(This is the prologue and a sneak peek of chapter 1 of the first book in my tragic romance series: Porcelain Skin. A story from a remorseful bully's POV.)
I was no angel.
I wasn't that innocent girl who stood in the back wondering why he wouldn't choose me. Why he couldn't see that we were truly meant for each other.
Nope. I deserved every ounce of Trevor Nixon's loathing.
Because I ruined his sister's life.
I was like a vine: fascinating, elegant, enticing. I'd succeeded in masterfully climbing the broken walls of my life and covering the empty decay with a disguise of brilliant art. But, like a vine, I was also hungry, dangerous, and deadly. I could squeeze the joy out of any poor victim who stood in my way.
Trinity Nixon had been that victim.
Why? Because I needed her to hate me.
My father gave up on me. He didn't care. Maybe if the rest of the world gave up on me too, then I wouldn't take his abandonment so personally.
The man I'd grown up with was no longer a man. His spirit was gone. The life that once coursed through his veins had come to an end. The heart that once pumped and strived to live so that I could be happy had lost its will to continue. It fought for him until the end, but even a strong heart can't function without fuel. And now, all that fuel lies soaked into my memories of where his life ended.
My heart crumpled with the realization that I'd lost him. Even before his soul left his body, he had already given up. Given up on himself. Given up on me. I wasn't even worth the fight, or the effort of acknowledging my pleas for forgiveness. He didn't care that my heart would be eternally broken. He didn't care that he had destroyed my ability to live freely. I would forever be trapped in my own guilt. My life would be a perennial fight for acceptance, and yet, even the most convincing person wouldn't succeed in making me feel accepted.
My father had turned me into an outcast.
I would be absorbed into the shadows. Happiness would fade into a memory before evaporating into a myth. Hope would wither like a starving flower. I would slowly die, and with each passing day, I'd come closer to saying goodbye to the girl I used to be.
That's when I ruined her life.
I tore Trinity down until her sweet smile slid off her face. I pushed her buttons until tears rimmed her eyes. I insulted, teased, and tormented her until eventually, she slid into the background, and then one day she was just gone.
I remember the day well. Somehow the school seemed quieter and duller than usual. I could hear whispers spreading throughout the halls like a virus. I didn't realize what had changed until I got to my third-period class; the class that I happened to share with Trinity and her brother.
At that point, she'd become so withdrawn that I never would have noticed she was missing except for the look in his eyes. I guess he'd been somewhat unaware of my cruelty towards his sister until that moment. The moment I pushed her too far.
She was gone, her whereabouts a mystery to me, and I'd suddenly gone from invisible to well-known... and well-hated.
My plan failed, and I was forced to swim upstream in a sea of my own guilt. I couldn't undo the damage I'd done, but I could make an effort at healing myself—erase the bitterness to allow the pretty, shiny parts of who I am show through.
Since then, Trevor's graduated and I haven't seen him in a year. So, when I realize that I'll be attending the same college as him, I feel that I've been given a second chance. A chance to earn his forgiveness.
Now, as I step out of my car and onto my new campus grounds, I pull a breath into my petrified lungs. And, as I've taught myself so well, I paint on a smile; a smile that I hope will be warm enough to thaw the icy heart of the boy who has been living on repeat in my thoughts for the past year.
(Chapter 1 preview)
My shoes graze the sidewalk like sandpaper on wood. I watch each step I take, mesmerized by the cracks weaving themselves throughout the broken concrete. Bright, lively tufts of grass shoot from the crevices in the most significant display of hope. Beauty can grow from the most damaging circumstances; you just have to look for it. But, I'm still stuck in a season of drought, because hope is the furthest thing sprouting from my brokenness.
I appear alive, smiling like any normal person would, but only because I need people to believe that flowers are blossoming out of the mound of debris that represents my past. I'm still a mess, but my hope is that no one will ever know.
The moment my foot passes through the threshold, fear grabs a hold of my chest with its painful talons and squeezes. I hate the first day of class, especially this one: Psychology - the study of human behavior. I have no desire to reveal why I act the way I do; why I cover up what I'm truly feeling.
