13 February 2011

Shadows by Joan De La Haye (Book Excerpt)

The lights from the Seven Eleven reflected in puddles of murky rainwater. At eleven o’clock at night, the parking area was deserted. Kevin stepped inside the store in search of something to eat while I waited in the car for him.

My father's funeral had been that morning, and Kevin thought a night out would be the best way to take my mind off how he'd died. It hadn't helped. All I could think about was that I hadn't been able to say good-bye or tell him that I loved him. I couldn't even get drunk and forget about it. I couldn't pretend that I was okay and put on a happy face for the sake of Kevin and his friends. As a result we cut the night short, which irritated Kevin's friends and I was once again the party pooper.
Kevin had been gone for what seemed like a few seconds when everything that I knew and trusted in my life changed forever.

I was rudely distracted from my reverie by an annoying tapping on my window. I was about to hurl off a few choice words at the offending party, until I saw his face. My stomach churned, my self-pity party transformed into a Stephen King novel. Yellow eyes stared back at me. Sharp, pointed teeth, filed into fangs, snarled. He shook my door handle. My heart rate jumped sky high. He was gone as fast as he’d appeared.

I took a deep breath and looked around. No sign of him. I took another deep breath and breathed out slowly.

“What the hell was that?” I stammered.

I managed to get my heart rate down, but couldn’t quite get the hair on the back of my neck to go back to normal. My skin wouldn’t stop crawling. Goose bumps appeared on my skin and the smell of sulphur wafted up my nostrils.

Something scraped the driver’s side of the car. I hoped it was Kevin returning with a strong drink: preferably a bottle of tequila. I turned to look and my heart sank. The scary-looking man with fangs was back. Kevin had left the car unlocked. Panic gripped my palpitating heart. Who didn’t lock their car in Johannesburg? He shook the door. I leaned over the driver’s seat and slammed the lock down. The central locking did its job. Then he was gone again.

“Breathe, just breathe.” I repeated it over and over again, while I doubled over and put my head between my knees. I squeezed my eyes shut. He was playing games with me and I didn’t know the rules. I felt helpless. I wanted to scream, but fear had a stranglehold on my throat, silencing me.

Tap tap.

I plugged my ears with my fingers. It wasn’t happening.

Tap tap.

Turning my head to the left, I opened one eye.

Glass shattered.

I screamed.

He pulled my hair.

“Oh, God. Oh, God,” I moaned. I was about to be raped and murdered while I waited for Kevin to come out of the Seven Eleven.

“Babe, are you okay?” Kevin sat in the driver’s seat next to me, with a worried expression on his face. “You were groaning.”

I looked around in shock. There was no sign of broken glass anywhere. All the windows were intact.

“Are you alright?” Kevin asked again.

“I’m fine.”

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“I’m fine.” I wasn't sure if what I'd seen had been real or imagined, but Kevin obviously wasn’t going to let it go. Not sure what to tell him, I decided to tell him a version of the truth.

“Some drunk guy was messing around with me and gave me a bit of a fright. That’s all.” I didn't want Kevin to think I'd inherited my father's mental problems.

According to my sister, my father had been rather irrational before his death. I thought it was more along the lines of being completely loony tunes. I was relieved that I hadn't been around to see him like that. At least I remembered him the way he was before our estrangement.

“Maybe we should call the cops or something?”

“What for?”

“I don’t know. Maybe to arrest him for being drunk and disorderly, or something.”

“Oh please. Like the cops are really going to give a damn about some guy banging on a girl’s window and giving her a fright. They’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

I wanted to get out of there; the thought of hanging out in the parking lot a few hours for the cops to show up didn’t appeal to me in the slightest.

“This is true.”

“Besides I just want to go home and forget about everything.” I breathed out and took another deep breath. “I just want to curl up in your arms.”

“Now that’s a very good idea.”

“I thought you might think so.”

I let go of the breath I was holding, once I saw the deserted shopping complex slide by in the side view mirror. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching me. Rain started drizzling down as we drove away. Neon signs shimmered in the puddles.

The drive home was uneventful. A feeling stirred in my gut that wouldn’t go away. I ground my teeth and hoped that a night clinging to Kevin would drive out those dark shadows lurking in my mind.

