Edel’s Firsts

Illnesses

Edel stood in the doorway of her bedroom and stared at Jay, unsure of the situation. Something wasn’t right. There was something wrong with him.


He turned and placed his coffee on the counter, then unscrewed a bottle of pills, tipping two into his hand. He jumped in surprise as he caught sight of her in the doorway. “I’m going to get a bell for your neck. Why are you always sneaking around?” His voice sounded short and irritable and it made her feel confused and out of her depth. Jay didn’t get angry with her. Not ever.

She stood in the doorway willing her feet or her voice to work. She couldn’t find the words.

“Were you planning to just stand there all day?” He said as he sullenly poured milk into his cereal bowl.

She shuffled forward with her head down, but she didn’t know what she was meant to do. She stood aimlessly in the space between her bedroom and the living room, wondering what she had done wrong and how she had managed to upset Jay just by being here.

“I’m sorry.” He muttered, running his hand roughly through his hair. “I’m not feeling good this morning.”


She studied his face meticulously. He was clammy and pale, and he smelled different. “You are sick?”

He shrugged. “I’ll survive.”

She swallowed down her nerves about asking humans questions and forced herself to find out if he was going to be ok. “Do you hurt?”

She had his attention. He looked at her with an expression she didn’t recognise. “It’s just a bad cold. It’s nothing serious!”

She stared at him with her big, worried eyes and he sniggered at her. “Edel! It’s like you’ve never seen a sick person before!”

I haven’t. She didn’t dare to speak the words out loud. Maybe she was meant to know what to do or how to act. Maybe he would be angry with her for not knowing.

He snickered again at the look her on her face, but it quickly turned from a laugh to a coughing fit. Edel stepped forward, the look of alarm clearly visible on her face. He recovered from his cough, and she steered him to a chair at the table and not-so-gently pushed him into it. She bent forward, her face inches from his and stared at his face. “What happens when people are sick?”

“What do you mean?”

“How do you get better?”

He made his ‘you are being ridiculous’ face at her. “Are you worried about me?” he smirked.

She recognised his tone and facial expression as ones that were making fun of her. She looked at him, unable to admit that, yes, she was desperately worried about what would happen if he was sick. She didn’t know how it felt to a human to be sick, or if he was in pain, or if it was serious, or how he would get better.

“Edel, it’s just a cold!”

She nodded her head as though she understood, but she didn’t. Poly-Gen had very strict rules about sickness. Nobody could enter the facility unless they had been screened and given the all clear. It was a very sterile place – they didn’t want any cross contamination or skewed results, or any errors caused by sickness.

“Shouldn’t you be resting?” She tentatively asked the question, pushing back the fear of what might happen from telling a human what they should be doing.

He smirked at her again. He was making that face – the one with the raised eyebrows and the tongue poking out between his teeth. The next thing out of his mouth was not going to be anything serious.

“Are you telling me what to do?”

She knew he was joking, but fear made her throat constrict. “No.” Her eyes fell to the floor. “I thought sick people needed rest,” she mumbled quietly.

He began to cough again and then he sneezed three times in quick succession.

She looked so panicked. “Does it hurt?”

“Sneezing?” He said incredulously. “No, it doesn’t hurt. It’s normal! Don’t you sneeze?”

She shook her head. It didn’t look normal. He tried to stand but she pushed him back down. “What do you need?”

“Tissue,” he said, pointing to the bathroom.

Edel returned with a whole roll of toilet paper. She wasn’t sure how much he needed or what exactly he needed it for.

“Are you going to stare at me all day?” He snapped. He wrapped his arms around his body as a shiver ran through it.

“You are not cold,” She said. “You have a fever.”

Jay blinked. He didn’t even want to know how she knew what his temperature was. He just accepted that she knew. “Chills are normal with a cold,” he muttered.

She stood and brought his coffee that was sitting on the side, placing it in front of him.

Jay grinned to himself as he pulled the hot drink towards him and cradled it between his hands. She was terrible at this, with her intense stare and her abrupt speech, but she was genuinely concerned for him, and this was the only way she could show she cared. What Jay wanted, was to be left alone to mooch around the apartment and feel sorry for himself in peace. But this was probably the first time in her life that she had experienced compassion and sympathy, and maybe the first time she had actually wanted to help somebody. He couldn’t send her away.

Interview With a Snobby Cow

Well, I was hoping Jay would visit, but he isn’t speaking to me. I think it may have something to do with how Book 2 ends…

Anyway, just to be spiteful, he accepted my invitation for this interview, but now apparently his is sending Katie in his place instead.

CRAP!

If there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s a stuck up snob. I don’t even know what he is doing with someone like her. I asked him once and honestly, any respect I held for Jay drastically diminished when I heard his answer. Apparently, Katie is great in bed. That’s it? His whole reason? Wow, Jay. Just wow.

I look around my little house and know it won’t be up to Miss Snobby Pant’s standards, but what can I do? I’m a struggling author and I only work part time at my ‘real’ job. Katie’s home is pristine. It’s all white and sparkly, and luxury drips off every wall.

It’s a strange feeling to be nervous of having her here. I’m not used to worrying about what people think. I mean, look at me- here I am, transcribing a completely imaginary conversation as if it happened, and talking about Katie’s house as if I’ve visited. Anyway… I digress…

The weather is pleasant, so perhaps we can sit in the garden? I peer out of my window at the overgrown lawn and the children’s toys littering the patio. Maybe not. That wouldn’t be up to Miss Prissy’s standards at all, would it?

I settle for my dining room. It’s black and white and sort of cold in here. It matches her personality perfectly. Besides, she doesn’t deserve to sit on my comfortable sofa. I reserve my favourite room for imaginary people I actually like.

“Hello Ms Reverie.” Her demure voice and pleasant smile are deceptive. She honestly looks sweet and innocent, and not at all like the viper I know she is.

“Katie!” I greet her with a wide, fake smile and an equally disingenuous tone. “Thanks for coming.”

She looks me up and down, as if trying to work out how much my clothing cost. “Thank you for having me.” She flicks her long blonde hair and I can see by the look on her face that she believes she is better than me.

I gesture for her to take a seat and then bite my tongue as she wipes the surface of the chair before she deposits her behind on it. How rude! It’s not even dusty!

“Your home is…” she pauses and takes a scrutinising look at my walls. “Endearing,” she chokes out the last word. “It’s very cosy in here.”

Now, I’m no estate agent, but even I know that’s code for weird and small. I inwardly roll my eyes and try to keep the smile on my face. Pfft whatever. Katie just loves to push people’s buttons. Personally, I think she has nothing worthwhile going on in her own life, so she gets a kick out of making other people feel small.

I decide to move along and not show any offence. “So…” I smile up at her. “The purpose of this little meeting is for you to introduce yourself to our readers and let them learn a little more about you.” I pause for a moment. Katie is a stuck-up, snobby, little bitch who has her claws into Jay. What else do people need to know? “Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?”

Her smile widens and I have to resist the urge to roll my eyes. Of course she enjoys talking about herself! She clears her throat with a small ‘a-hem.’ “My name is Katie Stroud. I come from a good, legitimate family. My father is a governor for Harpton Main and we live in one of the most elite districts in the city. I am well educated, though I don’t know why my father bothered putting me through school, since I don’t need to work. My family have enough money that none of us really need to work.”

“Hobbies? Interests?” I ask dismissively. I honestly couldn’t give a flying kipper what interests this girl.

“I’m a dancer. And I like to shop. And the Helston social scene is always good when I’m stressed and need cheering up.”

I offer a nod and a smile. What does she even know about stress? She has literally NOTHING to worry about. Okay, I know I need to show a little more interest. It’s not her fault she’s as dull as a doorpost.

“Can you tell me more about your personal life? People know about you and Jay. Can you tell me more about that?”

“Jay?” Her mouth turns down a fraction. “He’s my boyfriend.”

I raise my eyebrows, expecting more, but no more comes. “And what does Jay do?” I prompt.

Katie shrugs her shoulders. “He manages some warehouse in the city,” she says evasively. I guess if it’s not about her, then she isn’t interested in talking…

“Okay…” I smile sweetly, already knowing the answer to my next question., “And will we be hearing bells chime anytime soon?”

She looks at me blankly and I realise my mistake. Weddings are not a religious ceremony in Harpton Main. They rarely take place in a church, since very few churches actually exist anymore. They are purely an official, legal formality. “Will you be getting married?” I ask, straight faced.

