




In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
— JRR Tolkien