Kiss the Darkness – New Young Adult Series

September 23, 2019 tracy No comments exist

Hi all,


Here is my latest free offering: A spine-tingling, modern day, Gothic love story.



Wax and I are lovers, pure and simple. Whether we are real or not remains to be seen. We are, of course, opposites, but not like you’d think.


Because although he’s a creature of the night, he’s the purest spirit I know; making no pretension or apology for what he is. Doomed to the darkness and the shadows, he runs from the light.


And me? My name might be Pearl, but my heart is ice. My love of the morning purely because I don’t sleep. So you could say the dew, the flowers, all that sparkles, is irrelevant, because I hate it all. I long for night and the day traps me.


By some quirk of fate we found each other, and by any odds we shouldn’t work, but we do. We bridge the gap between our worlds any way we can.


In an old house, on an old street, my family had owned for generations he came to me. Not in person or anything like that, but through messages on my phone. Through the years, the miles, and across the night, he spoke to me and everything made sense.


This is a record of how, through death, we began to live at last.



Chapter One

The only thing that made any sense to me was death. It was final and there was no arguing with it, or so I thought. It was strange how naive I was back then. I guess we all are.

The rain was already thrashing the window of the plane as it landed at Heathrow. It seemed fitting. Whether I was in the US or the UK, life would be a dark existence for me from now on. My brother Pete was gone, there was no bringing him back, and the car wreck that had taken him had also taken what little relationship I’d had with my parents for ever.

We filed off the plane and I got swept along with the crowd through corridors, down escalators, Passport Control and Baggage Reclaim. It held none of the excitement travelling with Pete had in the past. Every destination had been an adventure.

My mood remained in its default position of flat line, even when a cheerful man with a Cockney accent held up a board with Rebecca Whitely on it. It didn’t seem like my name written out in full. Everyone called me Becca at home.

“‘ello Miss. I’m Burt. Nice to meet you.” He took my bags from the trolley and nodded his head in the direction he was already walking. “Car’s not far. Good job, its bitter out.”

I quickly caught on that he liked to talk and didn’t necessarily need an answer. So I followed as he walked faster than me, even with the bags. He was right about the car park; ten minutes and we were loaded up and pulling out of the parking lot. He continued to chatter, “Get much sleep on the plane?”

I shrugged.

“I work for your aunt––bit of this and that, you know? Driving and maintenance, mainly.” I tuned out. His voice flowed over me as I watched the grey buildings and traffic pass by.

It seemed a very long time until everything got greener and wilder. The road became thin, squashed between the stone walls on either side. Hills rolled and bare trees looked like they were hugging themselves in the cold. It had stopped raining at least. Although the biting, inhospitable wind appeared to cut deeper, willing me to go home. Well, newsflashlife was just as wintery at home, even in a seventy-five Fahrenheit California.

The car eventually turned off the lane onto a driveway that appeared to go on forever. Trees overhung it, making it a green tunnel, framing a huge grey house at the end. It was ancient, all gargoyles and turrets.

The driveway ended in a wide shingle circle for turning, where the driver slowed to a stop right outside a huge oak door. I checked my phone quickly before I got out. Just to make sure there were no messages from Mom and Dad. Stupid, really. Since Pete, they were completely lost to their own grief. I had come to realise there was nothing as selfish as loss. It consumed a person so there was no room for anything else.

The driver walked around the car, opened the trunk and held open the door. After a brief hesitation as I took a deep breath, I got out of the car. I wobbled a bit while the driver passed my crutches. He grabbed my bags just as the door opened. A lady in tweed, who looked in her fifties, beckoned me in. I guessed she wasn’t my great-aunt; too young. There was no greeting. Just: “I’ll arrange for your things to be taken up to your room.”

The inside was unusual. A large hexagon-shaped hall with doors on nearly every facet and a huge staircase leading up from the centre. It was overwhelmingly dark—even with a window halfway up. It was because the decor was a deep maroon that appeared to absorb the light. The pictures were dark oils of landscapes and racehorses. They had black ornate frames around them, almost as if they were deliberately chosen for Gothic gloom. The ceiling was the same colour as the walls and heavily moulded. A huge black chandelier, that looked low enough to touch, matched the frames and hung in the stairwell.

I wasn’t absolutely sure, but the lamps on the walls looked like real flames—maybe even gas. The only nod to the twenty-first century appeared to be a huge ancient-looking iron radiator that gave out very little warmth. The floor was tiled; red and black in a geometric pattern.

“Your aunt is in the drawing room if you want to say hello.” She gave me no time to respond and pointed to one of the doors that looked identical to all the others. I panicked. I was expecting some sort of proper introduction but she was already walking away.

“Wait. What’s your name?” I asked, a little too loudly. “Sorry … what do I call you?”