She looks at me like I’m stupid. “I doubt it.” There is a slight look of distaste on her face as she answers. Then her features soften a little, and she has the sense to look content with what she has with Jay. “Jay and I are just having fun,” she purrs. In reality, I’m sure she is having heart palpitations at the idea of marrying a man who earns well below what she considers to be a decent income.  

I decide to play along a little. I wonder if she’ll spill her reasons for being with Jay. “But you’re rich, young, and very attractive. You could have fun with anybody. I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but Jay seems a little beneath you.”

A wry smile parts her lips and she leans forward conspiratorially. “Sometimes I get so fed up of being perfect. My parents expect the world of me. For once, it’s just refreshing to be a disappointment. My dad lost his mind when I told him I was dating a man from Helstain in his forties!” she throws her head back and cackles. “Daddy is always choosing my boyfriends.” She rolls her eyes. “He uses me as a way to remain at the top of his social circle and I am sick of it! He can’t use me if I’m dating a deadbeat. He’s ashamed of me. My whole family is.” She snickers. “And I love it.”

If I’m honest, I’m feeling a little sick. My first thought is how Jay deserves better than that. But then I remember how he is only with her because being with a woman half his age, who is great in bed, is an ego boost for him, so I guess they deserve each other.

“But you guys do enjoy each other’s company, though?” I ask.

She shrugs her shoulders. “I guess. When he actually takes me out to places and doesn’t make me associate with any of his weirdo friends. Did you know that he lives with a casher? Not just any casher, but some ex sex worker he dragged in off the streets! I can’t stand her, but Jay won’t kick her out, so I have to see her every time I visit.”

“Erm… yeah, we’ve met.”

“She’s weird isn’t she?”

I only smile. Poor Katie… you have no idea exactly how weird that girl is…

I feel like I need to wrap this up. Out of all the character interviews I’ve conducted, this was the one I was dreading the most, so why do I feel like it has gone better than any of the others so far?

“Thank you for coming. I’m sure our readers will be interested to learn more about you, Katie.”

Her face falls. “Is that it?”

“Uh, yeah. Were you expecting more?”

“But I haven’t told you anything about myself! Don’t you want to know more about my dancing, my friends, where I go and what I do for fun? Don’t you want to know what I enjoy spending all my money on? You didn’t even ask about my favourite clubs or restaurants! I’ve told everyone I’m being interviewed! I need to at least name-drop a few important people in my social circle!”

I blink slowly. Who does she think I am? “I think you may have misunderstood how many people will read this interview, Katie. And it’s only being published in my world, not yours. Nobody in your social circle will even see it.”

“So this was a giant waste of my time?” she snaps. Her arms fold across her chest and she stares daggers at me. Ah yes, here is the Katie I am used to.

She stands and grabs her expensive looking handbag. “I’m going to kill Jay,” she mutters, as she stomps off.

If I’m honest, I’m pleased that’s over.

Interview With a Casher

Today it’s Gemma who is coming to talk with me. I’m excited for this one. If I’m honest, Gemma is my favourite. I don’t think the first book really showed what a wonderful person she is. In fact, I’ve been told she just comes across as whiny.

This is the first time I’ve invited a fictional person into my home and not been nervous about it. I mean, Edel was terrifying, and I don’t think my interview with Danny could have gone worse, but Gemma? Gemma is down to Earth. She is patient and kind. Oh, and she is about as physically strong as a wet paper bag, so I don’t need to worry about getting my head caved in if things go badly.

I make tea, knowing it is Gemma’s favourite. It’s mine too actually, so there is always tea in my kitchen. As I carry the two cups through from my kitchen into my living room, I find her standing aimlessly in the middle of my room, looking a little nervous. Her hands fiddle with a wayward strand of hair and she smooths down her plain black top as though she is trying to make herself more presentable.

My face breaks into a smile as I see her. I can’t help it. Meeting Gemma feels like I’m meeting an old friend, though looking at the nerves displayed on her face, it seems she doesn’t feel the same way.

“Hello Gemma.”

She swallows and wets her lips with the tip of her tongue. “Hi.” She clears her throat and offers me a timid smile.

