A New Novel in the Making
I'm working on a new novel. Here's the fifth 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
The garden of the Altenburg family mansion is covered in darkness, except for the yellowish light from several of the windows of the house. But that light does not reach far. Clouds cover most of the stars in the sky.
When Caroline closes the door behind her, she blinks a few times to get used to the darkness, before she steps out into the garden. She aims straight for the swings between two apple trees at the far end of the garden, and sits down on one of them.
The autumn weather is rather cold and the air is humid, increasing the chill. But there is no wind. Not even the leaves of the trees move. They are yellow and red, lots of them already on the ground, together with many fallen apples.
Caroline buttons her coat all the way up and looks back at the house. Her parents are still in the kitchen, clearing up after the dinner. She can see through the window that they are talking quite intensely, but not a sound reaches her.
The big window to the living room reveals that the furniture is still not rearranged after the reception. The empty gap of the open space in the middle of the room is a sharp contrast to what it was like when all the people crowded it. Caroline's own room on the second floor is also lit. She forgot to turn the lights off when going downstairs for dinner. Thomas' room right next to hers is dark, but she can still see that the curtains have been closed again.
Caroline grabs the other swing and sets it in motion, while also getting her own swing going. She feels the chill of the air pressing against her skin. Her fingers get stiff from holding the cold ropes. She kicks the leaves below her feet, also hitting a couple of apples so they bounce away on the lawn.
"You still do that?"
The voice comes from behind her. Caroline is startled for a short moment. Then she turns her head. It's Fred, her brother's friend, who has snuck up unnoticed.
He wears the same black suit Caroline had seen when peeking at him through the living room window, at the reception. It is elegant and fits him perfectly. He has a shiny white shirt, but he has removed the tie. Part of it sticks up from the right side pocket of his jacket. In the darkness its sparkling colors have become little more than shades of gray. His lips are twisted in some kind of a smile.
"Do what?" Caroline wonders and stops the swings.
Fred gestures at them.
"I thought you were twins. Thomas wouldn't be caught dead on a thing like that."
"I remember when he did. Long before you knew him, Freddie. Dad made these swings for us when we were just four or five." After a moment she adds: "That's the only thing he didn't hire craftsmen for."
"Can I?" Fred asks, moving to the swing beside her.
Caroline lets go of it.
"Have you been here all the time?" she asks.
"No," he hurries to reply and sits down on the swing.
"Aren't you cold? That jacket doesn't look so warm."
"Not at all," Fred replies. "I'm quite hot-blooded."
With a scoundrel smile he unbuttons his jacket to prove it. Caroline spots the brand name on the inside pocket.
"Armani? Your parents bought you an Armani suit?"
"No, they didn't," he replies and his smile disappears. "I did." His smile returns.
"How could you afford that? They cost loads of money."
"I know. But they're worth it, don't you think?" He parades a bit, extending his arms and twisting his body, but staying on the swing. "You know what they say: Clothes make the man."
"Well, a rich man."
"I make some money."
"How?" Caroline inquires, and now she notices the watch on his left wrist. It is a big metal one, but much more is not visible in the dim light from the windows of the house.
"Wouldn't you like to know," Fred replies, flashing his teeth in a wide smile and setting his swing in motion.
Caroline opens her mouth, but closes it again. She shakes her head and starts swinging, too.
Fred leans back and forth with great energy, making his swing go much faster and higher than Caroline is swinging. His hair flutters and so does his jacket. He blinks repeatedly as the cold air presses on his eyeballs. The wooden bar between the trees bends by the force of it, and there are creaks from the whole construction.
"Hey, this is great! Why didn't we do this, Thomas and me? We'd have competitions. Who goes the highest? Who is the first to spin around, make the full circle?"
Fred turns to her and grins.
"Are you sure?" He swings even higher. "Really sure?"
"Yes!" Caroline says with a sharp voice and stops her own swing, prepared to jump off it.
Fred forcefully brings his swing to a halt, making a cloud of leaves around him as his feet scrape the ground. He watches the leaves settle.
"I'd win, you know. I always did."
Caroline looks away. A moment passes. Then Fred leans over and hesitantly puts his hand on her shoulder.
"Caroline, are you okay?"
"I mean, really?"
She looks him in the eyes, so closely that their noses almost touch.
"Yes, Freddie. Really. Are you?"
He laughs. The sound disappears into the night.
All the chapters posted so far: