Solitary Sky ~ Chapter 1


     Dirty, claw-like fingers thrust from the shadows and seized my throat.  In half a breath I was off the ground, my legs flailing frantically.  I dug my nails into cold, course flesh, trying desperately to free my neck from his inhuman grip as pitch black eyes watched in amusement.  I wanted to scream but the sound was trapped in my throat as I gulped and gasped for air.  His hold on my throat tightened, crumbling the last of my resistance as it gave way to exhaustion. Billowing curtains of darkness draped my consciousness and I felt myself slipping into the black.
     I closed my eyes and hoped that death would come quickly as I lifted a trembling hand to clutch the cold piece of heart-shaped metal hanging from my neck.
     Where are you?

Chapter 1

     I peeked through the back door window and saw Claire sitting at the kitchen table, still wearing her dress and apron from work. She held a cup of coffee and cigarette in one hand while going through mail with the other. I tossed my purse and book bag to the side of the porch and sat down on the grass hoping to wait her out.  The last thing I wanted today was a conversation with my mother.
     She got up fifteen minutes later, but only to refill her cup.  I sighed and slung my bags over my shoulder, lifting myself off the grass.  
     “You’re home,” Claire said as I rushed through the door and past her. “Hey, get back
here, Lilah. What’s wrong with you?”
     “Nothing.” I said, avoiding her overly made-up eyes.
     “Well you look like crap. Have you been crying?” She pursed her lips and blew the steam rising from her cup, waiting for me to answer.
     “No, I’m just tired.”
     She pulled a chair out from the table and patted her hand on the seat.  This was her mother-who-cares act, but I wasn’t buying it.  Did she really expect me to sit and talk with her about my life over piles of old mail and breakfast dishes she’d left for me to clean up?  I shifted my bags to the other shoulder and stood with my arms folded against my chest.
     “Fine.” She shoved the chair back under the table. “I’m not gonna beg you to talk to me.”
     “There’s nothing to talk about.” 
     “Then I don’t understand why you’re in such a foul mood. You’ve got the whole summer to look forward to. Wish it was me, but no—I’ll be fluffing pillows and hauling my cart around the Magnolia Motel while you stay holed up in your room, wasting all that good sun.”
     I glared at her. “Claire, I told you I’m pulling double shifts at the bakery all summer. Don’t you ever listen to me?”
     “Jeez…so touchy. Did you and your boyfriend break up or somethin’?”
     “That guy who came by here a few weeks ago. Didn’t you go out with him?”
     “Yeah, but not like that.  I haven’t even talked to him since.”
     “Why not?”
     I didn’t answer.  She wanted details, but not out of concern—she was just nosy.
     “He seemed nice to me. What happened?  What did you say to him?  Y’know you can be a little bitchy sometimes. Were you on your period?”
     I rolled my eyes and turned to walk out of the room, but she grabbed my arm.
     “Tell me you at least kissed him.”  
     I shook my head and jerked my arm free.
     “Oh, Lilah,” she said in the most motherly tone she could muster. “There’s your problem. How is a boy supposed to know you’re into him if you won’t even let him get to first base?  I’m not saying you have to give it all up on the first night, but boys are very physical. If you don’t give them something, they’re gonna move on to the next girl who will.”
     I opened my mouth, about to tell her the fifteen different things wrong with what she just said, but held my breath instead.  She wouldn’t hear anything I had to say.  I just kept quiet and prayed for our little mother-daughter talk to be over.
     “Oh well, no biggie,” she continued. “But now you need to get yourself back out there. You’re only seventeen and you spend every weekend at home or working. You’re too young to live like that…hell, I’m too young to live like that.”
     “Guys are kinda like shoes. You try them on and walk around a while to see if they fit.  If they don’t, you just take ‘em back and look for another pair.  Y'know, I tried on lots of heels before I found Tony.” Her face beamed at the mention of his name.
     “You should keep looking,” I said.
     “No way. I’m not lettin’ this one go. He calls me everyday from work like we're married—God, I love that man!”
     “How can you say that?  You’ve only known him, what—a week?”
     “Two weeks,” she said, looking down at her cigarette as she crushed it out. “Maybe three.”
     “Oh, that’s much better.”
     “I know it’s not very long, but it feels like I've known him forever.” She stopped to curve a loose strand of caramel brown  hair behind her ear. “We’ve gotten really close.”
     My stomach lurched as I thought of all the nights Tony had stayed over in the past few weeks. I had to keep the volume on my headphones cranked up to drown out the sound of them getting “really close”.
     “What I’m saying is you need to put yourself out there—even if it means getting hurt.  If you don’t, you’ll wind up alone and bitter…like Mom.”
     “Gram is not bitter.”
     “But she is alone. It’s been over twelve years since Dad died and she hasn’t been out on one date.”
     Her raised eyebrows and self-satisfied expression was too much for me to take. “What makes you think you can give me and Gram advice on our personal lives when all you do is bring home random losers that only want to sleep with you or mooch off you—or both.”
     “They aren’t all losers. Tony’s got a steady job…and remember Bill?”
     “Which Bill?”
     “The one who drove a BMW.”
     “Wasn’t he married?” 
     “What is with your nasty attitude?” She narrowed her pale green eyes. “I’m sorry you had a shitty day, but don’t come home and dump all over me.”
     “You were the one who wanted to talk.”
     “Yeah, I did.” Her voice went flat as she stood up. “What the hell was I thinking?”
     She flung her coffee cup into the sink and stomped off to her bedroom, slamming the door like an angsty adolescent.  I wandered over to the sink and carefully removed broken pieces of the cup and wrapped them in paper towels before tossing them into the trash.  TV chatter blared from behind Claire’s door as I ran upstairs to my room, hoping she was done with me for the night.

