Unused Prologue: THE GIRL MADE OF GOLD

After much consideration, and feedback from others, I have decided not to include the prologue in my work in progress, THE GIRL MADE OF GOLD. I love this prologue, despite it being unnecessary for the story, and I’ve been having a hard time letting it go. So, I am posting it here, where it will live forever in the internet:

 

I was fourteen the first time he appeared in my room.

For a long time, I thought I was insane. It was the only way to explain what was happening. I’d read stories about madness, about people seeing things that weren’t there—visions, apparitions, ghosts, even alternate realities. Take one of my favorites, Don Quixote, for example. Take Hamlet, take Wuthering Heights. Perhaps I was just as mad as the characters in my books.

I was dusting those books on the night he first materialized. I hummed to myself, taking my time as I reached on my tip-toes and dusted the top of my bookshelf. I often did that—took my time—with everything I did. I didn’t have anywhere else to be, since I was trapped here, so the longer it took me to accomplish my tasks, the less time I had to spend wistfully daydreaming of the outside world.

In an instant, the air changed around me, and I stopped. I was used to the feel of the air in my tower, used to the way it felt when I was alone versus when Mother was here. And in that moment I sensed it, sensed an extra body behind me, breathing in my oxygen. But it wasn’t Mother. I knew what her presence felt like. This was something foreign.

Slowly, I lowered myself so my feet were flat on the ground again. Even more slowly, I turned, my heart reverberating inside my chest, and I attempted a raw swallow. When I saw him, my heart felt to stop altogether, and I froze in place. A handsome ghost, with incredibly green, wide-set eyes stared back at me, his mouth hanging open. He appeared almost as frightened as I was. A strange breeze entered the room, from where I don’t know, and not only made the candlelight dance but played with the ghost’s brown hair. His defined jaw clenched when he closed his mouth, and his Adam’s apple bounced up his neck as he swallowed.

A pounding on the shutters startled my eyes away from the boy and they shot to the window. The breeze turned into a wind, blowing out some of the candles, and I had never been more grateful for Mother’s presence at the window. But when I looked back in the place the boy had stood, it was empty. He was gone. The ghost had vanished.

Mother opened the shutters after her boisterous thud, and after one more large, mysterious gust, the wind vanished as well. When Mother climbed in through the window and stood before me, opening her arms wide for me, I found myself shaking.

“Rosemary,” she said, her arms falling. Her black eyes studied me quizzically. “Darling, are you all right? You’re pale!”

I ran to her, frightened as ever, and told her of my handsome ghost. My handsome ghost wearing the strangest clothing I’d never seen. Mother was angry, and she paced my room for a lengthy time. Eventually, she told me that if he ever came back, I was to fight. He was after me, she decided, just like the rest of the world.

Only, he never came back.

Not until two years later, when I did just as Mother commanded: knocked him unconscious.

Thirteen

I let my mind drift, let the sound of beeping monitors and bustling nurses fade into the background. I’ve always been good at escaping. Mentally, anyway.

There was a time I tried escaping physically, too, when mental escape wasn’t enough. It was a night not so long ago, the night before I could officially call myself a teen, and I told myself that thirteen was young.

Thirteen was strong.

And maybe, I thought, if I could make it home, Jess wouldn’t have to spend our birthday at the hospital.

By the time I ripped the tubes from my nose and the I.V. from the back of my hand, the nurses had me surrounded, reminding me that age meant nothing. Not to my fatigued muscles and not to my fragile bones, strong and vibrant only eight months before.

Jess stayed by my side the entire day following, celebrating my newfound teenage-hood with the very nurses who kept me prisoner. I hate her guilt. I hate the way it makes her decisions. For as long as I can remember, Jess and I have celebrated our birthdays together, since I was born on her third. But I begged her not to that time. It was her sixteenth, and I begged her to spend it the way a teenage girl should.

But as usual, Jess never left my side. Instead of boys, music, and dancing, were tears, infection, and a catheter.