Nerves are twitchy, anxiety heavy, hands sweaty. I try to keep my head down, so as to avoid any unwanted eye contact, as I make my way to an empty seat near the center of the room.
Someone laughs loudly on my right and I absentmindedly glance that way to see what the fuss is about. All it takes is this one moment of distraction for me to make a complete fool of myself. The toe of my shoe clips the edge of someone's bag and I trip, just barely keeping myself from collapsing into a hideous heap on the tile floor. My palms grab the edge of the desk beside me, securing me from falling as they hold me in place. I hear a couple gasps around the room and someone in the back chuckles. I'm humiliated, but I refuse to let it beat me down.
"I'm fine. I'm fine," I say, while coercing my embarrassment to take a hike.
"I'm so sorry," a scrawny guy next to me says as he pulls his bag out of the way. "That was my bad."
I just smile and wave away his apology as I prepare to slide into the empty seat beside him. "No worries."
I'm still grinning when I glance up and meet a pair of familiar green eyes across the room.
My motions slow as my heart takes off in panic. I was aware he went to this college, but I'm horrified to realize that we attend a class together. Excitement and terror sizzle through my gut. My own thoughts are fighting against me as I think about the wonderful possibilities this could produce, and yet, I know how stupid it is to think that way. I shouldn't feel excited about spending time with the one person who despises me: Trevor Nixon.
Title: Porcelain Skin
Genre: Young Adult/Romance
Age range: 13+
Word count: 130,000
Author Name: K. D. Neal
Why my project is a good fit: Many stories these days are from the victims perspective. We feel immediate sympathy for the character because of what they've been through. But this story is not like those stories. This one happens to be from the perspective of the offender. We get to crawl into a bully's head and understand her reasoning behind her actions. But she doesn't only have to prove herself to the other characters within the story; she must also prove herself to you... the reader. Most things in life are not as simple as good and evil. This book was written to make people aware that good people sometimes reveal themselves even in the most unexpected circumstances, and not all people who have made detrimental mistakes in their lives are bad.
The Hook: When I tell you that he hates me, you'll probably assume it's because he's a jerk...but you'd be wrong. He's not a jerk. I am.
Synopsis: Several years ago tragedy struck Emma's home, leaving her broken... like a cup with cracks spiraling and slithering around the edges. Slowly, bitterness crept in like tar, hardening between each fracture to resemble a deceitful wholeness.
She became a monster and targeted her venom on the sweetest person she could find: Trinity Nixon. Too bad the boy Emma longed for was Trinity's brother.
Now, as Emma fights to win the heart of the boy who despises her, she's forced to hide her demons. She paints her fragile cup in pinks, yellows, and oranges - all the colors of the sun. She paints on a smile, and an unusual sense of humor so that the world will view her as bright and cheerful when in reality she's breaking.
But she's completely unprepared for the acidic truth that melts away the tar, demolishing her shell, and awakening the Emma White buried deep inside.
Target Audience: Young adults
My bio: I've been a writer since childhood, but it only began as poetry and music. My passion used to simply be singing and writing songs, but one day I decided to attempt a novel and I fell in love with it. Along with the joy of creating characters, emotions, plots, I became addicted to the idea of making readers feel.
Platform: As of now, my story is only on Wattpad where it's reached nearly 1 million reads.
Education: High School
Personality/writing style: Believability is always my number one goal. I want my readers to relate to the emotions and actions of my characters, even if they're ridiculous. I want even the unbelievable aspects of my stories to feel real. Once I've accomplished that, then I like to focus on creating a plot that jerks my readers around. I want them to so strongly believe in a certain outcome for the story that when the climax hits and they realize that they guessed wrong then it blows their mind. I want my stories to be unpredictable.
Likes/Hobbies: Other than writing, my other hobbies include singing and songwriting.
Hometown: I'm from the United States but grew up in Thailand and now live in Singapore.
You're the gaping hole
In my once flawless life
The crooked eye in a portrait
That just doesn't look right.
You're the word for an emotion
That can't be described.
A feeling so foreign
It feels like a lie.
You're the tears that I've worked
forever to hide.
Now, because of you
I'll never stop crying.
You're that feeling when love
has no destination.
They say death is the beginning
A new life. A celebration.
But I don't want to smile
When he can't smile back.
