In many ways, this story is a sharp departure from how I usually tell the story for one of my girls. I want to do it justice, and yet, it's seems almost an insurmountable task. Readers at times see things that trigger insta-reaction. Ah, I hate this plot device. Oh I hate this. Not again.... but, everything in a novel has been done before. The only unique thing a writer can do is the way she writes it and the meaning it's attached to. I don't know if I do that well. I don't know if I've done it well with Krystal, but it is my hope readers will look beyond each individual scene and realize it's part of a puzzle that tells a story of a very unique girl. As with all my books it's grounded in simple truths about love and family and life. I find interesting that my most sunny character, sweet little Krystal, should be the one encased in the pages of my darkest book.
As ever, I wish you peace...and I hope enjoy this Chapter One Sneak Peek...Yep, we're counting down to release day:
Copyright © 2016 Susan Ward
All Rights Reserved.
“The game we all play is the same. It’s a simple war we fight every day: what we allow ourselves to see and remember.
How we balance our scale.
More good or more bad.
The things we give importance to and the things we let be. In truth, all our scales, regardless of what we’ve done with our lives, are equal. They are equal at our birth and equal at our death, and not a single act between the two changes any of it. We live, we die, we love, and we lose. And everything else doesn’t matter. In the giant scheme of things no person is greater than any other, and our only purpose is to love and if we miss that we are nothing.” ~Jackson Parker
White wall, white wall, glass wall, white wall, and ceiling. That’s my world now, but inside my head I dance. Five, six, seven, eight. Arm high, shoulder down, extend through the leg, toe pointed--
Searing hot pain blasts upward from my ankle like a flash fire across my flesh. Fuck, I pointed my toe in the real world and not my head.
“Krystal, stay still.” I hear a voice—beloved, but not the one I want. “Don’t move, sunshine. You’re in the hospital. Remember? Your leg is in traction. The doctor said it’s healing well, but don’t try to move. You have to stay still to get better.”
My lids lift, which is a mistake because I don’t want to see this.
Reality—not the one I want. No stage. No audience. No elegant movement of my body before an enthralled crowd. Black eyes stare at me, heart-wrenching with worry, instead of hazel eyes lush with love watching from the wings…hazel eyes.
I slowly move my gaze around the room.
My father hovering beside the bed.
My logic rebels.
This image can’t be real. This isn’t how I remember my dad, not at any time since my birth. Alan looks old, frazzled and discomposed in a way that makes him strange and alarming and unfamiliar. No, that’s not my father. It can’t be. It hurts too much to see in his eyes and on his face the truth of me. Knowing I’m the cause of him looking that way.
No, this is not reality. This is the nightmare. I, Krystal Harris, do not exist here anymore. I’m only real inside my head so long as I never let myself be here.
Five, six, seven, eight…
“They brought your dinner,” Alan says, moving to retrieve a tray from the table. “You should try to eat, baby girl. It’s what will get you well. You need to start eating so you’ll be strong enough to begin physical therapy next week. And hopefully, soon after, home where you belong.”
I close my eyes.
I can’t ever go home again. It would kill me. It’s why I don’t speak. Why I count the walls. Why I don’t eat. I can’t go home knowing you know…
I feel something touch my lip and look up to find my dad holding a spoon and waiting patiently for me to take a bite of that institutional-grade chocolate pudding.
I can’t eat. Not that. I tighten my lips against the spoon.
My dad’s eyes liquefy. “I know it’s not very good, Krystal, but you have to eat what they bring you. Later, you can have what you want. But for now you’ve got to eat every bite of this.”
I look away. Where’s Jacob? I haven’t seen hazel eyes since I got here. I’m pretty sure he was here when I was first brought it. Why haven’t I seen him since? How could he leave me?
I anxiously search the room again, halting to stare at the closed door.
I hear the spoon being set down and my dad pushes the bed table back so he can sit beside me. “There’s no need to worry, Krystal. No one is ever going to harm you again. Graham Carson is right outside the door. Dillon’s at the end of the hallway, and Brayden’s in the lobby. No one is ever going to hurt you again.”
Graham Carson? Dillon? Brayden?
Why isn’t Jacob here?
He’s my bodyguard—everything inside me starts to twirl—and he’s more, so much more…
The pain suffusing my heart compels me to speak. I need to know what’s happened to Jacob. I struggle to push out the words. “Where…is—”
“Oh, thank God.” My father’s low, raspy voice gushes over my breathy, near-soundless utterance. His eyes go wide since I haven’t managed to speak before now. His gentle, roughly callused hands close over mine. “Your mother is just down the hall in the waiting room. They only let one of us sit with you at a time. Everyone is here, sweetheart. Your brothers and sisters. Madison. Jack and Linda. The entire family. We’ve all been here, every minute since Graham brought you home to us.”
Graham brought me home?
No, no, no.
Jacob brought me here, Daddy.
Jacob saved me, not Graham.
How could my dad get that wrong?
Terrifying images flash in my head of things I don’t want to remember.
The flight home.
Blood. The panic in the plane. It wasn’t because of me. The blood was Jacob’s. Not mine.
“Do you want me to get your mother?”
I shake my head.
“Can you try to eat?”
I shake my head.
My dad’s features alter with fear. “You’re going to be all right, Krystal. But you have to help us. You have to eat, baby. You can’t come home until you are strong enough for the doctors to release you.”
He grabs the spoon and holds it before me again.
I shake my head.
I don’t want food.
I stare at the door.
If my leg wasn’t trapped in that harness I’d run from the room.
I want to be back in what I never expected to find when I first left Pacific Palisades.
I want hazel eyes and loving smiles, strong arms holding me, nights of tenderness and passion, laughter and Manhattan again.
Is Jacob dead?
Is that what they’re not telling me?
No, no, no.
Shutting out the heart-ripping truth surrounding me, I escape back into my own thoughts where life is how I want it to be. Where I can dance in my dreams with Jacob again.[Copyright © 2016 Susan Ward. All Rights Reserved.]