By Rachel Elizabeth Dumont
ENTHRALL YOUR SENSES
A novel in progress: Set in the Hamptons, a beautiful romance goes awry when shocking truths are revealed...
SANCTUM Art House:
God of War will debut in August 2023. We invite you to take a sneak peak below! Please follow this thrilling journey with us, and connect with the author...
READ CHAPTER 1
The moment ripens like fruit does in summer. It’s the flush of blood and a person becomes hot to the touch and it’s the pulsing under the skin. Blood rises to the surface. Body parts swell. And for a moment one lifts off the ground into weightlessness. Is it what they call euphoria?
A woman asks herself as she reflects at a window. It’s New York City and summer began today (at 5:44 pm to be exact). She cracks her window and invites the city into her bedroom with a whirl of sirens and gust of thick city air. She leans against the cool glass. It’s getting dark outside and street lights flicker on into hews of orange. She stares at her reflection in the darkening glass. She has auburn hair and she’s porcelain, a ghost in a window frame, a myriad of lights cutting through her body as cars below slide along the street. In an hour she’ll go to the bar downtown. Maybe Theo will be there and maybe her eyes will flicker at him. Maybe she’ll leave with him tonight. It helps her to think in hypotheticals because they only touch down into reality from time to time, leaving room for ambiguity. She likes ambiguity. It offers mystique.
Marcella is a curious woman and it’s been known to get her into trouble on occasion. Once when she was young she followed a path into the woods and got turned around till she was lost. They didn’t find her till after midnight with tufts of bramble in her hair. She reminds herself of this from time to time, wondering if she’ll ever learn. But she’s 25 today. And she’s filled with that provocative intrigue of maturity, feeling that she’s finally settling into herself and womanhood.
And what was it that he said the other night? That he was lost in a maze with no exit. He slurred the last word, his breath smelling of scotch, the hollows of his cheeks darkening slightly. He’d been on his phone all evening, shoulders slumped, his blonde hair fussed up more than normal. He was usually more collected than this. But here Theo was falling to pieces before her eyes. Even after a few days, Marcella couldn’t put the image out of her head. And tonight at her window, Marcella needed to understand why. She blamed her OCD for this. She obsessed over one thing. She understood that it was neurotic and childish that she could never let anything go. But it was impulsiveness and mania looking for a place to direct itself. She never knew what she really wanted at any moment until it was blaring in her mind like a siren.
And what is it that a person wants exactly? Maybe she wanted to seize life. Maybe she wanted exhilaration, or an arrival of sorts. To finally arrive at the truth of things, to understand who she was or wanted to be, to push beyond the threshold of herself, to be limitless. And could she want one thing or many things or the things beyond those things like a trail with no end, an entry with no exit? Is death a conclusion or just a threshold we pass through and we fear the drop off point like a baby bird with wings that has yet to fly. Some people live in that captivity of life, feeling captive to the security of “here I am now.” Life cradles a person like the bird in the nest, but what of the branch that supports it and what of the tree or the roots in the ground? Is it safe? Is it solid? Is it strong enough to hold me? And what about when the wind blows and the branches shake and it pushes a bird out prematurely? One wonders if the bird was meant to be a bird at all. Natural selection is such a nasty process of filtering out those who cannot fly, Marcella thought.
She moved to New York City with the intent of confrontation. She wanted an unveiling to happen and maybe it was just now beginning to take place. All the years of hesitation. She had been afraid of failing for quite a while and had settled for a job at a cafe downtown. She was afraid to ask the man out who walked in for coffee on occasion and when she finally did she sputtered it out in an embarrassing roundabout way and was laughed off as if it were an awkward joke nobody understood the punchline to. Marcella was akin to the average but hoped she’d amount to more somehow. She was considered beautiful—at least people told her she was—but no matter what they said, she felt encased in her inner fears and doubts. She was stuck in her head and could not see much beyond it, not the beautiful face that displayed her or the slender lines of her body. She felt awkward and within herself, uncomfortable if people stared too long, uncomfortable if they didn’t stare at all. In a way, her reflection was a mockery to her. She looked too placid on the outside and she felt that this was spoiled when she spoke.