My heart beats with life
His? Stagnant and flat.
You make me unstable.
I don't love you for that.
They say time heals all things.
But you're one thing it can't.
Dear Grief, how I hate you
But I welcome the hurt.
Cuz without it, I'd feel nothing
I'd be empty. I'd be dirt.
I'll miss him forever.
Life won't be the same.
But hope keeps on growing
It's a hope without shame.
I'm glad for the sadness
It proves I can love
Maybe grief's not as evil
as I once thought it was.
(I wanted to enter this poem into the ProseChallenge #67, but the entry fee was too high for me to afford. So, I guess I'll just post it on my own and hope that people enjoy it.)
Prologue of my fantasy trilogy “Fig”
Her foot slapped a puddle, though it hadn't rained in weeks. The bodies littering the streets, some still spilling fresh blood into the soil, gave her a clear idea of what might be coating her foot, and it most certainly wasn't water. Shaking off the thought, she continued forward, quickening her pace to match her husband's hurried steps. There was no time to stop. Stopping now would only mean death, and she had to survive, if only for the one precious soul growing in her womb.
Her hand slid around the large protrusion on her stomach, attempting to relieve some of the weight as she ran. Her back was screaming as terror and weariness ground together beneath her bones. Her lungs ached for more oxygen, but she pushed on, fighting the need for rest.
A lifeless form lying in the dirt caused her to stumble momentarily as her eyes slid over his youthful face; such innocence. Horror was still evident on his features, and she wondered what he saw in his last moments.
She gasped when her husband grabbed her arm and forcefully tugged her forward, spurring her back into action. She couldn't allow herself to end up like the boy behind her. She had to keep going.
She didn't glance back at him as she urged her feet forward, following the footsteps of her husband as they both fled. Their town grew smaller behind them as they ventured deeper into the forest.
Tree limbs slapped at her face as she attempted to dodge the reach of their bark-covered arms. Her breathing matched the rapid pumping of her heart. As the minutes passed, she began to lose momentum. Her body no longer cared.
Her husband, seeming to sense her need for rest, pulled her towards the safety of a large tree. She leaned against its support, tilting her head back against the bark as she pulled air into her stinging lungs. Her husband stood guarding her as his eyes scanned their surroundings. Everything appeared still. Quiet.
Maybe they had given up the chase.
After eyeing the wooded landscape for several moments, Cylis turned to face his weary wife. "Roslyn," he whispered, "look at me."
Her eyes lifted to meet his.
"We must keep going," he murmured softly, pulling her face closer to his own.
"I know," she agreed, but made no move to obey his warnings. She began shaking her head before responding, "but I can't, Cylis. I can't."
"Please, Love. Please try," he begged, his eyes sliding over her stomach before darting behind him.
Roslyn could see the concern etched into his brows. Their pursuers could be anywhere at this point, and Roslyn understood the danger in stopping. She wished she could keep going, but her body protested. She watched her husband's shoulders sag in defeat as he gave into his wife's pleas.
"Okay, rest," he muttered with a sigh.
Without responding, she slid to the ground, closing her eyes and leaning her head back to rest on the tree. Cylis remained alert, his gaze swinging from tree to tree. Roslyn followed his gaze, but found nothing amiss. Eventually, he let out a long breath before joining his wife on the ground.
They remained quiet, listening, as the lights began to fade slowly. Darkness would settle upon them soon and Roslyn could feel her husband's unease as he fidgeted beside her. They needed to find better cover before the earth awakened and the warmth vanished.
"We'll be okay," he assured her as he rubbed Roslyn's round stomach. The child kicked beneath his hand, and a smile settled on his lips.
Neither spoke, but the gentle creeks and groans of nature kept them alert. Roslyn fought to stay focused, but the pain in her lower back was consuming her thoughts. She could feel Cylis watching her, his brows dipping with tension. It was obvious that he knew something was wrong.
"What is it?" he asked softly, shifting closer to his pregnant wife.
She pulled in a deep breath, closing her eyes as she answered. "I'm not sure. It just hurts."
"Where?" he questioned, sliding his arm around her back and tugging her to him.
"Everywhere," she whispered into his neck.
