September Rain is the final title I’ve settled on for my second book in my Savor The Days Series. September Rain is the stand-alone-prequel to Between Octobers, which tells the mind-bending story of two friends serving time for a crime that the protagonist, Angel, is still trying to make sense of.
Here’s the blurb (which I admit, totally needs work):
Its been said, if you hold your past too closely, it smothers your right now.
That’s exactly what Angel Patel is hoping for.
Imprisoned some six years before the story begins, Angel is up for another case review. She’s sure that spilling her guts to a small panel of authority means nothing— that she will never get out, and doesn’t deserve to.
But her conscience is weighted with memories of love and loss, and guilt.
Oh, the guilt.
That guilt is the reason for Angels plan: the one that no one knows about.
She’s going to find a way out of her prison one way or another. Before she can leave the place she’s in to find her long lost love, Jake Haddon, she has to clear a few things up.
Namely, the extent of her and her former best friends’ involvement in Jakes murder.
You read Between Octobers. You know what she did. Now, in September Rain, you find out why. . .
Before Sheri Barry turned Rhys Matthews’ world upside down, she was Jake Haddons’ dream and nightmare.
And here is Chapter 1:
I’m lugging one foot in front of the other and ignoring that nagging voice in my head that says nothing useful could possibly come out of this meeting. If it were any kind of deal that could get me out, wouldn’t it be taking place in an actual courtroom?
Both of the guards—one at each of my elbows—stop walking, forcing me to go along. The corridor erupts with a crackling buzz and the grating squeak of hinges as a heavy door on my right swings open. In the same moment, a room beyond the noisy door lights up. Automatically. From the wide hallway, I can tell the size of the meeting room is claustrophobia inducing. My gut clenches at the sight of a microphone, set atop a single table, centered in the small room. Surrounding the table are four metal framed chairs. Each seat is covered by a worn looking gray, woolen material.
The first guard watches me, as if at any moment, I’ll come at him with a shiv. The second guard is remarking about one of the overhead fluorescents in the flickering track lighting.
I’m careful to remain docile while being bound to my appointed chair.
On the other side of the table, propped against the far, soft blue wall sets a pair of big black cameras with round, silent lenses; like eyes. They’re hinged upon two sets of solid legs waiting for me to spill my guts—one more time, for posterity—but I have to wait for the ears; the judge and jury which will most likely be embodied in two carefully selected headaches, adorned in ill-fitting suit coats.
My fingers fidget over the plain woolen material covering the thin arms of the chair. Pinching at miniscule balls of fluff, I wait for the others filing into the room to settle down. There are three: a man, a woman, and my lawyer—Something Brandon, who looks like a man, but seems genderless. Slowly stripping the lint away, I can just make out the faint snap of each thin fiber as it stretches and breaks. When I release them, they float lazily down to the faded green floor.
My gaze wanders towards the door as it closes and I can’t help but think of it as some kind of metaphor. For half a bitter second, I swear Avery’s penetrating eyes are sneaking a peek through the small window over the handle. Those bright green orbs, so full of curiosity, churn my stomach and I’m glad I skipped breakfast.
“I hate her.” I don’t mean to mumble the thought and bite down on the tip of my tongue. Squeezing my eyes shut, I count to three and check the small window again. Nothing. It was just a passing shadow—a figment of my imagination. No one reacts or seems to have heard my slip.
When prompted by Mister Brandon, who’s taken a seat at my left side, I draw a deep breath, ignoring my dry mouth, trying to focus on this oration. But the microphone I’m staring at looms too large, waiting to eat up every word. I study the black meshed end pointing directly at me. The flat top and rounded edges.
“My name is Angel Patel—” I manage to squeak before my voice cuts out, choked by the arid lump in my throat.
“Take your time.” My gaze shifts up to follow her soft voice to the other side of the wide table. It floats from the plain woman sitting directly across from me, staring back, as she folds her hands over her lap. Her hair is pulled back in an unreasonably tight bun: the type that promises to make her hair line recede. The lenses of her glasses are stern rectangles that remind me of a high school librarian. The dirty brown eyes behind them do not say anything.
A man on her left sternly adjusts one of the two black lenses pointing at me—the eyes, coming into focus. The microphone recording us is making a memory—it will replay everything later on. The people in here are all ears—waiting, listening for information. I cannot help but think that this small room with its’ pale azure walls is like a skull, keeping us inside. I am the brain—dictating, operating on another level
The words I need to say are ready and waiting, but my throat feels as if I’ve swallowed a baseball. I can’t shove them past the mass, its’ is too big.
And then other words leap into my head:
A quivering flame becomes a shooting pain-
Down into my brain
But then you say my name-
And I’m drawn to black again.
The lyrics thicken the lump in my throat. I remember Jake singing his song, the way he leaned into the microphone, brushing his lips against the metal, and that sweet voice growling out the angst.
And me. The way I used to hold him: palms locked tightly together behind his back, my fingers interlaced, my head on his chest, dancing to the rhythm of his heartbeat as he kissed my hair. I was so sure we’d stay that way.
Deep breath, I coax, willing myself to stay in the moment. Don’t drift, Angel. Don’t.
