Welcome! Indie Author Excerpts is a feature allowing indie authors the chance to showcase one of their books and allows readers to find their next favorite story. Each week, an indie author gets to promote a 1-2 page excerpt of their book here at The Bawdy Book Blog. This is a win-win for everyone! This feature was inspired in part by Indie Author Spotlight, a meme hosted by Beckie @ Bittersweet Enchantment and CYP @ A Bookalicious Story.
This Week’s Excerpt: Wake by Abria Mattina!
Eighteen isn’t too young to run your life into the ground, but it’s not too old to fix it, either. The desire for change drives Willa Kirk from St. John’s, Newfoundland back to hometown of Smiths Falls, Ontario, away from her mistakes and the place where her sister died. She’s looking for a place to settle and rebuild, but Jem Harper just wants to get out of town, back to the life he knew before cancer. By letting the tragedies in their lives define them, they are both dying a little more every day. Welcome to the wake.
Jem: January 19 to 23
Monday Even sitting in the back corner of the room, in the farthest desk from student traffic and the teacher’s line of sight, it is possible to be the center of attention. The really curious thing about it is that I can be invisible at the same time. No one likes to look at seriously ill people. It’s awkward. It might be catching. It might happen to you some day, and that ruins the happy reality of your otherwise happy moment. That’s the invisible bit. But every student in this class is hyperaware that I’m here, even if they don’t look at or talk to me, because although they can’t admit it, they’re afraid I’m going to drop dead at any second. Technically, I’m in remission. I say technically because I still feel like shit. Even after the cancer is gone, the bullshit doesn’t end. Napalm-strength drugs damage practically everything, and even the most benign treatments are physically taxing. I lay my head down on the desk. Class hasn’t started yet, and none of my teachers tell me to straighten up and pay attention anymore, like lifting my head might kill me. Fourth period Social Studies is my worst class. I didn’t even want to take it, but I’m short on prerequisites and nothing else was available in this time slot. All the practical assignments are torture; most of these involve cooking, and the smell turns my stomach every time. This class is right after lunch, too, at the time of day when I’m sure to either feel queasy or tired or both. That’s part of the strategic appeal of the back corner seat: it’s out of everyone’s line of sight; it’s right next to the window, so I can lay my head down on the table and nap in the sun; thirdly, there’s a sink right behind me—lunch has reappeared a few times—and finally, it’s farthest from the storage unit and fridge that I doubt has been cleaned since September. Class starts right on the bell. We have a new student today, from St. John’s, Newfoundland. Who in their right mind would willingly move to Smiths Falls? I take my feet off the adjacent chair. New Girl is about to infringe on my nap zone, because this bird course is packed and the only other free seat is right in front of the teacher’s desk. No one wants that seat, so she’ll end up next to Cancer Boy. I figure it’ll be less awkward for her if we don’t talk, so I don’t even say hello. If I don’t look at her, she won’t stare at me. Luckily it’s a lecture day and we don’t have to work together on a practical assignment. We’re given a series of transparencies to copy. I make an effort at the first two, and then give up and put my head down. I’ll just read the textbook later. Maybe. If I get around to it. I’m pretty sure I’m failing this class already. I haven’t completed a practical yet. I have my ‘own’ cot in the nurse’s office, and it’s there that I spend fifth period. I need a nap more than I need an English lecture. It seems too short a time later that Elise is pulling my blanket off. My sister has a preternatural sense of when I’m having a really awful day. “Come on,” she says. “Eric’s illegally parked.” Tuesday My morning starts off on a really annoying repetitive note. Luckily, alarm clocks are equipped with snooze buttons. “Don’t you dare hit snooze again!” Mom yells up the stairs. I drag myself out of bed and head for the bathroom. I leave the light off and turn on the shower. I like to wash in the dark because it’s like an extra five minutes of sleep. That, and it’s easier on the ego. This room used to be Elise’s. Mine was down the hall and Eric and I shared an adjoining bathroom. The trade was her idea. She sensed how important it was to me to have a private bathroom when I got sick. Bathing is a pain, even with a waterproof patch over my Hickman. I can’t stand directly under the water, so I have to use a detachable showerhead to direct the spray and keep moisture away from my port—just one more aggravation in what already promises to be a long day. I get dressed without looking in the mirror. I don’t need to see myself. No one else needs to, either, which is why I cover up my pale, hairless skin with long sleeves and clothes that used to fit but are now too loose. It’s a curious thing, what hair remains and what falls out after chemo. The obvious stuff went quick: head, eyebrows, eyelashes, facial hair. I lost my body hair in patches. The only hair that remains, like some sick joke, are the fine hairs on my second knuckles and enough stray pubic hairs to make me look like a thirteen-year-old boy. I’ve got a drawer full of toques, mostly homemade. My crafty little sister knit me one during my first round of chemo and kept churning them out for weeks. I’ve got a toque in every color, and she gives me hell if I don’t match the damn things to whatever I’m wearing. Today’s selection is black, because I’m already in a bad mood and it’s not even eight o’clock.