     I let my purse and book bag slump to the floor as I collapsed into the rumpled mess of sheets and blankets on my bed. It never stopped being strange to me when Claire attempted to insert herself into my life as if she’d been a real mother to me all along.  I usually only got the privilege of her attention during the small stretches of time when she didn’t have a boyfriend.  Once in a while she’d perform some motherly deed that gave her enough charge to go on until the next time.
Between her performances I had to figure out life on my own.  Gram was there to help, but Claire always made sure we were a safe distance from her “meddling”.  I would plead with Claire to let me go live with Gram, but she always said no.  As long as I was living with her, she could still convince herself that she was a good mom.  I was forced to settle for occasional visits to Gram's, but even those stopped a couple of years ago when Claire got it in her head that spending time there was giving me a “negative attitude”.
     Like it or not I was stuck here until the end of summer when I’d turn eighteen and Claire couldn’t stop me from leaving her…or Bridgeton.  She’d probably act devastated.  She’d cry convincingly and go on about what an “ungrateful little bitch” I was before begging me to stay.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a twinge of guilt about leaving her to fend for herself, but I had to get away.  I never wanted the responsibility of taking care of my own mother.  She was supposed to take care of me.  If I stayed with her any longer, I’d get crushed underneath the weight of her neediness.
     Claire always had someone to take care of her—first Gram and Grampa, then an endless string of men she attached herself to.  She even started to depend on me, once I was old enough to read the electric bill.  I watched as she clung desperately to any man offering sweet words and a warm bed...and stood by, ready to nurse her broken heart every time they walked away.
     My dad had been no different than the rest.  He met Claire one night when she and her friends used fake IDs to sneak into a bar. She was sixteen, he was nineteen.  Claire was in love, but Doug was only in the moment.  When she told him she was pregnant, he disappeared fast.  Gram said she saw him at the hospital on the day I was born, watching me through the nursery window.  What he saw through that glass wasn’t enough to convince him to stay, but who could blame him?
     I was a package deal.

