A New Novel in the Making
I'm working on a new novel. Here's the 19th chapter of it. Let me know what you think about it. You find a Facebook comment form below the text. I post each new chapter when it is completed. The first chapter is here: Chapter One
Caroline and Reuben stroll on the sidewalk in a run-down neighborhood. The few functioning streetlights do little against the evening dusk. Nor are there many lit shop windows.
"Don't think for a minute that the thing you did with your breath convinced me," Caroline says as she leads the way. "I still think you're just a runaway kid with a wild imagination. What made me dizzy could simply have been something you ate, or the lack of oxygen in your exhalation air. I can think of many explanations. Maybe it was just my imagination."
Reuben doesn't reply. He is tense, constantly checking passers-by, cars, the houses and the sidewalk up ahead of them.
"Relax, Reuben. Don't you always walk the streets at night?"
"By myself, yes. That's a different thing."
"Don't worry about me," Caroline assures him and pats his shoulder.
She spots a group of teenagers hanging around the door to one of the houses. Its wall is covered by graffiti.
"This must be it."
Caroline walks towards the door, urging a reluctant Reuben along.
"Must be what?" he wonders with increasing anxiety.
The teenagers glare at them, but say nothing. Caroline opens the door, and pulls Reuben by the arm.
A few teens hang around in the hallway. The interior of the house is visibly worn down, and so are the teens. Their clothes are ragged and have lost much of the shine of their colors, their faces are almost as pale as that of Reuben, and their postures are sloping, as if fatigued. But their eyes are quick to spot Caroline and Reuben.
"Why are we here?" Reuben wonders with a whisper.
Caroline finds a door marked 'Office' and leads him there, without replying. It's a small room with just one desk, a couple of chairs, and some bookshelves and file cabinets along the walls. The furniture looks as old as the house.
A middle-aged man dressed in an oversized tracksuit sits on the corner of the desk, drumming a pencil on his leg. His chin is unshaven and no comb has tamed the hair partially covering the collar of his tracksuit. He talks to a teenage boy who sits in the office chair, spinning it around. Caroline pauses at the door. Reuben is right behind her, peeking over her shoulder. The man looks up at them.
"Hi Reuben!" he says cheerfully. "Long time no see. Are you alright?"
"I'm fine, sir," Reuben replies from behind Caroline.
"You just never drop that 'sir' thing, do you?"
Caroline stares at Reuben, then at the man, and back at Reuben.
"You know each other?"
The man stands up from the desk, drops the pen on it and approaches them.
"And who is this?" he asks.
"Her name is Caroline."
The man grabs Caroline's hand and shakes it.
"Nice to meet you, Caroline. My name is Kenneth - and please don't say sir."
"I won't," Caroline mumbles, still confused.
"I'm the manager of this establishment," Kenneth continues with a quick sweep of the hand. "Are you in need of a place to stay?"
"I have a home. I'm fine," Caroline protests and shakes her head vigorously.
Kenneth turns to Reuben.
"Could this be your girlfriend, then?"
"We're friends," Reuben mumbles.
The teenager in the chair has stopped spinning it. He starts to laugh hollowly, almost like coughing.
"What would he do with a girlfriend? Reuben's the eternal virgin."
"Or just waiting for the right one," Kenneth suggests. "Caroline, this is Aaron. He has his own sense of humor."
Aaron smiles so widely at her, it is more of a grin. He has a light blue jeans jacket over a plain white T-shirt, and pants of the same color and material as his jacket. His straight blond hair is bowl cut and combed with a side parting. Caroline nods at him without returning the smile. She turns to Reuben.
"He's as pale as you are."
"I get just as much sun as he does," Aaron says, his smile widening even more.
"Yes, you're real night owls, both of you," Kenneth mocks them. "You wouldn't believe it, Caroline. Once, when I opened the windows in Aaron's room to let in the daylight, he screamed out loud."
"I was sound asleep," Aaron explains casually. "You woke me up."
"It was noon!"
"It had been a long night."
Caroline stares at Aaron, who studies her expression and then smiles anew.
"So, Reuben, your girlfriend is familiar with your nightlife?"
Caroline turns to Reuben.
"Is he... like you?"
There's a new hollow laugh from Aaron.
"Not much, I tell you. I have fun! You should come along, Caroline. Reuben's so cautious, like old men drive their cars. But of course, he is quite old, really."
"Come on, Aaron," Kenneth protests. "Anyone can see that he's not older than you."
"Don't let looks fool you. Right, Reuben?"
Reuben just shrugs his shoulders. Aaron jumps out of the chair, walks up to Caroline and grabs her arm. He is almost asa skinny as Reuben, but a bit taller and his grip is energetic.
"What do you say, Caroline? Want to do the town? Reuben can come, too, although he's not much fun."
He laughs again and takes a step through the doorway, pulling Caroline by the arm. Kenneth shakes his head, but smiles as well.
"Here we go again. I guess you'll sleep until noon tomorrow, too."
"All day, Kenneth," Aaron replies from outside the office. "I'll sleep from dawn to dusk. Don't you think so, Caroline?"
Aaron laughs and puts his arm around her shoulder. He leads her towards the front door. Caroline makes sure that Reuben joins them. His face has a grumpy expression, but he hurries to keep their tempo. Caroline grabs his hand.
All the chapters posted so far: