Extract from Ghost Flower by Michele Jaffe

Extract from Ghost Flower by Michele Jaffe

Posted by in Book News

We are really excited about the new novel from Michele Jaffe, also the author of Rosebush, which we published last year.  Ghost Flower is out on the 12th April, and it's a fantastic supernatural thriller that kept us all guessing till the end!  Here's an extract from the first chapter:

 

It started with a new dawn.
I awoke with the sound of a girl’s laughter in my ears. A shaft
of sunlight slanted across my face, painting the space behind my
eyelids golden. I stretched, fingers and toes uncurling against rumpled
sheets toward the other side of the bed.
Empty.
It had been a dream. There was no laughing girl. The air filtering
through the fly-specked screen of my rented room was still and
silent and warm already at 5:03 a.m.
I had been asleep for more than a thousand days. Not technically,
that’s just how it felt.
There were still two minutes until my alarm would go off. That
had been happening to me more and more recently, waking up sixty,
ninety, one hundred seconds early, as though some part of me was
issuing a warning, telling me to stop dawdling and leave.
I am an imposter. A fake. A fraud. But everything that follows is
the truth and nothing but the truth. I have no reason to lie anymore.
Dawn is special in Tucson. It doesn’t arrive gently with the
sweet smoldering quality it has at the edges of the country. It comes
on all at once, a thin, sharp light the color of corn silk that gives
the impression of being more honest than its afternoon butter yellow
cousin. It may not always be flattering, but it doesn’t pull any
punches.
I yawned. A fat bumblebee hummed outside the window. Down
the street I could hear the sound of a sprinkler watering a thirsty
lawn, clicking one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and then sevensixfivefourthreetwoone
as the automatic arm swung back fast. The warm
air settled over me like an extra blanket, and I gave myself a moment
to savor it. Then my alarm began to beep, and I pulled myself out of
bed.
The light did my room no favors, picking out every scar and
gash in the battered night table and dresser with the drawers glued
shut—$53.50 a week didn’t entitle you to drawers—and making the
tiny blue flowers that dotted the yellow wallpaper look even more
like flu germs. I could have spent ten hours cleaning the place, and it
wouldn’t have looked any better or any less lonely.
It was Mother’s Day, and by nine thirty the Old Town Starbucks
where I worked was filled with well-fed white men with thick gold
bands on their fingers wearing cargo shorts and U of A T-shirts,
pushing strollers and taking extra care to get their wives’ double
chai latte with wings, light foam, just right. Like this would make
up for all the nights they didn’t get home to help with dinner or the
way they winked at me when they came in weekdays alone wearing
suits. The wives played along with the lie, doing their best to look
as if a coffee shop with the family was where they most wished to
spend their special day.  Who knows, maybe it was. I should say upfront that I don’t really
understand how happy families work. My experiences in foster
care gave me a view of “family” as an organism knitted together by
convenient lies and inconvenient needs that bristled porcupine-like
with protective quills if you dared to point that out.
My third foster mother, Mrs. Cleary, couldn’t understand why
fitting in was so hard for me. “You need to learn to think of someone
besides yourself and have compassion for others,” she said, leaning
back in her La-Z-Boy chair with the bowl of popcorn on her lap and
a glass of bourbon in her hand. My stomach growled audibly, but we
both ignored it. “All you have to do is put yourself in someone else’s
shoes.”  I tried, but her shoes were black pointy-toed three-inch heels
with garish buckles on them that squished the front of her feet and
made her red painted lips draw into a tense line every time she stood
up. Looking at them made me feel like screaming.
That was the last foster home I lived in.
I had just finished attempting to put myself into the Lilly Pulitzer
lime-green flip-flops of a woman with a Botox permasmile—“Have a
super day!” I chirped—when the guy and the girl reached the front
of my line.
“Hi, remember me?” the guy said, shooting me a conspiratorial
smile and leaning close to the register.
I treated it as a rhetorical question. It would have been as impossible
to forget him as it would have been to not notice when he and
the girl next to him had walked in that day. For one thing, they
blended in with the Mother-Father-Stroller crowd as well as sand
in a Frappuccino. For another, he looked like he’d stepped out of
an advertisement, the kind with the half-naked guy with abs like
the sculpted bottom of a riverbed squinting at the horizon. Rich.
Spoiled. With a perpetual expression of being pleased with himself.
The kind of face that could easily haunt your dreams.