“Gertrude,” the woman said without turning around. “I’ll bring some tea.” She disappeared on the other side of the staircase

I looked at the maroon door she’d pointed at. A grandfather clock chimed four times behind me, as a nudge to move forward. I knocked.

“Come in.”

I balanced on my good leg, juggling the crutch as I turned the weighty brass handle. It occurred to me how old the voice sounded and it filled me with gloom. It was going to be a laugh a minute here. I opened the door and slipped inside.

At first I couldn’t see her. I was greeted with another large, dark room, the color of moss. It did feel a little more homely with the temperature a good couple of degrees warmer than the hallway. It was grander too. The chandelier was gold and so were the frames around the paintings that seemed to be brighter and more full of flowers.

I still couldn’t see her so I walked further into the room, passing a wall crammed with faded photographs.

“Come closer, child,” the voice said, coming from a wing-backed armchair with its back to me. It faced the carved, lit fireplace and mirror above, so tall it almost reached the ceiling.

I approached cautiously. I’d never met my grandmother’s sister. I came to a stop, close to the fire where I could see her face and feel the flames’ warmth on my face.

“Ah, Christina’s girl. What’s wrong with your leg? Not a cripple, are you? Can’t be doing with a cripple.”

Shocked at her rudeness, I quickly answered, “No, it was the car accident, remember? Didn’t Mom tell you in her letter? It should be fine in a few weeks.”

“Mmm,” she said, not sounding convinced at all.

I wasn’t sure I’d ever met anyone so old. Her skin looked translucent, like white tissue paper, with thin blue lines threaded across her forehead and the backs of her hands. I was horrified when she put one out for me to take. I got over myself quickly. “How do you do … Rebecca,” I said, barely touching the tips of her fingers.

“You may call me aunt, even though I should be dead by now.” Her eyes wandered off, as if she could see something in the air around her. “You have my sister’s eyes,” she said, looking straight back at me again with hers, a glassy light grey. “Sit with me a while,” she said, her expression now speculative.

I looked around and found an upholstered foot stool to sit on, near enough to see her, but just out of reach. I couldn’t help checking out the room. She looked mildly amused watching me. “There was great wealth in the family once … once.” She laughed.

The room fitted her perfectly, all doilies and lace, as if it had jumped straight out of a Jane Austen novel. Well, not exactly. More like a living museum that was unloved and a little worn out.

The door opened and Gertrude came in carrying a tray of tea. I couldn’t take my eyes off the dainty floral cups and teapot. It appeared to have a beany hat on top with holes for the handle and spout. My aunt must have read my expression because she said; “You’ll have to get used to taking your tea hot here, girl, out of a proper pot with real tea leaves. None of that iced, tea-bagged tosh here.”

I smiled weakly. I didn’t have a clue what she was going on about. I mainly drank juice or coke at home. I guessed there was a lot of stuff to get used to in a new country. With the hole now in my chest, I didn’t think it was possible to fill it with anything.

“Shall I pour, Sarah?” Gertrude said.

I was surprised she called my aunt by her first name. It was probably because of the setting that I expected her to curtsy and call her ma’am, or something. She poured the tea and offered me sugar in little cubes with pincers. I took three which made her shake her head, so I put one back.

“When you’ve settled in, Gerty’s girl ––what’s her name?”

“Tallulah,” Gertrude immediately said, as if it was a regular occurrence.

“Tallulah … will come and show you about the place. It’s not too big; we don’t use the entire house. I’m just too damn old to get around these days. You’re enrolled in the same school, so at least you’ll know someone in your class. You start Monday. Can’t have you mooning about the place doing nothing.”

I realised as my aunt spoke that she asked no questions because she rarely listened. I smiled weakly. Again. Being in the background was familiar territory.I took in the important things like a good little girl: school, Monday. Got it.

It wasn’t long before she started repeating everything she’d said all over again. So I was pretty relieved when Gertrude showed up and interrupted the monologue. “Right then … your room is ready. Don’t want to tire out your aunt too much.”

I stood up immediately, grateful to escape.

“You fuss too much, Gerty,” my aunt said, but Gerty was passing her a bottle of what looked like pills. “Time already?”

“Yes, Sarah. An hour before food, remember?”

Despite her sour-faced exterior, she did seem to genuinely care for my aunt.

After she saw to it that my aunt swallowed the tablets, I followed her out and up the huge curved staircase, slowly, one step at a time. The only concession she gave to my use of crutches was to pause every ten or so steps. Luckily, the staircase shape meant they weren’t steep and had a wider space on the outside edge. It allowed me time to balance and study the gloomy faces staring out from the paintings going up.

“Your ancestors,” Gertrude said, by way of explanation. I had no idea I had anyone so grand in the family worth painting, let alone know who they were. My mother had said nothing and now I wondered why.

Each portrait looked stiff and proper. No one had been captured in a natural pose and every single one of them looked unhappy. Perhaps it was the curse of the family. It struck me then that my mother’s maiden name was Whitely. “What’s Sarah’s family name?”

