Deborah Jackson

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sneak Peek

Hi  there,
 I know, I've been quiet lately. That's because I've been working on something new. Entirely new. Definitely different.

This is a teen read, something that I hope has a little artistry, but, since my female main character is a hockey player, I'll warn you in advance, there is a bit of mature language. This was necessary to give the character the appropriate voice. Hope you find it interesting. The following is a potential blurb and the first chapter, unedited, as yet.


It wasn’t until Carlos helped me put the pieces back together that I realized how many were missing.


Shattered. Tormented. Brain on disconnect.


A car accident leaves Erin Rocheford, a seventeen-year-old hockey player, fractured, disfigured, near death. Not only is her future career in the NHL erased, but when she’s finally released from the hospital she can barely walk, her thoughts stumble into each other, and people grimace when they notice the scars crisscrossing her face.


Erin's parents consider a vacation in Florida, on an island of palm trees and pirate lore, is just what she needs to recover. But in her post-traumatic state, Erin is vulnerable to attack, to a ghostly invasion, to a further fragmenting of her troubled grey matter. A pirate tale of an odd English pirate and his feisty captive, a story of defiance and decapitation, will weave itself into her mind and threaten her very soul. She will need to dig up every reserve in her hockey-toned body to keep from falling apart all together, to fight back and to protect her star player—the one boy who can see beyond the scars.


 At the end a hush falls over the arena as the crowds are absorbed into the night. At the end the flashing red light on the ambulance fades like a distant star. At the end the scoreboards are wiped and every hard-fought point is forgotten. You do one last skate over the slush and cracks in the ice, feeling the cracks zigzag and widen, extend desperate fingers to avoid the collapse. You stop at the hole, the entry point, the garish splotch of blood. The lights dim until nothing is visible but the silver streaks of a broken mirror. A tiny voice whispers, Game Over.





Some days, you shouldn't get out of bed.

Madre de Dios. Who are you? And what happened to your fa— I mean, what are you doing here?”

 His words pinned me to the ground, like I was a specimen in a glass case, a bug in the Montreal Insectarium.

My normal response would be: “Well, who the hell are you?” and, “I didn’t see a sign that said ‘Private Beach,’ so I have as much right to park myself here as anyone else.”

But I wasn’t exactly parked, more like concealed behind a palm tree and sneaking forward through the grass to, you know, listen in, and it was the other half of his question, the broken one, that really hurt.

Why would I need to hide and sneak, you might wonder? Who really does that, eh?

Someone who doesn’t want to be that specimen.

So there I was, exposed and displayed for all to see. I needed to rip out the pins and bolt or vanish. Frantic, I looked in ten different directions at once.

I made an attempt, scrambled halfway up, but before I could escape the headlights of his eyes  I froze again. Struck. Blindsided. Breathless. A weird epiphany needled into my brain. It whispered “death isn’t stalking you anymore.”

I could have sighed. After all, a part of me still wanted to live.

Not like this, of course. Not like this limping, cowering piece of shit. There were many moments over the past six months when I didn’t want to live. When I’d drift away to the sounds of cheers and the flood of Gatorade over my head and wake up to stabbing pain, blurred vision, casts and pins and coat hangers stuck through me (or at least they looked that way). My face felt like a dartboard and I thought, God, you hit a bullseye, didn’t you? It was for getting so cocky, wasn’t it? For thinking I could actually challenge the guys, compete in a man’s world, make it to the NHL. Ha!

Joke’s on you, Erin, he’s laughing.

I would have laughed too, but it hurt too much to laugh, or smile, or move.

But this was my chance to recover. This tropical island with the palm trees and the glittering postcard horizon. Nobody knew me. No one would look at me.

Who was I kidding?

So what do you do when you’d like to dissolve into a puddle and drain into the dirt? You slink away. But I wasn’t capable of slinking yet. Inelegant hobbling. That was about it. And he’d already seen me, so what was the point?

The point was to escape, not this moment exactly—although it was bad enough—but the ones that would inevitably follow, the moments when I wouldn’t want to live again. The ones that would make me feel cowardly.