I gesture to the sofa and tell her to take a seat, then I hand her the tea, which she accepts gratefully. Her eyes dance around the room, settling on pictures of my family and some of my ornamental candles, then they stray to the window. “You have a garden?”

I smile. Private gardens are a rarity in Harpton Main that only the rich can afford, and public green space is limited to legitimate citizens only. Poor Gemma has never known the simple pleasure of taking a walk alone in the countryside. If she wants to take a walk in nature, she needs Danny to accompany her. My garden is small, and I’ll be honest with you, it’s unkempt. Gardening is definitely NOT something I find enjoyable, but as I take in the wistful look on Gemma’s face it sparks a bit of shame in me. I should probably take better care of it. “It’s not much,” I say dismissively. I instantly regret my words. It might not be much by my standards but it’s a pure luxury from Gemma’s point of view. She has a small, concrete yard at her house, only big enough for the small chicken coop and an old tin bath which she uses to wash her clothing in. She’d probably give her right arm for a real garden.

I watch as she sips her tea. Gemma’s movements are graceful even though she seems hesitant.

This feels different to the other interviews. The last two felt like I was under scrutiny, like I had to impress them. Especially Danny. This feels like the tables have turned, and Gemma is doing her best to ensure I leave with a good opinion of her. I want to tell her there is no need. I want to tell her I already think highly of her. But I don’t know how without making her feel uncomfortable.

“How are you?” I ask. I want to scream at myself for once again opening with this question, though in Gemma’s case, ‘how are you’ seems like an appropriate opening.

“I’m well, thank you.” She smiles at me and brings her cup to her mouth for another sip.

“And your family?”

A shadow passes over her features and her face hardens. “They are fine, thank you.”

“Is craig still giving you a hard time about the fact you are dating Danny?”

She swallows and gives a small nod. “It’s frowned upon. They don’t understand. Everyone thinks I am a gold digger, but it isn’t like that.”

“I know it isn’t.”

“Craig hates me. He’s making my life difficult at home.” Her hand comes to her mouth and she quickly apologises. “Sorry, I shouldn’t talk about my family like that.”

Craig deserves it. I might invite him here one day, just so I can give him a telling off. “It’s okay. We can’t always agree with our brothers and sisters, can we?” I offer her a conspiratorial smile, then I ask the question that has been plaguing my mind for two weeks now. “And, how is Danny?” I aim for nonchalance, but I know I sound desperately nervous.

Gemma offers me a mischievous grin. “He’s fine.”

“We didn’t get off to the best start,” I mutter.

“I heard.” She raises her eyebrows at me and offers me a smirk. The expression and her tone make me snort with laughter and I remember why Gemma is my favourite. She’s so easy to talk to.

“Was he mad? He hasn’t really spoken to me since,” I confide in her.

“He was upset, but he’s over it now. I guess he’s just been busy.”

“I thought he might try to talk you out of coming here.”

“I wanted to come. I wanted to see your world.” Her eyes scan my living room once more. “Your house has stairs. Are you like Danny? Are you one of the rich elite?”

A cackle of laughter escapes my lips. “No!” It takes me a moment to compose myself, but, NO! If our society was split as rigidly as theirs, I am certain I wouldn’t be considered one of the elite.

“But you aren’t a casher?”

“Things aren’t like that here. I’m not going to pretend that there is a pure equality in our society, but people aren’t segregated here like they are in your world. You don’t need permission to be here, in my village. You can wander the streets, and enter the city, and nobody will ask you to prove your citizenship, or ask you to leave because you would like to pay with paper instead of plastic.”

“Must be nice,” she mused.

“It’s not perfect. This world has its own set of problems, but we aren’t here to discuss those.”

“What am I here to discuss?”

“Well, nothing really. I just thought the readers would like a chance to get to know you.”

Gemma takes a moment to peer around the room once more, as if looking for these invisible ‘readers’. “It’s weird that you wrote about me in a book,” she whispers. “Why would anybody be interested in me? I can see why you would want to tell people about Danny. And Edel. But I’m nothing special.”

“Nothing special?” I gape at her aghast. Does she really not see how wonderful she is? She is strong. She stands her ground and believes in her convictions. Her moral compass always points north. She stands up for people who need it. And the way she puts up with Frank and his prejudices towards her, but never has a bad word to say about him behind his back is truly impressive. As I put my thoughts into words, her cheeks turn a light shade of pink and she averts her eyes, shaking her head.

“I’m nothing special,” she murmurs again. “I’m just me.”

“That’s what I like about you, Gemma.”

She looks away uneasily and its obvious she isn’t used to be given compliments. “I should get back,” she says. “I have to work soon.”

She places her empty cup back on my coffee table. “Thank you.”

I’m certain she isn’t thanking me for the tea, but for telling her something she probably needed to hear.

Interview With a Privileged Idiot.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous. Danny Johnson! THE Danny Johnson, is coming to my house! Okay, yeah, I know that doesn’t mean much to anybody else. It isn’t like he’s a famous celebrity or royalty, or some important religious figure. The Pope isn’t coming for tea… just Danny.

So why am I so nervous? Well, he’s a multi-millionaire. He’s ‘high society’ and well educated. He’s also impossibly good looking and has a body that makes me go weak in the knees. Oh yeah, and he’s XJ5. You know, one of those genetically modified killing machines, like Edel. So, you know, this guy is superior to me in almost every way. Money, looks, genetics. I don’t know what he’ll make of my normal life in a cramped little house in the middle of an old Yorkshire pit village.

I fluff my cushions again and smooth out my shirt and try to shake away this nervous jittery energy that is building in my chest. This is different to when Edel came. Danny isn’t frightening in the same ways, yet I find myself shaking with nerves. I’m not usually one for worrying too much about what people think of me, yet here I am, suddenly overcome with an intense sense of inferiority.

I look up and he is standing before me. A pleasant and confident smile graces his lips, revealing a row of perfectly polished teeth, and he looks directly at me, making sure he catches my eye.

“Good morning, Ashleigh.”

I feel a flutter in my heart. His voice is deep and has a pleasant quality to it that makes my chest hum, and his eyes are hypnotising. Large and brown, and endlessly deep, yet there is a softness to them.

He steps forward and sticks out his hand to offer me a handshake, while that self-assured smile stays firmly in place. His hand feels warm as it envelopes mine and I’m struck by how large his hands are compared to my own.

“Hi Danny.” Is it okay to address him as Danny? Should I have called him Mr Johnson? I nervously clear my throat and gesture to my sofa, offering him a seat.

Danny obliges, sitting gracefully. “You have a beautiful home.” he says, gesturing at my living room.

“Er… Thanks.” I know this is standard rich people manners. He doesn’t really think this at all. His house is all polished up and perfect. And there is a lot of room. There are no children’s toys littering up the place or dog hairs embedded in his carpet.

“So…” Okay, I was prepared this time. I planned this interview. I’ve practised and practised, reminding myself of the questions I would like to ask. But now he is here, sitting in my living room, I can’t think what to say. I’m a disaster.  “Thank you for coming,” I say. I wonder if he even had a choice? Could he say no to this if he didn’t want to be here? My characters having free will is a rabbit hole I am not prepared to dive into today, so I quickly shake the thought away. “Can I get you a drink?”

He forces a smile. “Water, thank you.”

I remember now. Danny doesn’t like to accept food or drink in strange places, because he doesn’t like the sensation of new flavours. New flavours used to send him into meltdown when he was a child, so he has a bit of an aversion to trying new foods. Water should be fine though, right?

I hastily go to my kitchen and pour him a fresh glass, then place it on the coffee table.

“Thank you. You’re a gracious host.”

Whoops! There go my knees again.

Danny’s manners are impeccable. He only accepted a beverage because that is what his society expects and it is the polite thing to do. I notice how he doesn’t actually drink it though. He stares at it suspiciously, and I’m pretty certain I just saw him give it a sniff on the sly, when he thought I wasn’t watching. It’s only water. Can it really taste so different to the water from his home?

“So! Tell me about what’s been going on? Your readers are very excited to hear about what you get up to in the next book!”

A sadness crosses his face. “Why did you do it?” he asks.

Uh-oh! I was hoping to avoid the difficult stuff until we had a chance to talk. I shake my head and mutter, “I didn’t do anything.”

The sadness turns to a hint of aggression as his jaw tightens and he leans forward. “You’ve ruined everything,” he growls and the hairs at the nape of my neck stand to attention.

