Hope you are well and that you are as happy as you can be!
There is a never read before story on its way :o) I started writing this story back in the year 2010. It started off with a different title and a different kind of plot - it was initially about vampires and such, and the first 20,000 words were written, but then I ran out of ideas. Earlier this year, I happened upon an awesome title for a story, proceeded to dig through my files and decided to update and publish THE SHAPE OF MY SOUL.
Because you are so amazing, I'm going to share the first 6 chapters here (first 4,000+ words) and I hope you enjoy the story and get just as excited about it as I am.
Also, I never, ever want there to be a single person who wishes they could read one of my stories, but they cannot, so, if you contact me via Facebook or Twitter, I will always send you a free copy - without any strings attached.
When: Release Date - 01 October 2016
Where: Everywhere good books are sold
What: Shape-Shifter Romance with lots of angst, romance, feelings & as always a good dollop of horror.
Kindest regards, always
This is a story about a girl.
You actually know me well.
On the inside, I am just like you.
We have the same wishes, the same dreams. Just like you, I have the most incredible crush on a boy who would never notice me.
However, my life is not like a teen rom-com, where at the end of the story the boy will discover his wrong ways and decide I am the one for him. He would not suddenly fall head over heels for me. No, I am the girl who blends into the background.
I am that girl in the photo your eyes will scan across to get to the friends you remember. The one, you would ask in a few years, “What was her name again?” Your finger will trace the names under the photo in the Year Book, and you would get a blank look on your face when you read the few letters.
In a time before Bradley broke my heart, even before I felt there was no hope he would ever like me, I arrived at a secluded castle at the most northern borders of the Scottish Highlands.
It was so far from everything, it would take a person a day to reach the nearest other living, breathing human being. Strange then, the manner in which I arrived. A bundle wrapped up in a tattered blanket ensconced in a basket. There was no note, no farewell letter from a grieving mother, no goodbye, no explanation.
The castle stood majestically on a cliff and below it the ocean crashed into the rock face continuously, day and night.
Sometimes, on particularly stormy days, the white spray from the waves would cascade over the high precipice and I loved standing under the spray.
When I stretched my little arms up into the sky, it felt as if I was a bird and I could fly to wherever the breeze took me. I could escape the confines of the castle grounds and see a world hidden away from me. A world where the sun’s bright spark lit up the always-dreary sky surrounding me.
Grey clouds usually sat closely around the castle walls and it was as if my world was restricted to the area surrounding my home. On the rarest of occasions the sun would find a gap between the clouds, and then sunlight would radiate down to the earth in long glowing stripes, but never for too long.
As a young girl, I spent many days sitting in the wide stone window bay in my bedroom, overlooking the stormy gray sea. With my legs pulled up to my chest and my chin resting on my knees, I would anticipate moving away and living somewhere where the sun always shined. Where the sky would be that elusive blue they talked about in books.
In my own perception I grew up quite normally, even though I had no mother or father and absolutely no idea where I came from. However, you cannot miss something you never knew, and so in my mind everything was as it was supposed to be.
I was home schooled and my tutor, Mr. Glenfiddich always made sure I was shoulder high in reading material. Every Thursday he traveled to his home on the other side of the mist, which might as well have been in another universe, and then he would return on a Sunday evening with new books for me to read. Often I wished, he would invite me with him.
My most favourite times growing up was school holidays. Although school holidays never applied to me, this was the time when the servant’s children came to visit their parents, and I looked forward to the few days every couple of months when I could play with them. We would play hide-and-seek in the vast sparsely furnished rooms. Often we played catch or dared each other to see who could stand the closest to the cliff edge until one of the servants stopped us and we were all shepherded back behind the walls of the castle. In winter, we built snowmen. We pretended to be kings and queens, to hunt and slay dragons, and to be blood thirsty Vikings coming to conquer a country.
After each holiday, I said goodbye to them sadly, and then the countdown started to the next holidays when they would come back again.
