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The Darker Half

by Chestersmummy 

Posted: 11 July 2017
Word Count: 901
Summary: This is the start of the novel I am currently working on. It tells the story of twins who were born enemies and whose mutual antipathy eventually results in tragic consequences for both of them. The story unfolds in a series of flashbacks from the present time to their childhood and early life. It is told from the viewpoint of three people: Anna, the girl twin, Alec the boy twin and a detective. Present time is told in the present tense and the past on the past tense.

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Anna wonders what it’s like to drown.      She’s heard that after the first few frantic struggles, it’s a peaceful way to go.   Oxygen leaches from your brain, your worries fade and you give up and drift away on a cloud of euphoria.   She’d like to think that was true, but she isn’t convinced.  Anyway, how does anyone know?    A lot of people think they are so clever.  Unlike her.  She always seemed to be one step behind, always the last to know, she hadn’t even recognised the signs when her world started to collapse around her.  
 A frozen stream of air scythes down from the Arctic and she draws her coat close.   For the first time, she becomes aware of the cold stone of the parapet cutting into her stomach and she draws back a fraction, only to lean forward again, mesmerised by the river pounding underneath the bridge.  Its colour is constantly changing, from metallic blue to pewter reflecting turbulent clouds scudding across the sky.    There’s a twig caught in the grip of the current and she follows its progress as it spins towards the weir.  Without thinking, she toes off first one shoe and then the other, standing on the balls of her feet, watching the water writhing and foaming as if in the grip of a seizure.
 ‘Is everything all right, Miss?’
Anna’s body jerks and her hands tighten on the parapet as she smothers a squeal.   She’d thought she was quite alone.
The man’s bulky figure is silhouetted against the bitter orange of the dying sun:  she can just make out the luminous oval of his face.   He sounds concerned and she feels a surge of irritation.  When she replies, her voice is curt.
‘I’m fine, thank you.’
Her cheeks burn as she hunts around for her shoes and slips them back on.  With a brief, dismissive nod, she turns and hurries towards the town.
Frost sparkles the pavement as Anna walks through the empty streets.    It’s full dark now and most of the houses have drawn their curtains against the night.  The lemon coloured lozenges look cosy and Anna slows, gazing at them in the same way that a sugar starved child gazes into a sweetshop.   Her own house will be in darkness except, perhaps, for the blue flutter of a television in the front room.
.           As she rounds a corner ‘The Queen’s Head’ materialises in a blaze of light.   It’s a cheerful place and in happier days had been her local.   As she draws nearer, a drone of sound spills out into the darkness and early Christmas decorations shiver in the windows as they catch in the draught of an ever-opening door.  
Suddenly, she craves the warmth of uncomplicated human companionship and without thinking, her body swerves towards the entrance.  Just in time she stops herself, imagining what would happen if she did go in, walk up to the bar and order herself a drink.   At first, no-one would notice but sooner or later, someone would and their look would harden into a stare.    One by one, other heads would turn and the buzz of conversation would dwindle.   Anna’s blood runs cold at the thought.   She turns away and picking up speed, almost runs down the road.
Her steps slow as she reaches her street.   A car comes around the corner and its headlights wash over her house, briefly illuminating its windows one by one.   The house looks as if it’s winking at her.   It looks sly.   She used to love it once, but not now.       
.She crunches up the gravel drive and deliberately fumbles her key in the lock, making no effort to hide her arrival.   As she slams the door a light goes on. A moment later, Romeo appears in the doorway.   His faced is flushed, his hair tousled.   He stretches, and his mouth opens in an elaborate yawn.
‘Nice walk, love?’
Apprehension dulls his eyes as she doesn’t bother to answer.   Instead, she turns left into the kitchen.   With a sick shudder, a scene she’s repeatedly tried to obliterate flashes into her mind.    She grits her teeth and squeezes her eyes shut, pushing the image away, desperately trying to think of something else.  At some level she knows she will have to deal with it at some time but she’s not strong enough yet.  Weak with misery, her body leans against the sink.  At last, she slowly opens her eyes.  Reaching out, she wipes condensation from the window and looks out at the garden, seeing but not registering.   Long moments pass before she realises that it’s started to rain.   Picking up a white plastic kettle she thrusts it under the tap, listening as the hiss of the water drowns out the steady drumming of the weather.    The kettle’s pale reflection shimmers in the glass and wavy lines of raindrops march down the panes merge and slowly coalesce to form the shape of a face.  Her knees start to shake.
‘No.’ she whispers and shakes her head.  ‘It can’t be.’
  She knows she’s wrong when the lips twist in a familiar smile of triumph.  Then, almost instantly the face vanishes and is replaced by the stygian depths of a winter’s night.    Feeling weak and ill, she puts the kettle down and stumbles to a chair, wondering if she is going mad.
‘Oh, Alec,’ she whispers, ‘how you must be loving this.

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Comments by other Members

michwo at 19:07 on 11 July 2017  Report this post
You've got quite a following on WW it seems to me. and, yes, rightly so.
"Bruised, battered and bewildered" was an awesome story in its grasp of the dark side of dysfunctional relationships and this novel you've embarked on seems to start with one of the central characters contemplating suicide - or am I reading too much into it?

Chestersmummy at 22:15 on 11 July 2017  Report this post
No, you have got it exactly right Michwo.  Glad that came across but it is only at the end of the novel that the reason becomes clear.


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