I’ve written a small explanation in the ‘Purebloods’ above, but in case you haven’t read it, this is the opening chapter (or prologue) to my novel, Purebloods. I have decided to upload it today so you can get a taste of what I’m doing when I’m not Xboxing, sleeping or eating. My fourth passion.
Warning: there are swear words and violence below, so if you don’t like that, you should read on anyway BUT think happy thoughts when you see something you don’t like.
The young boy shuffled along the carpet on his hands and knees, his eyes focussed on the path ahead. With one hand he pushed a small toy car, giggling as the little red Mercedes sped forwards on its journey across the living room floor. As he passed the fireplace he hesitated, feeling the warmth of the gas fire pass over his small body. The car was forgotten momentarily as the boy became mesmerised by the orange glow. His blue eyes glinted in the light, and behind him his mother tensed, ready to swing into action in case her son attempted to navigate the guard to touch the enticing flames behind it. Instead the boy snapped out of his trance and nudged the car along, laughing when the toy crashed into a socked foot.
The boy’s father glanced down irritably and kicked the car, sending it flying across the room. He crossed his arms and continued watching the television, oblivious to the glare sent his way from the boy’s mother. The child, unaware of the tension in the room, sped after the toy car. He frowned when it disappeared from view. He looked back at his mother who pointed towards the bay window. The boy squinted then smiled as he recognised a red shape underneath the thick white curtain. With both hands free, he crawled onwards, stopping only when he caught sight of the small wooden side table that stood defiantly between him and the window.
A few weeks ago the boy had been less cautious in his movement and caught his head on the sharp corner. The collision had left an ugly looking bruise on his hemline. Stunned, the boy had cried loud and hard until his mother had swooped him up in her arms and kissed the bump better. She had then ruffled his blonde hair lovingly and told him to be more careful in future, using her special motherly tone that was the perfect combination of sincerity and affection. At the time of the warning he had nodded perceptibly, understanding the danger of his cavalier approach to travelling around the house. And now, with the painful memory fresh in his mind, the boy warily skirted around the table, his eyes alert for that treacherous corner.
A huge raucous laugh came from behind him and he swivelled, seeing his father doubled over in hysterics at the television. The boy smiled at the reaction. The gesture faded as he realised his mother, sitting on the sofa adjacent to his father’s chair, remained stony faced. He looked at her, confused, until she caught his eye and beamed at him. He giggled again and continued his shuffle towards his toy, his mind too young to question the hostility between his parents, or why his mother had recently become so indifferent and detached when the two of them were in same room.
The boy gurgled triumphantly as he picked up the car in one chubby hand. He examined it for several moments before placing the toy carefully in his pyjama pocket. He then turned, sitting back up when the metal object dug awkwardly into his leg. The boy frowned, deciding to store the car on the windowsill instead. He could collect it later. Scooting backwards, the boy snuck under the bottom of the curtain and grabbed the plastic edge with both hands. He pulled himself up, his chest level with the shelf. The boy stared through the window, his mouth opening in surprise.
While the living room was fully lit, the street outside was almost in complete darkness. The thick material of the curtain was the barrier, stopping the light and warmth of the house from penetrating the glass and illuminating the world beyond. The boy shuddered as he realised he was on the wrong side of the divide. But he remained motionless, his pale face blending into the white curtains behind him. What was out there? His mind ran into overdrive as his young eyes scanned the area. The bushes near the window cast shadows in the front garden, sending the boy’s imagination haywire as the shapes configured into the evil monsters that awaited him. Monsters that were ready to attack if he ever left the safety of the house. The boy quickly averted his gaze, finding himself drawn to the sickly yellow glow of the streetlight across the street. Around the dimly illuminated area there were more shadows and he flinched as one of them moved. Suddenly a searchlight switched on, activated by the shape. The boy smiled as the cat sauntered casually across the street. He watched the feline with a childlike fascination, no longer frightened of the outside monsters. They were forgotten, banished to the far reaches of his mind now that he’d spotted a friendly in the unknown. The cat, oblivious to its mesmerised observer, took one irritated glance at the intense beam before skulking away, returning to the shadows with one last swish of its bushy tail. The boy frowned, saddened that the cat had vanished into the night, away from his prying eyes.
A concerned voice called out from behind him. His mother.
‘Max! Come away from the window please!’
The boy reluctantly pulled away, his curiosity for the outside world having completely overcome his fear of the shadows. He ducked under the curtain again. His mother stood up as he emerged, disrupting their own pet cat who had been sitting comfortably on her lap. With a meow of dissatisfaction, it darted out of the room. Max turned towards his father, who sat slumped in the chair, still transfixed to the television. The man picked up his bottle of beer, and without taking his eyes off the screen, drained the bottle with three large gulps. He then dropped it to the carpet, where it clinked gently against the several other empty bottles.