I’m feeling exactly like hell by the time I get to Social Studies. Lunch isn’t sitting well. I hope we don’t have a practical today. I just shut my eyes, try to remain completely still, block out the noise of the class, and recite a little mantra in my head that I don’t vomit. New Girl sits down next to me. Jeez, does she have to jostle the table like that? “You alive?” I crack an eyelid and glare at her. “You’re funny.” I want to close my eye again to make the room stop spinning, but that would ruin the effect of the glare. “I’m Willa.” I turn and hurl into the sink. It feels like more comes back up than I swallowed today at lunch. How is that even possible? The class shuts up faster than Jonas Brothers tickets sell out. People swivel in their seats to see what’s going on, like they can’t figure it out. New Girl hands me paper towels and turns on the faucet. “Isn’t this just fascinating?” she says brightly, and the other cretins all turn back to their own affairs with low noises of disgust. “Peas?” she guesses. “Lime Jell-O.” Who asks a question like that? This class isn’t a practical, but I nearly wish it were. We’re given our term assignments. We have to work in pairs over the next few months, so I can’t ignore the girl who just watched me puke and then tried to talk about it. Our assignment involves a joint paper and presentation about a social problem that affects the community we live in. This is going to be unbelievably dull.
Contrary to what Elise thinks, it’s totally possible to tell when she’s gone off her Ritalin. She can barely sit still and fiddles with her seatbelt on the ride home. “So guess what?” “Forty-two,” Eric says. I suspect he might have cracked a book sometime in the past fortnight. Or it could just be a coincidence. “Student Council picked a date for the winter formal.” Elise is practically vibrating in the front seat. Should I tell her there’s a Red Bull in the glove box? She starts talking a mile a minute about themes and colors and stuff, so Eric turns on the radio. She makes a valiant attempt to talk over it, even when he maxes out the volume. The second we get home she puts on her hard-done-by whine and says, “Mom, Eric’s being mean to me!” “She’s lying!” “If nobody’s bleeding, I don’t want to know,” Mom calls from the second floor. Got to love her parenting style. She thinks conflict is character building.
I write Elise’s Stupid Dance Thing on the calendar in the kitchen. We’ll do some character building tonight when she sees it.
About the Author
Follow Abria Mattina around the web:
Abria Mattina works as Production Manager for the Ottawa Arts Review, an eclectic literary journal, and as a Marketing Assistant for a catering corporation. Her work has appeared in Ottawa’s The Fulcrum and Canculture Magazine. Her poem “Circus” was published in volume 5.2 of the Ottawa Arts Review.
Abria holds a Certificate in Publishing from the New York University Summer Publishing Institute and a degree in English Literature and Psychology from the University of Ottawa. When she isn’t writing she enjoys travelling, eclectic books, blogging, and baking. She lives with her fiance, Daniel.
Her debut novel, Wake, is about the struggle to redefine life after experiencing cancer and caring for an ill loved one.
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