But there is no escape once you’re trapped in the case. The only way out is to change the past. Start over. Reverse the film. Splice it, trim it, use other camera angles. Try another replay, with the mike off or different lines dubbed in. If I were really smart I’d figure out how to erase the last six months of my life. But the best I can do is mess with the last few hours.

Here you have it. My first attempt at film editing.

We crossed the causeway and what I saw was absurdly beautiful. Palms trees, flowers, glossy leaves.

“Dorothy, we’re not in Canada anymore,” I whispered. But it was more than just Florida, too. The island shimmered, like an oasis with a surrounding wilderness of sea instead of desert. I can breathe here. Spanish moss dangled like emerald webs from tall trees. People strolled by in pink tank tops and butt-hugging shorts. The air was sharp and fragrant. And it was dirty.

Not garbage-filth-layered dirty. Fresh with dirt, sand, mud, smiling plants. Not a hint of sterile surfaces or pine-scented disinfectant. Nor was there the smell of sweat-drenched uniforms and stale indoor ice.

This is perfect, I thought. The perfect place to die, that other voice said. I hated that other voice.

Mom gave my arm a fluttering touch and Amy sat up to get a better view. (Dad cast me a look, a smile that was sort of droopy-sad. Why did he have to do that? It was like he could read my mind and knew I was comparing everything to . . . before. I think he was comparing, too.)

First thing, let’s get rid of Dad’s smile. Snipped. Erased. No more reminders.

“The hotel’s on the next island,” said Dad.

“Are we taking a boat?” I asked.

“No. Just a bridge. Sanibel’s incredible, isn’t it?” His hand swept over the quaint souvenir shops to our right, nestled between massive, twisted trees and then, the taxi shuttled us past a bald white sign that said, “Ding Darling Refuge.”

I looked at the entrance, at the thick fringe of vines and creepy mangroves with their exposed roots. These weird long-necked birds—something like snakes with wings—flew over a swamp in the distance. It seemed so odd in the middle of tourist-town. But then again, I was odd now, too. I didn’t blend in with the perfect crowd anymore, not that I ever did, but now I was a weed in the garden just like this refuge. Mine was the face that could stop conversations, or make even Reverend Alden stumble over his words.

“E-Erin, dear. You’re looking . . . well.”

Do I really look well, jackass?

“We’re here,” said Dad.

Thank God. If I’d thought about that idiotic reverend one more time, I might have had to punch someone. And Dad didn’t like it when I punched Amy. Mom either. But Mom couldn’t make me back off with just a look.

So. This was it. The island of captives. Captiva, they called it. The hotel resembled a manor from ancient times with Roman pillars and bulging white balconies that overlooked the ocean. And the ocean dangled at its doorstep, just metres away, waves curling in and sweeping towards me. I opened the taxi door. Salt tingled the tip of my tongue. I walked forward. Sleek sport fishing boats cruised up and down the coastline and the specks of green islands hovered in the distance. The waves trickled in from the Gulf of Mexico, sighing as they splashed down on the beach. You could dive in that ocean, you could swim, you could drown.

This is the perfect moment to get back into the taxi and tell the driver to shuttle me back to the airport, now! or to drown. Make note for new script at this point.

Amy clambered out of the car. “Isn’t it awesome?” she said, her voice all squeaky, her eyes all shiny.

I looked down at my feet, my thick runners sinking into the sand. “It’s a beach,” I said.

“But the sand is like pure white. And look at all the shells.” She pointed at heaps of sun-baked clam shells with the odd starfish thrown in. “The water is that incredible blue colour.”

“Turquoise?” I asked.

“Yeah. Like your eyes.”

“My eyes aren’t turquoise.”

“Yes, they are.”


I was still looking down when I noticed something poking out of the sand. An ivory comb with a crust of shells adhered to the teeth and jewels embedded in the spine. Sapphires, maybe? I don’t know what the attraction was. I never wore these kinds of things; I wasn’t a glittery type of gal. Still I bent down and grasped it in my hand. I hardly felt the jolt of pain from bending my legs, but as I slipped the comb from the sand a small vibration travelled through my fingers, and then a shock.