      An urgent buzz ruptured the silence, yanking me from my thoughts.  I reached down and dug my phone out of my purse, catching it before the first ring.
     “Babygirl!” The sound of her voice was a shot of instant calm.
     “Hey, Gram.”
     “I just tried calling your mom, but she’s not answering. Is she out with Tony?
     “No, she’s in one of her pissy moods. We had a fight.”
     “I swear you two act more like sisters than mother and daughter.  Are you sure I didn’t give birth to you, too?”
     “Not entirely.”
     “Hang in there…not much longer ‘til you’re out on your own.”
     I pulled the calendar off of the wall behind me and flipped to the twenty-third of August marked with a big red smiley face. “I’m leaving on my birthday.”
     “Have you told your mom you’re staying with me?”
     “I mentioned it to her last week when we picked up my car, but I don’t think she took me seriously.”
     “You got a car?”
     “Yeah, an old blue station wagon
you’ll love it.  It’s all tricked out with wood paneling on the side.
     "Do you think it's sturdy enough for the drive down here?”
     “Don’t worry, Gram. It'll make it.”
     “Good.  Now, I was thinking we should have a party when you get here—sort of a birthday and welcome party all in one. Do you wanna have it here at the house or should I see about the banquet hall downtown?”
     “Neither.  I don't want a birthday party.”
     “C’mon, it’ll be fun. We could invite some kids from the high school so you can meet them before school starts.”
     “Please, Gram…no.”
     “Okay then,” she sighed. “No parties for now.”
     Her enthusiasm undeterred, she launched into a long list of places she planned to take me—including a nearby jazz festival and a tour of all the new shops in Gentian.  I let her ramble and gave the occasional “okay” or “mm-hmm” while I gathered a load of laundry and put it in the washer.  Halfway through the rinse cycle she had to take a call from one of her clients.  I cleared the breakfast dishes from the table and stuck a pizza in the microwave.  After switching the laundry over, I took my pizza upstairs, managing to avoid Claire the rest of the night.
     I'd hoped that a longer and hotter than necessary shower would help me get to sleep, but it had little to no effect.  Silence was all around me, interrupted by the occasional car whizzing past on the freeway.  couldn't clear my head enough to get to sleep.  Frustrated, I threw back the covers and pulled my DVD case out from under the bed. I flipped through the titles looking for something to take my mind out of reality.  My fingers stopped at Pretty Woman.
     Perfect...the story of yet another girl who falls under the spell of love and gets her heart broken, only to end up with her happily ever after anyway.  A fairy-tale romance that doesn't exist in the real world...but aren't they all?
     I shoved the DVD into the player and nestled myself under the covers.  Soon I relaxed and let myself get captivated by the impossible love story.  Vivian had just finished her famous shopping spree when I began to drift offhalf in, half out of consciousness.  Suddenly a jolting flash of white was invading every corner of my brain.  I opened my eyes, but the white light was still everywhere.  I thought I might be going blind until an image started coming into focus.  It was a young couple standing in the middle of a garden, lush with trees and a million multi-colored flowers, growing brighter and more vivid with every second.  No distance was between them, their bodies held together like magnets.  They were bound by a kiss so passionate it was getting uncomfortable to watch.  
     I couldn't see their faces, but her hair was dark auburn like mine, and fell in waves down her back.  His was charcoal black with random strands of silver that shined in the moonlight and spilled carelessly over his intriguing profile.
     Watching them, I felt like a voyeur inside my own head until slowly the image darkened on the couple, still locked tight in the kiss.  Before it went completely dark, the girl moved her head slightly, giving me a better view of her facemy face.  
     I bolted upright in bed and scanned the room to make sure I was back to reality.  The familiar surroundings of my bedroom flickered in and out of light from the TV, as the balcony scene from Pretty Woman played on the screen.  I took a long, measured breath and reached over to click off the TV just as Vivian and Edward were making out on the fire escape.  
     It was just a dream...a really strange dream.
     I laid my head back down on the pillow and curled the covers under my chin.
     Of course it was a dream.
     I tried to convince myself, but it seemed like more than a dream.  It was so surreallike watching myself in one of those ridiculous romantic movies.  That girl was not me, but I felt somehow connected to her.  She looked like me, but she didn't feel like me.  Her emotion was raw and intense...my head was still spinning from being being close to it.
     Was that love?  Was that the feeling girls get when they allow themselves to get caught up in a romantic whirl and forget who they areall because of some guy?
     I shut my eyes and drifted off again, the image of the couple replaying only in my thoughts this time.  The less conscious I became, the more I recalled the intensity of her emotion.  She wasn't just caught up in some whirl...she was in love.
     Buried somewhere deep in the last gasps of consciousness,  I started to wish I was that girl.

Hope you liked chapter 1! 
Thanks for reading, and don't forget to leave a comment. =) 
Chapter 2 will be up tomorrow...see you then! ;o)



  1. very intriguing, the prologue has me worried. can't wait till tomorrow

  2. I like it - I wanted to keep reading and that, I think, is what matters. The hook is there! Good job.

  3. Thank you so much, E.D.--happy to hear that I "hooked" you! ;o)

    Thanks for commenting...chapters 2 & 3 are up now! =)

    xoxo, Shannon

  4. Hi Shannon, Kids are better and I finally found the time to read chapter one. Love it. You're really building strong interesting characters here who I want to get to know better. There's already loads of conflict brewing that makes me want to read more. Love the main character's name - Lilah! Gorgeous. So congratulations, look forward to reading the next two xxx

  5. Hey, Sarah! Wow, thank you so much...I am extremely happy to hear you like what what you've read so far! =) Hope you like the rest as well! ;o) xoxox ♥