Children at the Window – Sneak Peek

Some things to know about with this chapter. It’s quirky – so it’s not like the rest of the book. It’s mostly dialogue and I can’t really tell you why I decided to write it that way, except that I did.

It’s about halfway through the book and sort of a moment of comic relief in the story.

Hope you enjoy!

tumblr_inline_nyxttjVudW1txphwa_500 

Twenty One

 

“It’s really dark.”

 

“You have a knack for stating the obvious.” I squinted and my knuckles were white as I gripped the steering wheel tighter.

 

“There’s nothing on the radio.” Lynnette played with the search button for the hundredth time.

 

“I wish there was some wall up on the side of the roads.” I pressed my lips together.

 

“Why? Animals would just jump over the walls and be trapped in between them and run back and forth on the road until they got hit.”

 

“Oh, geez.”

 

“Do you want me to drive?” Lynnette switched off the radio and fell back into her seat, defeated.

 

“No, it’s fine.”

 

“I promise I won’t hit any animals.”

 

“No, it’s fine.”

 

“It was an accident.”

 

“I know it was.”

 

“Then why won’t you let me drive?” she pressed.

 

“I want to drive.”

 

“You don’t look like you want to drive.” She sighed when I didn’t answer. “It really is dark,” she said again.

 

“Yeah, it really is. I guess there’s no moon tonight.”

 

“Hmm.”

 

“What?”

 

“Maybe it’s cloudy?”

 

I looked up through the windshield. “I don’t think so.”

 

“Wasn’t there a moon last night?” she asked.

 

I tried to think back. “I don’t remember. Probably not.”

 

She continued looking up at the blackened night sky while I focused on not killing any animals that jumped out in the road.

 

“I really think there was a moon last night.”

 

“And it what? Just disappeared tonight?”

 

She shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s weird.”

 

“I’m sure you’re just remembering wrong.”

 

“There’s something flying around out there,” she said, her face pressed against the side window.

 

I glanced up at the night sky again. “Like an owl or something?”

 

“I don’t know, it was quick. It’s hard to tell.”

 

“Probably just an owl.”

 

“Yeah, probably.”

 

I tapped my finger on the wheel to a soundless tune.

 

“There it is again.” Lynnette craned her. “I don’t think it’s an owl.”
“What? A bat?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“It’s probably your mind playing tricks on you.”

 

She flopped back in her seat again. “I’m bored.”

 

“I can tell.”

 

A loud object thumped against the back window. “What the hell?” I glanced in the rearview mirror and Lynnette turned around in her seat.

 

“What was that?” she asked.

 

“Was that the bat?” My voice came out sounding higher pitched than usual.

 

“Just falling out of the sky?”

 

“I don’t know, maybe it died.”

 

“And landed on our car while we’re driving down the road at eighty miles an hour?”

 

“Look out!” Lynnette screamed and when I looked back at the road a woman lay about a hundred yards ahead, directly in the beam of my headlights.

 

Time didn’t allow me to think. I slammed both feet against the brake pedal and the steering wheel locked. Instead of the pedal going down at once it jittered underfoot. In my peripheral Lynnette place both palms on the dashboard, bracing herself. I cursed under my breath and hoped we stopped in time.

 

We did.

 

“What the fuck?” Lynnette asked.

 

I unlocked my door.

 

“What are you doing?” she asked.

 

“Uh, helping the strange woman lying across the middle of the road?” It was an incredulous question.

 

“What if it’s a trap?”

 

“Seriously? A woman is lying across the road and almost gets killed by a car and you think it’s a trap?”

 

“Call the cops.”

 

“You call the cops. I’m checking on her,” I said, annoyed. She fished for her phone from her purse as I stepped out of the car. I approached the woman and she was lying in the exact same position the entire time. There was no way she was playing  a trick on us.

 

“Hello?” I asked. What else was I supposed to say?

 

“Is she alive?” Lynnette called out from the car.

 

I kneeled beside her. Although pale, her skin had color to it, even in the brightness of the headlights. Her chest rose and fell under her dirt-caked tank top.

 

“She’s alive!” I yelled back.

 

I could hear Lynnette speaking with the 9-1-1 operator.

 

“Amanda, where are we?” Lynnette got out of the car and came to a stop on the other side of the strange lady on the ground. She watched her with what seemed like a mix of apprehension and concern.

 

I looked around. “We passed a town about twenty minutes ago.”

 

“Uh, we passed a town about twenty minutes ago,” she said into the phone. “What town?” she asked me.

 

“We’re on Highway Eighteen,” I offered, hoping it would help.

 

She repeated what I said to the operator. The woman on the ground groaned.

