Welcome back to Sneak Peek Sunday. This week I’d thought I’d share an excerpt from EVERLAND, which is truly a work in progress at just 10,000 words. I’m still working on the outline for this one, because I’m constantly changing the damn thing, but I did manage to get a few chapters down before I made myself crazy.
By the way, if any of you would like to share something, the guidelines for Sneak Peek Sunday are HERE.
So, enjoy a peek at EVERLAND:
Cinderella’s bare feet were raw and sore from the hot pavement. She ignored the stinging pain, which she hadn’t felt since the days before her marriage to Charming, and marveled at the massive buildings reaching up into the sky. People passed, glancing briefly at her. She noted their clothing, and realized she stood out like a sore thumb in her pink silk gown.
She eyed the various windows along the street. Each contained a variety of wares, most of them alien to her. The closest one displayed boxes containing people. Why would they put human beings in such contraptions? Were they being punished? She moved closer to the window, and realized the people in the boxes were oblivious to everything around them. They talked, argued, and played games, seemingly content to be shut inside the devices.
The window next to the torture store held white statues covered in wigs. They’d been clothed in garments that matched what the people around her wore.
Cinderella walked to the door. As she entered the store, cool air blasted her face. The lights weren’t as intense as the sunshine. They hung overhead, the candles hidden behind frosted panels. How did they not catch the ceiling and set the place ablaze?
“Can I help you?” a woman asked.
Cinderella tore her eyes away from the ceiling candles, and found a short, round woman. She wore blue-framed glasses and a men’s jacket and pants. Curious. Red had been known to wear pants in Everland, but women of quality wore gowns. What would pants be like?
“I’d like what you’re wearing,” Cinderella told the woman. “But not in black. Do you have anything in robin’s egg blue or maybe rose petal pink?”
The woman smiled and glanced at her gown. “Did someone get married?”
“Why?” Could she tell that Cinderella was married? What if she told someone?
“Your dress. It’s beautiful, but most people only wear things like that when they’re forced into being a bridesmaid.”
Cinderella gasped. “I’m no one’s maid.”
“Right.” The woman raised an eyebrow. “You have money, right?”
“I’d like to place it on credit. When I find my normal prince, he will take care of my debts.”
The woman tilted her head. “Sure, I’ll see what I can find. You’re skinny, but we just got a shipment of petite sizes in. Be right back.”
The woman scurried away.
Cinderella watched the other patrons as she waited. Two women whispered over a rack of lingerie. How bold to place such things out in the open. They glanced in her direction and Cinderella smiled. The women dissolved into giggles and more whispers.
Peasants, obviously, who were grateful for a scrap of royal attention.
She paced the floor. How long did it take to retrieve pants and a jacket? Perhaps she should have requested slippers as well. Or boots. Cinderella smiled. Snow White had loaned her boots once. Cinderella hated giving them back. She’d tried to have her cobbler make her a similar pair, but Charming canceled the order, claiming she had no need for such mannish things. He didn’t want her damaging her delicate feet by cramming them into anything but the finest of silks. Well, Charming couldn’t stop her now. She’d ask for boots as well.
“Ma’am?” a male voice drew Cinderella’s eyes from the women. He wore a blue suit, a gold badge clipped to its breast pocket. “My name is Sam. Can you tell me your name?”
“Cinder…. Cindy.” She said.
“And your last name?”
“I—does one need a last name to purchase garments?”
The man turned and Cinderella saw he’d brought a friend. This one wore white pants and a white shirt, no badge. They were both handsome, but something about Sam made her heart flutter. She’d bet he would be an excellent Huntsman. His dark hair curled around his ears, refusing to be tamed into a defined style, and his blue eyes reminded her of summer skies in Everland, peaceful but warm. Oh, Red would be so jealous. She’d found the perfect man: rugged and hard, but with the polished manners of nobility.
“Do you know where you are?” Sam asked.
“I’m in the real world.”
“Ah… yes, but where in the real world?”
“How am I to know? I’ve just arrived.”
Sam sighed and turned to his friend again. The friend met Cinderella’s gaze, his muddy brown eyes kind and… pitying? Why would he pity her?
