Category Archives: novel excerpt

another fiction snippet – sorry to infuriate!

The feeling rose up inside me like a wave, hot and heady in its passion. It scared me. I felt my pulse tapping at my skin, a tiny hammer, furious and afraid. I laughed to shake it off, and the sound was too loud in the muted bar. It rang out across the gleaming heads of the clientele, arched eyebrows turning, mouths closing elegantly. The sound died quickly, sucked into the heavy red carpet of the large room. My high heels dug into the back of my ankles, the patent leather squeaked against the other shoe.

I felt so out of place here, and a dim flush seeped upwards toward my hairline. The angry blotches of red skin would be quivering on my chest soon, a telltale sign that I was drunk, or flustered or worst of all – both.  Avery swept her eyes across my shining brow, the patches on my chest, and then her gaze came to rest on my shaking bottom lip. She smiled at me quietly, surreptitiously, and snaked her palm into my own. Her hand was warm and dry, and it calmed me a little. I watched my thighs, and listened idly to the chatter.

‘Well I’m not sure what you’re going to do with all of those anyway,’ Millie was saying blithely. ‘You’ll never find anywhere to put them.’

The ladies tittered and rustled, and it was a minute before I realised that their collective eyes were on me, waiting for my input. I looked around at them, suddenly hyper conscious of my over-waxed eyebrows and thick bronzer. It was Charlotte’s pitying gaze that did it.

‘Well I don’t know,’ I said brazenly, flipping my hair across my shoulder. ‘With a husband like yours, I hear that anything is possible.’ My chin was high as I gazed down the barrel of the room at Chelsea, daring her to argue, to deny it. The rumours had gone around like Chlamydia in Hamilton, wildfire through the women in our circle, but never – no never! – mentioned in Chelsea’s presence, and definitely not directly to her. What did it concern her that her husband had a warehouse full of stolen car parts and laundered money. I was sick to the back teeth with it. With the deceit, the hidden agenda.

It was Avery who saved the situation.

‘Okay,’ she said lightly, drawing the word out as though waving a verbal white flag. ‘Enough for you I think Zoey.’ She moved my soda water lightly away from me on the table, the joke failing to raise a smile with anyone. I felt ashamed suddenly, and I watched Chelsea’s face, ashen but smiling, her eyes overbright. I was the only one to notice the tremble of her lower lip, and I felt bad.

Lunch ended shortly afterwards. Despite Avery’s cheerful banter she could not achieve the upbeat vibe that had reigned easily before I had spoken. We said our goodbyes, Chelsea turning her face so as not to meet my eye, and left.

‘For God’s sake Zoey!’ Avery scolded as we marched down the road outside Friars. It was cold and grey, and leaves skittered across the road, loud and metallic against the tar seal. ‘What did you say that for?’ She turned to look at me, stopping abruptly on the pavement. A woman with a pram almost walked into her, and peered carefully into our faces as she navigated around us. Avery’s dark hair tumbled around her pale face, and the concern across her brow almost hurt to look at.

‘Sorry,’ I mumbled at the ground. ‘I don’t know why.’ I felt chastised and horrible, almost defiant against it. I felt exactly like I did when I was a little girl and I pulled a chair out graciously for a boy in my class, jerking it a the last second so that he landed heavily on his tailbone, and regretting it immediately as he started to cry.

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Something Real – excerpt one

Zoey

Life seems so much simpler in the click of a shutter. The tap of a key, the scratch of a pen. Life is framed, frozen and still, poised for just one second of eternity, finally perfect. I have loved photography all my life for this exact reason. Take four people, each with an individual motive, a difference, a fight, and put them together with a lens, a frame, aperture and light. The result is something completely different to that of a hundred real Christmases, bickering across the dry turkey. I loved my grandparents’ smiles in that old photo, their teeth so white and gleaming, dimples and crinkled eyes in exactly the right places. Picture perfect.

My family have always been argumentative. I think it comes from something our father instilled in us. He always wanted to be a lawyer, I think, before Mum got pregnant with Elsa and he settled himself into the soil, the landscaping that had been his business throughout his teenage years and would be so for the rest of his life.

When I say argumentative, I don’t mean that we bicker about small things, rather, we like to debate, to push our point for each side, regardless of our actual thoughts on the matter. My most memorable birthday was my eighteenth. I was lying on the grass in front of the kitchen, and my lazy eyes were focussed on the black gleam of a Tui, upside down in our Kowhai tree, my mother’s pride and joy of the garden. I was only half listening as they chatted behind me, Elsa, Mum and Dad. My stomach was full from the carrot cake Elsa and I had made, swirls of the lumpy cream cheese icing still lingered in my tongue’s memory.

‘But you can’t argue that Dad,’ Elsa was outraged, the wine glass in her hand glinting in the afternoon sunlight. ‘That denotes a complete condescension for anyone who lives south of Tarras!’

I can’t remember what it was, maybe something in the pompous lyricism in her voice, or maybe in the rare use of the word ‘denotes’, but something sparked it.

Dad was the first to erupt into laughter, and as he caught my eye I felt it bubbling up from my stomach, and then we were all howling with laughter, raucous and rolling on the grass, as Elsa sat and tried to feign wise indifference. She took a slow sip of her wine, eyes averted across the lawn in a show of her detachment, and at that exact second, I kid you not, a large, slippery smear of bird shit splattered onto her left shoulder and slid down towards the latticed detailing of her pretty yellow dress. We were silent for one incredulous moment, no one daring to breath.

Mum was the first to speak. She nodded towards the stain, ‘That’s lucky, apparently.’ Her face was perfectly straight.

We all collapsed into convulsions, even Elsa joined in this time. I laughed so hard that day I got grass stains on the elbow of my white cardigan, you can still see the faint mark there now. That photo sits on my bedside table, in a red beaten-shell frame that is now chipped and dull. We look so content on the dewy grass, Elsa’s dress still wet from where she sponged it clean. Mum is sneaking a furtive look at Dad, and you can see in her eyes that she is still shaking with mirth at what has just happened. Elsa and I look exactly the same, our dark hair flipped across our right shoulders, the same chins and mouths pulled into identical pixie smiles, legs tucked up beneath us.

I remember feeling like nothing in the world could make me unhappy in that moment. As though nothing out there could pull me from that happy paradise of sun dappled lawn and birds in the trees, warm cream cheese icing and my fathers hands, scarred and always covered in dark, fertile soil.

I think that day was maybe the beginning of my bad luck.