Max’s attention was drawn away from his father as he noticed his mother approaching. He looked at her and smiled, before spreading his arms out wide; his method of asking to be picked up. His mother complied, lifting him to her shoulder. Max giggled, enjoying the view from a higher perspective. She carried him to the door, before pausing with one hand on the handle.
‘I’m going to take your son up to bed,’ she said, her cheerful voice wavering. His father grunted a response and she left the room, allowing herself to sigh as she closed the door behind her. Max continued to peer over her shoulder, staring at the floor as she ascended the staircase. She began to sing a lullaby, her voice quiet yet beautiful in the still house. Max began to feel drowsy, his alertness slowly ebbing away as the song soothed him into unconsciousness.
Only slightly awake, Max felt his body carefully positioned down, the welcoming softness of his blanket comforting him into slumber. His mother tucked him in gently, smiling slightly as she watched her son snuggle into the Thomas the Tank Engine bedding. She brushed a hair away from his face, kissed him gently on the forehead and left the room, flicking off the light on her way out. The room was dark except for the dull glow of the nightlight, a reassuring ladybird for those occasions when Max woke up before morning. But now he was in a deep sleep, unprepared for the noise that would soon wake him.
A door slammed shut. Max’s eyes flew open and he looked around, relaxing when he saw Thomas’s face in the darkness. He frowned. What was going on? The chink of light under his bedroom door disappeared as somebody walked past. Max listened intently, wincing as the muffled sounds of raised voices came through the dividing wall between his and his parent’s bedrooms.
‘What the fuck do you think you are doing, you stupid cow?’ his father shouted. Although Max couldn’t make out the words, the tone caused him to frown. His hair rose in fright.
‘Lower your voice. You’ll wake up Max!’ she hissed back in reply.
‘I don’t give a fuck! I’ll ask you once again: What the fuck do you think you are doing?’
‘What does it look like? I’ll tell you what: why don’t you go back downstairs, have another drink, and let me get on? Or better yet, go over to your bitch’s house and spend the night there instead? Then your son and I can sleep in peace!’ his mother cried, unable to hide the hysteria in her voice. Not wanting to hear any more, Max slid his head under the covers and closed his eyes. And still the argument raged on.
‘Don’t you dare talk back to me! Who the fuck do you think you are?’ Max shoved his fingers into his ears, relieved when the barrier cut out all sound. He didn’t know why they were yelling, but over the last few weeks (or was it months?) the arguments had started up more frequently. If he was a little older he would have probably noticed the panic in his mother’s eyes when his father entered the room but he was always too excited to see daddy to realise. It was only when they had shouting matches (or worse) that the happy thoughts in his mind were interrupted.
Under the covers, Max stared vacantly at his pyjamas, wishing he had a toy racing car like the one emblazoned on his t-shirt. It was much better than the red car on the windowsill downstairs. This one was bright yellow and had two blue stripes down the bonnet. His favourite feature, however, was the large spoiler on the back. In his head he imagined it would go really fast; faster than any other car in the world.
Max snapped out of his daydream and moved his hands away from his head. He listened intently, preparing to block his ears again in case the argument was still raging. But the house was quiet. The only thing he could hear was his pounding chest. He lowered his hands and rested them delicately on his knees. Was it over?
A thumping noise proved that it wasn’t. It was followed by a muted sob. Another thump. This time a low whimper. Another thump. Then silence.
Suddenly his parent’s door opened. Max froze. Almost a minute passed without any further sound. Max tried not to gasp. The air under the covers was getting stuffy but he refused to move, fearful of alerting whoever was out there to his presence.
Footsteps outside his door. They paused and Max braced himself for a surprise visit. It wouldn’t have been the first time. Instead the footsteps moved away, padding across the landing towards the staircase. They headed downstairs, the rhythmic thudding of his father’s boots getting quieter and quieter. By the time they’d reached the bottom the thuds had been replaced by a muffled sobbing coming from the adjacent bedroom.
Max quietly lifted his covers and stood up, tilting his head as he listened to his mother crying. He frowned, feeling a pain in his heart. He had never heard her cry before. Even when she’d tripped and fallen down the stairs that time. So why was she crying now?
Downstairs, another door opened. This time it was the front door. Max slid off the bed, rushed over to his window and stepped onto the little blue stool that he kept underneath the sill. As he twitched the curtains to peer outside, their searchlight went on, illuminating the broad back of his father. Without a single glance behind him, the man unlocked the car and slid into the driver’s seat. The roar of the engine was deafening in the otherwise silent street, causing Max to wonder if anybody had been awoken by his father driving out of the estate.
The boy’s expression deepened as he watched the glow of the rear taillights, the only part of the car that hadn’t completely merged into the darkness. Max continued to stand at the window, his eyes following the vehicle until it turned the corner at the end of the street and disappeared from view.
As far as the street was concerned, it was over. Everything was back to normal. But for Max, it seemed like something irreversible had taken place. The boy stood there for a little longer, his mind unable to comprehend what had happened. It would take him a long time to fall back to sleep that night.
In the other room his mother continued to sob into the pillow.