While the rewrite of my untitled draft is percolating inside my head, I thought I'd share one of my favorite, if not my favorite, chapter of Sacred Secrets. When my sons first received their license we talked about the donor signature. Although somewhere deep inside it terrified me, I knew the importance of donors. I knew what it felt like to be on "death row". Clover and Katie are both a little bit of me, and for that reason this chapter really came from the heart. I hope you enjoy it.
Katie chewed on her bottom lip, biting it, trying desperately not to laugh. She swallowed hard, choking on the giggle that was bubbling up, rumbling inside her chest. She could feel the heat rising from her neck to her face as her eyes misted. It was simply no use. Win, lose or draw--she had to laugh.
“You’re kidding?” Katie wiped at the tears now streaming down her face. “Clover Bottoms?”
The cabin became deathly silent. Katie was sure she had lost her. Lost any opportunity to break through the bleak countenance and find what lay beneath. The thought had a sobering effect. Her laughter stopped. The only sound her labored breathing.
“I’m sorry,” she gasped. “I guess it’s not so funny to you.”
The thin dark lips twitched in the stark white face, eyes gleaming with something hidden. A hint of something more. Katie leaned forward in anticipation as the impish smile flared and the black lips parted in a radiant smile. “Got you, didn’t I?”
Katie swiped at the last of her tears. “Yeah, you got me. So, what’s your real name?”
“Oh, it really is Clover Bottoms. I just wanted to see if you were as prissy as you acted.”
Katie giggled and hiccupped. The sound was odd to her own ears. How long had it been since she’d laughed until she cried? And prissy? That was a term she was positive no one had ever used to describe her. She’d worked too hard at presenting that strong, silent image. Living while she was dying.
“Don’t go getting all happy on me, okay? I’m dying. You’re dying. That gives us something in common. It doesn’t make us best friends. In fact, if you look at it realistically it makes us pretty pathetic. We should be doing something absolutely amazing like diving to the bottom of the ocean, bungee jumping off the tallest building, or getting boinked by some good looking guy.” Clover paused for breath, swallowed hard and stated through gritted teeth, “Instead we’re just sitting here on death row.”
Clover crossed her arms across her chest again. A sign Katie recognized and understood. A shutting in, closing off, subconscious movement to ward off the pain. Close the heart chakra and you were safe. Only it didn’t work. Had never worked, but was universally accepted as the thing to do.
Katie watched as Clover spun the chair, feeling the pain and anger in every thrust of her hands on the wheels. Clover was twelve years old. Without a heart transplant she wouldn’t see thirteen.
“You said that when you came in, ‘welcome to death row’.”
Clover parked the wheelchair next to her bed, held her head high. A proud defiant stance that under other circumstances Katie would have admired. She would have to break down that pride.
“Do you believe in God, Katie?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Then you know what I’m saying is true. This is death row. We’ve been tried, found guilty and we’re just sitting here waiting for the governor to issue that final sentence--or, if we get lucky, maybe a pardon.”
Katie started to speak but stopped. In many ways Clover’s analogy made sense. She’d never seen it quite like that before, but the past fifteen years had been one appeal after another. New medications. Waiting until the final stage and sentencing--the moment when the doctor says you need a heart transplant or you’ll die. And then another wait begins. A wait that could be anywhere from a few days to a couple of years. During that time you had to live with the denial, the fear, the anxiety every time the phone rang. And worst of all, you had to live with the knowledge that for you to live someone else had to die. Katie had been on the list for a year. Her time was running out. It a suitable donor wasn’t found . . .
Katie struggled with the thoughts of her own impending death. So many things she’d wanted to do. So many still undone. She wasn’t here for her. She was here for Clover.
“How long have you been on the list?”
“What difference does it make?” Clover snapped angrily.
Katie ignored the anger. Dr. Arthur had told her Clover had been added to the list last month. She needed her to say it. Accept it. That’s why she was here. Why they were here. Tough love.
Getting up from the bed Katie started for the door. “Well, I’ve been on it for a year now, and I know I don’t have a lot of time left. I also know that I’m not going to spend what time I do have listening to you whine and feel sorry for yourself. I’m going to take a walk.”
Closing the door Katie slumped against the porch rails. Had she really been that angry, that hurt when she was twelve? She stood for a moment, listening to the sound of the wheelchair crossing the room, a drawer opening. She checked her watch and stepped off the porch taking the trail that led to the main cabin. She wanted to be sure to give Clover plenty of time to go through her things. Read her diary. The desolate depressing pages that chronicled her early years. She’d hesitated at first. No one had ever read those pages. But somehow she’d known if she wanted Clover to open up, be real, she had to be real herself. So she’d brought her real diary. The one that bared her soul. If that didn’t reach Clover, nothing Katie said or did ever would.
Katie walked slowly, studying the countryside. Something was odd about this place. Something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. The leaves had fallen from the trees, leaving them bare, exposing wounded bark. A huge oak stood near the main cabin. Gnarled, twisted roots shot out in all directions. A feeling of trepidation rippled through her. The roots looked like claws. Reaching for her. Waiting to pull her down beneath the earth.
Katie shivered in the soft autumn sunlight. Why had she never heard of this camp? She looked for additional cabins, other campers, but saw none.
She shrugged off the feeling as Frank Davis came around the side of the building carrying in groceries. “Silly,” she admonished herself. That’s what she got for loving horror movies.
Glancing at her watch she realized she’d been gone longer than she thought. Circling the old oak she took the trail back to their cabin. Dr. Arthur should have told her about the Goth thing. At least then she could have been prepared for the way Clover looked.
Frank stepped out onto the porch, waved to her. “Lunch in thirty minutes.”
“We’ll be here,” Katie yelled, waving as she picked up her pace. He was cute, and close enough to Clover’s age for her to fantasize. But boinked? Katie laughed out loud. She would have to remember that one. Something to add to her list of things to do on death row--get boinked.
Read Samples of The Jacody Ives Mysteries under Books