He’s blaming me? Seriously? I look up at him, and somewhere I find the courage to argue back. “I gave you everything! Everything you ever wanted. It isn’t my fault things didn’t work out perfectly.”

“I’ve never asked you for anything!” he snaps.

His words are like a red rag to a bull. A tidal wave of fury crashes over me and I am no longer afraid of upsetting him, of embarrassing myself in front of a millionaire. It’s time Danny Johnson heard some home-truths.

“You? You are the one who is always wanting! The one who is always needing something. The one who won’t allow me to sleep at night for your incessant whining. You are so spoiled and so privileged you have no idea how to be grateful for what I give you! Do you have any idea what it’s like to be drifting off to sleep and then have you banging on the inside of my brain AGAIN because you want a girlfriend, you want a job, you want your dad to stop controlling your life, you want answers, you want to understand who you are and where you came from, you want, you want, YOU WANT!!!” I’m panting when I’ve finished yelling. I never realised how much Danny takes from me until today.

“Grateful? What should I be grateful for?”

I can’t believe he asked me that. It’s like he is totally blind to the things I’ve done for him.

“You wanted a girlfriend. Not just any girlfriend, but you were adamant it had to be Gemma. You have her. She’s yours, even though she has had to give up everything she treasures to be with you. And by the way,” I add scathingly. “Seeing you show some appreciation for the things she has given up to be with you would be nice. None of this has been easy for her.” I fold my arms and offer him my best ‘disappointed’ face. It doesn’t seem to have any effect on him, so I continue my rant.

“You wanted to learn more about yourself. You wanted to meet another XJ5. I gave you one. It’s not MY fault you stabbed her! You wanted a friendship with her. I’ve allowed you to explore that. It’s not MY fault things didn’t turn out how you wanted them to.

“You wanted your dad to start respecting you as a man and treating you like a grown-up. I facilitated that. It’s not MY fault YOU make bad decisions and can’t control your temper.”

He stares at me. The softness I saw in his eyes before has vanished and is replaced by a cold, murderous glare.

“What else do you want?” I yell in frustration.

He continues to glare at me in silence for a moment, then he folds his arms across his chest. A ripple of nerves flutters through my chest. Antagonising a XJ5 isn’t a smart move. Especially one as volatile as Danny. A moment of tension passes, then he speaks in a controlled sentence that sounds nothing like his voice before. “I think I should leave.” He leans forward and pulls himself to his feet. “Thank you for your hospitality.” He almost spits the words at me. He turns and makes his way towards my front door.

“Danny, wait!”

I chase after him, but by the time I reach the door, he is gone. I look uneasily into my quiet street, wondering how insane I look to the neighbours while I’m peering out of my front door for no apparent reason.

It wasn’t my intention to upset Danny. He may be gorgeous, but Danny can be quite vindictive and the idea he is angry with me makes me uneasy. I wonder… will I sleep better now? Or will this make things harder?

Interview with a Genetically Modified Human

I’ve got to be honest, I was a little surprised that Edel agreed to an interview with me. I mean, she isn’t exactly known for being a wordsmith, is she?

I’m a little nervous. She is quite frightening and I am regretting choosing her as my first character to interview. Maybe I should have pulled Gemma out of my head and invited her into my dining room for a chat instead? That would probably be an easier flowing conversation.

I look up, startled to find Edel standing in the doorway, her eyes fixed on the empty space behind me. I swallow my nerves and remind myself that I am the one who is in charge here. I mean, she isn’t even real. Not really.

“Hello, Edel. Take a seat.” I gesture to the empty chair, still tucked underneath my table.

The way she moves her eyes sends a ripple of nerves slithering down my spine. At first, her body doesn’t move, only her eyes as they glance in the direction I just pointed. Her eyes return to meet mine, and I offer her a nervous smile, suddenly understanding what Jay means when he tells people she is terrifying. My smile has no effect on her, and it does little to ease my discomfort.

I clear my throat. “Sit down,” I say again.

She offers me a curt nod and takes a seat. I breathe out, noticing how my chest quivers. Nerves perhaps?

“So…” I let out another bumpy breath and try to wrap my nerves under control. “Thank you for coming.”