Her mother had been neurotic and her father had been distant. Growing up, she felt the anxious tension between them, and by the end of her childhood they had divorced. It left Marcella with a restlessness, unsure of the battle being held beneath the surface through glances and passive aggressiveness and it left her afraid there was something important she was always missing. She couldn’t understand why but there was an uneasiness she felt all around her when people talked and glanced and shifted. She guessed at some of the secret lives of those around her, feeling convinced there was something more they weren’t saying. Her attention sunk to covert understandings and speculations. Was he cheating on his wife? Was she an alcoholic? She wanted to know but never had the courage to ask. This left her with a perpetual suspiciousness and a lack of trust that the world was working alongside of her, but rather against her.
Being a small town girl made it worse somehow. She didn’t understand the ruthlessness of New Yorkers. People in the city were boisterous and opinionated, while she hesitated with everything. She was always out of time with New Yorkers. They jumped, while she speculated, hesitating to cross streets and barriers New Yorkers gladly leaped across. But there was a flavor that agreed with her too. Was it a certain incendiary nature she had in common with the city? A sort of off-beat pulse? Marcella tended to drift toward obscurity, rather than blend with the conventional. Maybe all it would take was one tremendous push to topple her off the trail completely and to derail into something more marvelous.
She met Theo in the spring on the street corner as he was hailing a cab and she was walking home. She had been tiptoeing around the puddles in Soho where she worked and collided with him one rainy March evening. She was met with a bewildered grunt as an avalanche of papers whipped around them. She had bent over to frantically pick them up before they soaked up gutter water but he just stood there looking down at her, expressionless and aloof. She noted the sharpness of his square jaw and the wavy flow of his golden hair, which was beginning to drip at its ends.
“I’m so sorry!” she exclaimed as the papers accumulated like heavy gunk in her hands. The man reached his hand down and said simply,
“The thing is, they can always be printed out again.” He broke into a playful grin and began to chuckle darkly as he pulled her up. “Leave them. They’re rubbish anyhow.”
“Maybe you should get a briefcase or something,” she said and handed the dissolving stack of papers to him. He grinned even bigger as he looked at her pale white face.
“Let me buy you dinner. You owe me that, at least,” he furrowed his brow at her. “Or a drink?”
Marcella stood there flustered and shivering.
“Oh! Well…” she said awkwardly.
“Here,” he grabbed her elbow and walked her to beneath an awning. “I’m Theo Beaumont, and I’m not a creep or anything. Besides, you just did me a favor.”
“Well, okay. No, I mean, I’m soaked. I should get home.”
“Oh, of course, of course!” he nodded. She stood under the awning with her arms folded, shivering, her hair matted to the sides of her face. He looked toward the street. “I’ll at least hail you a cab,” he said and walked to the street to wave one down.
He was dressed in a white button down shirt, black dress pants, and a black blazer, all of which were soaked through and dripping. He had a swift sort of walk and square cut shoulders. He was wearing black leather boots, laced up to his ankles, and his top button was undone. There was something dangerous about his confidence and the easy going way he talked. He had an angular jaw and catlike eyes, deep-set above a high-bridged Grecian nose, a combination of features that gave his face a watchful, alert expression.
Marcella stood under the awning with her purse pressed closely to her side. She was wearing an olive green trench coat and bootcut jeans that were beginning to sag at her waist. Her black knit shirt was clinging to her body and she could feel water squelching in her high heeled leather booties. They’d be ruined after this, she thought regretfully. They were a gift from her sister and she wore them too eagerly once the snow began to melt. She glanced at the store front she’d been refuging under and saw steaming coffee being served. She wanted nothing more than to be home, dry, and warm again. She felt embarrassed and uncomfortable. She caught sight of herself in the reflection of the window and saw that her hair was a mangled mane, framing her delicate pale face. Marcella looked back at the man named Theo whose arm was raised in a regal salute demanding a taxi to him. He was handsome, she thought. And bold, as well. She wondered what sort of man carried a stack of papers in his arms through the rain or why he’d consider it a favor to have them all ruined. The thought made her uneasy and this stirred her to action. She decided to rush off, leaving the stranger just as he was before she’d bumped into him. (A poetic gesture, she thought to herself). She pushed into the crowd and followed the flow of soggy people down into the subway, feeling the whoosh of warm air as she descended the stairs and saw the train arrive at the platform. She retrieved her metro card from the bottom of her purse and rushed through, stumbling onto the train.
And just like that she was gone.
We invite you to subscribe and get the latest on the release date, promos, and book signing events! SANCTUM Art House exists for those with imagination and we will continue to serve you through that medium. Thank you for your support!