It's been a while since I've blogged because I wanted to wait until there was something at least somewhat interesting to say. I'm gonna go out on a whim and say that this might be the perfect time to pop up and reveal the first official excerpt of my newest book, "The Truth About Never." This book became a baby for me and has quite possibly been the most complex story I've ever written. It's also my first try at one of my favorite genres, psychological thriller. I'm still a newbie in so many ways, but I always aim to tackle subjects that challenge me when I'm writing. In this case, I wanted to delve deeper into the human psyche under the circumstances of grief. Grief is definitely one of the hardest emotions to cope with and I really wanted to explore a fictional scenario where grief becomes so hard to deal with that it begins to affect a person's mental health. "The Truth About Never" is about grief at its worst. I hope other people with find some solace in the story as I did while I was writing it.
And how for the actual excerpt:
I wonder if it hurt when she died.
They said that when she went through the windshield, it probably happened so fast she didn't feel a thing. Or so the doctors told me. I’d like to think she was out cold before the impact. I’d like to think she got to the “white light” before the pain could seep in, but no doctor in the world could give me those kinds of details.
As for me? Guess I got off pretty easy if you don’t count the clunky leg brace or the crutches oh and…the handcuffs. Still, it’s not like I have any right to complain. At least I'm still breathing. Casey is dead and the only farewell I'm allowed to send her off with is an unannounced and unwelcomed appearance at her funeral in handcuffs.
It’s ironic that the sky is so cloudy today. Either that or it’s an omen sent down from the big man upstairs cause I can't remember a single day in Harbor, Arizona ever being this dark. What’s more of an omen is that mom even dry cleaned my best suit for the occasion.
She’s probably gonna freak once she realizes that they made me wear the regulatory prison jumpsuit instead.
The walk through the cemetery feels like a stroll in purgatory and not just because of the Arizonian heat, but because of the stares of people who turn full circles to gawk at me. People in a town as small as Harbor aren't used to public fiascoes like this.
I'm accepting that as my new identity these days: “the town fiasco” aka “the kid who drove drunk and killed his girlfriend in the process.”
I can ignore the stares. I even ignore the trigger happy rent-a-cops escorting me around the cemetery by shackles like some rabid dog. What pisses me off is feeling like they’re waiting for me to be stupid again, like they want me to attempt an escape so they can gun me down. At this point, I’d almost welcome that.
I’d rather be gunned down than to have to face Casey’s mom after everything that’s happened. Man, she hasn't changed a bit. I always hated how much she and Casey look alike – same frown lines, same worry wrinkles and that sparse cover of freckles Casey liked covering with her bangs.
When she was pissed, there were ways that girl could look at me that would make me feel like spit on the floor. Sometimes, gazing into her eyes was like a staring contest to the death. That must be an inherited talent because her mom nails me with a glare the moment she sees me and never lets go.
That second of eye contact to me feels like an hour. In a crowd of hundreds, I swear it’s like I'm the only one she sees.
“Jared, why aren't you in your suit?” Mom asks me but the cops won’t let her touch me when she moves in for a hug. She’s allowed at least to hold my hand and cups them both inside hers, kissing each finger and knuckle as tears trickle down her face.
I hate when she gets like this. It’s like dealing with a stray cat that won’t leave you alone after you've fed it.
“Mom, don’t make this about me, okay?” I say, prying her hands off my wrists and stepping back. The clinking sounds of her bracelet, reminds us both of the handcuffs. She glances at them frowning.
“Those things look too tight. Can't they at least loosen them?”
“Mom, I'm under arrest. The objective isn't for me to be comfortable.”
“Well, have they at least been taking care of you?” she asks. “You look so thin like you haven’t eaten in days. What have they been feeding you? Have you been getting enough sleep? You look exhausted.”
“Mom, come on, stop it! I practically begged those people to let me come here. Have you even looked at Mary? She already doesn't want us here. Don’t mess this up by getting dramatic, okay? Please.”
Dad steps in, grabbing her wrist to snatch her back. “Grace, he’s right.”
“So I'm not allowed to be worried about my own son?”
“Casey’s dead, mom,” I snap. “For once…show some damn respect.”
She looks at me then at dad and he nods. So she shuts up.
This is the first time he and I have ever unanimously agreed on anything. For the first time in a while, I'm almost happy to see him. He’s usually the only person in the world that can rein in my mother during one of her little episodes.
