It is a great honor this morning to welcome author C.S. Feldman to Living the Dream. C.S, is the first author I’ve come across to win a prestigious Amazon publishing contract through Kindle Scout. This morning, C.S. shares the first chapter of her spine-chilling novel with you.
After years of questioning her sanity, Kat Delancey reluctantly returns to the old family manor as its legal owner hoping desperately to silence the doubts in her mind and leave the home’s tragic past behind her once and for all. But it turns out to be harder than she expected, and not just because of the estranged step-family waiting for her—Because maybe Kat’s mind was never playing tricks on her after all, and maybe the manor harbors a far more malevolent presence than she ever dreamed…
“You don’t want to be here, do you?”
There was nothing coy about the shrink’s question, and Kat answered it just as directly as it had been asked, if more succinctly. “No.”
“Then why did you make this appointment?”
Was that meant to be a trick of some kind? Something to elicit a subconscious slip on the part of the unsuspecting patient? “I didn’t.” Gran had, and this latest doctor, Dr. Latimer, knew that fact perfectly well.
“Ah, yes, but you did keep it, didn’t you?”
Only for Gran’s sake, but Kat didn’t say so. She kept her lips pressed closed instead.
The woman sitting across from her scribbled something down in the notepad that she held on her lap. Brilliant insight already? And after only five minutes. All of Kat’s other therapists would have been green with envy.
She resisted the urge to shift in her seat and remained still, suspecting that even the smallest movement on her part would be analyzed and picked apart. Her gaze went where it wanted to, though, taking in the bland cream color of the walls, soft lighting, and the framed still life that hung just a little higher than eye level. That was bland, too. And safe. Or at least she guessed that it was meant to inspire that feeling in the patients who sat here. It did not succeed. Not with Kat, anyway. No shame in that, though; better rooms than this one had failed.
The scratching sound of the pencil, so loud in this quiet room, stopped. “And why do you think your grandmother made this appointment for you?”
It was tempting not to answer. What was the point? But there were still another forty-five minutes to get through, and silence would not make them pass by any faster. “Because she knew I wouldn’t,” Kat returned finally, knowing that wasn’t quite the insightful answer the doctor was trying to get at but in no mood to make things easy for her. She’d agreed to come; she hadn’t agreed to cooperate.
“Yes, but why do—”
No help for it. “You should ask her that.”
“I did, actually. I just wanted to know what your take on it is.”
She was studying Kat in a way that was entirely too familiar. Like she was a lab specimen or a puzzle to be solved. Kat’s fingers dug a little deeper into the faux leather upholstery of her chair. Dr. Latimer sat right across from her in another one just like it, with no desk or other barrier between them. Another deliberate choice on the doctor’s part? Probably. Maybe other patients welcomed it. “She made the appointment because she’s afraid.”
“Of what I might do.”
More scribbling. How much had Gran already told her? “Are you afraid of what you might do, Katherine?”
The sound of her full name was jarring. “It’s Kat.”
“Sorry, yes. Kat. Are you afraid, Kat?’
More intrusion into her head. Attempted intrusion, anyway. Kat stared at the other woman and said nothing.
Maybe Dr. Latimer realized that she wasn’t going to get anywhere with that particular line of questioning, because after a moment of silence she switched to a new one. Odds were that she’d bring things around to the first topic again eventually, thinking that she was being subtle. “You have a birthday coming up tomorrow. It’s a significant one for you, isn’t it?”
“Won’t have to worry about getting carded anymore, if that’s what you mean.”
No, of course it wasn’t, which was why the palms of Kat’s hands were sweating. She released their hold on the chair arms and folded her fingers together in her lap instead.
“I’m referring to the house, the one you grew up in back east. Legally it’s yours as of tomorrow, isn’t it?”
Kat nodded. Just once.
“How do you feel about that?”
How do you think? She nearly snapped out the words but managed to bite them back just in time. God, she was sick of these kinds of questions. How do you feel? What do you think? Why do you think that? What do you remember? Shall we poke and prod your mind a little bit more and see what falls out? So she lifted her shoulders in a barely perceptible shrug instead of answering and pointedly stared at the clock on the wall above the doctor’s head.
