Once again, trembling inside and out, yet listening to my boyfriend who says I need to do it, to get feedback from people and get myself out there, I'm posting an excerpt from Draft 5, the very beginning. You can compare it to the excerpt from Draft 4 and let me know which one is better. Hopefully Draft 5 is. With that, on 1, 2, 3...
A novel by Ksenia Anske, Draft 5
Chapter 1. Bright's Bathroom.
I chose to die in the bathroom because it’s the only room in the house that can be locked. Besides, water calms me, and I have to be calm to pull the plug on my life. Nothing would irritate my father more than finding the fully clothed corpse of his sixteen-year-old daughter on the morning of her birthday, floating in his beloved antique carved-marble tub. The ridiculous Bright’s family relic, each of its corners held up by one of four sirens, their mouths open in lethal song, their hands upturned in worship of the Siren of Canosa, a bronze faucet figurine. How fitting. Ailen Bright, the deceased, to be guided into the afterlife by a tap. Do you hear me, Papa? This is my morbid joke.
Six years ago today, on a rainy September morning, my mother jumped off the Aurora Bridge. Something terrible must have happened, because she was afraid of heights. I heard Papa scream at her, heard her run out of their bedroom and slam the front door. I haven’t seen much of mom throughout my childhood, but after that day I’ve lost her forever. For this, and for all the pain he caused me, I want to hurt my father the only way I can, by sending him a message as twisted as his soul. Ending my life in the very place he delivered me, sixteen years ago, on a rainy September morning of 1993.
In some perverted sense as far back as I can remember, four marble sirens and a bronze one gave me more comfort than my parents. Five sisters I never had. While normal girls spent their free time playing outside, I was locked up in the bathroom for punishment, talking to inanimate creatures for hours, having memorized entire passages from Homer’s The Odyssey, calling each siren by her proper name.
Pisinoe, the one with the persuading mind, the youngest of the five. We both want a pet, I like her best for that. Teles, the perfect one, her face cute yet slightly chubby, which makes me like mine better, thank you. Raidne, the one symbolizing improvement, her hair long and curly, envy of my life, because my hair resembles a spaghetti factory explosion on best days, on worst days it’s dubbed “chicken-feathers” by kids at school. Ligeia, the shrill one, perhaps due to her voice. Her perfect breasts were the source of my secret admiration until the day I understood that being called flat-chested is my fate. Yeah.
These are my four marble sisters, their bare bodies protruding from four corners of the tub, their knees on the floor, their arms spread wide as if wings of birds getting ready to fly.
At the head of the tub, long hair covering her body, legs dangling from the rim, sits Siren of Canosa, or Canosa for short. My big bronze sister, the boss. Her left hand holds the faucet, her right arm is raised over her head in a mourning gesture. She’s the main funerary siren who’s supposed to act as a psychopomp, a fancy word for mythological creature whose job is to lead souls of dead people into afterlife, heaven, or hell. Three very nice destinations. Pick your favorite while you hold her hand. Right. But I’m forgetting to count.
Eight. Nine. Ten.
Ten seconds since I took the plunge, stepping into bathtub full of water, wearing my favorite faded jeans and my blue High School hoodie. Blue is my favorite color. Three is my favorite number. It takes three minutes for an average person to drown. Only two minutes and fifty seconds left. I hold my breath.
My clothes balloon in a funny way before getting soaked completely and feel oddly warm and clingy. I close my eyes because the chlorine in the water burns them. Now my nose starts burning too, water making its way up my nostrils as if wanting to drive a nail through my head. I press hands into the sides of the tub to keep myself from floating up. I can’t do this, I can’t. I’m scared. I sit up and gasp, grab my head with both hands to prevent it from spinning. No, to prevent the bathroom around me from spinning. Ok, I can’t tell what’s spinning against what anymore. Water rushes down my face. Wet cotton sticks to my skin in thick soggy layers. Smoking a joint wasn’t enough. Did I absolutely have to drop a tab of acid on top of it? Stupid coward.
The doorknob turns once to the right, then, after a puzzled pause, turns to the right several times again.
“Ailen, is that you in there?” Papa’s voice reaches me as if from some future land that I didn’t think would ever happen. Distorted and unreal, it strikes upon my ears like a knife that has a tricky way of cutting all the way to my heart, then across the abdomen, all the way to my toes. My muscles constrict as if freeze-dried, my heart attempts to beat through layers of ribs, jump on an elevator of fear and explode in my head with a pounding migraine.
Who else? I want to answer, merely as an automatic response. Because another thought pushes it out. Shit, he shouldn’t be up so early. Damn it. And another thought. I should’ve jumped off the bridge like mom. Why the fuck am I so afraid of heights? Is it genetic? What do I do now? The whole bathroom stinks like weed.
He knocks on the door once. I hold on to my knees, watch early morning light stream through the window, hear footsteps. He’s probably checking my room to make sure it’s not some thief who decided to take a bath in the middle of the night because he got tired of robbing our house.
A few minutes, and he’ll be back.
All at once the impossibility of facing my father, the impossibility of ever getting out of this bathroom in one piece floods me with renewed force. A thousand needles of terror prickle my skin, drive their sharp points deeper, pin my guts until they reach a pool of doom deep inside my soul. Bathroom stops spinning. I reach a place of calm, a moment of soundless emptiness, and decide to try once more. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I’ve thought of everything there is to think about while smoking away the night. There is no other way out for me except to die.
This seemed like a good stopping point. What do you guys think, better than Draft 4?