Had kind of a rough week, but I'm up to about 5,260 words as I close this week out -- which is a lot more than I've written in months. Yeah NaNoWriMo! Here's a tease for Chapter 1:
Bryn Mercer woke with a start, the way she always did after the dream that had plagued her since childhood came. One of the few constants in her life was the surety the same feelings of violence would pervade her sleep every night. Though nothing more than a vague recollection would follow her into the daylight, however, yet the dream always haunted her, and she didn’t know why.
Shaking her head to clear what few images she could remember from her mind, she slid out of bed and padded to the shower. Today was supposed to be a good day; Adrian Marx would finally be going home.
As she stepped into the rush of hot water, she thought how rare it is for a nine-year-old to be adopted and by good people – really good people, not just the kind that put on a show for the social workers and then turn around and beat their kids.
Bryn had spent twenty-six years in the Massachusetts child protective services system. She was initiated the day the Boston police found her in an abandoned car on Mercer Street when she was an infant. She knew all too well the kind of people who took in foster children, and exactly what many of them were after.
In fact, she knew the moment she met every foster family she’d ever been placed with whether or not they were really interested in providing her a good home or if they were just in it for the money – or worse.
The social workers never believed her when she told them something was wrong before she’d even walked into the house; she always had to wait for the first punch, the first denied meal or the first hand to be shoved down her pants before they’d take her back into the state facility to await another placement.
Then there were the social workers who didn’t even believe her at all and sentenced her to play in a domestic hell. “They’ve been one of our families for years, and we’ve never had a complaint against them,” was often the response. Bryn had learned early that if she wanted her sanity to survive, she had to learn to control whatever this was that tapped her into the emotions of others – block it out when she needed to so she could get through the day.
By the time she’d aged out of the system, she’d spent so much time shut down emotionally, she’d nearly forgotten how to live any other way. The blades she’d used on herself to lessen the pain left by the physical blows showed in the scars on her left arm and thighs. It sounded strange, but it worked.
Soon after Bryn began cutting herself, it didn’t hurt as much when her foster mother slapped her across the face for not putting a plate in the right cabinet. When they gave Bryn her walking papers on her eighteenth birthday, she was utterly numb to all but a select few things in her life.
Instead of running as far and fast as she could from the system, she spent the next four years earning her degree in social work, so she could ensure other children never go through the things she did.
Bryn stepped out of the shower and wrapped herself in a towel as she went back into her bedroom. She dried the silver necklace with the antique-looking knotted pendant first. Even if she wanted to take it off, she couldn’t. There was no clasp or even the tiniest imperfection of in the chain that would allow it to be removed from its owner’s neck.
It had seemed to grow with her over the years, something that was totally impossible but still tugged at Bryn’s mind as she moved the towel over the metal over her chest, making sure the mirror was nowhere in sight. She didn’t need to be reminded of what she looked like, see the evidence of her past reflected in the light of the present.
Her skin was shockingly pale, so much so it almost glowed in the sunlight and brightened a dark room. Her arms were too thick to be elegant, too taught with underlying muscle. There was no hope for her curved waist and flared hips, which made buying clothes as fun as running through downtown Boston naked. She hated her soft stomach that Eddie, her boss and longtime friend, called her “little pooch.”
Sure, her legs were long, but were thick with muscle. Mix that with the long expanse of her legs on a frame no one would ever describe as tall, and you had the perfect picture of Bryn Mercer, anti-beauty queen if ever there was one.
Not that it mattered to the low-lifes who peppered the streets of Boston’s South Side at any given time. Bryn had lived and worked in this rough-and-tumble section of the city’s Irish community for most of her adult life. Exposing any femininity at all opened you up to unwanted (and sometimes dangerous) attention. A pair of tits and a pulse were all they needed.
After allowing the lotion she rubbed into her skin head to toe to air dry, Bryn slipped into a conservative set of deep blue panties and a matching bra that minimized the size of her breasts. She then went to task on her hair. The long black strands touched her should blades when it was wet like this. But after she blow dried it with a straightening brush, it sat just below her shoulders and was a rich, dark brown that glowed auburn in the sun that escaped from the side of her drapes.
Bryn combed her hair out and stepped into a loose-fitting black pencil skirt with a flared bottom that ended below her knees. She then slid into a sleeveless powder blue scoop-neck shell and slid on black silk thigh highs before stepping to the mirror to style her hair.
Even after living with eerily luminous aquamarine eyes for her whole life, the day’s first look always sent a shock through her. In her head, she knew they were hers, but they always caught her off guard as striking, unnatural. It was like she had jewels the color of deep Caribbean waters surrounded by the faintest border of dark purple instead of standard-issue blue, brown or green. And damn it if they didn’t actually shimmer. Who has eyes like that, anyway?
The older she got, the more pronounced the color became – the more people stared at her and her oddity. When she could afford it, she bought green contact lenses to make the color more normal. Even with the lenses, though, her eyes still stood out as bright as emeralds. But that, she could deal with. At least green was normal.
Shaking the startled look off of her face, Bryn popped her lenses in, applied some eye liner and shadow, and stepped back to look at the finished package. It was a little dressed-up for the ten-block walk to work, but with the matching jacket to cover her arms the only thing the guys hanging out on the corners and in the bodegas would see was her calves. Dressing up for Adrian’s big day was worth risking added attention on her way to work.
The sound of the phone ringing caught her attention just as she was heading out the door. She paused to check the caller ID and found it was her boss on the line.
“Eddie, what’s up? I’m on my way out. Got the Marx hearing this morning.”
“That’s why I’m calling. There’s been a last-minute change in the judge. You’re not going to like it.”
“It’s family court. How bad can it be?”
Bryn dropped her keys on the kitchen counter as the shock nearly overwhelmed her. She’d hoped she’d never have to see Judge Cranston again.
“That’s impossible. He’s a criminal judge.”
“Yeah, well it seems he’s pissed off someone pretty high up and sent to family court to make good. You sure you’re up for this?”
“Of course I am.”
“Cause if you’re not, I can make it down there, step in.”
“It’s a routine adoption hearing, Eddie. How bad can he mess it up? Besides, I made a promise and I intend to keep it. He probably doesn’t remember me anyway. I’m late. I’ll talk to you later.”
God, let him have forgotten her.