Sneak peek #1 for my upcoming novel, The Girl in the Fountain. Coming 7/15!
It’s a dream. The sort of dream she’s aware in. She knows it’s a dream, but then, no, she realizes… It’s a memory. A memory some part of her subconscious is altering while she sleeps, because in reality she never met the girl, but in her dream she feels the gravel rolling away beneath her feet, the warmth of the cobblestone as she makes her way barefoot across the square.
The girl is wearing a yellow sundress with a white lace apron. Her hair is golden and Finch would swear it shines in the light of the sun just beginning its descent. She’s in the fountain in the middle of the square and where the water meets her knees, the bottom of her dress is dark mustard. Her hands reach down, cupped and running through the waves, to throw diamond droplets above her head, grinning as they rain down with the spring from the horn the stone cupid holds merrily aloft. The statue can’t possibly be playing the horn, raised so above his head, but in Finch’s dream low, bouncing notes sound as the girl skips and splashes.
Her smile is as bright as the diamond droplets.
Her eyes blue like the sky.
And then there’s a man reaching down for her and for an instant Finch is terrified. Finch is utterly certain he’ll cuff the girl, knows if it were her in the fountain, she’d be spending the evening shivering in her wet dress, shifting awkwardly on a straw pallet as she tried to avoid the dark purple of her skin, the places beneath where her bones were bruised.
But then the man turns and…
Beneath the narrow brim of a bowler hat...
His smile is as bright as the girl’s.
His eyes the same.
It’s obviously her father. And…
He loves her, Finch realizes.
Even so many years later, even in a hazy dream, Finch remembers just right the shock that flowed through her in this instant, the absolute certainty, the revelation:
That love exists.
Out there, somewhere in the world.
It has the face of a little blonde girl.
Her bowler hat father.
She’s almost to the edge of the fountain when a shadow falls across the pair, when the man tilts his head up beneath his brim to peer at… Gregor.
Gregor was in the butcher shop when this happened. Finch remembers how she’d gripped to the wooden window frame to stop herself from moving, in reality, even a single step this direction.
But here he is standing over the pair now. And Finch knows, in that dreadful way you just know in a dream, that something awful is about to happen.
Gregor’s hand reaches out in slow motion.
The cobblestones run red.
In reality, this happened in a bar house later. Finch was sitting on Gregor’s lap when he reached across a whorled wood table. The memory has never faded. Just exactly how it looks to see fingers punch through flesh, the horrible, bloody hole left behind where a man’s throat was, only seconds before.
Unfortunately, it means this dream-image is just as vivid.
As the man with blue eyes falls to the stones, gurgles and dies.
The little blonde is screaming.
Maybe it’s supposed to be a representation of herself. How Finch could hear those same screams echoing in her mind as she’d sat, shock still on Gregor’s lap, as absolutely no one in the bustling bar house noticed anything at all amiss in the deep shadows of the booth furthest to the back, nearest the back exit. As Gregor simply ushered her out the door. As though nothing unusual had happened.
Because, Finch realized later, nothing had.
This was life.
This is life, Finch’s subconscious is reminding her.
The little blonde screams again.
Finch starts awake.
She almost, almost starts back when she sees Gregor, standing above her bed.
But she’s been too well trained, for too long, to stay perfectly still.
To keep her face perfectly blank.
So she only says, “Gregor.”
And when he asks, “Bad dream?”, she only shrugs.