Welcome back to THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING!
If it’s your first time here – the short of is that I’m giving away “Part 1” of my novel THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING for free on my blog for the duration of my Kickstarter (which begins on Monday June 25th). New chapters go up every Tuesday and Thursday for the next five weeks. You can read a bit more about the project here and here if you’re so inclined.
For those of you returning – thanks for all the support – you’ve been wonderful and I’m so glad that so many of you are enjoying the book so far. Today you’re getting Chapters 3 & 4.
You can download TGWWBK Chapters 3 & 4.
And if you’d like to download the entire story thus far – TGWWBK Chapters 1-4
You can also read below.
I run anytime the world will let me. If I had my choice I’d just run through everything I suppose.
I run as close to the fence at the home as I can. Over the years I’ve worn a pretty impressive path into the yard. Until two months ago I’d actually taken pride in it, my running path. I never realized there was anything weird about running by a fence, the same path, the same way, day in and day out.
But then we took a trip to the zoo.
The tigers had this beautiful enclosure, there was even a little lake, and I was thinking it looked pretty nice, considering, until I noticed one tiger in the enclosure, just walking very fast back and forth through the space. After watching him for a minute I realized he wasn’t just walking, but pacing the exact same route over and over again.
He’d worn a similar path into his cage that I’ve worn into mine, and suddenly I was a bit sad for both of us, but I also knew I wasn’t going to do anything about it. There’s something about following rules that’s very important to me. I can’t really understand it yet, but I hope I will someday.
Even though I know in some way my running is like that tiger and his pacing, it’s still good. It makes me feel calm. And it keeps the loneliness away. Maybe it’s the same for that tiger. I mean, it’s lonely to run. It’s a singular activity, but it’s supposed to be that way I think. And I don’t know, the way I see it, there’s nothing wrong with feeling lonely when you’re supposed to be alone. It’s when you’re standing in a crowded room and feel lonely that it’s really sad I think. Sometimes feeling like that makes me want to tear off all my skin.
So yeah. I run as much as I can. And running neurotically by a fence all the time hasn’t made me so popular with the other girls, but it was kind of a lost cause with them anyway. They’re never mean to me, rather they just don’t seem to understand me, and they just seem to kind of wish I’d stay away from them, so I do. It doesn’t help that I don’t speak. The not speaking thing really seems to bother them. I can’t blame them. It would probably bother me too. I’ve tried to find things to say sometimes, but nothing comes. It’s just empty inside. Hollow where the words should be. It’s felt like that every day since the accident.
That’s really how it all started. I just didn’t want to say anything for a while after the crash, and then I couldn’t think of anything to say, and then I just forgot that I was supposed to be thinking of something to say. And so I was quiet all the time. But that’s yet another reason for running I guess. Nobody ever expects you to speak when you’re running.
A big splashy drop of rain hits me on my wrist and I look up at the sky. It’s crazy cloudy out of nowhere. The sky looks ready to let loose on me. More cold drops hit my skull and seep into my hair. Running in the rain is even better than regular running, but I know I’ll be called in immediately. Sure enough, before I can even finish the thought I look up and see Alice motioning me in from the front door. It’s good that it’s Alice though, because she likes me more than most, and she almost always lets me get another lap in. I hold up my pointer finger as if to indicate ‘just one more lap’. Even from this distance I can see her roll her eyes, but she smiles too. She yells out across the quad. “Okay, but hurry up!” before going back inside. I smile up at the sky and stretch out my legs, really laying into my long strides. I go faster, but never too fast. Never faster than I’ve ever seen anybody else run. Some of those runners in the Olympics I’ve seen on TV run really fast.
I can run much faster than any of them.
But I never go that fast, how fast I know I can go deep inside.
I almost laugh out loud in sheer joy at the feeling of the rain pelting my skin, and my muscles humming underneath. It’s times like now that I really feel how different I am from everyone else. It’s times like now that I feel like maybe I survived the car accident for a reason. That maybe my destiny is for something great. How someone can simultaneously wish to be extraordinary and also wish to blend in and never be seen is something I don’t quite understand yet, it’s like two parts of me battling it out for unknown spoils. One side yearning to be more than I am, calling to something deep inside me that I don’t understand, while the other hopes to disappear into the wallpaper, to be the same as everyone else and never have to say a word. Because if I’m the same then the car accident can’t be my fault, then it can just be one of those horrible things that happen everyday.
Usually the quiet side wins. But not today. Today I have to push down the yearning side as I step into each long stride. I bury that side in the repetitive sound of my feet on the damp ground, saying ‘the same’ in my head as loud as I can.
The same. The same. The same. The same. The same. The same. The same.