The servant’s children were of varying ages, and as I got older so they got older and my circle of friends dwindled every year, as they stopped coming home as frequently as they did when they were little.
Bradley was only two years older than me, so by my fourteenth year he was the only one still coming home every holiday.
As he got older, it was as if time forgot about me. I still wanted to run outside, build snowmen, and dance in crazy circles on the wet grass in front of the walls of our castle, but Bradley did not want to play with me anymore. That was when loneliness started to settle even heavier on my shoulders and I had nothing to look forward to anymore.
Recently, when Bradley was home for the holidays, it felt as if he was avoiding me, as if the carefree happiness we used to have as children had been stolen from us.
Sometimes I found him looking at me intensely and I would smile at him, hoping he would talk to me or offer to spend time with me, but he would only look away and then pretend as if I did not exist.
Bradley Windsor had turned seventeen a few days before another three-month summer holiday was about to start, which meant I was a month and a half away from turning fifteen. Only two years then I could finally leave the castle to find out what was on the other side of the blanket of clouds. To be exact it was six hundred and sixty six days.
I was standing in the kitchen, waiting for Cook to pour me a cup of tea, when I overheard Bradley’s mother telling Cook, “Bradley said he did not want to come home for the holidays this year.”
Cook replied without looking up from brewing the tea, “When they get older, they all stop coming.”
“He says there is nothing here for him.”
“Aye, that’s what they all say. You will be seeing him less and less, Matilda. T’is the way of life.”
Matilda sighed long and sad. “There is just too many parties and get-togethers with his friends from school, he says he does not want to miss, and although I want him here, I cannot blame him for feeling that way. This is not a place for any young person.”
I must surely be invisible, she was talking as if I was not even in the room.
“Soon he’ll be telling you he has a girlfriend, and then he will stop coming altogether,” Cook said.
“I think there is already a young lady he has his eye on. He is always talking about her.”
Immediately I stopped counting the days to the first day of holidays. Even though he now never spend any time with me when he was here, it still broke the repetitiveness of my every day.
Silently I took the cup of tea from Cook when she handed it to me, and left the room to go to my bedroom.
Giles came walking toward me down the passage, his tall, lank figure was dark as the tall window at the end of the long passage behind him, silhoetted him. When he reached me, he said, “Little Miss, Mr. Belvedere is asking for you.”
“Thank you, Giles. I’ll follow you.”
He walked ahead of me and we crossed the landing to go to the other side of the castle.
Mr. Belvedere, and I knew him by no other name, was my guardian. He was a recluse and preferred to stay away from the hustle and bustle side of the castle. In all the years I had lived at the castle, I could count the times I had seen him on my one hand.
This side of the castle was dark and medieval looking, and I did not like coming this way. It was as if the faint light from the electric bulbs along the wall created shadows within shadows. When I glanced sideways, it was as if my own shadow distorted and grew into something which did not resemble the shape of my body. When this happened, I often wondered if that was what the shape of my soul looked like.
When we reached Mr. Belvedere’s office, Giles opened the door for me and stepped aside so that I could walk into the room.
I took a deep breath, feeling my chest rise and closed my eyes for a second, before I stepped across the threshold into the study.
Mr Belvedere was a small man and the large chair he sat in made him look even smaller. His hair was snow white, and the tiny hairs on his arm was unusually plentiful and the same pale colour. His red rimmed eyes was small in his face, and his nose always twitched in a peculiar way, almost like a rat’s nose would twitch when it was smelling something.
The large study was decorated in dark wood and burgundy coloured drapes. Old books were stacked all over the floor and created a labyrinth of passageways through them.
Mr. Belvedere said in his high pitched voice, “Sit, Amber.”
I sat down on the edge of the chair placed in front of his desk and balanced the cup of tea I was still holding in my hand on my lap. I sat with my back straight and my chin up.
“At the start of the new school year, you will be leaving us,” he announced.