Her face never alters. Her sullen gaze is directed at the table and I wonder if she is even paying attention. I steel myself and decide to get on with it. This is awkward, and difficult, but it will only be worse if I continue to drag it out.

“How are you?” I clear my throat and inwardly grimace. I won’t be winning any journalism awards with questions like that, will I?

She stares at me, and I realise she doesn’t know how to answer. I mentally berate myself for my own stupidity. It’s like I haven’t been paying attention all these years she’s been in my head.

“Can you introduce yourself for our readers?” I ask hopefully.

Her gaze remains fixed on the table and the harsh words escape her mouth with effort. “I am XJ545-12”

I offer her a wry smile. “That’s not your name though. Do you know who I am?”

She stares at me and I can feel my skin prickle with nerves. “You’re Ashleigh.” she blinks once. “That’s not your name though.”

My eyes widen. She knows more about me than I thought. Okay, I need to take control of this interview before it goes completely off the rails, I clear my throat and say, “Tell our readers about your book!”

She stares back at me. “Which one?”

I clear my throat once more and try to lubricate my dry mouth. “There’s only two! But I meant the new one.”

“You have many in your mind.”

I smile. I suppose if I know what’s in her head, then she must know what is in mine too? She doesn’t return my smile and I realise it is because she knows what is in my head. She already knows her fate and the long and sometimes painful road she will take, even though it isn’t written yet.

“It’s not all bad,” I whisper. “Without me, you would still be locked up in Poly-Gen. You would have never met Jay. Or Danny.”

She glares at me and I feel myself shrinking. “And what good came of me meeting Danny?”

Okay, she has a valid point there. This isn’t going well, I need to move it along. “What do you think to freedom?” I ask, trying to steer the conversation better.

Her stony face glares back at me. A flicker of anger ripples under the surface, but she refuses to answer.

“Okay… erm… You’ve had lots of new experiences and seen many new things and places since you broke free of Poly-Gen. What has been your favourite?”

Still, she refuses to answer. Damn! I Knew I shouldn’t have started with Edel! I rack my brain and try to think of a fluff question- anything light and friendly that will hopefully take that murderous look off her face. Inspiration hits out of nowhere. “Who’s your favourite character in the book?”

A smile! Well, a hint of a smile at least. “Jay,” she answers curtly.

“Why?”

“Jay is kind to me.” She sits up straighter and leans slightly forward in her seat, her palms rest face down on the table in front of me and she looks quite menacing as her eyes bore into mine. “You have hurt me. You have made me suffer for years.”

I swallow. I don’t mean to be this sadistic. How can I explain that it isn’t my fault- these things just happen.

She continues, “I don’t care what you have done to me. But if you hurt him,” she pauses and it gets the desired effect. I am almost shaking with fear as I await her next words. “I WILL END YOU.”

The force of her threat causes my heart to pound in my chest. I avert my eyes, unable to keep looking at this terrifying genetically modified human before me. Closing my eyes for a second, I try to get a hold of myself and get back on track. When I look back at her, there is nothing but an empty chair.

I don’t know what I was hoping for, trying to bridge the gap between reality and my imagination, but it didn’t go how I wanted it to.

I’m scared.

Top indie reads of 2021

Being an indie author means I’m a big advocate for other self-published authors. Last year I read a lot of books by indie authors, and I’d like to give a shout out to my top five reads from last year, by authors like me who are just beginning in their journey.

  • 1: The Dreaming by Amanda Sheridan. This is actually a sequel to a book called Rapid Eye Movement, which also made my top five this year!

  • 2: Hollow: Into the Veil Part One by Sommer Rae, a lovely well written fantasy novel.

  • 3: Tivadar’s House by Seana Kee. This was something different and unusual, and it was so cleverly put together. I’m looking out for the sequel.

  • 4: The Zoolinguist: A Humorous Crime Fantasy by S. A. Adams. This one was really out there. I’ve no idea what made me pick it up to read in the first place but I am so glad I did. It’s definitely original and funny, and thoroughly entertaining.

  • 5: Rapid Eye Movement by Amanda Sheridan. The book that came before my top read of 2021, following two women who are dreaming each others lives. very original, very clever, and an excellent story.

I’ve already started my 2022 reading journey and I can’t wait to share more gems with you.