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The Church, Chapter 2, Draft 1

by JessicaPaul 

Posted: 04 September 2011
Word Count: 2997
Summary: This is the first draft of the second chapter of a novel I'm writing. I've also uploaded the first draft of Chapter 1 so if you haven't already, you can read that one first. Let me know what you think, I'm very eagre for feedback. Just one thing, my biggest floor is structure and grammar so ifyou see anything that's really obviously wrong in that sense, let me know please, I'll be very grateful. Thanks
Related Works: The Church - Chapter 1, 1st Draft • 

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Chapter 2
Draft 1

“Morning mum.” Silence. Just the sound of the bacon starting to sizzle in the pan. Sighing a lonely sigh I grabbed for the cup of coffee and sat down at the table. Mum carried on at the Raeburn. I looked around the kitchen. Still the same as ever and yet, completely different. The walls were still pea green, the chair I was sat on was still lumpy, the clock above the stove was still ticking, my mums ornament chickens were still peeking out at me and the room still smelt of a thousand fried breakfasts and lamb stews that had seeped into the walls. And yet, it felt completely different. No longer was it the hub of our home. No longer did it greet me in the morning with a welcoming smile. No longer did it sound of tired conversations and petty little squabbles between Annabel and me.

“Oh, Helene? How long have you been there?” my presence seemed to startle her as she swung around to dish up.

“Not long.” I replied quickly and quietly so as not to completely jolt her from her thoughts. Not long ago we would have started the day with a hug and a kiss and a quick conversation about what lay ahead for the day. Not now though. Now we knew exactly what lay ahead of her. After we’d finished eating, I’d wash up and she’d have a quick tidy round before she headed off to the hospital. And what lay ahead for me was of no consequence. I swear I could have robbed Buckingham Palace and stolen all the crown jewels before she’d ask me what I’d been up to. She placed my plate in front of me.

I looked down the corridor as Dad opened the front door and stepped inside. I’d watched him in the morning a million times before. He’d come in and pull off his boots, then take off his overcoat and hang it up. In the past he’d then shoot a warm smile down the corridor at me and call out ‘Bore Da’. I watched eagerly hoping he’d do it today but no such luck. In no time he was walking towards the kitchen, making for his breakfast in silence.

“Morning Dad.” I said and he nodded a greeting my way. He sat in the chair he always had, head of the table, opposite my mother, with my chair on one side, and what was once Annabel’s on the other. The table was old, rectangular and wooden and the chairs were made to match all those years ago when it was first made. They still had never been replaced or renewed. That was like most things in our house though. Most of the furniture was acquired way back when it was my Nain and Taid’s farm. And most of the rooms hadn’t been decorated since then either. My dad had lived here as a little boy and when his father started slowing down in his old age, he’d stayed on to take over the running of the farm. When he was in his twenties, he met my mum and they married. She moved in when Nain and Taid still lived here but when Annabel was born, Nain and Taid moved into a little house in the village. Time went on, and Mum never thought to make the house her own, either she was too busy or my dad was too tight to pay for it.

“I thought I might take the dogs for a walk this morning Dad?” Again, he nodded. “Is there anything you need me to do before I go?” I was desperate to actually get some words out of him.

“No. You’re alright.” He said shoving another piece of sausage into his mouth signalling he’d spoken as much as he was going to. I didn’t bother trying to start any more conversation.

When I’d finished clearing up the dishes I grabbed my IPod and dog leads, slipped on my wellies and rushed out the door. Bits and Bobs, our two Jack Rustles yapped their way over to me in frenzy. I’d never liked them much to be honest. But at the minute, what with school being finished and things the way they were at home, I was up for anything that got me off the farm. Annabel had liked them. It was a nice morning and the air felt fresh, well, as fresh as it could feel on a farm yard! My dad was busying himself under the bonnet of Taid’s old Landrover. I was going to say goodbye but there didn’t seem much point as I guessed that as he hadn’t looked up when the sheep dogs started barking, that he wasn’t interesting in exchanging goodbyes.