 

Plus he had been in five times during the last two weeks. I felt
like I might have seen the girl recently as well, but I wasn’t sure.
“I’m Bain,” he said when I just kept looking at him. “Bain Silverton.
And this is my sister Bridgette.”
“Eve,” I told him, nodding my head toward my name tag. “My
name is still Eve Brightman. The same way it was the other times
you asked.”
“You do remember me.” His eyes lit up with pleasure. “I believe
you, I do. It’s just—damn you are a dead ringer for someone I used
to know.” He turned to the girl next to him. “See, Bridge? Isn’t it
weird? I mean the hair is short, but it could seriously be her.”
She nodded. Like him, she had early-morning-blue wide-spaced
eyes with heavy lids and a perfect oval face, but while his gaze was
mischievous and warm, hers was cool, appraising. I’d guessed she
had his same light brown hair that mellowed to gold in the sun,
but she’d dyed it a subtle red and had thick bangs across her forehead.
I had the sense that in her world, this was an act of thrilling
rebellion. I watched her place my Target jeans and T-shirt with a
two-second glance. She was wearing a denim shorts jumper with
a loose cashmere sweater over it, driving moccasins, a large leather
bag with subtle hardware, and aviator glasses on top of her head. On
the pointer finger of her left hand, she wore a Cartier triple-band
gold ring. Simple, understated. I guessed the outfit, not counting the
ring, cost four thousand dollars. Mine cost $34.53.
Bain said, “I told Bridgette all about you.”
I couldn’t imagine what he’d told her, and before I could ask,
Roman, my boss, came up. “What have I told you about chatting
with your friends at the counter, Eve?” he asked in his nasal voice,
somehow managing to glare at me and smile smarmily at Bain and
Bridgette at the same time.
“We were just ordering,” Bain said and proceeded to do it. He
and Bridgette took their cappuccino (him) and mint tea (her) to a
table that a family of five had just vacated in the corner.
Roman rounded on me. “You’re on probation, you know,” he told
me, his little eyes flashing. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched
Bridgette carefully brush the crumbs the family had left behind into
a napkin and fold it precisely into a little envelope before throwing
it away. “We’ll discuss this after work.”
The anger on his face was just a mask for the excitement beneath
it. Roman knew I needed this job. He suspected there was something
hinky about my ID, that I should probably be in school, which meant
he felt he had power over me. In the past he’d tried to use that power
in ways which—
Well, in ways. And even I wasn’t lonely enough to want that.
I’d managed to avoid his attempts through a combination of skill
and luck. But it was getting harder.
Bain and Bridgette sat, heads bent together, talking earnestly for
fifteen minutes, glancing over at me every few seconds. They reminded
me of sleek, well-groomed mountain cats—they were beautiful, but
there was something predatory about them. I pretended not to notice,
but my heart was pounding, and I’m pretty sure several people got
their coffees for half price because I wasn’t paying attention to what
I was doing.

 

Bridgette’s grey stingray Filofax was on the table, and Bain
grabbed it. From the corner of my eye I saw him take out a piece of
paper, scrawl something on it, push his chair away, and stand up. As
Bridgette gathered her bag, sweater, and sunglasses and moved to the
door, he walked to the front of the line and slipped me the paper.
“We have a proposition for you. Call if you want to hear
about it.”

 

Ghost Flower by Michele Jaffe will be published by Atom on the 12th April, £6.99

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags for this Article:

, ,