When he leans in, I don’t hear what he whispers to her, but I can tell it’s enough to get the point across. As the violin starts up Amazing Grace, Mom is on her best behavior and clasps hold of my little sister’s hand like the girl is full of helium and Mom’s terrified that she’ll float away. That kid probably has no clue what’s going on. She’s too busy playing with the crepe tulips on her dress.
During the funeral, my eyes wander, bypassing the priest reciting Psalms to skim the familiar faces of everyone in the crowd. There’s a chill that rolls down my spine and the air, I swear it tastes like blood or maybe that’s because I’ve bitten down on my lip too hard. Kait Monroe, Casey’s best friend, must’ve gotten the whole cheerleading squad here today and dressed in their best, matching leotards.
As she rounds the huddle of mourners and hands everyone a single white rose, Kait stops in front of Mary, they hug and send a collective glower in my direction. I don’t break either of their stares and flinch when Kait flips me the bird.
Classic Kait. Even as kids, she’s never liked me and I used to tell her that she should have the word, “Bitch” tattooed on her forehead. So the feeling is mutual and we’ve long since accepted the bad blood between us.
I bet the whole school is here. Even with a school as small as Harbor High, there are still some faces I don’t recognize and teachers too. The guys from the Lacrosse team sweat bullets in their varsity team jackets.
It’s well above ninety at least. I bet they reek of BO. The photography club snaps candid shots of me, zooming in and out of the handcuffs until my cop escorts shoo them away. I'm tempted to tuck my wrists between my thighs. And then there’s Jessica Clark who just stands idly in the crowd. I can't figure out why the hell she’s even here.
My brain is scrambled. They say it’s because of the coma. It’s like I'm looking at them all through cracked glasses. To me, they’re stick figures with distorted faces.
At the end, every guest is allowed a final view of the body. I'm surprised when no one tackles to me to the ground for making a move toward the casket. In fact, it’s like everyone scatters away as though they think standing too close to me is bad luck or something. I don’t care. I set my sights on that casket and I swear the muscles in my legs weaken for a split second as I drop to my knees.
Amazing Grace continues and as it ends, I don’t think I have enough strength to make it the rest of the way. The last time I cried like this was Christmas of 96’ when I was six years old and depressed because I didn’t get to see Santa Claus at the mall. I feel stupid for letting myself think about something as dumb as that at a time like this.
Casey would probably laugh her ass off if she were here to see it. Big, strong Jared Foster crying like a little bitch, quivering at the knees, face red and puffy. Hell, I’d laugh myself if the circumstances were appropriate. I’d laugh if she were here to share it. At least that’d mean she’s still alive. I crack a smile just for her and imagine her fingers tightening around mine as I squeeze her cold hands.
“I'm sorry Case,” I whisper. The words tangle in my throat, tightening my chest and straining my voice. “I’m so sorry.”
“Hey! Get the hell away her!” someone says. I recognize the voice but I don’t bother turning around to face the person behind it. I don’t even get the chance to.
Before I know it, my feet leave the ground as he hoists me up and pins me to the coffin. Bystanders gasp and Mom lets out a bloodcurdling shriek. Things go from zero to sixty pretty fast. I blink and a team of cops storm the area from nowhere. One grabs ahold of my mom to keep her out of the way. Another snatches Dad, but it takes three of them to get Casey’s brother, Moss, off of me.
He fires off four blows to my face before they’re able to drag him away. Numb, I stay on the ground staring up into the sky until someone helps me to my feet.
That’s all I remember of the funeral — that and Casey’s mom screaming for me to never show my face again. Naturally, I didn’t dare have the balls or the nerve to press charges against Moss for the public beat down. I owe him that much for killing his only kid sister.
The click and clack of a cell door wakes me up. I sit up on my cot gazing through the bars as mom waves at me from the other side.
“Looks like you’ve been bailed out Foster,” the guard announces. “Lucky you.”
They hand me my clothes at the front. As mom deals with the paperwork, I dress in the restroom and we drive in silence during the route home. It’s not that I'm trying to be disrespectful. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to her. It’s just that I honestly don’t know what it is she wants from me. An explanation? I’d like one of those for myself.
I don’t know how I lost control of the car that night or why I thought I was good to drive even when Casey begged me to pull over and sleep it off. I don’t know how I could’ve been so stupid and why I thought I had the right to be at her funeral.