Our drive led down the bank of the hill that our farm sat on and met the road that ran through our valley up to the mountain. The landscape is beautiful. Rolling hills, all growing in height until you reach the Mountain at the top. The two high sides of hills dropping down to meet in the middle, with a river running through it. Hundreds and hundreds of acres of lush, green land sprawled out in front of you, divided into a patchwork of fields and farms by old, crumbling, stone walls and higgledy piggledy hedgerows. Buzzards soar overhead scouring the fields below for tiny creatures to fill their bellies. In winter, the valley can look stark and cruel and if snow falls, you can be stuck for weeks. The storms that blow through can be harsh and unapologetic but still, even in winter, it feels like the valley is your faithful friend.

At the bottom of the drive I wondered which way to go. From where I was standing, I could look up towards the mountain, down towards the village and over to the hills and farms on the other side of the valley. I looked at Emma’s farm which was opposite from ours. I could see the road that ran beside it and just above that stood the old Church. It stuck out of the landscape like a haunting beacon, reminding me of Annabel and all that had happened on and since the 2nd of February, or rather what hadn’t happened. The more I looked at that cold building, the more the rage that I felt grew inside me. I looked at it until I could look no more.

I turned right, heading up the road towards the mountain. I knew I could do a walk of ‘the block’ and it would take me about an hour. Or I could walk up towards the peak of the mountain as I sometimes did and it would take me away from the farm until the early afternoon. I wasn’t quite sure which option I’d take. Right now I was just walking. On my IPod I was listening to Led Zeppelin, Bron Y Aur Stomp, immersing myself into its charming sweet rhythm. The dogs capered along beside me, sniffing in the hedgerows and cocking their legs every now and then.

I love this valley. It’s always felt like home. Of course, it always has been home, but it’s more than that. I feel like I know every inch of it, I’ve seen every part of it a thousand times before, walked it all a thousand times before. The hills have a way of comforting me. Even when the landscape changes because of the season, it always feels the same. It has been the same for hundreds of years. Not many of the houses or farms have changed, apart from one or two new barns here and there, there’s only been one new house put up in the last 60years, the field boundaries have remained relatively unchanged, and even that old disused Church has stood on that hill since the 1600’s. That’s what I like about it, it feels solid and constant. Since Annabel was found unconscious, it’s the only thing that hasn’t changed in that way. Everything else around me at the minute feels so fragile.

I don’t know why but when I got to the fork in the road I turned sharply left so that I was walking on the road that ran on the other side of the valley. The last thing I actually wanted to do was walk to the Church and I knew that this road would take me passed it. But, for some reason, I felt compelled to go towards it. Bits and Bobs put up no fight, they’d been this way plenty of times before, usually with Ani, and they knew the route well. As I got further along the road, I felt the atmosphere around me changing. Tingles ran up and down my spine and the hairs on my skin stood to attention. I felt uneasy and I didn’t know why. I’d felt this feeling plenty of times in the past. Usually I’d wake up after one of my recurring dreams feeling like it, with no reason why as the dreams were never sinister. Every now and then, I’d overhear people talking and things they were saying would set it off. Sometimes it wouldn’t even be things I heard, but smells or things I saw out of the corner of my eye. I called it my vulnerable feeling. You know that feeling of Deja Vu that you sometimes get? Well, it’s kind of like that, only it’s not like I’m remembering the thing that set off the feeling, but remembering the feeling itself.

I was just about to turn on my heels and walk back home when I realised I was stood by Emma’s yard. I heard someone moving about in the barn nearest to the road and wondered whether they had realised I was there. That’s when one of their dogs started barking, and of course so did mine. I was expecting Emma or one of her family to come out of the barn but when the figure appeared it was someone I didn’t quite recognise.

“Hi.” I said. “I’m sorry. I was just taking the dogs for a walk.” I found myself blushing. Whoever this person was he was very attractive. He had short, shaven brown hair and kind eyes. But his features were strong and masculine. He was tall with broad shoulders. The top he was wearing skimmed over the muscles that hid behind it and it struck me that he was born to be a man.

