Every Friday, now known as “Fiction Friday,” I will post a new installment of my serial novel, The Kiss of Life. New to the series? Learn more and get started with the Prologue.
The Kiss of Life
Chapter 1–The Politics of Family
Upper East Side, Manhattan, NY
There’s something about New York in the fall that always makes me smile. After a scorching summer of too much sun, the crisp coolness in the air and the orange and red leaved trees lining the sidewalks are a welcome relief. I push aside the clean clothes piled high on my windowsill bench, hang my head out my window and breathe in the fresh morning.
If only I could muster the same enthusiasm for my first day of school.
While Aunt Mira scurries about in the kitchen making breakfast, I stare at myself in the full-length mirror. The reflection doesn’t do justice to my palatial room with its four-poster cherry wood bed with matching dresser, vanity and armoire. My room is fit for a princess, and I am entirely undeserving of it. I’ve done nothing for this wealth. We’re old money, my aunt says. Family money. But we have no family now, only the money.
I shrug off my melancholy, pull my long blond hair back and, with deft fingers, weave it into a French braid that falls to my waist. I don’t know why my aunt won’t let me cut it. All of my friends have short bobs and pixie cuts–long hair is so last year–but she insists it wouldn’t be proper, whatever that means.
I sigh, even though no one can hear me, adjust my navy skirt and matching jacket and apply a light layer of lip gloss. As good as it’s going to get in this monkey suit.
It’s ironic really. People argue that uniforms are useful for creating an equal base of power, where kids don’t use clothes as a status symbol. Right, because going to a private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with a tuition that rivals many people’s annual income is so equal opportunity.
My aunt’s voice carries through our grand apartment. “Aurora, breakfast is ready. Come on or you’ll be late.”
I check my wrist-watch and roll my eyes. I still have thirty minutes before I need to walk out the door. On the other hand, maybe I have enough time to make a case for a schedule change one last time.
I grab my backpack and stuff it with my new school books, my MacBook Air, iPhone and an extra sweater in case the day turns cold. My bed is a mess of tangled black and red sheets and blankets, and my room isn’t exactly tidy, but I close the door and block it out.
Aunt Mira may not like it, but it’s my room after all, ever since it served as my nursery. Peel back the lilac paint–which I hate–and somewhere deep enough my childhood bunny paintings still live.
The breakfast nook in our kitchen is covered in breakfast foods when I walk in, enough for a large family of hungry giants: whole grain toast, fresh berries, yogurt, granola, juice (both freshly squeezed oranges and a frothy pineapple), eggs, bacon and–as per usual–a jug of vitamins.
Aunt Mira stands in front of the sink with her black sleeves rolled up over her elbows as she dries her hands. She always wears long black dresses and her dark hair pulled back in a bun. Always. I wish she would get some color going on.
I sit down, fill a bowl with yogurt and granola and take a bite. “Aunt Mira, we can’t possibly eat this much food. It’s wasteful.”
She places ten different pills in front of me and pours me a cup of pineapple juice. “Drink up and take your vitamins. I’ll save the extra for Mr. Grove. I’m sure he’ll be famished when he returns from dropping you off at school.”
I eye the evil pills suspiciously and make a gagging noise. “First, I’ve never been a sick a day in my life. I haven’t even so much as scraped my knee. Not a drop of blood have I spilled from my pale skin.”
Aunt Mira gasps and covers her mouth. Color drains from her face.
My spoon falls to the table. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
Her voice is strained. “Why would you say that, about your blood, why?”
“I was just waxing poetic, Aunt Mira. Why are you freaking out?”
She sits next to me and strokes my braid. “Oh honey, I just don’t want anything bad to ever happen to you. You’re more precious than you can possibly imagine.”
My aunt is overprotective to a fault. Ever since my parents died in a hiking accident when I was a baby, she’s made it her personal mission to keep me wrapped tight in an invisible bubble. It needs to stop, but I don’t know how to get her to see that.
I place my hand on hers. “I know you love me and you’ve always taken care of me, but you have to learn to let go. I’m almost an adult and you still treat me like a kid. All of my friends are walking to school and you force a driver and bodyguard on me. I’m not even anyone important.”
Her face turns hard. “Aurora, you are important. You have no idea how important!”