Instead of trendy clothes were hats, and even a mildly attractive wig.

I stare out the blackened hospital window now, unable to sleep. I take my thoughts elsewhere, somewhere far away and safe.  Somewhere where I am healthy and strong. In that place, I’m not poor, brave Haley, but beautiful, powerful Haley.

I draw my finger along the scar that stretches from the middle of my ribcage to just above my belly button, where it splits and continues down both sides of my abdomen—branding my stomach with the most horrific, twelve-inch upside-down Y. The raised skin is still sensitive, even raw in places, but I imagine it smooth, imagine that I wasn’t just opened like a lily six months ago.

I feel my hand over my silky head and imagine hair, too, imagine braids and ponytails and the annoyance I would feel when the wind blows it in my eyes. I would give anything to feel that annoyance again.

I feel a draft against my uneven skull instead.

It used to be red, my hair. Fiery and full of light, as Mom used to say. And once upon a time, my freckles (which seem so out of place now) matched.

My eyes burn and I set my jaw against the quivering.

I’m supposed to be strong. The strong, young cancer patient, smiling to give her mother the same hope she faked herself.

But Mom is gone and the nurses cackle outside my cracked door as though life isn’t slipping away in the rooms around them. For the first time in months, I’m alone—really and truly alone. And my solitude frees me.

I leave my bravery on the rolling tray table, along with the pudding I never touch, and let the tears spill. Tonight, I just want to be pretty again.

I want to dance like I used to, like gravity isn’t my worst enemy.

I want my first kiss, and though I know it’ll never happen, I imagine the way it would feel to have a boy’s lips against mine. Maybe Mark’s, the boy whose name decorates last year’s hot pink binder.

My solitude is interrupted when Mom enters the room, catching me in the middle of a breathless, teary gulp. She sees the tears drenching my cheeks and drops her purse at the door, rushing to me. For the briefest instant, I regret everything, because Mom could always cry at the drop of a hat, and usually I can soothe her.

But I’m still weak from leaving my strength on the tray table, and all I can do is cry the way Mom usually does.

Something strange happens when her arms encircle me. I feel something I don’t understand, coming from deep within and swelling in my chest. Then a warmth, the very warmth I’ve been fighting against. It too enters my soul, and my weeps drain me.

I don’t want to be alone, I realize, never again. But I’m not, because for the first time since the diagnosis, I absorb comfort from the same arms that rocked me as a young child, the arms to which I used to run, and the arms I’ve only recently rejected. These arms, warm and soft and smelling like childhood, give me something I can no longer give everyone else. They give me what I lacked all along and what I realize I’ve always wanted.

Thoughts of dancing again, maybe with her; thoughts of running and thoughts of hair, so long it tangles; thoughts of laughter and a body that knows no bounds.

The arms of my mother give me hope.

***

This is a piece I wrote about four years ago–a piece inspired by my little sister and her experience with battling liver cancer at age thirteen.

The Journey Begins

For my first blog post, I thought I’d introduce myself. First of all, for those of you who don’t know, I am Jennie Ritz, formally known by the author name of Jennie Davenport. In the past, I had one novel published under that name: HEMLOCK VEILS, a paranormal romance that was a loose retelling of the fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. To see my past blog posts/progress, visit my old, less-appealing site, jenniedavenportauthor.blogspot.com.

Right now, my project is a YA (young adult) paranormal romance. Sticking in line with the fairy-tale-retelling tradition, it’s a loose retelling of Rapunzel. What can I say–I love fairy tales and all things romance and magic. Currently, I’m in the revision process and my manuscript, titled THE GIRL MADE OF GOLD, is out with beta readers!

I’m a mother of three boys, I live in the best state around (Colorado), and I have an amazing partner by my side. Life has its ups and down, but those things always remain constant.

On this site, I will blog about all things writing, magic, and romance. Follow me for updates on my writing progress, writing snippets, news, and more!