The Ruin of Delicate Things (Excerpt)
Faye struck out for the centre of the lake. She was a strong swimmer and the chill of the water didn’t seem so bad now. She concentrated on the movement of her limbs, on the rhythmic repetition of her breath. Tried to find a calmness she wasn’t sure existed anymore.
She wanted to ask Dan about the ashes on the table, about why Albert Jenkins had been in the wood. About the deer. Which she knew he had left to die miserably on the road.
And that wasn’t like him. He wasn’t a cruel man. Toby had once owned a hamster that had got itself stuck behind the skirting boards, and Dan had ripped them off the wall to rescue it.
But something had definitely got to him since arriving here. She knew, without turning, that he’d still be gazing towards the old house, lost in his own thoughts.
The outline of the jetty came into view. Its centre was sunken, the wooden planks skimming the lake, the boards bleached by weather and time. She paused, treading water for a few moments. Ripples lapped at her outstretched fingertips. The sun was almost directly overhead.
Faye glanced across to the house. It wasn’t one of those beautiful old places, more like an aging relative that nobody liked, as old as dirt but still hanging on, refusing to be forgotten. The artist in her sketched lines in her mind, her brain already exploring perspective and depth. It wasn’t a place to create in the light though. It needed brooding skies and the approach of night. It needed—she pursed her lips, trying to find the right word.
But finding any words was hard now.
Faye blew out a breath and let the buoyancy of the water take her onto her back. She floated there, arms and legs apart, like a little fallen star. All she could hear was the gentle sound of the water and the wind whispering in the trees. No traffic. No background hum of people talking. No rush of life as it sped onwards. She didn’t even really miss the fact that her phone didn’t work. It would only be full of people talking about themselves. And she found that tiring, especially as she was the woman who wanted to disappear. To be left amongst the comfort—and the prison—of her own thoughts.
Most of her friends didn’t know how to talk to her anymore. And she didn’t really mind. Talking was simply too painful. She didn’t want to rehash the feelings again and again, pinning her grief on the wall for them all to share, like it was some kind of art exhibit.
Something brushed lightly against her fingertips.
They tingled as she looked through the first few inches of water for fish, but there was nothing there. And then, from the corner of her eye, something flashed. Something lightning quick. Two quick bursts before it disappeared under the shadow at the end of the jetty. Faye struck out again, curiosity overriding any apprehension.
Dan called her name and she stuck an arm out of the water, pointing to where she was going.
The shadow of the jetty enfolded her as she swam into its shade. The temperature dropped and she shivered, pushing wet hair out of her eyes. Pondweed floated under the weathered boards, the water thick and dark. The scent of green, the same one she had smelled in the cottage. The same one that seemed to surround them in the dark.
But this time it had a bitter edge. A sudden flash of bright blue light amidst the mass of weeds.
Faye ducked under the jetty and pushed the feathery pondweed apart, her legs brushing through submerged vegetation. Sunlight glinted at the other side. It was only an arm’s length away. But underneath the bleached, battered slats it was cold. The type of cold you get when you open a fridge door. The light skittered just under the surface of the lake, and she reached in, wet fronds clinging to her skin.
Something was floating a few feet down in the water.
She took a deep breath and submerged, her eyes searching the gloom of the jetty’s underbelly.
Disturbed dirt swirled in the water, blocking her sight as air bubbles rose from her nose. Something cold and heavy brushed against her leg. The dirt settled. Something pale inches away from her calf.
The scream that was rising through her throat burst out. Water gushed into her mouth. A shooting pain rocketed into her sinuses. She kicked out but the weeds had wrapped themselves around her ankle, holding her down. Horror tore through her veins as she thrashed in the murky water. Sunlight glinted down from another world above, a reminder things could be so normal. And so wrong.
She heard the ring of the doorbell, the policewoman standing outside, hazy through the frosted glass in the door. The sound rapped against her skull as she fought against the weeds, her lungs on fire. She heard the thud of earth as it fell upon her son’s coffin.
And then a hand reached down through the water, clasping her wrist in its strong grip. The weeds eased their hold and Faye kicked against the pull, gasping and spluttering as she broke through the surface, Dan’s arm sliding around her body. She let him pull her back to the shore, tried to calm her heartbeat as it thundered against her ribcage, telling herself that what had just happened wasn’t real.
But the terror of what had touched her refused to slip away. And maybe she had even glimpsed a pale, pale hand, its fingers outstretched towards her.
Meet The Writer
Beverley Lee is the bestselling author of the Gabriel Davenport series (The Making of Gabriel Davenport, A Shining in the Shadows and The Purity of Crimson) and the gothic horror, The Ruin of Delicate Things. In thrall to the written word from an early age, especially the darker side of fiction, she believes that the very best story is the one you have to tell. Supporting fellow authors is also her passion and she is actively involved in social media and writers’ groups.
You can visit her online at www.beverleylee.com (where you’ll find a free dark and twisted short story download) or on Instagram (@theconstantvoice) and Twitter (@constantvoice).