A glimpse inside my upcoming novel. Out 7/15!
It’s hard to believe this is the infamous Finch. Nix that. It’s damn near impossible to believe this is the infamous Finch. This? This pale, little girl curled up on the couch with her friend like two newborn pups, so fresh and wet they’ve never yet once open their eyes on the world, have yet to stumble even their very first steps? This girl with one arm wrapped around Sophie Gracin, the other spayed across her chest, hand over her left breast as though to reassure herself of her own heartbeat, as though to… hold to the gift she’s been given.
She loves the Gracin girl.
He has never loved anyone but the Mad Mother himself, but perhaps that’s precisely why he recognizes the signs. These are the evil omens he has guarded himself so stringently against. With a love like Mother’s, there is simply no room for any other love. Not in this life. So he hesitates, here, now. Because Finch, of all the Barracks men, should know this. Her heart should be so filled with Mother she cannot possibly see another beyond Her.
Yet here Finch lies.
There was no real reason to kill the girl, fair enough. But neither is there a reason, as far as he can tell, to spend the nights far off into early morning whispering in low tones, to sleep curled around her, to clasp hands as they walk, to sit on the kitchen stool, head in hand, and watch, on lazy Sundays, as the girl makes them a new, invented pie.
He had considered killing the girl himself before… this. It would cure Finch of this sickness, this weakness he can only assume is what’s stripped her of all that once made her so great. Except… That is not his mission. He was not assigned to kill the girl. He was not even really assigned to watch out for Finch except that she must not be captured. The task force can never get their hands on this child of the north fields. He wasn’t told why. There is no need. He will carry out his orders, proud to have served in any capacity.
It is a matter of faith, he realized quite a while ago. He simply has to trust that the Mad Mother knows there are other loose ends to be tied up here, that she will send someone else to cure Finch of her sickness.
His job is simple.
And he will carry it out with joy in his heart. As he has every task She has ever set before him. Because, unlike most of the Barracks men, he actually remembers his life before. Before Her.
It was a small farming village. It was an even smaller farm. The whole expectation of his life was that one day he would grow up to start his own small farm. Marry a homely girl like the homely girl his father had married. Have more homely children. Hate every waking moment of it such that he’d spend his evenings curled up with bottles of cheap bourbon, staring into the fire and taking his only flashes of momentary joy through the sound of glass breaking in the hearth.
The beatings they gave the first night in the north fields… Many of the children cried out, some cried all through the dark to dawn, whimpering on their straw pallets, huddled together much like Finch and the girl here. But it hardly phased him. His father had been beating him for years. In all the world, his earliest memory was a bloody-knuckled fist.
The Mad Mother hadn’t taken him away from the fists, but he has since come to realize fists are simply a part of this world, a necessary tool to navigate through the dark alleyways that make up every possible path. What She took him away from was nothing and nowhere. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. Just… nothing.
She gave him purpose. Then, in ten years of toil in those north fields, wrapping his hands around three necks, watching the life drain from their eyes, defeating his Barracks mate with a single serrated knife and only his wits and the woods around him… She gave him strength.
The strength to do this.
The strength to trust in Her, even when he doesn’t understand the why, how this is going to work out.
So he leaves the girls in peace now, content to have looked upon the face of the Barracks greatest ‘man,’ even if, at the moment, he can’t see her as that.
He goes back to his bedroom, lies down only a few floorboards away from his enemy, closes his eyes.
They’ll find them any day now, the breadcrumbs he left for them.
They’ll come for him.
He’ll be waiting.