I come in a minute later, soaked, my feet covered in mud from my quickly eroding path. Alice sighs dramatically like I have just killed her. “Ack! Bonnie! Get upstairs and change now, before anyone sees you.” I shake off the extra water next to her like a dog, splattering her with dozens of icy drops. She screams and runs away in mock terror. “Get, Bonnie!” she says. I laugh soundlessly and bound up the south stairs to the sleeping quarters.
It isn’t until I’m changed into clean jeans and a new t-shirt that I realize our trip to the library will surely be canceled because of the rain. I throw myself onto my bed frustrated and pull out the books I’ve been re-reading since our last trip. Without a trip to the library this week, I’ll be stuck with the same three books I finished almost two weeks ago. I put the books back under the bed and head over hopelessly to the ancient pile of community books and comics in the corner bookshelf, hoping I’ll find some gem that I have somehow missed in years of pouring through the pile that rarely changes. With the exception of the few comic books, I’ve read each book on the shelf at least half a dozen times. I frown at the comic books, something I’ve had little interest in over the years. A handful of Archies and a Betty and Veronica Double-Digest. I’ve read most of them, but get bored with the stories quickly, and with Betty and Veronica in general, who I want to like, but who both somehow seem exactly the same but with different hair color. There are also some comics “classics” that are mostly illustrated comic versions of books, like Moby Dick, Crime & Punishment, and Treasure Island, but having already read the real things I can’t drum up much interest in the faded pictures and word balloons.
But while digging through the books in desperation today I come across a handful of comics I’ve never seen before. It seems impossible to me that they could have been there all this time and I wouldn’t have noticed. Because when I look at them there’s this beating in my chest that cannot be ignored. How would I have missed the tremble in my hands where they touch the vibrant pages? Maybe someone added them to the community pile. It’s possible. It happens sometimes. I can’t think of an explanation, and I no longer care. I grip the handful of comics to my chest and take them to my bed, face flushed, heartbeat pounding in my fingers and toes.
And my world just breaks wide open as I read the pages. SUPERHEROES!
I read all the superhero comics one after another and then start again, feeling more unity with the brightly colored images than I ever would have imagined possible.
For the first time the voice inside me changes its tune. Maybe I’m really not ‘the same’ and maybe that isn’t so bad after all.
I don’t make it to Los Angeles.
I head there by way of Las Vegas since I’ve never seen Vegas before, but once I see Vegas there’s no way I’m going to keep going. The lights get me from go – like some crazy carnival for grown ups. Coming over the hill on my bike in the dark and seeing those lights, like a bright sexy mirage, lighting up the whole sky and pounding back the blackness of the desert, I’m already hooked. It’s as if the lights alone can help make me into something new and exciting. And that feeling makes it pretty easy to give up on heading further west, which is funny because L.A. is like all that’s been in my head since the very beginning, since I’d begun to know there was anything outside of Reno (which had basically sucked balls). But I forget L.A. the second I see those lights. Maybe it’s destiny.
Starting over somewhere always sounded really intoxicating to me, and really easy, but I have to admit that despite the power I’m holding onto inside me, I’m a little nervous when it actually comes time to make my move. I’ve been stealing from Delia (God knows who she’d been stealing from) for years, and I have a huge wad of cash, some of it stuffed in my bra and some buried in my bag, so I know I have plenty of time to figure things out, but I’m shocked to find myself almost afraid. I killed my own super-powered mother less than nine hours ago, what on earth is there to be afraid of?
I check into a cheap motel and I’m not even asked for my fake i.d., which I’d gone to a lot of trouble to get, including letting a creepy guy feel me up, pre-powers of course; there’s no reason to have to let anyone do that to me ever again. I’m annoyed now that nobody cares to see it. Once in my room I don’t have a goddamn clue what to do. I have this new feeling coursing through my veins, and being on the motorcycle on the highway has allowed my wild mind to wander into awesome fantasies, which, when I step off the bike and into the real world, seem less likely.
Sure, I have all this new power, but what can I really do with it and still stay under the radar of the cops? The last thing I want is to land in the hands of some rent-a-cop morons, or worse, end up in some secret government lab being experimented on. I totally believe that shit happens. I’ve seen the movies to prove it. So what can I do with my power, which I am literally itching to use, without drawing too much attention to myself? I figure there are plenty of things I can get myself out of; a locked police cruiser for example, maybe handcuffs, but I didn’t bother to take the time before hitting the road to figure out what my limits might be. What will happen to me if someone shoots me with a gun? Had Delia ever been shot before? I have no idea.
Whatever. I’m not looking back anymore. I’m going to experience life like Delia never did, I’m going to eat it all up, taste everything, and spit out what I don’t like, and I’m not going to wait. I’m starting tonight, nerves and second guesses be damned.
