Chapter 2. Write a Novel Challenge.
She wore the cloudy, milky stages of sleep around her like a blanket. From the vague myriad of thoughts in her mind, a beam of light emerged, leaving traces on her skin. The sloshy mud between her toes brought comfort, the potent smell of lilies that pierced her nostrils gave her hope; a flicker of recognition. Yes, she had been here before. What struck her most -the birds- as they sang to the rhythm of the wind, their sound filled the space with sweet vibrations, clouding her mind with what could only be described as ecstasy. She heard the steady, tumbling flow of a waterfall, the soft rustling of leaves, the swaying of grass, the scraping of dust. It was all uncomfortably familiar.
“Neina?” The voice was clear and wobbly, like a child’s. Only then did she realize that her frame seemed to have shrunk, the tall grass was now just underneath her chin, her hands were small and bony, almost like a different body. But no, she could feel it, this is my body. She strained in an effort to seek the composer of who the honeyed voice belonged to. The realization almost knocked her legs from underneath her. She knew that face. Had I been here in another life, perhaps? She thought. A beat later, a name came to mind. Quinn.
Then without warning, she was bombarded with memories. There was grass, tree-lined roads, a starry night stretching beyond her. The singsong voice of a woman with long blonde locks flowing after her. The sight of her filled Neina with a warmth she couldn’t explain. The ripples of a lake, the vibrant blur of flowers, lilies- lilies were the woman’s favourite, she remembered. There was the face of a young boy, no more than 12, with wild dark hair, curls framed his pale face. There was a man, with rich dark skin and a voice that sounded scratchy as he attempted to sing a song that was much too high for his tone. But, she realised, it didn’t matter that the song did not suit him, they didn’t care. They didn’t care that they were all sitting in a car that was seemingly ancient, with a radio that filled with static now and again. They didn’t care that the road was empty, that the darkness stretched eerily in front of them, didn’t care that they could wake up the neighbours. They only focused on the song, each other, and the sky that rolled out above them like a canvas.
She was jerked back to reality, or rather the present moment, where she stood face to face with the boy with dark hair. With Quinn. Only he seemed older now, and something about his demeanour struck her as tired. His face broke out with a smile, as he ran towards her.
“You won’t believe what Ryder just found!” energy and bounce radiated off of him in waves, “John says we might even get to keep it! Come on!” he started in a run but stopped to realise that Neina wasn’t following.
“You’re… Quinn, right?’ she cringed at the way her voice sounded; childish and weak. If Frankie were here, he would scold her. Voice is power, he would say to her.
Quinn laughed. “Did you hit your head on the docks?” he teased. But slowly she started to piece it together, the events bloomed in her mind. She wasn’t just dreaming, she realised. She was remembering.
Quinn started towards the farmhouse that towered over them, and without knowing why, Neina trailed after him. She recognized the warm, sun-bathed interior of the house. The beige walls, the wicker chairs, the white flowy curtains billowing in the breeze, the flowery wallpaper. Home.
Another, taller boy came cascading down the stairs, almost tripping over his feet.
“Neina! I need your help to convince Mom about keeping it. Dad said yes, but Mom will only listen to you.” the boy’s- Ryder’s- voice was deeper, older. But this only confused Neina further, her head spinning in an effort to keep up.
“M-Mom?” she asked, bewildered.
He looked amused. What is it with these people? Do they find everything amusing?
“Yeah, mom, silly. You know… The woman who raised us. You might know her.” he answered. She could do nothing, of course, but agree and follow Ryder- her brother?
“I think your sister hit her head,” Quinn added, chuckling.
The blonde woman was sprawled along the wrap-around porch, a book in her hands. She wore a flowery dress that flowed around her. There was no denying it, she was beautiful. Mom. Only when Neina appeared did she look up, seemingly out of her daydream. She smiled.
“Hey there sugar” her singsong voice was thickly accented.
“Where’ve you been all day?” she reached out and touched Neina’s cheek.
Neina’s heart filled with longing. She took a deep breath, breathing in the scent of the rich earth, breathing in the scent of lilies that almost lulled her mind. She was filled with content, a relaxed sensation enveloped her.
I remember this.
The setting, the people that surrounded her, the visible love that they all felt for each other. she heard the birds once again, chirping above. She let herself soak it all up, the peace. It gave her a chill, the setting, because what she heard next was a gunshot.
It’s fine. You’re fine. She told herself. It’s just a dream.
But as she looked around her, the porch slipped from under her feet, the people disappearing into nothing. For a minute, there was nothing but darkness. It crept up behind her, filled her thoughts with dread. She could almost feel its fingers stroking her spine. She shivered. She felt a sudden stab of sharp pain at her side, and as she returned to consciousness, she felt a warm, sickly substance on her fingers. Her eyes bolt awake. Her fingers came away from her side, a brilliant shade of dark red.
She found a figure standing over her. The girl with the doe-eyes and rosy cheeks.
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