“Yeah I guessed that. Do you live round here then?”

“Yeah, on the hill opposite. Cefn Coch?”

“Oh yeah, I know it.” He paused and I guessed he knew all about me and my family. “We have a field in the bottom just in front of your drive.” This confused me and it must have read across my face. “We just moved in here, took over the lease.”

“What do you mean? Have Emma’s family moved away?” I asked, shocked that I’d not heard anything about it if they had.
“Yeah, Emma’s parents thought it best, what with everything that’s happened. I’m Adam by the way. Emma’s my cousin. When Anne and Mike said they wanted to leave here, my Dad offered to take over the tenancy.”

“I’m Helene.”

“I know.” He smiled and it hit me like a tonne of bricks. My vulnerable feeling which had faded when talking to him was now back. But, there was also something different about it, I didn’t feel vulnerable in a frightened way. His smile was so warm, it filled his entire face, his eyes sparkled with it. It made me weak at the knees, something I’d never previously felt. “Have we met before?” He asked.

“I don’t know.” I replied uneasily. “You’re familiar somehow but I don’t think we’ve ever met. Have you ever been up to see Emma before? Perhaps you met my sister and that’s why I look familiar to you.”

“That wouldn’t explain why I look familiar to you though would it!” He jested. Then seemed to pull himself back together before taking on a serious tone. “I did meet your sister once though. Nice girl. I’m sorry to hear about what happened.” I shifted in my place awkwardly and he sensed it. “Sorry.”

“That’s ok. It’s just that we don’t really know what happened.” I paused and his sympathetic eyes made me want to cry. Fighting back the tears I started again. “Are you close to Emma? It’s just that we never got to talk to Ani’s friends after that night and so other than what the police told my parents; all of which they didn’t pass on to me, and what I read for myself in the papers, I don’t actually know what happened up there.”

“Sorry. She never said anything to me. She was different to how she usually was when we saw her last week.” He thought for anything else he might be able to tell me. “Her parents don’t know anything either.” More thought. “But, there is something I could show you?” He looked at me tentatively wandering whether or not to continue. I urged him on with my eyes. “It’s just that, in one of the barns, there are some things that Emma and her friends must have been storing there. Up on the higher level, that isn’t used anymore. Makes me think perhaps she was hiding it. And, well she didn’t take it with her.” He looked as if he was stopping short of something else he wanted to say and I guessed at what it was.

“Yeah, I’d like to see it. If you wouldn’t mind?” He smiled again and again it hit me like a tonne of bricks.

He led me through the yard and into one of the old barns. I’d never actually been further than the yard before. I’d only come here once or twice to drop things off for my dad; things he’d borrowed; post that had been delivered to us by mistake etc. When we were little, me and Ani, Emma and her brother had all played together in eachother’s gardens. But as we all grew up, Rich had got too old to play, working on the farm instead and it became apparent to me that Emma was Ani’s friend, not mine and I was just in the way. That’s when I started keeping myself to myself, they were never mean to me, I just understood I was surplus to requirement. Walking towards this barn was bringing back the vulnerable feeling, the first type and I wandered whether perhaps I should turn back. My intuition was telling me that whatever was inside was private and that I shouldn’t go poking around in it. But, on the other hand, there was something, deep inside me, urging me on.

The barn was cold, sheltered from the outside heat by the thick stone walls. It was dark too and everything in it was clouded by the hazy dullness. There were old farmyard tools everywhere and Bits and Bobs were having a right old time of sniffing at all the new things. It struck me that it had looked the same for a many number of years. Adam took the dog leads and tied them around a post that was supporting an upper level that covered the bottom third of the barn. Next to the post was an old, wooden ladder. He started up it and beckoned for me to follow once he’d reached the top. It’s not that I don’t like heights but I had to fight my vulnerable feeling quite hard to make my hands take hold of the struts. I was starting to feel dizzy and nauseous with it.