Gertrude actually stopped and looked around at me. “Blackwood.” Then, after a stern glare as if I should have known better, she resumed walking up the stairs.

I followed glumly. As I heaved myself onto the final, arm-trembling steps, the last of the portraits caught my eye.

This one was different. The subject appeared to have been painted in the same style as the others, but this girl had laughter in her eyes—more than that; they held mischief.

I paused to look more closely. Underneath, embedded in the frame, was a small brass plaque that read: Lila Blackwood Dunn. 1839–1857. Eighteen. She was exactly the same age as me. Such a short life and yet those eyes seemed to say she’d seen it all.

“The black sheep of Blackwood,” Gertrude said, in a tone of utter disapproval. I’d begun to think she was good at that. Unbeknown to her, she’d just made Lila the most interesting person in the house.

My bags were already in my room when I got there. The two red cases and a grey holdall were in a waist-high pile in the centre of a once-expensive rug. The room was large and carried on the dark theme in a faded turquoise, but the ceiling was darker, with silver stars dotted all over. Otherwise, it reminded me of a dolls house. There was actually one in the corner set on a low table near the window seat. That window seat was the only thing I liked about the room. It would be a good place to read. I stroked the coarse mane of an old rocking horse that had seen better days and decided it must have been a nursery.

I ran a finger over the iron mantelpiece in the corner. The turquoise-painted surface was chipped, but someone had dusted at least. It was painted the same shade as everything else. Only the frilly white oval cloths on just about every available surface contrasted with the gloom. They were on the dressing table, the chest of drawers and the nightstand with the ruched green lamp. I sat down on the green counterpane and decided nothing could have changed since the 1800s.

I unpacked and tried out the window seat. It was perfect for comfort and the view. The garden looked even less loved than the house; completely forgotten. I guess that’s what winter did; cut everything to the quick. Even what was meant to stay green looked dipped in white or brown. The grass had given up growing at different lengths and the ramshackle outbuildings looked half up or down. They were probably stables once.

Then I spotted a building, standing alone, at the far end of the garden. Hidden, almost. It was perfectly circular and looked more derelict than the rest. It had green-stained arched windows that went all the way around and holes where the glass had once been. The curvy roof was still beautiful in shape, although it had a hole in the only bit not covered in moss. The bare branches of a petrified lightening tree rested on top and threatened to cave it in.

I wondered what it had once been, stuck out there all alone. I imagined the ornate windows when they were white and nestled between the trees in full leaf, like Hansel and Gretel’s cottage. Balls and garden parties would have spilled onto the once-manicured lawns. Smart gentlemen escorting ladies in long dresses, would stroll and discover the path to the little house. Perhaps that’s what it was meant for; a secret meeting place for lovers. How perfect it must have been with the scent of the flowers and elaborate harmonies of a string quartet carried there by the gentle breeze of a balmy evening.

I shivered. I blinked and looked around me, suddenly remembering where I was. It had been the weirdest sensation, like I’d been transported in a dream. And yet it had felt so real. A little unnerved, I turned away.

The door knock was a welcome distraction. “Come in,” I said, not bothering to get up.

The girl, who could only be Tallulah, marched straight in. “Hi!” she said, without hiding the head-to-toe, one-second, visual assessment she gave me.

She was tall, pale and blonde and wore too much black eyeliner. It wasn’t what I’d expected prim old Gertrude’s daughter to look like. She reminded me of a Day of the Dead tattoo; minus the stitch marks, of course. “Alright?” she said. “Mum said I had to show you about the place. What’s your name?”


“Not sure if there’s much to see. Dead boring, really. I hate coming here.”

Great. I held in a sigh. It was hard enough trying to look enthusiastic as it was, without someone else putting me on a downer. I couldn’t help looking back out of the window. “I wouldn’t mind seeing what’s out there,” I said, knowing exactly where I wanted to go.

Tallulah came and stood next to me as if I might have spotted something new. “What?”

I pointed.

“What, that old shed?” She rolled her eyes. “Come on then. I should have asked for more than a tenner for this.”

She noticed my leg when I picked up my crutches and tried to stand on one leg while I arranged them. “What’s wrong with your leg?” she asked, with a face like it was contagious.

Guess I’d gone down even lower on her coolness barometer. “Fracture. Three places. From a car accident.” I didn’t wait for her reaction and started to move towards the door. I was quite quick once I got going.

She skipped ahead and opened it for me as if I’d suddenly got interesting. “Wow. Was it a big crash? Anyone die? Who was driving?”

I closed my eyes while she stood in front of me, barring my way. She clearly wasn’t going to let it go until I told her. I opened my eyes and looked at her as icily as I could. I only wanted to say this once. “It was a side impact on an intersection. My brother died and I was driving.” I looked down and moved forward. She moved out of my way.


Copyright T Stedman

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