Mom changes the radio station five times before we’re finally home. I don’t recognize one of the cars in the driveway. There’s Dad’s blue Mercedes and a sleek looking Miata behind it. Mom pulls into the curve of the teardrop driveway and turns to me while killing the engine.
“Whose car is that?” I ask.
She finds her purse and tosses the car keys inside.
“Your father and I pooled our resources to find you the best lawyer. Russell Coyle has an impeccable track record. He specializes with juvenile offenders. He thinks your case has potential. That’s a good sign.”
“Mom, I'm really not in the mood for this today.”
Mom blinks. There’s a tear dying to drip down from her left eye. In time, she blots it dry with her finger and tries smiling it away. “At your arraignment, they almost denied you bail. I begged them to let you come home until the trial. Please, Jared, can't you at least pretend to be happy to be here…for me?”
“I don’t know what you want from me. My girlfriend’s dead. I killed her. You want me to just…put on a smile like it never happened?”
She pauses. I'm curious about what she’ll say or what she thinks she should say to make this better. I'm not six anymore. It’s gonna take a hell of a lot more than candy to fix this and that’s the problem.
My mother knows how to weave fairytales out of even the most tragic things. She told my little sister, Aimee, that Casey went to “fly with the angels.”
When she looks at me, her face goes blank almost as it her tongue just swiveled up and fell off or something.
“The investigators said it was raining,” she says then sits back to reapply her lipstick in the mirror. “The roads were sleek. Anyone could’ve missed that washed out bridge. Anyone could’ve slammed into that guardrail. It wasn’t—”
“I was drinking mom. No matter how brilliant Russell Coyle is, he can't defend that. I can't defend that.”
Mom’s lips poke out. It reminds me of when Aimee throws a tantrum and goes on a warpath kicking and screaming until someone notices. I get the feeling that Mom’s resisting the urge to do the same.
“Well, just because you’re ready to throw your life away does not mean I'm just gonna sit back and let you do it.” She charges from the car, slamming the door so hard that the whole thing trembles. I wonder how long they’ll all wait for me inside. My father’s probably serving cocktails with an extra teaspoon of tequila for mom’s sake.
Before heading inside, I pace myself with a deep breath and forget to exhale. I feel the color drain from my face almost as fast at the heat does. When I step into the foyer, I have to remind myself again how to act and to smile because my parents would expect it.
Russell Coyle is exactly how I pictured him being, draped in Armani and with a glint that reflects so sharply off his Rolex that it blinds me when he shakes my hand.
“How you doing son?” he asks.
To please the spectators, I smile and nod.
“I'm good, I guess. Two days in a holding cell was enough to make me miss this place.”
“Well, if things go as planned you’ll never have to see the inside of a cell ever again.”
“Of course things will go as planned,” Dad says, grinning. “I’m paying you enough, aren’t I?”
For some reason, they all laugh at that, but I didn't catch the punch line to the joke. For three hours they sit in the parlor discussing me like I'm not even in the room. A few times Mom refills their glasses with second and third helpings of whiskey as my father practically waves around his checkbook declaring, “Nothing’s too much to pay for this Russ! We need to win this.”
And like the dutiful little kiss-ass Russell seems to be, he nods in agreement. I stare daggers into the procession of school pictures collecting dust on the fireplace mantle. This room is a shrine of baby pictures courtesy of my mother who I think has an unhealthy obsession with naked baby photos. I count at least ten framed pictures of both me and my sister Aimee butt naked on a throw rug.
“What do you think, Jared? Does that sound good to you?”
Hmm, that’s funny. I thought they forgot was I still in the room. For a second I forgot.
“Jared, we’re discussing your defense,” Dad says. “You aren't even listening?”
“Look dad, I'm tired,” I say. “I don’t feel like doing this. I just want to go to bed.”
“Are you not aware of what this trial could do to you?” Russell adds. “They’re charging you as an adult. You could go to prison for ten to fifteen years, son.”
“And to hell with your college education. You think anyone will hire you with a manslaughter conviction on your record?” Dad says.
When they lay it all out like that, it’s obvious they expect me to perk up and care or at least pretend to, but I can’t find the strength to give a damn. Regardless of my defense, whether I win or lose, whether I serve time or don’t, Casey is still dead.
Nothing is gonna change that. Why should I care about what happens to me? Why should I give a damn about anything ever again?