I’m here, in this place that reminds me of that first interrogation room, for a reason. Though that police station has to be miles away—it’s years from this life—and they’re still asking me what happened.
Do they want me to repeat myself? Because I won’t give them what they want. What they are going to get from me is the truth and I won’t chicken out this time. I won’t surrender with silence. I’ve practiced; gone over everything in my head a thousand times so I won’t forget the details. The devil really is in the details, isn’t he?
Maybe, if I can tell them all of it, if I can make them understand what I knew and when . . . maybe they’ll let me die in peace. I wonder briefly where that expression comes from. How was death ever associated with peace? The death I have seen . . . the time it’s taken to get from there to here . . . I have yet to find a morsel of peace in any of it.
“Remember, be as precise as possible.” Mister Brandon, my lawyer, leans in and I notice he’s wearing his usual overcoat: crisp and white, reminding me of that Colonial guy from that chicken joint. He wears it all the time. Who the hell wears a white suit coat? I’m trying to avoid hearing his voice. Every time he speaks, it’s like a grating in my inner ear. He’s turned his head in my direction, speaking across our shoulders, ignoring the microphone head. His breath reeks of coffee and milk. “. . . do not hold back anything as it pertains to your state of mind and how it affected the events as they occurred to ensure you’re properly placed in a custody-level that precisely matches your level of risk and psychological needs; the reclassification we talked about . . .”
What we talked about? He’s talked about a million different things. Say this. Don’t say that. Speak. Tell the truth. Omit new information. I want to scream at him for the double-talk.
“. . . Discuss your current classification and additional considerations with regards to—” Good God, the man can’t stop talking! “—the state of Arizona requires you be placed—”
“Stop.” I shake my head, wishing for just enough freedom to reach up and plug my ears against the infection of his voice.
He shrugs, “So long as you’re aware—”
“Yes. For my case.” I repeat as familiar anger heats me—the rage that rises up whenever I think about what happened—and helps to anchor me, giving me a place to stand in the sinking sand that is my life.
“Tell us what happened, Miss Patel. As far back as you can recall, if not from the beginning.” The woman across from me says and folds her hands over her lap. She, too, is wearing an overcoat. But hers is gray.
I look to my lawyer and he nods, granting his permission to speak freely. Almost.
My tongue glides over parched lips. “My mouth is really dry.”
A long hand belonging to the fourth person at the table—a seemingly gentle, yet unremarkable looking man—sets an opened can of Diet Coke in front me. It’s not one of those little half-sized cans we usually only get on special occasions, it’s a full twelve ounces; a bribe complete with bendy straw. My hands stay on the linty arms of the thin, woolen chair as I lean forward taking the stick into my mouth. The fizzy goodness beckons, taking me back to better days—when ignorance really was bliss and not just a cheesy metaphor. The cool drink swirls over my tongue, washing away the stickiness of my teeth, dissolving the constant lump in my throat.
And for some stupid reason, I feel better.
Drawing an unsteady breath, I reign in my scattered thoughts, determining to try once more to give my laborious profession. Thinking over my instructions, the thought strikes me. “Where does something like that begin? I know where it all ended. But a beginning is more difficult.”
My gaze moves from my hand to lock eyes with the tight-haired woman. Still nothing; no sign of emotion. I wish the print on the badge hanging around her neck was a little larger. Then I could read her name. Maybe address her on a personal level: try to tell her how what really happened depends on how you look at it, because the same things can look different to different people. That the real truth about what happened lies in my perception.
I have to shake my head, remind myself that another desperate plea won’t matter. What happened—happened. Whoever this stranger is doesn’t matter. Knowing her name, speaking it out loud, is not going to change anything. Because I am the one who is not a person. Not anymore. And that’s just the way it is.
Drawing another long drink of soda, I imagine my brain is a box, sitting alone in a cobwebbed room. There is nothing in this room, save a small light, a rocking chair, and my box. I take my seat beside the box and loosen the tightly folded edges of the memories I’ve stored there. Bringing out those treasures, the ones I’ve kept hidden in my heart.
And the ability is still there. I can feel the ache and hope, dulled by meds and buried under nausea for sure, but I can still see it and put myself inside. And I know . . . it’s going to hurt to go back to that place. But it’s the least I can do. For him. But I would be lying if I said I was doing this just for him. Being back there with Jake was the only place in the world where I felt right. Like I fit . . . on the inside.
My minds’ eye draws out the memories in random pictures, like overfilled photo albums with no sense of order. It’s moments as portraits stuffed into each page and I can look at the images and remember the time and place just as easily as if it were scrawled—with scorching detail—across the backs and borders of every single frame. The room around me seems to shift and my body becomes lighter as I am lifted from this place. The photographs grow larger while the room around me gives way. Time folds in on itself as I slide inside the memories. I will watch the people and places. Hear the voices and take in the shimmying smells they hold.
The table before me in this little room becomes a shiny, linoleum counter-top. The chair I’m in peels away, morphing into a spinning barstool. My hands are no longer bound, but free, twirling my long brown hair. The walls crack and break apart, floating up into a swirl that crashes back down, rearranged.
I am back where it all began. I’m fifteen, again. In another town. Another life. Back in Carlisle.