ROSEHEAD excerpt, Draft 1

by Ksenia Anske in


It seems like I started a fashion of posting excerpts to my novels on my blog, with SIREN SUICIDES Draft 4 excerpt and SIREN SUICIDES Draft 5 excerpt. Well then, by popular demand (after asking my Twitter followers), here is an excerpt to ROSEHEAD, 2nd novel that I started writing this Monday, so 2 days ago. Meaning, this is an excerpt from unedited Draft 1 (please forgive mistakes and such). On 1, 2, 3...

Rosehead.jpg

Photo by Rosie Kernohan

ROSEHEAD

A novel by Ksenia Anske, Draft 1

Chapter 1. Arrival

The garden reeked of rotten sweetness as if the roses were not blooming, but rather decomposing in the heat. The sea of them, like a hungry red tongue, licked the west side of an enormous white mansion, forming a spectacular dead end. On its east side scores of linden trees framed the sky in a lacquered pattern of green. As far as the eye could see, the entire road was planted with these trees, which confirmed the name on a tall post, Lindenstrasse in German. Lilith Bloom wrinkled her nose and pushed the button to roll up the car window, having a peculiar feeling that once she steps into this house, she won’t be able to get out. It will swallow her whole and smack its lips in the process. Goodbye 8th grade, goodbye ballet lessons, goodbye books. She shuddered, feeling frozen despite the hot weather.

“Panther.” Lilith whispered. “Panther, wake up.” She reached out and urgently shook a black curled up shape on the back seat to her left, warm from the sun. The shape shivered and yawned, revealing a long pink tongue and rows of pearl-white teeth, then promptly sat up, looking up expectantly at his mistress. It wasn’t exactly a dog, not in the most typical sense of how one would describe it. It was rather a cat in a dog’s body, an independent creature with lithe movements and a mind of his own. In one word, a whippet, Lilith’s pet and best friend. Faithful, smart, and, as Lilith would ascertain her parents, a talking one too. Of course, they refused to believe her.

Panther was the runt of the litter. Lilith’s father, Alexander Bloom, or Al for short, was a whippet breeder and he gave Panther to her for her 12th birthday last year. That was back in July, in her hometown in Massachusetts. Now it was June, and they just arrived to Germany this afternoon and drove up to her grandfather’s house on the outskirts of Berlin, for a grand Bloom family reunion.

“Does it stink to you too?” Lilith asked Panther to confirm her suspicions. Panther tipped his head to the right, blinking his black jewel eyes. He didn’t dare talking in front of her parents, lest they decide to take him away and show him off to their whippet breeder friends like some otherworldly miracle.

“I thought so.” Lilith palmed the end of her skirt.

“Well, we’re here.” Her father professed, without glancing back, turning off the car engine and pulling up the parking break.

“Did you take your pills?” That would be Lilith’s mother, Gabrielle Bloom, swiftly twisting in passenger seat and gazing through metal-rimmed glasses with her typical demand, her fingers in a momentary pause from constant knitting.

Lilith rolled her eyes. “Pills are for sick people, mother.”

“Well, did you?” Her mother insisted, her lower lip beginning to tremble slightly. Overall, she looked like a lost bird perched on top of a roof, not knowing whether she wants to take off and fly towards summer or stay and nest for winter, risking to freeze off her feathers and talons and such. Her greying brown hair stuck out this way and that in a sort of an artistic halo, and she liked sticking in her knitting needles behind her ears where they would stay and sometimes drop into the frying pan while she was cooking dinner.

“Lilith, answer your mother.” Her father demanded, without turning his head, rummaging in his pockets.

“I flushed them down the toilet in the airplane. They looked like two tiny boats in an excruciatingly blue liquid.” Lilith said with an innocent face. She liked using sophisticated words like excruciatingly, especially when annoying her parents.

“Al?” Gabrielle addressed Lilith’s father.

He only shrugged his shoulders, without looking. “Oh, Gabi, no use for worry. She can skip a day, can’t she?”

“Lilith!” What followed was a frenzy of activity, her mother’s hands performing an intricate dance of pulling out her bag, stuffing rolls of wool into it, her half-knit sweater, a bunch of needles, and then rummaging for the vial of pills.

Lilith and Panther exchanged a glance, suppressing a collective giggle, as much as you can imagine a dog giggling.

Next, her mother stuffed a small translucent cylinder into her daughter’s hands and watched her reluctantly open it and take out two bright blue capsules.

“Now.” Her mother said, and Lilith obediently stuck two pills under her tongue, with the intention of spitting them out as soon as she stepped out of the car. Which her father did already, slamming the driver’s door carelessly and stretching out his legs.

Here we can take a good look at him, tall and awkward and scrawny, kind of like a whippet himself. You know how they say, show me your dog, and I will tell you who you are? Yes, like that. His mess of black hair matched the shade of Panther’s black fur exactly, not a single silver line in it, contrary to his wife of fourteen years. His left shoulder was higher, right shoulder lower, his neck long, and his head small, balancing on the very tip of it. He wore beat up jeans and an old polo shirt, with dog hair all over it, from hugging and kissing and squeezing his 7 whippets, oh, about 20 hours ago, upon departure to the airport and giving last instructions to Missis Parks, a neighbor and an avid dog lover who would be taking care of the litter for three weeks that the Bloom family was gone.

Lilith patted Panther, and with words, “Come on,” opened the car door and stepped onto gravel, promptly covering her nose and coughing into it.

“It smells wonderful, doesn’t it?” Her mother exclaimed, and hurried off to open up the car trunk and take out multiple bags. Lilith and Panther exchanged another glance, now standing in the middle of a neat oval-shaped plaza, covered with gravel and packed with cars of all types, Bloom’s rental Audi being the very last.

Now is a good time to take a look at Lilith herself, a slender and petite for her age twelve year old girl about to turn thirteen, sporting an indigo pleated skirt, a white-blue marine shirt, striped knee socks, and black patent-leather mary-janes, with which she energetically ground two pills into dirt, having just spit them out. Her head tilted, she fetched a stray hazel lock and tucked it behind her ear, straightening her ruby knit beret, the one her mother knit for her. She had a collection of those, white beret for going to ballet lessons, black one to take Panther on walks, blue one for reading, lavender one for gazing at the clouds, and ruby one for special occasions. For festive outings which rarely happened, and so it was a big deal for her to be able to wear it now, covering up the top of her head and making her dark-blonde shoulder length hair attain a special shine. Her freckled nose sat between two huge blue eyes, forever open in wonder or daydreaming. Her lips were always parted, as if ready to utter something yet not sure of themselves, doubting, and falling silent in the end.

She dragged out her knit bag and slung it on her shoulder. Her mother made it as well, from navy wool, shaped like a messenger bag, which held a few useless now dollars inside a dog-shaped wallet, a plane ticket, a passport, a pack of Kleenex tissues, a few dried flowers forgotten in one of the pockets, a lip balm, a light pink leotard, tutu, tights, and ballet slippers, for emergency ballet training, a journal with a pen stuck between pages, and a book. Always a book. Presently it was Sir Arthur Canon Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, a corner bent on page 9. 

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