THEIR BLOOD BE LAID: PART I

by - 4/14/2018



IT'S HERE. Section I of my mystery/crime-family/BLOOD CURSE novella, THEIR BLOOD BE LAID, right on this blog for your enjoyment. If you'd rather read it there, this can also be found on Wattpad.




I.


I’m fifteen when I chase mysterious noises in the night and find my father in the kitchen, spitting red into a cracked basin.

For a long while all I can do is lean against the wall and watch the bruises and scabs on his knuckles, watch the skin clench and tighten and stretch as he grips the edges of the sink, watch dark beads of liquid drip from his hair. I stay quiet as his body shudders and shakes. I mean to be still — it’s past my bedtime — but I still gasp when he turns his head and the light throws back the pattern of bruises along his jaw, the purplish ring around his eye.

I think he might say something.

He doesn’t.

He turns and shudders back into the sink, spitting a stream of red into the shiny basin.

I turn and run.

I run all the way up the stairs, past shadows and clocks and all the doors that stay locked at night, until I find my mother in my parent’s room. Her reflection in the mirror frowns at me, and she sets down her hairbrush, ready to catch me as I tumble in.

“Mom. He—”

I’ve seen her pale before. Afraid, too. But someone has washed every bit of color right out of her as she scoops me into her arms. My shoulders shake. I know that they shake, but I don’t feel it, like I barely feel her hand brushing across my hair.

“Dad—”

“Is fine,” she replies. “He’s fine.”

“Is he hurt?”

“Not him.”

I open my mouth but she shushes me just as quickly. “When you’re older,” she tells me, her breath whispering against my hair. I lean into her until I smell the perfume she likes so much — that’s from Dad, too. Like the house and the money and the smiles and the sense of safety I don’t feel so much right now. “He’s all right. We’re all right.”

“What did he—”

“He’s a good man, your father. A good man. He does what he does to keep us safe, our family safe, you know that, Áine. Everything he does is for a reason. We trust that.”

“And…”

“And when you’re older, love, you help him.”




*****




I’m eighteen and a half when I wake up choking on the metallic taste between my teeth.

At first it’s a nightmare. I lie flat on my back, sinking into the mattress, staring wide-eyed into the darkness that eventually gives way to a normal ceiling. Rain chatters against the window, against the roof, lulling my heartbeat back to a normal pace. You’re safe. You’re safe. Nothing can touch you here.

My own hair pressed against my cheek is damp and warm and sticky.

Something runs down my arm, pooling at my wrist, leaving a liquidy itch behind.

The blankets pool in an awkward heap on the floor when I shove them off and sit up, rubbing at my forearm, shoving my hair away from my face. It’s too dark. Too dark and too pressing, and the aftertaste of my dreams is hot and coppery on my teeth, burning the back of my throat. It takes three tries to turn on the electric lamp; my fingers slip again and again until I finally have to blink away the wave of golden light. When I do see it comes in fragments. Little lurid pieces taking their time to hit my brain and fit together.

I see the strands of hair dangling in front of my face, matted together, and the droplets dripping off the ends.

I see the smears on my arm, fingerprints where I tried to wipe off the sensation as I felt it.

I see the pools and splotches on the front of my nightgown and all of a sudden all I can think of is my father bent over the sink, spitting blood while his entire body shook.

I don’t know who hears the scream first. The first to burst through the locked bedroom door is one of the cousins, his lean face a blur in my panic, pistol flashing in his hand. I can’t help but try to tug away when he grabs my wrists and holds out my arms, turning them over so my palms are outstretched, calloused fingers searching up and down my forearms in pursuit of the thick red lines that trail across my skin.

“Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.”

The cousin moves aside and my brother Cillian takes his place. My entire room is a hive now, full of voices rising and falling.

“Step back.”

“Where’s she hurt?”

“Check the window.”

“Check the hall.”

“It’s not her. It’s not her, she’s not hurt.” That’s Cillian, grabbing my hand and holding it tightly. I cling back for dear life. Somewhere in the middle of everything I’ve started shaking.