The electric gate screamed for more oil as it opened. I gripped Kevin’s leg a little harder than I’d intended. He winced from the pain, quickly removed my hand from his thigh, but held it tightly as we drove up the driveway. It was reassuring having him hold my hand like that. His touch made me feel safe. The gate slammed shut behind us.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Kevin asked, not looking at me. “What with your dad and now that guy....” His fingers tapped on the steering wheel. He wasn’t very good with handling people who were a little upset. He liked it when things were nice and normal. As long as everything seemed to be smooth on the surface, he was happy. We came to a stop at the back of the main house and in front of my one-bedroomed cottage.

“I’m fine.” I got out of the car and closed the door a touch too hard.

“Hey, my car didn’t do anything to you.”

He loved his car. He spent hours primping and polishing it. His car was cleaner than he was most of the time. Sometimes I had the feeling that his car was more important than I was.

“I’m sorry, the handle slipped out of my hand.”

He shook his head and locked the car with the remote and walked me to the door in silence. My hands shook as I tried to put the key inside the lock.

“Are you cold?” Kevin asked as the key rattled against the brass door handle.

“No. Why?” I finally managed to fit the key in its hole and turned the lock.

“Because you’re shaking like a leaf.”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”

“For God’s sake, Sarah, stop pretending that you're okay. You're obviously not coping.”

“I'm handling it. I'm fine.” I couldn’t face the thought that Kevin may be right. Was I coping?

“Then why are you freaking out?”

“I’m not freaking out.” I refused to admit that I was bloody scared. “I need a drink, what about you?”

“Ja, sure, why not.”

I needed to forget the fear and the pain of my father’s death. I’d always been a supporter of the ‘fake it till you make it’ club. If it meant faking being a sex kitten to get through the night, then that’s what I would do. I left him standing at my front door and sauntered off into my kitchenette. I had an over-sized fridge I’d inherited from my sister. There wasn’t space for a proper oven in the kitchen; instead I had a microwave and a hotplate on the only counter. Despite the cramped space, it was done tastefully. The cupboards were dark wood with silver handles and the counter tops had a black marble finish.

I opened the ancient fridge and took out a half-full bottle of wine that Kevin and I had opened a few nights previously. Before my life changed, forever. I felt him come up behind me. His hand snaked its way up and under my tight black camisole. His lips caressed my neck and found their way to my ear lobes. He nibbled the lobes gently. I gasped. His hand gripped my breast: fingernails bit into my flesh. He was breathing hard. I slammed the fridge door closed and turned into his embrace. My lips found his as he pushed me back, hard against the fridge. I managed to keep a tight hold of the bottle. Pushing him away, I took a swig of wine and handed it to him. While he drank, I pulled the camisole over my head. His eyes watched me as he took another drink. I played with my nipples and then slid my left hand down, slowly, towards my crotch. He liked to watch. He put the wine bottle on the counter and then kissed me hard. I pushed him against the wall and pulled away from him. Undoing the top button of my jeans, my fingers found their way down. I pulled my hand back out and let him lick the juices from my fingertips.

I turned and walked towards the bedroom. I heard his shoes tapping on the tiles as he followed me. I knew Kevin would drive the fear and pain I felt, deep in my bones, out of my body. I surrendered every inch of me.

Shadows was written by Joan De La Haye, and is an excerpt from her book of the same name (Generation Next, January 2011).

Copyright © Joan De La Haye 2011.

Joan De La Haye was born in Pretoria on the 17th of January 1977 at 7pm. The youngest of three children raised by parents in the Diplomatic service, Joan was educated abroad, finally completing her education in Vienna. She speaks three languages and is qualified in clinical hypnotherapy and also has a diploma in Fine Art and Creative Design.

Joan's first novel, Shadows, is available all over the world in ebook format as well as paperback, in countries as far away as New Zealand and Canada. She is also the only South African author to attend the World Horror Convention which was recently held in Brighton, England, where she was asked to speak on the state of publishing and horror fiction in South Africa.

Joan is currently working on her second novel, a thriller set in Pretoria.


myershansen said...

Goodness! this is really impressive. Plain and captivating, something i think separates writers from ordinary scribblers.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

myershansen said...

Goodness! this is really impressive. Plain and captivating, something i think separates writers from ordinary scribblers.

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