I’ve been working on, Valentina, the draft Prologue for my new psychological thriller.
You may like to read Valentina-the draft prologue, and give me feedback, so I can improve my story telling skills?
Nora is the protagonist and this is setting the tone for this dark psychological thriller.
PROLOGUE – Nora
I was twelve when my mother left me home alone. She promised to be back within an hour, but in the end, she left me alone for much longer.
Sometime around noon, I hear the baby screaming from next door. Is this normal? How loud must a baby cry before it’s an urgent yell for help?
Unexpectedly, everything falls silent. I stand anxiously in our kitchen, my right hand clutching the benchtop. While things are quiet, I move closer to the back door, tilting my head, listening, fearing the baby may be hurt. I pull my worn trainers onto my bare feet, scrambling to do up the laces, readying myself to race outside, push through the neighbor’s gate and find out if the little baby is hurt.
The cold silence makes a shiver crawl up my back. Abruptly, the wailing starts again with bitter miserable sobbing. I imagine the baby’s open mouth, taut pink tongue, it’s trembling lips shuddering. My mother told me to stay in the house with the door locked while she’s gone, but I can’t ignore the crying baby.
Opening the back door, I walk around our house towards the front of our street. Maybe the baby needs help, or the mother could use an extra pair of hands? I could hold the baby for her, unless the child has already been hurt. Maybe something awful happened? I almost shake at the thought and redouble my pace, striding through the neighbor’s metal gate. I quickly close it behind me, glancing up at the wooden veranda and front door. I clearly hear the baby whimper, and something makes me think the sounds are muffled but I can’t be certain.
Picking up my pace, I run along the neighbor’s small brick paved walkway, positioned between two rows of marigolds growing on either side of the narrow path. I skip up the four front steps to the porch as a blood-curdling scream bellows out of the open net curtained living room window. Sucking down a deep breath, I thump my closed fist on the wooden front door.
Startled, the screaming stops again, and an old man’s voice hollers, “Who is it?”
These neighbors only moved into our quiet suburban street a week ago, so I wasn’t sure what to say. My name would be meaningless.
“I live next door,” I shout back through the closed, blue-painted door. After a couple of seconds there is no response, so I carry on talking. “Do you need a hand, Mister, with the baby?”
The front door opens, and an overweight, stubble-faced man stands holding a small baby, its tiny legs straddle his gut. His index finger and thumb press a plastic pacifier into the baby’s tiny mouth, forcing it to gag and whimper.
“You want to help? Here,” he says, shoving the half-naked baby at me. I don’t know how to hold a small baby. Its tiny bare feet are icy cold. I frown and glance down at the baby’s screwed up red face. It starts to bawl again, sobbing so hard the pacifier falls from its mouth onto the timber porch floor. I notice a large red lump forming on its forehead. Something isn’t right. What should I do?
“Where’s the baby’s Mamma?” I ask above the baby’s shrieking.
“At the shops,” he spat and drags on half a cigarette.
I don’t want to make the man angry. “What’s the baby’s name?” I give a weak smile and start rocking my body like I’ve seen my mother do with my younger brother, hoping to calm the tiny child.
“Anahera. Ana, I suppose,” he says, frowning at me as the baby begins to calm. “Here, you better give her back.” He stretches out his arms, and I hesitate, stepping back out of his reach. His restless eyes flashed me as he steps forward over the threshold of the front door and stands almost up against me.
“It’s okay. I’ll look after her for a bit,” I turn with the baby over my shoulder and am about to walk home with little Anahera.
“No, you don’t!” The old man shouts, his greasy fringe falling over his angry expression.
I freeze, immobilized on the first step of the porch.
He lifts his chin and grunts, grabbing the baby from me. “Get off home. This is nothing to do with you.”
I open my mouth to ask if he is the dad but the laser sharp look in his dead brown eyes stops me before my mouth can form the words. I briefly hesitate as the baby cries again and I scramble down the porch steps, before racing to the safety of my home next door.
I went home and waited for my mother. I heard a small cry, but nothing more for the rest of the afternoon.
When my mother finally returned, I told her the story and afterwards we heard a terrible crash coming from next door. The baby shrieked so loud, like crashing shards of glass smashed on a hard ceramic floor.
“Nora, I’m calling the police,” my mother announces with a look of horror on her face.
Days later we heard he had thrown a glass ashtray at the baby and severely injured the child who spent three weeks in intensive care. We visited her in hospital and Ana’s mother came over to our house one afternoon to talk with my mother.
Shortly afterwards the family next door moved out of our street. We never heard anything more about them. Years later, when I was in my teens, it struck me that I wanted to be a nurse, and work in a hospital looking after sick children.
Later while studying at nursing college, I heard from my mother that the neighbors’ had separated, and the injured child was left with permanent brain damage. I felt guilty and traumatized for not doing something at the time. Small things, some barely relevant, reminded me how I could have saved sweet Ana’s life, saved her from a father who thought violence was the right way to stop a crying baby.
By the time I was twenty-four, I was a fully-fledged paediatric nurse and loved my job. In some weird way, I thought every sick baby I cared for was penance, a small victory to ease my guilt at failing baby Ana so long ago.
Hope you enjoyed this little snippet? And I’m looking forward to hearing from you about Valentina the draft prologue via [email protected]