“Well that all came from somewhere—”

“Check the window again.”

My mother is in the doorway, and Cillian tells her to keep away and give me room, to get dad in here, to stay away. But my mother is fierce. My mother has a bloodline older than this country running through her, and right now her face is paler than her nightdress, pale with panic and with understanding.

“There’s no one in the house,” she tells Cillian.

The activity swarming my room stops all in one breath. Cousin Rian, examining the locks on the window, lets his hand fall back down to his side.

I’m a mess of bright red blood and bright white nightgown, half-crying into my arm, a sprawled puddle in the middle of my bed. Cillian’s hand has that same blood on it as he gestures helplessly toward me. I wish he’d hold my hand again.

“Well—” he starts.

“Get out,” my mother says. “And get everyone together downstairs, all of them, as quick as you can. Go.” Her look to me is softer, but no less pale, and she doesn’t touch me, not even to help me up. “You should clean yourself up, Áine. You’ll be all right.”




*****

There are stories about our family that run centuries deep.

Most I’ve heard from family, in proud declarations or soft fireside whispers. My mother used to sit me on her lap and tell me the story of my name while she brushed out my hair. My father passed on stories to my brothers and they passed them on to me, in excited half-words. The best stories, of course, came from my cousins, a few years and a few steps ahead. They traded liquor bottles hand-to-hand and spun tales of old-world feuds, curses and spells, the woodspeople our great-great-grandfathers angered many years ago and the trails of blood we’ve left behind. New York is a young city, and our family has long since settled into it, leaving grass and ocean and woods for sewers and bricks and a door with our name on it, but some things weigh heavy on collective shoulders, things you can’t shake.

Some things my cousins would only whisper in the dark when they thought I was in bed.

This feels like one of those times, even in the middle of my father’s office, even with the lights on. We haven’t all been together in weeks and for once, no one says a word, no one argues with anyone else, no one does anything but look straight at me. Cillian offers me a thin smile, but he stays a little too far away from the armchair that holds me.

It’s a stretch, but somehow we all fit: my father with his hand on my mother’s chair, Cillian hovering to my left with his arms crossed over his chest, our brother Tom staring at me from my right. Uncle Quinn has an arm around the wife who barely says a word, most days, and Uncle Bran and Aunt Eva and Uncle Phillip whisper on the sofa. The cousins pace restlessly by the door; Rian fiddles with the locks over the windows while Finn and Casey exchange twin glances on either side of the doorway.

I think we all notice the gap, but it’s my father who first says it —

“Maureen.”

“Wouldn’t come,” Cillain replies, shifting from foot to foot. “The baby’s not doing well.”

“Did you tell her—”

“She’s not going to come.”

No one says a word as we skip over the other gap in the room, the one we buried last year. The last time I saw my aunt Maureen was at the funeral, pale-faced and just starting to show the pregnancy, stepping careful around the rest of us and the quiet whispers of a slit throat and bullet holes and pocketfuls of cash.

I clasp my hands tighter together on my lap so no one can see them shake.

Someone always has to start the family meetings. Usually it’s my father. Tonight he looks straight to me, and I have always been my father’s daughter, haven’t I?

“I want to know what’s going on.” Ever since Cillian and the blood in the sink I’ve learned to speak clearly and speak loud when I’d like very much to scream. “I want to know — what that was.”

“A great question,” Cousin Finn chirps.

“It’s nothing, it’s meant to scare you,” Aunt Eva offers.

“It’s something not to be taken lightly,” Uncle Quinn retorts.

“Old stories, it doesn’t mean a thing now—”

“It’s a family curse,” my mother says, with the same tone she uses to introduce herself at a party of people she doesn’t much like. “That’s what it is.”

A red stain has begun to blossom near my ribcage.

“What does it mean?” I ask her. I should scream again — it’s welling up in my throat — but somehow, I don’t have the nerve to get it out. I’m watching a bad dream, running down time until I can wake up.