 

“She’s alive,” Lynnette said.

 

“I already told you that.”

 

The woman’s eyes popped open suddenly revealing blood shoot eyes. I fell back on my rear at the startling movement.

“Whoa,” Lynnette said. “That’s creepy.”

 

“Shh. Uh, lady, can you hear me?”

 

She groaned again. Was that an answer?

 

“Yeah, I think she’s gaining consciousness,” Lynnette said into the phone. “I don’t see any,” she added.

 

I raised my eyebrows at her.

 

“They want to know if we see her car around.”

 

Good question. I stood up and walked to the side of my car, looking down the road behind us. I had completely forgotten about the thump on the back window until I saw a red smear down the trunk of my car. I slowly walked completely toward the back around the trunk. The smear went straight down the middle of the trunk and ended just under the back latch. What the hell?

 

“Uh, Amanda?” Lynnette called out. “Please come back here.”

 

I walked back toward Lynnette, all the while trying to figure out what the smear could be. Was it a bat like we thought?

 

“She keeps saying something.”

 

I looked down at the strange woman who was mumbling while looking straight up at the night sky. Lynnette was right, she was creepy.

 

“Cabe?”

 

Lynnette shook her head. “Caleb, I think.”

 

“What happened to 9-1-1?” I realized she wasn’t on the phone anymore.

 

“Oh, I remembered I could just pull the map up on my phone and told her where we were. They’re sending out some units.”

 

“Huh, didn’t even think of that.”

 

“Neither did I. The operator did.”

 

I crossed my arms.

 

“Hey strange lady, who’s Caleb?”

 

“That’s not nice,” I said.

 

“Okay, lady on the road – who’s Caleb?”

 

She repeated his name again. That wasn’t helpful.
“How long do you think it’ll take for the cops to get here?” I asked, getting anxious.

 

“Should we just leave?”

 

“That’s not why I was asking.”

 

“I know, but I think we should leave. They’ll be here soon, anyway.”

 

“Someone else will hit her.”

 

“We’ll move her to the side of the road,” Lynnette said, showing no indication she wanted to move her.

 

I looked at the lady on the ground.

 

“I don’t want to touch her either.”
“I didn’t say anything,” I said.

 

We stood for a moment, watching her. She kept repeating the name Caleb. Maybe it was someone she knew, I wondered.

 

“Maybe it’s who dumped her here.”

 

I looked up at Lynnette. “Maybe her car went off the side of the road.”

 

“And she what? Walked over here and decided to take a nap?”

 

I put my hands on my hips.

 

“She got dumped here.”

 

“You don’t know that.”

 

“How else did she end up here?”

 

I looked at the lady and kneeled down again. “Hey, lady. What’s your name?”
“Joy,” she responded, clear as day.

 

“Her name is Joy?” Lynnette asked. “That doesn’t sound right.”

 

“What do you mean it doesn’t sound right? How would a name sound?”

 

“I mean, she’s lying in the middle of the road, in the middle of nowhere, where the moon went missing and her name is Joy?”

 

“The moon didn’t go missing.”

 

“Then where did it go?”

 

“It was never there.”

 

“The moon was never there.”

 

“You know what I mean.” Lynnette was right, we shouldn’t stay. But we couldn’t leave her either. “I still don’t get why you think her name doesn’t sound right.”

 

“What’s that?” Lynnette pointed down the road behind me.

 

I spun around. “What the hell?”

 

“Are those kids? Walking down the road?”

It was one word, but it was enough to spring us into action. Joy grabbed my ankle when she screamed, “Run!”

Children at the Window Teaser

Like all other teasers, these are unedited. So… it may be a bit different in the final book but still wanted to give you a little taste.

There’s nothing there – I told myself. One step. There’s nothing there – my new mantra. Another step. There’s nothing there. Three, four, five steps. There’s nothing there. My breathing was still shallow, my heart still raced, but I still took another step, and another. There’s nothing there. I was only three steps from my window. I stared at the motionless curtains. There was nothing there. There wouldn’t be anything there and I would just laugh at my silliness. Two steps left. There’s nothing there. There’s nothing there. One step and I stood in front of my window, my heart pounding so loud in my ears it was all I could hear. There’s nothing there.

I placed my shaky hand on the edge of the curtain, my hand curling around the thick linen. With a deep breath, I pulled it back and nearly screamed at my own reflection staring back at me from the window. On the other side was complete darkness and no children.

Children at the Window Playlist

By request, I’m sharing what I listen to as I write. It changes with each book – so here’s some of the songs for Children at the Window.