Cylis allowed a few more minutes to pass before he stood abruptly, gently pulling his wife up with him. He planted a quick kiss on her forehead and took her face in his hands.
"Stay in front of me," he told her firmly, allowing his arms to fall away from her face. "We must hurry."
She nodded her agreement, and stepped forward, leading the way as Cylis kept guard behind her. She slowly trailed along the path, using the trees as support. They trudged forward, for what felt like miles, before the gated archway finally came into view.
It was so close, and yet, the intensity in her back was preventing her from moving any further. It was as if someone had shoved daggers into her spine, twisting until the vertebrae broke loose. The pain hit her with such force that she stumbled before righting herself again. Tears spilled from her moss-colored eyes, splattering against the chilled ground.
"Don't stop," Cylis ordered from behind her, but Roslyn barely heard him above the pain screaming through her body. She stopped, holding herself up against a tree. Cylis hurried towards her, but it was already too late.
She didn't even hear the swoosh of the arrow before it sliced through her swollen abdomen, blood spilling into the amniotic fluid as it penetrated the infant's flesh. A cry surged from the woman's lips, and she stumbled, her weary body unable to carry on. Her eyes swung down to see a trail of red pouring from the hole. Desperate, she ripped the arrow from her stomach as she put her hands to the leaking wound, belief that keeping the blood from exiting would somehow save the child inside her.
"Roslyn!" Her husband's panicked scream broke the still air, but she barely heard it. Her mind was swallowed in her own misery as she fought to keep breathing, to keep fighting. She had to stay alive - for her child.
She could feel her body being dragged along the gritty terrain, the now cold surface going unnoticed. Her head felt like a loose pebble being tossed by the current. She could no longer hold it up and finally gave up, resting her chin on her chest.
"No, no, no!" Cylis shouted as he continued to drag her limp body to safety. "Stay with me. We have to get through the gate."
And then she was released, her body slamming into the ground. She groaned, rolling onto her side and wrapping her arms around her damaged body.
She lay there, the muffled cries of her husband, and the pounding of multiple feet so faint behind the rapid pulse of blood rushing through her ears that it blended together into a sea of indistinguishable noise.
In the distance, a small four-legged creature watched as a man and woman fought for their lives. The woman lay helpless on the floor, nearly invisible among the chaos, as the man swung and battled for survival. His cries pierced the frigid air as the screech of the sahuls' warnings blared above them.
She ducked further behind the shrub, out of sight from both the ghastly looking attacker and the dragon-like creatures swarming the air above, waiting for death. She silently witnessed the fate of the family unfold. A flash of white blended with the dark of the husband's skin as the two men battled for survival. With a final blow to the husband's temple, he crumpled to the ground.
Two peculiar looking creatures seemed to materialize from thin air. They had masked themselves so naturally that if they stood still they'd simply become one with nature. The four-legged creature watched as the camouflaged beasts gathered up the limp man, clutching his upper arms, as his feet dragged behind him. Within minutes the world was once again at peace as the three strange beings vanished from sight with their hostage.
Glancing in all directions, the small creature concluded that it was safe and made her way towards the body. She had to hurry before the sahuls returned to tear open the limp corpse. The woman's breathing was shallow and her body cold. With the help of an underling, they were able to successfully carry the woman to safety.
The human's eyes were vacant as she lay in the dirt, unmoving beneath the powerful tree. Death had found her, and it was only a matter of time before the child suffered the same fate. The lives of the innocent had already been lost today; they couldn't allow this pure soul to go to waste, too.
The earth began to pulsate, warmth radiating up from the depths of its core. They watched, awe descending upon them, as the roots of Nurigor began to wrap the woman in a solid cocoon before pulling her into the earth. The ground broke apart in invitation of her arrival. Within minutes her body was consumed beneath layers of dirt. The foundation shook violently for several moments, alerting the forest to Nurigor's power.
Curious eyes watched from treetops and hidden crevices, waiting. For what, none of them knew. The trembling continued on for several violent minutes before finally settling. And then they saw it. A small mound of dirt shifting as something from beneath fought to be released. A small foot eventually broke through the surface, followed by legs, arms, a head.