Leaving? Where would I go? Was he tired of caring for me after all these years? Did he think I was old enough to fend for myself? I always tried not to be a burden, to limit my needs only to basic necessities, and never asked for anything which was not offered.
Thoughts of panic raced through my mind, when we halted them. “You will be attending boarding school in London. Mr Glenfiddich informs me you are well prepared for this, and it is time for you to go.”
What did he mean, it was time for me to go?
“Your parents...” He stopped talking abruptly. “Speak to Ms. Windsor, she will help you with all the arrangements.” He turned his chair away from me.
“You know my parents?” I whispered.
He bellowed, the voice coming from behind the back of the chair larger than the body it erupted from, “You may leave.”
I jumped with fright and quickly scrambled from the room, forgetting about the cup of tea I had in my hand. The cup flew from my lap and the tea made an arc as the cup swirled through the room, spilling its contents.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled as I hurried to pick up the cup.
Before I could reach it, his voice said in a calm, loud whisper, it was as if it filled every crevice of the room. “Leave. Now.”
I was sitting in my usual spot by my window. The cold from the window seeped into my bones through the thick jersey I was wearing. The rain ran in rivulets down the windowpane and I traced their path with my finger.
I had wanted to leave the castle since I can remember, but it was frightening to leave the only place I had ever been for fifteen years. What it the other side of the clouds were not as I had always imagined it would be. What if?
Through the hazy mistiness I saw the faint glow of a car’s headlights as it bounced off the drops of rain on the glass.
Looking up, I saw the taxi drive through the large ornate gate, which guarded our castle from the outside world. My eyes followed its slow progress up the long gravelled driveway until it stopped in front of our large and heavy front door.
When he climbed out of the car, I did not recognize Bradley at first. Then for a brief moment I felt that old happiness well up in my chest, but I repressed it. It was usually a short-lived pleasure. His blonde hair was combed in a new style. His shoulders looked square from up in my room, and he looked taller than when I saw him only a few months ago.
He pulled his bag from the taxi and then he lifted his head to look up at the castle. Our eyes met and it seemed as if his eyes had also become bluer than the eyes I had gotten used to.
I started to smile, but then stopped as I stared down at him. I straightened my legs as he continued to look up at me, and then moving away from the window, I went to sit down at my writing desk. Mr. Glenfiddich had given me a History assignment and although only a couple of minutes ago I had no intention of ever doing it, I now decided to start. I had three long months in which to finish it before I would have to go away.
When Bradley was here he stayed with his mother in the servant’s cottages at the back of the castle. At night it was only me and Mr. Belvedere who stayed in this big, cold, dark and lonely building.
After two days, I still had not seen Bradley and assumed he preferred to stay at the cottage, rather than coming to the castle, for fear of having to see me. Did he dislike me that much? What had I done wrong?
Shortly before twelve o’clock, there was a gentle knock on my door and I stood up from my desk, marking the page I was reading with a bookmark.
As I opened the door, thinking it might be Matilda coming to call me for lunch, my words froze on my lips.
Bradley stood in front of me. He looked so worldly wise in a dark blue denim pants and a grey t-shirt, which hugged his broad shoulders like a second skin.
Taking a sharp breath, I could not think of anything to say.
He smiled and it lit his eyes. “I thought we could go for a walk?”
I took a step away from him. “Why?”
He looked past me to the large gothic windows behind my back. “It’s a beautiful day.”
I looked back across my shoulder. Outside looked a little brighter than usual. He must be used to days even more beautiful than this day, so why would he think this was a beautiful day? Looking back at him unsure, I took a step toward him. “Where do you want to walk to?”
He stepped into the carpeted corridor in front of my room as I pulled my bedroom door closed behind me.
“Remember that place in the woods where we always pretended there were hidden faeries?”
“Let’s go there. I haven’t been there in forever.”
Only last week I had gone there remembering days gone by and hoping wishes did eventually come true. Jokingly I asked, “You believe in faeries now?”