“Your grandmother says you’ve been having trouble sleeping recently.” A moment later the doctor cocked her head. “You find that funny?”
“What? No.” Not even remotely. Just the part about it being recent. She hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep in years.
Was she? Yes, she supposed her lips had curved up slightly at the corners, but there was no real humor in the expression. She let it slip from her face again.
Another long silence. More rustling of notes. But if she hoped Kat would be tempted to fill the silence, the doctor was in for a disappointment. She waited a few more moments, then: “Do you think you’re having trouble sleeping because of the house, Kat?”
The frequent use of her name, as if to force some sort of camaraderie on her, grated almost as much as the question. Of course it was because of the house. The past six years’ worth of therapist visits and endless medications and worse were all because of the house, and she’d been haunted by far more troubling symptoms than a lack of sleep in that time. But all Kat said was, “Maybe,” and tried not to notice how the scent of the potpourri on a nearby bookshelf was cloyingly sweet and growing more so with each passing second.
“Maybe? Considering what happened there, I’d say it’s more than a maybe, wouldn’t you?” The woman leaned forward and fixed Kat with a look that was probably meant to be sympathetic and induce her to spill her secrets but only ended up making Kat instinctively lean back and away. She’d seen that same look many times before, and on many faces. It was the look that usually came right before a particularly personal and prying question. “Do you remember much about what happened to your mother?”
“No. Nothing.” Mercifully. Although she’d been told that she was the one who’d found her. “I was only five.”
“What about your father?” The doctor checked her notes. “You were older then, right? I believe—”
“Fifteen.” Kat’s voice was clipped as she interrupted. She didn’t apologize for it. “Yes, I remember.” Because you people won’t let me forget.
“That must have been very traumatic for you. Would you like to talk about that a little more?”
“Not really, no.”
“No.” No more than usual anyway.
“You don’t think it might be helpful for you to talk about what happened?”
“I don’t know—is picking at a scab helpful?” Even Kat could hear the bitterness in her voice.
“If there’s something festering underneath it? Maybe.”
The potpourri was truly overpowering now. Her head started to ache, and the knot that had formed in her stomach the moment she’d set foot in this place drew tighter.
“Your father,” the doctor started.
Kat reached for the chair arms and dug her fingers back into them. And silently pleaded for the clock hands to move faster.
* * *
The hinges on the doctor’s office door were well-oiled; they made no noise when Kat finally opened it to leave. Gran was seated right where Kat had left her with a magazine in her hands—was that the same page she’d started on nearly an hour ago?—but her grey-haired head was turned absently toward the lone window in the room, overlooking the street outside, and she wore an expression on her face that suggested she wasn’t really seeing anything on the other side of the glass. No, her thoughts were somewhere else, and Kat could guess where. Or at least on whom they were focused.
She’d insisted on coming along. It was no bother, no trouble at all. There was nowhere else she had to be that afternoon, and company was always nice, wasn’t it? Not that her words fooled anybody, of course. Not Kat and not her grandfather certainly. Had she feared Kat would go back on her word and drive right by the place without a witness there to make sure she actually went inside? Probably. To Gran’s credit, it wasn’t that farfetched a concern.
Guilt pricked at Kat, the same guilt that made her agree to today’s visit in the first place. She was not the only one still struggling with certain things. She closed the door behind her with an audible click to announce her presence even as she hid a folded slip of paper inside one closed hand.
Gran started and looked away from the window to see Kat. She closed the magazine. “All done?”
“Was it helpful?”
Her forehead settled into familiar creases, and there was such a desperate hopefulness in her voice that Kat lied and said, “Yes,” and some of the creases relaxed. A little, anyway.
“Oh, I’m so glad. I have a good feeling about Dr. Latimer, Kat.”
There was no reason to disillusion her; it would be unkind more than anything else. But on her way out behind her grandmother, Kat crumpled the prescription for sleeping pills that the doctor had given her and let it fall unseen into a wastebasket as she walked past.
I’m hooked! My copy’s sitting on my Kindle waiting for me to finish reading this story. Poor Kat!
You can pick up your copy here!
|Amazon.com: The Bloodline eBook: C. S. Feldman: Kindle Store
Amazon.com: The Bloodline eBook: C. S. Feldman: Kindle Store