This is the chapter that comes directly after “The Pod”, the first chapter of this in-progress novel that I posted to my blog, which you can find under the section “Stories/Excerpts”. As I say with all these chapters, they are a very first draft and barely even edited and certainly are not the final product.
But I share them because I love getting comments, feedbacks, and advice on my work on how I can improve it, or what I should keep. It’s pretty disorganized right now, but as I continue perfecting and tweaking it, later on I will start posting in a more organized manner. Thank you all so much for reading!!! And I hope you enjoy the story.
The seats of the limo were a beige leather and cool to the touch. Carly was sitting on one side, opposite Fiona, whose eyes were glued to square device in her lap. Her fingers danced wildly atop the screen, which periodically produced beeps and dings.
Carly felt the vibration of car driving on the ground and after what felt like an eternity, Fiona finally put down the device and focused her eyes on Carly. She reached over to a console at the end of her seat that was built in to the wall. It housed six long, thin glass flutes and a bottle of what appeared to be champagne, encased in a transparent, frosted glass case.
The flutes were stunning. There was engravings lining them that swirled in delicate, intricate designs around their spines, which had no base at the bottom. Instead of a flat base, the spine gradually came down to a sharp point. Carly watched as Fiona placed them inside small holes on a flat surface that came out of the car wall.
“Champage?” Fiona asked, quickly and gracefully uncorking the bottle and pouring herself a glass.
“I’m only nineteen.”
Without shifting her gaze from pouring, the left side of her lips curled in a smirk and she filled the second glass. Carly hesitantly accepted.
“Here in Aradis, my dear, there is no drinking age. You can have as much as you like and never get sick. Which means there is no addiction and there are no hangovers. Go ahead, enjoy it.”
It almost sounded too good to be true, Carly thought. She was never a big drinker, but she had never had the opportunity to drink champagne. And she also felt if she didn’t take a sip, it would somehow offend the woman, as if drinking it was the polite thing to do.
The bubbles popped and fizzed in her mouth and continued down her throat as she felt the cold liquid traveling down inside her chest. She covered a small cough with her hand, feeling like she looked like Sam when he smoked weed for the first time.
She looked at Fiona, slightly embarrassed, to see if she was judging her. But she wasn’t. She sat there cordially, one long, pantyhose-covered leg crossed over the other, and sipped her champagne as if she was rationing it, taking the smallest sips Carly had ever seen.
“So Carly,” Fiona started as she leaned her chest down slightly towards Carly. “I’m sure you’re still a bit confused and overwhelmed. It is a lot to take in the first day, I know. But let me take this time to tell you a bit more about where you are.”
She picked up the square tablet and faced it towards Carly, pointing to something on the screen. “This is the overview map of Aradis.” She pinched the screen, causing it to zoom in to the map, which displayed a large green area and four lines dividing it into four quadrants. Fiona pointed to the one on the left.
“As you can see, there are four separate areas that make up the land of Aradis. Here you have The Western.” That part of the map had more blue than green covering it, looking as if the vast majority was covered in water. Small lines of blue made a web throughout, intersecting next to various larger bodies of water.
Fiona pointed to the other sections, starting at the top and working her way clockwise. “And here’s the Northern, Eastern, and Southern.” The Northern section reminded Carly of a map of New York City she had seen in a book once. It was some sort of urban area, that was definite; showing numerous interlocking streets and avenues in a flawlessly symmetrical grid design. But strangely, every spot there wasn’t some sort of building was green. It was like there was a tiny Central Park on every corner.
“What’s over there?” Carly asked, pointing to the Eastern quadrant. There were strange looking objects, with a geological texture resembling mountains, but they had a flat and circular shape.
Fiona’s lips sneaked another smirk and spoke with a tinge of anticipation on her voice. “You’ll see.”
The limo came to a stop. Carly followed Fiona out of the car onto a stone sidewalk. The stones were a bluish-silver color, reflecting the light in the same way the roads had that she’d seen from the pod.
Behind them stood a modestly-sized house with green shutters framing the windows and dark gray cobblestone everywhere else. There was a white picket fence that surrounded the front yard and a two-seater hanging swing on the porch to match.
It reminded Carly of the houses she used to pass in her old neighborhood. When she would drive with her mom as a little girl, sometimes on the way home from school they would take the “scenic route” as she called it. They would drive through the streets of The Historic District on the outskirts of Brookdale and admire all the different architecture.
Stone cottage-style and nineteenth-century Tudors were their favorites. Carly’s mom would always say it reminded her of a simpler time, before everything was so fast and busy. Before cell phones and television took away the chance for people to stop and just think; about anything.
Carly was jolted out of her memory by a fervently enthusiastic voice. A woman was standing on the porch, clasping her hands together with glee. She looked as if she could hardly contain her excitement.
“Oh, my goodness! It’s really you. Well, of course it is, who else would it be?” she gleamed.
The woman was dressed in tan slippers, a matching button-up blouse and knee-length denim shorts. Carly was a bit overwhelmed by her borderline manic display, but there was something about the woman that seemed comforting. And it wasn’t just that her casual attire harshly contrasted the intimidatingly immaculate wardrobe of everyone else she had met in Aradis. This woman reminded her of home.
She ran over and squeezed Carly in her arms as tiny strands of her messy brunette bun fell between their faces.
Carly was never one of those touchy-feely people, and the sudden breach to her personal space left her in a state of shock and confusion. The woman must have been able to see it splattered across her face because she immediately broke the embrace and took a step back.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Where is my head today? You must be so confused. So much happening all at once. So much to process and take in.”
The woman spoke in a kind of nervous ramble, full of energy and chaos. “Well don’t you worry, hon, we’ll get you all settled in and before you know it, we’ll be like two peas in a pod. Now there’s no way you’d remember me, hon,” she said, leaning down towards Carly as if she was speaking to a five-year old. “But my name is Margaret Blossom. But you can call me Aunt Margaret. Or Auntie Em, you know like from the Wizard of Oz? Oh, I’m just so glad you’re here.”
Suddenly the woman’s emphatic expression morphed into a look of remorse.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t” she paused, looking down at the ground, “I didn’t mean like I’m happy you’re here, you know, under these particular circumstances. I’m just so happy to see you. It’s been sixteen years, you know.”
Carly was confused. She had known all of her aunts. Two on her mother’ side and two on her father’s side.
“I’m sorry, there must be some sort of mistake. I don’t have an Aunt Margaret.”
Margaret looked as if those words had hurt her. Like Carly had stabbed her with a verbal knife. But just as quickly the intensely perky smile returned to her face.
“Technically I’m your great-great aunt dear, so, no, I suppose you wouldn’t have heard much about me. But yes, your father was my sister’s grandson, which, in turn, would make you my niece.”
So many thoughts and emotions and questions were swirling around Carly’s head, she had almost completely forgot Fiona and her merry gang of black vesets were still standing behind her.
“Well, now that you two are properly acquainted, I’m afraid I have to run. Pleasure meeting you, Carly. Margaret, enjoy your evening,” Fiona said, her half-smile attempting to do its best to pass as sincerity.
Carly looked back at her long-lost relative standing in front of her, and half-kidding, half hoping, she asked, “so which house is mine?”
Margaret returned the question with a laugh and Carly’s glimpse of hope vanished in an instant.
“Oh, don’t be silly, hon. You’ll stay here. With me. You’re family afterall.” She turned to walk inside to the modest, yet somehow charming house, just missing as Carly rolled her eyes.
And with her back still turned, as if there wasn’t enough confusion for Carly to unravel already, she said, “Besides, a Departed can’t live on their own until after the Gathering.”