Slender Man

Pan’s Labyrinth

The Prestige Soundtrack 

I love soundtracks the most when writing – if you know of any that you think fits the bill, let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget to enter in the Children at the Window giveaway

Children at the Window TEASER

MEREDITH BLOOM

 

“Mama?”

“Yes, baby?” I answered.

The suds and water, cleaning dishes, this was therapeutic to me. Something about the quiet rush of the faucet water, the clean porcelain dishes, a full stomach, it all soothed me. It wasn’t until the third dish that I realized Caleb never responded.

“Caleb?” I called out, a half-soaked dish still in my hand.

I shut the water off and listened to the quiet of the house – too quiet, I thought. It only meant one thing. Caleb was up to something and probably nothing good.

“Caleb?” I called out again.

I wiped my wet hands with a dishtowel and left the kitchen – calling out for my seven year old son as I searched the home. A distant, yet muffled, giggle alerted me to where he was.
“Caleb, I can hear you and I know you’re up to something,” I called up to the stairs, where I heard him on the second floor.

The front door slammed, startling me. When I spun around to see what it was, Caleb stood in front of the door, kicking off his dusty boots.

“Caleb?”

“Yes, mommy?”

“Where were you?”

“Outside.”
“But I just heard you. You called out for me.”

“No, I didn’t,” he said while putting his ear-buds into his ears.

I plucked one out, annoyed. “Caleb, don’t play games.”

“You said I could play after I took the trash out.”

“That’s not what I meant.” A knocking at the door interrupted our conversation. “Ok, can you at least see who’s at the door?”

Caleb tilted his head quizzically. “Huh?”

“Can you answer the door?”

He shrugged and opened the door, then stepped aside to let me see behind the screen door.

All I could do was scratch my head. I stepped outside quickly and looked up and down the street, then walked quickly to the sides of our house. When I returned, Caleb was standing in the threshold.

“Caleb, this isn’t funny,” I said.

“I didn’t do anything.”

“You heard the knocking on the door, didn’t you?”

“I think you’re losing your mind,” Caleb laughed.

“You didn’t hear the knocking?” I refused to let this go. It wasn’t like him to play jokes on people, but seven year olds weren’t exactly predictable.

“Nope.” He stuck the earbud back in his ear and I knew that’s all I’d get from him.

Children at the Window – TEASER –

totf2006-study

August 25, 1937

756 Olive Drive

Fear gripped me. My son slept soundly in his room down the hall. The air was thick and choking, and fear swelled from my husband in waves. I forced a comforting smile. This was nothing, I thought, our overactive imaginations at play.

“It’s nothing,” I said aloud.

He nodded, more out of habit than agreement. I wanted to go to my son’s room but was afraid to. Somehow I knew that would just – make things angry. I could feel my husband’s presence next to me as much as I could see him.

“Watch,” I said to him, gathering my wit. “Whatever you are!” I said with forced bravado to no one in particular. “You’re not welcome here! So you can just leave!” I sounded more brave than I felt.

Even though I spoke with force, the words sounded muffled. I could almost hear the words spoken back to me. Maybe I felt them, I wasn’t sure. Looking back, I knew something was very wrong, but it wasn’t until I stepped out into the hall that I was given the proof.

The hall felt darker, colder, longer than usual. The table lamp in the study was the only source of light and it barely illuminated the outline of my husband behind me, who hadn’t moved from where he stood.

“Fine!”I said as loud as I could muster. Because my fear was literally choking me. Each time I spoke, it took more effort and less sound would come out of me, as if I were in one of those nightmares. “If you don’t leave, then we’re leaving.”

The front door swung open of its own accord, beckoning me. I could hear the foreign thoughts in my mind. ‘Go ahead and leave. But you’re leaving alone.’ The thoughts bombarded my mind, not in words – but as knowledge. I slid quietly into the room next to the study where my aging mother slept. I needed prayers. I collapsed onto her bed and tried to shake her awake. She stirred, but her sleep was deep. When I tried to call out to her, my voice was barely a whisper. I felt like I were in a void.

“Please!” I begged, my throat burning and my voice raspy. “Please!”

I knew there was no use. I wouldn’t get the prayers from my mother. I stood then and felt compelled to look out the window. Three normal looking strangers stood just outside my window, staggered, watching me. I pushed out the screen which caused the stranger, a woman, closest to the window to walk toward it – her arm outstretched.

“Don’t do this!” I said to her.

It didn’t matter. She easily reached into the window and pulled me out with little effort. I collapsed onto the damp, cold grass into a heap – the house behind me. That was the last time I ever saw my family. Whatever it was, it wanted my son, and it got him.

  • End recording –