Please welcome Aviva Bel'Harold to The Qwillery with an excerpt from Blood Matters.
Chapter One: Found
Brittany glared at her father. “If you hadn’t ordered him out of the house I would have still been taking care of him. Now I have to walk through the snow to see him.”
“Are you telling me that having to bundle up is the excuse your using for not caring for your pet like you should?”
Brittany wanted to retort that Ella was the reason she didn’t get to see her bunny any more, but she bit her tongue. The longer her father had been dating the woman, the more protective he was of her. Woman, she scoffed to herself as she trudged through the calf-deep snow, more like overgrown girl. Ella — even in her thoughts the name was said with a snide tone — isn’t even half my dad’s age. She’s closer to my age than his.
Brittany’s next step sunk her leg deeper into the cold snow. She cursed Ella even more profusely. She doesn’t even live in our house! She’s not a part of our family! Mittens was here two years before she showed up.
“It’s not fair,” Brittany said aloud as she made it to the door of her old fort.
Normally, after all the snow that had fallen the day before, Brittany would have to struggle to get the door open. It opened with ease. She failed to notice this.
She stepped in, still feeling the burning sensation of anger in her stomach ready to spout more insults. However, as her eyes focused on the scene in front of her, it all went away.
“Brittany? Brittany?” The man who was standing in front of her was a police officer. At least he was wearing a police officer’s uniform. There were several there — and not just police. “Brittany, is that where you found her?”
Brittany blinked. She wanted to answer but she couldn’t seem to find her voice.
“She’s in shock,” someone said.
Brittany couldn’t turn to see who was talking — every one of her muscles was locked in place.
The lights from several emergency vehicles flashed around her. They were dancing on the snow, making the ground glow red. Red, Brittany thought. That’s what had been missing — there had been no blood.
The moment she saw the body she’d known it was Emily, even though she couldn’t see her face. She could see the hair. Emily had the most beautiful golden blond hair, and her short page cut made it unmistakable. Brittany also recognized the sweater she’d bought her best friend for her last birthday, and the sneakers from their latest trip to the mall.
What Brittany didn’t recognize — what she didn’t understand — was the odd-shaped object that stuck out of Emily’s back. It looked like a crowbar. Brittany had bent down and touched it. It was as cold as ice. When she touched Emily, there was no contrast in temperature between Emily’s skin and the hard metal spike that went right through her.
She’d heard people say that everyone reacts differently when they see a dead body. Some get ill. Some scream. Some sob. Brittany didn’t remember doing any of those. She didn’t remember doing anything at all. It was as if time had suddenly stopped, freezing her along with her cold, dead friend.
“Brittany, when was the last time you saw Emily alive?” The person who asked was a woman. Brittany couldn’t remember if she had heard the woman’s voice before.
Brittany was still in her PJs. Still had a rough, grey blanket draped over her. But she was now in a brightly lit room. The doctor’s office? She blinked a few times. Hospital? The woman who’d asked the question was wearing a police uniform. The police station?
“Brittany,” the woman’s voice rose, “the last time you saw Emily alive, did she say anything to you? Was she acting differently?”
“She…” Brittany stopped. Her voice had distracted her. It sounded raw, like she hadn’t talked for days. How long had it been?
“Brittany?” The woman was waiting for the rest of her answer.
“She’s been different ever since she got back from her family’s farm.”
“When was that?”
“At the end of summer.”
Brittany thought back to that summer. Had it really only been four months?
“She looked different, I guess.”
Brittany remembered the day Emily had returned. She was mad at her. She was mad because Emily had only called once all summer and even madder because of how happy she felt to see Emily again. She had figured Emily wouldn’t be coming back.
“Different how?” the policewoman asked.
“She was…sad,” Brittany said once she’d thought about it. “And she kinda looked smaller, like she’d shrunk. She was also quieter and…distracted.”
The policewoman nodded and jotted down some notes. “Did you ever see Emily cutting herself?”
Brittany shook her head. Never had she seen Emily cutting — but she had seen the cuts. At first just a few but as time went on there were more and more. Why would she do that? Brittany wondered, angry that Emily hadn’t trusted her enough to confide in her. She should have told me. I was her best friend.
“Did you ever see Emily eat?”
Brittany was brought up short by the question. Slowly she shook her head. “No.” She was surprised at her own answer. She had been mutilating herself and starving herself, Brittany thought now, feeling guilty. I should have told someone. Maybe I could have stopped Emily from…from…
Brittany didn’t hear the policewoman telling her that there was nothing she could have done. Instead she thought of Emily while she rubbed her hand over her dirty jeans. Her palm itched and the sensation of it sliding over her rough jeans tingled half in relief and half in an even itchier feeling.
She was still dazed and numb when she was released from the hospital nearly twenty-four hours later. Her father drove her home. They pulled up in front of their house to a wintery sunrise casting pink and red hues across the sky. Red, Brittany thought, feeling the colour burn the back of her eyes, why wasn’t there any blood?
“I need to sleep.” Her father’s voice cut into her thoughts. She blinked.
“Ya,” Brittany said, “I’m tired too.”
EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, April 15, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
Grief changes people.
Brittany used to be a normal teen. She ate like one, slept like one, and had typical teenage mood swings. But after she found her best friend dead, everything changed.
Grief might explain her loss of appetite and her lack of sleep. It might even explain why she sees her dead friend everywhere she goes. But it certainly won't explain why everyone she touches develops bruises or why she's attracted to the smell of blood.
And, she's pretty sure grief doesn't make you want to rip apart your boyfriend just to get closer to his beating heart.
But what happens when it's the choices we make, not the creature inside, that proves the monster is in us all?
Aviva Bel’Harold writes young adult fiction: Horror, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, etc. — as long as the characters are young, full of life, and out for adventure. When she’s writing, you’ll find her curled up on a sofa with a pen and a pad of paper, surrounded by her adorable puppies.Born in Winnipeg and raised in Vancouver, Aviva Bel’Harold currently resides in Calgary with her husband, four children, and six dachshunds.