Chapter Excerpt: In the City

Below is the opening chapter from 22 Scars. What do you think? Would you want to read more?

In the City

The late summer sun is a drop of blood over the rooftops, and the girl in the park is sitting in the last rays passing between old brick buildings.

It’s a small park, not much more than a few benches and a couple of old trees; a refuge in a town that is huge, and busy. The trees haven’t begun to turn yet, and the grass and paths are golden in the spaces between their leaves. There are people passing through, but they are few, and don’t spare the girl a glance.

The girl is sixteen. A cigarette hangs in her hand, ash burned back almost to her fingertips. Black hood over her head and black jeans to her boots, she’s a darker shadow in the shade of the trees. A lock of crimson hangs forward, and her small silver nose ring glints a little. Under the hoodie is a lace top, black also, and at her breast is a silver pendant: a crucifix, entwined with snakes. A choker holds a black glass heart with a skull inside.

Her eyes—hazel, and green—are on the ground, and they wince as the ash burns to her fingers, but she doesn’t let go; only bites her black-stained lip. Not until the purse by her side vibrates does she drop the butt, conscientious enough to crush it. She reaches into the bag, past the ID that says she’s twenty-one, to pull out a battered phone. The little screen says, where r u.

She fiddles and sends a reply; stows the phone again. She raises her eyes—not her head—and looks: the trees, the pigeons, the passers-by. There is a brief moment when only the girl and the squirrels are in the park, and she gets up, the purse strap across her chest and her hands deep in the hoodie.

Her walk is slow, a little shuffling, her head always down. Her boots are good leather, well-worn, tap gently against the pavement. They guide her along a path out of the park, though she steps to the grass to avoid the people who are once again passing through.

She leaves the park onto a sidewalk that runs along the narrow street, cars parked tight in the gutter. She turns, follows the iron fence to the corner. Her head is always down, and she steps onto the street to a screech and the blast of a horn.

Stopped in the middle of the street, a battered pickup continues to scream at her.

“The fuck, girl! What the hell’s wrong with you?”

She looks up now, stares at the driver; her breath is quick and her eyes empty.

“Get the fuck out of the way!”

She moves, still slow, and the truck revs and lumbers past, “Crazy bitch!” echoing after. In her pockets, nails dig into palms. On the other side she continues, and passes into shadow.

Here are small shops, most closing up, one of the few parts of town that sleep. Run down and tired, garbage bags on the street, shopkeepers and pizzas on bicycles accompany her on her way. Sometimes she does look up here, at rusted fire escapes, or the gothic detailing under the windows, but never at the people.

For some blocks she continues, past shops and brownstones, and sometimes trees pierce the paving and rustle above. Most of these homes are split apartments, and it is at one of these she finally stops. At the top of the steps is a buzzer, and she pauses here for a moment.

The door is glass-paned and she presses against it. The hall inside is dark and difficult to see, but she waits nonetheless, and peers. With her other hand she pulls the hoodie closer around her. For some time she looks, and then relaxes back and sighs hard. She looks up the street, and down; several people pass her without caring, but no one else mounts the steps.

Stepping back she looks up to the windows above, and finally presses the buzzer. The sound is loud and crackles, and she doesn’t hold it for long.

After a moment, a grainy voice says, “Yeah?”

“Hello? It’s me.”

“Hey, is that Amy? Come on in.”

The buzzer again, long and loud, and a click. Amy pushes open the door, and steps inside.

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