I dropped it, the pain excruciating in my newly-healing bones. Had I snapped one again? What the hell! For a minute I blanked out from the pain. And heard a voice: Sleeping, sleeping for nigh eternity. But not now. I feel her. Nearby.

Some sort of feedback? Really should clip this, but even the memory of it is making my hands shake.

It’s okay. It’s all right. Remember the time you got hit in the face with the puck. Broke a cheekbone. Nearly cracked your jaw. You said, ‘I’m tough, man. I’m going to play the next game.’ Erin, you can do this. You can come back to us. You can play the next game.

It was Dad’s voice in the hospital. He brought me back. He always brought me back.

“Erin?” Louder this time.

I opened my eyes. “Dad?”

He was there, bending over me, tucking his arm behind my back. “Slow movements. Remember what the physiotherapist said.”

“Are you okay, sweetheart?” asked Mom, almost touching my arm, but not quite.

I’m not going to break, I felt like saying, although I had, so that wouldn’t cut it anymore.

I nodded, and straightened, and took a deep breath. I looked down and the comb was still clutched in my hand. I shook it free. It plopped to the sand and stuck there, oddly out-of-place like a . . . girl in an NHL uniform.

“Let’s unpack,” Dad said, giving my shoulder a squeeze.

“Can we go for a swim afterwards?” asked Amy. “I can’t wait to get in that water.”

And get into her bikini, I thought.

Dad was starting to nod and I nearly panicked. “Amy can swim. I don’t want to swim.”

“Maybe swimming so soon isn’t a good—”  said Mom.

“How about biking?” I interrupted. “Joanne said I could bike, right? To try to get some strength back into my legs.”

 “I don’t—” said Mom.

Now this is where I should insert a new line, “Okay, Mom. No biking. You’re probably right.” But I just can’t seem to do it. Mom is never right.

“Sure,” said Dad. “We can even check out the refuge on Sanibel with the bikes. There’s all those different trees I told you about—Banyan, Gumbo limbo—and mangrove swamps. They say it’s amazing—full of alligators and birds, too.”

Creepy refuge. Right. But in a way it seemed a matching destination. That refuge was as wild and tangled and strange as I was now.

I watched Mom’s face grow paler. “Do we really want to see alligators while we’re on bikes?” she asked.

I couldn’t suppress a smirk. “They’re not going to eat us.”

“It’s happened before,” she said.

“Seriously, Mom?”

“Seriously, Erin.”

“Stop being so nervous. I’m fine. I’m not going to let anyone eat me.”

Dad leaned over and added with a wink, “No, you wouldn’t.”

“Steve, you’re not helping. We’re talking about alligators. You can’t just fend off alligators with a . . . with a . . .”

“Water bottle,” smiled Dad.

“Oh, I give up.”

I grinned, even though it hurt. At least with small battles I could still win. But it wasn’t about winning anymore. I had to get away. And I needed to feel that power again, the adrenaline pumping through my legs and buzzing in my brain. I wanted to feel . . . better.

“How about,” I said, “we go for a quick swim this morning and you let me bike by myself this afternoon?”

“By yourself?” Mom looked at me like I was asking to climb Mount Everest. “Erin, you’re still having trouble walking.”

“I can bike better than I can walk.”

“But what if you fall off and hurt yourself, and no one’s around. And there are supposed to be some poisonous snakes on the island. Darling, I just—”

“Why don’t we go for that swim,” said Dad.  “We’ll work our way up to biking.”

“But what if there are sharks in the water?” I mimicked. I couldn’t help it.

Dad slid me a sideways look that said, Cut it out.

I cut it out and we went swimming . . .

Speaking of cutting, let’s cut the entire beach scene. But maybe I could splice it with a scene from Jaws and we’d be racing off the island, or I’d get eaten. Either way, the case would be empty. Need to rip out the next scene, too.

. . . biking down the path, and not feeling better. As I pumped the pedals, teeth of pain chomped at my legs—wicked, biting, chewing, grinding teeth—but I focused on the trail and kept pedaling. Green palm fronds waved me on. Blushing, cascading bougainvilleas pulled me deeper down the path. Banking, squawking gulls beckoned me towards the ocean. Laughing, chattering voices . . . stopped me.