“If you’re through interrogating me, I’m waiting for my garments. The woman went to fetch them for me.”
“Why don’t you come with us?” Sam said. “We’ll get you some new clothes.”
Cinderella glanced toward the back of the store, where the woman had disappeared. No sign of her anywhere. Well if she didn’t want the business of a princess, so be it.
“All right, Sam,” she said. “But could you carry me? My feet are terribly sore.”
Sam glanced at her feet. His companion snickered.
“Sure,” Sam finally said. “I’ll carry you.”
Gretchen set her toothbrush on the sink and closed her eyes. Finally, a name she knew. Why the hell would her voices start calling fairy tale names? She pressed her forehead. The voice, a man’s, continued to call the name. He sounded distressed, and a little scared.
She glanced at her reflection, noting the shadows beneath her eyes. The voices had kept her up all night. Actually, she couldn’t recall the last time she’d slept more than a few hours. Dr. Ginger said to deal with her grief and they’d go away, but how?
“Miss you,” another voice said. This voice was male as well, and one she’d heard before.
She understood the pain in his voice. He was grieving. Gretchen imagined him kneeling before a tombstone, tears streaming down his face. However, she couldn’t see what he looked like. She thought it strange she heard these voices constantly, but never imagined faces to go with them. Couldn’t imagine them. Weird.
Gretchen rinsed her toothbrush and then exited the bathroom. She’d do as the voice in her head had done; visit the cemetery and talk to her mother. Face her grief head-on. Surely that would be a good way to deal with it.
The cemetery was empty, as it always was. Gretchen walked through the rusted iron gates and up the hill. She hadn’t visited her mother’s grave in a couple of months. Guilt pinched her chest. The flowers she’d left would be dead and strangers would think her mother had been forgotten already.
She held new flowers, roses mixed with laurel branches, in her hand. Her palm was sweaty, causing the plastic wrapping to slip now and then. Gretchen reached the top of the hill and stopped. A man knelt before her mother’s stone, his head bent. He was slim, and wore a green velvet jacket. His dirty blond hair was long and a little shaggy. She frowned. He looked like he stepped out of a play; his clothes were so strange. While his appearance raised a ton of questions, the only one she cared to answer was why he was visiting her mother’s grave.
Gretchen took a breath and continued forward. Better find out who the hell he is. She stopped a few feet away from him. The man didn’t look up, so she cleared her throat.
The man stood and then turned to face her. His eyes were brown flecked with gold. Gretchen had similar golden flecks in her green eyes. She stared at the man. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and shifted from one boot-clad foot to the other. He was handsome, but something about him sent a chill over Gretchen’s spine.
“Hello,” she said. “That’s my mom’s grave.”
He stared for a moment, glancing at the stone and back at Gretchen. “You are Laurel’s daughter?”
“Yes and you are?”
He stood and held out a hand. “I’m an old friend. My name is Rum—Rick.”
Gretchen stared at his hand, but didn’t take it. “She never mentioned you.”
“We were friends many years ago. I haven’t seen her in a long time.”
His voice was familiar, but she couldn’t place where she’d heard it.
“Did she suffer?” he asked.
What an odd question. “Yes. She had cancer.”
He winced. “She deserved better.”
“Well, I’ll leave you alone. Nice to meet you…I didn’t catch your name.”
“Gretchen.” She said.
He smiled and strolled away. Gretchen watched him walk toward the large stone shed at the center of the cemetery. Something in her gut said to follow him. She set the flowers on top of her mother’s tombstone and turned in the same direction. The air around him shimmered and “Rick” disappeared.
Gretchen stopped. How the—she’d really lost it this time. She ran toward the shed, determined to confront the demons in her head. This was just another symptom of whatever was wrong with her, and it wasn’t grief. Hallucinations hadn’t happened yet. She was obviously sick and getting sicker.
As she approached the spot where Rick had disappeared, an invisible force pulled at her. Gretchen blinked as the shed and the landscape blurred. She continued to walk, giving into the energy that tugged her forward.
Her stomach lurched and then everything turned white.