Frustration boils in me. So cryptic all the time. I’m important. People are depending on me, but it never makes any sense.
“I’m as important as anyone else and I need some breathing room.” I pull out my schedule and lay it on the table. “Look at this. You chose most of my electives, like you do every year. This time you forced me to drop the only class I really love. In my Senior Year!”
Fall — Senior Year
Environmental Politics and Policy
English X-World Literature
Model United Nations
Cultural Anthropology: Conflict and Conformity
French V: Conversation and Composition
“I’m maxed out with seven academic classes and only one of them is even in a subject I’m interested in. Why can’t I change some? At least Environmental Politics and Policy. I’m never going into politics and that class conflicts with Journalism. This is my last year before I go to Sarah Lawrence to study creative writing. I don’t want to spend it studying subjects I hate.” My breathing hitches and I swallow to calm down. My aunt is a wonderful woman, but sometimes I want to scream from the smothering.
Aunt Mira gets up and paces the kitchen. “I know you don’t understand, but someday you will. You can’t go to Sarah Lawrence. Yale or Harvard, maybe, it depends. But you can’t spend your life writing stories, Aurora. That’s not in the cards for you. You need to know these subjects. You need these classes to fulfill your destiny.”
The yogurt curdles in my stomach and I push it away. “What destiny? You’re right, I don’t understand. What I do understand is I need a life. My own life, not the one you have set up for me. You have to let me go. I’m not a child anymore.” I will her to listen to me, to hear me for once.
Her body slumps forward as if drained of energy and she collapses into a chair at the table. Eyes lined by the years and heavy with unshed tears hold mine. “I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know how else to fulfill my promise to your parents. I’m doing the best I can, dear girl. I really am.”
A war wages on her face, but as usual she does not speak of it to me. So many secrets she keeps close to her heart, not letting anyone in. So many things I wish I knew.
“Okay, look. I can’t let you walk to school, it’s too dangerous.”
I roll my eyes and cross my arms.
She holds up one hand. “Wait, I’m not finished. I’m not compromising on that, but I will offer this. Try the Environmental Politics and Policy class for one week, and if you still want to leave, I’ll approve it with your guidance counselor and let you take Journalism.”
My smile is instantaneous. It’s a small step, but still, a step in the right direction at least. “Thank you!” I hug her tight and I feel her presence and love flow over me and into me. It’s something I’ve always sensed, though I’m not sure why or how. It’s warm and soothing.
Mr. Grove walks in from his side of the apartment, dressed formally. He taps on his watch. “Time to go, Aurora.”
Aunt Mira slides my vitamins towards me and I down them all in one uncomfortable gulp. She smiles and suddenly she is twenty years younger and so very beautiful it’s hard to breathe around her.
But the smile fades as quickly as it came, and so does the glow that makes her look eternal and youthful. I kiss her wrinkled cheek. “See you after school.”
“Be safe, my love. Please.”
“Promise!” I grab my backpack and follow Mr. Grove out the door and to the black sedan that is my prison away from home.
I can’t help but hum to the music on the way to school. With the tinted window rolled down and the cool air blowing through my hair, I feel alive. The orange and red leaved trees seem to wave at me as I pass them by.
Something just might go right this year after all.
Read Chapter 2-Clash of Fates, here!
Call to Action
Comment and let me know what you think. Each week, I’ll randomly draw a name from the comments, and that person will get a free ebook. You can choose from Forbidden Mind, Lexie World, Bits of You & Pieces of Me or wait and get The Kiss of Life free once it’s edited and published! Once it’s published, I will also have another drawing with a paperback and bookmark giveaway!
Winner Announcement: The winner for last week’s drawing of a free ebook is Anya Kelleye. Thank you all for commenting, and don’t forget to comment this week for another chance to win!
Want to read more of my work? Fans of The Kiss of Life might also enjoy my YA paranormal thriller/romance, Forbidden Mind and Forbidden Fire. Check out my published book under the Books menu bar, or at the top right side of the screen. Just click on them to get to Amazon.
And if you enjoy serial books, check out the beautifully romantic work of Becky Tsaros Dickson from Thinking Too Hard. She started a serial novel on the same day as me, and posts new chapters each Friday as well. Go read Chapter One of Say My Name.