My cousin Finn, the one with my blood still on his hands and sleeves, has never been one to keep his mouth shut, and now, he can’t hardly help himself from blurting something out. There’s an angry red line of stitches poking out from underneath his collar, maybe more proof of that.

“It means someone’s going to die,” he says, as simply as if he’s explaining the weather outside. “Someone in our family.”

I want to laugh, merely because my cousins used to tell this story, the one where the weeping ladies appeared to the soon-to-be-dead, their dresses stained with future blood and their eyes rimmed with red from all their wailing. When they said it then they grinned and grabbed each other’s arms in the dim light and looked over their shoulders after they spoke, waiting for a ghostly warning of their own.

No one laughs and slinks off to bed tonight.

“Does it stop?” I get out.

My mother has the answers for that, too. “Eventually.”

“When someone’s dead—”

“Hush, Finn, this isn’t the time.”

“Three days, is all I’m saying. It’s never more than three days. Last time—”

“Last time, it was true, yes,” my mother replies. “It stopped when—”

The gap in the room where my other uncle should be is a wide, cold one. My stomach twists into uncomfortable knots. A bead of red hangs off one fingernail. I stare at it until it falls. I’m forgotten as voices fly around the room, a buzzing hive of ideas and raw fear.

“We could try the church.”

“You want to go in there yourself? Add some curses on top of curses? You want to see how that goes for you?”

“Finn—”

“It’s always three days, I’m telling you. Less than three days. We’ll see then.”

“We should be able to do something about it.”

“You know we can’t. Every time.”

“Why’s it on Áine this time?”

“It changes every time. Last time—”

“It doesn’t matter who it is, we can’t do a damn thing about any of it. We’ve got to wait it out.”

Wait it out. Three days.

I swipe at the red trickling down my cheek. It leaves an itchy, crusty line behind.

“You’re saying we have to wait for someone to die,” I say, loud enough to talk over all of them. It feels like shouting into an empty room. “You’re saying that one of us is going to die and there’s nothing we can do about it, this isn’t going to stop until then, we just have to wait.”

Cousin Finn shrugs. His fingers probe at the scar on his neck. “That’s all we could do last time.”

“So how do you know—”

“Every time, Áine,” my father cuts in. “Every time this happens.” He shifts from me to everyone, the entire family, his eyes dark and flashing like knives. “This doesn’t change anything. We have to continue on with our business.”

Aunt Eva, short-haired and laughing, tassels glinting on the edges of her dress. My brother, pacing back and forth now, hair dark and shaggy, fingering the pistol in his jacket. My own stained hands in my lap and the blood leaking onto the floor, down into my slippers, onto the arm of my chair. My entire body is hostile territory I can’t avoid. Another scream wells up in my throat, as hard as I try to swallow it down.

Not fair.

Not right.

We can’t just sit here.

Cillian clears his throat. “We have a drop tomorrow night.”

My father shrugs. “Who?”

“Me, Finn, Rian, some of the other boys. Making sure we pay up for the shipments before they come in.”

“Keep on it.”

My mother’s face stays pale and even. She doesn’t even look my way.

“You aren’t going to let them go,” I blurt out. Like the stupid child I am, clinging for answers through the panic in all my bleeding. “You don’t know—”

“It’s done,” Dad replies, with all the weight that makes the others listen to him, that makes him the one with his hands on the controls in this family. “We can’t change anything about it. Huddling inside isn’t going to change what’s going to happen. So we go with the drop, we go with our meeting, Phillip, we live our lives. That’s all we can do.”

“We could do something—”

“Áine!”

For the first time, I can see grief past the anger in his eyes. Grief, and doubt, and an edge to his voice that takes away some of the anger. I shrink against my seat.

Cousin Finn puts a hand on my shoulder as he follows the others out of the room. His eyes dart from side to side, but he’s not panicked, not weighed down. He’s wary and hungry and practically dancing in place for some kind of resolution, wiggling out from under the grip of some big looming thing none of us understand.

“You just look at it like something that’s going to happen anyway,” he tells me, just loud enough so Cillian hears and gives him a sharp look. “It’s just the knowing about it that’s bad.”