I unzip my duffel and rifle through it until my hands hit the silky fabric I’m looking for. I pull out the cat suit and hold it up in the dingy light. It glistens like a snake even under the cheap bare bulb. Instantly I feel better. I consider unpacking the bag and then decide it’s better not to get too comfortable and drop it on the floor, still full, and kick it under the bed.
I strip naked, pull on the skintight black suit, and zip it up from my navel all the way to my neck. The sleeves reach past my wrists and onto my hands, leaving just my thumb and fingers free. I pull on my knee-high black combat boots and lace them up, wrapping the excess lace around my calf and double knotting it at the top. I look at myself in the mirror. I look like the goddamn Catwoman. It’s awesome. I pull my long dark blonde hair back into a tight ponytail and then knot it at the back of my neck under the suit before pulling on the hood, which fits nicely and leaves only the oval of my face visible. I feel amazing. I walk around the room a couple times in front of the mirror, practicing. I even try a funny little prancy Catwoman-like walk, but it looks ridiculous and so I just go back to walking normally.
I still look awesome.
I unzip the suit a bit and put my hotel key inside a small hidden pocket just above my breastbone and zip it all back up. I sit in the suit on my bed and wait for it to get later; it’s not even midnight. I’m about to turn on the TV when I see the flimsy folded piece of paper sticking out of the back pocket of my jeans on the floor. I reach down and pull the soft paper from the pocket and read it again.
I know you’ll kill me to get it. I thought maybe I’d be angrier about it – but somehow it just makes sense. I can’t really blame you – I did it too – killed my mother to get it – and she fought me, as I’m sure I’ll fight you, and you’ll fight your own daughter someday. But I just thought I should say, I forgive you. It’s not your fault. It’s the disease calling out to you like a siren – the same way it called to me more than twenty years ago. You can only resist it so long – and once it has you – well, I hope you deal with it better than I did. I love you anyway, though I suppose I was terrible at showing it. Try to forgive yourself.
I’d found the letter three days ago while digging through Delia’s dresser looking for a push-up bra. I’d looked for push-up bras a zillion times before though and had never seen it. I don’t know if she put it there for me to find, or what. Maybe she knew this thing…whatever it is…was coming and couldn’t bear to write her own letter to me. That’s f’ed up if it’s true, but whatever the explanation, the words knocked me on my ass the first time I read them, if only because I realized with certainty, my eyes drifting over the letter, that I was planning to kill her. It didn’t seem like a reality until I saw the letter though. I’ve read it dozens of times since then. The paper, already old and worn where Delia probably held it hundreds of times herself, is almost smooth like the silky cat suit fabric under my fingers. And now, sitting in a hotel room in Vegas three days later, I have killed her. And I’d gotten her power, just as she had from her mother, my grandmother that I’d never met, Aveline.
The disease Aveline called it.
I’m not wild about that word.
I fold up the letter, which seems to absolve me, and put it on the dresser. I don’t feel very absolve-y.
I sit on the bed thinking about everything that’s happened in my life until now, and wait for it to be late enough to go out. It’s a long time and I’m not sure how much I like being alone with my thoughts like that. A few days ago maybe it would have been easier to be alone with my thoughts, but now, it almost feels like I’m not alone…certainly a lot of my thoughts seem new and strange. Next time I’ll just turn on the TV.
I slip out of the motel room door as quietly as possible. Ironically, the lights that had seemed so appealing now seem like a horrible idea, as despite the late hour it’s lit up like freaking noon outside my room. I make for the darkness of a back alley, hoping I’ll blend in better there. Once in the alley I relax a bit, but am disheartened to realize that any antics I pull will need to be in the less exciting neighborhoods of Vegas and away from all these bright lights and crowds.
I have no big plans, but I still want to have them.
At first I just walk around the quiet deserted streets away from the strip trying to think of an epic idea. But nothing comes, and so after another hour with no ideas I decide to rob the first decent looking jewelry store I see. As luck would have it the first shop has a ridiculous blingy diamond necklace on display. It has no business being left out and not covered up; even I know this with my tenth grade education. Someone’s getting fired for leaving it out, because that necklace is mine now. I know it like I know my own name. I stand at the window for a few minutes making sure there’s no cage that is going to trap me inside once I break in, because I’ve totally seen that happen in movies. I check the street like a thousand times, making sure nobody is around, and once I’m sure, I pull on the metal security gate, snapping it open with ease. Once the glass is exposed I send my elbow through it as hard as I can. The window comes crashing down all around me as the store alarm breaks into the quiet night air. I reach into the window and pull a second set of metal gates open, snapping the padlock in the process. It’s taken less than ten seconds. I jump inside the window and hop out onto the store floor. I keep my head down in case any cameras are looking my way and snatch the necklace off the neck of a headless mannequin. The necklace still in my hand, I dive out the window and roll onto the pavement like a freaking Olympic gymnast. I almost wish for crowds.
And then I hear the sirens above the store alarm.
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