There, lying cradled in the root-like arms of Nurigor, was a child. She was quiet - asleep; like she hadn't just been ripped from her mother's womb, and pulled up from the ground. It was as if nothing spectacular had just taken place. She was oblivious to the miracle that she was.
Timidly, the forest beings emerged from their holes to view the child before them. They watched in amazement as a small trickle of blood spilled from a wound in her otherwise flawless arm. It glided along the roots of the powerful tree to blend into the earth of her mother's grave.
They watched as the tree slid a thin root into the leaking cut, wrapping itself around the infant's flesh and sealing off the wound. Like a body rejecting a limb that's been too long deprived of blood and oxygen, the root broke apart - the remainder now woven like stitches into the child's arm. A small white bud released itself from one of Nurigor's branches and drifted down towards the child. It skimmed the delicate skin of the babe's cheek before floating off into the wind.
And, as the hum of excitement grew among the forest, so did hope.
The melody begins to flow. It starts off fragile and tender before tiptoeing its way up into a deep rumble, like a lion stalking its prey. It's slow and hushed with heavy pauses dancing throughout. With careful vigilance it begins to build momentum, the fuller notes blending with the soprano and transforming the once gentle tune into a suspenseful boiling grumble—the same way the large cat might growl to himself when he senses that his target has just lost the fight for its life. It's over. With one final, abrupt strum the song erupts into a roaring fight between life and death, joy and despair, hope and misery.
The floor joins into the melodious war as it creaks beneath my tempo-driven foot. My body rocks back and forth, careening with bliss; the kind of bliss that only one accustomed to the alluring pull of harmoniously, interwoven sound has ever experienced. It's tranquility and danger, passion and fury, torment and yearning. A beautiful, flowing masterpiece. It shimmies its way through my ear canal to whirl and sway with my soul.
This is what I needed.
This one melody captures the essence of my entire being. It's the soft, careful disappointment I felt the day my father distanced himself from me, the hungry regret I felt the day I realized why, and the angry fervor of guilt when I placed all the blame on my own feeble shoulders. And then the song slows, a gentle release. The tumbling pieces of a shattered heart quieting to a still.
I feel the tears as they kiss the contours of my face, leaving wet trails in their wake like snails. This is it. The healing. I can feel it. I'm letting go. The grip I've had on my guilt, the festering disease-like infection eating away my happiness, is finally being freed. I take quivery breaths as the song comes to an end. The still silence going unnoticed as my mind tries to grasp what has just taken place.
I'm free. Completely free.
(Excerpt from my book "Porcelain Skin")
I glance around the table, surprised to find a feast laid before me. There are bowls full of berries and jams. Plates stacked with pancakes and waffles. A pot full of roast and potatoes. A stack of burgers and a bowl of salad. Full roasted chickens steaming with herb-infused juices.
My mouth waters with anticipation. It's as if I haven't tasted food in days. I'm ravenous. I reach out across the table to grab a plate full of spicy-scented sausages, but as I lean forward something falls onto my plate. I glance down and shriek as a cockroach scurries across the dish, over the table, and out of sight.
I catch my breath before leaning forward again to grab at a plate of cheeses, but again something falls to my plate, followed by another and another. I look down only to find three cockroaches desperately trying to escape. I look up, searching for the source of the falling bugs, but find nothing.
I suck in a breath, a tickling sensation at the base of my neck freezing me in place. I quickly reach up to swipe it away, but before my fingers even make contact I already know what it is. It's as if this one movement has prompted the little terrors into action, and suddenly my scalp comes alive with a scratchy, crawling sensation as the horrifying bugs emerge from hiding. I can feel them winding their way through the strands, their small feet clinging to the skin that houses my roots.
I begin to tremble as they scurry out of my hair and down my back, my neck, my face, my arms. I'm swatting desperately for them to vanish, but they just increase in number. They're pouring out of my hair like theater popcorn spilling over the edges of the machine. I can't see as they run across my face, blinding me. I jump from my seat and shake my head upside down but they cling to me.
A scream erupts from my lungs as one, then two, three cockroaches find the entrance and scuttle into my mouth. I fall to the ground as they take over my body. Tremors wrack through my limbs as I shrivel up into a ball and allow myself to be completely consumed.