But his hand comes away slick and reddish and he shuts his mouth after that.




*****

If our mother taught us the history that runs through our veins, Dad deals in the practicalities, and it’s him that taught me how to reason and wiggle and find the loopholes. How to bend anything the way you want it to be.

What I want is to not be dripping coppery salty blood that runs across my face and down my legs. What I want is to not have to dig out another black dress in the next few weeks.

The wanting and the dripping and the glances make my throat close up. I shuffle out of one stained dress and into a cleaner one and slip out the door, where the summer heat promises at least a little space to think. The air is hot and carries the smell of garbage against my mother’s efforts, flowerboxes piled about the house. Hair sticks to the back of my neck in a matter of a minute. Considering current difficulties, I don’t much want to be seen by anyone, so I stick to kicking off my shoes and walking a lazy circle around the house.

It could be anyone. My parents, my brothers, the cousins, any of the aunts and uncles. Aunt Maureen’s sick baby.

It’s not your fault, someone said to me last night. One of the uncles, I think. I knew what he meant, but it’s hard to shake when you’re the one covered in blood.

You have to fix this.

Something scrapes and scratches.

I stop pacing.

The scraping drifts from around the corner, into what amounts to our back-yard, a yard with an old tree curving up to the sky and not much else. Except, of course, the back gate. The one we take when we don’t want to be seen by curious eyes.

I stop pacing around the side of the house and look at the corner. The noise drifts from the other side of it, in what amounts to our back-yard, the yard with the old tree that curves up to the sky and not much else. Except the back gate, of course. The one people take when they don’t want to be seen by curious eyes.

When I turned sixteen my mother made sure I knew how to use a knife. She made sure I had one, too, a little wicked thing of a switchblade that I could tuck in a little hidden pocket of my dress when I went out. Every so often I feel its weight bumping against my leg. I reach down to my skirt now and wiggle it out, softly, as quietly as I can, barely breathing.

Everything I’ve ever known about knives and how to use them flies right out of my head when I actually go around the side of the house and see someone at the gate.

“Ah,” he yelps, and jumps away from the locked metal gate he just tried to clamber over like he’s been burned.

This particular intruder is wiry and clumsy, a man with his hat on the ground in a puddle and his hair a few months past a good cut but trying to be swept to the side fashionably anyway (it isn’t). He’s rolled up the sleeves of his long coat but they still hang a little over his hands, like a little boy playing dress-up, and his shoes are dirty and scuffed and old, peeling at the edges. I stand still and watch this strange new species spin in a circle until he finds his hat and recovers it, soaked through, from the puddle.

“Damn.”

I blink.

“What are you doing?”

The intruder with the clear blue eyes holds his dripping hat in his hands, looks right at me, and says, in the calmest of voices, “nothing.”

“I saw you,” I continue. I put my hand with the knife behind my back, though. “I watched you. You were going to jump the gate.”

“I really wasn’t.”

“I was right here.”

“Who’s going to believe that?”

“...my father.”

“You’re Áine, then.”

“I didn’t say—”

“No reason to lie about it, really…”

So, he likes to play games.

“Enjoy your walk,” I tell him. I meet his eyes and don’t look away. They’re very blue. And they don’t look away from mine as soon as I’d like.

“It’s nice to meet you, Áine,” he says, after what feels like another few years.

“You’re still assuming things, aren’t you?”

“Come on.”

“You first.”

“My name’s Laslo,” he offers.

“That’s it?”

“...Laslo Hugh.”

Laslo Hugh. I run it over my tongue a few times and come up short. Not one of our boys, as far as I know, none of them are this stupid. Not someone with particularly bad intentions. But someone a lot sharper than his sopping hat or oversized coat.

I shift my weight as a tickling trail of blood runs down my leg. Run and get one of the cousins, says the sensible part of me, but I know their itchy fingers and heightened suspicion. I know, too, that someone is going to die, someone close who isn’t me, and I don’t know where that death is going to come in.

Some things you handle yourself.