Together we walked along the deep burgundy carpet covering the stone floors and nervously I traced my fingertips along the rough edges of the walls on my side.
“No, but I do remember it had a magic-ness about it, and I am bored out of my bracket.”
I felt insulted.
In silence we walked next to each other down the circular wooden staircase with the wide risers. When the large crystal chandelier, which hung dead centre in the middle of the circle formed by the stairs, was eye-level with us, he interrupted the quiet surrounding us, “That chandelier always reminds me of the way the dew glittered off the leaves in the hidden faerie kingdom.”
I glanced at him and he was smiling amused. I wondered if he was making fun of me.
In the large foyer, we walked across the polished stone floor decorated with large Persian rugs, toward the large wooden doors. He pulled on the heavy door and then he let me walk out ahead of him.
I waited on the top step for him, and when he joined me again after closing the door, we stepped down the curved stoned steps to the gravelled driveway.
As we walked away from the castle, he looked back across his shoulder. “If you haven’t been here for a while, this place looks so spooky when you get back again.”
I was not sure what to say. I have always been here. I do not know what it feels like to go away and to come back.
The sea was rolling continuously toward the cliffs. I could not see the waves crashing against the rocks down below, but the vast grayness moved up and down constantly.
We walked along the pathway beside the cliff, while the castle loomed over us from the side.
When we reached the tree line and the muddy footpath which snaked through the trees, Bradley let me walk ahead of him. He asked from behind me, “How have you been, Amber?”
“I’m okay. Still the same.”
“It feels as if I haven’t spoken to you in a long time.”
Sarcastically I replied silently: Not because of me. Out loud I said, “It’s been a while. How’s school?”
He laughed. The sound bounced back from the dense forest surrounding us. “School is great. Going to College after summer.”
I glanced at him across my shoulder. “Already?”
“Yeah. Time flies.”
I disagreed, because time did not actually fly, it crawled. “What are you planning on studying?”
We reached the fork in the pathway. If a person did not know there was a pathway branching off the main pathway, they could walk past it without ever knowing of its existence.
I pushed through the thick undergrowth on the ground to the pathway on the other side. The dampness from the plants clung to the hem of my pants, wetting me up to my knees.
Bradley stumbled. He had not been here since he was fourteen when we last came here together, and now it seemed he had forgotten about the thick tree roots hidden under the green ferns and shrubbery.
Automatically I brought my arms up to catch him, bracing myself for the impact. My hands planted themselves onto his chest and I felt a jolt of something shoot through me.
His hand came up reflectively and folded over my hand on his chest. His hand was larger and broader than mine. I felt the pressure of his fingers as they tensed against my skin.
A sense of danger filled me and it pulled at me as nothing else ever had.
I looked up at him and met his eyes. For a short moment we were stuck in time.
His hand tightened around mine and I dropped my eyes to his chest. My eyes were glued to my hands and my fingers splayed against his chest. I could feel his silent gaze on me.
I cleared my throat as I moved away from him and pushed my hands into my pants pockets. “What field of Engineering are you interested in?”
He fell in step next to me. It was as if nothing ever happened, as if the feeling I felt between him and me was only a figment of my imagination.
I glanced up at him unsure. “Polymer?”
“Yeah. Plastics and stuff.” He looked away from me. “There it is and it’s just like I remember.”
We walked into the small area. He had to crouch down otherwise his head and shoulders would have gotten stuck in the ivy twining through the branches of the nearest trees and forming a canopy over a small circular cleared area. When we were children we laboriously dragged old tree stumps and un-chopped fire logs here and made a clubhouse. In all the years that followed, I never changed a thing.
He sat down on the biggest branch with his hands resting on either side of him.
I moved to sit down on an upended fire log.
As I started to sit down, he asked seriously, “Don’t you ever get lonely living here?”
A sudden sadness filled me and before I could embarrass myself, I turned around and ran as fast as I could back to the safety of my bedroom.
His voice calling my name followed me until I slammed my bedroom door shut and fell down onto my bed.