“You’ll be alright. Dwy’n addo.” ‘I promise’ in Welsh. My Dad used to say it to me all the time when I was little, before my mum stopped him. I looked up at him smiling and again my knees went weak. Reluctantly, but trusting in Adam I climbed to the top and he helped me navigate around the struts. It was strange how comfortable I felt up here. I looked around, taking it all in. It seemed as though Emma, my sister and their other friends used this place as a sort of ‘clubhouse’ because there was nothing farm related up here at all. In the middle of the floor there was a makeshift table, covered with a pretty, dark blue, embroidered cloth. There were cushions and candles scattered about the place and in the far, left hand corner there was a chest.

“I knew Emma used this ‘cause I came up here once when I visited as a lad.” It made me chuckle to hear him use lad as a past tense thing. He couldn’t have been more than 17 or 18 now. “But I didn’t think she’d leave everything here. I was gonna put some of my bits and pieces up here out of the way. There’s not much room down there.”

“Why do you think this has anything to do with that night though?” I asked bluntly because as far as I could see, it all looked pretty ordinary to me.

“Like you, I read some things in the papers.” He paused hesitantly. “Look, I don’t know what they were trying to do in that Church but I found all this stuff that looks like that kind of voodoo crap they were talking about in the news.”

“Where?” He walked over to the chest and opened it, just looking at me. I went to his side and looked for myself. For the main part it was just a load of more candle’s and bits and pieces. There were a few bowels, some oils, some botanical things like dried flowers, sticks etc. But underneath all of that, there were books and pieces of paper. On the top sheet, one word was visible in big, old world lettering – Witchcraft.

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Comments by other Members

sahara at 10:37 on 08 September 2011  Report this post
Hi again,

Another gripping chapter. I liked the way it shifted from her loneliness in her family to her thoughtful solitude and then shifted to her finding a friendly face in Adam. It will be interesting to see more of him. I do, however, feel that perhaps he would have more loyalty to Emma, being her cousin, so perhaps it needs to be more clear of his reasons for showing Helene the chest and voodoo things. It doesn't need to be explained in this chapter, but I think it could be important later on if he sticks around?

I love the idea of the smells of cooked breakfasts and lamb stews having seeped into the walls of the kitchen - it allows you to imagine you are really there! I like the way you personify the room, "greeting me with a welcoming smile" etc.

I think the line "He said shoving another piece of sausage into his mouth signalling he’d spoken as much as he was going to" would be more effective if it was just "He said, shoving another piece of sausage into his mouth" because it shows that he isn't going to speak any more. So I don't think the second part of the sentence is necessary.

I also liked the description of the church, and I wonder if the sentence "Right now I was just walking" would have more impact if it was "I just wanted to walk"?

I thought the paragraph that starts "I love this valley. It’s always felt like home." is really effective - it really contrasts the trouble in the family. I do find it slightly ironic that this valley seems so peaceful and "silent" - a word that is obviously central to the family's situation, and I think it might be effective if you drew attention to that, maybe "the silence in the valley was natural, peaceful, not like the heavy silence back home" or something like that?

The next but one paragraph "I was stood by Emma’s yard" would be better: "I was standing by Emma's yard".

In the last paragraph, "There were a few bowels" - do you mean bowls? I liked the ending to the chapter - it again draws the reader in - it made me want to read on once more. A very intriguing story you've created here.

I look forward to the next chapter,

JessicaPaul at 19:32 on 08 September 2011  Report this post
Hi Sahara,
Thanks again for your positive comments and for all your suggestions, which once again were all very helpful. Yes I do mean bowls! Clearly, my spelling needs some improvement! Adam's story will become alot clearer throught the novel as it later transpires he is quite important in alot of ways.
I'm glad you enjoyed it and I'll put up another chapter as soon as I'm finished if you do want to read on.

Writingislife at 12:54 on 11 September 2011  Report this post
Hi Jessica,
I have printed this off and just skim read it. it seems intriguing - but I would like to give it more attention and give you a more detailed critique. I hope to read it today and post a critique as soon as I can.


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