My father has a particular way of speaking. I’ve heard him use it on me, my cousins, my aunts and uncles, my mother, his business partners and men he’d like very much to never see again. I’ve heard it enough times to force my own voice into it now, rolling every syllable over my tongue just right.

“Hugh,” I say. “You’re the one wasting time.”

Laslo Hugh stops wringing out his muddy hat. “Sorry?”

“You were trying to trespass. You aren’t going to. It’s time for you to leave.”

I want to see the flash of panic in his eyes. I want to see him make an excuse and hurry off, stuttering and duly warned. I want my heart to stop pumping so hard so it doesn’t give away all the fear in my belly. Instead, he leans one arm on the gate and nods. “All right, then. Fair enough. But I’m with the paper.”

“...the paper.” Something hot slides down the back of my neck. “Specific.”

“I’m not stupid enough to be specific.” He leans his weight further against the metal.

“But you’re here.” Sooner or later he’s going to see you bleeding.

“I’d like to know why I’m the first one in a while, yeah, because there’s no reason not to talk to your father, is there? So I want to know why I’m not supposed to talk about it. That’s what I’m here for.”

“Maybe that’s why you shouldn’t ask,” I reply. “Get out of here before someone else comes along.”

“That sounds like a threat.”

“Maybe you should ask your paper.”

“Here’s the thing,” Laslo says, dragging a finger along a metal rail. “I don’t care. I don’t have anything to lose. I’m not scared. I’m not taking money from anyone. Everything I’m saying is still my own. So I’d like to get in and ask your father some questions. If you don’t mind.”

I don’t mind slapping him.

Laslo gets the sweetest of sugar-filled smiles I have available.

“Try the front door, then, if you’re so eager about it. I’m sure he’d love to see you.”

He watches me.

I watch back.



I watch his darting blue eyes until he slinks away. The hot blood drips off my fingers and onto the ground.

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29 Comments

  1. OH MY GRACIOUS

    WHY. WHY DID IT STOP. WHY.

    I LOVE THIS SO MUCH, I CAN'T.

    ~ Savannah | Scattered Scribblings

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HOLD ON MORE IS COMING SOON I PROMISE *

      *it's not gonna be any happier or less tense but that's okay, it's still more

      Delete
  2. I LOVE THIS! IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL!

    You are very talented. Keep up the amazing work. The world needs your writing. <3

    ~Ivie
    Ivie Writes
    Ivie Brooks, Author

    ReplyDelete
  3. OH MAH WORD AIMEE YOUR WORDS ARE MAGIC. YOUR SENTENCE STRUCTURE. THE WAY YOU EXPLAIN THINGS. THE ENTIRE FEEL. JUST-- I HAVE NO WORDS. THIS IS BRILLIANCE AND I NEED MOOOOORE!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. !!!!!! THANK YOUUUU

      MORE IS COMING SOON

      Delete
  4. I'm intrigued. I love the way the voice feels so smooth from word to word, making reading it feel fluid and vivid. I'm excited for more!

    How do you pronounce Aine's name? :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I've been playing around with this one for a while, so I'm glad it feels polished.

      And it's "awn-ya"

      Delete
    2. It does! I really liked the imagery. :3

      Ooh, that's a pretty name! I like.

      Delete
  5. Aimee, I'm jealous. Your writing style is so flawless and unique and BASICALLY THIS IS ALL I'VE NEEDED. MY LIFE IS COMPLETE NOW, EXCEPT NOT REALLY BECAUASE I NEED MORE.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that you always respond to my comments with a bunch of hearts. <3 I feel special lol.

      Delete
  6. This is so good! Your descriptions are top notch!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, I'm glad you're liking it!!

      Delete
  7. What a fantastic start! So intriguing!

    ReplyDelete
  8. WHAT IS THIS I LOVE ITTTTTTTT

    ReplyDelete
  9. The imagery and character voice are amazing! I'm super intrigued about what's going to happen next!

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is so amazing! The descriptions are so vivid and sobering...gosh, I am excited to see what happens next!

    ReplyDelete

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