Why is this not working? I was never an expert at Media Studies in school, but I thought I’d cut this. Okay, one more shot. Shift camera angle, speed up film. Keep bike moving.

“Hey, Sadie. Let’s go for a swim.” (Imagine this on fast forward.)

“Wait a minute. I’m talking, Carlos. Don’t you guys want to hear?”

A sigh whistled though the shrubs. A sigh and then chuckles and giggles and a few hearty “yeahs.”

I slid off the bike, edged around the palm tree that bordered the path, and ducked down between the sea grass or oats, whatever it’s called. Ever so quietly I parted the purple strands of morning glory vines that were threaded through the oats and shifted to get a better view. A blonde girl with dark roots, wearing a string bikini, was sitting on the sand. She had a perfect face, model-perfect, gag-perfect, on second look, fake-perfect considering all the makeup slathered over her cheekbones and around her eyes. For some reason she was the magnet. Gathered around her like groupies around a pop star were a bunch of teens sprawled over colourful beach blankets.

“So, get this,” said the blonde. “They found her body somewhere on Sanibel, or parts of it. Washed in from the ocean. They say she probably went swimming and never came back.”

“Maybe she was eaten by a shark,” said a petite, snub-nosed girl to her left.

“’Kay. If that’s what you believe,” said the girl.

“What d’you believe, then?” asked this bronze-skinned guy to her right. He leaned forward, his hazel eyes tracking her body. I tracked him—black curly hair and heavy, interesting brows that arched high on his forehead as if he didn’t believe a word the girl said. He was bare-chested, decked in blue cotton shorts, and a thin crust of sand clung to his pecs and thighs. Hot, yes. But something else held my gaze. Despite his focus on this girl, he seemed unfocused, distracted, surfing the ocean instead of baking on the sand.

“Well, duh,” the blonde continued. “What do you think, Carlos? She was murdered. Her head wasn’t even attached to her body. Some nutcase came up behind her,” she raised her arms, shoulder-level, like she was holding a baseball bat, “and snapped off her head.” She let it swing.

“Eww,” said a skinny cinnamon-haired girl, wrinkling her nose.

“Cool!” said a male voice in the group, a dude with dyed platinum spikes and wide brown eyes.

The guy, Carlos, didn’t say anything, but he kind of flinched. Maybe he wasn’t turned on by beheadings. His eyes drifted away from the blonde, following the horizon where blue met blue. Was he picturing the poor murdered girl pitched out to sea, or was he more likely picturing the blonde, skinny dipping in the rough tide?

I shifted as teeth nipped at my leg again. Crap. Stupid position to be in, hunched under the vines. I reached down, to ease the tension, but then I felt a cramp. I clenched my jaw. I needed to scream. The muscle was howling, like a thousand needles were jabbing me, as if I hadn’t been jabbed by a thousand needles already. I stretched my calf, massaged it gently, but the cramp gripped even tighter. I groaned and twitched, making the sea oats shiver.

“What was that?” asked the girl.

“What was—what?” asked the guy, his deep voice breaking in midsentence as if he were holding in a laugh.

“Behind us, in the oats. What if it’s a gator? Didn’t you hear it?”

I froze, tears pouring from my eyes from the freaking pain.

“Probably a tortoise or a bird.” I looked up to see him rolling his eyes. “How long have you lived here, Sadie?”

“Long enough to know that gators do come to the beach sometimes. Can you check it out, Carlos?”

Say no, Carlos. New audio: Emphatic “No!” He’s mouthing something else, though.

He pushed off the blanket, sprang to his feet, and headed straight for me.

I instantly slithered backward, trying to shrink behind the palm. But I wasn’t as quick as a snake might have been, and before I knew it, he was standing right in front of me, looking down at me, eyes sweeping my long-sleeved cotton blouse and mid-calf capris and coming to rest on my face.

Madre de Dios. Who are you? And what happened to your fa—I mean . . . what are you doing here?”

So much for film editing.

Copyright © 2013 Deborah Jackson