Only then did I allow my tears to escape.
Hours later, there was a knock at my door, and stepping closer to do the door, without opening it, I asked, “Yes?”
“It’s me,” his voice said from the other side of the door.
“What do you want?” I asked rudely.
“Let’s try taking a walk again. We’ll walk in a different direction.”
“You always used to love the rain.”
He remembered. “Not anymore.”
“My mother stoked the fire in the library. Let’s go there. We can play a board game or something.”
Even though I wanted to, I said, “I am busy.”
There was a cynical tone in his voice. “With what?”
“You might think I am lonely or bored here, but I am not. I have lots to do.”
“Like what?” He could hear the smile in his voice.
“Lots,” I replied stubbornly.
“Stop being like that. Come with me.”
I could not open the door. I could not let him see I had been crying. He would ask, “Why are you crying?”
I would have to reply, “Because when you asked me if I ever get lonely, it felt as if you only felt sorry for me, when all I wanted was for you to like me.”
I would want to tell him, “I have dreams about you, not only when I am asleep, but when I am awake.”
I could not tell him any of those things.
The next morning, when I walked into the kitchen, I heard the housekeeper, Ms. Windsor tell Cook, “He said he had lots to do at school.”
Cook nodded her head and laughed soflty. “I am sure it’s that girl he was running back to. Young love always feel seperation so much deeper.”
I turned around and left the kitchen. I ventured into the draughty halls of my home, and I wandered around like a ghost until the day I had to leave arrived.
Cook and Matilda and Mr. Glenfiddich stood at the door, while Giles helped me to to carry the one suitcase I had to the waiting car. The car that would drive me all the way to London. Admittedly, I was afraid of what waited for me beyond the mist.
My guardian, Mr. Belvedere, was nowhere to be seen, as expected. I did not really think he was going to say goodbye to me, even though during the last few weeks I was tempted to march to his study and demand he told me about my parents, but my thin facade of confidence and bravery was fragile.
I hugged Cook goodbye, and let my arms stretch around her plumpness, while the strands of her hair which escaped the always present bun on her head tickled the folds of my neck.
“Bye, Child,” she sniffed. I pulled away from her and she kept her hands on my shoulders. Looking at me intently, she insisted, “Now, you come visit, you hear me?”
I nodded my head, too afraid to speak, because saying anything would have started an avalanche of tears.
Ms. Windsor’s skiny frame pulled me into her and if felt as if she was crushing my bones. She was the closest person I had to a mother figure and she was crying discreetly. She said, as I pulled away from her, “I’ll miss you, Amber. I’ve looked after you since you were a little bundle and now you’re so grown up. I wish there was a way I could have prepared you for the big world out there.”
“I’ll be okay,” I said as I moved to Mr. Glenfiddich. Even though I had the urge to hug him goodbye as well, I stuck out my hand. He took my hand in both of his and said, “You are well-prepared for school. Don’t be worried.”
School work was the least of my worries.
As I climbed into the backseat of the car , which would take me into foreign unknown territory I was petrified.
Cook, Matilda and Mr. Glenfiddich waved sadly as Giles drove the car away from them, and for a brief moment, I wanted to open the car door, jump out and run back into Ms. Windsor’s arms and say I had changed my mind. I would rather want to stay with them, rather be hidden away from the world behind a shroud of clouds. The excited anticipation of discovering everything I had read about in books edged me to look forward though.
As the car drove along the paved road, while tall trees loomed on either side of us, I still felt trepidation. My fingers rested on the lever of the door. I was going to pull that lever, open the door, jump out of the moving vehicle and then I was going to run back to the safety of the castle.
I was still contemplating doing this when Giles drove the car through the mist and I looked up at a blue sky so big it made me feel small.
It was a long drive and we arrived late that night in a new, different country.
I looked out of the window to my side and watched the approaching city. The buildings were large and imposing, a million lights twinkled from windows and street lights. There were people and cars everywhere and it all felt very overwhelming.
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